Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – external validation

hp-lovecraft-religion_thumbI’ve had two recent demonstrations of the need for external validation by theists. One on Mike’s website, where a woman, Emily Rose Lewis in comments, insisted that only she was right with her fantasies about her god. When her claims were demonstrated to be false, and she was asked for evidence, the threats fell fast and heavy. I was told that I should be grateful that her god was so “merciful” because if she was in charge she’d “fry” everyone who didn’t worship her god exactly as she did. If you want to “fry” someone, it certainly seems that you hate that someone, and people don’t often hate for no reason. They hate someone or something because it has or could take something away from them, something that they are afraid of losing.

In the second instance, there is much the same thing. Now, at this writing, this news story hasn’t been confirmed entirely. At a local school, in Carlisle, PA, a student was in the school nurse’s office when the morning pledge of allegiance was said. The student refused to participate in the pledge. The nurse’s reaction was (allegedly) “I don’t have to serve you.” (It seems that it was much worse, according to Hemant Mehta). A grown woman was threatened by the act of a girl, because she dared to not give the woman the external validation she needed. Now, could this woman be something else than a Christian? Perhaps, in another culture, but in Pennsylvania, that chance of her not being a Christian is no more than a snowball’s chance in hell (9th circle of hell, Dantean style, not included of course).

(Of course, there are many parallels to the instances where theists wish to invoke their religion so that they may pick and choose who to serve. It always makes me wonder how they would tell the difference among their clientele. What tests would they invoke to make sure their “morals” weren’t impinged?)

External validation is one of those things that humans love. We often learn from external validation, when someone tells us we did something correctly, be it a skill or a behavior desired in society.

In most, if not all, religions, external validation is very important to a certain subset, those who want to believe that they are the only right ones and, somewhat paradoxically, believe that they should never be questioned about their claims. One would think that such surety would invite questions.

This type of theist wants to be right and want no one else to know that they aren’t. They need constant agreement with them so they ceaselessly try to find those who will support their claims and who won’t question them. It often becomes very close to narcissism, especially when the theist is sure that God speaks to them and only them.

If the believer doesn’t get the attention and admiration that they think they deserve, they get downright nasty. The few things that are decent about religion go right out the window.   Their self-worth is entirely wrapped up in what they believe is true.   If they present their claims to a stranger confident that no one can question them, and that stranger says “no” or worse “no, and here’s why”, then it is an attack on their entire being. They are no longer the worthy, special “chosen” that they thought they were. If someone doesn’t ape their actions, then that person is a threat.

They find any action other than the one that they demand to be frightening. I think frightened is the best reason to explain why someone would act like so many theists do, be they Christian, Muslim, etc.

In my opinion, some of the actions of theists, the violence and intolerance based on fear, is symptomatic of the loss of certainty that theists once had. Where at one time religious differences were settled by the stake and the rack, they are now open discussion.   The respect and silence built out of fear and ignorance is failing.

When someone says “I don’t have to serve you.” Or that “If it were up to me Id have fried have the world by now.”, it does a lovely job of showing how much they are afraid of anyone different than they are and how much that fear inspires violence. These people wish the law to only allow those people like them to exist, wishing that the protections of the law only applied to them and no one else.  They wish to claim that the “other” isn’t in society, that they aren’t human.

What the Boss Likes – welcome to Easter, syncretic religion at its best

Welcome to Easter.   Based spring fertility worship, changed to a worship of blood sacrifice and then resurrection, we have a holiday that has many faces.  We’ve even had many dates for it, and the usual religious friction of who is “right”.

My favorite evidence of how religion changes is this:

Take this guinea pig and chica in remembrance of me.

Take this guinea pig and chicha in remembrance of me.


This is a painting by Marcos Zapata in 1753, where Jesus Christ and the apostles are enjoying Peruvian cuisine(more about the cathedral here).  If there’s a picture, it must have happened right?   This sure would have made my serving of communion a much more interesting experience.

This is how spring should be celebrated, flowers and a nice bock style beer.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – a review of “One Nation, Under Gods”

079-Superstition-is-the-foe-of-progress-650x310Recently, I had a short blog post about a new book I’ve read, One Nation, Under Gods.   I love the book, and thought I might write a longer post about it now. And I need to since I’m going to be lending it to my parents to read tomorrow.

One Nation, Under God is a new book by Peter Manseau, a writer who has his doctorate in religion from Georgetown University. This is a book that is definitely needed considering that many Christians in the US are doing their best to rewrite history to fit their fantasy that the US was founded as a “Christian Nation”, though of course they don’t agree on what a “Christian Nation” actually would be. The book presents the facts very well and is not favorable to any particular side.

The book’s strength is that it relates the changing religions in the US, and to a lesser degree, the whole of North America, to the politics and culture of the times. It starts us in 1492, bringing in the state of European religions to how it affected the urge to colonize the New World. From the likely hidden Jews on Columbus’ ships, forced into a masquerade by the murderous Roman Catholics in Spain, to the Muslim slaves of the conquistadors, and the native Americans, we have how religion mix, mesh and change, showing that no religion has some inviolate “truth”.

Next is the immigration of the various northern sects of Christianity coming in from Europe, those who were sure that their versions of Christianity were the only “pure” ones. They, of course, promptly decided that anyone who disagreed with them once they crossed the Atlantic needed to be killed or to be banished from the colonies that they established.   Their quest for a free place to worship was an entirely selfish desire that they would do anything to forbid anyone else access to. Their various “shining cities on the hill” were bastions of fear of the “other”.   We do have the surprising story that Cotton Mather, famous from his sermons often included in Early American Literature classes, trying to encourage the use of a native African superstition which was essentially vaccination to stop smallpox, an awful disease that killed Mather’s family. Mather’s slave, renamed Onesimus after the slave that Paul returned to his master, told him of this practice. Mather did his best to encourage his society to do this but felt the sting of rejection for his new ideas because any attempt at relieving disease was considered going against the will of his god and his god’s divine judgment.

We also had Jews migrating in this period since they were persecuted by most other contries that had some form of Christianity as the state religion. For example, Jews were forbidden in England for 300 years. In the book, it describes the plight of Jews that had to leave a South American colony that had changed hands between the Netherlands and Portugal. With Portugal came the Inquisition, so they begged passage to New Amsterdam aka New York City. They were nearly kept from there too, until the Jewish backers of the Dutch traders threatened to pull their backing.

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Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – The case against Hell

gervais hellThe Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has some ads broadcast on CNN recently.  The spokesperson, Ron Reagan, ended the ad with the phrase ” “life-long atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”    The FFRF has an excellent blog post addressing the outcry about that particular phrase and the idea of “hell” here.

I have not much to add to the FFRF post about hell.  I find the idea of a hell, in any religion, to be nothing more than violent sadistic fantasies indulged in by people who want anyone who disagrees with them punished.  Many theists have retreated from their more violent versions to say that their hell is just “separation” from God a la C.S. Lewis, and insist that it’s the choice of the non-believer in whatever religion to go to hell since they don’t want to be around this god anyway.  However, that is just one more fiction to add to the myth.

What the Boss Likes – a new book, One Nation Under Gods

one nationA new book, One Nation, Under Gods by Peter Manseau, is one of the best books I have read in a long time.  Mr. Manseau reviews the history of religion in the United States of America from 1492 (with some info on religion in North America before the Europeans came) up to the present day.  It is a very easy-to-read book, despite being full to the brim with facts.

I think I am fairly well versed in history but this opened my eyes to many more new facts.  I never knew that Cotton Mather (yes, *that* Cotton Mather) advocated for an early form of vaccination, a fair number of the Africans brought to the US were Muslims,  slave owners wavered between teaching Christianity to their slaves and forbidding it, that Thomas Jefferson wrote a favorable letter to a Seneca (a Native American tribe) religious leader, a Muslim slave might be the origin of the black colored kachina in Zuni folklore, Hindu leaders were giving speeches in the US in the 1800s, etc.

I’m only half way through the book.  :)

This book does a lovely job in dismissing the delusion of some American Christians that the US was only established by their version of Christianity and is only for them and them alone.  It does treat religion fairly, showing its benefits and does not hold back at all at showing its warts.  Everyone should read this book if they want to know the deliciously complicated religious history of America.  It is more than worth the price of admission.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – geology, poster style

I decided to do a riff on a webposter I saw on Mike’s website here.

dear god geology1


This is an amazing example of layers and cross-bedding, where the direction of the propelling force (in this case both wind and water) changed repeatedly over time, a lot longer than 40 days and 40 nights.  This webpage is a very good overview of the stratigraphy of Zion National Park.

If you’d like more info about the flood nonsense, this is a very nice video from potholer54.   You can also use the search function on my blog and find where I’ve discussed the flood.

What the Boss Likes – Antibiotics, I love them and the science that discovered them!

Microsoft clip art

Microsoft clip art

(warning: may be a little more medically graphic than some care to read)

Humans aren’t impervious. We can get infections from a lot of things.   The germ theory allowed us to get into hygiene, and then determined scientists got us arsphenamine, penicillin, and so many more antibiotics. When I watch a historical documentary, especially about a war, I am horrified to think that most of these were before antibiotics. People constantly died of infections we think nothing of because science takes time /and or is determinedly ignored or attacked. Happily, we have them now and I am of a generation that hasn’t had to worry too much about what often killed my ancestors.

Right now, I am recovering from a nasty deep abcess in my groin (yes, that may be too much information but there’s no reason to be embarrassed by it). No idea where it came from but oh boy, it was there. It’s been a while since I’ve had such pain (the pain from my gallbladder attack still wins but not by much)Our bodies do what they can to fight invaders, and my body did its best, white cells died by the thousands or millions, but that wasn’t enough. So, I had my abcess drained, thank you Doctor! Thank modern medicine! I am on three antibiotics, Bactrim (which also has a sulfa drug in it), Keflex and Flagyl. These are all very powerful, they can have side effects, but that’s better than courting sepsis.

I will of course take all to their last pill (and these aren’t small) because I don’t want any little buggies developing a resistance and either re-infecting me again or infecting someone else, which would be worse.

Take all of your antibiotics. Don’t ask for antibiotics for any little thing or for something that is a virus. Get your vaccines if you are medically able. The life you may save may not be your own.

Don’t be embarrassed to tell your doctor exactly what is wrong and where. They’ve heard it all before. There is no need to suffer pointlessly.  Which reminds me, I love painkillers too! Percocet is a wonderful thing when you need it.

Here ends the public service message.  Now excuse me while I nip off and get some much needed sleep.  :)