Sunday, October 26, 2008

On hiatus

I'm taking a brief break from this blog. Partly because I'm not feeling especially antitheistic these days and partly because I can't be arsed.

I'm sure it'll be a brief break. Well, probably, anyway.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The universe

Whenever I have the chance to escape the city, I start to really understand where religion came from.

I lie on the ground and look at the absolute forest of stars up there. I see, like a textbook illustration, the zodiac belt that some people invented to give order to, and to explain, the 'white dots' up there. I see a deer looking timidly and curiously in my direction and can understand the urge that some had to imbue that noble species with 'supernatural' abilities.

I can understand why, devoid of any other explanation, people at one time said 'these things were all created by somebody much bigger than us'.

But scientists have shown us things infinitely more fascinating. They have shown us that each of those white dots is in itself a universe bigger than we can comprehend. They have shown us that the deer shares an enormous amount of genetic information with us and that its human-like glances in my direction are the same legacy of our common ancestor as my glances in its direction.

This gives me enormous peace. It shows me that I am but a very small cog in an incomprehensibly large machine, but it shows me that I am completely 'of' it, not 'seperate from' or 'better than' it.

That something so great and wonderful as our world and our universe could be created by someone or something who then went on to tell us what we should wear and how we should make love insults the beauty of the universe. It takes all of existence and tries to cram it into a human mind.

Two thousand years ago, I could understand it. The God concept widened our vistas and our comprehension of the universe. Today, the God concept limits it. Science has shown us that the universe is more beautiful than God. And, unlike God, it is utterly and demonstrably real.

The universe is more magnificent than the gods we have created to fill it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Message

No, not the Grandmaster Flash song.

It's apparently the name of a Bible translation. Bible Gateway has it among its translations. I've never heard it before but it's the most bizarre thing I've ever seen... A few choice samples:

Romans 1:24-25 according to the King James Bible:

"Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own
hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth
of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator,
who is blessed for ever. Amen."

Romans 1:24-25 according to "The Message":

"So God said, in effect, "If that's what you want, that's what you get." It
wasn't long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy
inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god,
and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!"

Genesis 4:6-7 according to the King James Bible:

"And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance
fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not
well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt
rule over him."

Genesis 4:6-7 according to "The Message":

"God spoke to Cain: 'Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won't
you be accepted? And if you don't do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready
to pounce; it's out to get you, you've got to master it.'"

Genesis 11:6-9 according to the King James Bible:

"And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language;
and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which
they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their
language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD
scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left
off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the
LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the
LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."

Genesis 11:6-9 according to "The Message":

God took one look and said, "One people, one language; why, this is only a first
step. No telling what they'll come up with next—they'll stop at nothing! Come,
we'll go down and garble their speech so they won't understand each other." Then
God scattered them from there all over the world. And they had to quit building
the city. That's how it came to be called Babel, because there God turned their
language into "babble." From there God scattered them all over the world.

Does anybody know what this is? Is it for real or a joke? And why is it so funny?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Love and the afterlife

I'm often surprised by how little Christianity has to do with the pop-culture religion that most North Americans are exposed to most of their lives. I mean, I got more of my knowledge of religion from Bugs Bunny than I ever did from the Bible, but i had just presumed that they were more or less the same thing: since North American culture comes largely from a Christian basis, I had generally presumed that most of the spiritual concepts floating around in the shared consciousness of North Americans had had a basis in Christianity.

To whit: the idea, amazingly common in English-language literature and art, that families are reunited in heaven after death. This idea is so prevalent in popular culture that it barely even seems worth mentioning. We comfort ourselves upon the death of a loved one by telling ourselves that one day we will be 'reunited'; the more maudlin of popular representations of death even show families embracing on clouds awash in white light. We enter into discussions about which partner a divorced or widowed person who remarries will spend eternity with.

So i was, frankly, gobsmacked the first time I was presented with a dogmatic Christian answer to the question of 'how can heaven be a reward when loved ones are in hell?'

It's a good question, as unanswerable questions about scripture go. The idea is that since heaven is supposed to be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, if you happen to have dirty heathens in your otherwise clean Christian household, and if you happen to love said dirty heathens, how beatific will your harp-and-halo afterlife be when you know (and perhaps are able on big-screen TV to visually confirm) that your beloved infidel is roasting on an open Lake of Fire?

The answer, apparently is: pretty darn beatific. Apparently the correct Christian answer to this is that in heaven we'll be too busy worshipping and loving Jesus Christ to hear the sounds of our loved ones' flesh sizzling. In fact, our love for Jesus Christ will overwhelm any other love we might have, and we will quite literally forget about any love we might have had for other humans down here on earth. This, it would seem, is the reward we get for a lifetime of good Christian living (a large part of which, dare I remind us, involves strict rules on who you can share your life with and under what circumstances you can share your life with said person).

I'm not sure whether or not you need to be an atheist to see this particular orthodoxy as shockingly insensitive. I mean, atheism doesn't offer a nicer vision of the afterlife, but frankly it doesn't offer a worse one, either. Asking people to hope for an afterlife and to adjust their behavioural patterns accordingly, but denying them the love of their loved ones in that afterlife, seems both surprisingly cruel and ultimately unsatisfying.

And since heaven is the greatest power Christianity has over wavering followers, that's particularly surprising.

No wonder they rarely talk about it...