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Comments
Sean Hannity Then and Now on NSA Surveillance
06/13/13, 22:23

Abortion was part of the glue to hold the Religious Right together: it brought the Catholics on board (prior to about 1980 abortion was a uniquely Catholic obsession), and it gave the troops an evil to "fight" that required no real sacrifice on their part.

That said, the start of the Religious Right had much more to do with the Civil Rights Act and desegregation:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2013/01/23/roe-v-wade-backlash-myth-clouds-real-history-of-states-rights-and-segregated-schools/
Penis Drawing Machine
06/12/13, 22:19

I think you get these.
Christian Persecution on a School Bus
06/12/13, 14:14

Years later, I've tried to follow up on this. I can't find anything about the lawsuit itself, which makes me think it has been quietly withdrawn.

But the other thing that has come up is that, apparently, the bus driver is a lesbian. That instantly puts this into the territory of a black bus driver "persecuting" a kid making with the racial slurs. Perhaps that's why the suit was withdrawn.
Ask Strax the Sontaran
06/12/13, 10:33

I think Moffat's problem is, he rises higher than ever before, only to fall lower than ever before, to paraphrase a thing that illustrates my point. Moffat has a taste for big big stories, but is hit or miss in that territory. I am happiest when he's NOT trying to resolve the fascinating story of River Song (spoilers: she's someone who has a background) or the mystery of Clara (spoilers: it's a time thing); he shines with the characters just being themselves.

Or take the Pandorica two-parter. The first part has Moffat trying to wow us with a totally mind-blowing twist, where the various races the Doctor has fought have built a prison for their greatest enemy, who is called both a warrior and a trickster. Now who could that possibly be? Moffat structured the entire episode around the expectation that you couldn't guess. Part two, though, was much better, mostly for the little stuff: the Last Centurion (oh Rory), goofing off with the vortex manipulator, showing up at Amy's wedding, even the goofy ridiculous dancing.
Django Unchained 'Tell Miss Lara Goodbye'
06/12/13, 10:23

Bullets make you exit politely through the door.
Richard Dawkins Debates Flying Horses with Muslim Journalist
06/11/13, 13:09

There's a religious school of thought that various people independently stumble onto, that there is trajectory to the Bible, and just because Biblical writings stopped accruing 1700 years ago doesn't mean that religious thought should. There are Biblical interpretations and reinterpretations, there are new traditions and new works, there are even rejections of doctrine simply because doctrine as formally codified doesn't make sense. Theodicy isn't just an epic Greek poem. And as to the notion of hell, our local Catholic priest once said in a sermon: "I believe in hell. I don't believe anyone's there, but I believe in hell."

So in a nutshell, people can be invested in one major religion or another -- quite possibly out of a sense that, if it's been around for 2000 years, rejecting it out of hand would be rash -- while still recognizing the contradictions and straying from doctrine where necessary to resolve them.

Perhaps you want to Google for "spiritual but not religious" as well. A lot of people reject the major religions because they have become too doctrine-heavy, preserving only very basic concepts like there is a God, we are called on to be benevolent, and so forth. (On my non-atheist days, this is where I tend to land.)

So in short, there are an awful lot of religious people who are perfectly aware that their religion doesn't make sense, and they take what measures are necessary for it to make sense. Then there are those who can't imagine their religion NOT making sense and they are the ones who believe that, if the earth is older than 6000 years, life has no meaning. So there are all kinds at work here. Now's a good time to remind you of what I said ages ago, that religion isn't a rational process -- it speaks to some part of you (well not you specifically), so you work with it as best you can. Where it contradicts itself you try to fix the contradictions, where it speaks of iron-age miracles you accept or reject them as you see fit; but in the end it's never going to be logical.
Richard Dawkins Debates Flying Horses with Muslim Journalist
06/11/13, 08:53

I mentioned Colbert and King Jr before. How seriously do you think they take the talking snake? I would bet anything they see the story as possibly instructive, clearly a relic of earlier times, and a part of the religious tradition but not a literally true tale. (Colbert is Catholic, by the way, and the Catholic Church has long held that evolution is real, and that the Bible's tales can provide spiritual guidance but should not be confused with a science book.)

I've also mentioned people who use religion as a point of tribal orthodoxy. What do you suppose their opinions are about, say, death panels or Obama's birth certificate or global warming? Those are people who will believe anything, not on the basis of plausibility, but on convenience. (You'll get Christopher Hitchens tagging along too.)

I agree that any adult should consider the truth important, and if you believe there's a God, you should be honest enough to concede that you can't rationally back it up. Maybe it's just synapses in your brain, but then again, what isn't?
Richard Dawkins Debates Flying Horses with Muslim Journalist
06/11/13, 03:36

If I'm making any sort of sense to you, I'm glad!

"You had me until that last sentence. I don't know what that means. I have no such God-shaped hole in my brain."

And that's probably the difference -- you don't have that hole, therefore your brain doesn't need to fill it, and additionally you can't imagine a person needing to fill that hole.

I talk a lot about how the right wing operates on primate tribal principles -- strengthen the tribe, repel outsiders, support the alpha males, keep lower-status members in line. I always feel kind of dumb talking about that because it sounds like something a college sophomore might come up with to look bright. But that is the only model by which I can understand the GOP; I don't hear those tribal drums beating (nor do most people on the left), but I can left to conclude people on the right do ... and talking to recovering conservatives has convinced me that they used to hear those tribal drums. So the tribal model is mostly an abstraction to me, and I can't really feel it the way other people do ... likewise, you may be "cursed" to simply never feel the place for a God in your world.

"My best guess is that you're talking about the longing for answers to questions which don't have easy answers, like where did the universe come from, or what is consciousness - am I roughly on the right track there? Or do you mean something else?"

It's much more visceral. To me, and I suppose to most religious folks, it feels like there needs ot be some overarching order beyond it all, and one that is tied to consciousness. It's quite possibly a trick of my poorly-designed meat-computer (haha, "designed") and I know that, but nonetheless that's what it feels like.

Where did the universe come from? I don't know and it doesn't really matter to me. It matters to creationists, though, because they have turned religion into a torturous ideological loyalty test where they need to support every last detail or else be traitors to the tribe.
Glenn Greenwald chats with Mika Brzezinski
06/11/13, 03:12

Totally agreed -- the sooner we can revisit (and hopefully reject) the creeping post 9/11 surveillance powers, the better.
Richard Dawkins Debates Flying Horses with Muslim Journalist
06/10/13, 22:32

"I'd like to understand"

I'm not sure that's entirely true, for all the times you have called religion "bullshit" and said that it has no value. Again, you're not obligated to think much of religion, but you can't really be that contemptuous of religion while also being curious and open-minded.

Let's look at it from the perspective of straight delusion: our poorly-configured ape brains with several overlapping layers of gooey hardware are capable of generating a variety of hallucinated sensations, such as unity and empathy with others (and even the very universe), or the presence of other people who aren't actually there. Now add in some other tendencies such as a wish for ultimate justice and mercy, or the continued existence of those who have died, or a desire to have some influence over a cruel and uncaring world, and your brain may respond to all of that by filling in an unseen yet all-powerful benevolent force. That's one way to arrive at "God". And note that, if that's where you are, even knowing that it's very likely a delusion doesn't change the reality that God fits the God-shaped hole in your brain.

I like to imagine that there is such a thing as mature, introspective theological or metaphysical pursuit, that starts from the proposition of "if there is an overarching benevolent force in the world then I should attempt to fill whatever role is proper for me". But at the same time there is also childish, impulsive, and destructive religion in the world. In that scheme of things God is basically Santa, except that Santa is simply about giving you presents you clearly deserve, while God is about helping you get what you want AND providing all the justification you need to get it by shady means. I can't imagine you need much help imagining such a thing.
Wits with Patton Oswalt: Paul F. Tompkins
06/10/13, 21:27

He's been around since early "Fantastic Four". (looks it up) FF #13 from 1963, to be exact.
Richard Dawkins Debates Flying Horses with Muslim Journalist
06/10/13, 21:10

The original Aramaic uses the same word for all cloven animals with cutie marks.
Richard Dawkins Debates Flying Horses with Muslim Journalist
06/10/13, 18:18

I'm really not sure what more to say; you're certainly not obligated to understand the religious mind, and it's clear you're pretty happy not to. But then you can't really get convincingly perplexed that you don't understand.

Maybe this will help: religion isn't a rational process, but it's one that clicks for a lot of people for whatever reasons. Then again, there are all sorts of non-rational processes in people's lives; there's no rational reason for most of us to own cats or dogs either, and yet many of us do.

What we're seeing with American fundamentalism unfortunately has more to do with primate tribal instincts finding expression in the modern world than filling a God-shaped hole in one's mind. So the biggest driving forces are finding enemies to pit their tribe against. As it works out the right wing American tribe is religious, but they could just as easily have been atheist -- and for that I cite Christopher Hitchens himself, supporter of the Iraq War because he was glad for any massive effort to kill Muslims. Ideology and hatred trumping all logic and empathy ... religion certainly doesn't hold the trademark.
Subliminal Message Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
06/10/13, 17:48

Another variant of the McGurk Effect:

http://www.progressiveruin.com/images/mrmxyzptlkstrip.jpg
Richard Dawkins Debates Flying Horses with Muslim Journalist
06/10/13, 16:57

Yes yes, I get it, you have no use for religion, and you get along just fine without it.

"The people who seriously look to religion for moral guidance look like the Taliban and the Westborough Baptist Church."

Or Martin Luther King Jr or Stephen Colbert, to name a couple in the other direction.
Richard Dawkins Debates Flying Horses with Muslim Journalist
06/10/13, 16:19

I grew up Catholic, and it was a basic concept in my home that people have different religious beliefs, so don't assume that your beliefs are theirs. And you'd be surprised how easily religion and science can get along, if you allow religion just a little bit of wiggle room: religion covers how you should live and what happens after you die, science covers the universe and natural laws that govern the universe. As for whether Mohammed had a winged horse that carried him into the sky*, it's not even an important question, so take it as figurative, or allegorical, or however you like. Even take it as literal, so long as you understand that horses don't have wings and aren't going to sprout them any time soon. Whatever you believe, though, that's your business and you don't make it anyone else's.

Unfortunately, the past 30 years or so have seen a serious uptick in religious intolerance. Oh well, at least the kids are rejecting it; young people have no use for Culture Wars, and are more inclined to use religion as a source of hope than hate.



*: I wish the Muslim had said "well of COURSE Mohammed flew up in the sky on his winged horse, where else would it have gone with wings? What, did you expect the winged horse to take him under the ocean? He'd probably use a fish for that, don'tcha think?"
Subliminal Message Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
06/10/13, 15:57

Those kids sound drunk.

If you aren't watching the subtitles during the backwards part, it's nearly impossible to hear what they're claiming it says. The McGurk Effect, or something similar?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-lN8vWm3m0
Glenn Greenwald chats with Mika Brzezinski
06/10/13, 14:10

Point of order, Greenwald: they're not listening in on calls or reading E-mails. They're collecting a fuckton of data about who is in contact with whom, and that's disturbing all right; but it's not quite as far as Greenwald is going. If this is serious enough to sound the alarm about, it's also serious enough to be accurate about.

There's also this:

http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/07/18831985-officials-nsa-mistakenly-intercepted-emails-phone-calls-of-innocent-americans

So good, they do engage in some level of self-correcting behavior. That doesn't mean that all is well and nobody should be concerned, but it does demonstrate at least some checks and balances within the system to protect privacy. So it's not Big Brother, at least not yet anyway.
Richard Dawkins Debates Flying Horses with Muslim Journalist
06/10/13, 14:00

What a prick, that Dawkins. Completely insufferable and disrespectful. I can't imagine where he learned such abominable manners.

I'm going to give the Muslim dude a possible pass on that "six days" thing, though. If you grew up Catholic, there's a very good chance you learned a scientific explanation of the world's creation; Catholics don't get hung up on Old Testament literalism. (Now the body and blood of Christ, though: literal as fuck.) It may be that Islam is much the same way, where some things are more literal than others, depending upon whom you're talking to.
Thou Shalt Laugh trailer for Sermonspice.com
06/10/13, 11:19

I'm going to hell. Anyone else?

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