Tag Archives: religion

Alternative Realities


I heard somewhere recently (it may have been Joe Rogan’s podcast, but who knows really) how strange people’s beliefs really are … and how little it matters.

Like, for example, you could be at the grocery store, and on the other side of the conveyor belt from you could be a person who believes that Mohammed flew to the moon on a winged horse. Or that God literally created the earth in seven days about six thousand years ago. Or that 9/11 was an inside job, or that we never walked on the moon. Or that evolution is a hoax.

People believe all kinds of crazy stuff.

Thing is, there was a time — and that time feels like it was not even so very long ago — where that kind of thing just didn’t matter. Sure, you’ve got people believing all sorts of madness, but when it came to the day-to-day reality they walked around in, we could all pretty much agree on what reality was and what mattered in the here-and-now.

Sure, we may have different beliefs on how life came to be on this planet, but right now, these groceries are here. They need bagging, and I’d like to pay for them. And the world shuffles on.

That feels, somehow, less true, now.

Because more and more out beliefs seem to glom onto one another and fall into us over here and them over there thinking. Wearing a mask, for example, seems to send the message that you just might be an ultra-liberal, Biden-voting socialist, and not wearing one seems to say you just might be a Trump supporter in a death cult. And that seems to contaminate even the simple act of checking out at the grocery store. (How can we carry on a relationship, no matter how brief, when one party seems concerned for the well-being of the other — as evidenced by mask-wearing — when the other thinks the first is foolish for even thinking about it?)

Less and less it feels like we even inhabit the same reality. It’s almost as if you can choose the reality that you live in, and the differences between those realities are vast and significant. And the differences in our realities seem to matter more and more.

Social media, and even media generally is no help. All we see are the extremes.

This is poisoning everything.

How the hell do we get back from this?


Accidental Philosophy: Tie Up Your Camels


When I read books, the best quotes go in an ever-growing Evernote file. Sometimes I reach into that file and ruminate on a passage or two. The result is “Accidental Philosophy.”

I recently finished Dan Harris’s 10% Happier, which I’ve mentioned once or twice ’round these parts. It’s a bit of a strange bird: a book about meditation which is somehow riveting. A great skeptic’s look at a practice that, from the outside, seems to be dripping with woo. If you’re considering the practice of meditation, or just curious about it, it’s worth your time.

But today’s words aren’t about the book, they’re about a single passage within it. Which is actually a quote of something else. So I’m quoting a quote about another quote. Anyway:

The Sufi Muslims say, “Praise Allah, but also tie your camel to the post.” In other words, it’s good to take a transcendent view of the world, but don’t be a chump. (201)

camel-3540678_1280

Let the record show, then: good ideas can come from religion!

I love this quote, and here’s why: we rely too much on faith. Even those of us who are decidedly not people of faith lean too much on faith at the expense of our common sense.

Faith in our own abilities. Faith in other people. Faith in society. And, yeah, for those who swing that way, faith in higher powers.

And that’s not, in and of itself, a problem, or even a mistake. Sometimes we do estimate our own abilities appropriately. Sometimes other people do live up to the hope we hold for them. Sometimes societies do the right thing.

But certainly more often than “rarely” those things don’t happen. You overestimate yourself and get in over your head. A person you trust lets you down. Society disappoints you. (Oh lord, how society has disappointed me these past two years.)

This quote, then, is a little reminder, a little prick in the pocket, to stay skeptical. To not rely too much on faith. To hold nothing so sacred that you give no thought to the consequences if it doesn’t deliver.

In other words, tie up your camels. Tie ’em right up.

And then keep your distance. I hear they spit.

llama eating GIF

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.


So Scientology is on TV Now.


Remember that time yesterday when I posted about the dumb things you do that remind you how dumb you really are?

That feeling is only salved by knowing that there exist in the world, somewhere — as a result of sheer statistics — people dumber than you. Honestly, the only person who can’t say there’s somebody dumber than him out there probably died hundreds of thousands of years ago, before our species properly had its feet under it (literally) and had not yet invented the capacity for realizing how stupid one is, let alone the language to kvetch about it. (RESIST THE URGE TO MAKE A POLITICAL JOKE RESIST THE URGE TO MAKE A POLITICAL JOKE RESIST THE URGE TO MAKE A POLITICAL JOKE)

So, you know. There are dumber people than us out there; we just don’t always see them.

But sometimes.

Sometimes they explode into visibility with fireworks and press releases and white-hot glowing idiocy.

Scientology is launching its own line of streaming TV programs.

Yeah.

Their tagline? “The only thing more interesting than what you’ve heard is what you haven’t.”

HAhahahahahahahahaNO.

Nope. Nopenopenope NOPE. Negatory. The cat is out of the bag on you already, Scientology. The horses have left the barn. The bell is rung. The milk is spilled. Choose your cliche; the world at large is already wise to your particular brand of horse puckery.

My first brush with Scientology (man I feel lame for even capitalizing it but rules of English trump even my disdain for acknowledging the titles of idiotic things as things which deserve recognition — heck, rules of English trump even my searing hatred for use of the word “trump” as a verb anymore) was in high school. Way back in the days when this budding atheist still thought there might be something to religion, in the maybe-there-was-a-creator-we-just-can’t-know-but-why-would-it-care-what-we-did-on-Sundays kind of way.

But even then, in the larval stages of my skepticism and the infancy of my critical thinking, all it took was one mention of the word “Xenu” and I ran away faster than you can say Tom Cruise.

So: a network? For Scientology?

This is dumb on at least three fronts:

  1. People already watching religious TV (bless their hearts) won’t be switching over to Scientology TV. It’s not like how you got bored with The Walking Dead and stopped watching it and you’re looking for another show in your life. People like their religious illusions and cling to them fiercely, and — more bad news, I know — IF they leave their religions, most likely end up with NO religion rather than any other religion. (Actually I don’t know if that’s true, but it must be. It has to be.)
  2. People not already watching religious TV are not about to start watching religious TV. We have better things to do with our time. Also, we know better. Move along.
  3. So, the only people who will be watching Scientology TV are those who are a) already members of the “church”, or b) chemically inebriated and watching for a laugh. The B’s won’t be offering up any money to you, and the A’s, given that your “religion” has as a central paradigm the extraction of as much money as possible from its faithful, are unlikely to have MORE money to offer up to you or your advertisers.

Oh, and that’s without even mentioning the nuclear submarine in the kiddie pool: Scientology is terrible. As a religious institution, it’s worse than most. Like, astronomically worse. It abuses its members. It attacks members who leave the “faith”. And its core beliefs about the world and about people — well.

It would almost take a divine being to create something so bad.

In that way, perhaps, Scientology TV might be the evidence for a divine being that will finally settle the argument.

Or maybe it will be evidence that our evolution truly did stop eons ago.

Either way, there has to be something better on TV. I mean, surely there are some reruns of The Walking Dead on, somewhere.


Hands Across Canada


Right now, there’s a dead hand touring Canada.

That’s not the name of a metal band; don’t don your blacks and your eyeliner and venture to the North to bang your head. No, the dead hand is the literal hand of Saint Francis Xavier. Why is it touring? For … publicity, I guess?

The story is here. Watch the video and marvel.

Here’s a thing I’ll never understand about religion. The claim is that the hand is a “relic”, which means it contains some sort of divine power. This power is bestowed, apparently, because it’s “the hand that baptized hundreds of thousands of people.” (The rest of his body, apparently, can Fargo right off.) Great, cool, awesome. I guess if you’re the sort of person who believes baptism actually does something and is therefore a thing worth doing, I can see holding in some regard a man who had done a lot of them. Of course, there is no mention of this man, or his hand, in any holy book; its divinity is tacked-on after the fact by a bunch of dudes in robes (and only dudes, let us not forget. Whether women could come up with something so ridiculous — I imagine they couldn’t — is irrelevant, because we’re talking about the Catholic church, here). But still, no, seriously, it’s a relic. It’s holy. It has powers.

By that rationale, they could sanctify my left earlobe (after my death, of course — one presumes I’d still be using it, and they could not therefore cart it around the world touting its holy powers, while I was still attached to it) if I could sufficiently convince them that God tickled it.

(By the way, it’s the hand of a dude. It did a lot more than baptize people, is all I’m saying. Consider that for a moment, and consider, then, the fact that people are pressing overpriced medallions and cards (which you can buy at the venue!) and pictures of their loved ones to the hand for blessings. [Okay, fine, the hand is tucked safely away in a glass case. But still.])

Consider the cost of this exercise. The hand has a caretaker who presumably draws a salary (we can’t just drop the thing in UPS after all — there are laws against the 2-day shipping of dead bodies and their parts). The venues that host it have to bring in volunteers to wrangle all the faithful flocking to see it. And the faithful! Imagine dropping what you’re doing to cross the countryside (this is Canada, where I understand it’s 99% countryside and 1% silly accents) and gawk at a bit of dessicated flesh attended by men in expensive suits. Then they come away crowing that this “experience” will have a tremendous effect in their lives.

Spoiler alert: the experience of being taken for a fool only positively affects your life if you learn from it.

Pretend you’re an alien. You voyage across interstellar space and come across this pale blue dot. They’re sending out radio signals, and the planet is swarmed by satellites and rocket ships and space stations and you’re thinking to yourself, hey, maybe the people of this planet have got things figured out. You look a little closer and see, I dunno, the internet and our politics and you say well, maybe not so much.

Then you train your telescopes up toward Canada and discover that there’s a whole lot of hubbub being made over some guy’s skeletal dunkin’ hand. (And we’re not talking about Michael Jordan’s dunkin’ hand, either — that at least you might have heard about. Space Jam exists, after all.) Literal worship of a dead man’s appendage.

You’re an alien. You see humans doing this.

In what universe would you not drop your spaceship into high gear and leap away at lightspeed?


Things Not to Say to an Atheist


The title of this post is probably a topic for a weekly feature all its own. Perhaps even a daily one. Fear not, This blog is not about to go full militant atheist.

Still, when somebody wanders into my house and starts flinging poo at the walls, I think it’s only fair to feel some kind of way about it.

I present to you the following comment, which landed on this post just yesterday (emphasis mine):

I wonder why some humans take no personal responsibility for what happens in the world? Just because you have never had a personal relationship or experience with God, doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. It just means you may not be one of the humans He has chosen to show Himself to. Even if He did, the way you think would cause you to attribute His interaction with you to something you did to make it so. I feel such pity for humans like you. If you had lived my life, you would KNOW Him as I do. But He has given you freewill, and thus, the option to say He does not exist. All will become clear when you encounter Him after death. Humans are wrong about many, many, many, MANY things. Believing there is no God is the most tragic of all.

I could pick this thing to pieces, but again, that’s not my schtick — I’m a more-or-less friendly atheist. There’s at least four or five questionable assumptions and dubious claims in here, but the one sticking in my teeth like a popcorn kernel is the bolded line.

Pity.

Pity assumes that the pitied party is in really dire straits. (Sidenote: are you familiar with Puddles’ Pity Party? You should be, and I say that even though my comfort level with clowns is barely inches above the pavement.) Pity assumes that the pitier is in a superior position, somehow, to the pitied. And pity is, therefore, pretty much innately condescending. Someone up high feeling badly for someone down low.

Get the hell out of here with that.

If I’m to be pitied, it’s only for thinking that I could somehow start turning a dime off my words after almost 40 years walking this earth, not because I don’t believe in the specific god that you happen to believe. I’m doing just fine in my heathenism. Good house, good job, good family.

And, somewhat off the point: what’s up with calling me a “human”? Are you not a human? Am I somehow less than a person? I can’t prove it, but it definitely feels derogatory, so minus points for that, too.

This is not the humble, shrinking atheist you were looking for.

You can go about your business.

Atheist Symbol


%d bloggers like this: