Archive for January, 2010

Sunday Sermon, several times removed

I was away this weekend (hanging out with an old college buddy from Wisconsin, who’s now living less than 50 miles away here in New Jersey), so I didn’t get a good chance to ponder good topics for a Sunday Sermon. But here’s a sermon from Mark Twain (sort of), by way of Hal Holbrook, by way of YouTube, by way of … my old college buddy, who sent it to me while I was in transit back to my part of Jersey! Sometimes the non-God works in mysterious ways.

Networking for the no-Gods crowd

“The Problem with Atheist Communities” makes some good points, but I think it underestimates how much atheists, just by virtue of being atheists in a theist-dominated society, actually have in common with each other.

It’s true that a group for atheists is kind of like a group for people who don’t collect stamps — or perhaps more accurately, a group for people who don’t have hobbies.

But if pretty much everyone had a hobby, and not having a hobby was considered weird and kind of scary, and if hobby clubs were one of the main sources of social interaction, it might very well make sense to have a club for people without hobbies.

(pic via Lorenz Lammens)

Sunday Sermon, Stockholm Syndrome redux

2 points here:

1) If God’s so “able” and “awesome,” why are tens of thousands of other men, women and children dead?

2) Who do these folks think buried the guy for 12 days in the first place?

Bonus question: Since 12 days is longer than 3, does this mean Jesus isn’t the record-holder anymore?

(Pic via Reddit)

Choral riff

The MeFi thread on this fascinating Brian Eno interview seems to keep coming back to an offhand remark Eno makes about singing in a gospel choir even though he’s an atheist.

There’s a lot of interesting back-and-forth between those who can’t quite wrap their minds around the concept, or who think it’s hypocritical, and those (usually those actually involved in music) who point out that they sing words they don’t mean all the time.

I have to say, I don’t see the problem. If you’re a grownup without kids (and thus nobody who needs to be lied to), is there something wrong with singing a song about Santa Claus during the holiday season? Is it immoral or hypocritical for Jonathan Coulton to cover Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat,” including the end line “Sincerely, L. Cohen”?

Music’s about a lot more than just lyrics, but lyrics make it so people can make music without learning an instrument and without just singing “la la la” on every song. Not every song’s lyrics are as brilliant as JoCo’s or TMBG’s, but just because “the lyrics are dodgy” doesn’t mean you should shut yourself away from the majesty of Bach’s B Minor Mass or the passion of Mozart’s Requiem or the joy of a really good choir singing about Jesus.

P.S. The video at the top of the post has a pretty good joke right around 2:45. It’s worth waiting for.

Sunday Sermon: Stockholm Syndrome

Haitians praise God after apocalyptic quake is the headline on this story:

Sunlight streamed through what little was left of blown-out stained-glass windows as the Rev. Eric Toussaint preached to a small crowd of survivors. A rotting body lay in its main entrance.

“Why give thanks to God? Because we are here,” Toussaint said. “We say ‘Thank you God.’ What happened is the will of God. We are in the hands of God now.”

WTF?Is this guy really thanking God for wreaking destruction on his country? Or thanking God for wreaking destruction on people other than himself and his (remaining) parishioners? Talk about a dysfunctional relationship!

I realize religion is supposed to help you find silver linings amid clouds and such, but sometimes that’s just not going to happen, as CNN’s Campbell Brown found out when she tried to find a ray of hope amid the darkness:

Hate and Haiti

Zennie 62’s Thomas Hayes has a great post on Pat Robertson’s latest outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease, about the “Haiti made a pact with the devil” nonsense.

He was nice enough to include Robertson’s toll-free number: 1 (800) 759-0700 — the phone call costs Pastor Pat (and ties up his phone lines), but not you.

And then maybe visit this list of lists of Haiti relief efforts you can contribute to.

(pic via Bongo News)

Sunday Sermon: Minchin movie

Tim Minchin’s “Storm” is exactly the kind of “fun rant” my little Sunday Sermons aspire to be — bitingly irreverent, wickedly funny, and still making a valid and important point.

The 9-minute “beat poem” skewering not just religion but “spiritual” New Age hippies is a favorite of Minchin fans, especially the atheist/skeptic types. And now there’s a “movie” coming out, if you consider a full-on animated video of the song itself to count as a “movie.”

I’m not sure I do, but it’s nice to see someone giving the song some attention, although I’m not sure the treatment will be all that much better than the lyrical animation below.

Coming out

Coming out gay vs. coming out atheist:  Someone who’s done both says coming out as an atheist is harder in some ways than coming out as gay, but there are some interesting similarities, including that both groups benefit from having more people be “out.”

Does that mean there’s justification for “outing” people by revealing their status against their will? Does it mean those who are “out” are justified in criticizing those who are still “closeted”? I’m inclined to say no.

Everyone’s circumstances are different, and so is everyone’s personality. Maybe there are people who could (relatively) easily uncloset themselves, and who are hurting others like them by remaining silent. But I don’t think that’s a call someone else is qualified to make.

(“Motivational” pic via Hope Lounge)

Sunday Sermon: Putting it in perspective

I take some digs at Christians in these little Sunday Sermons, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little perspective.

Christians can be ignorant, bigoted and laughably hypocritical, and they wield a scary amount of power and influence here in America and elsewhere, but they don’t generally go around trying to kill people just for blaspheming against their imaginary friend.

Sure, they’ll whine about a work of art that submerges a Jesus figurine in urine, or includes elephant dung in a depiction of the Virgin Mary, but whining is about all they do.

Muslims are a whole other ballgame, as the recent attack on cartoonist Kurt Westergaard demonstrates. However obnoxious Christians may be (and “pretty friggin’ obnoxious” is my estimate), it’s a lot worse in most places where Islam is the dominant religion. So if you live in a Christian culture, thank your lucky stars or whatever that the main threat they pose to your health is that you might bust a gut laughing at their idiocy — like Rick Warren calling it a “miracle” that parishioners coughed up money when asked (that’s called a “pledge drive,” Rick, not a miracle).

Note: The cartoons that caused all the controversy — including Westergaard’s, which is shown at right — can be seen here. I don’t think they’re especially good (even Westergaard’s), but the best way to respond to censorship attempts is to increase the profile of the thing being censored. So maybe click on the link to boost their hit counts or something.