Archive for March, 2010

Sunday Sermon: Fish in a barrel

I’m sure you’ll be relieved to hear that the pope won’t be “intimidated” by setbacks to the Catholic Church such as the sex abuse scandal in Wisconsin (which the then-Cardinal Ratzinger was apparently informed about while it was happening).

Nice to see he’s got his priorities straight: church first, everything else second. I wonder if that attitude is the reason some preachers stay in their jobs when they no longer believe.

I’m sure I could go off on a rip-roaring rant about the evils of what’s been going on lately (and not so lately) with the Catholic Church, but somehow it seems almost unsporting — like shooting fish in a barrel. Or piling on in a giant crowd of people shooting fish in a barrel. Sometimes it’s better to just point to something and let it speak for itself.

(pic via DawkinsNet)

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Amazing

I’ve already touched on the similarities between gays and atheists in terms of “coming out,” and the question of which is harder.

But I guess when someone like James Randi, who’s been an outspoken atheist for decades, waits until he’s gray-haired to come out as gay, it sort of settles the question.

Well, actually it doesn’t, of course. It just provides one more data point. But it’s certainly an interesting data point. And it makes me wonder whether I myself should come out to a greater extent than I have.

About the atheism, that is. Sexually, I’m either straight or I’m doing a fabulous job of being in denial.

Sunday Sermon: Before Tim, there was him

I’m in too good a mood for a proper Sunday Sermon — healthcare reform is being passed (nice to see the Dems able to get something actually done), and we had a swinging party last night that was a lot of fun. But this might provide a little bit of religion-bashing fun for people (like me) who enjoy that sort of thing:

Before there was Tim Minchin, there was Tom Lehrer — not exactly an advocate for atheism or freethinking, but more than willing to take potshots at sacred cows (including religious ones) of the day. It turns out there’s a DVD of Lehrer’s performances being issued, so now there are lots of YouTube videos showing him actually performing, rather than just still photos with a song playing in the background (which was the case until very recently).

Last week I posted a link to a church that was trying for “a sympathetic approach to contemporary culture,” but churches have been trying to do that for quite a while. “The Vatican Rag” was Lehrer’s response to some changes initiated in the ’60s by Vatican II — specifically the inclusion of more diverse music in services.

Down with Darwin (in the good way)

Maybe it’s just PR trickery, the sort of thing one might expect from a church that boasts about having “a sympathetic approach to contemporary culture,” but the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor sure has a nice bumper sticker. It’s nice to see Christians who are so openly down with Darwin (usually the phrase “down with Darwin” means something entirely different in a religious context).

They sponsor something called “Camp Creation,” which seems like the kind of thing that would raise all sorts of red flags to nonbelievers, but turns out to be an artsy-craftsy summer camp where kids focus on creating things. And something they call “Jesus Brand Spirituality®” (yes, including the “®” symbol) turns out to be fairly innocuous.

All in all, they seem like a nice bunch of folks — for believers, that is. I’m sure there’s much to criticize (they do believe in a magical sky-wizard — I mean, these aren’t UUs we’re talking about here), and I’m sure someone like PZ Myers would be willing to go out of his way to do so, but my gut feeling is that religious folks and institutions that are friendly to evolution are rare enough that we should try to meet them halfway (or at least, a couple baby steps in their direction).

(via Reddit)

Sunday Sermon: Pareidolia Strikes Deep

No time for a proper Sunday Sermon today — the power’s out where I live, so no computers ro Internet (I’m typing this from a computer lab at my wife’s work, where we popped in to check e-mail), but here’s an interesting little tidbit:

Some guy in England thinks he’s got a picture of Jesus in his frying pan, but as you can see (from the inset I ‘Shopped in to the picture at right), it’s obviously Pete Townshend.

Why do people who’ve never had a beard somehow think that all men with beards look alike? And that they all look like Jesus? Did anyone actually say Jesus had a beard in the first place?

“Project” management

What to do when some believer makes you their “project”? This Reddit thread has an interesting discussion of how to handle it when someone makes a concerted, ongoing effort  to convert you.

I have to say, I think it would be really cool if some believer wanted to make me their “project,” because I’d feel like I had permission to really defend my worldview and even criticize theirs (of course, it would be different if the believer in question was my boss or someone I absolutely had to remain on good terms with).

Even if they turned out (like many people) to be considerably less happy on the receiving end of the treatment they’re happy to dish out, I’d feel like I had the moral high ground (or at least moral equivalency). And if they ever objected to my treatment of them, I’d have a jumping-off point for discussing whether their (equivalent) treatment of me was appropriate.

The problem is, what if it’s not an out-in-the-open “project” per se, but more of a pattern of dropping hints, leaving Bibles on your desk, or that sort of thing? Can you handle it the same way? Should you? If you make a point of doing a “tit for tat” then it may be your actions, rather than the other person’s, that bring the conflict out in the open.

And, of course, the whole moral “high ground” or “equivalency” thing may not be perceived by others the same way it’s perceived by you. In this society, people who are pushy about their religion are classified as “religious,” while people who are pushy about their atheism are branded as “militant.”

(pic via ORTHODIXIE)

Agnostic aggravation

Well, I’m now officially agnostic — platform-agnostic, that is. I’ve got a new computer that’s dual-booting Windows and Linux (actually, it’s triple-booting Linux, Windows XP and Windows 7 — I gave up on a quad-boot setup with Mac as well).

Unfortunately, all this time futzing around with computers has meant I haven’t had as much time to ponder the deeper issues, so I really don’t have much to say about atheist etiquette at the moment. Hopefully next week will be better.

(cartoon via XKCD, of course)