Sunday, April 8, 2012

Trying To Blog Against Theocracy Once More: Blog Against Theocracy 2012

Caption: Baal: "You dare mock me?" O'Neill: "Baal, you know me. Of course I dare mock you."

Image credit: Screenshot by Cujo359 (see NOTE 1

Easter is upon us once more, and in one of those traditions that pass for a long standing one on the Internet, it's Blog Against Theocracy Weekend. Which, in itself, is all sorts of ironic to folks like me.

Yes, we're supposed to take seriously a holiday that is faithfully observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. Why in the world would anyone put a holiday on such a bizarre schedule? I miss it at least half the time because it happens earlier than I expect it should be. Just to make things even more fun, this is supposed to be the day when that religion's founder came back from the dead, wandered the Earth just long enough to be seen by all the cool people, and then ascended somewhere. Not that any of that is crazy, mind you.

Caption: Mortally insulted by this sign? Sadly, you're not alone, either. And yet, you're also an idiot.

For those who are visiting here for the first time, let me introduce myself. I've been blogging for five years now. I am an atheist. As a casual glance through the keyword cloud should attest, I mostly blog about political and economic issues. In that capacity, I mock the President. I mock his supposed opposition. I mock his supporters, and their supporters. I insult progressives, and conservatives. Not content to confine my ill-mannered Internet persona's outbursts to one sphere of thought, I mock whole sports, and the people who participate in and observe them. At least, I insult them in the sense that I call them on the foolishness they arrogantly tell us we're supposed to believe without question. At the end of the day, if there is still a sacred cow that hasn't been shot, rendered, and urinated on, then I feel positively restless. It's important to do that, and there's a very simple reason:

There are a lot of stupid people out there who believe a lot of stupid things.

Caption: Wait a second. I have to do what?

Image credit: See NOTE 2

What's more, they expect that you should believe them, too. After all, if something is so obviously true that you don't have to think about whether there's any reason to believe it or not, then no one else needs to question it, either. Even calling such a thing into question can be a grievous insult, as far as they're concerned.

Image credit: Abstruse Goose

Take Steve Harvey, for instance. Please. Harvey was, at one time, a fairly funny standup comedian. He decided, though, that his true calling was giving us all lessons on relationships and religion. I quote him here from an interview on CNN:
BEHAR: Which reminds me, speaking of God, you say in the book that you wouldn't go out with a woman, I guess, a woman should not go out with a man that doesn't believe in God.

HARVEY: No, I mean, why would you?

BEHAR: Do you believe that only people who are religious are ethical and moral?

HARVEY: No. I just believe if you don't believe in God, then where is your moral barometer? That's just me talking. You can believe what you want to believe. But if you're an atheist, you're basing the goodness and morality on what? I mean, but what is an atheist? I don't really get into that. I've talked the people all the time. I'm an atheist. I just walk away. I don't know what to say to you.

BEHAR: Well, an atheist is someone that doesn't quite believe that there is somebody out there, some God out there.

HARVEY: Well then to me you're an idiot.

BEHAR: OK. Well ...

HARVEY: I'm cool with that. Probably not the right politically correct thing to say but if you don't believe in God, I mean, really, you have to have an explanation for this. You can't just tell me it spun out of a gastrous (ph) ball and then all of a sudden we were evolved from monkeys. Why we still got monkeys? There is too much open. I just believe that and if you don't believe that, then I don't like talking to you.

BEHAR: I see. OK. Listen. Listen. It's fine with me.

HARVEY: Can you say that on Larry King?

BEHAR: You can say it on any show. It is a free country.

Larry King Show Transcript: May 29, 2009
Without bothering to talk to atheists, he thinks they're idiots. As I pointed out at the time, many prominent scientists, some of the smartest people on this planet, are atheists. Yet this clown, who has never mastered any subject more complicated than a one liner, calls them idiots, because he doesn't know what to say to them. As if anyone who is so pig-ignorant on an issue needs to do anything other than listen.

That kind of stupidity deserves ceaseless mockery, and nothing less. That's particularly true when they keep inviting ignorant half-wits like him back for more interviews.

Caption: Another cartoonist who no doubt deserves to be shamed and shunned for "insulting" some religion. Click on the cartoon to see the rest of it in its native habitat.

Image credit: Courtesy Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Contrary to Mr. Harvey's unexamined prejudices, it's often true that religion provides, for far too many people, a reason to switch off their minds when it comes to deciding what's moral or what's not. If there's a passage in their holy book that could be interpreted to mean something is moral or immoral, that's good enough.

The trouble, of course, is that it's obviously not good enough. Take the Roman Catholic church, for example. The endless scandals involving priests molesting children wouldn't be scandalous, at least to me and most people who view such things from a secular perspective, if it weren't for the fact that so many within the Catholic hierarchy have taken great pains to protect them. Why do they do that? I think I answered that question in my last attempt to Blog Against Theocracy:
The problem is that people want to believe this so much that they'll believe any other mumbo-jumbo that goes along with it. They'll believe that utter nonsense like the Trinity is profound. They'll believe that the end times will be great for them, but not for you. They'll believe that the guy who runs their church is infallible. They'll believe it even though they should know better, and if they do know better, they'll pretend not to.

If I were to declare that Richard Dawkins was infallible, you'd say I was nuts. You'd be right, too. The difference between the Pope and Prof. Dawkins in this particular instance is that Dawkins would agree with you.

Trying To Blog Against Theocracy
Yes, the claim of papal infallibility is supposed to only apply to theological questions, but so what? How can someone be utterly infallible on religious questions, and yet not be able to see into the souls of people he hires who happen to be child molesters? Let's just say that I have no problem seeing a contradiction there, nor would quite a few people. The motivation for a cover up is pretty obvious, which certainly doesn't help the victims.

Caption: Gird your loins, folks, 'cause Phonics Jesus Is Comming.

Image credit: One Fly/Outta The Cornfield

Even worse, this particular church, like many, is run almost exclusively by men, and men who have supposedly forsworn sex, for that matter. Despite not inhabiting the world most of us do in this regard, they insist that their followers, and by extension the rest of us, not only respect but abide by beliefs in contraception that their own followers don't.

Yet, when the Foundation For Religious Freedom ran an ad in the New York Times that asked progressive Catholics why they continued to support an institution that was clearly counter to most progressives' beliefs, this ad was called "offensive" by people who should have known better. This is a question I'd ask of anyone who was contributing time and money to an organization whose goals weren't his. Yet, this is insulting, because someone asked it about a religious organization?

Get a grip. That's not anywhere near as insulting as I could be on that topic. In fact, in the area of politics, I have been much worse at times. While there are certainly people who don't agree, I think most of us would conclude that politicians and their enablers are not only not above mockery, but could probably benefit from it.

How would that work out if the Pope were President?

We resist theocracy for a great many reasons, many of which Thomas Jefferson mentioned in this paragraph from Notes on the State of Virginia:
Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth... Our sister states of Pennsylvania and New York, however, have long subsisted without any establishment at all. The experiment was new and doubtful when they made it. It has answered beyond conception. They flourish infinitely. Religion is well supported; of various kinds, indeed, but all good enough; all sufficient to preserve peace and order: or if a sect arises, whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play, and reasons and laughs it out of doors, without suffering the state to be troubled with it. They do not hang more malefactors than we do. They are not more disturbed with religious dissensions. On the contrary, their harmony is unparalleled, and can be ascribed to nothing but their unbounded tolerance, because there is no other circumstance in which they differ from every nation on earth. They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes, is to take no notice of them. Let us too give this experiment fair play, and get rid, while we may, of those tyrannical laws.

Notes on the State of Virginia, 1787
Caption: If you're stupid enough to put a saddle on a dinosaur, someone's going to ride it hard.

Image credit: P. Z. Myers

Not allowing one religion to dominate a government protects all religions. But it does something that may be even more important - it puts religion on the same level with all other human thought. It requires that religions, like any other point of view, prove that thought to the satisfaction of enough people to make it society's collective opinion. That process requires debate, and part of any spirited debate is humor and ridicule.

Putting religion above such things makes it far less likely to be called out when it doesn't make sense, or when it doesn't follow the rules that the rest of us are supposed to live by.

As I wrote five years ago:
Organized religions are too often political institutions themselves, in that they seem to spend far more time worrying about things like their religion's popularity and finances than to their spiritual beliefs. They don't strike me as any more interested in the good of the nation than oil companies or big pharma are. The more the people who run them are ignored, I think, the better off we'll be as a society. Having a diverse range of religious beliefs represented in Congress can go a long way toward making that happen.

More Diversity
Making them somehow above criticism and mockery makes the people who run them above criticism and mockery. That's bad for what should, by now, be obvious reasons. If they aren't obvious, then e-mail me to find out how a $25 donation will get you your heavenly reward.

If you're still having trouble, then I think spending a few days watching the series that I took that opening screenshot and dialogue from would be in order. Stargate SG-1's adversaries are a race of people who pretend to be gods, right down to the "all-knowing" part. Often as not, the reason they lose to the earthlings is because they can't stand to be questioned or corrected by someone who knows what he's talking about. The series was one long lesson in why letting people get away with claiming to be infallible is a really bad idea.

Religious beliefs are the products of human minds. As such, they are subject to the same failings that all other human ideas can have. Even on issues where a religions philosophy clearly says the opposite, the people who run those religions will, quite often, interpret those philosophies in a way that suits their needs:

Caption: Oh, those GNU atheists and their sudden interest in mocking religion...

Image credit: Watson Heston/Magellan's Blog

Leaving government, or any other process that affects society, in the hands of people who won't have their views or characters questioned out of "respect" for their religions is another really bad idea.

So, on this Blog Against Theocracy Day, I claim the right to mock religion, just as we mock any other form of human thought or endeavor when it can't get over itself. Without that right, we make religion something that is above criticism. When a religion runs the government, then it, too, is above criticism and mockery. Something that can't be mocked is justly feared. There are enough things that we need to be afraid of already. I have no desire to add to them.

Afterword: Yes, all of the graphics in this article, except the first two, are recycled from previous articles I've written. No, I'm not sorry. What you should take from that is that there is no lack of mockery out there, and that it's going to continue as long as religions do things that are worthy of it.

NOTE 1 This screenshot of the Stargate SG-1 episode "Zero Hour" was taken by Cujo359. Stargate SG-1 is a copyrighted work of MGM Studios, among others, none of whom contributed to, endorsed, or approved this article in any way besides creating a program that could sometimes be thought-provoking.

NOTE 2 This screenshot of the Mr. Deity episode "The Really Big Favor" was taken by Cujo359. Mr. Deity is a copyrighted work of Brian Keith Dalton and Lazy Eye Pictures, who are in no way responsible for this article, nor did they approve this article. It's funny. Check it out.

UPDATE/Appendix: I haven't found a single link list for this year's Blog Against Theocracy. I guess that's too old fashioned or something. Still, here's a list of the articles I was able to find:
Those are all the ones I could find. If there's a better link list, please feel free to tell me in the comments or via e-mail.

UPDATE 2: With my official welcome into BAT2012 (see first comment) I have added the swarm title and one of the blog graphics to the article. I've also added another link to the list, Vixen Strange's. From now on, I'll do that without making an update note. After this, I'll just put a date/time string there to show when it was added.


Tengrain said...

I thank you for your post - you've said (and illustrated) the great thing: treat it all equally.

The modern linkage (it seems) is a twitter styled hashtag #AgainstTheocracy. I know BlueGal used to wear herself out trying to copy and past urls into a list and doesn't want to do that any longer, so searching on the hashtag is supposed to generate a list.

(I was looking for the list, too...)

Best regards,


Cujo359 said...

Hi Tengrain,

Yes, I checked that hash tag. That's where I found some of the links in my list. Unfortunately, my usual practice is to just send out an automatic twitter message when there's a new post here. I just happened to see that hash tag when I was rummaging around your site.

I don't blame Blue Gal for wanting to avoid making a list. The one I saw back in 2010 was enormous. So far, though, those are all of the articles I've found.

One Fly said...

i tink i saw a picture of mine here but had to run at time. I think that will live for some time. Appreciate that you thought of that.

Cujo359 said...

It's a fun picture, One Fly. Thanks.