The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2005 July

Banned From Raving Atheist?

July 30, 2005 | 21 Comments

Tom Gilson wonders in today’s Thinking Christian:

Banned from Raving Atheist?

Either there is a transitory server problem at RavingAtheist.com, or I’ve been banned from commenting there. Here’s what I wanted to say this afternoon . . .

Vernichten at RavingAtheist.com said (comment number 55):

Tom, the things you describe as benefits of prayer could also be listed as the benefits of recreational drug use. Is prayer your drug?

I attempted to answer but got a 403–Access Forbidden error. That means either there’s a temporary server failure there, which is quite possible, or they’ve banned me from commenting. I’ll check back later–it will be interesting to see if they’ve cut me off. It seems unlikely; they’re not afraid of some controversy, any more than I am here.

In the meantime, here’s my answer to Vernichten’s question:

The premise of your question is that I have a drug and prayer is it.

Let’s consider some alternative analogies. The benefits I describe could also be listed as benefits of a strong, stable, loving marriage. Is prayer my marriage?

The benefits could also be listed as benefits of being incredibly satisfied with one’s work, or one’s athletic accomplishment. Is prayer my work? Is it my sport?

You can see there’s no need for me to buy into your premise. No, it’s not a drug, because it increases rather than decreases my engagement with reality.

(I know, I know, a lot of you are going to disagree with that. You can write it here in a comment if you feel a need to. What can I say, except I have experience to show that I’m a whole lot more fulfilled, functional, and productive when I pray than when I don’t. I’m a better husband, a better dad, a better employee.)

Although Tom is correct that The Raving Atheist has some tolerance for controversy, it’s rather limited. From my secret control center high atop Mt. Godless, I carefully monitor each and every comment in the Forums to make sure nothing is said which might thwart Satan’s Plan. And when I saw Tom’s comment regarding prayer, I thought: what if people became convinced that the analogy between praying and psychotropic drug use was flawed? Why, there might be . . . more prayer! The Great Deceiver would not like that.

As long as we’re discussing analogies, though, how about this one. Tom proposed that it was a more likely explanation that his denial of access at The Raving Atheist was caused by a transitory server failure than some unseen conscious force. Could there be a similar explanation for the alleged “effects” of prayer?

Finally, one last analogy:

FlandersTom.jpg

God Squad Review CXXXV

July 25, 2005 | 59 Comments

Is it okay to ask God to grant a wish if it requires hurting or killing someone else? A Squad reader is concerned, asking if it’s permissible to pray for a donor heart, or for an adoption to go through where that might be granted only if the biological mother returned to drugs and alcohol. After several paragraphs of unresponsive drivel (“[p]rayer veterans will tell you that prayer brings peace”) , the Squad comes up with this evasion:

Wishing for a heart transplant is not really wishing that a donor will die, but rather it is a prayer asking: If the person does die, could the family please consider the needs of the gravely ill and offer healthy organs to heal them? Similarly, when a woman addicted to drugs decides to put her baby up for adoption, it’s not always because she wants to return to a life of drug abuse, but rather that she simply cannot raise the baby herself.

Hmm. So all that the patient’s family is doing is asking that God tamper with the brains of the grieving relatives of the potential donor and overcome their will to the point where they agree to give up the heart. I guess that’s reasonable, given that they might have some reservations that their departed loved one might end up lacking the necessary parts to complete his or her bodily resurrection in heaven. But if God is invading people’s bodies anyway to exercise some mind control, why not ask him to simply regrow or heal the existing heart

Last Chance

July 23, 2005 | 14 Comments

The God Who Wasn’t There needs jsut a few more fans to push its box office over the $18 billion mark. Today is your last chance to see it on the big screen in New York. The Raving Atheist will be there, taking attendance, seeing who’s naughty and who’s nice. No guarantee, but wild orgies sometimes break out as the closing credits roll. Here’s the info:

Tonight, July 23, 2005 7:00pm

Address: 59E59 St. Theater
59 E. 59th Street

http://www.59e59.org

NOTE: Tickets sold IN ADVANCE ONLY. Must call 212-279-4200 to get tickets!

World Religions Collapse as Atheist Documentary Shatters Box-Office Records

July 22, 2005 | 25 Comments

Tew York, New York
Special to The Raving Atheist

Predicted to rake in more than $17 billion in receipts by the end of its New York run tomorrow night at the 59E59 St. Theatre, the atheist documentary The God Who Wasn’t There has forced religious leaders and believers worldwide to renounce their faith and immediately dissolve their churches, synagogues, Mosques and Covens.

Propelled by a recent review in Newsweek, the film by ex-fundamentalist Brian Flemming had by its opening day already eclipsed the estimated $611 million take of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Unlike The Passion, TGWWT does not celebrate Jesus but compares him to psychopath Charles Manson and exposes him as simply as another in a long series of mythical, sacrificed savior-Gods that most early pagans quickly rejected as frauds. Modern Christians are not portrayed as spiritually and intellectually-deep seekers of eternal truth, but as gullible, brainwashed, unreflective dupes woefully ignorant of the history, context and precepts of their dimwitted, incoherent superstition. Even liberal and moderate Christianity is dismissed as nonsensical double-talk lacking the courage of its half-hearted convictions.

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI, Pat Robertson and other religious figureheads are scheduled to hold a press conference to concede that adherence to their alternatively comforting/terror-inducing God-fictions has been rendered futile by the onslaught of TGWWT’s atheistic truth. “It violates human dignity for me to continue to insist that I am the Vicar on Earth of some non-existent Dionysis-clone,” said the Pope. Mel Gibson has announced plans to withdraw The Passion from circulation, offering complete refunds and admitting that he was insane to release a film glorifying suffering, vengeance and undeserved collective guilt. Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Wiccan leaders who have screened the film have reported “surprise” at how closely their own beliefs mirror the clumsy fairy tales of Christianity and vowed to encourage their followers to study science instead.

The success of Flemming’s godless blockbluster is widely attributed to its special effects. They include digitally-recorded video interviews with intelligent, knowledgeable experts talking sensibly about the idiocy and perils of religion — as well as confrontations with believers which abandon the assumption that people should respect every utterance anyone spouts about God. The technology is considered superior to that used in prior depictions of religion, which attempted to portray faith as something “deep” and “mysterious” by piping in organ music over dimly-lit scenes of cud-chewing worshippers babbling piously in pews as sunlight streamed through stained-glass windows.

Beam Him Up

July 20, 2005 | 74 Comments

James “Beam Me Up, Scotty” Doohan of Stak Trek died a few hours ago.

You gotta believe that everyone connected with that show was an atheist.

Even so, if there is a heaven, how will he ever get there? I mean, there’s no ladder or staircase or elevator. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t envision another way of him being transported upwards. I wonder if the obituary cartoonists will have any better luck thinking of something . . .

God Squad Review CXXXIV

July 18, 2005 | 16 Comments

Is it okay for a Protestant to get a Jewish prayer shawl as a souvenir from Auschwitz? A Squad reader wants to pray to the piece of cloth as a way of saying “never forget,” but is afraid it would be as bad “as wearing a rosary as a necklace, or treating a Quran with disrespect.” The Squad agrees:

As you suspected, the appropriation of one religion’s religious objects by someone of another faith is more than just confusing; it’s a spiritual boundary violation.

Exposing yourself as a spiritual seeker to the teachings of other religions is fine, but when it is the objects of that religion one seeks to take out of their natural context and use in a personal and idiosyncratic way, a line has been crossed.

The talit, or prayer shawl, is a fulfillment of a biblical commandment to place fringes on the corners of a garment (Numbers 15:37-41 and Deuteronomy 22:12). This commandment to wear fringes is the third part of the central affirmation of Judaism, called the Shema, whose first part, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, The Lord is One” is as close as Judaism comes to a central prayer.

The purpose of the fringes is so that Jews who wear the talit can see them and “remember to do all of God’s commandments.” Since it was precisely the decision not to observe these Jewish commandments that caused the split between Judaism and Christianity, and since the fringes are a central part of Jewish belief and worship, you might want to find a different object to commemorate your visit.

We must add, however, that flushing a Quran is to treat the toilet with disrepect.

Okay, so I made up that last line. But isn’t it “personal and idiosyncratic” to worship a Jewish man nailed to a cross? That seems at least as bad as praying to a Jewish shawl. If Christians today began pulling noisy Rabbis off the streets and worshipping them on crucifixes, you’d never hear the end of it from the ADL.

I think the key is determining who sets these “spiritual boundaries” the Squad is talking about. Presumably it’s God. If so, I don’t think the first boundary-crossers He’s going to be concerned with is the shawl-worshipping Protestants. He’ll start with whoever made mistake regarding the performance of “all of God’s commandments.” Either the Christians crossed a boundary in disregarding Jewish law, or the Jews are in trouble for following them instead of Christ. And whoever’s wrong is going to find themselves in a place much worse than Auschwitz.

In the Squad’s scenario, however, we have this odd polytheistic God who doesn’t care if you’re a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu or a Buddhist, so long as you don’t violate spiritual boundaries by mixing and matching the faiths. Unfortunately, that scenario requires you to believe in an odd polytheistic God, which necessarily forces you to mix and match the faiths.

Atheist Exposed

July 13, 2005 | 71 Comments

The touching preface to a new blog, Atheist Exposed:

A 48 year old government worker, 30 year closet atheist, is exposing to her friends, co-workers and clients her lack of belief in God. This is an experiment in humanity and tolerance. Hoping for a good outcome. Approaching in a non-confrontational manner. These are my friends, and I care about them. I hope they can accept me as I am. My goal is to help my Christian associates have the knowledge, that they know an atheist, and she’s not a bad person.

Shirley works in a Texas prison, and decided to test her godlessness out on the inmates before confronting the chaplin. Apparently this experiment was inspired The God Who Wasn’t There cabal.

Go visit this dear woman and leave lots and lots of comments.

The New Skepticism

July 11, 2005 | 21 Comments

I once noted that “I don’t go after astrology, psychic phenomenon and other pseudoscience because those forms of irrationalism are not usually protected or favored by the First Amendment, and have no constituencies pushing to have such beliefs enacted into law.” According to Slate, some noted skeptics are shifting their focus in the same direction. Instead of pursuing television fortunetellers, they’re targeting mainstream fundamentalist politicians and their policies. And rather than public “debunkings,” they consider it more fruitful to employ a “positive” defense of science and reason:

Michael Shermer, the historian of science whose California-based Skeptics Society hosted the conference in Pasadena, also avoids the D-word. He’d rather talk about why people are fooled by supernatural hoaxes than spend his time debunking them. His group has doused the activism of CSICOP’s early days with a program of research, lectures, and meetings.

* * *

Intelligent Design theorists and deniers of global warming may very well be phonies and scoundrels, but no one is going to debunk them in the classic sense. You can’t reveal their hidden microphones or mimic their tricks with sleight of hand. Intelligent Design, after all, is an attempt to recast (even to “rebunk”) Creationism in scientific terms. The best weapon against it isn’t dramatic expos

Logical Sense

July 5, 2005 | 13 Comments

“[T]here are few issues less important in and of themselves than whether the Ten Commandments should or should not be displayed in public buildings,” says John Podhoretz. In fact, the issue is quite important to Podhoretz, who devotes the entire column to the issue of whether the Ten Commandments should or should not be displayed in public buildings. Ostensibly, he’s upset at the Supreme Court’s inconsistency in ruling in favor of one Commandments display and against another, finding that the judges were “acting idiotically” and declaring that “the nation is in desperate need of some new blood on the court, which in its current composition has lost its ability to reason coherently.” The conflict between the two decisions is irreconcilable, Podhoretz says, noting that “[y]ou can’t make logical sense out of an illogical contradiction.”

But Podhoretz’ love of logic is feigned. What bothers him, obviously, isn’t that the court ruled inconsistently on an issue that he purports to consider unimportant. What really upsets him is that the court didn’t come out in favor of promoting religion in both cases, in favor of promoting systems built upon one illogical contradiction after another. What else would explain this kind of whining:

[Justice] Souter says [the courts are] supposed to take into account what you intend when you put [a Ten Commandments monument] up. If you meant to advance the cause of religion, it’s time for your display to go into the garage. But if your purpose was to pay tribute to law, lawgiving, Western civilization, the Atkins diet or the Spiegel catalogue, or even to David Souter, you may prevail.

Thus, along with all its many powers, the Supreme Court has now granted the American judiciary the power to read minds and discern feelings from a distance. Amazing!

Ignoring Podhoretz’ silliness about the difficulty of discerning people’s intentions in a given case (it’s pretty easy to distinguish between what Roy Moore and The Raving Atheist have in mind, respectively, when tributes to the Commandments appear in their kingdoms), let’s focus on the purpose of the analogy. What he means is that the Aktins diet, the Spiegel catalogue, Western civilization and Souter are all trivial things compared to religion. He’s outraged that religion, apparently to his mind the ultimate form of truth, ends up in the garage.

Podhoretz, however, doesn’t bother explaining why religion is entitled to any respect at all. The standard which abhors illogical contradictions isn’t applied to the very ideas he’s trying to defend. Nor does he announce which faith is the true one, his essay containing but one indirect reference to the importance of the “Judeo-Christian” tradition. But last I checked, “Judeo” referred to some nonsense about Chosen People, killing first-born Egyptians and parting Red Seas, and “Christian” to some incomprehensible tale about a 2000 year old BDSM self-sacrifice which washes away human sin. The Judeo part of the construction rejects the core teaching of the Christian part, and the Christian part rejects the Judeo part for doing so. Both parts are built upon an incoherent or self-contradictory definition of an invisible, omni-everything being.

You can’t make logical sense out of an illogical contradiction, indeed.

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