This is the only thing I’m going to post about the Rapture, Part II

Rapture my unsaved ARSE.

Colour me unsurprised.

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Belated: Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!

In the interests of freedom of speech (certainly not punctuality), I bring you:

MOHAMMED ROCKS
(c) 2011, Mandrellian
found objects, lint, a mouse

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This is the only thing I’m going to post about the Rapture

See you on May 22, motherfuckers.

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In which I reply to a reply from a politician

Recently I added my name to the increasingly long list of Australians petitioning our allegedly left-wing (ha!) government to stop being such a bunch of backward conservative-courting tools regarding marriage equality (seriously, is it too much to ask our atheist lady PM to frigging well man up and stand up to entrenched homophobia backed in large part by religious conservative inertia?).

The Labor Senator for Victoria, Gavin Marshall, sent back a nice & informative form response (can’t blame him for that, considering the amount of mail that must be in various MPs’ inboxes on this issue) indicating that he’ll be pushing for marriage equality at the next Labor National Conference. Good for him! He also said I should contact him with any other federal concerns I might have.

So I did.

———————

Dear Gavin

Thank you for the response. I am heartened to hear you’ll be advocating for marriage equality at the next National Conference; I hope my local member will doing likewise. Part of me is frankly bewildered that we even have to have this discussion in 2011; another part isn’t surprised at all, considering the far-reaching Howard legacy and the current eagerness to court conservative votes.

Speaking of which I have another concern relating to the schools chaplaincy/religious instruction programs and the current role in same occupied by an openly evangelistic organisation, Access Ministries. I’m sure you’re aware of the current press climate regarding this issue. I’m equally sure I don’t need to remind you of the importance of separating church and state; suffice it to say that a government remaining neutral on religious matters is the best possible outcome for governments, believers and the non-religious alike.

It is disturbing that Access, whose declared mission is to convert people to their sectarian faith, is given state funding and open access to what amounts to a captive audience of impressionable young minds. With private religious schools, churches and other private venues in which to further faith in no short supply, I fail to see the appropriateness of expending not inconsiderate amounts of public funds to essentially represent one faith to school children at the expense of all others.

If counselors of any kind are to be part of a school’s complement of staff (and I believe they should be), let them be accredited by relevant state bodies & properly trained in the specific area of adolescent counseling. If religion is to be taught, let it be taught as, for example, an elective or an objective study of the history & philosophy of a range of faiths. Certainly don’t let one sectarian version take priority; this could easily be seen as a state abrogating its responsibilities to all citizens regardless of their faith.

On a personal note: as state students in South Australia between 1981-93, we were regularly presented with Religious Instruction classes & Religious Education “seminars” which were in reality thinly-veiled attempts at conversion & indoctrination. At the time it baffled me that our high school, effectively a branch of our government, was more or less allowing the local church to do this in the guise of education. It baffles me that our duly-elected governments would still, in 2011, allow more or less the same things to happen with their blessings and our money.

In a country such as ours, people should of course be free to follow and teach the faith they choose, but to use state funds to enable easy access to young people by avowed sectarian evangelists is inappropriate in the extreme. In addition to the misuse of public funds and effective collaboration of the state and one particular church, it could quite easily present a confusing & contradictory message to children who are being raised in a different sect, different faith or in no faith at all.

Yours sincerely
Etc.

———————

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Faith – apparently little more than a mushy pile of peas

According to John Haught, who is apparently a theologian (he certainly writes like one), faith can be defined any way you want, as long as your definition makes believing in unproven, unevidenced mysticism a reasonable proposition – in fact, by Haught’s reasoning, reason itself wouldn’t exist without belief in the unbelievable. Much like Humpty Dumpty, who famously proclaimed that words can mean whatever he wants them to, shortly before being butchered by horses masquerading as ovologists.

Found at Metamagician Russell Blackford’s place:

“Faith, as theology uses the term, is neither an irrational leap nor ‘belief without evidence.’ It is an adventurous movement of trust that opens reason up to its appropriate living space, namely, the inexhaustibly deep dimension of Being, Meaning, Truth, and Goodness. Faith is not the enemy of reason but its cutting edge. Faith is what keeps reason from turning in on itself and suffocating in its own self-enclosure. Faith is what opens our minds to the infinite horizon in which alone reason can breathe freely and in which action can gain direction. Reason requires a world much larger than the one that mere rationalism or scientific naturalism is able to provide. Without the clearing made by faith, reason withers, and conduct has no calling. Faith is what gives reason a future, and morality a meaning.” (God and the New Atheists, page 75)

Is this the carefully thought-out theology that atheists like R. Dawkins, C. Hitchens, S. Harris, R. Blackford, J. Coyne, O. Benson, PZ Myers and others are accused of ignoring? Truly? I ask because we see that complaint a lot – some theologian or accomodationist pops their head over the parapet, sees a “New Atheist” article or book and attempts to rip it to shreds, citing along with the usual hollow accusations of militancy, stridency & fundamentalism a rank ignorance of modern sophisticated theological argument. If this is meant to be such, I confess it bears no further resemblance to sophistication than a Corvette sports car does to its maritime namesake.

Now, while I do consider myself reasonably fluent in English and reasonably familiar with how it is to be used, I’m not a strict dictionary-definition kind of guy. I understand that meanings of words are malleable and even prone to about-faces over time. But what Mr Haught (or is he a doctor? Can you get a doctorate in making yourself comfortable with a religion you most likely didn’t choose but had thrust upon you?) is doing is precisely the kind of thing Humpty was talking about above: redefining, at its core, a word to suit his purposes. Case in point: after some infuriatingly syrupy New-Age-y waffle about the “inexhaustibly deep dimension of Being, Meaning, Truth and Goodness”, (yes, he’s of the Capitalist school of modern theology, seeking to confer doubleplus Pondering Gravitas to particular Key Words by judicious applicaton of the Shift Key) Haught describes faith as being more or less indispensable to reason. Faith, he appears to believe, is a necessary – the necessary – prerequisite to reason. Faith in a religious context isn’t, as most dictionaries would have us believe, believing in a proposition in the absence of evidence for that proposition; no, to a theologian, faith is a machete that makes the clearing that reason requires in order to function. Faith isn’t, as proclaimed proudly by believers from Islamabad to Islington to Illawarra, belief without evidence. No, without faith we wouldn’t even know the meaning of evidence, because we wouldn’t have sufficient reason to define or comprehend it.

Really? Reason couldn’t exist without unreasonable belief in unreasonable propositions? Well, I suppose so – in some internally-consistent belief system where definitions of commonly understood words are as plastic and subject to interpretation”” as the very scriptural underpinnings of that belief system, anyway. But the best-written and most compelling fan-fiction that’s most faithful to the source material is still fiction.

[As an aside, I love the little morality nudge n’wink at the end, presumably added just for good measure as it has no apparent bearing on the preceding paragraph. As we all know, “morality”, when written by a theologian or any spiritualist, is a dog-whistle to the faithful; a code which means “Good behaviour = Jesus”. Everyone knows people aren’t capable of being nice without believing God killed himself to save you from his chamber of horrors.]

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve not read this book of Haught’s, just the excerpt posted by Russell. I doubt that I will read it either, but not out of any fear of having my worldview shaken to its core. You see, we not-really-that-new-at-all-atheists have dog-whistles of our own; you just know, for example, that whenever a theologian or theoccommodationist even uses the term “New Atheist” in passing, let alone entitles a book with it, there’s a fair chance that the work of theirs you’re about to read will make you cringe and raise your eyebrow, Spock-like, at least; hurl the book or your PC out a window at worst. If this one (mercifully) brief example of opaque & pompous prose is any guide, the time I’d take slogging my way through Haught’s tome and arranging repairs to my various computers and windows would likely be better spent elsewhere – perhaps counting my toenails and then doing it again to confirm my initial total. Haught, far from being the skilful writer and thought-provoking theologian he clearly thinks he is, seems more like Humpty Dumpty, taking such extreme liberty with the definition of a key word in the discourse on religion that he might as well just hold up a mushy pile of peas as his Gold Standard of evidence for the reasonableness of believing in God and leave it at that.

Homophobia sinful, according to sub-branch of homophobic religion

The facebook page of Gay Marriage Rights in Australia posted today a link to a Star Observer article headlined “Homophobia a sin“.

I posted the following comment on GMRA’s thread:

——–
Nice sentiment, but it’s on record that numerous rival sects (that share most of the same beliefs) think, based on basically the same scriptural sources, that it’s homosexuality that’s the “sin”. Honestly not sure how people are meant to choose between theologies, or how individual sects arrive at the conclusion that their particular message is the “right” one in the first place.

Or, hey, perhaps it’s the case that grown adults shouldn’t fucking need to be TOLD by some self-appointed moral authority to be fucking nice to other people, because this is the 21st fucking century, not the 16th.

And perhaps it’s the case that our most popular religions are themselves the source or inspiration for the vast majority of homophobia that permeates our society and that one or two churches splitting from the mainstream and saying “be nice to our LBGT brothers and sisters for Christ’s sake” is a pleasant but ultimately futile & meaningless gesture as it preaches to the converted. So to speak.

FFS pour me another pinot, it’s bloody cold in Melbourne today.
——–

That was five minutes ago. I have my pinot and I’m happy and warm again.
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