Archive for the ‘atheism’ Category

I open my Facebook this morning and lo!

Charges initiated against Pope for crimes against humanity

at which I thought, hihi hihi hihi, and maybe also a bit, go get him, guys!

But of course, nothing is ever as pretty and shiny as it seems: the two lawyers who prepared the charges, Christian Sailer and Gert-Joachim Hetzel, are members of a ~~*new religious movement*~~ called “Universelles Leben“, founded by the prophetess Gabriele Wittek in 1975. Which makes it an epic clash of the cranks, which is extremely funny, as everything ever should be. Life is beautiful.

However, for all their crankery one can’t but think that they might be a bit right:

“three worldwide crimes which until now have not been denounced . . . (as) the traditional reverence toward ‘ecclesiastical authority’ has clouded the sense of right and wrong” (emphasis mine)

This is absolutely true, and a lot more quotes, too (although I haven’t of course read the whole 16500 word document, nor do I intend to. This is, after all, a clash of the cranks).

Meanwhile, from what I could gather from my extensive, 30-minute search of teh internets, Universelles Leben is basically yet another typical New Agey semi-Christian sect, with all the expected claims of being the only true Christian church, others having strayed too far from the original doctrine of peace, love, harmony with nature and antisemitism. It incorporates a lot of New Agey concepts, like a bastardised version of reincarnation, preaches living in harmony with nature and vegetarianism. The prophetess also claims some sort of era of peace and love and poo-shitting unicorns is going to happen soon. Very boring.

But wait! Some German organisations claimed that there is an undercurrent of antisemitism in the movement, and also that its place is somewhere between leftist environmentalists and neofascists. Pretty, huh? But look at the quotes:

So heißt es beispielsweise in der programmatischen Schrift „Das ist mein Wort“ von UL-Gründerin Gabriele Wittek: „Seit nahezu 2000 Jahren ernten die Juden von einer Fleischwerdung zur anderen, was sie damals und auch in ihren weiteren Einverleibungen gesät haben – bis sie ihren Erlöser an- und aufnehmen und das bereuen, was sie verursacht haben.“

(For instance in “This is my word”, a programme [of the UL] written by the founder of UL, Gabriele Witter, it says: “For almost 2000 years the Jews have reaped from one incarnation to the other what they sawed, then and in their other incarnations – [which will continue] unless they accept and admit their saviour, and repent for all that they have caused.” emphasis mine)

Gee, this is not very ambiguous, guys.

They also run foul of the law in Bayern with the result that the court said that:

Die Ausgestaltung des Gemeindelebens, wie sie aus der „Gemeindeordnung“ des „Universellen Lebens“ hervorgeht, darf in scharfer und überspitzter Formulierung ohne Verfassungsverstoß als totalitäre Struktur bezeichnet werden.

(The organisation of the life of the community as can be gathered from the ordinance of “Universal Life” may pointedly be called a totalitarian structure without violating the constitution)

(This translation sucks, but omfg, I hate whoever wrote that sentence)

The Cicero magazine also has an interesting article that mentions that members of the UL often earn their living practicing “natural medicine”. I’m so unsurprised. The members of the sect lead a very isolated life and hardly interact with the outside world, and all in all it seems all very creepy.

So I thought that maybe when Sailer and Hetzel talk about totalitarian church, like here:

“[the pope] is responsible for the preservation and leadership of a worldwide totalitarian regime of coercion which subjugates its members with terrifying and health-endangering threats”.

they simply know what they’re talking about, like, from experience.

And the moral we have is: not always the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

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A book I have read some time ago, so we’ll have to rely on tiny scrapes of paper with my notes <3 Obviously, I can’t write reviews, and I dislike writing reviews(1), so there will only be list.

The good things about the book:

1) Buruma actually did talk to actual Muslim people from Netherlands, people from different backgrounds, with different opinions on Islam and its role (if any) in their lives and so on. Compared to typical drivel that is usually written in cases like that by self-proclaimed experts (I’m looking at you, Oriana “Nomen Omen” Fallaci) who just list their racist prejudices in alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order; the reverse alphabetical part being the only variety; this is a huge improvement.

2) Buruma’s criticism of Hirsi Ali as fighting her own made up version of “one true Islam” is spot on.

3) His account of anti-Semitism in Netherlands is… well. I think the stadium scene with people hissing is one of the most disgusting things I read about.

The bad things about the book:

1) Is it really really necessary to call Ayan Hirsi Ali “exotic beauty” or “African beauty” everywhere, all the time? Because, honestly, it’s sexist, racist, and also quite repetitive. If I had an electronic version of the book I’d calculate the frequency per 10 000 words at least, but I don’t and also really, really? It’s the 21st century FFS. Buruma, stop being a creepy stalkerish idiot.

2) Throughout the book, Buruma uses the words “fanatical”, “orthodox” and “fundamentalist” pretty much interchangeably. Well, the problem is, they don’t mean the same thing at all. A look at his bibliography confirms that he used mostly books and articles written by other journalists, but not stuff written by people who, for instance, research fundamentalism as a sociological phenomenon. It’s a great pity; Buruma’s argument would have been much clearer if his narration about fundamentalism versus orthodoxy versus fanaticism had been coherent.

3) Buruma’s insistence on defending van Gogh’s hateful diatribes is a bit disturbing. I mean, of course, no matter how hateful, one should not just be murdered, but on the other hand, why make excuses for everything van Gogh said? “It’s the Dutch tradition” — imagine someone saying this about some group of Muslims, the outrage it would surely cause. Also, it was clear from Buruma’s narration that van Gogh’s hateful tirades were mostly directed against people who are already silenced or oppressed in the mainstream discourse, and not against people who had actual power.

Or maybe, I might be a victim of severe culture shock: in Eastern Europe, it is only to be so vile when one bemoans one’s woeful life, which one is forced to live despite the trials and tribulations one undergoes on a daily basis, look at this shop assistant, he was rude to me on purpose, look at this guy there, he’s looking at me funny, look at that kid, she’s gonna spill that juice isn’t she, and so on.

But I digress.

Anyway, I think the book is definitely worth reading, even if it’s far from perfect. It certainly contains a lot of interesting information, and if one just closes one’s eyes every time Ayan Hirsi Ali is called “the exotic African beauty” everything should be OK.

(1) My theory of reviews is based on stuff written by Kyougoku Natsuhiko, who is otherwise an author of boring pretentious horrors interspersed with pretentious preachy bits about his views on virtually everything which I for some reason keep reading, and looks like that: there are four main types of review-like texts:

1) information: there’s a book, it was written by XY who also wrote ABC, and you can buy here and here

2) ad: you should totally read XY’s new book, it’s awesome

3) account of personal idiosyncrasy: I read XY’s new book and I totally loved it because (…)

4) structural (etc) analysis: I read XY’s new book and it’s made from tropes A, B, C

of which 1) and 2) are rather worthless, and 3) is only interesting to read if you care about the author’s personal tastes and idiosyncrasies, because you’re for instance friends with them. Otherwise it’s boring and useless. 4) requires spoilers and a reader who doesn’t care about spoilers, and we can’t have that here so.

Yes, I actually think about stuff like that. It’s really sad.

Farewell, my lovely!

Posted: November 29, 2010 in art, atheism
Tags: ,

Look! The Jesus from Swiebodzin is going away <3

 

In 1884 J.W. Burgon says about the radical idea that women should be admited to universities:

Will none of you have the generosity of the candour to tell [Woman] what a very disagreeable creature, in Man’s account, she will inevitably become? If she is to compete successfully with men for ‘honours’, you must needs put the classic writers of antiquity unreservedly in her hands – in order words, must introduce her to the obscenities of Greek and Roman literature. Can you seriously intend it? … I take leave of the subject with a short Allocution addressed to the other sex … Inferior to us God made you: and our inferiors to the end of time you will remain.”

(Quoted in Manguel, A History of Reading, after Jan Morris, ed., The Oxford Book of Oxford)

126 years later, if there’s one thing I can vouch for, it’s that I have become the disagreeable creature — so disagreeable in fact that she demands to be called “human”, not “creature” — Burgon seemed to be so afraid of; and also, it was not Suetonius’ fault.

Not even Cicero’s, or Caesar’s.

I’ll take the whole responsibility for that. Disagreeably. Hah.

At first, I decided against writing anything about That Fucking Cross, but this morning, as I was racking my brain for new and shiny things to do while procrastinating, I thought to myself, oh well, self.

Alors, on to the news from the land of cold, drizzling and unholy:

The most unfortunate of you might have had heard about the fairly recent fundie meltdown in Poland. Directly connected to the plane crash in which the president and a bunch of officials died, it’s a bastard child of misbegotten spin doctors, power-hungry politicians eager to exploit the alienated, the mentally ill and the marginalised for their own political agenda, and a bunch of creepy and/or mentally ill hate-mongers who actually believe in the bullshit they’re spouting.

In short, after the crash the Catholic scouts(1) put a cross in front of the presidential palace. Nobody minded(2) then because people were leaving all sorts of things in front of the presidential palace then: flowers, votive candles, and journalists. However, after everything went back to normal(3), a certain feeling of WTFery began to set in the cold little hearts of the Polish people, as they watched their telly and thought:

What the fucking fuck is this fucking cross doing in front of the fucking presidential palace? For fuck’s sake(4).

Or even the dreaded:

What the fuck, I thought this was a fucking secular fucking country? Fuck(4).

As a result of various considerations of this and similar nature, the local authorities decided they have to remove the cross from where the scouts had so thoughtlessly left it(5), and mow it down with a steamroller, and stab it several times for good measure, and maybe even stake it so Jesus never rises from the dead again.

Actually, no. They wanted to move it to a church, and they even had a procession of priests and scouts(6) eager to accompany it, but this is not what happened at all.

(Really, watch it. It has an old lady who tied herself to the cross. Seriously)

What happened is that the entire fucking state is apparently completely powerless when faced with the completely unmanageable rage of ~*a few dozen old ladies*~ (well, and maybe a couple of Neo-Nazis, too).

The cross is still standing, the completely crazy fundies cum Holocaust deniers cum NWO conspiracy theorists have been swarming around it day and night for several weeks.

This has caused several things:

1) on average, the Polish are crankier than usual; this is strongly correlated with the increased use of the word “fuck”, which is frequently triggered by the sight of crossroads, crosswords, cross-stitching and cross-examination,

2) on average, the Polish are more angry at the government than usual,

3) on average, internet memes are finding this environment to be very easy to flourish in.

On Monday, a crowd of reportedly 5000 anti-cross activists (sceptics, hipsters, anti-theists, pro separation of church and state, and trolls) who had been gathering on Facebook in the course of a few days went to make fun of the fundies. Photos!

signs: 1) Moscow pays me, 2) Demolish the presidential palace, it's blocking out the cross

They started at 23:00 AFAIR:

Lots of angry hipsters:

Hipster footage

They’re screaming:

– remove the presidential palace

– back to church

– take the cross back to church

– remove the cross

Another:

(The guy with the megaphone says that the law in Poland is being broken right in front of the presidential palace, which makes the whole country an international laughingstock(8). They are demonstrating, the guy says, to make fun of the fundies who are appropriating the public space. At roughly 1:53 a guy in a pope custume appears on a balcony FTW)

Hipster remix, apparently played in some clubs already (lyrics = “where’s the cross”)

One flash game parody, two flash game parodies.

You can put a cross on your website here.

And finally, today a random guy decided that he will sue the government because of the clear violation of the separation of church and state laws(9).

The thing is, this is not going to change anything at all. Not only the most conservative politicians, but usually even the self-proclaimed left-wing ones are coddling and accommodating the fundies no matter what crazy thing they decide to do, even though they’re an obvious (if loud and crazy) minority. The fundies are appropriating the public and symbolic space, bit after bit, and the public discourse, with the result that anybody who opposes them or criticizes them in any way is presented as a public enemy, traitor and possibly also a member of one (or more) of the many conspiracies the fundies believe in. The worst thing is that this sort of thinking has been slowly sneaking into mainstream media; most people will preface their criticisms of not even religion but religious fundamentalism with “I’M A CATHOLIC BUT” or “CATHOLIC VALUES ARE VERY IMPORTANT BUT”, and so on.

It’s cool that there’s a bit of rage, finally, instead of  the usual apathy, and hopefully in ten-twenty years, this rage might actually accomplish something. Meanwhile, as ever, the fundies can do what they wanna.

(1) There are also the regular, non-Catholic scouts so.

(2) I would have, but I’m observing this stuff from a safe distance, you see.

(3) It would perhaps be useful to point out that the Polish “normal” might be vastly different from what you’ve grown accustomed to classify as “normal”, JSYK.

(4) The Polish people like to swear a lot to show the sincerity and depth of their feelings. Also, in Polish the above sentences would display much more variation of profanity, respectively:

Co do kurwy nędzy robi kurwa pierdolony krzyż przed jebany pałacem kurwa prezydenckim? Żesz kurwa jego pierdolona.

Do kurwy nędzy, świeckie kurwa państwo.

Guys, I turned the diacritics on just for you. This is serious stuff.

(5) I think the time has come to finally say it: fucking scouts.

(6) Fucking scouts.

(7) Fucking scouts.

(8) Fucking late to be self-conscious now.

(9) Constitutional lawyers say he will most likely lose, because Polish law sucks like that, so it’s mostly about making a gesture.

I can’t make up my mind what’s actually a bigger news, in a way. Anyway:

1. Apparently, a bunch of Teabagger trolls on Digg has been suppressing non-teabagger (as in, not extremely right wing, not denying artificial climate change, not denying evolution, not denying that assorted social problems are problems, not denying that the social justice discourse is important, etc, etc) news and articles for years.

This is completely batshit insane, if only for the reason that there are actually people perfectly willing to waste sizeable chunks of their (free?) time on creating multiple accounts, circumventing bans, and so on, only so that they can collectively remove articles that say Obama is not a Kenyan Muslim terrorist or something.

And a good waste of life to you too, sir(1)!

2. Prop 8 is temporarily overturned, and everybody is quite rightly in a jubilant and festive mood, but! Not all! I know, I know, the Maddow video is awesome and stuff, but let’s focus on something not a lot of people is focusing about because of their jubilant and festive mood, namely, right-wing gnashing of teeth, bawwing and wailing(2).

Maggie Gallagher!

Judge Walker has added insult to injury by suggesting that support for marriage is somehow irrational bigotry, akin to racial animus. The majority of Americans are not bigots or haters for supporting the commonsense view that marriage is the union of husband and wife, because children need moms and dads.

(…)

Parents will find that, almost Soviet-style, their own children will be re-educated using their own tax dollars to disrespect their parents’ views and values.

Cry me a river of crystalline tears, with your sapphire orbs! (I’ll even donate some money for the Soviet style re-education camps, if a donation drive is ever undertaken by the fellow Marxists hurr durr derp)
Worldnut Daily!

He seeks to deconstruct (and then reconstruct) the definition of traditional marriage by describing its constituent elements and showing how those elements can be applied equally to heterosexual marriage and same-sex marriage, thus concluding there is no difference between the concepts. It’s as if he compared my DNA with any of yours and concluded that because 99.9 percent of human DNA is the same in everyone, you and I are the same person.

Guys, the Fans of proof by analogy(3) group on Facebook has a new member (guys, we need an international version now, too) hurr hurr derp derp derrrrrrp.
Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling yesterday, in which he trampled on the will of seven million Californians, is a monstrous, egregious, reprehensible expression of judicial activism and tyranny.
TYRANNY! TYRANNY! It’s when someone doesn’t allow the state you live in to support your  treatment of human beings as if they were subhuman. Clearly.
Although almost no other organizations other than the American Family Association are making an issue of this, Judge Walker should have recused himself from this case since he is a practicing homosexual. This created a clear conflict of interest, and he had no business issuing a ruling on a matter on which he had such a huge personal and private interest.
I’m sorry, I had to guffaw here.

He is Exhibit A as to why homosexuals should be disqualified from public office. Character is an important qualification for public service, and what an individual does in his private sexual life is a critical component of character.

Catholics: first, they come for the gays. Next, the Protestants(4).

I would watch out for the Catholics if I were a Protestant.

Coffee time now.

(1) I haven’t been using Digg, so, I’m not actually invested or anything. I’d love to hear about that from someone who did. Did the users notice suspicious patterns in the articles being buried? I mean, someone obviously did, duh, or there wouldn’t have been an investigation and stuff, but how common was this noticing? Did people think that the burying patterns actually reflect people’s opinions accurately, and lost faith in humanity in general, and joined VHEMT? I wanna know.

(2) Oh, the sweet taste of suffering and misery! *Sendai-in-her-festive-and-jubilant-mood*

(3) Where by analogy obviously a false one is meant.

(4) Yeah, I know that the term “Protestant” is polemical and therefore problematic. I couldn’t think of another word for “mostly all Christians who are not Catholic”, though.

A couple of days ago, I saw Dan’s post of a Ayaan Hirsi Ali video, in which she was explaining that the willingness of fundamentalists to kill people cannot be only blamed on their destitute situation (for two reasons: 1. not all of the fundamentalists who become terrorists are poor, 2. not all poor people become terrorists).

My immediate reaction was that of scoffing ‘well of course she’s right’, but actually I was  being overly dismissive again. Because that bad economic situation contributes to radicalization of many people’s political or religious beliefs is an intuition many people have, and one I would have had not so long ago.

(Fun fact: I feel I cannot any longer deny that I’m a learning machine. I tend to forget things like:

– paperwork,

– wallet,

– where I left the keys,

but I usually remember things like:

– when firefighting was nationalised in the UK (1865)

– where the wife of Salomon Maimon finally caught up with him, after he, to all intents and purposes, abandoned her with a child (Breslau)

– why a word with short vowels receives plene writing in Akkadian poetry sometimes (because it’s the accented part of a question).

I have a great memory, but my priorities are wrong, all wrong.

Another thing is: after learning a new thing I tend to immediately forget that there was a time I didn’t know it. A “new” information only stays “new” for a couple of hours or so.  Which is why everything always seems obvious-old-news all the time to me. Whence the dismissiveness.)

Anyway.

The intuition that “poverty causes people to become terrorists” is a bit true in that poverty may indeed spur a poor Pakistani political science graduate to join a fundamentalist organisation like Jamaat-e-Islami (it is now a more respectable political party) in hopes that it will lead to a creation of a just Islamic state, in which he or she would no longer be poor. The problem is that he or she has to believe in the just Islamic state and its power to make all wrongs right in the first place.

It is the quite obvious that poverty is not what causes fundamentalist movements to form. What happens instead is the following:

A  religion that was heretofore taken for granted is confronted with another (foreign, new, reformed) religion. As a result, the religion that to its believers appeared simply obvious and natural becomes the object of intense reflection  and deliberation, and is for the first time questioned. Eventually, the religion that was before natural and obvious, is defined, standardised and juxtaposed with the new or other or foreign religion.

This is in fact not just a religious phenomenon, it’s perfectly observable in culture and language (standardisation, anyone?). This is in fact  how people adapt to modernity or westernization.

Of course, many different concepts and definitions arise as the result of the reflection and deliberation process. Unless there is such a dominant power involved that could easily impose its own definitions, multiple definitions are allowed to exist. Some of them turn out to be fundamentalism.

If the new, or foreign, or other religion becomes, to put it succinctly, the evil twin of the newly-developed-old religion, we get fundamentalism.

A close observation of numerous movements allowed to create a definition of fundamentalism as having the following characteristics:

1. Moral absolutism

2. Manichaeism, understood as the belief that there is a continuous struggle of good and evil

3. Nativism (not always, propagated for instance in Sri Lanka, the belief that only a Buddhist Sinhalese is the real Sinhalese)

4. The sort of millenarism that presupposes that the believers will actively seek the overthrowing of the existing order, being fundamentally opposed to it (see moral absolutism). If a secular state can be  tolerated, we will only have a conservative, not fundamentalist movement. Often, the overthrowing of existing order is seen by fundamentalists as a restoration of mythical golden age.

5.  Claims of being the only true, pure version of a religion, other, more liberal versions being “tainted” by modernity, the Western influence, etc

6. But above all, the Enemy.  An  Enemy is something without which no fundamentalist movement can exist, because the enemy defines the fundamentalist movement and its goals by being everything it negates, despises and seeks to destroy. It’s the modernity, the secular society that tolerates multiple truths (see 1). Because the Enemy represents the absolute evil (1 and 2), it is all right to dehumanize the members enemy groups.  Fundamentalists from religions as traditionally pacifist as Buddhism advocate violence against their opponents (like Phra Kitthivuddho from Thailand, who argued that killing communists does not violate the Buddhist prohibition against killing sentient beings, because the communists are less than human).

The enemy must be eliminated; waiting for the respective higher power to mete out divine punishment and restore justice is not enough. A fundamentalists must actively strive to establish the divine order on earth.

Most fundamentalist movements appear in times of rapid societal change. This is not a coincidence: fundamentalism cannot exist without the Other.

I might write some more about different fundamentalisms in a couple of countries, later, if I have the time.

But I wouldn’t be very optimistic :<

ETA:

(While I didn’t use any specific book while writing this post, I should mention that I’ve been reading a lot of stuff from the Fundamentalism Project, which you can find here, though I mostly focused on Fundamentalism Observed (while a bit obsolete, it is nonetheless a valuable resource). One of the first people who noticed the extent of puzzling similarities between various fundamentalisms is Martin Riesebrodt, especially in his book “Fundamentalismus als patriarchalische Protestbewegung. Amerikanische Protestanten (1910-1928) und iranische Schiiten (1961-1979) im Vergleich” aka Pious Passion: The Emergence of Modern Fundamentalism in the United States and Iran).