Here at Liberal Rapture, we take pride in being controversial to the point of obnoxiousness. Things are just so much more exciting that way, and its not just at LR that I take this banner and run with it. At my school newspaper, I also make a point of being obnoxiously contrary in my section of the publication. But I digress.
We all (unfortunately) know about the holy roller who predicted the end of the world on May 21st… and was predictably wrong. John Smart
interviewed one of Camping’s followers for his radio show and instantly regretted it- who wouldn’t? After listening to clowns like Camping one has to go out and play with puppies and kittens and look at rainbows, and then slowly remove their mind condom after the mind raping they have just endured.
What was most interesting was the aftermath- my PIC Tamerlane made a comment that caused an uproar on the thread after the show. He pointed out to several believers on John’s thread that they worshiped the same Zombie God Camping does, and thus by default must also believe in the eventual rapture of the faithful up into heaven.
All of you know that as a Wiccan I take personal pride in being one of the Judeo-Christian God’s unwanted, bastard children. So I feel that I am, for the most part, able to play Devil’s Advocate for both Athiest and Believer alike. We Pagans are easygoing folk when it comes to the beliefs of others, so long as they’re not shoved down our throats. Some of my fellow Pagan friends have noted that Athiests can occasionally be as obnoxious as Evangelical Christians who threaten us with Hellfire and Brimstone as they pass flyers to us on the street, but I’ve not seen any evidence of this in Tamerlane.
So I decided to interview him and get his side of the story, admittedly two weeks after the blow up on John’s show, but this isn’t an issue that is going to go away, and besides, I’ve been in and out of the hospital since. I have been having gastro intestinal problems and had to get colonoscopies and so on, but I digress.
Q: So recently you got in a tiff with some commenters at John Smart’s website over a remark you made about Christians worshiping a Zombie God. Here at Liberal Rapture we enjoy making people angry by frequently delving into controversial topics. What made you post that?
A: I wanted to call out hypocrisy. People were cracking rapture jokes and labeling the rapture guy’s views “bizarre”, “crazy”, “a death cult”. Yet most christians take great umbrage when their own beliefs are questioned. So I intentionally and impishly chose a reference that generaly uspets christians– “zombie jesus”. And not surprisingly, a lot of christians got their hackles up.
And they were quick to distance their particular beliefs from the radio guest’s.
But, from where I’m standing, /all/ christianity is bizarre.
I mean at face value, christianity sounds like a Wes Craven flic. This demigod uses his magical powers to raise corpses from the dead who are already very stinky. Then he’s tortured to death. A few days later, he crawls out of his own grave to visit his friends. (In one version, all the dead corpses come out of their tombs and wander into town.) He still has the nail holes in his hands, and invites one of his friends to stick his hand into the gash in his side. He hides out in secret for a month with his friends, performing tricks like making flames dance on their heads, before flying up to heaven on a cloud.
His followers honor his memory by wearing a miniature of the torture device he died on, and once a week they practice ritual cannibalism by pretending to eat his body and drink his blood. The largest sect even believes they’re eating his actual flesh. They all await the day when he’ll come back and raise their rotting corpses from the ground, too.
Q: So as an atheist, would you say that Religious Faith by nature causes suffering? If you point out the inquisition to some believers they’ll fire back with Stalin, who was supposedly an Atheist. What do you say to that?
A: Stalin and the Inquistion don’t cancel each other out. Both believers and non-believers do both good things and bad things. The difference is, believers usually do bad things because of their religious beliefs. Stalin didn’t do things in the name of atheism, he did them because he was a sick fuck.
As for suffering, I do feel that the net happiness of the world would be raised if everyone were atheist. Sure, faith can afford some comfort, but it’s a dead end. Plus there’s so much guilt and fear — and, ironically, doubt. I know someone who’s a devout christian and is going through a painful divorce. They prayed a lot, asking God what to do, but got no answer. This person is also very angry at God — ‘I’ve always been a good christian, so why are you punishing me like this?’
The best answer christians have to that is their supposedly omnipotent, omni-benevolent deity has to hurt us in the short run to do us good. The simplest answer, of course, is that there is no God doing those things; it’s just random. There are other outlooks on life that add more meaning without the suffering.
Q: A lot of Christians don’t take the Bible at face value and say that it’s okay to believe in Jesus without believing that Adam and Eve rode Dinosaurs and that women aren’t allowed to have sex until they’re married, and I think it was those types of believers you got in trouble with on John’s thread. What would your response be to those believers?
A: Where do you draw the line? Without Adam & Eve, there’s no need for Jesus to absolve Original Sin. If you reject some admonitions in the bible, why obey others, and on what grounds? These are highly intelligent people, who are rational except when it comes to this one subject. Why is it forbidden for me to call them out on that?
Many practising christians sound more deist than theist. Yet they cling (yes) to formal theistic religions & rituals out of habit, tradition, or because those rituals and the community are comforting. At least the Universalist-Unitarians are honest about it — ‘we’re kinda uncertain about god’ they admit, ‘but we really enjoy all the ceremonies!’
How many catholics taking communion understand the transubstantiation of the host? It seems to me unwise for people to conduct their lives based on this guy, Jesus, who they have not properly vetted. The more scrutiny you apply to the Jesus narrative — not just the miracles — the more you realize he cannot have been an historical figure. At best, Jesus is a composite of several figures.
Q: Have you ever read any Richard Dawkins? I’m not an atheist but I quite enjoyed The God Delusion.
A: Dawkins is one of my favorite science authors. His descriptions of how random genetic mutations selected by environment accrete to produce evolution are accessible to lay readers, and prove that no “Intelligent Design” is required. Because of his writings, the idea of the gene as the unit of selection (as opposed to individuals or species) is now standard.
The God Delusion tackled religious beliefs, but I still found it more pro-science than anti-religion. I honestly don’t know what about Dawkins upsets believers so, other than: 1) he argues that Science makes religious belief unnecessary; 2) he dares call faith irrational, and; 3) he encourages atheists to stop hiding their views.
For believers who are willing to listen to a less-controversial (& actually Deist) case for Science over faith, E.O. Wilson’s Consilience is a must-read.
Q: But getting back on topic. I got a “B” in Human Genetics, Reproduction and Development this semester. Science by nature is different than faith because the point of it is to prove a hypothesis. But don’t we, as humans, take a lot of things on faith? For example, in Pet Cemetery the Protagonist explains to his young daughter that we have no evidence that the chair in our living room won’t be stolen while we’re sleeping. We take it on faith that it will be there when we wake up even though we have no evidence that it will be. Don’t we, as people, need faith?
A: That conflates “faith” with “confidence.” Faith is defined as belief in something despite lack of evidence, or even in the face of contrary evidence. Not only is faith encouraged & rewarded by religion, it’s required. That leads to bad judgement, wishful thinking, all around. Just look — half of Americans believe in angels, but less than half believe that global warming is man-made.
Confidence in science is based on science’s proven ability to accurately predict and explain things. Not only do we have evidence for the chair not disappearing (no chairs have ever disappeared), we also have a very detailed model — physics — explaining why chairs don’t disappear. And if we’re contemplating a theft of the chair, then we can have confidence in our alarm system, be confident in the low probability of getting robbed tonight, and confident that a burglar would steal our jewelry and not our chair. Unless we’re in the movie The Twelve Chairs. LOL.
Q: What about bad science? Like Eugenics?
A: Eugenics is bad ethics. We selectively breed plants & animals all the time using good science — genetics. We make an ethical choice not to breed humans that way.
The US medical industry is another example of bad ethics, but also sloppy science. Most social sciences (sic), economics especially, are just folk truisms cloaked in the trappings of scientific nomenclature.
People like to point out how often scientists get things wrong. But they’re never completely wrong; they’re always in the ballpark, and always gradually hone in on the precise truth. That’s because Science is self-correcting, and encourages questioning. In just 400 years, the modern scientific method has figured out just about everything. Religion tries to explain everything, too. But it’s gotten every single thing terribly wrong, and has no way of correcting itself.
Q: Do you believe that we should always question everything?
A: I’m not so sure about that. LOL.
Yes, of course, but approaching things with skepticism is not the same as always denying or rejecting. In science, ideas go through stages — from Postulate, to Hypothesis, to Theory, to Law. Each stage has a distinct level of confidence, from tentative to near certain, based on the evidence accumulated, the completeness of the explanation, how it dovetails with other things we know, and on its predictive power. Evolution is so robust now it should be called a Law.
When people want to believe in something irrational they resist inquiry. Like deities. Or chiropracty for my GF. When I try to point out how it’s pseudoscience, she says, ‘I know, I know. But I don’t want to know, OK?’
Q: You said that Fundamentalist Christians at least have some consistency on their argument, since they base their beliefs on the Bible being the 100% truth, and that if you believe in the concept of original sin and Jesus dying on the cross for those sins then you must believe in the rapture. What about what FembotsforObama said? That “Yes, Christians theoretically all believe in the Bible and hence it can be deduced logically believe in the Rapture. But, the way that belief is applied varies greatly. More sane Christians look at the New Testament and see the Old Testament as more historical.”
A: Does that makes Jews “insane” for believing in the OT?
The NT is filled with some outrageous & bizarre shit, too. Just one example: Jesus teleports 1000 demons out of this dude into a herd of pigs, and those demon pigs run headlong down a hill into the sea and drown.
Now, a “sane” christian may toss out some of these miracles. Jefferson tossed them all out and was left with an inspiring, secular story about a wise man! But even a “sane” christian still wants Jesus to be divine, so they must retain at least a couple of miracles. But they have no solid rule whatsoever for drawing the line between believable and ridiculous.
The only logical line is either to accept all the miracles, or reject all. Thus is the fundamentalists’ position entirely logical. The assumptions are false, but the logic itself is pristine. I find any middle positions arbitrary and dishonest.
As Hume put it, “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.”
Indeed. Of course, I can’t say much against Christians who believe that Jesus transferred 100 demons into pigs (The poor pigs! ANIMAL ABUSE! CALL THE ASPCA ON JESUS!) seeing as how I believe in fairies. However, Pagans pride themselves on the fact that our beliefs are basically compatible with science. String theory, quantum physics and Gaia theory all correlate nicely with our views of everything being connected and magick coming from natural energies that we use for positive change. Tamerlane poo-pooed to me about the Gaia hypothesis being the imaginations of LSD induced hippies (HEY! What’s wrong with LSD? Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it!) and said that my babblings about string theory and quantum physics were too generalized, but that is just because he’s jealous of my witchiness and of my availability of skyclad (nekkid) covens.
Part 2 will contain an interview with a believer, and not just any believer- a believer of the same lunatic ilk of Harold Campings, a believer who just recently put her hand on my burning, aching stomach and screamed “by the stripes of Christ, you are healed!” A believer who anointed my black cat with holy oil. And that believer… is my mom.