Question: does the religious prohibition on “spilled seed” only apply when the creamy output of a session with Madame Palm is thrown in the garbage? That is, if you compost the semen, because you’re contributing valuable nutrients to the future soil, and thus recycling the contents into glorious plant life, are you in the clear, morally speaking?
September 18, 2010
December 23, 2009
As an avowed athiest, I have received puzzled looks regarding the hand-cut, electric-light-covered noble fir currently dominating my back living room, the decoratively-wrapped presents thereunder, and the gingerbread cookies alongside. What the fuck am I doing celebrating Christmas? The answer: I’m taking it back. I’m sick to the teeth of all those god-fearing folk having all the fun. I like Christmas carols. I dig on the cocoa and firewood and unwrapping traditions I’ve developed over the years. Hell, I produced a nativity play in the nineties; it featured a soundtrack by Funkadelic and Nine Inch Nails, an in-drag Herod, and an absence of talking animals, but still.
Yet, I get the impression I’m not wanted. Despite the efforts to mainstream what had traditionally been a religious holiday. Now we’ve got post office and court closure. We’ve got decorations in public space. We’ve got across-the-board retail sales. We’ve got an expectation that is pervasive enough that the tradition of sending Jews into Chinese restaurants is crumbling. And we’ve got “the holiday season” euphemism. Guess what? Christmas is no longer a Christian holiday. It hasn’t been for some time, of course. But it’s time we recognize it.
Which is why I’m proposing that we return “Christmas” to its origins: a generic celebration of the winter solstice. All the trappings–Santa Claus, the tinsel, the singing, the fruitcake, the boozing–should be retained, to the extent possible. Even the overtly religious parts, like the pretty song “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and the “star in the east” tree topper. Because us secular folks are taking it back for the general consumption. Because, like the genericization of brand names by way of excessive popularity (think, Kleenex, Q-Tips, and Aspirin), Christmas has become property of the masses. Including the ignostics among us. If you mainstream it, you lose it.
December 22, 2009
As D was frosting the gingerbread last night, it occurred to me that the milk-and-confectioner’s-sugar substance acts as the mortar for the traditional Christmas cookie houses. Which means that white goo is to Christmas as charoset is to Passover, no?
January 2, 2009
As you’ve all no doubt heard by now, a family of nine Muslim Americans were removed from an Airtran flight for, well, being Muslim. And making a comment about being seated near the engine.
What really got my goat was not the removal itself. There’s definitely a better-safe-than-sorry mentality that can make people do stupid things, like depopulating a plane on the basis of little more than a harmless comment. No, what makes me think Airtran deserves to go out of business is that after the FBI agents chatted with them for a few minutes, discovered the whole thing was a horrible mistake, and communicated the harmlessness of these particular passengers to Airtran, Airtran continued to disallow these folks on board. They kept being stupid. The FBI vouched for these people, and Airtran still wouldn’t let them fly. They had to take US Airways.
So I urge you all to take this frightening lack of manners into account when choosing an airline in the future.
December 19, 2008
The athiest display in the Washington Capitol has prompted dozens of individuals to write letters to the editor of “The Olympian.” Today’s sampling got my ire up. Well, one in particular. Most of the letters have been of four sorts: “Hooray for athiesm!,” “Can’t we all just get along?” “It’s not that big a deal,” and “I’m batshit insane, and I’m angry.” The last letter in today’s clutch–Daniel C. Walters’–is of the last sort. And none of these is particularly troubling.
The one that I let bother me is Dave Toht’s, which reads as follows:
Should Capitol host diatribes?
The reason people responded violently to the anti-religion placard outside our Capitol is not because people object to free speech. Rather, they sense the unfairness of allowing one group to attack another.
Does free speech permit one group to say another is stupid? Of course. Should our Capitol be a forum for such diatribes? I hope not.
Consider the consequences. Can we now mount signs, each in their season, attacking Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism?
It is also hard to take the assertion that, as the placard reads, “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”
My goodness. If you want examples of hardening hearts and enslaving minds, look to the dark days of the Soviet Union and communist China — massive states that embraced atheism. Abandoning discredited Judeo-Christian ethics, these states decided the end justifies any means.
As a consequence, they killed millions, imprisoned tens of millions and imposed hopelessness on billions. While Christianity in the 20th century has much to answer for (Belfast, Bosnia, for example), the consequential carnage pales by comparison.
Institutional Christianity, filled with fallible humans as it is, will always make mistakes.
But institutional atheism takes your breath away. Christianity had 2,000 years to pile up its offenses; atheism became a contender in mere decades.
Is “peace on earth” really so vile a sentiment? Isn’t the notion of divine truth taking human form an idea worth contemplating — if only once a year?
Come on guys. Give us a break.
Part of the problem here is connecting atheism to the Soviet Union. While all good Soviets may have been atheists, not all good atheists are Soviets. Compare to holding the actions of the Taliban against all Muslims. Or the Inquisition-era Spaniards against all Catholics.
But I’m more troubled by the phrase “Judeo-Christian ethics.” As has often been pointed out, many religions–and, frankly, nonreligions–share a wide assortment of ethical rules. For example, the “no murder,” “no theft,” and “no perjury” sorts of moral obligations are commonly held by followers of Abrahamic religions, followers of non-Abrahamic religions, and followers of no religion. To claim ownership of these rules for one particular tradition, to call them “Judeo-Christian ethics” is disingenuous. Perhaps those that we all agree on, those are human ethic. Or, if you’d prefer, they’re a particularly common ethic. If your religious tradition happens to say “those rules over there that everyone’s abiding by, those still apply” with a dose of “because G-d says so” thrown in for good measure, bully for you. But they’re not yours.
So what is yours? The list of “unclean animals,” like owl. The prohibitions against sodomy. Maybe the moral obligation, as opposed to choice, to turn the other cheek. These are the true “Judeo-Christian ethics.” And, although I consider myself to be a pretty strict moral absolutist, I don’t find any of these rate. To me, these are not moral questions at all. And I find traditions that put them in the moral category pretty silly.
What gets me angry is when religious people assume (1) morality flows from religion or the gods, and (2) because many religions and non-religions have certain commonalities, any given religion has some sort of legitimacy in imposing the irregularities on others. Morality exists independent of, and prior to, religion. And just because a religion preaches some moral rules doesn’t make the other things it preaches of moral consequence.
December 13, 2008
I gather that the Washington State Capitol’s atheist sign has become national news by now, courtesy of Bill O’Reilly’s foaming mouth. The sign itself–a rather innocuous piece of cardboard, significantly outshone by its original accompaniments of a creche and a giant conifer–has, since the “controversy” erupted, become flanked by all sorts of other signs and displays. The section of the State government charged with making decisions regarding holiday displays really only required a ten dollar permit fee and an application free of obscenity. Now, however, after applications came in from all sorts of kooks–including overreaching “Seinfeld” fans, the “God hates fags” folks, and Christians who want to come sort of “agree to disagree” position vis-a-vis atheists–the GA has declined to add additional items to the Capitol. Boo-urns.
January 23, 2008
What struck me most about the Tom Cruise video that everyone has giggling at as he shills for Scientology is that if you replace a few of the Scientology-related terminology with the terminology of other religions, the net level of crazy religious fervor is not diminished. Which is not to say Tom Cruise isn’t nuts. Rather, it is to suggest Tom Cruise at the end of the day isn’t any more nuts than most religious folks.
October 7, 2006
If the “God works in mysterious ways” explanation is effective to diffuse the “why does God allow suffering in the world?” and “where does evil come from, if God is the source of everything?” line of questioning, what makes you thinking that God’s mysterious ways haven’t placed non-literal truths (or even out-and-out falsehoods) in the Bible?
October 30, 2005
Came to a conclusion lately: religion is like masturbation. Both are perfectly natural, healthy, widely practiced activities. Both are looked upon disapprovingly by certain narrow-minded individuals. Both are often practiced by those same narrow-minded individuals. There’s money to be made in the penumbra of both, although both are essentially free, noncommercial activities. And it is not really appropriate to do either in public. Or talk about either with strangers. Or try to coerce others into adopting your particular way of doing things. Sure, it isn’t at all unusual or rude to have discussions, including making suggestions about technique and form, among friends. But the proselytizing over the radio–the “shock jocks” who suggest sitting on your hand so it feels like someone else is helping you out, or the “evangelists” who suggest eternal hellfire will follow nonbelievers–are simply rude. Of course I’m enough of a First Amendment junkie that I recognize banning these practices does more harm than good. But come on people. It just isn’t cool to press the particulars of your button-pressing and prayer-beading on others. Especially strangers. And I think the sooner we as a society recognize this, the sooner we’ll all be comfortable around most everyone.
November 9, 2004
I remember reading somewhere that Bush was very surprised when he first took office in 2001 that a number of people didn’t seem too keen on the idea of working with him. I gather his surprise stemmed from the fact that he had always thought himself a uniter, not a divider.
While there may be a number of reasons people felt hesitant to get into bed with this fellow, methinks a strong underlying current exists: religion is divisive.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean “divisive” to mean “evil” or even “stubborn,” like some folks these days. I only mean to suggest that religion is divisive in much the same way as football is divisive. Some people root for one team, with a few putting in extraordinary effort. Others root for another team. Some don’t root at all, except during the occasional date with Ann Coulter, and even then for a different sport entirely…
When someone is silently religious, or silently rooting for the Bears, almost no one feels divided. When someone wears his religion on his sleeve, or wears a tattered Raiders jacket every day a few feel divided, especially where the sleever interacts with sleevers with differing loyalties. But when someone wears his religion on his sleeve, or paints his face with Giants colors, and makes major life decisions based upon his affiliation, a lot of people feel divided. And when that person holds a powerful executive decision, a lot of people get downright scared. Maybe not the other Giants fans. Maybe not even the other football fans. But certainly the bulk of Americans, who at most pay lip service by going to church once a year or sitting down for the Super Bowl, are none too comfortable.
So, President Bush, I hope this clears things up for you. You are a divider, not a uniter, because you are scary, and like football.
Although I must point out, President Bush: the Astros are not a football team.