Ministeroni

Mar. 1st, 2016 09:44 am
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
Weddings legalised for Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in New Zealand (ABC, 1 March 2016) These guys aren't just in danger of becoming an actual religion - they already are one! Check back in twenty years and see if there hasn't been at least factional in-fighting.
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
I really, really, genuinely hope that Craig Stephen Hicks' militant atheism turns out to have had nothing to do with the murders for which he awaits trial. Believe me, I won't be gloating if it does. I would much rather the New Atheism remained a minor pain in the bum than something that motivates actual violence. But we may never know for sure.

Why 'I Have Nothing to Hide' Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance (Wired, July 2013). On a personal note, I was creeped out when Roads and Maritime Services wanted assurance from my doctor that my epilepsy wouldn't interfere with my driving. I don't have epilepsy. They must have found out, presumably from my Medicare records, that I'm taking Epilim (off-label, as a mood stabiliser). To be fair, it's not unreasonable for RMS to be concerned about conditions which could seriously affect people behind the wheel, but the fact that they jumped to the wrong conclusion is particularly disturbing. So is the fact that I don't remember giving permission for my medical information to be shared with them.

Why the Gigantic, Decades-Long Drop in Black Youth Crime in the US Threatens Major Interests (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, 15 August 2013).

Does Racial and Ethnic Discrimination Vary Across Australian Minority Groups? Evidence from a Field Experiment (Institute for the Study of Labor, May 2010). "To denote ethnicity, we use distinctively Anglo-Saxon, Indigenous, Italian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern names... we applied for entry-level jobs and submitted a CV showing that the candidate had attended high school in Australia. We find economically and statistically significant differences in callback rates, suggesting that ethnic minority candidates would need to apply for more jobs in order to receive the same number of interviews."

The Political Capital Of Fear: How It Helps Governments And Why (New Matilda, 23 December 2014). Why the Martin Place siege was characterised as an act of terrorism when it wasn't.
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
.. always full of interest, particularly when it comes to what we may reasonably call my religion, which is Eclectic Wiccan with a Mesopotamian and Ancient Egyptian influences and a large dose of Zen Buddhism. I like to observe my spontaneous responses to religious and philosophical questions raised by the letter writers.

Quoth one in the 24 May 2014 edition: "religion instils a fear that god is watching everything we do". Wicca doesn't really have a concept of sin or damnation - although I did apologise for throwing out some takeaway containers this evening instead of recycling them, as if doing so guiltily under a disapproving supernatural eye. Perhaps I've absorbed that idea from the surrounding culture, just as much of my swearing is filthily Christian.

Here's another, about "the use of unclaimed bodies for medical science... One would have to look long and hard to find a more straightforward and sensible use of an unclaimed dead body, yet here [in an article in a previous issue] we have an educated person who takes issue with this practice since, rather obviously, there has been no informed consent." Now there are various counter-arguments, such as the idea that the body is property, and the possibility of the body's being claimed by grieving relatives too late.

But the thought popped straight into my head: the body is sacred. That's a very basic idea in Wicca, and in Neo-Paganism generally. In a previous posting I talked about "the well-being of bodies"; imagine living in a culture which held that as its highest goal, one which above all valued safe water and good nutrition, adequate medical care, and freedom from violence for everyone. (Imagine living in a culture where the use of the hand or the penis to cause harm is seen as a desecration of the perpetrator's body!) Out of these values arise the idea that a corpse is not a natural resource, like a tree or a coal vein, but part of a person. For the letter-writer, corpses are presumably a massive scientific resource only going to waste because loved ones and indeed the dying themselves are blocking their use.

The question now becomes: is this my thinking because it arises from Wiccan ideas, or is it just a a gut reaction to what seems like a heartless attitude, and I've rationalised it with Wiccan ideas ex post facto?

ETA: Three images just came into my mind. One, from the South Korean movie Brotherhood of War; at the beginning, remains are being excavated from a Korean War battlefield, and in a brief shot we see that at the site of each discovered body is laid a white chrysanthemum. Two, also from SK, but from the news: the recovery of hundreds of bodies, most of them teenagers, from the sunken ferry the MV Sewol. Each body was placed in a coffin, draped in a flag, and saluted. These gestures of caring and respect remind me of my paternal grandparents' Catholic funerals, at which the grandchildren were invited to place an object atop the closed coffin. I remember placing my hand atop my grandfather's coffin for a moment, too. Clearly, for very many people, even a stranger's corpse is more than just a convenient collection of organs.
dreamer_easy: (*books 3)
Like The Old Testament: a Very Short Introduction, this clear and interesting little book left me much enlightened. It puts the New Testament into the context of thought and literature at the time it was written - over five decades, rather than over centuries or millennia, like the Hebrew Bible; as the author, Luke Timothy Johnson, explains, this is the literature of "a religious movement on its way to becoming a religion". My impression is of a group of people who've been hit in the face with a shovel (in a spiritual sense, of course) by an electrifying, cosmic experience, and who are staggering about with their hair still standing on end, trying to figure out what to do next. What they do is two things: apply Greek thought to try to make sense of it; and squabble amongst themselves, of course.

Rather than leaving a bunch of notes here, I just want to share one story that I really liked. In Mark 14:51-2, when the soldiers come to arrest Jesus, one of Jesus' followers runs for it stark naked, leaving behind his linen robe. But when the women discover Jesus' empty tomb in Mark 16 - the final chapter - they meet a messenger who tells them that Jesus has risen, described as "a young man dressed in a white robe". Johnson says, "Mark wants readers to understand that the young man who fled naked is already restored, as the first human witness to the resurrection. Mark's Gospels ends not in despair, but in hope."
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
The introduction to Melissa Raphael's 2000 book Introducting Thealogy naturally talks a lot about the body and the embodiment of experience, by contrast with the disembodied abstractions of traditional religions for which the body and especially the female body are profane: "the female body is sacred; it incarnates the Goddess to such a degree that sacred space is simply that which the body's being-there sacralizes"; it can be "celebrated and revered" "as a part of that divine female body which is the earth or nature itself".

These are familiar ideas, but the sentence that struck me hard was this: "The well-being of bodies becomes a sign of the health of their spiritual, political and ecological environment."

Imagine a world based on that value system - one where the well-being of bodies (and minds, as Raphael makes clear) is the goal and the measure of a culture or society. The more you think about it, the more staggering it becomes, the more institutions it consumes - pollution, bombs, detention centres, hospital queues, addiction, clean water, guns, homelessness, even junk food - the list just goes on and on. This could not be a world in which society decries sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, and simultaneously tolerates them.

I am powerfully reminded that, despite criticism that Goddess feminism is a distraction from "real" politics, it is in fact profoundly political.
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
IOU a refugee update. In the meantime, here's some random stuff.

a tale of tattoos, zebras, and the importance of context - on that oft difficult task, the tracking down of the original source of a popular image on the Internet

The significance of plot without conflict

Home-made custard recipe

Taking the Jesus story back to basics - an old favourite from 2002

There May Be an Ancient Earth Inside Earth, Say Harvard Scientists

Kitsch

Dec. 28th, 2013 12:22 pm
dreamer_easy: (*books 3)
While sitting around in the ER a few weeks ago, waiting for my swollen tootsies to be triaged (a harmless if alarming medication side effect, as it turned out), I did a little triage of my own – reading some of Kitsch (edited by Gillo Dorfles - translated from the Italian by person or persons unknown). Skip it? Keep it? Extract its knowledgy goodness and pass it on?

In the process I came across several interesting points. The editor argues that, up until very recently, there could be no such thing as "bad taste" when it came to art:

"In ages other than our own, particularly in antiquity, art had a completely different function compared to modern times; it was connected with religious, ethical or political subject matter, which made it in a way 'absolute', unchanging, eternal (always of course within a given cultural milieu)."
Defining kitsch, Dorfles remarks, "it is a problem of individuals who believe that art should only produce pleasant, sugary feelings... in no case should it be a serious matter, a tiring exercise, an involved and critical activity..." Kitsch-lovers he adds, "will judge Raphael as if he were a painter of picture postcards". Kitsch is inferior imitation of art which substitutes sentiment for emotion.

Well, the idea of kitsch as comfortable cutesiness wasn't new to me, and it's easy to sniff at others' taste (the whole book is, inevitably, full of snobbery). What struck me was Dorfles' assertion about "the kitsch aspect in works of today or yesterday which not only clash with our own alleged good taste, but which represent a basically false interpretation of the aesthetic trends of their age". If you will, kitsch is that which aims for art, and misses.

The book covers multiple areas in which kitschy art is liable to be found, including sex, death, and religion. (I turned a page while reading on the bus and was aghast to find myself facing several awful examples of pornokitsch.) "The image of death needs vigor and severity," writes Dorfles, "innocence and putrefaction, blacks and whites; it certainly needs no half tints, sky blues, pinks, angels' wings, frilly chapels or sterilized technology devoid of any real ethical meaning."

In his chapter on Christian kitsch, Karl Pawek remarks, "There has been an enormous loss of substance in Christianity... It is the result of a centuries-old watering-down of the current theological spirit and consciousness. It would not have been possible at the time of the consciousness of mystery which prevailed during the first centuries of the Christian era..." This watering-down resulted in "the substitution of something sweet and nice for something extremely powerful, of secondary for primary, of the psychic and moral Christian event for the objective, ontological event." Now if I'm understanding what this guy is saying, for the earliest Christians, the reality of the divine and its intervention on Earth was profound and immediate, and that's been lost – inevitably? – over so many centuries. (I remember a Catholic friend telling me the Omen movies spooked him because they made it all seem real.) Perhaps the New Age movement is the kitsch version of Neo-Paganism – though gods know we produce plenty of kitsch ourselves.
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
"This study's findings suggest that the [Invisible Pink Unicorn] critique of religion is mostly misdirected. The belief commitments of religious people usually have less to do with beliefs than commitments, as evidenced by the overwhelming lack of theological understanding that characterizes a typical congregation. Stephen Prothero [in Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – And Doesn't] has demonstrated how shallow are the religious understandings among even committed 'believers,' who often lack basic understandings of their faiths... Orthopraxy trumps orthodoxy for the simple reason that few congregants have the time or resources to master a theological system fully. There is in almost any congregation an obvious subordination of religious ideology to the means, usually ritualized, underlying what appears to matter most to religious people: a felt sense of social solidarity... or just the practical means to well-behaved teens, socially connected elders, and a lively annual rummage sale."
Seeing Through the Invisible Pink Unicorn
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
"The second criterion of a carpet's beauty is as elusive and whimsical as the first is concrete. Once a dealer is done scratching and mauling the carpet to determine the density of its weave, he will flip it over and inspect the pile itself. He will not be appraising the elegance of the design. No. He will be looking for proof of human fallibility, the prized idiosyncrasies that make each rug impossible to replicate, unique. He will be looking for mistakes. A devout Muslim will tie a few errant knots on purpose, for a flawless design would challenge the perfection of God."
— Anna Badkhen, The World is a Carpet

When I read this, I thought of the tiny flaws in the fabric of space and time, the quantum irregularities in the Big Bang, the "galaxy seeds" without which the universe would be empty and boring. Maybe it isn't possible to have a Creation without those "errant knots".
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
A fellow Pagan, annoyed by some online twerp who thought the use of masturbation in sex magick was hilarious, invoked an Egyptian creation story (the Heliopolitan Cosmogony) in which the entire universe got started that way. While I share my co-religionist's disdain for that immature poster, I can't help wincing a little at their parting shot (which I paraphrase): "Shaming people who use sexual acts as part of their spirituality rubs me the wrong way."
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
These links dumps tend to be pretty grouchy, so let me kick off with some great news: despite initial reports, the manuscripts of Timbuktu were not destroyed during the militants' occupation. :D

Divisive asylum debate will return for election year. *bangs head on desk* FIX THE PROBLEM, JULIA. Instead of another race to the bottom, process the refugees stuck in Indonesia and Malaysia, and bring them here - thus defusing the whole thing as an election issue. Perhaps in the meantime the UN's scathing report on conditions at Manus Island (in which 34 children now live) might force some changes... but don't hold your breath. (But do let the Minister for Immigration know what you think.) The boys are being held behind chicken wire in Tasmania are arguably better off. (btw, the Refugee Council of Australia has a ton of info.)

As horrible as all that is, we're having an election late this year, and the Opposition propose to help the Sri Lankan government stop refugees from escaping.

10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down. The graphics'll mess with you.

Texans support assault weapons ban. (In other US news that may surprise you, I stumbled across a blog entry from last year about evangelical Christians supporting contraception as a way to reduce abortion.)

From last year, here's [livejournal.com profile] ann_leckie summarising the entire spectrum of unwanted sexual behaviour in a sentence: "I DO NOT CARE WHAT YOU WANT AS LONG AS I GET WHAT I'M AFTER."

I don't suffer from writers' block, and am in fact suspicious of the whole concept, but if so many great writers have good advice on dealing with it, maybe it's for real.
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
In Australia, the Catholic Church argues that discrimination is its fundamental human right, characterising it as "freedom of religion". Their spokesperson remarked: "If a teacher in a church school publicly argues against church teachings or lives in such a way to challenge those teachings, the school should have the freedom to refuse to employ that person." This lends weight to Joumanah El Matrah's argument that discrimination represents the views only of a conservative minority, who can use it not just to exclude sinners but as a weapon to silence dissent amongst the faithful (particularly from whistleblowers).

There's an obvious parallel between the "flexible" attitude to celibacy taken by some priests and the "flexible" attitude to virginity encouraged by abstinence-only sex education. Time to change an unsustainable, damaging rule.

From the BBC, US gun debate: Guns in numbers gives a useful summary of existing laws and Obama's proposals, as well as a hair-raising graph of the rate of gun homicides in developed countries.

CIA officer is jailed for leaking details on torture. The alleged torturers will not be prosecuted.

The popularity of quinoa in the West is having mixed results in Bolivia and Peru, benefitting farmers, but pricing the nutritious grain out of the reach of some. (The shift towards a Western-style diet isn't going to do them any good, either.)

Science! I've called this the "mathematics of grace" - how cooperation can be a more effective strategy in life's struggles than competition. (If it wasn't, your body wouldn't stick together.) In game theory computer simulations, there's a strategy called Tit for Tat, where you match other players' behaviour, returning good for good and bad for bad, encouraging them to play fair. But even more effective is one called Generous Tit for Tat, in which you sometimes "forgive" bad behaviour. Scientist Martin Nowak said: "What we were seeing [in the simulations] was the evolution of forgiveness. Generous Tit for Tat suggests that we never forget a good turn, but we occasionally forgive a bad one. It makes a lot of sense. Tit for Tat can create a vendetta, but Generous Tit for Tat allows you to move on." (ETA: In an article for Scientific American, Nowak argues that the need to keep track of "who does what to whom and why" drove the rapid "cultural evolution" of human beings.)
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Obama announces widest gun control measures in 18 years. Oh yes, it's on for young and old. The plan includes fixing the holes in the background checks system and reinstating the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines - and also, incredibly, permitting research on gun violence by agencies like the Centers for Disease Control. I am a little wary of the mental health component of the plan, since sane people are also spree killers; but if it really does provide sorely lacking mental health services, what the hell.

Religious organisations, which include some of Australia's largest employers will be able to continue discriminating against gays, transgender and intersex people, and other sinners. (This guy, however, is just fine. ETA: He has subsequently been removed.) Although these organisations rely on government funding, the discriminatees will still have to pay the same tax as everyone else. Here's a cracking response from Joumanah El Matrah, who points out that the "right" to discriminate just shores up the power of an increasingly irrelevant conservative minority and their obsessions, ultimate reducing religion to "a collection of petty bigotries". "I believe in Australia's commitment to diversity and human dignity," she writes, "and I do not want any tear in that fabric in my name as a person of faith." (Both the Uniting Church and the charity Anglicare reject religious discrimination.)

Mum punches student, threatens staff over 'bullied' daughter. I'm keen to know whether the daughter was in fact the target of racist bullying - and why the school suspended her after she complained about it. Alas, none of these details are present in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal judgment.

The slashed single parent payment has some Australian mothers turning to sex work.

Cats in the news: Orlando beats professional wealth managers with his stock picks. | Brazilian prison inmates trained a stray cat to smuggle in escape tools. The cat, which was caught with small saws, drills, a cell phone, etc, taped to its body, was placed into the care of vets. Authorities wittily remarked that they didn't know which prisoners were responsible as the cat wasn't talking.* | In a not entirely dissimilar story, a Japanese hacker taunted police with clues attached to a cat's collar. (I found footage: the collar was removed, and the feral cat, unimpressed with the entire business, ran away.)

Science! Fisher-Price Synesthesia: as well as the magic brain wiring which makes us colour-grapheme synaesthetes superior to you mere humans, there's evidence for a learned component. (My own colours don't match the Fisher-Price letters, nor the Gattengo chart which was present in my primary school.)

* No, I can't read Portuguese! But Google Translate will give you the gist. "The cat, considered by management of the prison as the most innocent of history, was referred to the Center for Zoonoses the city, where it will be held, not in prison, but to receive the veterinary care."
dreamer_easy: (Default)
I keep chucking things in the unsorted links dump, but then adding comments, which probably means they belong in an actual posting, eg:

The case against legalising same-sex marriage

A useful summary. It becomes ever clearer that the issue, at base, is not sexuality but gender.

Speaking of which, I don't understand this case at all. Why would any boxer suspected of taking steroids be allowed to go ahead and fight? (I suspect that, as so often with the press, there's a ton of context missing.)

Moreover:

It's out with the old as Christian values fall away

An interesting argument: if care of the elderly is a Judaeo-Christian thing, and Australians are becoming both older and less Christian, what will this mean for older Australians in the future? I do think one of the best aspects of Christianity are its radical egalitarian teachings; and as a Pagan I entirely grasp the value that the concept of sacredness confers, whether on individual human beings or nature as a whole - a value which, obviously, only spirituality can bestow.

Nonetheless, I don't entirely buy John Dickson's argument. The widow and the orphan are such conspicuous concerns for non-Abrahamic ancient societies such as the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians. And the UDHR (in particular, Article 25) already provides the non-religious "solid intellectual ground" for care of the elderly. Frustratingly, I know too little about Ancient Greece or Rome to assess Dickson's characterisation of their treatment of the aged.

None of which is getting the filing sorted out.

ETA: Despite which, here, have some more related links:

http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/using-birth-control-will-cut-deaths-study-finds-20120710-21tuq.html Y'think?

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/beliefs-must-be-tempered-by-facts-20120617-20i3t.html - "But we now know, or have increasingly strong reasons to believe, that people are born gay or lesbian. Far from this being unnatural for them, it is an example of God's creative handiwork."

http://www.smh.com.au/world/us-teen-pregnancy-rate-falls-to-lowest-level-in-decades-20120411-1ws5t.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/19/myths-about-rape-conviction-rates

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/apr/05/us-sexual-humiliation-political-control
dreamer_easy: (Default)
1. Proof God exists (Answers in Genesis)
2. Proof God does not exist (various)
3. A smoking duck (Oliver Buchmueller)
dreamer_easy: (*goddess)
"‘The one true Christian doctrine is original sin,’ he says. ‘The fact that we are screwed-up creatures. We are neither completely animals nor are we completely mature minds — we are the strange dual creature which is why we are capable of terrible kindness and terrible evil.'" - former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, interviewed in The Spectator

It's the basic question any religion has got to tackle - why is everything so screwed up? Why are we so screwed up? (Holloway also discusses literal truth, the business of fundamentalists and atheists, and the more "muddled" truth of metaphor and narrative, comparing the truths of Christianity to Greek myth.)
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
Something I've wanted to look into for a while is the claim, most familiar from Jack Chick's anti-Islamic tracts, that Allah is not the same god as the chap in the Bible, but instead a pagan moon god. Here's the claim, as stated in Chick's tract Allah Had No Son:

"In the 1950s a major temple to the moon god was excavated at Hazor in Palestine. Two idols of the moon god were found, proving Allah was a pre-Islamic pagan deity. Here is a photo of Allah sitting on a throne... notice the crescent moon on his chest."
Chick gives a footnote to a book called Islamic Invasion by Robert Morey. Helpfully, an anti-Islamic site hosts a copy of the appendix from Morey's book with the exact bit Chick quotes:

"In the 1950's a major temple to the moon god was excavated at Hazor in Palestine. Two idols of the moon god were found. Each was a statue of a man sitting upon a throne with a crescent moon carved on his chest. The accompanying inscriptions make it clear that these were idols of the moon god. Several smaller statues were also found which were identified by their inscriptions as the daughters of the moon god.
So those are the claims. But how do they compare to the archaeologists' reports?

Hazor was a major Bronze Age city in Canaan, north of the sea of Galilee, mentioned in the Bible and in Egyptian documents. Its ruins were excavated in the 50s by an expedition from the Hebrew University, and one of the team's most exciting finds was a small shrine which contained several stelae, and one basalt statue - the figure in Chick's photo.

As you can see, there are already problems with Robert Morey's account. Only one statue was found, not two, and this was not a "major temple" - head archaeologist Yigael Yadin called it the "little sanctuary" and "miniature sanctuary", and the statue and stelae are tiny - the statue is only 40 cm high.

But there are bigger problems. There were no inscriptions in the shrine. The archaeologists could only make educated guesses about the identity of the statue - at first, they weren't even sure if it was a god, and not a priest or a king. What's more, no other statues were found - let alone "smaller statues" identified by inscriptions as "daughters of the moon god". Morey hopes to make a connection with the "daughters of Allah", three goddesses whose worship is condemned in the Qu'ran; Chick makes this explicit in another tract, Men of Peace? (although now, for some reason, he's moved the excavations to the 1940s).

Yadin concluded that this was indeed a moon god, and suggested some possible deities it might represent. But once you remove the untruths, the only connection left between Hazor and Islam is the crescent moon. I guess if you're willing to invent evidence, you could connect Allah to any god you like ... but isn't there a commandment about that sort of thing?

(A word of thanks is due to the librarians at Macquarie University, who had no idea what I was up to, but went above and beyond the call of duty to help me with a small mountain of books!)

ETA: Note to self: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5615/neareastarch.76.issue-2

___
Yadin, Yigael. "Excavations at Hazor (1955-1958)". in E.F. Campbell, Jr and D.N. Freedman (eds). Biblical Archaeologist Reader (vol 3). Garden City, NY, Anchor Books, 1961-70.
Hazor : the rediscovery of a great citadel of the Bible. New York, Random House, 1975.
— "Symbols of Deities at Zinjirli, Carthage and Hazor" in Sanders, James A. (ed). Essays in Honor of Nelson Glueck: Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century. Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1970.
Yadin, Yigael et al. Hazor I : An Account of the First Season of Excavations, 1955. Jerusalem, Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1958.
dreamer_easy: (we are as gods)
Clearing out a few bookmarks:

An Australian poll held in December last year gives a picture of our faith today: "God is not dead in Australia. Rumours of his failing powers are exaggerated. Disbelief is growing, but God thrives. The default setting of this country is faith. We are not the rational country we thought we were. More Australians believe in miracles, angels, heaven and ESP than in Darwin's theory of evolution." Plus some analysis.

In the meantime, though, new UK research shows significant decline in institutional Christianity - you can find the full report at the British Social Attitudes survey site.
dreamer_easy: (IT'S A TRAP)
I cannot now remember where I first encountered the idea that two people of equal intelligence, given the same facts, can in complete good faith reach different conclusions. It's a simple truth about the enormously complex process of trying to make sense of an enormously complicated world. I'm not just talking about opinions shaped by experience, training, prejudice, or habit: even scientists, whose basic tools are facts and logic, often disagree, sometimes spectacularly, and it takes a great deal more fact-finding and logical thinking to show which of them was right.

Which is why it's infuriating when a scientists insists on telling people what their religious beliefs are. Quoth Dawkins, re Pat Robertson, re Haiti: "Loathsome as Robertson's views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition."

I actually share Dawkins' view that linking catastrophe to human behaviour is a dubious, hazardous theology. We behave messily because we live in a messy universe, and not the other way around. But how the heck we're supposed to get from "the Bible describes Jesus casting out demons" to "Haiti made a pact with the Devil" I have no idea. Presumably the idea is that having accepted one supernatural event, you then accept them all. And you wondered why there has never been any controversy over theological opinions! How is this illogic any different to insisting that accepting evolution must inevitably lead to, for example, eugenics?

"Just read your own Bible," chides Dawkins. The Southern Baptist he disparages uses the Bible as a direct riposte to Robertson: "Is the judgment of God something we can claim to understand in this sense... No... Jesus himself warned his disciples against this kind of presumption." (I assume he's referring to Matthew 7, but my theology's very slender. Help?)

This is what I'm referring to when I say that militant atheists and fundamentalists have, in a sense, the same beliefs. Or, to borrow from Alan Watts, nobody believes in God like an atheist. ;)

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