50 Reasons to Be an Atheist

There is a spanking new book out called 5o Voices of Disbelief:  Why We Are Atheists. If ever you found yourself straddling the fence, wondering on which side to jump off, this book is for you. I don’t have a copy yet, but so far it looks promising, and definitely better than whatever the latest fatheist scribbler has to say about the moral necessity of faith. It feels like we’re at a watershed. Homosexuals came out in the ’70s, after the taboos had been destroyed. The last six years have seen a great destruction of the taboos against being openly atheist. Perhaps the ’10s will see an even bolder stance (oh, please stop using the word militant to describe those of us who simply voice opinions about faith) than that of the New Atheists, or an integration of this stance into public life and political activity. Wouldn’t that be a nice goal for the next decade: to create a climate in which most Americans would potentially vote for a nonbeliever (alias atheist) for president? Perhaps a black Jewish lesbian atheist or something will pop up out of nowhere in time for the 2016 elections, and people will be cured enough of all their phobias to vote for her (provided she is qualified, naturally). But now I’m fabricating reality. I know this will never happen – not in America.


How Italians Argue

It doesn’t really matter if you understand Italian or not. For the record, these people are discussing Islam and whether or not it poses a threat to Italy. Just watch the devolution of discourse. Nobody gives anyone else the chance to speak a full sentence before jumping in with “Fascist!” or “Islamist!” Adele Orioli, representing  the non-affiliated, can’t even make her point that a truly secular society wouldn’t have to face such problems because no religion would have preferential treatment. She just gets drowned out by the blathering heads on either side.

I Finally Saw One of Those Plastic Jesus Dolls

We were in Assisi for a few days and we went to the living manger scene (I’m writing a poem about this, so stay tuned), which is a kind of reenactment of the night Jesus was (supposedly) born in a stall near Bethlehem. At least that’s what happened in the play. I’d have to go and check my NT for the details, assuming they are the same in all four gospels. At the end of the imaginative scenery – complete with faux-synagoge and dress-up rabbi, a rare sight in Umbria – there is the family portrait, sitting patiently bathed in firelight from the burning oildrums (all of this took place out in the cold, a realistic touch). Yosef, Miriam, and little plastic baby Jesus. In this manger scene, most curiously, Jesus had a sister. She looked to be about six or seven, and she was real flesh and blood and DNA. And a hell of a lot more convincing than baby Yehoshua! What she was doing there, assuming the (dubious) virginity of Miriam, is anyone’s guess. But it occurred to me that this is the reason they sell those little baby dolls in religious shops, along with shepherd’s gear and staffs aplenty. It’s a costume party every Christmas.

Afterthought: it occurs to me that perhaps they use a plastic doll for Jesus to accentuate that he was not born of dirty sexual intercourse between two humans.  Apparently they prefer a supernatural kind of rape, which is considered holy. But still, plastic is so cheesy don’t you think?

Disliking Christmas (with Examples)

How much is that messiah in the window?

Santa stopped visiting my house the minute I confronted him, demanding he reveal himself to me. It turned out he was a middle aged Jewish woman with a florid imagination.

Every winter I promise myself I’m going to learn to enjoy Christmas. And every winter I fail. By the time the lights are up and the oversized public fir tree hung with tinsel and trumpeting angels, my enthusiasm has unraveled like a proverbial ball of yarn. Yet I am unable to understand just why I find Christmas-time so appalling. I must have been dropped on my head as a child.
Or maybe its the “smile or die” philosophy lurking behind each trochaic “Merry Christ-mas!” Those of us who aren’t natural enthusiasts of the holiday have a hard time grasping what is so merry about the birth of someone else’s baby so long ago in a land so far away. It’s like celebrating Luke Skywalker’s bar mitzvah. And since the world has decidedly not become a haven of love and justice since the birth of this thaumaturgic child, I’ll briefly note that things actually worsened in the centuries following extreme evangelization.
But, in the spirit of yuletide, I’ll leave my historical grudges aside and try and concentrate on modern ones. Why is it so terrible to dislike Christmas? If you so much as mumble bah humbug under your breath people look at you as if you’d just hacked a puppy to kebab and washed it down with a tall glass of blood.
In centuries past, having nothing nice to say about Christ (or his birthday) had been an alarum bell for the Inquisition. Power-wielding Christians used to employ converted Jews to write treatises on the fabled talmudic hatred of Jesus as a pretense for further persecution. Modern Jews, having made peace (sic) with Christmas by bartering for public Chanukah lightings, have shifted the burden to atheists. Now it’s our turn to be reviled for downgrading Christmas to “the holiday season” and neutralizing the messianic promise of late December to accomodate less ostentatious holidays. 

I was recently uplifted by the title of a new book, The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas, until I realized it was all about how to enjoy the holiday. Damn, I say, isn’t there anyone out there – even a Richard Dawkins – that has anything negative to say about Christmas? It’s a fine thing to be a public atheist. Just don’t dare be a public Scrooge.
But what’s wrong with spreading a little light through the gloom of the darkest month of the year? And even if Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas Day, what’s the harm in pretending? No harm, I say. But why should those of us who don’t wish to go along with the charade have it shoved in our faces like a Jell-o pudding pie for a full month every year? 
I love giving gifts, and I love receiving them. But I hate shopping for them, and I hate returning them. Beyond that, I rue the uselessness of most gift-giving. Another freshly published book bears a promising subtitle, Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays. Has some slick economist finally made the case that we are wasting our money, and not just our time, on this most frivolous of all holidays? Well, hallelujah.
“Where are you going to spend the holidays this year?”  I am asked this same question annually – sometimes by the same people – and I always answer that I don’t really celebrate Christmas. “Really” is my concession to the Christmas Inquisition, leaving my sentiments just vague enough not to risk offending the ears of little children lest I be publicly chastised. What I mean is: I grudgingly accept that there is no escape from this holiday, unless I apply for citizenship in Saudi Arabia. Unwilling to compromise my wife’s dignity that far, I remain in the secularized West and pray for further secularization.
Let me state it plainly: nobody likes this holiday. Everybody feels obliged to say they love Christmas, but deep down I’m convinced great numbers of folks (what a Christmasy noun) despise it. And they’re right. They are being manipulated for a full 1/12 of their lives.
Consider: There are no parking spaces in December. Those who work in the commercial sector are forced into virtual slave labor so that those who have three weeks vacation can spend them in malls spoiling their children. Dysfunctional families are thrown into each other’s company, further enforcing their mutual disgust. Almost everyone goes away feeling drained, cheapened, broke, overstuffed and woozy. And then there’s the music. What can be more pathetic than street musicians pounding out “Let it Snow” on the hurdy-gurdy?
Half the world has almost no food or water. The other half spends roughly $1253.61 per family on Christmas gifts (this is a rough estimate based on esoteric logarithms, but not dissimilar from the calculations of actual experts). So where is the divine love, I say? Why does the miracle worker let half his creatures die out in the most miserable circumstances imaginable, while the other half lives high and gin-soaked in a senseless spending frenzy come December? Unless, of course, there is no miracle worker – and no miracle.
And without the miracle of Christmas, what’s left? A dull holiday poisoned by infighting. Perhaps suicides – contrary to urban myth – don’t increase during the holiday season, but neither do they decrease. Some people grow happy in that automatic way, some grow grinchy in the same way. Some admire artful manger scenes, some suppress a chuckle at the site of them.
Me, I make for the nearest exit, pursued by a pious mob.
 – Published in The American

Merry Christmas, Mexico!

Mexico City has (very) recently legalized gay marriage. Some Mexicans are (not quite understandably) pissed off  about this, and feel their Christmas will be ruined by the equal rights of others. Mighty Christian of them. Long live “family values.”

If this is what the “great religions” teach – and it most definitely is an integral part of any othodox instruction – should we be so willing to let it slide? Are great religions so great if they continue to uphold bigoted positions modern civil society has begun to reject?

Many people in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America remain opposed to gay marriage, and the dominant Roman Catholic Church has announced its opposition.

“They have given Mexicans the most bitter Christmas,” said Armando Martinez, the president of the College of Catholic Attorneys. “They are permitting adoption (by gay couples) and in one stroke of the pen have erased the term ‘mother’ and ‘father.'”

How Do You Define a Moment?

I’m surprised this isn’t one of the most watched videos on YouTube. There really is no explanation other than the fact that there is no toilet humor. There is some blood, but only on the operating table. There are no wild animals battling it out on the savannah.  It’s just a succession of edited “moments”: licking an ice cream cone, kicking a soccer ball, waking up, batting an eyelash. There is a little music. The whole thing is very tastfully done. Try not to be moved watching it. It’s utterly amazing.

Via The Frontal Cortex.

Why You Should Read the (Restored) New Testament

I have precious little time to do any writing these days, much less blogging. Anyway, you should read the Restored New Testament because you probably haven’t even read the unrestored one, and because (yes) it’s a major work of literature. Should you think the NT stale and boring, this is a new version just for you.

 From Buffalo News:

Here, from the same publisher and officially published a week apart [The Book of Genesis Illustrated By R. Crumb Norton], are two of the most important books of 2009. Willis Barnstone’s “Restored New Testament” is the Samson attempt of one great scholar and translator to knock down ancient pillars of error, injustice and persecution. In that endeavor alone, it may be the most important book of the year.