The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'god'
Quote of the day, from Robert M. Sapolsky's contribution to "What We Believe But Cannot Prove", a collection of short essays on the subject by various eminent scientific thinkers:
Many physicists, especially astrophysicists, seem weirdly willing to go on about their communing with God in contemplating the Big Bang, but in my world of biologists, the God concept gets mighty infuriating when you spend your time thinking about, say, untreatably aggressive childhood leukemia.
George W. Bush, Commander of the Free World, says that God told him to invade Iraq:
One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."
Mr Bush went on: "And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And, by God, I'm gonna do it."As they say, "if you talk to God, you're praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia". At least it wasn't his talking dog that told him to invade Iraq or lower taxes for the rich or whatever.
The Whitehouse, however, is denying that Bush made those statements. I wonder whether it's (a) to not alienate the more secular-minded Republican voters (i.e., neoconservatives and libertarians) or (b) because much of the staunchly pro-Israeli US Religious Right would consider the idea of God sanctioning a Palestinian state blasphemous.
The US religious right is up in arms about a recent film about sexologist Alfred Kinsey, because it does not demonise the man enough:
"Alfred Kinsey is responsible in part for my generation being forced to deal face-to-face with the devastating consequences of sexually transmitted diseases, pornography and abortion," said Brandi Swindell, head of a college-oriented group called Generation Life that plans to picket theaters showing the film.
"Instead of being lionized, Kinsey's proper place is with Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele or your average Hollywood horror flick mad scientist," said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women of America's Culture & Family Institute.
Meanwhile, according this article (via 1.0), many Evangelicals believe (a) that God personally put Bush in the Whitehouse to give America another chance, and (b) if bad things happen on Bush's watch, it's not his fault, but rather divine wrath for the excesses of liberalism (i.e., America not being a proper Talibanic theocracy). (Which paints a rather unflattering portrait of the God of the Bible Belt; either He is a sadistic bully and a psychopath, or else His creation is of no more serious concern to Him than a game of The Sims is to computer gamer. As flies to wanton boys, indeed.)
And those reading this in California, and in the confidence that they're well outside those barbarous Red States, don't be so sure. Apparently, according to former Democratic strategist, the Republicans stand a good chance of picking up California, and its 54 electoral college votes, in 2008; this could turn the US into a one-party state; or perhaps it could be just what the Libertarians or Greens need.
Voting patterns have been steadily moving California back to the midwest in recent years - a trend that is likely to continue. Democrats can rely on Los Angeles county and the San Francisco Bay area, but these concentrations are now surrounded by Republican territory.
The same cultural conservatism that is reshaping America is also alive and well in California. Sixties-era liberalism may still radiate from the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco to the Bay area, but today's California is much more a capital for the Christian right than for the progressive left.
Some genius has tried to nail himself to a cross (as one does) after "seeing pictures of God on the computer"; he successfully nailed one hand to the makeshift cross, but ended up calling the police after realising that he had no way of nailing his other hand in.
Interesting newcomers to the blogosphere: an old friend of mine from university, Toby, has recently got a blog (well, actually, a LJ), to which he posts various interesting links relating to topics such as biology, computer graphics and a bit of social issues; links such as this transcript of Andrew Denton interviewing Sir David Attenborough:
Andrew Denton: When you see this sort of stuff, do you ever get a sense of God's pattern?
Sir David Attenborough: Well, if you ask...about that, then you see remarkable things like that earwig and you also see all very beautiful things like hummingbirds, orchids, and so on. But you also ought to think of the other, less attractive things. You ought to think of tapeworms. You ought to think of...well, think of a parasitic worm that lives only in the eyeballs of human beings, boring its way through them, in West Africa, for example, where it's common, turning people blind. So if you say, "I believe that God designed and created and brought into existence every single species that exists," then you've also got to say, "Well, he, at some stage, decided to bring into existence a worm that's going to turn people blind." Now, I find that very difficult to reconcile with notions about a merciful God. And I certainly find it difficult to believe that a God -- superhuman, supreme power -- would actually do that.
Dr. Michael Persinger of Laurentian University, Canada, has developed a magnetic helmet which stimulates religious and mystical experiences in the wearer. A BBC science series decided to put this to the test, choosing the ultimate test subject: militant atheist Richard Dawkins. The score: Dawkins:1, the God Helmet: 0.
Unfortunately, during the experiment, while Prof Dawkins had some strange experiences and tinglings, none of them prompted him to take up any new faith. "It was a great disappointment," he said. "Though I joked about the possibility, I of course never expected to end up believing in anything supernatural. But I did hope to share some of the feelings experienced by religious mystics when contemplating the mysteries of life and the cosmos."
This suggests that openness to religious experience is controlled by temporal lobe sensitivity (something Dawkins scored low on in a prior test), and that this may be genetic. Which suggests that susceptibility to religious belief could be partly genetic. (Though, obviously, not wholly; the environment would have to play a major role.) (via New World Disorder)
Idea to ponder: believing in conspiracy theories as explanations of events is similar to believing in a god or gods. Both are products of the human tendency to ascribe intelligent design and planning to patterns and complex phenomena, an instinctive bias part of the human psychological makeup.
Europe is divided over the question over whether a future EU constitution should mention "God". The Catholic Church has pushed for a constitution that establishes Europe's heritage as based in Christianity, which has been watered down to "God as the source of truth", to appease other monotheists (atheists and pantheists be damned). There is strong support for this in Italy and former Communist countries (such as vehemently Catholic Poland). Meanwhile, other nations are wary of violating the separation between church and state: (via 1.0)
In Poland, where the government installed a crucifix in its Parliament after the fall of communism, a reference to God in the constitution would serve as a tribute to the church's role in resisting the government during the country's years as a Soviet satellite.
In Spain, a reference to God evokes the years under General Francisco Franco, where coins were stamped with the dictator's profile, ringed by the words "Leader of Spain by the grace of God." "Religion is a private matter," said Ana Palacio, Spain's foreign minister who is also a member of the presidium. "Our identity is the fight for democracy, for human rights, for the separation between church and state," she said in an interview. "The only banner that we have is secularism."
I'd be inclined to agree with the Spanish. Organised religion lends itself to being a tool of repression and control; and supporting any one religious view (such as monotheism) implicitly disenfranchises those who don't share that belief; stating that values and morality come exclusively from religion equates secularism with amorality, atheism with nihilism.
Meanwhile, Poland's entry to the EU in 2004 is threatened by fears that the EU may challenge the country's ban on abortion. The left-wing and pro-european government fears that conservative Catholic groups may boost the "no" vote in the June referendum on joining the EU. The mainstream Catholic church, however, supports the "yes" case. Unlike Ireland and Malta, Poland does not have a clause in its EU treaty exempting its abortion ban from EU laws. (via Reenhead)
Says God, a more intelligent retort to all those "God says" billboards in the US:
If I wanted you to have seven kids, I would have given you a bigger planet. --God
I never said, "Thou shalt not think." --God
You'd better have stopped fighting by the time I get back, or you're all grounded. --God
Here's a clue--if they say they're doing it in my name, they're lying. --God
(via bOING bOING)
Amazing: A look at the folklore of homeless children, as handed down from child to child in streets and homeless shelters in Miami, kept secret from adults. The stories show a dark world of cosmic war, where God has been forced into exile by hordes of demons, Satan and the terrible Bloody Mary are at large, and outnumbered legions of angels are hiding in the Everglades; an angel named the Blue Lady is on the side of good, but can only help you if you know her true name, which nobody does. Very archetypal, and existing in very similar form.
No one knows why God has never reappeared, leaving his stunned angels to defend his earthly estate against assaults from Hell. "Demons found doors to our world," adds eight-year-old Miguel, who sits before Andre with the other children at the Salvation Army shelter. The demons' gateways from Hell include abandoned refrigerators, mirrors, Ghost Town (the nickname shelter children have for a cemetery somewhere in Dade County), and Jeep Cherokees with "black windows."
There is no Heaven in the stories, though the children believe that dead loved ones might make it to an angels' encampment hidden in a beautiful jungle somewhere beyond Miami. To ensure that they find it, a fresh green palm leaf (to be used as an entrance ticket) must be dropped on the beloved's grave.
Research by Harvard's Robert Coles indicates that children in crisis -- with a deathly ill parent or living in poverty -- often view God as a kind, empyrean doctor too swamped with emergencies to help. But homeless children are in straits so dire they see God as having simply disappeared. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam embrace the premise that good will triumph over evil in the end; in that respect, shelter tales are more bleakly sophisticated. "One thing I don't believe," says a seven-year-old who attends shelter chapels regularly, "is Judgment Day." Not one child could imagine a God with the strength to force evildoers to face some final reckoning.
Folklorists were so mystified by the Bloody Mary polygenesis, and the common element of using a mirror to conjure her, that they consulted medical literature for clues.
Darkness, despair and street violence. I'll be surprised if this isn't picked up as a Vertigo comic (or butchered into a dire Hollywood popcorn flick). (via Rebecca's Pocket)
One novel way of solving the problem of who controls Jerusalem: hand it over to God. Of course, if God fails to materialise or send His angels to personally take charge of the city, the problem of selecting His mortal representatives could be quite contentious.