mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Another week, another mass shooting in America. This time, though, the stupidity of bigotry seems apparent. I'm sure we'll eventually hear more details about the killer's motives, but I'm guessing that he mistakenly thought the Sikhs he was killing were "Muslim dangers to America".

Sikhs follow their own unique religion. Literally, the word Sikh means student. They think that humans are always learning important lessons throughout their lives. When their religion was founded, turbans were worn only by kings and other people of high status. Sikhs wore turbans to remind everyone of the equality and importance of every individual person. They believe that each human life is more precious than diamond.  Selfless service is part of their faith. Sikhs are not pacifists, and they have repeatedly fought on behalf of European interests during the last century.

Perpetrating a killing rampage on Sikhs is akin to slaughtering Quakers or Amish. It's absurd. The multicultural ignorance of fearful Americans is shameful.  Xenophobia is a destructive spasm that helps nobody at all.

p.s.  I thought of a better metaphor later while bicycling to work.  Given their focus on service, learning, and cooperation, they're more like the Arab world's version of Unitarian Universalists.  Disagree with them, sure, but how could anyone consider them a mortal threat?
mellowtigger: (dna)
Today's theme song selection is about the audio mood and the visuals much more than the lyrics. As I've said before, creation never stopped. Evolution is a beautiful concept that ties everything in the universe together. The interconnected web is a beautiful thing, wondrous to behold.

ant on moss with dewlunar eclipse during thunderstorm

I finished reading this week a book of historical fiction about Galileo, "Galileo's Dream" by Kim Stanley Robinson. It involves time travel, and Galileo's fate is changed from burning at the stake for heresy to (our actual, current history) simply having to lie and state that the Church's view of the universe is correct while his telescopic observations of Jupiter and the planets is wrong. He denied the beautiful truth in order to satisfy the demands of the religious reich of his time.

The end of the book provides an interesting message from a near-immortal human of our future (and past), one of the people attempting to change human history for the better.

"I joined his attempt to make a retrojection that would shove the nightmare a different way. If people would only understand earlier, we thought, that science is a religion, the most ethical religion, the most devoted and worshipful religion... Clearly I was wrong even to try. It isn't really possible. The paradoxes and entangled potentialities are the least of the problems. Worse by far is the enormous inertia of human weakness, greed, fear - all the sheer bloody mass of us. It's been a nightmare."
- Cartophilus in "Galileo's Dream"

One of my favorite quotes in this matter of obscuring simple truth comes from another fictional realm. It comes in a scene from the movie "Hogfather", a movie about Santa Claus and Christmas in a very different kind of world.

"Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know that in a world so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom? Quite astonishing."
- Death, regarding humans and their unique creativity

Why anyone would want to "settle the matter" and fix an unchanging story of the universe is beyond my understanding. There's so very much to explore and learn and do.  I wouldn't want to lose the opportunity of such a thrilling adventure.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
updated tornado pathThe tornado got very close to work and home. One of the guys at work told me about a pontoon that was lifted from one lake and deposited in another lake just 2 blocks from our work site. Much of north Minneapolis is blocked off by police cars and barricades to prevent traffic into the area. After work, I went riding my bicycle, but the police prevented even that traffic. I had to detour twice from my usual bike paths.

I have updated my map from Sunday's blog post to show spots where I saw line-paths or groups of trees that were damaged. The bear icon shows where I usually attend Bear coffee each Wednesday evening, but we cancelled this week because of tornado cleanup in the area. My black line of the estimated path is obviously incorrect. It was a "small" tornado, as such things go, that directly killed only 1 person by sending a tree through a vehicle's windshield. Much less damaging than that Missouri tornado that's made international news.

Harold Camping has adjusted his Rapture prediction. May 21st wasn't the literal judgement day, it was just the figurative judgement day. Actual doom and destruction comes in October, just a few months away. Sweet. It's the comedic gift that keeps on giving. I still get frustrated, though, that 20% of Americans believe that the Second Coming will happen in their lifetime. Such belief means that people have an actual disincentive to spend any significant effort on solving real world problems. They actually hinder sociopolitical advancement because "God will destroy it all soon" anyway. *sigh*

For actual apocalyptic doom predictions, there's only one source that you need: http://www.spaceweather.com/. Just scroll down to the section on "Near Earth Asteroids". You get a nice table of asteroids on approach paths. It measures the approach using a "lunar distance (LD)" multiplier, which is the length between earth and moon. Any multiplier higher than 1 means it travels farther from us than the moon, while any value lower than 1 means it travels closer to us than the moon. You'll notice that there are currently no planet-busting scenarios in our near future.

Meanwhile, in other practical news, my organization participates in the Minnesota Animal Disaster Coalition. We remain prepared to provide emergency assistance for any housepets displaced by catastrophes, whether the tornado in Minneapolis two days ago or the river flooding in Saint Paul a few weeks earlier. I recommend that people check our website if you know of anyone who has been separated from their housepet during the recent emergency: http://www.animalhumanesociety.org/lostandfound.
mellowtigger: (the more you know)
I have a teeny, tiny, nearly-insignificant bit of new confidence that humanity might be worth saving.

I heard about the violence in Egypt as Muslims killed the Christians there in bombings.  What I did not hear on the news is how other Muslims came to the aid of those same Christians, even acting as human shields to protect them against more violence.  The Muslims surrounded the Christian churches during their holiday mass ceremony, hoping to discourage additional bombing attempts.

“I know it might not be safe, yet it’s either we live together, or we die together, we are all Egyptians,” Cherine Mohamed, a 50 year old house wife said.
- http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/95/3216/Egypt/Attack-on-Egypt-Copts/Egypt-Muslims-to-act-as-human-shields-at-Coptic-Ch.aspx

Life is easy to destroy, but hard to preserve.  It's about time we started seeing an occasional story about religion being used to inspire protective urges rather than to inspire murder and subjugation.  On the whole, I still tend to think that humanity would be better off without any religion at all.  Since it seems we have to have it in our psychology, however, then it might as well have some features that do us some good.
mellowtigger: (religious hypocrisy)
Whether the occasion of life is heaven or hell for you probably depends on which social strata you inhabit. Not to fret, though, because you always have God on your side to help you in your struggle (to climb up, or to keep others down).

As it turns out, God likes and dislikes the same people that you do. Interesting coincidence, eh? Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging on the brains of test subjects to measure their neural activity as they reasoned about the beliefs of 1) themselves, 2) their deity, and 3) their neighbor. They found that reasoning about the beliefs of their deity activated the same brain pathways as reasoning about their own beliefs, not the beliefs of some third person.

"In particular, reasoning about God's beliefs activated areas associated with self-referential thinking more so than did reasoning about another person's beliefs. Believers commonly use inferences about God's beliefs as a moral compass, but that compass appears especially dependent on one's own existing beliefs."
- http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/12/01/0908374106.abstract

In other words, the religious moral compass (liberal or conservative) merely points us where we're already facing. Our deity tends to agree with us, whatever it is that we believe. Using a sports metaphor, our deity is more of a mascot than a coach.

A different sociological study claims to have isolated the prominent feature of religiosity that causes increased life satisfaction. It has nothing to do with which flavor of deity you worship and everything to do with your ties to the other worshipers.

"Our study offers compelling evidence that it is the social aspects of religion rather than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction... In particular, we find that friendships built in religious congregations are the secret ingredient in religion that makes people happier."
- http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-reveals-secret-ingredient-religion-people.html

When human beings harness this herd instinct for wholesome purposes, it actually helps improve human lives. By encouraging healthy and compassionate activities, the presence of many worshiping congregations improves mortality rates in the region as a whole. Betty Bowers is always rightIncrease your social/support network to increase your life satisfaction, and support your religious institutions to improve your community. Apparently, humans should join a clique to make them feel better about themselves. One wonders if similar support of government social support institutions could accomplish the same results.

When human beings harness this same instinct for divisive purposes, however, we see ardent demonization of others (certainly not themselves) used in an effort to incite group fervor and cohesion. "We are different from Them." Irreconcilable differences of opinion on these trivialities led to the enormous array of One True Religions on the planet today. Each of them has the support of the Only-God, therefore their personal opinion is not only right but also righteous.

It's a disappointing reality, but really... did you have any reason to expect more enlightened behavior from humans? Some social apes lost their fur, and they've been desperately self-conscious about it ever since. The raucous throwing of poo at each other is all a huge distraction to keep us from thinking about our own personal insecurities. Or so a casual observer could easily believe.
mellowtigger: (the more you know)
The internet connects society, and it permits the collection of huge amounts of data about people. You can be sure that companies are mining that data. I know only three cases where the results are shared back directly with the population base that contributes the raw data.

Today's example comes from a social dating website called OKcupid.com. People there post detailed descriptions of themselves. People also answer multiple-choice questions generated by other users of the site. Those questions make for a very interesting mix of ideas and potential interactions.

They occasionally mine their half-a-million profiles for nuggets of interesting knowledge. The news last week was specifically about findings of racial differences. Click on the gender image at the top of each racial profile to switch between male and female results. Being an infovore, I enjoyed reading through the revelations about various trends in the data.

Buried towards the end of the long entry, however, are some nuggets about literacy that are separated by religious identity. They used a formula called the Coleman-Liau Index to rate the "readability" (grade level) of the text that people write into their profiles. This formula ignores word meaning and instead focuses specifically on structure complexity (characters per word, words per sentence).

Here are the literacy charts by race, religion, and religious fervor. The results practically write their own punch lines.

Cut for 3 large images... )
As they summarize at the end of the blog:

"Note that for each of the faith-based belief systems I've listed, the people who are the least serious about them write at the highest level. On the other hand, the people who are most serious about not having faith (i.e. the "very serious" agnostics and atheists) score higher than any religious groups."
- http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/the-real-stuff-white-people-like/

Kudos to the Buddhists and the Jews for keeping pace (almost) with the freethinkers.  That almost all of these groups operate at an average Junior High (7th and 8th grade) reading level is a testament to the efficacy of the American education system.
mellowtigger: (Daria)
I have a few female readers at this blog, and I wanted to make sure they all knew about this opportunity to display the supernatural power of their cleavage.  No, seriously.

We already know that the homosexuals are responsible for God allowing Americans to die at the hands of terrorists.  As it turns out, low necklines (and short shorts) are responsible for God sending earthquakes to destroy cities.  Who knew?  One of God's own prayer leaders, that's who.

""Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader."
- http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-ml-iran-earthquakes-promiscuity,0,6333394.story

Those are some mighty boobs, indeed.

lethal cleavageNaturally, one bright woman thought of a way to test that theory.  Women: Plan on Monday to wear your clothes that are least modest.

I have a modest proposal.  Sedighi claims that not dressing modestly causes earthquakes. If so, we should be able to test this claim scientifically. You all remember the homeopathy overdose?  Time for a Boobquake.
- http://www.blaghag.com/2010/04/in-name-of-science-i-offer-my-boobs.html

I'm tempted to start a parallel "moobquake" event in a masculine gesture of solidarity, but then we'd muddy the scientific purity of the experiment that is underway.  Instead, I'll just point everyone to the Facebook page for the event (and they already have 64,610 attendees registered):
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=116336578385346

Heterosexual men:  I'm sorry, but I don't know what to recommend.  Should you take your cameras to work on Monday in order to participate in the apparently-necessary immodest thoughts?  Or do you resist temptation so that we know for sure that the earthquake wrath is brought upon us solely because of those wicked women ways?  This confused homosexual is staying out of that debate.

myth

Aug. 31st, 2009 09:44 pm
mellowtigger: (Default)
As it turns out, [livejournal.com profile] foeclan had a copy of "The End of Faith" in his room.  He's loaned it to me, and I've been reading it today.

How utterly depressing.  I thought I was already upset about Jesusites and other religious terrorists, but it gets worse when someone views it more objectively than I did and writes rebukes more succinctly than I did.  *sigh*  I hope this book offers some optimism later on.  It does have me wondering, though...

How is it that the Greeks let their gods fade into myth without giving them up altogether?  By what social process did the demands of religion transform into the insights of theater?

I want to know.  Maybe we can still duplicate their good fortune.
mellowtigger: (Default)
I have inconsistencies of thought on the matter, so obviously I need to spend more time pondering the subject.  By my definition, a warrior is someone willing to die, not someone willing to kill.  I respect the warriors of peace.  What, though, do I call those who do both?  I think, in particular, of the Sacred Band of Thebes... the famous warrior lovers.  What are they, in my vocabulary?  I don't yet know.

Probably the most significant religious text that I have is this:
The right to live is tentative. Material things are limited, though the mind is free. Of protein, phosphorus, nor even energy is there ever enough to slake all hungers. Therefore, show not affront when diverse beings vie over what physically exists. Only in thought can there be true generosity. So let thought be the focus of your world.
- David Brin, my favorite sci-fi author
The universe constrains us; it imposes limits on resources (both matter and energy). I've seen no evidence that suggests a way to escape this fundamental restriction. So of course there will be conflict over resources. Gods of war (and therefore heroes of warfare) have their necessary place in the story of our lives. Every form of life competes for resources, from microscopic organisms to macroscopic biospheres. When war is called for, wage war brilliantly.

I am not a peacenik who thinks that universal love will overcome every obstacle. My universe is more complex than that. I do question, though, how to tell when warfare (killing for future protection of resources rather than for immediate food/shelter) is appropriate. Nature provides so many checks on unrestrained growth already. Starvation and disease are very effective ways to reduce a population. Do we add genocide to the mix of mechanisms only because we grow impatient with Mother Nature's pace? When is a soldier something more than just an impatient bully?
I am here. I am human. I was not born to fight you. I was born to live and be free. And this is me living and being free in the face of your teargas. I wanted to create, not just react.
- "Fierce Light", http://www.alivemindmedia.com/films/fierce-light/ (YouTube trailer)
This movie reminded me that peaceful protestors die just as simply as armed ones. Peacefully waiting out a conflict still results in casualties. Can the peaceful outlast the armed, starving the aggressor of money, time, food, or water? If they can, then isn't it the moral choice to maintain peaceful protest? Ultimately, there needs to be fewer humans on the planet than we have now. I see that goal as the only long-term solution. Surely starvation and disease can eliminate a great many people without the need for warfare. Most religions seem opposed to reducing birth rates, but the only alternative I see is the massive reduction of population by other (far more unpleasant) means.
Our minds display an enormous plasticity, and it is possible to transform ourselves based on deliberate uses of attention. And yet we need to understand that rationally.  We need to understand that neuroscientifically and psychologically.
- Sam Harris in "Fierce Light"
(This quote also reminds me that I still need to make time to write about Remaking.)

Perhaps there's a way to use ideals to inform our intellect, a way that doesn't require the use of traditional religious institutions or standards.  Sam Harris wrote a book titled, "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason".  Apparently he tries to posit a rational approach to ethics for people who are more familiar with religious methods.  I think maybe I should continue my investigation by ordering myself a copy of his book to read.

No answers today.  Just lots of questions.
mellowtigger: (Default)
I hope, when the time comes, that I have the presence of mind to escape. Failing that... I hope, when the time comes, that I have the bravery to die rather than kill. I'm not certain of my own pacifist leanings, but I can at least hope to be a better example of a thoughtful person than my attackers.

Some 15 years ago, my boss (on the political right) and I (on the political left) were discussing politics and we both agreed that America would see civil war within our lifetimes unless civil discourse found a revival. People need to keep rational minds and civil tongues in order to safely explore opinions and to find points of compromise or at least find ways to live together in tolerance.

My subconscious seems ready to accept that civil discourse has ceased. I blame mostly the "right" for this effect (see: Nazi, death panels, gun stealing, constitution shredding, and other claims without any rational justification that I can find (and I have tried to look for it)), but the "left" is finally waking up to the fact that they are trying to debate with irrational people. I expect civility to collapse before Obama's first term is out. I voted for him because I hoped he had the brains and the voice to hold this country together through such tearing.

It is a deadly serious matter to me.
"God never "felt" anything about it, he commanded it and said they should be taken out and killed. ... You want to know why sodomites are recruiting? Because they have no natural predators."

and

"Go find one of these queer churches, they'll put the faggot behind the pulpit. ... Our country is run by faggots. ... He's a pedophile. He has been arrested for interacting with boys that are in their teenage years when he's in his 50s. ... That's Barney Frank. That's who just sold our country into fascism. ... I'm not going to stand by and let a faggot run the church. It's bad enough that we've got a lot of faggots running the government."

- both available at http://www.rightwingwatch.org/god-commands-you-kill-gays.html
I don't usually hang out at such websites, but I am trying to examine both far-right and far-left news this week. I could find no news article justifying the claims by this man about Barney Frank.  The closest that I could locate was an old Washington Post article, and it refutes his claims.  The "recruiting" argument is so ludicrous that it doesn't even deserve refutation here.

I'm beginning to wonder if the immediate dissolution of the United States might actually be the most peaceful outcome available. The "right" is getting shrill in a way that involves weaponry. Peaceful or deadly resolution? A matter of choice.

I hope that I choose to die rather than kill. Peaceful protest may lose as many lives as outright warfare, but it leaves its soldiers unscathed by moral compromise. I find it curiously coincident that God hates the same outsiders as the people themselves already hate.  God can kill humans by divine will. God has angels that can kill humans.  Why does God need angry mobs to kill for him, and on schedules that fit their own political tide?
"What does God need with a starship?"
- Captain Kirk, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYW_lPlekiQ
I find that certainty about who should live and who should die is a poison that seems to consume some people through and through.  Following the Abrahamic metaphor, the apple and the Knowledge Of Good And Evil seems to have poisoned some souls more than others.  A great many people seem certain of who is Good and who is Evil and what order should be established for every human on the planet.

They have a lot more certainty about such arrangements than I do.  I cannot be allowed to exist in their world, so they believe.  My own father has hunted queers as a group sport.  Is this brand of fun poised for a comeback?  When rationality and civility are totally lost, how will I respond?

I hope that I choose to die rather than kill, when they come for me.  But here too I lack their certainty.  Perhaps soon we will be able to distinguish the correct one (if any) among the four theories of human violence.
mellowtigger: (religion)
Monotheism is once again scaring me.

I'd heard about "The Family" recently, but [livejournal.com profile] kauko reminds me about it today.  They're a Christian group that teaches things like "Morality is for the little people" (rules of decency do not apply to those in power), "Jesus plus nothing" (meaning essentially the totalitarianism of Jesus-ites), and "Be more like Hitler" (demanding complete devotion to party and goals over personal life or standards).  Scary, scary stuff.

Then today the headline comes in from Israel about a GLBT youth meeting ambushed by a masked killer, leaving at least 3 of these kids dead.

I repeat a previous statement of mine that monotheism is a great threat to world peace.  I'll try to pay more attention to polytheist news to see if this kind of savagery is apparent there too.  I don't really expect human nature to differ immensely from one group to another.  I do expect, however, that the reinforcements of "one true way" thinking are responsible for removing important barriers to some of the darker motivations in human nature.  After all, nothing is too shocking if (your belief of) God wants it that way.

Coincidentally, today I splurged and spent some money on a pirate fish pastafarian t-shirt.  I'll consider sending some money to the buddhists and the hindus, since I've done my bit to support the atheists for today.
mellowtigger: (Default)
My thanks to [livejournal.com profile] snousle for pointing out this quote in [livejournal.com profile] furrbear's thread:
"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion..."
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Tripoli
Two-thirds of America's (then, only 32) senators were present for the vote on this 1797 treaty, and it passed unanimously.
non-christian nation
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Article_11.GIF
The wonders of wikipedia are boundless.  They even have a photo of Article 11 of the treaty.  :)

This quote is new information to me.  Maybe it's time to remind the nation that mixing religious fervor with government authority is a bad idea.  It is always a bad idea, no matter which flavor of religion is trying to do it.  We really don't need to recreate (Christian) Rome.

I've listed here the necessary links for promoting this old (and therefore conservative?) idea.  Go forth, new meme.  Fly!
mellowtigger: (crazy)
I've tried to keep up with reading LiveJournal during this last week, but I've been lax about writing either new material here or replies to other people. Mental distractions abound. I mentioned earlier that I might post some "iffy" material here, and... well, here's one of the topics now. I think that I have the right words and references to explain it properly. I started writing this piece back in 2004, but maybe now I can finally finish it.

brevity cut for courtesy... )

Choose the explanation that's appropriate for the need. Getting them confused leads to all kinds of trouble.

swan songs

Aug. 19th, 2008 09:42 am
mellowtigger: (Default)
I hope someday to write about the process of actively "remaking" oneself, but for today I'll settle with the easier topic of what some other folk have said about this kind of rebirth.

An incorrect myth has survived for thousands of years. Even though Plato tried to correct the matter in his day, the wrong myth still persists. The swan song is still thought of as a sad look to the past, preparing for the final chapter in some endeavor of life or work while reminiscing about earlier and more prosperous days. The story claims (wrongly) that swans do not sing until their dying day. In fact, they do, but the story persists anyway. What has not been well refuted (to my mind) is whether they do sometimes sing a different song, more beautiful than any sung at other times, then also if that song occurs near the end of their lives.

Plato wrote about it. It's in the Phaedo (written 3641 RHH) where Plato relates to us what Phaedo (a fictional character) was told by his teacher Socrates in his last words.
But men, because they are themselves afraid of death, slanderously affirm of the swans that they sing a lament at the last, not considering that no bird sings when cold, or hungry, or in pain, not even the nightingale, nor the swallow, nor yet the hoopoe; which are said indeed to tune a lay of sorrow, although I do not believe this to be true of them any more than of the swans. But because they are sacred to Apollo and have the gift of prophecy and anticipate the good things of another world, therefore they sing and rejoice in that day more than they ever did before.
Swan song as celebration of things yet to come, of beginnings born from endings. Swans, white like Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and transformation. Like the swans, it's easy to associate him only with the end of things. Kali, the Black Goddess of time, stands upon his form. Her devotees wear necklaces with beads of human skulls. They know what she teaches: only with the end of the old self can a new self form.

The story of transformation is very old and often repeated in various metaphorical forms.
  • Kali dancing on Shiva
  • Jesus being held under water (baptism to new life)
  • Buddha and anatta (no-self) contemplation
Apollo and his swans are slightly different, depending on an eternal soul that survives death to inhabit some other (happier) realm.  Still, the ideas are similar in their outcome.

You have to die in order to live. It's a strange universe.
mellowtigger: (Default)
Hopefully [profile] kauko is still out there reading LiveJournal, since today's post is a followup to his question from two months back. It's taken significant pondering and reading to find a better answer to the question, since so many intertwined ideas/emotions are tangled up in the problem. Curiously, it also relates to [personal profile] bitterlawngnome's (and my own) mingling of passion and intellect.  The argument could probably be shortened, but I need to get ready for work shortly, so here it is.

Why does society allow religions to hold on to their bigotries whereas in any other aspect of our culture they would not be tolerated.

My conclusion is that the necessary methods for enforcing anti-bigotry in religion would be unpleasant for most people to even consider... and that unpleasantry is why religion as a doctrine is allowed to maintain its bigotries. The cost to remove it is considered worse than the ailment itself. Although this matter is generally understood at the level of emotion rather than rationalization. Here follows my attempt to rationalize/uncover that reality/instinct.



In a letter that I wrote back in September 2001, I was explaining to someone that affection and faith are the same in some of their qualities. Namely that forcing them upon another person is destructive, and that all one can do is offer these gifts to someone honestly while accepting whatever decisions they may make afterward.

Daniel Dennett (in "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon") is far more explicit. He explains that religion is not just like love, but that it is a kind of love. Humans experience it that way because of a memetic "Good Trick" in coopting our capacity for one development and using it for a different development. Humans defend their love (of person or of faith) with equal fanaticism, and both render humans equally blind to intelligent inquiry. Indeed, we take pride in our love that appears without rational explanation of its benefits. We lavish our love (of person or of faith) with beautiful gifts such as incense, masterpieces of art, magnificent architecture, songs of love, passionate words of poetry, and elegant ceremony. They inspire the same acts of selfless devotion and sacrifice.  The experience of beauty and of belonging is the same.

Aside:  I wrote in 1996 that science is another aspect of the same situation. Religion and science are equivalent experiences (or have been, at least, in my life), and I think that love of individual can join them in trinity. And I do mean passionate love, not (mere) brotherly love. Here is a clue to [personal profile] bitterlawngnome's point that eros molds so readily with intellect. At least, it does for some people... which leads back to [profile] kauko's question. Given my premise that religion is a kind of love, there are some curious consequences for how we treat it.

Religious doctrine is as convoluted as physics. I assume that some of these matters are beyond the ken of some people. We have Doctors (of physical disciplines) for the same reason that we have Rabbis/Priests/Imams (of religious disciplines)... so that people better equipped to consider these ideas may do so and then tell their conclusions to the rest of us.  We concede that we are too ignorant or stupid to understand them fully ourselves.  Some faith (just as some love) can be bad for our well being. Yet we are forbidden by social rule from interfering. If it were only a matter of explaining a rational argument to convince someone of their foolishness, then I expect that human history would read very differently than it does now. The truth is that some arguments are too complex for some people to understand. "All men are created equal"? Not so. Exposing the lie, though, would exact a terrible cost since democracy is based upon the concept of this mythical equality.

Some people will not understand the intricacies of the social argument about the harm (whatever situation you want to examine) done by their religious doctrine. Assuming you are unable to convince them logically, then how do you change their behavior anyway? Coerce/legislate by the authority of your superior argument? (We're smarter than you, so our opinion and vote counts more than yours.) I myself am still torn between the idea of meritocracy (technocracy) and democracy. I see costs and benefits to each method. I think it would be enormously satisfying to hold an IQ test as entrance barrier to the voting booth... until I someday failed the test myself. I think [profile] kauko's question exposes another consequence of each system.

We accept that the selfish pursuit of happiness (love, religion, theory, etc) must continue without interference. If some people want to believe in their own (racial, ethnic, religious, intellectual) superiority, then they are allowed to do so. Their organizations will succeed or fail as individuals support or abandon them. All the individuals of a society must change first, so that the institutions may change afterward. Top-down coercion is not allowed because the cost to liberty would be too high. We console ourselves with the hope that we will all educate ourselves during our stumbling.

My first answer to the question focused on this consolation. If these ignorant fools are at least considering the right questions, then perhaps they will eventually learn the same truth that I plainly see if they just spend more time at their foolishness. Why they fail to reach the same conclusions in the first place is a different question. My second answer to the question of why we allow them to continue (in religion) with their bigotries is because the assumption of authority over someone else's most personal of endeavors (love... of person or of religion) would be bad for all of us.



Why does society allow religions to hold on to their bigotries whereas in any other aspect of our culture they would not be tolerated.

Because "authoritative" interference in matters of love carries abhorrent consequences. It seems less dangerous to merely continue "hoping for the best" that they will learn from their mistakes, in spite of the obvious evidence that they haven't yet learned from them.
mellowtigger: (Default)
Researchers have discovered that frankincense is a psychoactive substance and may lead us to a new class of drugs that can be used to treat anxiety and depression.

They found that "burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression." When tested in mice, it lowered their anxiety by affecting brain areas involved in emotion.

It was inevitable, of course, what with the reputation of that longhaired hippy freak. How long until it's made illegal, d'ya suppose?  Or prescription-only?  (Same thing.)

WWJD, indeed.  If it was good enough for baby Jesus....   *inhale*
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I notice that this original art of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is quite similar to this gem art of Abraxas.



Might Pastafarianism have a much older lineage than we thought?  Maybe those Gnosh-tics were on to something.

singing

Feb. 11th, 2008 08:39 pm
mellowtigger: (Default)
[info]unzeugmatic (as he mentions in his most recent account) often attends Sacred Harp singings. I've attended one of his local singings and enjoyed the sound of it. I'm glad that somebody is preserving this old musical tradition. It deserves to be practiced. It's based on a style of musical notation that isn't in much use today. It shares some similarities to the kind of music that I grew up with in the Primitive Baptist church. I'll explain why the two systems don't "play well together" in real life human society though, as it reveals a peculiarity or two of Primitive Baptist belief that is as uncommon today as the music itself.

First, here's proof that I know at least a little about the topic. A scan of one of my singing school certificates (click to see full size) and a google map of the location of the school.
singing school certificate 1982google map link

Look at the lower right corner of the intersection. That's the school. The satellite image even caught the school in use, so those'd be the girls camped on the north side and the boys camped on the south side. (Click the image for the Google interactive map. Zoom out to see how isolated the school was.)

Break to the long post... )
mellowtigger: (coprolite)
I'm not Christian myself, but I do tend to encounter them. The obvious counterpoint is a dinosaur bone, even complete skeletons. My life is seldom so obvious though. Some days, I keep a slab of coprolite in my pocket. If I lick it to make it wet, it shows very pretty shades of green and brown. (Coprolite is fossilized dinosaur "remains". See samples of the full thing and also a cross section like I have.)

1) Binomial Nomenclature is Holy work

Most Christians think that the first task that God set to Adam was to go out and multiply (Gen 1:28). They're wrong. Before God created Eve, He was bringing animals to Adam to give them a name (Gen 2:19-20). Apparently God wanted His creations to be noticed and identified. Killing them off in this current great extinction should amount to some kind of blasphemy, preventing humans from fulfilling the "first task" given them by their creator. Scientists are identifying new species all the time, though not at a fast enough pace to catch them all before extinction. Christians shouldn't be at odds with the evolutionary tree and the naming scheme that ties these different lives together. Instead, they should regard binomial nomenclature (the formal system for naming of species) as Holy work that fulfills an early duty.  Oh, and "Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees." (Rev 7:3)  Creation deserves a little respect, not disdain, for its temporary nature.

2) God never stopped Creating

astronomy photo
Have you ever watched a video where you saw an initial explosion and then the ring of destruction (fire, smoke, dust, or cloud) that expands from the center as the force moves outward? Yeah, that's what this photo is like. This Hubble Telescope image was taken after some new kind of stellar explosion (not a regular nova) from a star 20,000 light years away in the constellation of the Unicorn. The initial burst of light first reached us in January 2002, and this photo was taken 11 months later. That's nearly a year that the sudden burst of light was allowed to expand in a shell, the "wave of light" a million times brighter than normal. As that brilliance contines to expand in a sphere from the original star, we get to see the reflections (or visual light "echo") of whatever was in the path of the light at that moment. Like a strobe light catching secrets in the dark, we see the gas and debris that was always there but hidden from sight. We get to see the shape of the wispy tendrils that weave the tapestry of our galaxy (and even the universe). And, appropriately enough, we get to see bright blue stars in the foreground, classic color of new young stars.

New stuff happens. All the time. The universe didn't achieve its final shape on any given day in the past (6000 years ago or more). After the light passes, then the physical shockwave will expand from that star. Such compressions are thought to eventually give rise to new star formation. Creation did not end at the seventh day. It continues even today.

3) End Times are NOT nigh

When the universe holds such sights waiting to be seen, I do not believe in any deity that pretends compassion while simultaneously threatening to keep us from finding these wonders in the universe. We should be "out there" someday living stories that even the science fiction writers of today can't imagine. The "End Times" didn't come in the years after Jesus. Or the centuries. Or, now, the millenia. I will not live in doom when I know (just look up, into the night sky! *points upward*) that discoveries are waiting for us.

I live in a universe where creation never ended, where everything changes, and where animal shit outlasts the animal and later (equally temporary) species dig it up from the dirt to turn it into jewelry. Why would anyone want to live somewhere else?

"Did you know that in a world so full of wonders, they have actually invented boredom? Quite astonishing." - Death, regarding humans and their creativity, in the movie "Hogfather"

otherness

Jan. 21st, 2008 06:04 pm
mellowtigger: (Default)
A University of Chicago study presents an interesting theory about anthropomorphism, the attribution of human-like characteristics and traits onto nonhuman agents. They found that certain things increase the effect and other things decrease it. For instance:
  • Loneliness greatly increases the tendency to anthropomorphize.
  • Fear seems to have no effect either way.
  • Knowledge and familiarity with the object decreases the tendency.
But, perhaps more importantly, their theory may finally shed some light on the opposite effect of dehumanization, the removal of human-like characteristics from other humans thereafter treating them as objects. While loneliness has a strong positive effect on anthropomorphism, the opposite may also be true... intense social bonds in tight-knit groups may have a strong negative effect on the tendency, leading to increased dehumanization.
"Those who live in particularly highly connected communities may be the least in need of social connection from outside group members and possibly the most likely to fail to attribute humanlike characteristics to more distant outgroup members"
This idea is very important for minorities to consider. Think about the groups most likely to terrorize gay people. Aren't all of them associated with these tight social groups? Sports, military, religious fundies who even go so far as to home school? Could it be that the "Family Values" fundies might be the most anti-gay because a shared human instinct compels them to be so? Consider the rapid appearance of nationalism during an emergency, and the apparently ill-thought tendency to demonize the perceived enemy. As social cohesion increases, anthropomorphism decreases. It seems that our minds are always working to establish "connection" with the rest of the world. If our need is not immediately fulfilled (loneliness), then we cast our thoughts far and wide to find sameness. If instead we are immediately reassured and comforted, then we do not try nearly so hard.

Does it mean that we have to give up the nuclear family in order to gain friendship with animals and nature? Does communion with everything require so high a price? Maybe so:
"Anthropomorphism is of practical interest in most social spheres because it turns nonhuman agents into moral agents who deserve to be treated with respect and concern. Pollution takes on a different tone altogether when it is “harming Mother Earth,” for instance, and it is no surprise that such framing is common among environmentalist groups who show the strongest concern for the environment."
So the Christians may be right about something (while simultaneously defying the truth of it):
Luke 8:20-21 And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. "My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it."
Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
Self-isolation comes with a nice benefits package.  As a pagan myself, though, I find this information confusing and somewhat contradictory. It should be possible to have the best of both worlds: close family/clan and anthropomorphic nature. Perhaps there's still a more complicated truth to untangle from the observations in this recent study.

(Aside: The authors also remarked that "individuals with autism also do not appear to use their own beliefs egocentrically as a guide to others’ beliefs". (Helpful Translation: Other people confuse the hell out of autistics.))

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