CAT | culture
Atheists need to stop making fun of “Christian rock” and the assorted second rate derivates of culture produced by the evangelical subculture if this is not a rip-off of The Onion, Atheist ‘mega-churches’ look for nonbelievers:
It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Hundreds packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational sermon, a reading and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.
Dozens of gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors are springing up around the U.S. after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.
This is almost a parody of what organized atheism can become.
[In] evangelical congregations…—at the end of October, at least—a “Christ against culture” spirit takes over for a week or so. As a counter-celebration, churches often put on “harvest festivals.” Kids may dress up in Pilgrim-like or patriotic garb—but none of the typical Halloween fare.
I wonder about this each year. And I typically get asked as Halloween approaches what I think about the way the day gets celebrated. Evangelical kids know all about the Halloween imagery and practices, and they often pressure their parents to let them wear a costume to a public school party, or to go trick-or-treating. Parents are often relieved by the opportunity to redirect their children’s attention to a “harvest festival” kind of event. But they still feel the Halloween pressure, and are not always sure what to say, beyond “It’s a pagan thing, and we are Christians.”
…The Christians who are worried about Halloween and all it stands for are struggling with different aspects of evil. They are wondering how to raise their children in a culture that often seems opposed to what they stand for. They are nervous about what reading Harry Potter and vampire stories might be doing to the souls of their offspring….
And as to what Halloween stands for. Not so much really, just humanity’s ancient fascination with ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night, and, of course, the opportunities presented for a party in a world where, just for an hour or two, people can pretend that the ordinary rules don’t apply.
And then from ‘Invisible Woman’ in the Guardian:
I am not privy to the thought processes of supermodels (thank God), and I cannot for the life of me think what was running through Heidi Klum’s head when she came up with the idea that dressing as an old woman was an amusing concept for Halloween. Heidi is well-known for going the full nine yards on All Hallows’ Eve. She’s been Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (or Gunther von Hagens’ flayed body, depending on your cultural references), the Hindu goddess Kali (managing to offend an entire religion) and now she’s given us what currently terrifies the western world beyond all reason – age.
Yes, there are cultural differences at play here – dressing up for Halloween in the US does not necessarily mean witches, vampires and Frankenstein – but it’s hard to see this stunt as anything other than ill-judged and offensive. There is a fine line here and Klum has crossed it….
To repeat myself, good lord.
Maria Popova has written an interesting piece on Isaac Asimov’s attitude towards religion.
Here’s the great man himself:
I have never, not for one moment, been tempted toward religion of any kind. The fact is that I feel no spiritual void.
That Asimov never “felt” the tug of any faith, let alone any God-shaped hole is, I suspect, a reflection of the fact that an individual’s susceptibility to religious belief or even to “spirituality”(to use that gelatinous term) almost certainly owes more to his or her psyche (we can debate how much of that is down to the genes) than to anything else.
Asimov then succumbs to hubris:
I have my philosophy of life, which does not include any aspect of the supernatural and which I find totally satisfying. I am, in short, a rationalist and believe only that which reason tells me is so.
Oh come on. The idea that anyone’s beliefs are founded solely on reason is a leap too far. Robots may be built that way. Humans are not. Judging by the section I have highlighted in these comments below, Asimov was no exception:
The soft bonds of love are indifferent to life and death. They hold through time so that yesterday’s love is part of today’s and the confidence in tomorrow’s love is also part of today’s. And when one dies, the memory lives in the other, and is warm and breathing. And when both die — I almost believe, rationalist though I am — that somewhere it remains, indestructible and eternal, enriching all of the universe by the mere fact that once it existed.
Under the circumstances it’s perhaps not a surprise that Asimov bought into the soft-left mush that is so much of Secular Humanism (there’s a reference to that creed elsewhere in the piece), but I did like this:
There is nothing frightening about an eternal dreamless sleep. Surely it is better than eternal torment in Hell and eternal boredom in Heaven. And what if I’m mistaken? The question was asked of Bertrand Russell, the famous mathematician, philosopher, and outspoken atheist. “What if you died,” he was asked, “and found yourself face to face with God? What then?”
And the doughty old champion said, “I would say, ‘Lord, you should have given us more evidence.’”
There are occasions where I don’t even understand what universe the academic cultural Left is inhabiting. Their utilization of plain and simple terms in bizarre fashions makes implicit the reality that their factual universe is radically different from mine. AFP has a piece up, Indian-origin Miss America shows evolving US ideal. It covers the controversy over an Indian American winning the Miss America beauty contest. Much of the article is banal or unsurprising, and naturally it focuses a great deal on the winner’s ethnicity, and the uproar over numerous racist Twitter comments. But the assertions of the academics interviewed struck me as both illuminating and depressing:
The author Jim C Hines sparked a conversation on Twitter after posting a picture of the all-white past, present and future chairs of WorldCon and coining the hashtag #DiversityinSFF. As the South African books blogger Lauren Smith wrote, it’s a problem often talked about in SFF circles. “These genres – or at least their English-language versions – lack diversity, with the major problem being that white male authors and straight, white, predominantly male characters are favoured,” she said, adding that it’s clear “who and what is underrepresented: anyone who is POC [person of colour], female, gay, transgendered; settings and cultures that aren’t North American or European; non-western folklore and mythology”.
Saladin Ahmed, who was born in Detroit and raised in a working-class, Arab American enclave in Michigan, was one of the non-white males at WorldCon: his novel Throne of the Crescent Moon was shortlisted for best novel at the Hugo awards, given out at the convention. He called for diversity in science fiction to be extended even further – to class. He tweeted: “Class diversity also needs to be part of #DiversityinSFF. I want fewer kings and starship captains, more coach drivers and space waitresses.”
I can take Lefties who are concerned with the immiseration of the working class seriously. Usually I disagree with their diagonsis and prescription, but the concerns are intelligible and broadly serious. These sorts of cultural obsessions are infantile in light of more pressing material concerns in this world. On this specific point if you read William Sims Bainbridge’s Dimensions of Science Fiction you will note that fandom and authors tend to be disproportionately atheist, Jewish, and libertarian within the culture of science fiction. These are all minority persuasions, last I checked….
From Seeing Things (1991):
The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.
The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,
A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
‘This man can’t bear our life here and will drown,’
The abbot said, ‘unless we help him.’ So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvellous as he had known it.
The Financial Times reports:
[Venezuelan president Maduras] campaigned on the basis that his predecessor spoke to him in the form of a little bird. Last week, he admitted that he regularly sleeps in the mausoleum where the comandante’s remains are kept for inspiration.
He is not alone in making that pilgrimage. Mariana Alcalá recently travelled from the western city of Barquisimeto to Caracas to lay flowers at a shrine set up by devotees near the military barracks where the former president’s remains are kept in a sarcophagus surrounded by the presidential guard of honour.
“Our giant has left us in person, but he will always be with us in spirit. I think that the majority [of chavistas] believe, have faith, that one way or another he is helping us, not only socially but also spiritually,” says Ms Alcalá. “We ask him for help, and he helps us, he illuminates us.”
The “Saint Hugo Chávez” shrine in the 23 de Enero slum in central Caracas is one of many that have sprung up around the country since the socialist leader, who described himself as a Christian, died in March. In poor areas like the 23 de Enero, one of Chávez’s strongholds where he was revered in life, his image hangs next to those of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Pope Francis I.
“This is a product of the empathy he developed with the majority of the unassisted, unprotected, forgotten population of Venezuela. When he took power they felt that some sort of father had arrived, a saviour, a protector, an Almighty,” says Lizbety González, a Venezuelan expert on cults. “His death generated a deep pain and that vacuum was filled by a cult, a cult that is evident all over Venezuela now.”
Some even believe the former president could be more powerful dead than alive. “Chávez is a god, a messiah, a warrior of light,” says Humberto López, who likes to dress as the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara.
Comments off · Posted by Andrew Stuttaford in culture
Cross-posted on the Corner:
To my disappointment, I missed this event:
Uncivilisation 2013 is a gathering of people searching for answers to questions about our collective future in a rapidly-changing and depleting world. For one long weekend in August, the woods and chalk downland of the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire will be home to a festival of literature, music, art and action. It will be a place of encounters and conversations, learning and sharing, stories, ideas, music and performance. There will be campfires, wanderings in the woods, children’s activities, and workshops in everything from writing to scything.
The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself. We see that the world is entering an age of ecological collapse, material contraction and social and political unravelling, and we want our cultural responses to reflect this reality rather than denying it.
Something tells me that the “cultural response” that the Dark Mountaineers are planning does not involve the acquisition of heavy weaponry, canned goods, a comfortable, yet invulnerable, mountain redoubt and the recruitment of Resident Evil’s Alice, a handy companion in the event of any apocalypse I can envisage.
H/t: David Thompson, who anticipated the event in a possibly sarcastic fashion:
Who here could resist a congregation of climate catastrophists and unemployed poets – sorry, “artists and thinkers” – who tell us their words “will be elemental” and will “weave reality,” and who also tell us they will write these elemental, reality-weaving words “with dirt under our fingernails.” These brave People Of Tomorrow™ will gather in tepees and fiddle with twigs, while awaiting the end of capitalism and bourgeois decadence. They will dine on halloumi burgers and Fair Trade carrot cake. Women will blossom in a “creative making and conversation space.” Men will be helped to “reconcile their polarities.” Oh, and there’ll also be a scything workshop. Poetry and scything is clearly the way forward.
Then again, what good is the apocalypse without a grim reaper?
If recycling is, as the saying goes, the liberal equivalent of prayer, what does this make the rubbish bins of Britain?
Over at the Daily Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill gives an update:
You would think the solution to the blighting of Britain’s residential streets with more and more household bins was pretty straightforward – stop forcing people to sort their rubbish into myriad different bins in the name of “saving the planet”. Instead, let them cram all their waste into one bin, like we did for decades, before some bloke in a donkey jacket and flat cap turns up to whisk it all away, no questions asked. Right? Apparently not. Eric Pickles’ [he’s the Conservative Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government] preferred solution to the “bin blight” is to institute new planning guidance that will force developers to create a special bin-storage bit to all the new homes they build. In short, he plans to counter local councils’ petty meddling in people’s daily habits by launching some petty meddling of his own into the work of building firms. So much for Tory promises to shrink Big Government.
Pickles has a point when he says there is a “ghastly gauntlet” of bins and recycling boxes on Britain’s streets. “Ugly bin clutter” is ruining residential streets, he says, with “the proliferation of multiple bins [creating] a blot on the landscape”. Yet rather than address the source of this bin invasion – which is local authorities’ embracing of environmentalist dogma and their enforcing of the entirely pointless ritual of recycling on to households across the land – Pickles prefers to take the easier route of forcing developers to build shelters to accommodate all these unnecessary, annoying, eye-sore bins. This provides a keen insight into the New Conservatives’ political cowardice: don’t ask awkward questions of modern-day eco-pieties and instead create a whole new layer of infrastructure to negate their worst consequences.
At this point, I shall rudely interrupt Mr. O’Neill to note recent reports showing that Conservative Party membership figures are reaching new lows, down from some 250,000 when David Cameron (an example for the GOP, we were told at the time) became leader to below 100,000 today (perhaps as low as around seventy thousand: there are different ways to slice the data).
But back to O’Neill:
The bin situation is spiralling out of control. Gone are the days when you could unthinkingly chuck everything from a banana skin to a plastic bottle into one binbag and not have to worry about what would become of it all. Now, in some parts of Britain, people have up to seven different bins to separate their waste between. In the past you’d walk down a suburban street and admire the best-kept gardens or fanciest net curtains; now you finding yourself marvelling at how many differently hued bins are plonked outside every home and wondering how waste disposal and collection came to be such complicated endeavours.
Well, the cowardice of the Tory Party is one of the reasons for this mess, but it is a cowardice that is not confined to “eco-pieties” (many of which the Cameron Conservatives have, incidentally, actively embraced), but also in its dealings with the EU, often the key regulator in this area.
Personal recycling is a complete waste of time too, in environmental, “planet-saving” terms, given that household waste is a pretty small proportion of overall waste in Britain. Enforced recycling of household tat is less a practical stab at rescuing Mother Earth from climate change and more a punishment of families for being wasteful, a ritual designed to remind us of our greed and overall dirtiness by making us muck through everything we chuck away.
Sounds like a religious ritual to me, maybe more of an act of penance than a prayer, but religious nonetheless.
But less about these comments from three years back (via Breitbart):
New Pope Francis I is an ardent opponent of same-sex marriage, in coincidence with traditional Catholic belief. In 2010, he wrote, “Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
The “Father of Lies”!