atheism

FRUIT AND NUT (AND VINE)

There are a couple of things about this video that are funny and a little unsettling…aside from the fruitloopery I mean.

The first is that on about 20 seconds when they start to talk to the guy, they do not put Ricky Navarre – Teacher/Doctor/Construction Worker/Whatever. Just take a look at what they put and try not to fall off your seat laughing.

Aside from the obvious nuttiness of the man in question listen to the all subtle inferences that it really might be some kind of miracle. This leads up to the final “COULD IT BE…..” to make it seem like they aren’t telling you what to think. It is only a minute long.

COULD IT BE that big broadcasters are telling people to think something using the power of suggestion? COULD IT BE that encouraging people to believe in myths and backward ideologies is part of their jobs?

You see, as said in the video, “Navarre believes that this is more than a coincidence”. I can see that it might be that. COULD IT BE that someone arranged the plant that way?

BROTHER GORILLA [Part 1]

This is the first part of an only tangentially related two-part post.

There is a famous song by French anarchist George De Brassens that will be part two, but in this first part I just want to post a little film I made to show that the term “Brother Gorilla” is not actually that far from the truth.

The audio is Douglas Adams and comes from probably his best book which is Last Chance to See. I haven’t actually seen any of the more recent TV series with Stephen Fry but I am sure I will get around to watching it soon enough.

Speaking of Stephen Fry, I recently watched a debate on youtube featuring him that you could watch and some of the things in that debate I wrote about a while ago in a slightly different way and got a little bit of abuse for.

Anyway, the film…

MOONSHINE

The Vatican is hosting a Galileo exhibition and while this may cause a great deal of mirth about the hypocrisy of it all we have to remember that institutions do change and this is a change for the better.

Or is it?

You see, the thing with the Galileo story is that the Church did not in fact tell Galileo that he was wrong. They told him he might well be right. They just also told him that he couldn’t go around telling anyone that as it was the church that decided what is true and isn’t.

It is also worth noting that although they eventually made an apology in 1992 to Galileo it wasn’t exactly a full holding up of the hands. Pope John Paul said that the whole story was based  “tragic mutual incomprehension”. I would have thought that incomprehension was part of it but I am not sure about mutual.

That reading of the situation was reiterated by an Archbishop this week who talked about ‘mistakes on both sides’.

Bertolt Brecht might agree as in his play The Life of Galileo the only thing that Galileo later regretted was the actual recanting, something that Giordano Bruno never did.

The publicity coming from the Vatican on this [I really resent giving them the capital ‘V’ on ‘Vatican’] is that religion is not opposed to science but that we all must work together.

But to what end? Because as far as I know the doctrine of *papal infallibilty still exists so what is going on with all that. Will the Pope’s next public appearance be in a shade of grey instead of the traditional white. Instead of a mitre will he have a telescope and a compass.

I doubt it somehow but then, 12 years of catholic schooling means I am very quick to doubt anything these people say at all.

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*Papal infallibility was only dogmatised, if that is the right word, in 1870 so was it applied retroactively?

GIVE ME 5 MINUTES WITH DAWKINS

Give me 5 minutes with Richard Dawkins.

He did an interview recently on BBC. The 5 minute interview thing with the person who does it [don’t know his name and don’t care] was utterly banal.

Give me 5 minutes with him.

I guarantee you would have an interesting interview.

I actually like a lot of what he says. I am also an atheist.

However, I made a mistake, which we all do, because it is only human. I made a mistake by saying I liked what Sam Harris says.

I said that because I had only watched 2 hours of him. Further investigation uncovered some pleasant facts.

Sam Harris is alluring and many of the things he says are correct. But, Harris also quotes Alan Dershowitz and quoting Alan Dershowitz basically should exclude you from credibility.

I think Dawkins has a lot of things spot on about the history of evolution [genetic and human falsification]. And obviously although this is a reasonably popular website he is obviously hugely well-known and I am not.

But he hangs out with the wrong people. Basically apologists for mass murder [Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens].

But I want to challenge his supposed humanistic convictions.

He has made statements against Iraq etc but only in the paradigm of ‘it’s all religious madness’. I can see why he would bang that particular drum given the point he wants to prove but I don’t see any genuine humanistic convictions in that kind of behaviour.

I have written many articles condemning religion, easily found on this site.

Give me the five minutes with him.

I guarantee it wouldn’t be boring.

This is the second time I have asked him to have a word with me. I haven’t emailed him this one yet but he got the first one.

THE UNPROFESSIONAL INTERVIEWS COME HOME – Part 1 EDWARD CURRENT

I have waited an appropriate amount of time and therefore just want to make the first couple of  interviews I did available on this site too.

So it is copy and paste time as I bring you …Edward Current.

Inspired by something that was said in a review of my book at Nepal about THIS interview with a Maoist Guerilla, I decided to conduct a series of interviews with people whose work I respect.

Subsequently a couple of writer/journalists, one comedian and one musician have answered already and there is more to come.

The questions will be an odd mix as the line I was inspired by in the review was that I asked “the one question that a truly professional journalist would never have asked.” Therefore for the most part I will try to ask questions that wouldn’t normally be asked. Some of them will be serious, others not so.

The first in the series is Edward Current.

Edward Current is probably the funniest thing I have seen on the internet. I found one of his videos with a random search and then sat and watched all of them in one sitting, and I obviously now check frequently for the latest ones.

With the number of people that have seen his videos now into the millions it appears I am not the only person who is doing this.

The videos parody some of the thinking of the religious right and takes the ideas to their ‘logical’ conclusion.

Not only are they hilarious but the reaction to the videos is almost equally funny as many people seem to be outraged by them because they don’t realise he is joking. Even better, many of those who do realise he is joking are outraged too.

So I decided to email him and see if he would be the first in my series ‘The Unprofessional Interviews’.

Thankfully he said yes and here is what he had to say for himself…

What was the ‘genesis’ of the character you play in most of your videos?

A few years ago, Huffingtonpost.com started a competition called the Contagious Festival, in which readers were invited to make videos and other Web presentations that would hopefully catch on and go viral. There were two cash awards each month — one for the video with the most viewers, and another selected by Arianna Huffington and a panel of judges. I won twice — first for a cartoon called “The Democrats Get Balls,” in which I depicted Barack Obama being elected the next U.S. President — that was in March 2006. You can Google it; it’s still on the site.

The second was for “The Atheist Delusion.” I had just finished reading Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation” and thought I’d explore that area. On a message-board discussion somewhere, I saw a creationist calling a normal person “deluded” and concluding the comment with “checkmate!” The irony was so maddening to me, I worked it into the video.

After the Contagious Festival was discontinued, I put “The Atheist Delusion” on YouTube, where I had posted a couple of music videos. People liked my comedy a lot better, though. So I made a few more, using the same character, and started to build an audience. Now I’m kind of stuck with the character, but it looks like I kind of have a niche. And “checkmate!” has become my catch phrase.

Along with your videos the comments are quite funny too. From outraged Christians to outraged atheists a lot of people don’t seem to get it. Why do so many people take what you are doing at face value?

It’s “Poe’s Law” — you can’t make a parody of something that’s already ridiculous without people believing that it’s real. Plus, my technique is to take things that some Christians might actually say, but expose the ridiculousness of the statements merely by juxtaposing them or providing a certain context. So I’m not really exaggerating the other side’s claims all that much, at least on some of my videos. It’s more subtle than most satires.

Why do you think there has been such an extraordinary growth in Christian Fundamentalism in the USA?

I see it as a positive feedback loop. America has been getting dumber, less rigorous intellectually with a diminishing emphasis on critical thinking and debate. Meanwhile, as things get more decadent and socially liberal, those who are inclined against such trends want to push back harder. It’s all about people wanting simple, quick, easy answers to the biggest questions. Americans today want to be spoon-fed. They don’t want to bother thinking for themselves, so increasingly they just believe what they’re told — in church every Sunday. It’s the mentality of, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

What do you think is the scariest thing about these people?

Home-schooling and the loss of grounding in science. Even in public schools it’s scary. Science and technology are our future. Without that foundation in our young people, without getting young people excited about science and innovation, the U.S. cannot continue to be competitive as a nation on the world stage in this century.

What contacts with these people have you had?

I’ve had a few conversations online, but I’m lucky not to live in an area where the first thing people ask is, “What church do you go to?” Along the way, though, I’ve picked up an idea of how they think and the arguments they use, which is useful to me. And of course I acknowledge that not all Christians, even fundamentalists, believe the things my character says — but some do, so those are the ones I’m going after.

What do you think about Obama professing his Christianity time and again during the campaign? And if there was an element of pragmatism to him doing that, what does that say about political processes in America?

He’s a smart guy and I don’t know what really goes on in his head, but I see it as largely pragmatic. At least I hope so. He’s trying to be inclusive and bring people together. As much as I’d love for him to say, “Don’t bother praying for the economy,” that isn’t going to get us anywhere, really. Of course, I was thrilled that he mentioned nonbelievers in his inaugural speech. That was a huge leap forward for my people — to actually be recognized. I think the last time a president talked about nonbelievers was when George Bush Sr. asserted that they shouldn’t be considered U.S. citizens.

On “The Daily Show” recently, a guest was asked to order groups of people in terms of when a member would reach the White House — blacks, Hispanics, Jews, women, atheists, gays, the disabled. He put atheist last. We have a long way to go.

Who do you find funny?

My favorite comedian is Bill Maher. I’ve seen almost every episode of “Politically Incorrect” or “Real Time” since the mid-1990s. I can’t think of a better way to spend an hour than watching his standup act. Stephen Colbert is another huge favorite; when I tape my videos I have to make a concerted effort not to copy his delivery. Demitiri Martin, who has a new show on Comedy Central, is hilarious. (“I don’t think diving is a real sport. It’s pretty much just showing off while you fall.”) Other favorites include Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Norm Macdonald, Chris Rock, David Cross, Louis C.K., and Dave Attell.

Have you ever played the character in public?

No. I don’t know if I could pull it off, because I don’t have any improv experience. My videos are heavily scripted. I do want to try my hand at standup comedy, but that won’t be in character.

You occasionally have special effects and quite sophisticated editing. Is it all self-financed?

I’ve been self-employed since 2003, and one of my gigs is video production and animation for a major phone company. If you’ve been to a concert and seen videos promoting music-related phone features on monitors along the concourse, I might have produced them. I’ve gotten pretty good at Adobe After Effects, which certainly comes in handy for Edward Current the comedian.

For running this website I have had a lot of hate mail including one person who seems to think that a flying squirrel will one day murder me. Given the nature of what you do, do you get some bizarre emails? Any funny ones?

I don’t know if this counts, but in a recent video I brought up alternative 9/11 conspiracy theories, and that got kind of interesting. There’s a little bit of paranoia there. I learned that the more moderate “Truthers” (the ones who merely believe that the Twin Towers were brought down by explosives) think that the more radical ones (those who believe the jets were fake and/or remote-controlled) are crazy. Who’d have thought? The moderate ones think the radical ones are “agents provocateur” who are hired by the conspiring agencies to make the whole movement look crazy. It’s crazy.

Aside from that, I don’t get a lot of bizarre stuff. Typically it’s just: “I’ll pray for you,” “Why are you so hateful,” “You’ll find out about Hell someday.” Christians tend to be pretty polite, even if they’re angered. Atheists — the ones who don’t get the joke — can be extremely rude and abusive. I’ve gotten numerous (not serious) death threats from atheists, but maybe just one or two creepy messages from Christians. (“You *will* stop making your videos very soon, trust me.”)

Looking from outside it often seems like the USA is a loony bin. Is it?

No, it’s a bin with a diverse mixture of people. The loonies are only the ones you hear the loudest. Actually, I take that back. It’s kind of a loony bin.

What question would you ask yourself?

One question I ask myself sometimes is, what’s my motivation to make all these videos? Some people see me as obsessed — I have a fixation, I cannot let this topic go, why don’t I explore some other areas for comedy, clearly I secretly believe in God and am going through all of this effort to make myself feel better. Well, maybe, but I don’t think so. All my life as a musician I’ve been searching in vain for an audience. Suddenly I’ve found one — as a comedian. And I seem to have a “bit” that people enjoy. I tried a few political things before the election, but they weren’t received as well, so I went back to religion. Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy have made great careers out of being one character, so maybe it’s the way for me to go.

Eddie’s youtube videos are here and his Myspace is here.


WE WANT OUR THUMBS

It is a scary thought that in some places in the world right now there are people yelling ‘REVOLUTION, REVOLUTION’ and in other places yelling EVOLUTION, EVOLUTION – Bill Hicks.

I have this nightmare vision that in twenty years time or so, if the creationists  manage to get their nonsense taught in schools as fact then people will be listening to some creationist comedian (if such a thing would even be possible – does anyone laugh in the bible?) talking about how stupid we all were to believe in evolution and the audience cheerfully guffawing at the stupidity of it all.

Check it out…

The Creationist Musuem

ROME IN THE TIME OF THE CHAKA DEMUS & PLIERS

I once turned down a totally free, all expenses paid trip to Rome.

I was 17 years old and still at a catholic school, though I had long given up any interest in the religion and had in fact come to resent it because of a number of things that had happened. [1]

The occasion I was being offered the trip to Rome for was one of the Scottish catholic archbishops being made into a cardinal. The catholic schools in Glasgow each had to send two students as representatives.

Even though I had never shown any interest in the religion I was asked to go to represent the school. A possible reason is that a girl I was friendly with at the time was selected as the female representative and she suggested me. Another is that they were trying to ‘wow’ me into it (you know, the majesty of Rome and the Vatican and everything).

I did consider it briefly (free trip to Rome after all) but quickly decided against it and recommended a good friend of mine instead, who duly went.

I remember everyone being nonplussed with my decision.

‘Why are you turning this down?’

‘Cos I think it is a lot of horse shite.’

‘Free trip to Rome ya tit.’

etc

Since then I have been locked into a cycle of being happy that I did the right thing morally and refused to go on some junket because I didn’t believe in the whole thing and thinking I was stupid for turning down the trip, especially because I haven’t been there since.

The second feeling was exacerbated by the tales of the holiday my friend told me. It turned out to be mostly sightseeing and free or cheap wine and champagne with only a little bit of religion thrown in. Maybe I could just have ignored the religion stuff and seen a bit of the world?

The odd thing is that a lot of the people who were saying I should just hang the religion and take the trip for the sake of the trip were religious people. An ex-girlfriend of mine was aghast and couldn’t see why I didn’t just go. I would have thought that people who actually believe in these things would have been happy that I made the correct moral choice and gave the trip to someone who would appreciate it more and not be tempted to stand at the back and shout ‘rubbish’ all the way through the ceremony.

Apparently not.

However, I have had the chance to do my fair share of travelling since then so it doesn’t seem so bad now.

Also, some of the pronouncements of the man that was made into a Cardinal have made me very happy about my decision.

Cardinal Thomas Winning was a man who thought that discrimination against gays was “not unjust” and that homesexuality is a “a disorder… that’s got to be… dealt with”. He also made another amount of bizarre and intolerant statements that made me glad of my decision not to attend.

Oh, and Tony Blair liked him too, so I obviously did the right thing.

[1] One of the things that had happened was that at my cousin’s confirmation a different bishop stood up and made his little speech which included a disgusting section about abuse. There had been a child abuse scandal involving the church, which he admitted was a bad thing. However, he said that far worse than this was ‘spiritual abuse’ of a child, which he defined as not bringing the child up to be a proper catholic.

Every parent in the room was furious and I waited for the meet and greet bit at the end and gave him a piece of my mind, which, being a bishop he certainly didn’t seem used to.