Saturday, March 31, 2007

Elizabeth Claire Prophet

My fascination with cults is endless. A teacher I had in highschool once broke down in the middle of class and starting speaking in prophecy about the end of the world. Within a month she had quit class and left to live in the bomb shelters of Elizabeth Claire Prophet's cult in Montana. I always wondered who this Prophet woman was, as I saw her books all the time in bookstores. Prophet eventually got Alzheimer's and died. None of her children currently believe what they were brought up in. Sean Prophet, once vice president of the organization is now an unabashed atheist with an extraordinary blog. The initial letter on this page is fascinating.
This link will allow you to hear one of the strangest things ever to cross your ears- guaranteed. The first is Elizabeth Prophet, the second is 23 year old Sean Prophet.
The story of Elizabeth Claire Prophet is one of the most illustrative cult stories I've come across. Sean learned what I did. Took me 3 or 4 years, took him a life. Imagine what it's like to be him.

Embellished Tales

Rook Hawkins from the Rational Response squad has a new blog about Jesus Mythicism. He knows his shit about the bible. I don't really have much interest in biblical history as I am sure as I am sitting here that it is no more valid than the Iliad. But in rummaging through it tonight, I read something interesting taken from a Richard Carrier debate. It seems that even a casual glance can debunk the bible in a way I didn't even realize. When my faith crumbled at age 18-19, it was in large part because someone said that the number of angels at the tomb varied between accounts. Also, I learned that the gospels were not written by people who knew Jesus. Overnight I lost the faith. Not that this would assuage the believers. Whatever it is that makes them believe is immune to reason.
"The first Gospel - Mark - tells a simple story about women going to the tomb and finding it open, meeting a single boy in white then running off. The whole account is probably a parable and never intended to be read as history. But in the Gospel of Matthew, which simply borrowed from Mark and added to it, the boy has become an Angel descending from Heaven, the women experience a massive earthquake and watch the Angel descend, and open the tomb. Guards have been added to the story, and the women run off and now get to meet Jesus on the way. Can we doubt that we are looking at extensive legendary embellishment upon what began as a much more mundane story? We can see the same trend in Luke. Mark's one boy in white has been multiplied into two men who suddenly appear in dazzling apparel. Now we hear that Peter went to check the tomb and confirmed it was empty. And Jesus appears in the flesh and invites his disciples to touch him and eats fish to prove he's real, then whooshes up into heaven before their very eyes. That again sounds like a pretty fancy embellishment of Mark's far more humble story. In John, Jesus receives an absurdly fabulous burial. Peter again goes to see for himself, but this time yet another disciple goes too. Luke's two men now become two Angels and we get the elaborate tale of the doubting Thomas putting his fingers inside the wounds on Christ's body and Jesus declaring 'Blessed are they who believe without seeing.' All of this certainly looks like a growing legend." (Carrier, Licona vs. Carrier: On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ)

Dawkins Harris 08

I wish I could make this into a bumper sticker.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Liberal Smirk? or Mona Lisa Smile?

An old friend of mine, Rush Limbaugh loving "conservative" dislikes "liberals" because they can't have a conversation on CNN or FOX news without that sly little smirk that makes them seem elitist. Guilty as charged.
This is me, probably reading Andrew Sullivan's reply to Sam Harris. But I have such a boyish face that I can get away with murder. While I am thinking to myself "What a load of shit this is", someone else might perceive it as "ah, isn't that just heart warming", isn't Aaron such a nice guy.
It's gotten me jobs, this talent.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Letter to a Bundle of Sticks

You have *just* discovered bishop Spong, and though I agree that what he says is very interesting, it is not new to me. I lived and breathed that stuff for years, but when I did, I was 99.9% sure that we survived death and I was all but entirely certain that ESP was real. Why you will never be as well versed with spirituality as I am is because there was never a point where you were entirely able to believe it and immerse yourself into it. You are still viewing everything you discover in terms of your knowingness that we can never know. I knew, or at least thought I did very strongly. I didn't question much the miracles and the anecdotes. I swallowed them hook line and sinker. I would like to believe that stronger intellect decreases one's chances of becoming involved in cults of belief, but the evidence doesn't support the idea. I used my native intellect to support beliefs which were intellectually unsupportable. And people like Mit Romney, the believing Mormon with 2 harvard degrees, first in his class, and over a billion dollars in net worth are example A of how intelligence has very little to do with it. Religion is a social construct. Since I am somewhat non-social (preferring to be alone most of the time even though social opportunities arise) I don't feel the requirement to engage in a social enterprise like religion. "Religion allows people to believe by the millions what only a lunatic would by themselves". Luckily, when I meditate alone, I prefer to be by myself ((c) George Thoroughgood). Group thought, spurred by anxiety and abject fear of annihilation.
Sure, you traversed true belief in a major religion- Mormonism, as I was a fundamentalist Christian at age 15-19 and if I am to be honest, some rather absurd fundamentalist beliefs lingered with me into my 20's which I am embarrassed about. I discovered embraced by the light at age 19 and became hooked on the NDE. This led to my discovery of yogananda at 22 or 23 which created about 4 more years of that. I credit the fact that I was not socially engaged in SRF with being able to see through it. I went to only one SRF meeting all the way in Dearborn Michigan and was wholly unimpressed. Mostly it was older women, and they were rude in the lines to buy books. The atmosphere was one of stifling sickness and inauthenticity. We met two younger guys our age (I was with a friend who was also into yoga) who we went to lunch with. They were involved in organizing the SRF event. It turned out that one of them had pretty much lost his faith in the organization and seemed almost embarrassed I was getting into it, the other was a complete dork. Driving down the road with them a fairly attractive woman walked across the road and they both stared and nearly jumped out of their pants oohing and ahhing. I was wondering what their trip was, and soon found out that they were fasting and going through a celibacy thing- no sex no masturbation and they were near the end of it and they were out of control horny. BTW, Yogananda recommends rubbing an icepack on your balls and your perineal region to cool down the first chakra when you are horny. HAHAHAHA!!! No, I never did this. I have never made any real attempt at subverting the urge.
[Bishop Spong]

I eventually was thrown for a loop when I discovered Zen because Zen was the most believable, most scientifically supported, required no faith and was clearly a psychological/neorological practice having little to do with untestable claims. Satori happens, there's no contraversy there. But I saw that Zen is totally at odds with SRF or NDE or any number of things. And Shinzen Youngs tapes are the best summation of what it took me 15+ years to discover about spirituality- namely- it's a great big illusion. Then ultimately as I began to realize this, bolstered by my understanding of Zen, I began to see that spirituality the way it exists as an illusory mechanism and zen satori the way it exists, is precisely what we would expect to see in a purely naturalistic world. The fact that NDEs and OBEs and ESP cannot be confirmed experimentally is *precisely* what we would expect to see in a naturalistic world. Then you sort of spurred me to read the blank slate and a couple of other things and I developed a deeper understanding of evolution and once again things are precisely the way one would expect them to be in a naturalistic world. We are creatures of fantasy and illusion. We were designed by nature to be this way, and so it is no surprise that we have such a natural proclivity for belief and self-delusion. There are extraordinary mysteries concerning origins and consciousness, but I feel quite strongly that our understanding of these origins can only be diminished by a sidebar into spirituality. Zen satori I exclude and count as more of a science experiment- an experiencing of a certain form of consciousness that reveals deep and necessary insights into the nature of consciousness itself. This is applied science, barring all the dogmas of Buddhism and the schools of zen which are not immune.
Science can't tell us everything we need to know about the universe, but so far religion and spirituality have shown us little to nothing worth knowing. If all Christians were like bishop Spong, it would be a better world, and I woud have little to no problem with Christianity.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

From Andrew Sullivan's Blog

Andrew Sullivan has a good well maintained Blog I like to look at once in awhile. He wrote this there:

"Some readers have asked when I'm simply going to surrender to Sam. Well: in many ways I have surrendered. I'm fascinated by what reason can illuminate about faith - and have found Sam's arguments enriching to my own faith. But I can no more be reasoned out of faith than I was reasoned into it. I really have no choice in the matter. But I hope to understand it better and to see it in the truest light possible."

It's a wonder we're here...

I have just strarted a biography of Shakespeare by Park Honan. In the opening pages, where Honan describes the political and religious climate preceding Shakespeare's birth, I read the following charming account.

"Under Henry VIII, [Queen Mary's] father, few people had known from day to day which opinions were orthodox and which heretical; but Queen Mary was clearer. A woman of inflexible honesty with a dim, obstinate mind, she pressed ahead with heresy trials, supported by her bureaucracy. Stratford [Shakespeare's birth place] became the eye of a circle of martyr fires at Coventry, Lichfield, Gloucester, Wotton-under-Edge, Banbury, Oxford, Northampton, and Leicester. Women and tradesmen were burned--and a baby born in Coventry's fire was thrown back into the hard, burning faggots. Lest anyone forget these events John Foxe, in his "Book of Martyrs" or Actes and Monuments, published a year before Shakespeare's birth, was to describe them in lurid detail."
No doubt, those stoking the fires believed they were the right hand of God.
Lest we think that humanity is any more civilized... I just read yesterday, on CNN, that the suicide car bombers of Iraq have undertaken a brave new strategy. To get through the various checkpoints, they have just started carrying children in the back seats of their cars. In the bombing yesterday, two men drove a van into a market and just prior to detonation, jumped out, leaving the children to explode in the back seat.
They were muslim...
The problem with atheism is an absence of Hell.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Attack on America

A group of far left liberals, otherwise known as "scientists"...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Kissing Hank's Ass

This is priceless. Genius!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hitchens on Free Speech

This is great. It gets really interesting 5 minutes from the end.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wake up!!!

A most excellent video!

Andrew Wimpers Further

I read two responses today from gay men defending beliefs in spirituality. One was from Andrew Sullivan, which was must read, an incredible admission in my estimation. This is really a fascinating response to Sam Harris-
"Dear Sam

First off, sorry for the dropped ball. Two reasons: mounds of other work and, if I were being completely honest, a bit of a block. I don't want to go around in circles, so I spent some time re-reading our
entire exchange and trying to figure out what the core questions are that I haven't adequately addressed. I also found myself a little embarrassed in retrospect by the forthrightness of my claims to faith. I feel an unworthy apologist for Christianity in many ways. I'm not a trained theologian nor a priest nor even someone who thinks of himself as a good Christian. The Pope believes I live in mortal sin because I love and live with another man. But I remain a believer in Jesus and in the Gospels and in the church, and I agreed to start this, so I'd better continue. So here goes."
The other was from a friend of mine who wrote eloquently and pursuasively:
"We simply must survive death! I really must insist. It would simply be unpardonable for us not to, not to mention unconscionable. I am inimically opposed to any ideas opposing survival."
What a profound coincidence. Two messages from two different gay men in the same day saying the same exact thing! What are the odds???

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Blasphemy challenge

Ha! I found something I thought was semi-profound. I've struggled to find a quick reply to the continual claim that atheism is a religion. I found this somewhere:
-Atheism is a religion in much the same way "off" is a TV channel.
A story on ABC news claimed that only 2% of Americans are atheists or agnostics.
Do you actually believe this? I don't. Nearly everyone I know is an agnostic. If you were to define "God" as merely the theistic religious version, "atheists" would comprise roughly 15-20% (I'm taking that from another recent poll I saw of American's religious beliefs). Where do they get this 2%? Thats nuts!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Brian Flemming

I was sitting here listening to a little on the rational response squad. They have Brian Flemming going up against the president of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Flemming pulled off something I thought was great using Bertrand Russel's teapot analogy. Flemming said "answer these questions yes or no"

1.) Do you believe there is a flying teapot orbiting the sun between earth and mars?


2.) Do you believe that if a large percentage of the world's population believed there was a flying teapot out there you would believe it?


3.) Would you believe in the flying teapot if lots of people received great joy from the belief?


4.) Would you believe it if people had huge parties and festivals to celebrate the teapot?


5.) Would you believe in the teapot if you decided that you wished it were true to receive the benefits, even though you had no reason to believe it?


6.) Would you believe there was a teapot between earth and mars if millions of people promised everlasting life if you believed it?


7.) Would you believe in the teapot if millions of people insisted that you would go to hell for eternity if you didn't believe in it?


Brian's final question:

What is the minimum it would take for you to believe that there was a flying teapot orbiting the sun between earth and mars?

This line of questioning forces the theist to naturally proclaim that some sort of empirical evidence would be required to believe in it. The smart ones immediately see this and seek to avoid the obvious reply "I need evidence". But then they get caught in their own shit by replying "well there is evidence for Jesus and that's why believing in Jesus is different". Since their religion is a "faith" this can't be true. There can't be sufficient evidence to believe in a faith by definition. The president of Liberty U was befuddled. He opted for the "there *is* evidence for Jesus" approach, which only makes sense to people who already believe.

It's impossible to argue with them, but Flemming's method is a great illustration.