Holy Crap

20May07

Indulge me for a moment, please, I’ll get to my point shortly.

I paid a rare visit to Toronto’s gaybourhood yesterday morning for my triweekly haircut and, since the daily newspapers were all taken by the other patrons crowding my barber shop, I opted to pick up the latest issue of Fab (“The Gay Scene Magazine”), its cover emblazoned with the platinum-haired visage of former Torontonian and America’s Next Top Model professional homosexual Jay Manuel. Now, I’d been meaning to write for some time about Manuel, whose highly-styled, mannequin-like perfection — like a Pierre et Gilles photograph come to almost-life — and unbridled (and supergay) enthusiasm for the trivial has always been fascinating to me.

And, as with all homophile publications — especially the local versions — this particular issue of Fab held the promise of a few derisive minutes of pleasure chortling while reading the inevitably overearnest, sensitive and hypercorrect Letters section. (“Sure, I was really drunk and broke a few glasses and pushed a pregnant woman over, but *I* am the victim here, because throwing me out of Crews/Tango was homophobia of the highest order!”) Good times.

But before I was even able to share with Champ my delight in the insipid material, I was greeted with a story on a very old acquaintance of mine, Harley Walker, whose body, missing since last October, had been found earlier this month.

Not exactly anticipating such a story, I was — and still am — profoundly saddened by Harley’s departure from this planet. He was one of those people you’d meet on the street (or in a shop (or bar)) and your day was immediately better than it had been moments earlier. Farewell, my friend.

And the prospect of a memorial service — with an inevitable religious component — saddens me further. I’ve been corresponding quite a bit lately, with friends and strangers, about the unseemliness of openly criticizing religious adherence. And yet, there’s a big reveal when I ask “what’s going to happen to me, an avowed atheist, (probably even an antitheist,) when I die?” And the answer always seems to be an uncomfortable shuffling of feet followed by a refreshingly honest “well, you’ll probably go to hell, for your lack of belief.”

At that point I must predictably ask: “what is the worst fate you could ever imagine for a human being?” And the equally-predictable answer is always “to burn in hell for eternity.” So, if I may be so bold, these people are openly admitting that they fully expect my fate to be the worst possible fate they can imagine. And that my fate, horrible as it may seem to us all, is reasonable and just.

Now, let’s put the shoe on the other foot, so to speak. Given the fact that I do not believe in any afterlife whatsoever — heaven or hell — I ask you to imagine what I can describe as the worst possible fate imaginable for another human being. Feel free to go to your darkest places for this one, because I’ve seen a lot of scary movies.

Now.

How would you feel about being in my company, in my neighbourhood or country, and knowing that I felt that anyone could — or should — deserve such a horrific fate?

I would hope you’d be exceedingly nervous about spending time with me or even having me live next door. Let me assure you: I neither wish for nor would I rejoice in such a horrific experience (the one you just imagined) for anyone. Yet… how do atheists feel, knowing that their devoutly-religious neighbours hold beliefs disarmingly similar to what you’ve just imagined spring from my darkest places? Who’s unseemly now?

Now, some of my correspondence has been with perfectly lovely people in countries not possessing a scriptural overload on the order of that which we experience here in North America. And one of my correspondents has even pointed out that in Canada we are immune from the same rabid theologies which fuel current American fundamentalisms. Not true, as a viewing of the debate clips following a CBC airing of Richard Dawkins’s unfortunately-titled Root of All Evil? would indicate (link on right sidebar). (And, admit it: Avi Lewis is, like, totally dreamy!)

If you feel unease (or dis-ease) hearing and watching the faithful spout hypocrisy and nonsense among adults, we should perhaps take a closer look at what’s being taught to children on these matters. One of my correspondents, a perfectly lovely gym pal, has occasionally invited me to speak with children of faith, so that I may see in their eyes the wonder of belief, and thus be somehow convinced of the existence of a benevolent creator. And yet… I can’t help thinking about the charming but astute questions children have for their religious trainers.

“Why don’t all of the apostles speak about Jesus being born of a virgin, if the birth was of such a miraculous nature?” “Why do we not kill disobedient children, as is recommended in the Old Testament?” “Why doesn’t god answer the prayers of amputees, like he does for rappers and football teams?” And so on.

And the answers given these inquisitive minds? Do nothing but train children to shut down the analytical, logical, reasoning parts of their growing minds. Which seems to me to be more unseemly, more selfish and cruel, than bluntly questioning the beliefs of the faithful which, considering the outrage when challenged, must be very fragile, indeed.

A thousand years ago, a child asking for an explanation of bird flight might have received a reply that god had designed them for that flight. And yet, a child today can be told — and will understand — that birds fly not because of some unseen hand but because of the specific shape of their wings. And than humans have emulated the evolved wing shape in our aircraft, in which air on top of the wing moves faster than that below, thus creating a vacuum causing the wing to rise. And to not tell a child that truth — delivered through scientific observation and experimentation — is to fail quite profoundly in the upbringing of that child.

But a thousand years ago, we did not have the scientific tradition we have today. Likewise, our understanding of the past is, today, much more detailed and consistent with scientific inquiry than it ever was back then.

And so it is that the Creation Museum opens next week just outside Cincinnati, and thousands more young minds will be infected with ignorance, superstition, pseudoscience and, well, fucking lies. I can’t quite square the notion that “this state-of-the-art 60,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life” yet somehow it also features dinosaur exhibits. I’m old, yeah, but not so old to have forgotten mention of dinosaurs in either the old or new testaments. But feel free to send along those bible passages which mention T. Rex.

The apparent endorsement from the Cincinnati Regional Tourism Network is especially troubling. For while lying to children is not quite as bad as the priestly buggering of choirboys, it can’t in any conceivable way be considered a good thing. Can it? And we’re not talking about Santa Clause or unicorns or the Tooth Fairy here, we’re talking about science and history and fact.

And while it’s cheekily amusing to note that there’s nothing “intelligent” about Intelligent Design, purposefully misleading children — and doing so with the blessing of a civic tourism group — is not amusing in any way whatsoever. And what is more unseemly: lying to children, or pointing out that children are being lied to?



6 Responses to “Holy Crap”

  1. 1 Jennifer

    I love you. You just get better and better each day. Thank you for pointing out the amputee site, I’m showing it to my wife tonight. She will get such a kick out of it. She’ll have new fuel for her fire when her born-again father wants to debate god. The same man who wants to pretend that I don’t exist and someday (soon he hopes!) I will go away. Sorry dad, it’s been 14 years, I think you are stuck with me, better just get used to it.

  2. 2 Rae

    This is part of why I have a problem with a lot of Christian doctrine. The Bible, with particular reference to the New Testament (since in theory Christians believe in the more merciful, kinder God of post-Jesus days rather than the smitey God of the Old Testament – God mellowed), doesn’t actually say you’ll be cast into Hell.

    Put another way: If you die, and find yourself in an afterlife, where you learn that no, really, Jesus loves you and you’ll get eternal joy in heaven when you accept that, repent of your sins and are forgiven – will you still be an atheist at that point?

    I’d like to think no, because at that point, seriously, being an atheist would be kind of retarded. Although distinctly brave.

    I also believe that you’ll have that option. I don’t pretend to a joyful and untroubled faith these days. Being an intelligent Christian is difficult. Faith is easier when you’re ignorant, and that’s quite possibly why ignorant and stupid people are often Christian and make the rest of us look bad. I fully understand why, if you haven’t had the specific experiences some of us have had that lead us to faith in God, it would be impossible to believe – until I did, I couldn’t imagine actually believing in such preposterous rubbish. The world isn’t constructed in such a way that faith is an obvious or even likely choice for a lot of people.

    So it’s not that I even believe you’re wrong – it’s more like I believe you haven’t had the chance to know. It’s like how I can’t make a call on, say, whether absinthe is bitter and disgusting or delicious and worthwhile, since I can’t drink alcohol and therefore have no basis for knowing. I can take the word of people who claim to know, but why should I? Drinking something I know is flavoured with something toxic like wormwood seems inherently retarded to me anyway, and I see no reason to try it just to see.

    In the meantime I should respect your atheism, and you shouldn’t slip me spiked drinks. Because both of us are correct with regards to our available data. (Although the analogy is flawed because my trying to convert you to Christianitiy wouldn’t kill you.)

  3. 3 Luciferus

    I’m not sure I’ve reminded you recently of how much I love you. This is very much that reminder.

    xoxo
    ~L.

  4. 4 Tony

    Somehow I happened upon your Flkr page and spotted a pic of Richard Dawkins which brought me to your rant here. Just want to say that I loved it! So many atheists buy into this ‘shutup and respect all views’ bullshit while the religios feel quite free to either verbally bash us or patronise us with their scorn and smugness. I totally agree that the erosion of children’s critical thinking capacities is an abhorent form of abuse. I shudder at the thought of a ‘Creation’ museaum, but hopefully people will see it for what it is – anther disneyfied alternative reality to cusion us against the facts of life.

    Bravo – look forward to reading your other blogs.

  5. 5 Rosanna

    I quite admire the way in which you write, may I ask what you professionalise in? Do you work for any magazines or as a freelance journalist? You control your language and thus ‘tone’ well which makes what I read feel (in a sense) narrated to me. I like this!
    Keep writing, please.
    Rosie

  6. I followed a link to you. I’m so glad that I did. As an atheist, I agree with you. I consider infecting children with superstition to be a crime against them, a binding of their minds that is unacceptable.


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