A Secular Rapture

Just to be clear, this is not a picture of Jesus. It is a picture of the Great Prophet Zarquon. And he is quoting Carl Sagan. Allow me to explain:

At the end of Chapter 18 of Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the Great Prophet Zarquon returns to his flock.

Here is what Zarquon said as he stood in front of a audience of delighted diners just as the universe was collapsing outside the time bubble:

“Hello, look, I’m sorry I’m a bit late. I’ve had a the most ghastly time, all sorts of things cropping up at the last moment. Er, how are we for time? Have I just got a min–” And so the Universe ended.

Slightly edited for convenience.

Douglas Adams is so perfect that to discuss the bit of fun, the gentle teasing that he is directing at Christianity and very idea of the Rapture that has been “nigh” for the last two thousand years, you kind of take a little away from it. I’m going to do it anyway, but there it is. He’s saying that at this point, it’s probably not ever going to happen, and we should just accept that fact. The universe is going to end at some point whether Jesus/Zarquon returns or not. This is empirically verifiable.

It is said that atheists and secular humanists do not believe in anything. That they don’t have faith in a better future in the afterlife. And in a way, there’s a point to be made there. It is a comforting thought. As long as I believe in Jesus, I can go to heaven and be deliriously happy for the rest of eternity. Awesome. Atheists look forward to what, exactly? Oblivion? Non-existence?

I would say that non-existence is certainly a step up from eternity in hell. And there doesn’t seem to be any real consensus about how it is, exactly, that one is supposed to get into heaven.

What do I have to do make you happy, God? Well, it depends largely on who you ask. God’s pretty silent about the topic, but Catholics would argue that you must confess your sins and pray to a saint to intercede on your behalf and take part in a number of sacraments and go to church like fifteen times a week. It’s really a business transaction. The business of guilt.

Calvinists say that it doesn’t matter what you do; it’s all predetermined. It is only the fear that maybe you are destined for hell that keeps you in line.

Modern protestants, I’m increasingly convinced, are insane. What does a protestant have to do to get into heaven? Nothing. All they have to do is believe in God and accept Jesus as their savior. Being a nice person doesn’t really factor into it, it seems.

Regardless, all Christians believe that someday Jesus is going to come back and sweep up all the good, believing Christians and take them up to heaven. Atheists think this is ridiculous. What, they ask, is God waiting for?

I meant that initially, to sound flippant, but the question is valid. What’s the hold-up? It’s been two thousand years since Jesus promised he was coming back and…he’s not here. It’s sort of like Groundhog Day. Humans just keep making the same stupid mistakes, killing each other, not learning their lessons, sinning, calling each other names, and it just never fucking ends. Where is Jesus? Maybe we’re supposed to learn our lesson before we can get out of the cycle. The problem is, we are actually running out of resources.

Here’s the thing. I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in things. I believe people when I think they are telling me the truth. But I don’t believe in things. That’s weird. If I can observe it, I can accept it. Otherwise, there’s going to have to be a heap of circumstantial evidence. Jesus coming back is one thing that I just can’t bring myself to count on. Especially as a matter of faith.

What I want to put to you, dear friends, is that despite this, atheists still believe in a rapture. Rather, we hypothesize, that if certain conditions are met, then yes, humans will get to live in paradise for-fucking-ever.

Yeah. Here’s what we hypothesize: if humans will just figure their shit out, stop killing each other over stupid shit, start treating each other with respect and dignity no matter what they look like or who they are, and begin really throwing every conceivable resource at their disposal at science, philosophy, art, and education, eventually we will all live in an awesome futuristic, super paradise Star Trek world. We will live in a world where all our needs are met. We will be free to pursue whatever career or interest meets our fancy. We will get to fly in awesome space ships that travel faster than light. We will actually ensure that the human species (and many others besides) doesn’t go extinct. That is the Secular Rapture.

The difference between the Christian and the Secular Raptures? One requires that you not do anything and never forget that you are scum and deserve to roast in hell, and as long as you can grovel and snivel at Jesus’s feet, you will go to a place where you will be incapable of being crabby for the rest of eternity. Boring.

The Secular Rapture is something that requires hard work, a thirst for knowledge, genuine innovation, a drive to be better than we are, and some real imagination. One comes about because of God. One comes about because of us. One is beyond our control and is apparently the result of a whim from some selfish human-hating deity (and before you tell me that God loves humans because of Jesus…just shut up, I don’t buy it…he allowed us to kill his son so that we could be forgiven? That doesn’t even make a single bit of sense.). One is completely within our control and might not happen if we don’t get our collective asses in gear. And hell, it might not even happen if we do.

It might just be too late. Just like Zarquon.

Peregrinari inter sidera est mea maxima desiderium.

Obligatory Santorum Joke. Gross.

A few months ago I was completely convinced that Romney had the Republican nomination all wrapped up and that he was just going to casually waltz into GOP-NatCon2012 and delightfully feign surprise as they handed him the gilded nomination certificate, made of the finest Swiss Alps calf-skin vellum, imprinted with the ink of an endangered octopus that only exists off the coast of Madagascar and absolutely must be handled only by the hands of virgin boys from a very specific tribe of shamanistic slave people called the M’Klurdu.

Somewhere along the line, he fucked it all up. To think that both Newt Fucking Gingrich and Rick Fucking Santorum and even Ron Fucking Paul have all outscored him on one caucus/primary or another is utterly bizarre. I did not think it possible. I really thought the graying wizard was going to clean up.

Don’t get me wrong; I hate Mitt Romney. He’s rich and doesn’t understand what that means and that makes him very dangerous in political office. But he’s a closeted Keynesian (for what that’s worth), and he isn’t insane except insofar as he’s a Mormon. Honestly, Mormons are actually somewhat more trustworthy than your work-a-day Christians because I truly believe that every Mormon, deep down inside, knows–really knows–that his religion is looney toons. And I think that, in a way, this leads to far more rational behavior than…well…Rick Santorum.

Gingrich is, of course, not actually a Christian. He’s one of those guys that says he is because people like that sort of thing. No. Gingrich hasn’t done a Christ-like thing in his entire life and the majority of Americans understand this fact. He won’t get the nomination and even if he does, he will never be president.

No, my friends, the only good man that ever stepped up to the plate was Jon Huntsman. Yes, it’s true, he is also a Mormon. But you know how I feel about that. Huntsman truly is a good and intelligent man. A conservative, sure, but a decent human being with a good head on his shoulders and, from what I could see, he was really pro-science. That’s big from my perspective. He just ran a terrible campaign and Americans didn’t give shit. So it goes.

I’m not going to talk about Ron Paul here. It’s too much. There’s just…too much to say.

So I don’t know. I do not know what’s going to happen. If I had a gun to my head and someone told me to accurately predict the outcome of GOP-NatCon2012, I’d still bet on Romney, but I would be sweating bullets from now until Con Time.

My real confusion with this whole fiasco of an election cycle is this: what the hell is wrong with Americans?

The fact that both Gingrich and Santorum have a fighting chance of getting the nomination certificate boggles my mind. I don’t even really have words to express my confusion over this issue. It is absolutely ludicrous. Santorum isn’t a nice person. Gingrich is worse. Romney is clearly the best of the three. I cannot even conceive of a passable argument for either of those two other hateful motherfuckers.

I know why people like them: because people are hateful motherfuckers. But I don’t understand why perfectly decent American people like them more than they like Romney. It’s weird. I mean, Romney’s rich. He fucking loves business. He would have sex with business through a hole in the sheet, he loves it so much. He’s kind of a social conservative but he doesn’t really push the issue, which is appealing for moderate conserv-oes. So aside from the lunatic fringe of the right, why does anyone like these other two nutjobs? Can someone adequately explain this to me? Because I can’t figure it out.

Please tell me it’s not that America is populated with crazy people.

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Herr Präsident.

Lt. John Pike, the Sixth Avatar of Vishnu

Several weeks have passed since the shit went down at UC Davis.  The highlight moment, of course, was that whole thing with orange cloud of agony. Sort of the modern day Prismatic Spray.

I think the media has missed a crucial detail about this whole narrative. And I will address it presently.

First, I think it’s important to note that one of the officers, one Lt. John Pike, with his little red can has earned a certain amount of…let’s call it celebrity.  The internet at large has had a chance to digest this imagery and a consensus has emerged. The internet has judged him at once hilarious and monstrous at the same time. The internet, the place where all media is carried to its logical extreme, has taken this image and this footage and created a sort of inspiring memetic art series. Each image is more absurd than the last. Each one adds to the narrative without fully realizing the full ramifications.

This isn’t just a political thing.

First, the official narrative. If we look at this purely from the standpoint of law enforcement, the official statement is clearly false. I am not being politically biased, I am being intelligent.

The question that has been asked time and again with respect to Occupy Wall St. and the 99% movement is essentially this: has the response from authorities been appropriate to the situation?  The authorities all say “yes” but, of course, they would.  The 99%-ers say no, and I tend to agree with them. To an extent.

Look at Pike. Take a good look at this picture because this is the most important one.  Watch the video.  The justification for the pepper spray is the safety of the officers.  They supposedly felt threatened and this was the justifiable response in that situation.  To hear officials talk, the protesters should be thankful that Pike didn’t start blasting them with rubber bullets for how unruly they were.

But does his posture look like that of a threatened man?  Body language is really difficult to quantify scientifically. That is, it’s hard to quote. So after the fact, all we have is the video and the narratives handed down to us from the authorities and from anyone else that was there.

The problem is, the narrative from the authorities does not match the footage or the images. However, I am about to argue that 99%’s narrative is, while closer to the truth, still not accurate. I am going to propose a third version of the story.

Humans are, by and large, experts at reading body language, barring some sort of neurological disorder.  Most people are empathetic enough to understand when a person looks uncomfortable, angry, happy, sad, etc.

In short, we can all recognize a man casually spraying a noxious orange cloud over a bunch of spoiled college students. The media and the authorities spoon-feeding us the story that this man was somehow afraid for his life is the purest bullshit. What I mean is, anyone with half a brain can see that this guy is not feeling threatened. But, I will point out, neither does he feel glee. He takes neither pleasure nor wrath. He is showers these kids with the casual ease of a gardener spraying pesticide. A sort of beatific…peace.

This is what I want to focus on here, because a friend of mine believes, and I think I agree with him, that Lt. John Pike is very likely a heretofore unknown sixth avatar of Vishnu. Or at the very least, a Buddha, or a Bodhisattva, or a Saint or an angel (if you’re of the western persuasion).

Compare with an image of Vishnu.  Observe the way he stands in close detail.  Not only does the students’ pain mean nothing to him.  The students themselves mean nothing to him.  He cares not one whit whether you experience pain nor joy.  This is a sign of a true enlightened one.  The kids on the ground are the true sinners.  Buddha said that suffering arises from craving.  From  materialism.  Indeed, in our tableau, it is not Lt. Pike that is the sinner, but the college students.  They are the ones who are living in suffering.  The mace which is causing their suffering is symbolic of their obsession with the material world and their refusal to pursue the true enlightenment, to cast off that which causes suffering. To cast off their obsession with material wealth and gains.

He is like a Boddhisattva who has chosen not to ascend to Nirvana, opting to stay behind as a teacher.  A teacher of important lessons which issue forth from a spray nozzle.  Many have denounced Pike for a monster. But he is not. He brings knowledge and wisdom in an industrial can of pepper-spray. Indeed, his benevolence knows no limit for he has put off Nirvana specifically to convey this important wisdom to the masses. The lesson: pain is illusory. By succumbing to it, by allowing ourselves to suffer by wishing for the absence of pain, by craving, we are only distancing ourselves from the enlightenment that could be ours.

And so I believe that this is the truth that the internet has touched upon with all of the fantastically edited versions of this image. But what they say in images, I say in words. This man, Lt. John Pike, is the enlightened one. He is a prophet of a new age. And we should listen. Because he cares. He doesn’t show it, but he cares.

Ein weiser Mann schmeichelt der Narr.

Bill Nye is Awesome.

It brings joy to my heart whenever people really go out of their way to stick up for what they really believe in. Especially when the target of their ire is someone so decadent and depraved and downright evil as Bill Nye the Science Guy. Too much?

I grew up watching Bill Nye. He may actually be responsible, in large part, for my interest in science. Here’s the thing: Bill Nye is not flashy. He is not conceited. He is not pretentious. His show was entertaining, to be sure, but that’s because he is very good at presenting the material in a way that kids can relate to, it’s also because science is really, really cool stuff. He never, ever talks down to his audience. I recently watched one of the new science shows for kids and, while I can’t remember what it is called, I found it very appalling because it was full of jump cuts, an idiotic host, and lots and lots of flash. They were doctoring up science to make it entertaining without realizing that science is interesting in and of itself, but above all, they seemed to be assuming that children are idiots, which is a huge mistake. And this is why Bill Nye is so awesome.

So what is Bill Nye up to these days? Still being awesome, I should think. But specifically, in case you didn’t click through to the aforelinked material, he is getting booed by the people of Waco, TX. That’s right: Bill Nye was booed. Not Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, or Scott Walker. Bill Nye. The Science Guy.

Was he booed because he said that global warming is a real issue that must be addressed? No. Was he booed for saying that evolution is the crux of all of modern biology? Nope. What was he booed for, then? He was booed for saying that the moon reflects light from the sun.

Let’s do that again, because I don’t think even I got it. He was booed for saying that the moon is not a source of light, but rather reflects light from the sun.

This is something that anyone with half an elementary school education knows for fact. Shocked? Confounded? Confused? You’re not alone. So let’s take this thing apart and examine it from all angles because there might be something we’re missing. It is important to note that the source article from the Waco Tribune (I’m having a hard time not typing “wacko,” so just so you know, every time I type “Waco,” that’s what I’m thinking), has been taken down. You can still access it in their archives, but it requires a subscription. Whatever.

Also, we should be aware that he also gave lectures concerning global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption. Yeah, I know, what a liberal, right? But for whatever reason, the audience was more annoyed when he spoke on the topic of the moon. Yeah, that moon. The one that rolls around in Earth’s gravity well like an overexcited chihuahua.

What’s the problem? The article at thinkatheist.com seems to imply that he mentioned a bible verse. Specifically, Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.” And then he went on to say that the biblical account is not entirely forthcoming, mentioning that the moon is not actually a light, but instead a giant reflector. This was not received well. So I wonder, what was the source of all the anger toward this particular aspect of his lecture.

As a brief aside, I would like to dissect the verse in question myself a little. In light of modern astronomy and astrophysics, I think it’s interesting to note how the verse downplays the creation of the stars. This is perfectly understandable given the source material and when it was written. In fact, the entire verse is totally forgivable as a myth. The sun is the greatest light in the sky because it’s the brightest. The moon comes in second and all of the tiny stars are generally inconsequential little twinkles sparkling away on the celestial sphere. We know now that the stars are all basically like our sun and some are far more enormous and they are scattered across distances so vast that the human mind cannot fathom them. And so, in a way, the creation of all the stars is the more impressive feat, but this does not matter because to the writers of genesis (or the speakers of the original oral tradition) were not aware of the true nature of the stars.

What becomes problematic is people in the 21st century objecting to someone pointing out that the bible verse cannot be taken literally. It is not disproven, necessarily, by the science, but it’s certainly clarified by the science.

It is entirely possible that Bill Nye was a dick about it, but I find this hard to believe based upon all of this evidence. It is also possible that this was near the end of his lecture after numerous mentions of other bible verses that are inaccurate. What I mean is, this particular instance may have been the last straw for the people of Waco, TX. There is no transcript of the lecture, so we cannot be sure.

Here is what I hypothesize: The people of Waco, TX are, by and large, conservative, creationist, and underinformed about science and the sorts of things that it does. They did not actually listen to the words that Bill Nye was saying, hearing instead, “Here’s a bible verse that is wrong, and here’s why it’s wrong and why anyone who believes in the bible is an idiot.” It doesn’t matter if that’s what he said. It is my suspicion that this is how they heard it. I know this because I used to be a Christian (OH!! Feels so good to get that off my chest!). Whenever a hard-lined, conservative Christian hears even a tiny bit of criticism of the bible, they almost always take it as a personal attack. And so they boo.

It is my sincere hope that Mr. Nye will not judge the people of Waco, TX too harshly. Forgive them, for they know not why they boo.

Sie haben Sterne in deinen Augen

Mike Huckabee is a fascist

I repeat, Mike Huckabee is a fascist. I’m not trying to be incendiary or biased or anything. I’m looking at the textbook definition of a fascist. From dictionary.com:

  • a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
  • Okay, let’s back up. Here’s the video. The juicy bit is around 1:06. Embedded for your convenience:

    Why is this fascism? Because fascism is about suppressing anyone who disagrees with the leaders’ policy or interpretation of anything. Huckabee wants everyone to agree with him that David Barton is not a lying sleeze. At gunpoint.

    So what’s going on here? The question that is being batted around is whether or not he meant it as a joke. I think this line of discussion misses the point completely. The fact of the matter is, he said it. And here’s the crux. Did he mean it as a joke or did he mean it to be funny? This is a subtle but important distinction. I can say something like that and claim it’s a joke because I do not actually believe that people should be forced to endure anything at gunpoint. Huckabee, I believe, was saying something he actually believes in a way that he thought might be construed as funny.

    The fact that people actually laughed at this statement is disturbing in its own right. But the fact that Huckabee himself–a contender for the US Presidency!–would actually say this and think it’s funny. Even if it was just a joke and he doesn’t actually believe it, doesn’t excuse bad humor. It isn’t funny.

    And the worst thing is that he wanted to force people to watch David Barton’s revisionist bullshit history. At gunpoint.

    He wants everyone in America to believe the lie that this country was founded as a Christian nation, when, in fact, it was always very secular, the founding fathers were deists, and the very reason that people moved here in the first place was so that they didn’t have to have someone else’s religion rammed down their throat.

    You know, a lot of progressives are happy that he said this because it means his political career is over. I, however, am not so certain. We are in the middle of a horrifying economic recession and the people who caused it to happen are not in jail. I think if the media does what they ought to do with this video, then yes, his career is over (and good riddance). And so, there may have been a time when I would have believed that somebody can do or say something terrible and actually face the consequences. Not anymore.

    Sayonara Huckabee-san