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.

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

    Is Rush Limbaugh Insensitive?

    If the title of this post, read in a surprised voice, is not even remotely funny, then perhaps your time might be better spent elsewhere on the internet. It’s not that I don’t want people to see things from my point of view, it’s just that I don’t know make that happen. What I mean is, no matter how many political discussions I have had (a lot), I am fairly certain that I have never, in all of my considerable years (30), actually convinced anyone of anything. And no matter how many political discussions I have, there is always this little voice in the back of my mind that says, in its own little way, “Could this other person, with whom I disagree, actually be right?” And then I have to go over all of my logic again just to make sure. And then I always settle into that little groove on the political spectrum that would properly be labeled “Ridiculously Liberal.” And then I wipe the sweat from my brow.

    The point is, I don’t know that conservatives ever suffer from self-doubt. As an educated liberal, I assume this is because conservatives, as a rule, suffer from a sort of megalomania that stems from a political ideology based on selfishness, steeped in a religion that is just vague enough to make that seem like it’s a good thing. I do. Suffer from self-doubt, that is.

    For what it’s worth.

    So….Rush Limbaugh. Yeah, that guy. He said some stuff this week. And it was stupid and insensitive. I honestly don’t think there’s any arguing the point. His defense that he was actually mocking Diane Sawyer is actually very telling, in that it actually is a defensive tactic. Seeing as how a)it’s a lie: He was, in fact, making fun of Japanese people recycling in the face of adversity–watch the video again if you don’t believe me and b)he is pretty much the biggest prick in the world this side of Scott Walker and Glenn Beck. (Again, if this offends you, re-read the first sentence of the post and carefully consider whether you want to even bother leaving me a message in the comments section)

    And so, seeing Rush on the defense can only be an unqualified “good.”

    When I set out to write a post today, I didn’t have any particular thing in mind and, indeed, I had wanted to write about this and this. And honestly, there’s nothing less offensive than particle physics. Or is there?

    I wonder if anyone might find the revelation that space might not actually be infinitely divisible offensive (see one of the above links to sciencedaily–really super neat stuff!). And therein lies the crux of the matter. Rush Limbaugh thinks that the Prius is stupid. This is based on the dubious logic that “nobody wants a Prius.” Obviously this is not true because I think it would be cool to have a Prius. And so what’s the real reason that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t like the Prius? I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the only thing that actually motivates conservatives in Congress and on Fox News (et al), is liberals. They hate things specifically because liberals like them. If I said, “Man, I hate stubbing my toe,” I have this theory that there is a conservative somewhere that is so bullheaded that he (or she) would immediately go and kick a boulder, just to show how fun it can be.

    It’s interesting to note the relationship between Limbaugh’s view of the tragic tsunami in Japan and subsequent nuclear catastrophe and the conservative view of, say, the Big Bang. He actually believes that his god did this. Like on purpose. Who worships a god that does jerkish stuff like that? The thing is, conservatives look at the world and require it to be intelligible. They look at Big Bang Theory and see that it’s based on various conjectures which are, in turn based on a considerable amount of available evidence and then read their Bibles and say, “No way, I can’t deal with that kind of uncertainty. God did it.” But the fact of the matter is, we don’t know all of the details and ins and outs of the Big Bang because, hey, it happened like 13 billion years ago. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast a week ago.

    What anti-science conservatives don’t seem to understand is that uncertainty about the universe doesn’t bother scientists. They are completely untroubled by the fact that the Big Bang is, at its most fundamental, a well-educated guess. They do not lose sleep over it. Not knowing the “why” of earthquakes/tsunamis/hurricanes, doesn’t bother atheists. We can look at it and say, “That’s nature. That’s life. It’s a terrible thing, though, so I’ll donate some money to help people pick up their lives.” A conservative will look at it as a an event that occurred as the result of someone’s conscious decision. And as a result of that, they find themselves in the precarious position of either a)believing in a god that is supposed to be infinitely loving but also has a sadistic and sociopathic streak or b)having to find a good reason why the eastern seaboard of Japan ought to have been demolished by a tsunami. God did it, therefore it must be justified.

    Either way I find it unfathomable.

    If you’ve read all this way, and have the inclination, the Red Cross is doing some very good things in the world today. Also, space might not be infinitely divisible (WTF? I know, right?) and also great strides are being made in the field of quantum condensates (super cool, if you know what I mean).

    domo arigato