Category Archives: society

Easter Irony

I just came across this cartoon on the Internet:
good friday2

Let me explain why I think this cartoon is ironic. Most of the fundogelicals I know are conservative in both religion and politics. When they wear their political hats, they invariably tell me that, unlike “nanny state” liberals, conservatives believe in “personal responsibility.” They oppose the Affordable Care Act because they believe it undermines personal responsibility to adequately care for oneself and one’s family. They oppose gun safety laws because, in addition to allegedly infringing on their right to own firearms, such laws – they say – are symptomatic of big, intrusive “nanny state” government. People who own firearms can take care of themselves, their weapons, and their homes and families just fine without any stinking government telling them how to do so, thank you very much. Mind you, many of these people who don’t want government to regulate what types of weapons and accessories can be owned and used by citizens, and don’t want government regulating their health care options any more than it does now, have no difficulty expecting the government to regulate citizens’ most intimate reproductive and marital options. Government that does those things is not too big at all.

What I find immensely ironic is that these people (the ones I know, anyway) who allegedly embrace “personal responsibility” in all things political, have absolutely no difficulty fleeing personal responsibility when it comes to their religious lives. They’ve sinned and deserve to burn in hell? Fine – surely they’ll admit their guilt and accept their just desserts, right?

Uhh, not quite. Their religion not only encourages these “personal responsibility” proponents not to accept their punishments like adults, it actually requires them to push their guilt onto someone else – ideally someone who was perfect and therefore didn’t have to atone for his own sins – and let him serve a sentence in their place. They have absolutely no difficulty accepting the idea that their “salvation” comes at the expense of an innocent man, an idea that I find abhorrent. The irony astonishes me. Godless liberal that I am, if it happens that I am wrong about the existence of any gods, I will accept responsibility for my error and endure whatever consequences that may entail. As far as I’m concerned, that is the only morally acceptable option available.

— the chaplain


A Book The Nonbelieving Literati Would Have Loved Hating

anna-karenina-leo-tolstoy-book-cover-artOnce upon a time, several atheist bloggers formed a reading group called the Nonbelieving Literati. As I recall, the idea was that we would read and discuss one work of fiction each month, since many of us spent a lot of time reading non-fiction works about science, history, philosophy, etc. (Of course, when my first turn to choose a book rolled around, I broke the non-fiction rule and selected Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own; big surprise, I know.) The thing that got me thinking about the literati was a recent post by ubi dubium, in which she shared her thoughts about Madame Bovary. I found it intriguing that she had just finished reading (or, rather, listening to) that book at approximately the same time I finished reading Anna Karenina. Based on what ubi dubium said in her review, my impression is that both books, which were written in the mid-19th century, explored many similar themes.

If the literati could have made their way through Tolstoy’s lengthy Karenina tome in one month, I suspect they may have found both much to love, and much to hate, in the book. One thing I love is Tolstoy’s striking depiction of life in 19th century Russia. Since the bulk of his narrative occurs in the Russian countryside, Moscow and St. Petersburg, he is able to portray social, physical, economic and political conditions as experienced by many members of rural and urban societies. To take one example, his description of the annual harvest process is thoroughly engrossing. Another thing I love about the book is its no-holds-barred portrayal of the hypocrisy that permeates patriarchal societies. Anna’s lover, Alexey Vronsky, suffers no social penalties for his – let’s say, breach of etiquette – in stealing another man’s wife. On the other hand, Anna, who leaves her husband and son to be with Vronsky, is  ostracized and condemned as a whore by the very same people who continue accepting Vronsky as their equal. One final thing I love about the book is Tolstoy’s intense examination of the psychology of his characters. His portrayal of Anna’s descent into despair, madness and seemingly inevitable suicide is particularly riveting.

The thing I hated about the book, and which I think would have annoyed my fellow literati, was Tolstoy’s use of an avatar, in the character of Konstantin Levin, to explore his own spiritual journey from doubt to Christian faith. The final section of the book dealt almost entirely with Levin’s spiritual renewal. Blech! It read as if Tolstoy couldn’t figure out how to close the story once he had dramatically crushed the title character under the wheels of a train. I think he should have ended it at the point when Anna’s lover led a group of volunteers to war. Sending the grief-stricken Vronsky, who had already attempted suicide earlier in the book, to die on a battlefield in a foreign land would have been plausible, and perhaps even fitting. Instead, Tolstoy moved to the fringe of fiction and entered the realms of quasi-autobiographical and philosophical rumination, and totally – I mean absolutely, positively, thoroughly – fucked up the end of his book. It’s a shame that he did so, because up until that point, it was a damn good read. If you ever read Anna Karenina, feel free to stop when she jumps off the platform. If you don’t, and you continue reading to the end, I guarantee you’ll find yourself wishing you had jumped with her.

— the chaplain


Recent Reads

I haven’t been around the chapel much lately, partly because I’ve been reading some good books. You may find the following items interesting.

The book I finished last night was Nate Silver’s, The Signal and the Noise. Citing examples from such diverse fields as climate science, baseball, Texas Hold ‘Em and elections forecasting, Silver explains statistical analysis in an interesting, informative, and even entertaining way. The book is a bit long (500+ pages), so you probably won’t read it in one sitting. But, if you’re willing to take a bit of time each night over several nights, you’re likely to learn quite a lot about gambling, earthquakes, and – yes – statistics.

Another book I finished a couple of weeks ago was, Damned Good Company, by Luis Granados. The author selected twenty pairs of contemporaneous historical figures – one secular versus one religious (i.e., Clarence Darrow vs. William Jennings Bryan) – and contrasted ways in which their views intersected, clashed, and influenced the world around them. I’m somewhat surprised this book hasn’t gotten wider circulation because it is very well researched (over 1,100 endnotes) and is quite a good read. Granted, Granados doesn’t write like Hitchens, but he’s more readable than many other better-known authors. Perhaps the lack of publicity is a consequence of being published by The Humanist Press rather than Harper & Row.

The final book I’ll mention, which I read after Granados’ and before Silver’s, is J.K. Rowling’s debut in the world of adult fiction, The Casual Vacancy. Having read and enjoyed the entire Harry Potter series with my sons, I had to see how Rowling would handle adult literature. She did quite well, but don’t take that to mean that The Casual Vacancy is anything like Harry Potter for grown-ups. Unlike the world of Hogwarts, most, if not all, of the characters in this book are not likable people, so it’s likely that readers won’t readily align themselves with any of them. It’s not even easy to choose one to hate more than the others because they’re all equally loathsome. Nevertheless, the story is engaging, especially for anyone who is intrigued by politics, and one can’t help wondering how the issue of the unexpectedly open seat on a small town’s council will be resolved. I enjoyed the book, and I’ll admit that the ending makes a tragic sort of sense; nevertheless, I wasn’t satisfied with the way the final scene played out. If you want to know any more about that, you’ll have to read the book and decide for yourself whether I’ve got that right or missed some profound meaning and symmetry. In my mind, the meaning and symmetry are almost, but not quite, there.

And that, dear friends, is some of what I’ve been doing lately. Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know what you think in the comments. Do you have any other books to recommend? Write a comment. I’m always open to suggestions.

– – the chaplain


What Would Jesus Carry?

I have a friend who recently moved to an island in the South Pacific to be a Christian missionary. When he’s not busy proselytizing Jesus to the heathen natives, he uses the Internet to push the Second Amendment on the unenlightened back in the USA. He belligerently promotes the NRA recommendation to have armed personnel in every school in the country and constantly writes disparaging items about liberals and gun control advocates. To be fair, he’s not the only conservative Christian who engages in such activities. One guy wrote that Christians should carry guns because Jesus’ disciples carried swords (conveniently overlooking the fact that Jesus reprimanded Peter when he actually used a sword to wound someone (after which he allegedly healed the wound)). That post mysteriously disappeared after the deacon commented that the same rationale could be applied to public nudity, since King David reportedly celebrated a military victory by dancing nude in the streets (behavior for which one of his several wives rebuked him). All of this fundogelical verbosity on behalf of gun rights prompts me to wonder: what would Jesus carry? Confining the discussion to firearms (we’ll leave nuclear, chemical, biological and other such possibilities out of the mix for now), what do you think Jesus’ firearm of choice would be? Explain your answer in a comment.

– – the chaplain


Posted by on January 6, 2013 in friends, politics, rationalism, religion, society


My Role in the War on Christmas Defined

This is as far as I’m going in Bill O’Reilly’s faux War on Christmas:

no big deal

That’s it. That’s the only shot this rude, arrogant, unethical, satanic atheist is firing in Billy’s war. Now I’m running for cover from the barrage of insults, castigations and damnations that fundogelicals will undoubtedly start pouring over me like hot oil in 3…2…1…

— the chaplain


Have Yourself a Very (un)Merry Christmas

Even though Christmas is more than a month away, FOX News has already assembled an amazing array of holiday un-cheer messages. Check out this hilarious compilation video, courtesy of Talking Points Memo:

Did you catch all of that gloom and doom? A few highlights from FOX’s lengthy list:

1. THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS HAS RESUMED! Nativity scenes are disappearing because big, bad atheists are ruining “everyone’s” fun.

2. Rudolph has gone rogue!

3. If the Mayans got it right, no one will make it to Christmas day.

4. And, if all that’s not bad enough, we can always gripe about high holiday season airfares, germ-riddled airplanes, the difficulties of car rentals, the danger of choking on our holiday dinners…

Oh, my fucking god! Get thee to a bomb shelter! Black Friday hasn’t even ended and it’s already been a disastrous holiday season!

Maybe someone ought to give those poor slobs at FOX News (and their viewers, who must be thoroughly depressed (and they haven’t even seen their credit card bills yet!)) a few fifths of bourbon. Or a couple of bongs. They clearly need something to calm them down. Then again, they seem to be in such a bad way that perhaps nothing short of pure cocaine will ease their pain. It’s a wonder they haven’t started jumping off ledges and slitting their wrists.

Wait a moment.

Having thought about the matter for a few milliseconds, I’ve decided I won’t do anything to alleviate their pain. Instead, I’ll sit back and enjoy watching them wallow in “gloom, despair, and agony…deep, dark depression, excessive misery” for the next month or so. It could be pretty entertaining.

Alright, that’s settled, then. Now, on to the next important matter: I’ll make the popcorn. Who’s gonna bring the beer?

— the chaplain


Posted by on November 23, 2012 in humor, religion, secularism, society, video


Billy Graham Gives Voting Advice

With American elections looming in less than three weeks (I know, it seems like they’ve been going on forever!), Billy Graham offers his sage advice (and some helpful resources) to voters:

Here’s a look at what he’s touting as leading voting concerns this fall:

And, in a variation on the same theme:

Knowing that you think as highly of Mr. Graham as I do, I must ask: which biblical values will guide your voting decisions next month? I’m leaning toward polygamy, Old Testament style…

— the chaplain


Posted by on October 19, 2012 in indoctrination, politics, religion, society


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 105 other followers