Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Monday, 30 November 2015

Watch LogosPilgrim's Talk at CFI Ottawa


Back in June, LogosPilgrim was kind enough to write a guest post for us about her long brave voyage from religion to Humanism.
When the box, the “refuge” I’d lived began to waver like a mirage, one of the first things I did was start wearing men’s clothes, and it felt wonderful. More and more, I reintegrated, in a manner of speaking, the material nature of what I am. I saw that being material isn’t inferior to being a “spirit.” I learned, finally, about evolution, which made so more sense than any of the woo and fairy tales I’d been taught, and I realized that my brain is a fantastic illusionist. It’s vital to be knowledgeable about the nature of things, otherwise we’ll be fooled not only by every peddler of hogwash out there, but by our own brain, because of the way it works.
Then in September, she was kind enough to be on my fledgling podcast! It was a fun interview which covered her trip down to the 2015 Non Conference, her current book, There’s a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life and a new book she's working on too!

Well, LogosPilgrim (aka Quiet Professor) recently did a talk for CFI Ottawa and AtheismTV has released the video.


In addition to all this, a second new book is also in the works!
Oh, and apart from Atheist Tiki Hour: Your Guide to a Secular Blast, I'll be working on another book, The Rollicking Adventures of an Unrepentant Tomboy. I'm including a picture of the cover, because I thought you'd get a kick out of it.
You'll find a cropped version of the image up top. If you want to see the whole thing, you'll have to check back when she's done writing the book!

Friday, 19 June 2015

New Science Book Series For Young Skeptics: Tiny Thinkers

Charlie & The Tortoise (source)
David Smalley, producer of Dogma Debate and head of Secular Media Group has launched an excellent fundraiser to bring more science themed books to kids. Being the father of an inquisitive five year old, I'm pretty excited about this.


Smalley narrates many secular audio books which can be found over at Audible, most of these are through Dogma Debate LLC. This fundraiser originally encompassed more than just children's books, but it was narrowed down to kids books only just a few days ago.
Great News! This campaign is now 100% dedicated to ONLY the Kids Books! This saves us a ton of room on the budget, knocking it down to only $12K needed for all 3 of our first books to be printed and published!
So far, three titles are on their way as part of a new series called Tiny Thinkers. They're written by KidsHeartKids' Mario Mouton, whom I've worked with before while fundraising for Humanist causes in Uganda. He's doing tonnes of great things for kids in Uganda!

Here are the three new titles. Mario was nice enough to send me a draft copy of Carl Went to the Library without images and it was delightful.
Charlie and the Tortoise details Charles Darwin's trip to the islands, and his quest for answering questions about why animals are so different.

Carl Went to the Library features Carl Sagan and his amazing impact on the world of science.

Richie Doodles showcases Richard Feynman and his contributions to the world of theoretical physics.  Feynman was an inspiration and mentor for world renowned physicist, Lawrence Krauss, who will be writing the forward for this book! 
Go check out the fundraiser!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Good Interview With Jerry Coyne on TVO

Jerry Coyne on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin (source)
Jerry Coyne recently visited Toronto -- where he allegedly had some sort of non-Quebecois «poutine» -- c'est quoi ça? Anyway, that egregious act aside, it seems to have been a good visit where he promoted his new book, Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible.

During the trip, he made a stop over at TVO for this great discussion with Steve Paikin.


Watch the interview and then swing on over to Coyne's blog, where he discusses it more in depth.

via Veronica Abbass

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Trapped No Longer: I Left Religion, Found Beauty in This Life & the Courage to Embrace it As Myself

logospilgrim
This is a guest post by logospilgrim, who recently published the beautifully written book There's a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life. I'll be doing a review of the book hopefully in the next couple of months.


“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.” ~ Deuteronomy 22:5
“You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you.” ~ Leviticus 19:19
Ever since childhood, I’ve lacked the ability to squeeze myself into nice, neat, clearly delineated categories. To make myself fit in tidy little boxes. Sooner or later, I rebel, I fight against this unnatural confinement. It’s in great part due to this, I believe, that I’ve never been able to remain in any mainstream religion.

They tell you that it’ll be better in the box; outside the box, it’s dangerous. It’s harmful. It’s sinful. It’s dirty. That’s a message I heard when I was still small and vulnerable to falsehoods disguised as supreme wisdom. It’s a message that’s hard to erase. It’s etched into you.

Outside the box, you won’t be okay. The fact that you’re thinking of getting out of the box means you’re ill or lost—or worse. Of  course you’re tempted by what’s outside: you’re essentially wicked, or at the very least unable to make the best kind of decisions on your own, because you’re not entirely in your right mind. Curiosity is bad. It’ll get you into trouble. Read Genesis again.

Now, the more loving authorities will say that their god loves you even if you decide to leave the box. But the truth is that he doesn’t love you as much as he does if you stay inside, like a good boy or girl.
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” ~ 1 John 2:1
That’s the type of message I was exposed to, again and again: an infantilizing message that causes you to question everything you do, every thought you have. Can you really trust yourself? No. You’re too proud, or flawed, or blind, or whatever else. Being human is never good enough. You have to listen to Jesus, to the priest, to the elder, to the teacher, to the guru, to the master. You have to be obedient, and surrender yourself. You’re helpless without the one who knows better than you do.

You have to be guided by perfect rules and commandments. And you have to have the correct understanding of these rules and commandments. There are wolves and demons everywhere, eager to deceive you and lead you astray, both outside the box and inside your ailing self. Do you see now why you need strict guidelines, and overseers, and gates all around you?

No garment of mixed linen and wool must come upon you. Sheep to the right, goats to the left.

I’m genderqueer. I’m coloring outside the lines. I like to mix things up. This has been a “problem” for me for a long time. I feel happier, more comfortable, more at home in my skin when I wear masculine clothing, when I cut my hair. I’m not statuesque and look like a delicate, feminine man—what could be more blasphemous? I can’t look like someone who might have a Holy Penis when I don’t have one, right? I should know my rightful place. I can’t cross the line.

But I cross the line. Every time I do, I can see that it’s an arbitrary, imaginary line at that, just as imaginary as the religious fictions I once believed were true.

I can see why there are so many bizarre-sounding prohibitions in “sacred” texts. Once you start questioning what you’re told, there’s a fine line indeed between slavery and freedom; but if you’re fine with being forbidden not to mix linen and wool, whatever the fuck that even means, there’s not much you’ll question.

When I was still a Christian, I embraced a very mystical way of understanding the texts, one that left nobody outside of divine love—not even the devil. Everything would eventually be restored by love, everyone would find their way back to the waiting, open arms of love. My experience was that this radically inclusive way of looking at the world has two consequences. First, you reject the box—you need to go outside the box to love everyone—and then, the box simply disappears. You realize that there was never any need for it. It only existed because you were willing to live in it and let it enclose you.

Slowly but surely, you see that the world is what it is. Messy, sure, but also beautiful. Stupendous.

The dire warnings of preachers fade away, the old books crumble to dust.

There’s nothing to be afraid of. Me, my ties, my growing collection of tattoos, my thirst for knowledge, the people I love, the world I'm in, we’re all completely fine. There’s always room for growth, but that’s not the same as saying there’s something inherently wrong with me and everything else, that we’re afflicted by an existential mark or spiritual disease. No pure system will make our troubles and pain disappear; no amount of religious winnowing will create some sort of enchanted world where humanity is safe from disaster and questions and death.

Death isn’t the proof that we’re somehow cursed; it’s just something that happens because we’re physical and mortal. That’s all.

When the box, the “refuge” I’d lived began to waver like a mirage, one of the first things I did was start wearing men’s clothes, and it felt wonderful. More and more, I reintegrated, in a manner of speaking, the material nature of what I am. I saw that being material isn’t inferior to being a “spirit.” I learned, finally, about evolution, which made so more sense than any of the woo and fairy tales I’d been taught, and I realized that my brain is a fantastic illusionist. It’s vital to be knowledgeable about the nature of things, otherwise we’ll be fooled not only by every peddler of hogwash out there, but by our own brain, because of the way it works.

I’m so glad I crossed the line. I’m so glad I spiced up my life and sowed mixed seeds in my field. That’s when a multitude of flowers came out of the ground, all different and colorful and wild. The universe is more wondrous to me now than it ever was, and no eternal perfection could make my human moment in our universe more joyful and precious than it already is, exactly like this, with its ups and downs, its tears and laughter, its beginning and end.


Logospilgrim (logospilgrim.com) is a writer, renegade, and cosmic love vagabond, a secular humanist and gonzo maverick. You can find her books on her website, logospilgrim.com, and Amazon. She recently published There's a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life

"In There's a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life, writer, lecturer, and maverick Logospilgrim candidly shares the remarkable and passionate journey that took her from religious belief to secular humanism."

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Why Do They Remain Religious?

Still from The Salesmen (1968) a documentary about door-to-door Bible salesmen.
Getting a little reading done while on Thanksgiving vacation. Here's yet another insightful snippet from Carolyn Hyppolite's Still Small Voices: The Testimony of a Born-Again Atheist.
What seems striking to me now is that no one in the room who found the instances of Biblical violence disturbing and the interpretation presented to us problematic allowed themselves to come to the obvious conclusion that this book cannot possibly be a morally infallible guide from an omnibenevolent deity. The only person in the room who had rid himself of cognitive dissonance was the leader and he had done so by concluding that God ordering genocide is good, wholesome theology. His conclusions had the virtue of being intellectually consistent but morally repugnant as well as potentially dangerous. The majority seemed to have no good alternative reading on the matter but they did not like it; they seemed to be hoping and praying, as I was, that God and time would offer some resolution. As far as I know, no one decided to not be a Christian from that Bible study. It is highly probable that like me, they just pretended that the problem did not exist or put solving it into some indeterminate time in the future.
Sometimes, I think that (well meaning) atheists who were never raised within a religious household simply do not get this. Just demonstrating how cruel or illogical religion is will not usually dent years of indoctrination and emotional investment. That said, I do think it does corrode faith over time, I'll testify to that.

Oddly enough, I didn't run into this sort of thing until after I mostly left Catholicism. Talk to any Catholic and they'll likely tell you they almost never read the Bible. It wasn't until after I started my journey away from religion that I finally sat down and read.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Video of Carolyn Hyppolite's 'Still Small Voices' Book Launch

Carolyn Hyppolite speaking at CFI Toronto (source)
Back in July, I posted promoting a talk at CFI by author Carolyn Hyppolite in celebration of the launch of her new book Still Small Voices: The Testimony of a Born-Again Atheist. She was nice enough to send me a copy of the book and I have so far produced one short review on the first half. Spoiler alert: It is a refreshing read about a compelling personal story.

Well, a video of the talk has now been released!  I haven't had a chance to watch the whole thing yet, but will definitely give it a watch this weekend!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Author: Christians Need to Embrace Theistic Atheism To Save The Church?

Still from Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil (source)
I've written about New York Times Bestselling author Frank Schaeffer before back when he was promoting his latest book about being an atheist who believes in God. At the time I wondered how the book could ever possibly work and it broke my mind organ. It makes no sense, but people apparently love it and spend their money on it.

Well, Schaeffer is back with an incomprehensible article in Huffington Post which makes me honestly wonder where the bar is for what will get published or not on their site. He is once again promoting his book -- citing its title twice within the very short piece, just so everyone is clear on where they can purchase it. The jarringly contradictory title is mind-numbingly Orwellian: To Save the Church: Embrace Atheism as the True Religion and Religion as The True Atheism. Oh, my head. I originally had a photo of the Ministry of Truth above, but I decided to just post a visual symbolizing how his article made me feel.

I have little to say in in the way of substantial commentary, as the word salads often approach Deepak Chopra levels of quantum incomprehensibility.
Science can't be addressed by opening another food pantry or thumping the Bible a little harder and screaming words like inerrancy. Science can only be addressed by all sides in the religion debate admitting that religion is a neurological disorder and that faith is the only cure.
Does this mean give up thinking?
Until more people leading churches describe themselves honestly as atheists who also believe in God, fewer and fewer younger people will take the church leaders' faith claims seriously.
What is he talking about?
Until more people leading churches describe themselves honestly as atheists who also sometimes believe in God, fewer and fewer younger people will take the church leaders' faith claims seriously. Young men and women being raised now know that the truth claims of both social/justice progressives and fundamentalists are bogus. They know this because we're entering the age of quantum uncertainty.
Does this have anything to do with the Age of Aquarius?
We are in the era of the multiverse (meta-universe) a hypothetical set of infinite or finite possible universes. If we're in a multiverse reality, then our laws of physics only apply in our particular bubble, not everywhere. This is bad news for physicists, not to mention for theologians. On the other hand, if we are in a multiverse, this is bad news for rationalists too. It means that in a multiverse of infinite possibilities, anything can happen, including God manifesting itself in Christ.
I think he might be saying that with infinite or near infinite universes it is statistically possible for God and Jesus to exist. To which I respond that it is just as likely that pink chainsaw wielding unicorns dressed like Liberace could fly giant toasters about. Can we have some sort of evidence, please -- related to this universe?

It gets less and less comprehensible as it progresses.

The really disturbing thing is that the book itself seems to have glowing reviews over at Amazon.  People -- mostly Christian, I believe -- seem to be eating this God-believing-atheist, white-is-black, day-is-night stuff all up.

Perhaps, in some twisted up way, this blog post might help sell more copies of his book. Because it seems that anyone who would enjoy it would be unlikely to agree with much of what I write anyway.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

"Still Small Voices" -- Religious Ecstacy Fades Leaving Uncomfortable Truth

By Frank Vincentz (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I have a confession to make, I have made a terrible mistake. Back in July, author Carolyn Hippolite sent me a final draft of her new book, Still Small Voices: The Testimony of a Born-Again Atheist after I agreed to review it here on my blog. I was at the time on my way to Chicago to attend the Humanism at Work conference so the plan was I would get a whole lot of time on the plane to read it and then write a review... sometime.

I found the premise of her book so compelling that I put aside several other book review requests I had lying on my desk, neglected and cursing me. Eagerly, I dove right in. That's the problem though, the mistake I always make. I read half the book and realized I had been too engrossed in her story to take any proper notes for a review! So there it sat, incomplete with everyday life banging on the doors and I had no words to put to paper.

All this to say: Sorry, Carolyn!

So I now give you an eagle's eye view from the book's middle. This is not a collection of dry axioms and philosophical arguments. It is truly a testimony -- a very human story about one woman's love, revulsion and eventual escape from religion. It shows how religion can taste so very different depending on the nature of its grip on the heart and mind of the taster.

These are the sort of hush private words you hear from friends and family in confidence around the kitchen table or in the cafe over a brew. Dissecting Pascal's wager may feed the mind, but there are aspects to Carolyn's experiences that might fix better to the ground where our feet are. It's every day and is more likely to resonate in both our skull and chest.

I reopened the book today to where I left off, chapter four, and found yet another gem. Carolyn had returned to religion -- to the strictest most fervent evangelical Catholicism -- and, unlike most Catholics, was reading the Bible regularly. It was her first time reading Judges 11:29-40, where Jephthah promised God the life of whomever should walk through his door first in return for military success. His daughter ran through the door first. So he gave her two months to run around the hills weeping with her friends before she got the chop. Naturally, like any moral human being, Carolyn was utterly shocked and repulsed that God could endorse such a thing.

(pp. 79-81) Emphasis my own.
It was the first time I had read that passage. I was stunned. I was disgusted. I felt numb. I did not even attempt to understand it. I did not try to rationalize or spiritualize it. I did not try to decipher whether it was history or mythology. I accepted it and allowed the horrendousness fact of it to penetrate every cell in my body. I sat in the church in silence. I read no more. I said no prayers. I waited for the mass to start and participated normally allowing the shock that I had experienced in what I had scheduled as a time of spiritual and moral uplift to dissipate. I did not make any plans to ask a member of the clergy to explain it. I did not seek to read anything about it. After all, what could anyone say? It could not be excised from Bible. It could not be made morally acceptable through creative hermeneutics. It was irredeemable.

For whatever reason, that this was sufficient reason to doubt the inspiration of the Bible and my religious commitment never occurred to me. By this time, not being a Christian had become unthinkable. I simply made an unconscious choice to live with it. I suppose this is how we come to live in the self-deluded hypocrisy where we claim to believe in the Bible while never actually using it for our morality except on the occasions when the Bible is actually offering real moral truths. It becomes obvious at some point that there are things in the Bible that are morally abhorrent. Yet, if you have become convinced that being a Christian is God’s will, not being a Christian becomes unthinkable. Perhaps, like me, you had religious experiences that you believe to be authentic and denying that Christianity is real would be tantamount to accepting the fact that at least at some point you were delusional. Plus, you’ve told everyone enthusiastically that being a Christian is the greatest of all good. You revolved your whole life around this conviction. To change your mind at this point is highly inconvenient as well as embarrassing and so you don’t even allow the possibility to arise in your conscious mind. But here you are faced with very good evidence, enough to admit that you had made a huge ideological mistake because you had not done sufficient thinking or research. But you’re not ready to admit that. It’s too shameful so you pretend nothing has happened.

In my case, the damning evidence had the same emotional impact on me that my religious conversion had. Just as I had experienced ecstasy during my conversion experience and a few times after, I experienced a revulsion of equal magnitude that morning. When I read that story, I felt like I was there. It was very real. I felt the horror of what I would feel if I saw a man sacrifice his daughter because he had made a vow to God. Nonetheless, I did not allow that negative emotion to transform my ideology in the way that that positive emotion had. I neither concluded that the Bible was not the holy word of God nor did I conclude that it was morally acceptable to sacrifice virgin daughters because one made a vow to God. In retrospect, it now seems to me that I just went on living as if Judges 11 did not exist. I knew it was real but I seem to have chosen not to process it. Perhaps, I feared the result of processing it, but I was wholly unconscious of this fear. 
In just three emotion-filled paragraphs, Carolyn has well encapsulated the core defense mechanism of the religion meme (if you believe in memes, that is). It explains why, after hours of rational argument and solid refutations of religious claims, the religious person can continue to believe. It explains how people can read the atrocities committed in the Bible and still believe that God is an all-caring Being. It's really an emotional attachment that leads to self-delusion -- like an all-forgiving parent but in reverse.

The writing can be as clear as day on the wall, but until someone is in the right headspace to change their philosophy, reality will be warped to fit familiar and comforting beliefs -- beliefs that might answer big important troubling questions which can be like gaping sucking pits demanding to be filled.

I hope I have learned my lesson and plan to blog a couple of more times about Still Small Voices as I finish it off; small manageable chunks. It's a thoughtful and compelling story about a struggle that millions are likely having. I recommend you give it a read and leave your comments.

Check out Carolyn's website or follow her on Twitter.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Childrens Book About Uganda With Kasese Humanist Primary School Students

Two students wearing their Kasese Humanist Primary School uniforms. 'Good Day Uganda' was written and is being developed by Russell Appelt in Victoria, BC, Canada. (Illustration reprinted with his permission.)
'After breakfast, while it’s still cool, kids from Kasese will walk to school. They’ll learn their lessons and be nobody’s fool. Good morning to Uganda.' 
Awhile back Russell Appelt, from Victoria, British Columbia, came up with the story for a picture book about Kasese Humanist Primary School. Interestingly, he did this by imagining Raffi singing a song about Uganda. He hadn't done anything like this before and isn't an illustrator, but didn't let that get in his way. Much like other volunteers helping this community-supported school, he jumped in and started the project and things are coming together.
I'm not an English major, just a nurse aid working at Aberdeen Hospital here in Victoria. I was doing my own illustrations at first but they were not professional enough. So I decided to hire an artist from Malaysia and I'm very pleased with what he's been able to do so far.
Russell sent me several illustrations and they are all incredibly vibrant and extremely bright and colourful -- like the pictures of Uganda in the summer season.

A Kasese Humanist Primary student wakes up with the Ugandan flag flying outside his window. This is an image from an upcoming childrens book 'Good Day Uganda' being developed by Victoria BC's Russell Appelt. (Illustration reprinted with his permission.)
'Raise the flag, black, yellow and red. Everybody wake up and get out of bed. There’s work to do, don’t be a sleepy head. Good morning to Uganda.'
Although some text is prone to change as the story gets refined, the version of the book I read uses delightful rhyming verse to tell the story of humans, animals and plants on a sunny school day in Uganda. There is no direct mention of science, save for a reference to chimps, the closest living relative to humankind. This book instead instills a wonder in the natural world by referencing the fauna of the region along with some local geographical features.

Russell and his girlfriend Elsie.
Russell hopes to have the project done sometime in 2015. Meanwhile, there will likely be some editing. He would like to add a Fun Facts section to the back of the book with some trivial about the country and a recipe for matoke (plantain stew with meat), which is referenced within the story itself.
Perhaps Bwambale Robert could send me a deliciously authentic one.
As a Humanist parent of a four year old, I really appreciate books like this and hope more will appear. There is a real need for more childrens media in our community.

I'll keep you all posted about the development of this book. If you would like to contact Russell directly, then you can email him at russ.appelt@gmail.com.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Let's Talk About Some Non-Dead Atheists, Shall We?


People keep writing reviews about Nick Spencer's new book, Atheists: The Origin of the Species, all over the place, so I'm guessing it might be worth a read to see what all this hullabaloo is about.

Anyway, Spencer wrote a short piece over at Politico about how amazingly surprising it is that so very few Americans identify themselves as atheists. I find it shocking that he finds this shocking. Really, I have no clue how he came to this conclusion unless he has a very narrow view on who are atheists.

Why Aren’t More Americans Atheists?
You might think that America would be fertile ground for the rise of atheism. After all, the United States is the most scientifically advanced society in human existence, and as far as atheism has a history—and it is an oddly uncharted one—it is popularly believed to be of slow, steady scientific advance.
I cannot believe that Spencer doesn't realize that America is one of the most religious countries at this technological level and that atheists are the most despised, most distrusted minority in America. Did he do any research at all? Did he read any atheist websites, newsgroups or speak to any real atheists about this? Or is this just some sort of academic exercise?

He goes on to describe the 'myth' (he calls it one) that people were once ignorant about how the natural world works and so posited gods and spooks to explain natural phenomena. Then science came along and demonstrated how wrong these beliefs were. He then gives examples of famous scientists who believed in some form of a god and uses this as proof that the rise of science had nothing to do with the rise of disbelief.

He makes no mention of the Greek gods no longer physically living on Mount Olympus and the likes. I suppose the Greeks never believed in such things. Likewise, European fertility and harvest festivals were all just a commercial ploy to sell Green Men masks.

No it turns out that so few Americans are atheist because of politics.
In reality, the growth of atheism in Europe and America has much more to do with politics and, in particular, ecclesiastically backed politics, than it has with science, something that is clear even from its earliest days. The first person we can unequivocally call an atheist in modern Europe was a French Catholic priest who died in 1729. Jean Meslier led an unremarkable life at Étrépigny, in Champagne. On his death, however, friends discovered a manuscript, his “Testament,” which denounced all belief, all God and all religion with a frenzied anger that makes Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion seem like a work of reasoned scholarship.
The French philosophes had a more repressive church-controlled system to despise while the English system was more moderate and so they had less to rebel against. Because, to many theists out there atheism is all about rebellion, now isn't it?

Is this a book about another universe?

How about this for a quick theory. Atheists have been despised and persecuted for centuries by religious people and institutions -- The term was used as a pejorative against Socrates and early Christians even. In the past, you could get yourself into serious trouble or even killed for being a non-believer -- in some countries this is still the case. These days, you can only lose your job, your wife, your family, your entire support structure.

Then, painfully, inch by inch, people have been allotted a little more space to actually freely question their own religious beliefs and the beliefs of others. People started talking openly about their own atheism. That's it, I think.

But is Spencer really interested in atheists who are not philosophes? I'm really not sure.

Perhaps he should rename his book to: A Few Famous Atheist 'Philosophes' That Are Found Interesting By Christians: The Origin of the Species

I'm shocked he didn't include Camus or Nietzsche. I had my Bingo card ready.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Toronto Book Launch: Carolyn Hyppolite's "Still Small Voices"


Last week, Canadian author Carolyn Hyppolite was nice enough to send me a copy of her new book Still Small Voices: The Testimony of a Born Again Atheist. I'm just on page 50 but I'm already fascinated by her story. It recounts the story of a black woman grappling with faith -- coming to grips with her own irrational and ultimately unsatisfying reliance on religion. It's very much about a struggle between what's comforting and what's real. You can read more on the book's website.
Still Small Voices is a frank, personal account of a young woman’s struggle to have a personal relationship with Jesus and the freedom she discovered when she gave up on God. This book is a mixture of personal testimony, analysis and arguments. In her reflection, she recounts stories of particular moments during her eight year experience as a Christian when she found herself hearing another “still small voice,” the voice of reason, which constantly whispered that something about the Biblical worldview does not add up. Throughout the book, she records her efforts to ignore and suppress that voice and how ultimately, she had to relent. 
A full review is on its way as soon as I finish the book but until then, if you're in the Toronto area, why not drop by the book launch, tomorrow? It's being hosted by the CFI.

Date: Friday 25 July 2014
Time: 7-9pm
Location: At the new CFI Canada Office
55 Eglinton Avenue East
Suite #307
By Yonge and Eglinton
Free admission.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Humanism at Work Raffle Basket Grows!


A special thanks goes to CFI Canada who donated a signed book! It's for the raffle basket Mario Mouton from KidsHeartKids and I will be raffling off at the upcoming Humanism at Work conference in Chicago next month! Veronica Abbass, who's on the CFI Board of Directors and writes over at Canadian Atheist, was nice enough to pop it in the post for me and it just arrived today!

This one is The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright's Universe by Dan Falk. Come to the conference July 18th-20th and I'll personally give it to you along with signed books by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Steve Wells.

Now I really need to remember to bring it with me! I promise you Dan's signature is there in the book but cracking the spine enough to take a photo just didn't feel right to me.

Thanks CFI Canada!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Holy Spirit Filled Prayer-In-City-Council-Meeting Mayor Calls Journalists & Atheists "Nincompoops"

(source)
Remember Mayor of Saguenay, Jean Tremblay? He's the one who insists on having prayers before city council meetings and is fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court.

He has a habit of saying rather controversial things. Perhaps this will jog your memory. It's about THEM. I'm pretty sure you're onto the right track whichever idea pops into your head. Just a hint though. He means NOT "US".
“They are quietly, and with nice language, eating away (at our traditions),”  ... “They quietly start by removing the prayer in city hall, then they’ll remove our religious objects, then they’ll take away the crosses in cities and after that they’ll go into the schools ..."
Well, this year he got his book published. It's all about how believing in God changes everything, Croire ça change tout: Pourquoi la foi transforme-t-elle la vie? (Believing, it changes everything: Why does Faith change your life?). He recently did an interview with The B.C. Catholic, which my tax money pays for anyway, so I gave it a read.
Mayor Jean Tremblay, whose case is expected to be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada later this year, decided to write "Croire, ca change tout: Pourquoi la foi transforme-t-elle la vie?" (Believing changes everything: Why does faith transform life?) out of his frustration at media interviews that were always too short, with no opportunity to go deeper.

The requests for media interviews began after an atheist complained to the province's human rights commission that Tremblay's prayer to an "all-powerful God" and the presence of a crucifix and a statue of the Sacred Heart infringed on his rights.
Well, I suppose all this prayer stuff infringed on the rights of any non-Catholics out there. You know, having to see Roman Catholic iconography on display in city hall along with a public demonstration of just what sort of privileged position Catholics still have in this province. Maybe they thought they had stumbled into a church and Tremblay was the priest in charge and were wondering if city hall was perhaps the next building over? I mean, other than being a blatant state endorsement of the Catholic religion and all...
"Quebec was once a very Catholic province," said Tremblay in an interview when he was in Ottawa recently giving a talk about his new book. "It needs to be re-evangelized."
Right. If only we could go back to those days before the Quiet Revolution. I've heard anecdotes about how the local priest would pop by every so often and count the kids and give mom hell if she wasn't about ready to pop another out soon. Oh glorious days!

Well, Tremblay also lives with God and is deeply in love with him. He's also absolutely certain that people who do not believe in (his) God could not possibly be happy. What he fails to recognize is that I don't need God to be happy when I have him to watch.
"It's really important for me to speak about God, to tell people all it is," he said. "It is fabulous to live with God. They miss something really important. I am sure it's not possible to be happy if you're not with God. Even if you don't love God, God is there, and it's difficult for you."

The best thing God has given him is faith, he said. "I live with Him. I am with Him. It's not just an idea. It's a love story. I speak about Him all the time."
In fact, like some kind of nightmarish Orwellian fascist future world, God is in everywhere, always there - when he eats, travels and presumably everything else.
"I know that when He said you have to pray all the time, when I was young I did not understand that. I said it's impossible to pray all the time, but today I know because in my mind all the time He's there," he said. "All the time: when I eat, when I travel. He's always in the back of my mind: always, always."

Always, always.  Ech! Sounds horrifying, doesn't it?


So anyway, filled with the Holy Spirit, or God, or both, or something, he hit the road for a barnstorm Jesus-preachin' city to city book tour! Can you say your mayor does this? C'mon, you've got to admit that he's pretty interesting.

Well, during one of his more emotional sermons talks in the basement of the Cathédrale de Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, the mayor called atheists and journalists who covered his court battles for prayers in City Council a bunch of imbeciles. I'll warn you that I was unable to find reference to this rather large affair here in Quebec anywhere in the English media. So translations are mine.
« Lorsque je fais face à n'importe qui, je me sens fort, car le Saint-Esprit m'accompagne. Je demande au Saint-Esprit de m'éclairer et il m'éclaire. Je rencontre tous ces journalistes et ces athées partout. À toutes les fois que je les rencontre, avant d'arriver, je me dis qu'ils ne connaissent rien. Et en partant, je me dis que c'est pire que ce que je pensais. Des cruches. Ils ne savent rien », dit-il lors de son allocution.

« Tu essaies de discuter avec ça. Avec les animateurs de la radio et de la télévision, y en font un combat. Mais qu'est-ce qu'ils ont à présenter? Nous on a le Christ. Qu'est-ce que tu peux dire du Christ? Comment peux-tu argumenter contre ça? La Sainte-Vierge, comment tu peux renier tout ça? », s'interroge le maire de Saguenay, avant de poursuivre son propos.
"When I face anyone, I feel strong, because the Holy Spirit is with me. I'll ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten me and He enlightens me. I meet all these journalists and atheists all over. Every time I meet them, before arriving, I tell myself that they know nothing.  And when leaving, I tell myself that it's worst than I had thought. Nincompoops (des cruches: "jugs"). They understand nothing," he said during his talk.

"You try talking with that. With radio and television hosts, they do battle. But what did they present? We have Christ. What can you say about Christ? How can your argue against that? The Holy Virgin, how can you deny all that?" asked the Mayor of Sagenay before continuing the talk.
Well here in secular Quebec, that started up a bit of firestorm, indeed. It's always a really good idea as a politician to get the press and media ticked off at you, isn't it? Oh, and they are quite annoyed.

True to form as a politician, Tremblay denies ever having said anything about this.
«Je n’ai jamais dit ça de ma sainte vie. Il faudrait être stupide pour dire que les journalistes sont des cruches»
I swear I never said that. You'd have to be stupid to say journalists are nincompoops. 
But then he was shown this video of him saying exactly that. Ha! Ha! Busted. So then he clarified and nuanced his "real" position.
«Ce que j'ai mentionné, c'est que dans le domaine religieux, ce n'est pas toujours facile. Les journalistes ne sont pas tous du même bord. Mais je n'ai jamais dit qu'ils étaient tous des cruches. Je vais possiblement demander une rétractation de la part du journaliste en question, surtout qu'il n'est jamais venu me voir après ma conférence pour me poser des questions», a conclu le maire de Saguenay.
"What I said was that, in the domain of religion, it's not always easy. Journalists are not all at the same level. But I never said they were all nincompoops. I will perhaps ask for a retraction from the journalist in question, especially since he never came to see me after the conference to ask follow-up questions" concluded the Mayor of Saguenay.
Those Godless journalists, just don't get religion. I suppose I might be able to agree somewhat with Tremblay that some of them are nincompoops, but for different reasons, of course. Perhaps they should read Tremblay's new book. Maybe the Supreme Court will read it too and see the light? The Pope likes his copy.

A bit later, once it was apparent that outright denial wouldn't work, Tremblay decided that he was totally cool after all with his statement and had no regrets whatsoever about what he said (about journalists).
«Je ne m'en souvenais vraiment pas. J'étais certain de ne pas l'avoir dit. Je veux faire une nuance. Les journalistes ne sont pas des cruches en général, mais en matière de religion, je trouve qu'ils sont moins bien préparés, qu'ils ne fouillent pas et ne vont pas en profondeur comme ils le font en politique.»

«Je ne regrette pas mes propos. Il n'y a même pas eu de réactions dans la salle. Dans le fond, je pense ce que j'ai dit pour ce qui est du domaine de la religion. Les journalistes ne sont pas renseignés, ne veulent pas l'être et ne vérifient pas», réplique le maire.
I really don't remember. I was certain of not saying it. I would like to make a clarification. Journalists are not nincompoops in general, but in religious matters, I find they are less well prepared, that they do not dig and do not go as deep as they do with politics.
"I do not regret my words. There was not even reactions in the room. At bottom, I think that I said is in the domain of religion(?). Journalists are not informed, do not wish to be and do not verify," answered the mayor.
Perhaps he was too wrapped up in the Spirit to notice what was coming out of his mouth. Or was it the Spirit talking through him?

Notice how he called journalists and atheists nincompoops? Notice the clear lack of nuance and clarification when it comes to them? Right. I did too.

I think Tremblay has found his calling here on Earth. He should go become a priest and get out of politics.

Friday, 4 April 2014

New Christian Children's Book All About The Mark of the Beast

Here's a creepy children's book talking about the Book of Revelation and the Mark of the Beast and an attractive (dare I say hot?) clean-shaven Jesus sitting on a lion with a bunch of kids who I assume are not his.

(source: Wonkette)

I found it in this story on Wonkette.  The author, Katherine Albrecht -- who has been a regular on the zany conspiracy theorist programme Coast to Coast -- believes we'll all be implanted with chips just like it says in the Bible and ... 666 and the acid trip that is the Book of Revelation ... etc.

Of course scaring the crap out of educating children about the impending rule of Satan on Earth is what every responsible Christian parent ought to do.
She especially wants to reach younger readers with her book I Won't Take the Mark, a Bible Book and Contract for Children to help kids understand the book of Revelation. 
"I am stunned at the number of people who have gone to VBS and summer camp and Bible school and Sunday school, and they've never even heard of the mark of the beast," Albrecht said. "The churches aren't preaching it; they're not discussing it."
Albrecht is pretty sure these new chips must be the Mark of the Beast -- and I suppose that barcodes, credit cards and social security numbers just haven't panned out. Process of elimination, right?

Well, as the irresponsible atheist that I am, I guess I'll just keep reading my son All My Friends Are Dead.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Kickstarter Project: "Freethinker's Book of Fables"

Concept art for book's cover. (source)

Matthew Brackney emailed me last week with information on his new Kickstarter campaign to illustrate a series of completely new modern-day fables for Freethinkers (also appropriate for those who may not consider themselves Freethinkers as well).
I've just started my own project, The Freethinker's Book of Fables, which is a children's/young adult book aimed at teaching moral lessons through reason. Specifically, I want it to deal with the dangers of group thought, traditions that go unexamined, and fear of reason.
At first glance, I agreed that group thought and unquestioned traditions are common-day occurrences. However, fear of reason didn't really strike me as a big problem until my mind went back to the disturbing messages creationists had for evolutionists (e.g. people who listen to science) after the Ken Ham - Bill Nye debate. After that, other examples came flooding in. I wonder if these creationists would have thought differently if they had an up to date book of fables that encouraged critical thought rather than  their own 2,000 year-old book of fables.

Here's the link to this project:

The Freethinker's Book of Fables
Though some fables are still popular and relevant there are many that are not. This project is an attempt to write and fully illustrate modern fables with themes that are based on morals reached through reason. The fables should help parents in instructing their children to question everything and make their own conclusions on a variety of topics but with fun-filled stories and quirky characters.
Yes, that's right, no "the Bible tells us so" or "it's tradition" here. This book aims to begin children on the path of thinking for themselves and using reason and ethics to underly their morality.

Here's my favourite synopsis of one of the proposed fables.
The Bronze King of the Squirrels 
A well fed community of squirrels lives in the park. They have an abundance of nuts, and life is good. A group of the squirrels attributes their prosperity to a great bronze statue recently erected in the center of the park. The great wise-squirrels insist that the statue is their god, and that a nut sacrifice is necessary to show homage.  When a disaster strikes and nuts are no longer plentiful, the wise-squirrels start blaming the squirrels that don’t sacrifice. More restrictive rules are enforced. The wise-squirrels demands more sacrifice, and insist that the squirrels spend more time in devotion to the statue. A small group of squirrels that have refused to sacrifice their nuts instead find a new source of food. Conflict develops between the two groups who must find a way to coexist.
And some of Matthew's artwork:

Bronze King Concept Art (source)
That isn't a commercial for rodent Snuggies. Those are squirrels giving up their nuts.

You can see a video describing this project at Matthew's Kickstarter page. It looks like around $4,000 has been raised (25%). Why not pitch a little in so they can get to 50%?

As a parent who's posted before about books for kids that encourage critical thinking, I know what I'll pick up for my little guy for this 5th birthday... The Freethinker's Book of Fables

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The First Five People Who E-Mail Me Win This Book!

Okay, who wants a free book? Around a month ago, I did an interview post with comedian and author Dr. Joe Wenke in celebration of his upcoming book on Catholicism, PAPAL BULL: An Ex-Catholic Calls Out the Catholic Church. Did anyone read that?

Well, I thought it was an interesting interview and I managed to coax five free copies of Joe's current book, You Got To Be Kidding! The Cultural Arsonist's Literal Reading of The Bible.

At the time, I devised an elaborate donation reward contest, sort of like a PBS pledge drive. You donate to my cause, Build A Humanist School In Uganda, and you could be entered into a draw for this free book.

But there was a snag, you see. Nobody who donated to the cause actually laid a steak for the book.

So now, listen, I have five books to give away. So the first five people to e-mail me at godlesspoutine@gmail.com - you win! And, well, if you feel like throwing a few bucks at building a Humanist school in Uganda then so much the better!

And go ahead and read my review of the book - I enjoyed it and I think you will too!

Edit 2013-09-07: I think I can only convince them to post the book to US and Canadian addresses. Sorry rest-of-world.


Children at Kasese Humanist School
I've started a fundraiser to help build classrooms on newly purchased land for the Kasese Humanist Primary School.

Please consider donating!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Papal Bull! - Interview With Joe Wenke & How You Can Win His Book

Dr Joe Wenke
Joe Wenke (joewenke.org).
Awhile back, I did a review of Joe Wenke's book You Got To Be Kidding : The Cultural Arsonist's Literal Reading of The Bible. I found the book funny and witty and recommended it. I gave it 4 out of 5 - "Worth it for a light, thought-provoking and quite amusing read!"

Joe was also kind enough to send me a couple copies of the book as well, which I sent out to some lucky blog readers here in Canada.

Well, Wenke is coming out with a new book later this summer called PAPAL BULL: An Ex-Catholic Calls Out the Catholic Church.

To me, the words Papal and Bull work well together in any phrase.

Like him, I'm also an ex-Catholic who finds calling out his old Church painful yet strangely cathartic. So this looks like something good - something meaty that I could really sink my teeth into, chew with satisfaction and swallow happily with no Catholic guilt whatsoever. Okay, perhaps a little lingering Catholic guilt, but that just makes it all the better.

Well, my own odd and creepy imagery aside, I've agreed to review Joe's new book when it comes out! But for now, Joe's agreed to answer a few questions I had about his childhood, opinions on the Church and how he describes his upcoming book.

If you want to know how you can win the book, just skip down to the bottom of the post! Now on to the interview!
What kind of Catholics are/were your parents? Were they staunch "pro life" Latin Mass traditionalists or more liberal? What was their reaction to you leaving Catholicism? Has/had your relationship with them changed? 
They’re both dead now. They were both very religious. My father was very rigid in his beliefs, so we clashed a lot. My mother was the most beautiful and purest person I’ve ever met. She accepted and embraced all of my ideas even though she disagreed. She thought I was very funny. At the same time there was a division between me and my parents over my beliefs, and there is today between me and my siblings with one or two exceptions.
Were you a devout Catholic back in the day? How much of a part did Catholicism play in your younger days? 
I was pure and idealistic when I was a little boy. We’re using a picture of me when I was seven dressed in my white First Communion suit as the author photo on the back cover of Papal Bull. It pretty much captures how I was back then. That was before I hit puberty and started questioning everything and dealing with the fact that the Catholic Church was all about being anti-sexual and warping young impressionable minds with suffering, sin and guilt.
Do you still catch remnants of your Catholic upbringing - either negative or positive? If so, what are some?

I still look at everything through a moral prism while at the same time thinking that life is absurd, so it’s a blend.
What are your opinions about the new Pope? His odd comments about atheists and gays.

I wrote two Huffington Post pieces about that. Some people are excited about the idea that he might be a reformer. He’s not. He supports all of the church’s traditional positions on the ordination of women, women’s reproductive rights, contraception and the status of the LGBTQ community. He just cleared the way for Pope John II to become a saint even though he was the single person most responsible for obstructing investigations into the church’s sex abuse scandal. He’s just a politician with a more pleasing personality than Benedict XVI, who was known as God’s Rottweiler” when he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith formerly known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.
You can find Joe's latest blog in the Huffington Post here, Pope Francis, the Reformer.
Given the constant scandal around the Church - corruption, sexual abuse cover ups, hypocrisy, etc. - why do you think people cling to the Church and do you think there is a way to wake people up to this so they can stop supporting this organization and move to a less dangerous form of religion or no religion at all? 
I’m trying to “disturb” people, in the Andre Gide sense about these issues. That’s what Papal Bull is all about. I think there is a movement toward humanism and skepticism about religion. At the same time, however, there remain hundreds of millions of people who embrace institutional religion and who use the Bible to justify their own bigotry, particularly against the LGBTQ community.
Do you think you will see the Church change its stance about homosexuality being sinful within your lifetime? 
No chance whatsoever.
Your upcoming book is called, PAPAL BULL: An Ex-Catholic Calls Out the Catholic Church. Will this be in the same lighthearted satirical style as You've Got To Be Kidding, or will you take a more serious tone with this piece? Why did you write the book and what (if any) are your hopes and goals for the effect it may have on people?

Papal Bull is very funny, but I would say it’s got a harder edge to it. I’m very detached about the Bible, so it’s easy for me to treat it with a kind of light touch, even though the point of view of You Got to Be Kidding! is very radical. In the case of the Catholic Church, I’m more emotionally involved, so the humor is more cutting. They’re really companion books. I’m delighted to say too that Gisele is also on the cover of Papal Bull. She is the angelic, beatific nun on the cover of You Got to Be Kidding. On the cover of Papal Bull, she is the evil and possessed transgender pope. Once again, they’re companion books. They go together, but the tonality is different in each case.
Again, my goal is to disturb a few people, while keeping it funny. Serious but funny.
Thanks to Dr Joe Wenke for answering my questions and providing some copies of his book for me to distribute!

How You Can Get A Copy Of Joe's Current Book

Cover of book "You got to be kidding" by Joe Wenke.
Gisele Xtravaganza, successful fashion
model graces the book cover. Read the
interesting backstory about this here.
Okay, I'll be honest here. I'm trying to use these books to generate donations to the Humanist school in Uganda I have been fundraising for.

So it's sort of like a hostage crisis, except it's books not humans or pets in danger and you won't need to get a second mortgage on the house to free the hostages. But I do hope it carries some of the same urgency and guilt, just some, just enough to motivate you to make a donation.

So I have five print books to give away. To qualify you can:
  1. Make a donation of any amount to the fundraiser to build new classrooms for the school at Build a Humanist School in Uganda. You do not need to be a Facebook member to donate and I hear that in a day or so there will be no reliance on Facebook at all on the site. One dollar, five dollars, 100 dollars, no matter the amount.
  2. Email me with your name (I will keep it confidential for you if you like) and the amount you donated at godlesspoutine@gmail.com.
In one month, I will award the books in the following manner:

One book will go to the largest donor. If there is a tie then I will draw for the winner. Don't worry, I wont split the book up and send bits of it to the winners, that would be abominable.

One book will be won in a draw where everyone has a single entry. So no matter how much anyone donated, they all have a 1/N chance of winning where N is the number of participants.

Three books will be won in a draw where everyone will have the same number of tickets as dollars they donated. I'll need to write a computer script to do this. So the more you donate, the more you increase your odds.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Grieving For The Living: Effects of Disownment in Adulthood

(source: http://grievingfortheliving.com)
So today was Easter.  Of course, I don't care a jot about this holiday anymore.  Frankly, the only part of Easter I ever liked as a child was the chocolate surprises in the morning.  The zombie Jesus bit freaked me out to no end as a kid.

But there is one thing that does bother me about today.  Something is missing. When I got home from taking my son to the park I looked at the message machine.  Zero messages.  All today I looked at that machine half hoping to find a message on it from my mom.  Nothing.  I don't care about Easter, but I can't help but feel sad about my parents, who never ever call.  When I call them the conversation is also often stilted and unnatural.  My mother doesn't seem to want to talk to me.

Last year at this time my only interaction with my mom was her comment about Obama being a force for evil in the world. Nothing more.  She made this followup shortly after posting Mel Gibson's crazy Passion movie on her Facebook.  I suppose it was better than this year's utter silence.

For this past Christmas I got nothing but a rosary in the mail with a pamphlet with directions on how to say the rosary from a crazy fundamentalist Catholic group.  Written on the paper was my only actual Christmas message. Merry Christmas, Love Mom. Pray the Rosary to save your soul.  Love Mom.

A couple of weeks ago they sent a present for my son from California - I don't even know when they went there - without any kind of note.  No words. Communication lines are cut.  Pray the Rosary to save your soul.  Repeating words ... as if from a ghost.

These periodic messages, as if from a ghost, are what interviewer Jacob Fortin described Bridget R. Gaudette's experience with the parents who disowned her.  In the latest episode of The Good Atheist, she recounted  the all too familiar tale of her mother who calls her every six months to speak for only a few minutes and ask if she is pregnant and whether she is still an atheist. Just like mine - Pray the Rosary to save your soul.

By strange coincidence this podcast was next on my playlist tonight as I thought of my own disownment issues.

Bridget Gaudette is a social worker and the Director of Development & Marketing at the Foundation Beyond Belief.  She is also the author of an upcoming book on adults who are disowned by their families, Grieving for the Living: Effects of Disownment in Adulthood.  Really, this book is for me.

In her about page, Bridget tells her own story.  Part of it resonated with me.
I wasn’t able to discuss politics or philosophy or any other complex subject matter with them. No, my parents aren’t dead, but I grieve for them just the same.
I too wasn't able to discuss these topics even before I was disowned.  My dad kicked me out of the house one day because I told him I liked the show M*A*S*H!

Like Bridget, I grieve the loss of my parents and I think this process is very similar to grieving the dead.  I get angry at my parents for discarding me, for shutting me out and making themselves little better than dead when they are still alive.  What could make them do such a thing when they are not actually dead? It is a source of frustration and anger as well and I find myself jealous of those who do have parents.  In a way, it would be easier if they weren't still around somewhere - always just a phone call or mouse click away.

Bridget's book was successfully funded through a Kickstarter project and I look forward to reading it.  It came from momentum gained off the powerful response she received from one of her blog posts, Mama, I'd Like To Introduce Myself.
Hi Mama, I’m Bridget Gaudette, your 34-year-old daughter. We haven’t talked much the last dozen or so years. I know it’s because I rejected my religious upbringing and you felt you had to choose between god and me. I was young then.. just figuring things out in life and I really needed you. It doesn’t make me mad anymore. I just miss you. It occurred to me today that you don’t know ME. You probably still think of me as the aloof and angsty teenage girl who thought she knew-it-all, but in reality didn’t know a damn thing.
The book's website includes a survey you can take.  Submissions to the survey will be included in the book.  I'm sure it will be therapeutic for abandoned ones like me to be able to read these stories, to know I'm not alone in this.
A portion of our project includes the collection of data and stories from people who, like us, have been disowned from their families. If you have been disowned, help us in our efforts to publish this work by taking our survey, found here
I'm looking forward to this book and any support groups that may come out of it.  It's hard being rejected by the very people who should love you the most in this world.  It's like the very foundation of who you are and where you come from gets pulled out from under you.  Especially around the holidays.

There are still opportunities to back Gaudette's book on her Kickstarter project.  Nathan Phelps has even offered to do the introduction.  Why not donate $15 (or more!) to become a backer and get an electronic copy?  I know I will!




Change Note 2013-04-02 7:29AM EDT : Changed 'Fred Phelps' to 'Nathan Phelps' after Bridget Gaudette very rightly pointed out the error.  Can't believe I let that one through the re-read!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Theology And Sanity: The Confusion Sets In

The proof's in the pudding.  Please, give me some
pudding! And after your done proving the statements 
could I have a proper definition of what the statements
were in the first place?
Edit: I modified the title of this post.  It was originally Theology And Sanity: The Confusion Sets In - Part I.

Awhile back, Catholic blogger Stacy Transancos over at Accepting Abundance suggested I read part of Frank Sheed's Theology and Sanity in order to better understand this statement of hers:
If reason is real, then it is as inconceivable that the Big Bang is the primordial beginning of the universe as it is inconceivable that a circle can be squared. That is — it is impossible.
I went ahead and bought the book.  I've been on a theological kick lately.

I've already talked about the first chapter, Theology And Sanity - Part I, Chapter 1: The World Through Church-Tinted Glasses.  Now it's time to tackle chapter 2, Examination of Intellect - unfortunately, I forgot my church-tinted glasses.

This chapter begins with a multi-pronged attack on imagination.

(i) How imagination can hinder intellect
One of the results of the Fall of Man is that imagination has got completely out of hand; and even one who does not believe in that "considerable catastrophe", as Hilaire Belloc calls it, must at least admit that imagination plays a part in the mind's affairs totally out of proportion to its merits, so much out of proportion indeed as to suggest some long-standing derangement in man's nature.
Too much imagination - not enough good Catholic thinking.  That's basically what much of the first part of this chapter is about - how imagination acts like a faulty firewall.  It either accepts untrue ideas out of hand without giving the intellect a chance to vet them or else it discards perfectly true ideas that it's unable to picture.   More on this later, but first, remember how I pointed out that this book tends to personify inanimate objects in a sort of creepy way?
The first difficulty in the way of the intellect's functioning well is that it hates to function at all, at any rate beyond the point where functioning begins to require effort.  The result is that when any matter arises which is properly the job of the intellect, then either nothing gets done at all, or else the imagination leaps in and does it instead.
Sheed does this all the time.  I can see the intellect as a functioning of a brain, but I cannot see it as a disembodied (or rather disembrained) floaty-ghostie-thingy.  Thus, statements like the above mean little more than people don't like to reason - they would rather go on flights of fancy.  (You know, like Catholicism).  If that's what it's supposed to mean then fine, but let's drop all the spooky language.

The book goes on to say serious contemplation can be derailed by intruding thoughts of food, coffee and sex - watching imagination's pictures flash across the mind.  I have no arguments here, but sometimes, the brain does needs some downtime.  I get some of my best inspiration sitting in a room and listening to music or the rippling of of a stream.

The imagination discards truths it cannot itself "picture"

A second strike against imagination is that it is a censor upon what the intellect shall accept.
Tell a man, for instance, that his soul has no shape or size or color or weight, and the chances are that he will retort that such a thing is inconceivable.  If we replay that it is not inconceivable but only unimaginable, he will consider that we have conceded his case-- and will proceed to use the word "unimaginable" with the same happy finality as the word "inconceivable".
Sheed sees imagination as the power we have of making mental pictures of the material universe.  So the imagination can only reproduce that which we have seen from the material world - sight, smell, touch, taste etc.  Meanwhile, the intellect has access to concepts that are presumably beyond the imagination.  Sheed is saying the imagination can act as a Cerberus and stop any ideas which it cannot itself vet first by picturing it.

You know, I have experienced the same thing trying to come to grips with Einstein's theory of Special and General Relativity - and forget about 11-dimensional M-Theory.  Religion doesn't have a monopoly on this sort of thing.  Science of late has concepts that bend and break the imagination because they are so far from our everyday experiences.

But the theories of Relativity have been tested over and over again for the past century - independently and reproducibly.  Experiments have demonstrated outcomes predicted by these theories, as crazy as they sound to our imaginations.  Likewise with Quantum theory - 10 Real-world Applications of Quantum Mechanics - we have real-world applications which help bolster its credibility.  As for String Theory - well there is still much doubt about it in the Physics community and this is honestly admitted by both boosters and detractors.

It seems that in Science the more unimaginable something is the more intellectual proof must be offered to increase its certainty.  But this doesn't mean that imaginable things get a free pass.

Remember the misconception that heavier things fall at a greater rate than lighter things?  This is completely imaginable but scientists didn't sit on their laurels - they still experimented to confirm the hypothesis.  It turned out to be false and they had the evidence and math to prove it.

I wonder what real-world evidence Sheed can provide for his theory?

The basic thesis of Sheed's argument is that matter can be imagined and is thus imaginable and hence can be confirmed by the imagination.  While things that are immaterial (read: spiritual) cannot be imagined (pictured) by the imagination and hence can only be examined and confirmed by the intellect.

Hence, Sheed feels the need to distinguish spirit from matter.
Spirit, we say, is the being that knows and loves; and this is a positive statement of its activity, what is does.  But we can say something also of its nature, what it is.  Briefly, spirit is the being which has its own nature so firmly in its grasp that it can never become some other being.
What...
the... 
Hell?  

More ghostie language.  You know, Einstein's proof was a tad more rigorous than this - and I was actually able to understand his Special Relativity.  It all sounds a lot like the kind of proofs I saw while reading the Greek metaphysicians from 2,000 years ago.  Wait a minute, that's where the Church likely got all this anyway.

I'm guessing the gist of it is that spirits don't have any parts so they are somehow permanent (unless God destroys them), while all other things are made of atoms and molecules and stuff - so they are non-permanent.
What has parts can occupy space -- space indeed may be thought of as the arrangement matter makes to spread its parts in.  It is from the occupation of space that those properties flow which affect the senses.  That is why matter does.  That is why spirit does not.
... silence ...

I hope more in on the way later in the book.

I can vaguely recall the Greeks being obsessed with extension and immutability.  Change is bad and it's not the sort of thing you want spiritual things to be doing - if it's changing then it must not be perfect (finished, complete).  Perfect things are finished changing - that's the definition of perfect... OKAY?

Apparently it's the parts that occupy space, (1 ... n parts, I guess).  Something that has zero parts does not occupy space - hence it is immaterial and doesn't exist materially.  Okay, that's pretty non-controversial.  But then apparently spirit is one of these immaterial things that knows and loves.  Where's the proof for that?

Anyway, the take home information here seems to be that the reality of any spiritual statement must be tested by the intellect, not by the imagination.  And apparently the way the intellect can test a statement for veracity is to to ensure there are no logical contradictions.
Thus the first test of any statement must be tested by the intellect, not by the imagination.  The intellect's word of rejection is "inconceivable".  This means that the statement proffered to the intellect contains a contradiction within itself, so that no concept can be formed embodying the statement. 
Sure, this always should be a first test.  But one could make any number of non-contradictory false statements.  The pudding's really in the proof.

I need pudding!

There's too much craziness in this chapter to deal with it all in a single post.  More on the evils of the imagination from chapter 2 to come.

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