Monday, September 20, 2010

Profound Spiritual Experiences and Tricks Of The Brain

I was just listening to the podcast edition of the latest episode of The Atheist Experience. For those of you who don't know, The Atheist Experience is a call-in cable-access program that airs on a roughly weekly basis, hosted and sponsored by The Atheist Community of Austin (Texas). I was just listening to a caller, who sounded like a very nice but slightly ignorant lady talk about some profound spiritual experiences she had while in meditative states, and I thought I would share my own.

Yes, when I was around 20 or so I had a Profound Religious Experience. I had it while meditating. At the time I was meditating regularly every day, just settling my thoughts down and counting my breaths. It was very relaxing. A book about meditation that I owned offered a meditative exercise. I was to move from a meditative space right into talking to myself in my head. The book assured me that eventually I would start answering myself and that other voices would join in and I would be able to have a lively conversation with myself. Well, that did happen. There were at least three or four of us in there and then this demonically deep voice began growling at me in a language I couldn't understand! I was frightened and intrigued. I wanted to know what it had to say and who it was. I asked it to make itself understood and it only responded with the same arcane grunts and growls but it showed me images! Pictures entered my head! Fire. A volcano. Deep within the volcano, an embryo. I felt that the embryo was me and that I was safe in the volcano's womb.

I came out of it quickly, but couldn't stop thinking about it. What could it mean? Who was the voice? I had discovered something profound and spiritually significant and I couldn't wait to tell my friends about it. When I met up with my friends later I told one of them, a lady that I had a lot of respect for, and she shut me down in a way that I'm completely grateful for now. She suggested that my subconscious was giving me something to obsess over, something to hold my interest. There was no demon, or deep one, or elder god giving me secret messages, just my own brain trying to liven things up a bit.

That makes so much more sense than something otherworldly. No one has ever reliably seen a demon, or a god, or an angel, or any other such thing, but we have seen brains. Lots of them, and we know the power they have to generate woo.


Christian Steenhorst-Baker

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Comparisons to the nazis are becoming dreary.

So I guess Pope Benedict is visiting Great Britain. Good for him, good for them, whatever. I've also heard that while he was there he met with a female pastor of the Church of England and had discussions on the reunification of the two churches. I sure hope that falls through. The one thing the Catholic church shouldn't have at this point is more power.

I've also heard that he gave a speech about militant atheists, us nasty atheists, and drew parallels between us and the nazis.

Really, Ratzinger? Really?

I mean, putting aside for a moment that Hitler clearly wasn't an atheist, and putting aside the fact that there is no over-arching atheist organization which may be considered culpable, and putting aside all the historical evidence for who Hitler was, what he wanted, what he did, what he might have done if he had had the chance, can we please talk about the modern day and our inability to stop evoking him?

Sometimes it seems like whenever a person runs out of solid, logical arguments, Hitler and the Nazis manifest. All you have to do is link someone's name to Hitler and that someone then has to distance himself from him, leaving the accuser to feel like he's scored a good point.

Can we stop this, please? Can we, just for a while, put this cheap shot to rest? Hitler did a lot of things, both malevolent and benign. He authorized and orchestrated the murders of millions of people. He also commissioned the autobahn and made sure the trains ran on time. Are we to avoid highways in general and the autobahn specifically lest we become linked to murderous anti-semites? Are we to petition railway lines to deliberately fail to meet their scheduled stops in a timely manner lest we somehow reap the benefits of the blood of the innocent on our hands? It's like Richard Dawkins said, Hitler also had a mustache. Shall we ban them?

Besides, this whole pronouncement was a bit hard to swallow coming from someone who was actually IN the Hitler Youth. Let me say that again. Ratzinger, when he was a wee lad, was in the Hitler Youth. Mind you, he didn't have any choice. It was compulsory for all boys, I think, so I'm not at all suggesting that he has any of that blood on his hands. That would be foolish. But it's also foolish to claim that the Nazis were atheistic, having been in the center of things himself!

Alright, now back to culpability. Ratzinger wants everyone to know that atheism must be resisted, otherwise it leads to the Third Reich. One of his cronies said that atheists should apologize for Hitler. If you scroll down, he's not actually serious. What he says is this:

Why should atheists today apologize for the crimes of others? At one level, it makes no sense: apologies should only be given by the guilty. But on the other hand, since the fanatically anti-Catholic secularists in Britain, and elsewhere, demand that the pope—who is entirely innocent of any misconduct—apologize for the sins of others, let the atheists take some of their own medicine and start apologizing for all the crimes committed in their name. It might prove alembic.

Well, Mr. Smartypants, (Bill Donohue) the big difference is twofold. One is a matter of guilt, the other is a matter of institution. Institutionally speaking, there's no International Church of Atheism, no one organization that claims it is the one true atheist organization with a grand leader that we all look up to. We're a fractious bunch and we actively resist the idea of a central leadership. The Catholic Church on the other hand, is most definitely a gigantic organization, the oldest representation of Christianity, and, of course, defenders of the "One True Faith"tm. It can be held responsible because it is an institution. On the guilt issue, I would be surprised if any atheist today had anything to do with the Holocaust. I'm sure plenty of modern-day skinheads don't believe in god, but they're all pretty young. We didn't murder the jews. We have nothing to apologize for. Neither does the Catholic Church, mind. They didn't murder anyone, and certainly didn't prop Hitler up as a good Catholic (though they didn't exactly condemn the persecution of the Jews). But you know what Ratzinger did do? What he personally did? He ordered Cardinals and Bishops and everyone under him to cover up systematic raping of children by clergy. He denies it ever happened. He calls the victims of clergy enemies of the Church, and dismisses their accusations as 'malicious gossip'.

And that, Mr. Donohue, he can fucking answer for!


Christian Steenhorst-Baker.

P.S. Mr. Donohue? Fuck you, too.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Okay, I'm only going to say this once - part 1

Rape jokes aren't funny.

They're not.

Stop it.