I got up early the second day of the conference, took a coffee and a pastry from the hotel lobby, and headed to the convention hall in Springfield Missouri. There was a large crowd outside today. I smiled, eager to meet new friends – until I realized they were Christian protesters.
Skepticon describes itself as the “Largest Free Conference on Skepticism” in the nation, and it has been a well-known atheist convention for several years.
I’d flown in the day before and driven down from Kansas City, passing through pleasant countryside, old white houses, and lots of bible colleges.
As someone with a background in theology and comparative literature, my writing and art focuses on religious themes without actually being reverent; in fact my playful paintings and research into historical religious literature and mystery cult traditions inevitably comes across as blasphemous.
It’s difficult to share my work with theists, who get uncomfortable, and so I’ve begun to make connections with atheists communities. But this was my first time actually participating in an atheist event. As somewhat of an outsider, I surveyed the gathering with the detached eye of a social scientist.
From the protesters outside, you would think atheists were dangerous, or evil, or violent, … Read More »
Satan is Good, God is Bad: our shifting moral compass and why atheists are throwing the Devil under the bus
I went to Skepticon 5 expecting a group of heretics that would get a kick out of my inversed reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which claims that Satan is the hero of the story (which was actually the mainstream reading before it became the “mistaken reading”, and is now coming into vogue again by top Milton scholars).
I was surprised to find that Satan makes atheists uncomfortable. Atheists already have a huge image/perception problem, with the religious proclamations that people can’t be good without God and that therefore all atheists are “evil.” Christians already think of atheists as nearly synonymous with Satanists; hence atheists have an uncomfortable relationship with Satanists and don’t want to be associated with the Devil.
Even more so than the term “Atheist”, “Satanist” has an immediately powerful negative connotations. And on the one hand, I definitely think that those people who wish to create a secular political and social force big enough to stand up to religious groups that are trying to make their faith-based beliefs govern the private lives of the rest of us, need to think about how they are perceived because it does impact the message being shared.
But there is still a very good reason … Read More »
Halloween is for everybody, but it seems like atheists and non-religious people would particularly enjoy dressing up as devils, monsters and witches (role-modelling their true heroes on the only socially acceptable day for it). It’s also an opportunity, depending on your level of daring, to make a funny, obnoxious or controversial irreligious statement with a loud costume choice. But what are you going to wear?
I searched for Atheist Halloween ideas for awhile but couldn’t find much – I’d like to develop this post into something longer with lots of pictures, so I’m sponsoring a Halloween Costume Contest: $50 to best costume idea. Just send me a picture of you in your costume.
Here are some ideas to get started (I’m sure you can come up with better ideas).
1) Biblical Characters
It’s pretty easy to dress up as Biblical characters. You can be Moses, Jesus or God. Or you can choose someone more interesting, like Jeremiah (eating shit because God told him so) or Jonah (with an enormous whale around you.) It would be fun to be King David, carrying Goliath’s head around, maybe escorted by a Harem, or Salome with the head of John the Baptist (a couple’s costume?), or Lot with … Read More »
Is Kevin Costner an Atheist? The Religious Implications of the History Channel’s “Hatfields and McCoys”
Is Kevin Costner an Atheist? This thought crossed my mind a few times while watching the History Channel’s 3 part special “Hatfields and McCoys”.
While based on a historical family feud, a few key themes in the plot and dialogue seemed specifically focused on the relationship between violence and religion. So what exactly does the mini-series have to say about religious belief? Let’s find out.
Kevin Costner plays Anse Hatfield, opposite Bill Paxton who plays Randall McCoy.
The crucial break between the two men, who had been friends, comes when Hatfield decides to quit the battlefield and become a deserter during the civil war. The battle lines are drawn between familiar sources of conflict between the religious and irreligious: Hatfield represents freedom, business, progress, expansion. He makes his own rational choices, forges the land with his will power and hard work. He’s the entrepreneur.
McCoy symbolizes duty, devotion to God. He stays to fight the war till the final end, coming home a much changed man. Interestingly, the law is on McCoy’s side – a relative lawyer is stereotypically cast as a sneaky, evil, pasty son of a bitch (who tries to cheat Hatfield out of his property).
Although both families have jerks and idiots … Read More »
I’m surprised I didn’t see it before. I’ve been working on a research book about Satan as a revolutionary hero: a tradition of liberal rebellion against totalizing and corrupt government, starting from Prometheus, going through Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, the Modernist and Romantic Movements, ending in today’s Super Heroes.
I’ve already considered contemporary revolutions as part of this same tradition: I can prove that The American Revolution, the Free Rights, Gender Equality, Racial Tolerance and all other movements of liberation and progress are indebted to the Satanic tradition, rather than a religious one.
Hackers shutting down websites and taking on huge corporations, using technical skills, and organizing mass protests are also firmly on Satan’s side of the line. (Technology has always been associated with Prometheus and Satan – who give humans these skills and knowledge against God’s wishes).
But for some reason, I hadn’t until today recognize the importance of the Guy Fawkes mask, which was used in the movie “V for Vendetta” and has since become a symbol of rebellion and revolution – something for protesters to wear into battle to protect their identities from the persecution of authorities.
Guy Fawkes is Satan
I don’t need a whole entire book to prove this point … Read More »
Oops, it’s 2:56AM here in Taiwan and I was just reminded that September 30th is International Blasphemy Day. Luckily, since most of the world is half a day behind, I still have time. I decided to celebrate by dusting off this post about Emily Dickinson I’ve been meaning to publish for about a year.
It vexes me to see Christians and other religious people quote Emily Dickinson’s Poetry in support of their faith, when she spent so much time, irony and wit mocking her religious contemporaries with blasphemous poetry. She refused evangelical conversion point-blank, and denied Christianity in favor of a naturalistic (Pagan) spirituality. Some may claim that she is not “an Atheist” but rather deeply devote – but this trespasses over her very cutting criticisms and mockery of Jesus and the Christian God, whom she saw as a cruel tyrant. There is also a tendency in literature studies to avoid the straight-forward anti-religious tone of the poems and interpret Dickinson’s poetry more imaginatively.
Dickinson is actually pretty easy to understand and appreciate – unless you disagree with her. Then suddenly she becomes “cryptic” and “mysterious” and “difficult”. Giant edifices of literary theory have been constructed around the idea that Emily is hiding … Read More »
“I just need to know how he does it.”
This is the consuming passion of Psychologist Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) as she investigates a world-renowned blind psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), who has resurfaced after decades for a final appearance.
The movie builds and builds, with supernatural attacks leading up to the death of Margaret. Her partner Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) takes over the case, determined to solve the mystery.
“Forget about Silver, there are certain things it’s better not to know,” says his girlfriend Sally (Elizabeth Olsen).
“I just need to know,” Tom responds.
At this point in the movie, the implied moral seems to be this: that rigorous skeptics and scientists will be destroyed and their skepticism will consume them; they will break like waves against the paranormal rocks of our mysterious universe.
Margaret and Tom seem to be the fanatics, trying to use logic to solve the incredible paranormal power that they can’t accept as real.
Silver, meanwhile, has come back to prove to the world that his powers are real:
“It’s a matter of absolute priority that science begin to learn all it can about these forces. We can’t wait any longer. The aim of my public appearance is just to generate … Read More »