Category: Blog

Was DaVinci an Atheist? Retelling Church History on the Starz Channel

Posted on July 8th, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. 1 Comment

I’m loving DaVinci’s Demons – a new TV series about the life of the young Leonardo Da Vinci. From the first episode they managed to throw in a ton of intrigue and character twists.

The only thing is, this brash and daring, charming and handsome, half-insane genius almost certainly didn’t exist.

It’s hard to know what DaVinci believed, because he had to be secretive his whole life (hence his language codes and secret notebooks, etc.) This was a period when blasphemers and heretics could be locked up, tortured or executed. It’s doubtful that DaVinci would ever openly defy the church.

This is especially true, because he was employed by many churches to paint religious art.

Riaro, the agent of the Pope, confronts DaVinci and asks him to join the church’s cause.

“What’s NEXT?” (the desire for knowledge) is the question all men ask, says Riaro…

“Between the base animal and the enlightened man’s reach for God lies knowledge. You just want to know what’s next. I do to.”

“That’s not what you want,” says DaVinci, “You want to SUPPRESS knowledge.”

“No… I want to administer it. Someone has to. Why not an agent of God?”

“Well if God exists, surely he intends his knowledge to be shared by all.” … Read More »


Does Religious Freedom Protect Torture? SyFy’s new Series “Defiance”

Posted on April 23rd, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. 5 comments

I’m watching Defiance, Episode 2 – a new SyFy channel production about a post-apocalyptic earth city filled with mixed alien races. One of the aliens communities is torturing one of its own for cowardice in battle. The new sheriff, a typical blonde American cowboy, stops the ceremony at gunpoint.

The alien in question begs to let them finish his torture, which is necessarily to clean him of sins so that his soul will reach absolution, and also to redeem his family. It’s a not-so-foreign religious idealism which believes pain is purgative. But the cowboy won’t listen – until the mayor weighs in and allows them to continue their rite.

“Can you honestly tell me that what you think they are doing is RIGHT?” he whines.

“No, but it is NECESSARILY” she replies.

Which side are you on?

At first I was pissed at the sheriff for sticking his nose into the private affairs of a foreign culture and passing judgment on their religious traditions. What if, for example, a foreign lawmaker walked into your daughter’s first communion.

“You’re FORCING her to drink the blood of 2000 year old man! That’s barbaric!”

“But please sir, I need to do this, drinking the blood will wash away my sins!”

Do … Read More »


Was Jesus a Fraud? The Wizard of Oz, Easter 2013, and the power of Faith

Posted on April 1st, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. 3 comments

I’m watching the 2013 “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

I’ve been excited about the movie for a long time; what a rich theme to build a story into. Disappointingly it’s mostly a kid’s movie. Not the smart and mature kid’s movie that the original Wizard of Oz was, but the cheesy and silly kid’s movie that is aimed at the largely vapid youth of today.

But nearing the end of the movie, I’m recognizing the classic pieces of the Jesus myth: Oz (James Franco) appears to have fallen – run away and abandoned them first, then been struck down in his hot air balloon – everybody gives up hope, the land is controlled by darkness and evil.

The wicked witch yells, “Your prophecy is dead! Your wizard is dead!”

But then (surprise!) Oz is not really dead! He returns in light and power to defeat darkness!

“Wow, you fooled everybody,” says the flying monkey. “That was your greatest trick yet.”

Oz puts on a technological deception, with smoke and mirrors, to fool the witches into thinking he is REALLY the Wizard of Prophecy. “Thanks to you, I’ve shed my mortal form. I’m more powerful than ever. I’m invincible!”

“I defy you” says the ugly witch (stand-in for … Read More »


The link between Paradise Lost and YA post-apocalyptic fiction

Posted on March 6th, by Derek Murphy in Book Reviews, Books, Modern Culture. No Comments

I’m working on a paper for an Apocalypse conference in Romania the details are fuzzy, but I wanted to make some notes to come back to later.

In short, the majority of contemporary post-apocalyptic YA novels are about Revolution. Unlike classic dystopian fiction like 1984 or even the more modern Never Let Me Go show a reality that can’t be escaped from. Resistance is really futile, if not only because systems of bio-power have nullified any possibility of Real Freedom.

For decades theorists have been commenting on the total inability (and yet the desperate need) to seek out freedom in order to get to a real, true act – one not simply a chain of causal reaction from within the power structure/system.

Foucault concluded revolution is necessary – even if impossible – only in the act of resistance and rebellion is there the possibility of Truth. Deleuze and Guattari talk about “deterritorialization”; Badiou talks about “courage” and “fidelity to the Truth Event.”

Of course we could go back earlier, when theorists were actually still talking about real, political revolution. Camus’ The Rebel or Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and many more had the seeds of these theories already.

Things seem to come together in Slavoj Zizek, who’s … Read More »


Utopia: Is Mass Sterilization the Answer to OverPopulation?

Posted on February 19th, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. 12 comments

I’m watching Utopia, Season One Episode 5. A small band of unlikely heroes are chasing down a conspiracy. They have one of the badguys tied up to a chair and are asking him questions about a dubious new super-vaccine called Janus, created along with a flu-epidemic panic. The gang thinks the bad guys are trying to eliminate a certain race.

Not so.

“We are now past 7 billion on this planet. When I was born it was a little over two. Food prices are rising, oil is ending, when our resources end in 20 years, given everything we know of our species, do you really think we’re going to just, share? Janus affects 90 to 90% of the human population, leaving only one in 20 fertile. We predict the population will plateau at 500 million in just over 100 years. By then, normal breeding rates should resume, but on a planet that will feel… empty.”

“You’re fucking insane.”

“You accuse us of being genocidal. Not acting is genocidal. 1/3 of the world’s farmland is now useless due to soil deprivation, and we keep producing more mouths to feed. What’s your solution to that, energy efficient light bulbs? Not to do something is to condemn … Read More »


What kind of people are atheists? Behind the scenes at an atheist conference

Posted on November 21st, by Derek Murphy in Atheism, Modern Culture. No Comments

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

Posted on November 12th, by Derek Murphy in Atheism, Modern Culture. 11 comments

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 »