Bill Maher On Noah’s Ark, God, and Religion

This aired last year, but I am only just seeing it now.  Holy shitballs!  When people believe the Old Testament literally, I have to wonder what they are smoking.  Maher does a great job at pointing out the absurdity in the story of Noah.  Great fun!

God and Don Rickles

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So let’s, for the sake of argument, agree right now that there is definitely a God.  Now let’s also agree that he created everything that ever was and ever will be.  He created all life and all mater.  He created everything from the stars in the sky to the lowliest microscopic life form on earth.  Are you going to tell me that an all powerful and all knowing supreme being, the kind of which we have just described, didn’t also create humor?

As an agnostic who doesn’t claim to have any secret information about what happens when we die, I don’t pretend to know if there is a God or an afterlife of any kind.  If I make a joke about religion, I don’t see how it can cause any harm except to the people that are too tight assed to laugh at themselves.  If there is a humorless spiteful Old Testament God, well then trust me, a few jokes aren’t going to save me from eternal hellfire.  If there is no God, then there is no hell and therefor nothing to worry about.

But again, if there is a God, can you tell me that He/She invented everything in the universe except humor?  Almost everyone loves Don Rickles.  People actually ask to be made fun of by him, as it is seen as an honor.  Do people have thicker skin or a better sense of humor than an all knowing and all powerful being?  Is God really such an egoist that he can’t take a couple jokes by a temporary being of mere flesh and blood?   Could God not handle the Don Rickles treatment?

The more you think about the God that seems to dictate the lives of fundamentalists, who really worship a God much closer to the vengeful humorless God of the Old Testament than the more loving one of the New, the more ridiculous and absurd it becomes.  And the absurd and the ridiculous are a great jumping off point for jokes.

Random Thoughts During Exodus: Gods and Kings

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Exodus: Gods and Kings Review

About a week ago I stated that a negative review, of which I have linked to above, made me want to go see Ridley Scott’s new movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings.  The reviewer was trying to slag the film, but instead made it sound so over-the-top that it looked like fun.  What follows below is not my own review of the film.  Whether or not you like this movie depends on how much you love batshit insanity, actors that chew up the scenery, and ridiculous spectacle.  I love all those things in films, so I loved this one.  However, if those things aren’t your deal, then you might not like it.  Here are ten thoughts while watching Exodus: Gods and Kings:

(I should add that there are some spoilers, but given that most of you know the story of Moses, I don’t think that this will ruin the movie for you.)

1.  Unless a planet explodes in a sci-fi movie, there have never been more random human and animal deaths onscreen.

2.  God is played as a petulant psychopathic child.  If you think of all the smiting he does in the Old Testament, it is kind of fitting!

3.  You don’t hire Christian Bale unless at some point he is going to scream with incredible intensity.  He delivers, many many times.  At least twice for every dollar that I spent.  I got my money’s worth.  Even when he isn’t screaming, he plays Moses with a quiet intensity that lets you know another insane outburst is coming.

4.  I don’t think that a river full of giant crocodiles eating thousands of people is in the Bible, but it sure is an entertaining addition.

5.  I know some people were complaining that most of the main characters were cast as white.  However, there is really no male in the film that doesn’t resort to senseless bloodshed at some point, not even God, especially not God, so maybe it’s best to sit this one out on the protest front.

6.  Do people really believe that this story happened?  If so they have lost their minds.  This story is about as realistic as Conan the Barbarian.

7.  The Hebrews cannot fight the Egyptians face to face because they lack superior numbers.  Because of this they resort to attacking the Egyptian people by blowing up their food supply, etc.  In a sense the Hebrews are “terrorizing” the Egyptian populace.

8.  Moses gets a victory bang at the end when he is reunited with his hot wife.

9.  Why would anyone want to worship a god that kills every first born child, including many babies?  Even Moses ain’t down with that.

10.  Is someone cooking a dog in the background?

Extra credit:  The sharks eating a dead horse in the Red Sea after the big action sequence is over was totally unnecessary, and yet totally welcome.

My friends and I were laughing the entire way through this movie, but more with it than at it.  I got the sense Ridley Scott, who is a really intelligent guy, knew what he was doing.  This movie, as insane as it was, was not without ideas.  If you really think about many of the stories in the Old Testament, you can’t deny that they are full of completely insane over-the-top violence.  Even if the movie changed certain things, which it most certainly did, it did do a great job of showing that aspect of the Bible.  If you want to see a movie that doesn’t neglect Old Testament vengeance, game on!

Religion Without God

Religion Without God

The above article, from the New York Times, is an interesting article about those that seek religion without belief.  It mentions the Unitarian Church of which my parents were members.  One of the main ideas in the article is that people need community more than they need a dogmatic set of beliefs.

Where do I stand on all of this?  I am an agnostic.  The only claim I can make is one of doubt, that I don’t know what happens when we die.  I don’t feel that anyone knows what happens after we die.  Whether one believes either in religion or is an atheist, they are basically saying, in my mind, that they know what happens after we die.  This is knowledge that I believe none of us possess.

However, Kurt Vonnegut, a secular humanist, used to say that if someone was just getting out of prison or something, had no family or community to return to, he would tell them to go to church, as community is an incredibly important thing.  No one should have to go it alone.

I am an introvert, and don’t need constant human interaction, so having a community of good friends is all that I need.  I am distrustful of groups, especially ones that are exclusive in any way.  I like when groups happen naturally over time.

I vowed at a very young age that I would never join any group that would have me.  I intend keep this vow.  I’m not a joiner.  I’m in a band, and that is enough for me!  Sometimes this puts one on the outside, but the outside is a great way to see what is going on with minimal bias.

Now even though I am an agnostic, and am especially anti any kind of dogmatic religion that takes on a fanatical character, that does not mean that I look down on people that are religious.  I have met deeply moralistic people that are religious.  I don’t believe that you need religion to be moral, but if it helps someone treat their fellow man/woman with kindness, then who am I to judge?  I know that some religious groups do great work on behalf of the poor and the needy.  This is always to be commended, as long as they don’t tie that help with demanding the people they are helping believe what they believe.  I know that in South America that Liberation Theology has been an extremely powerful force for social justice.

I think two of the greatest people that this country has produced are Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.  King was obviously religion and no one can dispute that his work here upon this earth changed civilization for the better.  Meanwhile Lincoln was deeply skeptical in belief.  He was not convinced there was an afterlife, although at the very end of his life, though he never became overtly religious, altered his beliefs slightly.  Yet his entire life he was someone that was extremely kind, forgiving, that worked very hard to make the lives of people better.

So basically as long as other’s are treating people with kindness, to me, it doesn’t matter what they believe.  I myself don’t need the mysteries of life explained, because I believe at least in this life, they never can be.  I would rather focus my efforts at trying to treat other people better in the here and now, and not spend too much energy trying to answer a question that can’t be answered.  And trust me, I’ve got a lot of fucking work to do on the front of treating people better!

The purpose of life, to me, can be explained in one sentence by Kurt Vonnegut:

“We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”

What else is needed?

Godless Consumerism in the Bible Belt

I have Kevin Russell to partially thank for this bit of wisdom I acquired today:  When you are searching for a place to eat on Sunday in the Bible Belt, and all the local establishments are closed due to church, sometimes the Godless consumerism of corporate chain restaurants works in your favor. 

God and Sports

Laid up sick in a hotel room on the road, waiting for my ride to the gig.  I’ve finally got the cold that everyone else has had, no reason I should be excluded.  I was taking vitamins in hopes of fending it off till I got off the road, but alas, it didn’t quite work out that way.  While laid up, I enjoyed watching TCU beat OU.  My good friend Keith went to TCU and I’m sure not going to root for OU, so I got onboard.

While watching the post-game one of the TCU players thanked God for the win, while standing in a throng of fans that had stormed the field.  I had this weird experience, that partially happened because I was spaced out on cold medicine.  I felt like i was watching it out of time.  Like this could have been a player thanking Zeus in ancient Greece.  Have we really not progressed since then?

I would hope if there is a God that he is not taking sides in a sporting event, especially when there are wars going on and the economy sucks and the Koch brothers are buying our government.  I guess if there was a God, He would have infinite time.  Still, it’s just ridiculous.

I’m an agnostic.  I don’t pretend to have the answers to the mystery of the universe.  However, when people thank God for trivial things like the outcome of a commercialized sporting event, it just seems like it makes a clown out of Him.

I enjoy sporting events like today, and I’m glad that they take place.  They can serve an altruistic purpose of providing people with enjoyment and distraction from the daily grind.  But God isn’t out there calling the plays, favoring one team’s fans over the other, not now, not ever.  And if for some reason I am wrong, then He is a strange fellow indeed.

Kindness as Defiance

I see death
At every bend in the river
In the peaks of mountains
Where nothing grows
And in the backstreets of the city
Yet despite this,
Given my own limitations
Of character and chemistry
Of which there are many,
I try my best to be kind
And to treat others with love
Not because I am afraid
Of what will happen
When I die
For I will not let fear dictate my life
But to spite and defy death
And if there is a God
Who allows such a cruel master
To lord over us here on earth
Then Him too

The Texas Highway 8/10/14