Monday, January 12, 2009

agnostic bus

I donated five pounds to the Atheist Bus campaign on the grounds that I am irritated by all the evangelical Christian propaganda on public transport. A Christian friend of mine also donated on the grounds that the advert would promote discussion. Well, it certainly has, but perhaps not quite the sort of thing he had in mind.

Here's my suggestion: "There may or may not be a Divine Being or Beings, and they're probably just the anthropomorphic interfaces of vast cosmic processes, but anyway, they're on their own spiritual journey and their goals may or may not coincide with yours. They certainly can't be bothered to arrange for you to fry for all eternity on a hot griddle, so you can stop all that worrying."

But perhaps the above is not as snappy as the Atheist Bus.

Liz Williams suggests:
Another suggestion from KH:
"Zeus is going to kick your pussy God's ass and then shag your women!"
Maybe we could just have a poster on the side of buses that reads: "Paganism: the religion where enjoying yourself is SACRED." Except that we don't believe in evangelising.

(Also available in Judaism, where it's a sin to refuse a pleasure, apparently, and it's requirement to make love on the Sabbath eve; and Unitarianism, which celebrates being alive.)

All this talk of buses reminds me of the short story by E M Forster, The Celestial Omnibus, which you can hear read aloud at the Library of Babel.
The title-story is a whimsical piece of fantasy which again uses a child as the means to unmask unimaginative adult pragmatism. “The Celestial Omnibus” starts with a young boy who is perplexed by the sign-post in his Surbiton street that says “To Heaven” and points to a cul-de-sac. Running up the blank alley one evening he encounters an omnibus which takes him up to a paradise where he meets all the characters from fiction and mythology that his parents and their friends talk about but do not really believe in.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Criteria for theology

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

~ John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
I think any explanation of the nature of the universe should be elegant and the simplest possible solution to the problem (so it could actually be quite complex, whilst still being the simplest possible explanation). Physicists often talk about elegance and simplicity as criteria for their theories about how the world works. Also I think we should distinguish between theories (large bodies of complex reasoning backed by copious amounts of evidence) and hypotheses (propositions about how the world works that have yet to be proven).

Theological explanations should also be internally consistent and logical (even if the logic is different from conventional forms of logic), as well as consistent with the fact that there are millions of people with a different explanation. Pagan theological formulations usually take into account the plurality of religious beliefs; Christian theological formulations signally fail in this regard.  For example, most Pagans say that other people are following their own unique spiritual path in their own cultures; there's no drive to convert others to Paganism (Jews and Sikhs also believe this).  Most Christians believe that Christ is the only means of accessing the Divine, and many believe that non-Christians won't be "saved" (this fails to explain why other faiths are so satisfying for their adherents).  Theologians should also practice triangulation, comparing their explanations with those of other religions and philosophies, and with science, to see if they still make sense.

Many theologians claim that theology is resistant to logic because the Divine is paradoxical: but   paradoxes can often be resolved by looking at the thing from a different perspective - like the old chestnut about "God is no where and God is now here".

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

a little light reading

Four interesting projects....
Badger says:

So the Lord said, “I will destroy Man whom I have created from the face of the Earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry I have made them.” - Genesis 6:7

So, God gets pissed at Man and decides not only to kill every single person on the planet (even the newborn babies who are, one would think, blameless), but he also decides to off all the animals. Well, except fish, I would guess. They were probably quite pleased!

Anyhow, flood happens. God has a grand ole time going along undoing everything he did. Is it just me, or does he strike you as a frustrated gamer, always reloading Sims from a save point, after having done horrible things to his Sims?
Actually the Flood was caused by Ishtar when she was suffering from PMT. See Tablet 11 of The Epic of Gilgamesh. I am also mystified as to why anyone would worship a being who is described as sending plagues and floods on innocent people. Anyway, it’s all a metaphor…

Peter says:
The Bible was written by writers, and I’ve long felt that much of what those writers wanted to say has been lost, crushed, twisted, and sometimes outright perverted by later so-called “Bible based” traditions. All religious sentiments aside, as a fellow writer I feel it is my calling and my sacred duty to read through the text, not for comfort or for inspiration or for edification, but simply to hear what it is they were trying to say.
David says:
This is not a story they taught me at Temple Sinai's Hebrew School in 1980: The founding fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel lie, breach a contract, encourage pagans to convert to Judaism only in order to incapacitate them for slaughter, murder some innocents and enslave others, pillage and profiteer, and then justify it all with an appeal to their sister's defiled honor.
Bill says:
I am not against the Bible. I am just against the idea that this book – or any other book, including the Koran or the Book of Mormon or whatever – is a special revelation from God. It is probably the most irrational, dangerous and divisive idea that currently infects the human psyche. And, as Art Lester said to me last month, ‘The book-believers are the ones who will destroy the world.’ Sadly, Art might just be right. And it is our duty to challenge the book-believers, by fostering a new kind of religious consciousness with the contrary message that knowledge and wisdom are the result of human thought, human experience, reflection, reason, scientific endeavour. They do not drop down from heaven fully formed, nor are they are not the preserve of one nation or one religion or one period in history. And they are certainly not to be found in one book. To suggest that they are is to turn works of literature into loaded guns.
Bill is the author of The Gospel and the Zodiac, which puts forward the idea that the Jesus mythos was originally an initiatory mystery based on the symbolism of the Zodiac. Neat idea.

If I was going to do a Bible-blogging project, I'd start with something as near to the original as I could get: the Hebrew Tanakh in English. Alternatively, I would blog about a book that I might enjoy reading, like the Tao Te Ching or the T’ai Hsüan Ching.