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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

On an assertion by the pot that the kettle has an extremely low albedo*

Some of you may be aware of the ridiculousness currently taking place in the state of Washington. Okay, I should be more specific. The ridiculousness I am referring to surrounds a set of religious displays in the state capital that are a part of their holiday festivities. There are, as you might guess, the usual Christmas and Hanukkah displays but, added to the usual suspects this year, is a placard installed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. As you might guess, this sign is a bit out of the ordinary:

For those who can't read the crazy small picture, the sign states:

β€œAt this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

Offensive to believers? Maybe, but no moreso than all those bumper stickers that emphasize that Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and so forth. Nonetheless, the display has attracted a lot of attention- having been stolen once already and, most recently, attracting a gaggle of protestors:

More than 500 people from throughout Western Washington turned out Sunday at the Capitol steps to protest a sign a group of atheists erected as part of the holiday display inside the building.

The protest β€” organized late last week by a Federal Way man who said he was offended by the sign installed by Wisconsin's Freedom From Religion Foundation β€” drew Christian pastors, at least one state legislator and a handful of counter-protesters.


State Rep. Jim Dunn, a Vancouver Republican, called for the crowd to continue their energy and prayers.

"It is time to chase out of the house of God all the unbelievers and evildoers," Dunn said.

My main reaction, of course, is that there's a considerable difference between a house of government and a house of god- and I think that the bible agrees with me given the whole, "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's..." business. I also, I have to admit, find myself in complete agreement with Jason Rosenhouse on this one:

Need I point out that the solution is obvious? Simply let the Capitol be a religion-free zone. End of problem.

This is the part I don't understand. Why is it so important to so many folks that the government display the symbols of their religion? You can put all the nativity scenes you want in front of your homes and churches and private schools and private businesses. About ninety-eight percent of the town you can decorate to your heart's content. Why must you have the other two percent?

I can only think of one reason. Placing religious displays on government grounds is meant to convey that certain religions are acceptable and certain ones are not.

Typically I get lectured at this point about how I am overreacting, that it's no big deal, and that I should just go along to get along. The thing is, though, that there are plenty of people on the other side who think it is a very big deal indeed. They are the ones who are not content with, say, placing a nativity scene on the front lawn of every church within walking distance of the Capitol (I'm guessing there are quite a few). That would be entirely uncontroversial, and it would let them get the word out about Christmas very effectively. This is not good enough, it would seem.

So if all these folks on the other side just can't abide the idea of the government not displaying their symbols then I'm entitled to think there is something more going on than just a desire to place a decoration in the Capitol rotunda. If they are not willing to shrug their shoulders and let it go, then neither am I.

But, of course, as it turns out displays of religious icons in the state house is hardly the end to this absurd game. As it turns out, a preacher has of late been attempting to place a cross in the most public place of all: orbit. I refer to Arthur Blessitt** and his plan to place a cross in space:

The Mission: To put a 2 inch cross in space to orbit around the world. This is made from the cross that Arthur Blessitt has been carrying around the world. He is in the Guinness Book of Records for 'the world's longest walk', now 315 nations, island groups and territories for a distance of 38,102 miles (61,319 km) This is one and one half the distance around the earth! On Foot!

Now as an extension of that walk on foot around the world a 2 inch cross made from that very cross will be put in space orbit above the earth. A cross made from the only cross carried around the world will become the first cross put in orbit around the earth! All Glory to God.

Nope, not making this up. Mr. Blessitt wants the cross in space- in a polar orbit no less- so that it will regularly pass over every nation and people. Again, not a joke:

The cross will be over You personally! The Cross will be over every Nation on earth! Over Afghanistan! Saudi Arabia! Jerusalem! America! The cross in Space Satellite will be in a Polar orbit from pole to pole. As the earth turns it will pass over every inch of the earth like peeling an apple. The cross will circle the earth every one and a half hours.

After launch we can tell you on our site when it will be over you and your nation. We have carried the cross in Every nation. Now we will, God willing have it flying above Every nation! We wave the cross in the face of Satan and proclaim that Jesus is Lord over All the Earth. All glory to God.

Doubtless the non-Christians of the world will not be too excited by this but, hey, the thing is only two inches. How visible will it be?***

As it turns out, it won't be visible at all because there was a little glitch during launch:

The Cross in Space was launched August 2nd from the Marshall Islands on Falcon 1 by SpaceX. The cross reached an altitude of 134 miles (217,km). There was a failure of the second stage and the flight did not reach orbit. I am thrilled that a part of the cross I've carried around the world did get this high, however we will press on for another launch with another cross from the cross I've been carrying. Glory, Peace and Blessings. Keep praying for this to come to pass soon.

Now, if I were a religious man, I think I might speculate that this is a hint from god that we shouldn't be wasting our time with this sort of foolishness. Or, I might rail against the foul interference of Satan, who doesn't want a cross to be circling the Earth. Or, I might just blame weak mankind for the failure. That's the beauty of religion: always a justification for whatever the hell it is you want to think or do.

But speaking personally I find the idea of a cross in space to be a little sad. Because given recent events and the disturbing connections between religion and the state, it's sometimes a little hard for me to believe that our religious differences aren't going to get us all killed. And the thing is, I can think of no more melancholy a testament to a silent, war-scarred earth, than one of the very symbols that led us to kill ourselves off.****

Just something to think about.

* Please note that an albedo is not the same as a libido. If it were, astronomy would be much weirder.

** What is it lately with the weird names of Christian evangelists? First we had Captain Santeria Poptart and now we have Reverend Blessitt? It's a name, it's a request (i.e. Reverend, bless it), it's both!

*** Not very.

**** Just FYI, this isn't so much an indictment of religion as of extremism in the service of an ideology.

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Blogger Tom Bozzo said...

Even though I'm a card-carrying member of the FFRF, I'm not much of a fan of the "hardens hearts and enslaves minds" sign. Also I tend to think Solstice, schmolstice -- so in some other respects I suppose I may be on the hardcore end of things. OTOH, in the Wisconsin capitol building, it competes with displays that decry the excessive secularization of the state holiday tree.

Now there are some people who are also getting offended by FFRF's much more neutral "Imagine No Religion" and "Beware of Dogma" signs (e.g.), which I think Annie Laurie Gaylor is right to blame on "insecure religious egos."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008 10:50:00 AM  

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