Go give Wulfgar nominations for the 2006 MT Weblog awards. I’ve already submitted my nominations, but I’d like to point out that my final votes are very much for sale. And I think my prices are quite reasonable, too. For a little bit extra I’ll even switch out Wulfgar’s PC with a Diebold machine and let you design the results of your choice! That’s an offer that can’t be beat (though I will be asking for hospital fees if he shoots my ass in the process of doing so).
Thing number two: The Fountain is a strange movie. I think you knew that already. Pretty cool, though.
Thing number three: my moderately serious post for the day is at Montana Netroots.
In light of recent events, I’ve compiled a list of Christmas carols to avoid in that neighborhood:
Do You Hear What I Hear
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
O Holy Night
O Little Town of Bethlehem
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
One would be advised to avoid Silent Night as well, seeing as it talks about sleeping peacefully, which seems to be code for sleeping in a manner that opposes the war in Iraq. And dear God, avoid “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains” at all costs. You’re likely to incite a riot with that one.
Did you know it’s an affront to American culture that a Muslim member of Congress will be sworn in using a copy of the Koran instead of the Bible? Me neither. Apparently a meaningless and insignificant tradition is the very thing holding our society together. Who knew? I like this part of that article:
Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” the Nazis’ bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison’s right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?
I’ll take issues I don’t care about for $100, Alex. I can’t see why it matters what book you choose to swear an oath on. You’re either going to be honest and uphold the Constitution or you aren’t. Swearing on some book doesn’t enter into it. The people who voted him in are obviously confident enough in his “value system” to put him in a position of power.
In other words, let the racist swear on a copy of Mein Kampf. The problem is that you elected a racist, not what book he gets to swear on.
Jebus, I don’t understand these people.
I thought it was some combination of roller-blading and golfing, but what do I know? Anyway, I came across it at work and wondered what exactly it was. I sort of knew it was related to New Age-y alternative medicine, but didn’t really know much about it. A brief synopsis:
Rolfing® seems to be a kind of myofascial massage, but Rolfers prefer to call it “movement education.” Whatever you call it, Rolfing involves touching the skin, feeling around for “imbalances” in tissue texture, and separating “fascial layers that adhere and muscles that have been pulled out of position by strain or injury.”* It is also a kind of energy medicine.* Rolfers consider their unique contribution to be “to balance the body in gravity.” Deep massage or other forms of soft tissue manipulation can’t do that, they say.
It looks for all the world like a form of massage. Rolfers apparently don’t really think so, but they don’t seem to do a good job explaining why it isn’t. As would be expected from a form of alternative medicine, there’s plenty of weird and nonsensical gibberish explaining it:
The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI) has continued Dr. Rolf’s profound inquiry into how to enhance the whole person by organizing the body in gravity.
Rolfing is a holistic technique in that changes in structure can impact the whole person, physically, emotionally, and energetically.
In Rolf Movement Integration, the Rolfer helps clients become aware of their inhibiting movement patterns and teaches them how to change them. In Rolfing structural integration, the Rolfer releases these patterns through manipulation as they manifest in the client’s structure. Rolfing is as concerned with how people experience and use their bodies in their daily lives as with their structural organization in gravity.
I’d like to see anyone to explain how rolfing improves “structural organization in gravity.”
That’s really the problem with the sort of physical therapy-ish alternative practices. To the extent that they do anything, it’s placebo and basic muscle, joint, and skeletal function improvement. Not content with that, a bunch of metaphysical pap and elusory benefits are added to dazzle the consumer into thinking it’s something new and exciting.
Pure dedication, man:
Bangkok – A Thai Buddhist monk cut off his penis with a machete because he had an erection during meditation and declined to have it reattached, saying he had renounced all earthly cares, a doctor and a newspaper said on Wednesday.
The “I’ve really not done this in a while” edition.
Kayo Dot – [Choirs of the Eye #02] A Pitcher of Summer
King Crimson – [Larks' Tongues In Aspic #03] Exiles
Audioslave – [Audioslave #14] The Last Remaining Light
Porcupine Tree – [Up The Downstair #02] Synesthesia
System of a Down – [System of a Down #01] Suite-pee
Radiohead – [Kid A #03] The National Anthem
Slayer – [Hell Awaits #04] Praise of Death
Led Zeppelin – [Led Zeppelin II #05] Heartbreaker
Porcupine Tree – [In Absentia #05] Gravity Eyelids
Nevermore – [Dead Heart, in a Dead World #01] Narcosynthesis
Dinesh D’Souza is claiming that atheism is the real source of the mass violence in the world. Of course, he does a pretty poor job of it.
Let’s start with the nature of the claimed religious conflicts in the world:
Moreover, many of the conflicts that are counted as “religious wars” were not fought over religion. They were mainly fought over rival claims to territory and power. Can the wars between England and France be called religious wars because the English were Protestants and the French were Catholics? Hardly.
The same is true today. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not, at its core, a religious one. It arises out of a dispute over self-determination and land. Hamas and the extreme orthodox parties in Israel may advance theological claims – “God gave us this land” and so forth – but the conflict would remain essentially the same even without these religious motives. Ethnic rivalry, not religion, is the source of the tension in Northern Ireland and the Balkans.
This seems to be obviously wrong. Religion is the source of the territorial conflict. If there were no religious claims on the land Jews wouldn’t have moved there after WWII and Palestinians wouldn’t be so angered over Jews living amongst them in that territory. It seems religious at the very core.
What D’Souza seems to miss is that conflicts don’t have to be explicitly about religion to be the result of religion. Religion divides people, creating those opposing groups. The tensions are exacerbated by differences in religion which then manifests itself in ostensibly secular conflicts. That’s how I see it, at least. [EDIT: To be clear, I'm not saying people like Dawkins and Harris are always correct in what conflicts they deem religious or that all conflicts actually boil down to religion. I'm just saying D'Souza is pretty superficial in his treatment of the issue.]
Yet today’s atheists insist on making religion the culprit. Consider Mr. Harris’s analysis of the conflict in Sri Lanka. “While the motivations of the Tamil Tigers are not explicitly religious,” he informs us, “they are Hindus who undoubtedly believe many improbable things about the nature of life and death.” In other words, while the Tigers see themselves as combatants in a secular political struggle, Harris detects a religious motive because these people happen to be Hindu and surely there must be some underlying religious craziness that explains their fanaticism.
Harris is probably wrong here, but D’Souza is also wrong. The differences in religion between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government increase divisions and make the conflict worse (such religious differences are essentially a requirement for suicide bombing campaigns). To make matters worse, D’Souza is taking Harris out of context. That remark (which I discussed here) is a defense against those who claim you don’t have to be religious to be a suicide bomber. Harris’s point seems to be that they have religious views that enable such an action. That doesn’t mean the conflict has to be explicitly religious. The conflict could be over territory, but with the religious views of the two parties accepting suicide bombing, the conflict escalates.
One finds the same inanities in Mr. Dawkins’s work. Don’t be fooled by this rhetorical legerdemain. Dawkins and Harris cannot explain why, if Nazism was directly descended from medieval Christianity, medieval Christianity did not produce a Hitler. How can a self-proclaimed atheist ideology, advanced by Hitler as a repudiation of Christianity, be a “culmination” of 2,000 years of Christianity? Dawkins and Harris are employing a transparent sleight of hand that holds Christianity responsible for the crimes committed in its name, while exonerating secularism and atheism for the greater crimes committed in their name.
Maybe because the rise of Hitler was due to other factors in addition to anti-semitism? Like, I don’t know, a failed attempt at democracy, new techniques in propaganda, technological advances, etc?
How many times are people going to claim that Hitler was an atheist before actually noticing that he claimed he was on a mission from God? D’Souza knows that anti-semitism is largely the result of Christianity. Hitler, while not really someone you would claim was a Christian, relied on anti-semitism fomented by Christianity and the belief in some sort of divine backing of his plans. That’s not an atheist ideology. It’s not something I’d directly blame on religion, but it’s certainly has little to do with atheism.
D’Souza doesn’t talk about communism, but he implies it was done in the name of secularism. It’s really pretty obvious that it was done in the name of an ideology that was ludicrous. It relied on the idea that revolution would bring about a social transformation and lead to the workers uniting and all working together. Without everyone working together, it doesn’t work (it probably wouldn’t work otherwise, too). That obviously didn’t happen, so they tried to make it happen through force and totalitarianism. Their faith in the historical vision of Marx led them to cover up and ignore their failures. Notice that I didn’t mention atheism. Atheism is incidental to the reasons behind what we find disgusting about communism. So, it’s really D’Souza making the same mistake he chastises atheists for making earlier in the article; it’s superficial logic based on one side holding certain beliefs, even if those beliefs are not particularly important as a source of conflict.
So, D’Souza has completely failed to justify his claim that “[a]theism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history.” I’m not surprised.
So, it appears Thanksgiving is this week. Not one of my favorite holidays, really. You know what? There aren’t really that many holidays I actually look forward to, outside of looking forward to a day off. Easter? Candy and rabbits aren’t enough for me to stomach the most religious of our holidays. Fourth of July? Fireworks are cool, but nothing to write home about. Halloween? I may actually actively dislike that holiday, and not for any particular reason. New Year’s? Huzzah, the year incremented! The other minor holidays don’t have the festivities to make them worth more than the vacation time (though plenty are holidays for a good reason).
Back to Thanksgiving. I wish there were some decent Thanksgiving movies. As it stands, the only one I can think of is Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, which is good. Anything else? I suspect not.
This also happens to be the first Thanksgiving on my own and, fittingly, the first one I won’t be spending with family. Which isn’t really a huge deal, but it is different.
The one thing I do like about Thanksgiving can be guessed from the list of holidays above, specifically, the one that’s missing. It means the beginning of the Christmas season. That’s a holiday. Fascinating history, a nice humanist message, presents…what could be better? Alright, so not having roaming bands of morons making up culture war skirmishes would be better, but nothing is perfect.
In any case, Happy Thanksgiving.