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« Truer Words Ne'er Spoken The RantsLeave My Funny Hat Out Of This »

Hey, You're The One With All The Dirty Pictures!
2006.05.30 (Tue) 22:57

It's an old joke*, sure, but if you turn it around, it's got a great point.

Case in point: PZ Myers' current entanglement with Rabbi Avi Shafran, a rather obtuse religioso who penned an unintentionally farcical thesis on the morality of atheists (or, in his stunted view, the lack thereof), which PZ rightly criticized on Pharyngula. Now the rabbi has requested a "private chat" with PZ, who is wisely having none of it.

As always, the problem with religiosos and many other similarly-flavored idiots comes down to their myopic thought process, which can only see things in terms of their own limited experience and, in fact, limited morality. We specifically refer to their "limited morality" because that's exactly how we see it: their morality, in theory and in their own words, is entirely limited to an imaginary system of judgment, reward and punishment.

This is not to say that, in practice, religioso morality is any less effective at taking into account empathy, compassion, and mutual need. In practice, we believe many (if not most) of these folks do just fine — they're not running around killing people, eating children, or raping babies. Their problem is the incredibly stupid assumption that brings them to say that the reason they don't do this is their fear of divine and eternal punishment. Which, to us, is a frightening thought. Think about it: if this assertion is true, how wise is it, as atheists and skeptics, for us to handily dismiss any notions of deities or afterlives, when according to the religiosos themselves, that stuff is the only thing keeping them from turning into Charles Manson?

We've discussed similar themes before; two examples spring readily to mind. One was a reaction to Tucker Carlson's silly diatribe about euthanasia. Carlson claimed:

But the point is, in Holland or places where euthanasia is widespread, there is pressure on the old, the inconvenient, the really sick, who are - let's be honest - difficult, demanding, people don't want them around - to kill themselves. And that's...

It's not — that's not bullshit. That's true. It's totally true.

...If you had a relative who is dependent, who is bedridden — I'm serious — people feel pressure to end their lives because they are a burden to other people. And there's something inhumane about that.

...when you make it legal, you put society in a position where pressure is focused on the weakest in society to kill — I'm serious. And it's understandable. And that's bad.

As we said then, if you think that legalizing euthanasia will send people flocking to Kill-O-Mats or Suicide Booths to get rid of excess grandparents, then maybe you're the one we should be keeping an eye on, Tucker old boy. Intelligent, compassionate, and — yes — moral people will base such decisions on far more than just an inconvenient elder and the general availability of a means to off them.

In that same Rant, we likened Carlson's stance to that of a man we discussed in an earlier Rant, that uncomfortably air-rifle-in-the-bell-tower kind of guy, Tom Carder, of the CAP Alert website — who takes upon himself the heavy burden of judging (lest he be judged?) all modern films through the foggy lens of Christian fundamentalism. Aside from his sheer hypocrisy and inconsistency, we made special mention of Carder's nitpick of the Antonio Banderas film The Thirteenth Warrior.

As one of his detailed notes concerning what would make this film an abomination in the eyes of the lord, Carder noted that The Thirteenth Warrior included examples of "Sex/Homosexuality" (one of his six happy little categories of E-ville movie sins) in the form of "child nudity, including genitalia." If you've seen the movie, then you know that the "child nudity" in question was in the form of a young child scampering about naked, in much the same way that a very young girl might take off her bathing suit top at the beach. Translation: there was nothing sexual about it. Which leaves one to wonder just exactly why Mr. Carder considers nude children to be a sexual theme. Similar to our statement to Tucker Carlson, our response to Tom Carder is simple: if you think that naked kids engender some sort of sexual element, then maybe we should be keeping an eye on you.

Which brings us back, full circle, to Rabbi Avi Shafran. It's another simple point, really: if you think that there's no way a human being can live a "moral" life in harmony with his or her fellow human beings without the promise of post vita rewards or the threat of divine, eternal punishment...then we really, really worry about the state of your personal moral compass in the first place. Seriously — how stable can a person be if, according to them, the only thing keeping them from killing and eating their neighbors is an easily-toppled belief in a magical skydaddy? If they were true, the implied ramifications of statements like those made by Rabbi Shafran would be frightening, indeed. On the other hand, those atheists who choose to live good and helpful lives regardless of the existence (or nonexistence) of a Super Judge living in his skyward Fortress of Dickitry inspire a great deal more confidence in their ability to not suddenly turn into evil assholes in the event that their worldviews are somehow thrown out of whack.

Rabbi Shafran has also succeeded in making another point very, very clear: the scarcity of Jewish zealots in the news, as compared to Christian or Muslim zealots, apparently has more to do with the fact that said Jews are in the minority than the fact that they don't actually exist. We're sure that sensible mainstream Jews worldwide are ever so grateful to you, Rabbi.


The joke, for those who haven't heard it:

A man being accused of sexual harassment goes to a psychologist for an evaluation. The psychologist picks up some flash cards and tells the man to say the first thing that comes to mind upon seeing each abstract figure.

For the first card, the man promptly replies: "I see a chick with really big tits."

The second card: "I see a guy fucking a girl from behind."

And the third: "I see a hooker blowing some guy."

The doctor puts down the flash cards and shakes his head. He says, "It's clear to me, sir, that you are obsessed with sex."

The man looks shocked. "Me?! Hey, you're the one with all the dirty pictures!"

[Back to the top.]

— • —
[  Filed under: % Religion  ]

Comments (7)

geronimo, 2006.05.31 (Wed) 10:39 [Link] »

i'm sometimes amused, sometimes incensed when people wonder how i'm going to teach my son "right and wrong" in the absence of religious teaching. considering my own upbringing, i can say for a fact that the immediate consequences of a time out or a spanking did a lot more to shape my version of acceptable behavior than did the eventual retribution of a phantom scorekeeper.

keep up the good work for we (relatively) moral "amoralists"

jay denari, 2006.05.31 (Wed) 15:54 [Link] »

isn't it stupid how I can tell people I'm considering putting my 16 year-old, sick dog to sleep, and at most someone will say "I'm sorry, that's a hard choice to make." But if I say the same thing about my grandfather (if he were equally sick), people call the cops b/c I'm "plotting murder." We let sick humans suffer to the very end, but nobody questions the "morality" of ending a pet's life "prematurely."

Pool Guy, 2006.05.31 (Wed) 17:27 [Link] »

I would contend that atheism (and, i guess, possibly agnosticism) is the only rational belief system.

Certainly most, if not all, theistic belief systems (and certainly the big three of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) have in their instruction manuals elaborate explanations as to why it is OK/required to kill certain classes or groups of people.

Add to that the fact that there are so many theistic belief systems, and a given believer has to deny all the others to hold on to their favored system, and it leads to one of my favorite quotes of all time from Stephen Roberts:

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

Eric Wallace, 2006.06.01 (Thu) 00:59 [Link] »

Though it pains me to defend Tucker Carlson in any way, I believe what he is trying to describe is that the terminally ill may feel self-pressured to use assisted suicide so as not to be a burden to their families. Not that their families would pressure them to suicide. I suspect that the pressure from families is typically exactly the opposite: spare no expense or exotic treatment to prolong life. At least that would be consistent with what I've read about health care expenditures in the U.S.

Adam, 2006.06.01 (Thu) 04:25 [Link] »

This morality comes from religion argument reminds me of one of Richard Dawkins most brilliant points. These people don't actually get their morality from religion, but the same way we do. Otherwise, on what basis do they cherry-pick the Bible? If their morality comes from religion, then how do they know which bits are bad and can be ignored, and which bits are good and should be followed?

Tycho the Dog, 2006.06.01 (Thu) 10:49 [Link] »

Wow, I just visited that CAP film site. That has to be the crankiest set of reviews I've ever seen. Talk about projection. The Wallace and Grommit review was a corker: 'Sexual Immorality - Man with a flowery purse'. You couldn't make this stuff up.

The Two Percent Company, 2006.06.01 (Thu) 17:43 [Link] »

geronimo — Don't get us started! Way too many people just can't seem to conceive of a life without a belief in some form of god. Not only do we hear the bullshit arguments about atheists being immoral, we also get that old "who will you turn to in times of tragedy?" line of crap (the obvious answer is that we turn to our friends and family, by the way, who have the advantage over god of actually being able to help us). We have a feeling that your boy's going to turn out all the better for not being saddled with silly, ancient superstitions.

— • —

jay — Well, what do you expect? Animals aren't created in God's image, we are! Seriously, it is pretty incredible that, if an animal that we love dearly is suffering and beyond medical help, it is acceptable to end that animal's suffering by ending its life; but if a person is in the same situation, we can't extend the same courtesy to them. It's sick that, by applying the fucked up sense of pseudo-morality that religion mandates, we end up treating a dog with more compassion than we are allowed to extend to our human family members.

— • —

Pool Guy — We've always loved that quote. The simple logic in it is fantastic. The problem is that, while it's a great quote, religiosos just don't get it. After all, logic isn't exactly their strong suit.

— • —

Eric — True, but what Tucker is saying, in our view, is that the only thing preventing rampant and wanton euthanasia is the existence of laws against it, and that's just silly. There is way more that goes into a decision like that — it isn't just "hey, it's legal, and I'm a pain in the ass, so I might as well off myself." And that applies to the elderly making their own decisions just as much as it applies to people making decisions for them. Not to mention that if someone is determined to take their own life...well, the law really isn't going to stop them. The bottom line, to us, is that making euthanasia legal isn't going to open the floodgates of people who otherwise wouldn't end their lives suddenly embracing that option.

It's the same logical extension of a flawed argument as the other examples we gave — if someone thinks that people can't be moral without god, then it follows that the only reason why that person is moral is because of god, and that without god, he would be off eating and or raping babies; if someone thinks that legalizing euthanasia would lead to mass, wanton suicide, then it follows that he thinks that the law is the only thing that is preventing these suicides today.

All that said, are there some people who, if euthanasia were legal, might decide that their failing health, coupled with loneliness and a general sense of unhappiness with their lives, makes a good case for ending their own lives? Sure; but if it's a rational decision, then there's no reason to want stop them.

— • —

Tycho — As we've said before, if only Tom Carder's site was meant to be funny, it would be an all-time classic. The fact that he really means the shit that he says infuses the comedy with a certain amount of fear and pain. We hadn't read that flowery purse one before, but one of our other favorites is in his review of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Check out the highlighted (by us) sentence amid this list of gory violence:

Angels were portrayed as females -- nude, very nude. God was called many vulgar and hateful names. Satan was glorified. Jesus was equated with sexual anatomy. A child was graphically incinerated by igniting his flatulence, then another kid tried to beat out the flames with a stick and was concerned about the stick catching fire. Body parts dripping with blood were ripped from a child by a surgeon who expressed shallow concern. The dead child was then seen with an exploded chest. The dead child, after being rejected from Heaven (by nude female angels) and cast into Hell (which is a violation of Scripture in and of itself), was then presented as a ghost trying to influence the other kids. An all-male chorus line wore pink bikini briefs. Homosexual acts were described. Decomposing burned bodies were cast as live occupants of Hell. "Big brother" electronic shock control of a child was used to prevent his use of foul language (each time he cussed he was shocked -- he used this shock later to defeat Hussein by shouting every known and several unknown foul words). A man committed suicide by jumping out of a window. And throughout the movie was script to promote licentious belittlement of wholesome life and entertainment: rationale to lessen even further the threshold of acceptance. [Rom. 16:17-18]
[our emphasis]

Yeah, old Tom Carder is about one bad day away from climbing into that clocktower and mowing down his neighbors with an assault rifle. We bet he'd be wearing pink bikini briefs and carrying a flowery purse. We're just glad that we don't live anywhere near him.

— • —

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