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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!"
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[ Filed under: % Religion ]
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