Monday, October 6, 2008

Something Someone Else Said

"I don't use the word 'atheist' about myself, because I think it mirrors the certitude I'm so opposed to in religion. What I say in the film is that I don't know. I don't know what happens when you die, and all the religious people who claim they do know are being ridiculous. I know that they don't know any more than I do. They do not have special powers that I don't possess. When they speak about the afterlife with such certainty and so many specifics, it just makes me laugh.

People can tell you, 'Oh yes, when you get to Paradise there are 72 virgins, not 70, not 75.' Or they say, 'Jesus will be there sitting at the right hand of the Father, wearing a white robe with red piping. There will be three angels playing trumpets.' Well, how do you know this? It's just so preposterous. So, yes, I would like to say to the atheists and agnostics, the people who I call rationalists, let's stop ceding the moral high ground to the people who believe in the talking snake. Let's have our voices heard and be in the debate. Let's stand up and say we're not ready to let the country be given over to the Sarah Palins of the world." -Bill Maher, speaking about his new movie Religulous

I refer to myself as an atheist because my interpretation of the word is a little looser than Maher's; I believe that you can live your life and make decisions as if there were no gods amongst us while not stating that this view is the end all, be all truth with absolute certainty. You can read what I consider a very reasoned and civil discussion on this subject between myself and other readers of this site in the comments section of this vintage post; it's exactly what I mean when I say that one of my goals with this blog is to promote robust debate and interesting discussions between intelligent people whose opinions I genuinely respect.

[Update: I just watched the latest episode of Real Time with Bill Maher and he made an excellent point about religious hypocrisy in America:

If there was a video of Barack Obama standing in front of his congregation being "healed" by a black witchdoctor, this election would be over but there is that video of Sarah Palin...

So ask your witchdoctor if exorcism is right for you!

The Associated Press has the story:

The video shows Palin standing before Bishop Thomas Muthee in the pulpit of the Wasilla Assembly of God church, holding her hands open as he asked Jesus Christ to keep her safe from "every form of witchcraft." "Come on, talk to God about this woman. We declare, save her from Satan," Muthee said as two attendants placed their hands on Palin's shoulders.

"Make her way my God. Bring finances her way even for the campaign in the name of Jesus. ... Use her to turn this nation the other way around." Palin filed campaign papers a few months later, in October 2005, and was elected governor the next year.

"Make her way my God. Bring finances her way even for the campaign in the name of Jesus. ... Use her to turn this nation the other way around." Palin filed campaign papers a few months later, in October 2005, and was elected governor the next year.

Palin does not say anything on the video and keeps her head bowed throughout the blessing. The Republican vice presidential candidate was baptized at the church but stopped attending regularly in 2002.

A spokesman for the McCain campaign declined to comment. A person who answered the phone at the Wasilla church confirmed the video was from May 2005 but declined further comment.]


Anonymous said...

I don't want to nitpick, but there's a big difference between being "healed" and being "prayed for". Both might be spiritual acts, but that no more makes fasting the same as baptizing.

JBW said...

I agree, that was the word that Maher used and I think he did it to either get a bigger laugh or to better make his point but I don't think you can honestly tell me that if there was video footage of Barack Obama being "prayed for" by a black African witchdoctor it wouldn't be just as damning in the eyes of his critics and those undecided white Christians who are still wary of voting for a black man, even one who attends church and graduated from Harvard law so I think his point still holds merit.

Doug"e" said...

I just saw Bill Maher's movie "Religulous" and laughed my ass off. I agree with Bill that the doubters,atheists and agnostics of this country have to find a way to have more say in the political discourse. I am less afraid of a monotheist Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon than I am of a right-wing Christian-Judeo United States using them cuz Oh well this the "end times" and might as well use em or lose em.

Anonymous said...

I think that any candidate being prayed for by a "witchdoctor" would be highly scrutinized in this country.

Comparing apples to apples would be Obama being prayed for by a white pastor in a black church (judging from the 3 seconds I bothered to watch). Would that scenario affect him negatively? I don't know. Maybe. I'm sure there are folks who would twist it out of proportion, but that's nothing new.

Anonymous said...

Let me be clear that I understand you're pointing out our politicians' relative lack of religious choice (for fear of political suicide). But while I believe we live in a country where anyone can think what they want, I also don't think it's inappropriate to vote for candidates based on these ideals and principles. With THAT said, I wish more of these folks voted on more than 2 issues.

JBW said...

I agree Doug E; as quoted in the article, "some 16 percent of the American public claims no religious affiliation, which makes the nonreligious minority a larger group than African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Jews, Muslims or gays and lesbians. Yet those groups are recognized as legitimate stakeholders in American society, while nonbelievers pretty much are not". Out of the about 540 elected officials to public office on a federal level, one is an avowed atheist. Gays and lesbians make up about 3% of the population and they have more representation in DC.

And my question to you One L is this: why am I not hearing about this witchdoctor on every cable channel right now? The story is still fairly young; I watchede literally months of coverage when Reverend Wright and his insane ass came to the fore.

And truly comparing apples to apples would be Obama being prayed for by a white pastor in a black church in a country where the majority has been and is still predominantly black and one of the minorities has been and still is white, with a several hundred year practice of the blacks owning the whites and treating them like animals or property because of their skin color, with a modern day system that still disproportionatly favored the blacks over the whites along economic and cultural lines; if we're making that comparison.

Intrepid Californio said...

JBW you hit it right on the nail as far as the comparison thing goes. But what do I know. I don't practice santaria. I do think you and Doug E should go down and see the Reverend Cleophas.

Anonymous said...

I am really, really confused. Are you saying that guy is really a professed witchdoctor? I thought he was just some pastor and you were using "witchdoctor" as some sort of way to make your point.

And yes, I refuse to watch the whole video because videos take even more of my time than reading (I can't watch them at my own pace) and because my wife is sitting here, wanting more of my time.

JBW said...

Your definition of witchdoctor is open to your own interpretation but there is this:
"But enough of Ed Kalins, and on to a more exotic character, who turned up on at least 10 occasions at the Wasilla church as guest pastor. Thomas Muthee is a Kenyan evangelist, famous for founding the the Prayer Cave, in Kiambu, Kenya, after God 'spoke to him'.

Muthee is also famous for being a witchhunter. He believed that Kiambu was infected with demons and that 'a spirit of witchcraft rested over the place'. He identified the source of the infestation as one Mama Jane who ran a divination center out of the Emmanuel Clinic. Muthee believed that Mama Jane's fortune telling and other nefarious 'evil eye' related activities had led to an increase in traffic accidents in the area near her clinic. He publicly declared her a witch, and demanded she either convert or git outta town. She chose the latter - possibly after deciding the place had become possessed by deranged Christians, some of whom were threatening to stone her. Wise woman."