Christ’s Suicide and Easter

Posted by Jim Newman on April 21st, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Catholic Church, Uncategorized

christ's suicideMy daughter returned from a trip with friends and had to listen to christian radio on the way. She lost interest in Easter; it’s about suicide! Our family had to somehow recover it as a spring holiday. An excuse for feasting, lots of protein, consuming our last home raised ham, curried tofu, green beans, potatoes, and being together as family.

Why would churches be against suicide except for a prophet who claims to be the son of god? How could it be a suicide if Christ knew he would be alive anyway? How is suicide bad if the next world is with god as claimed? How would he be giving up his son if he knew he would become alive or if there were some sort of autonomy-connection-awareness within the triune god? Wars and ostracism have been committed based on the appealed veracity of these distinctions. It’s also why faith of immortality cares less about the truth of it but rather the hope for it. It can’t possibly make sense and that’s its value. To be beyond reason. You can’t easily argue the absurd from within.

The meme that Christ desired to be crucified to redeem the sins of all humans is the cornerstone of christian faith for most. It is what separates the old from the new testament. In order to redeem the Judaic text, the old testament, and not blame Jews for allowing Christ to be killed, Christ has to allow himself to be killed in passive suicide. This has many troublesome issues only the faithful can support. It would have been much less interesting if Christ had stabbed himself to death. The grotesque images of Christ bleeding on a cross resonate deeply. Far beyond the merit of the act. Yet suicide is contagious and becomes its own problem.

The act of living may require more courage than suicide. But for the sake of a good story Christ had to die and the church needed a Paul to create and spread the memes. It is the idea of sacrifice that counts and not how much sacrifice it really is. Confabulating son and father, mortality and immortality, just adds icing to the cake. Think of how a small gesture like taking out the garbage, or doing the dishes, or working late adds to a relationship. Once trusted the gifts need not be so great.

Just how courageous was Jesus? Most men and women would give up their life for their families. Soldiers routinely give up their lives for the group or just for the idea of bravery and courage, to be boldly brave. Terrorist attacks show how individuals will risk all to save the group when if they were passive they most likely would not be harmed. Again and again we have examples of how people will sacrifice themselves for others they do not even know, strangers even.  It’s hard to know who really is a stranger; we all know more strangers than friends and family now.

Would you kill yourself for six friends, 10, 20, 100 or 1,000? If you knew you could stop global warming would you commit suicide? Would you let yourself go when the lifeboat is too full to hold even just one more or would you swamp the raft? Would you jeopardize your life on a  Everest climb by attempting to rescue another disabled climber?

Over and over I hear and read of stories of bravery and courage where the degree of cost, the importance of success, are far less than that of Jesus. If what he believed was true his suicide was a no brainer and hardly merits slight respect. I would bet that nearly everyone would commit suicide if they knew they were saving their entire community. The real question is who would not commit suicide for their family of life?

Jim Newman, bright and well

Another New Jersey Atheist License Plate Fiasco

Posted by Jim Newman on April 19th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in atheists

david silverman and atheist plateYou’d think New Jersey would learn after having had to deal with David Silverman’s request for a license plate. They had to retract their insolence and give him what he could rightly request. Shannon Morgan proves otherwise, for now. My question is “Can New Jersey be Taught?”

Shannon Morgan, of Maurice Township, said in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that the Motor Vehicle Commission violated her First Amendment rights when its website rejected the plate reading “8THEIST.” She said she received a message stating that her vanity plate request was ineligible as it “may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency.”

Morgan then filled out the online application using the phrase “BAPTIST” as a test, which the website accepted. Morgan claims in her lawsuit that she sent the agency a letter of complaint by registered mail and made several attempts to contact them by phone, all of which went unanswered.

In David’s case they said there was a glitch, a clerical error. Wonder what excuse they will raise this time? When in doubt blame the computer or some uninformed, low-level staff. If this happens again we may have to make a movie “Ground Hog Plate” or “Fifty Plates of Reason.” I assume I will soon see 8THEIST.

If I had an atheist license plate here in West Virginia I would get so many comments I would lose half my friends and alienate half my family of in-laws.  Even in this more liberal section moderates are offended when people make strong political statements. It’s only sports shirts you can wear and they should be local. That’s why this is such an important issue. It’s not trivial. We tend to think this stuff is just crap flying below the radar, less worrisome than being beaten or ripped off.

If you can’t even identify yourself you’re not even available to be beaten up. Your oppression is so great you aren’t recognized or available for direct abuse.

Once you get physically attacked you have proven that you are out enough to matter. We’re not even that far. While I would hope that others are actually more atheistic than they say they are a huge part of the population would be more open about their discrimination if they simply could recognize us on the street, whether by dress, action, social interaction, or visited building. If atheists talked and dressed differently or held hands as in open homophilic attraction there would be more news about physical attacks and direct discrimination.

It will be interesting if this movement can jump a generation or two and if millennials will reduce the discrimination by continuing the middle-ground trend of spiritual but not religious. Hippies gave great hope, as did politicians, and then had to find jobs in the corporations they hated. Is the social justice movement merely a youth movement of pre-work, pre-sell-out, pre-reality affluence?

Jim Newman, bright and well

Stephen Marley At Lincoln Theater

Posted by Jim Newman on April 19th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Music

stephen marleyI went to church Thursday. It took another day for me to recover and find my way back home. A friend and I went to the Lincoln Theater in DC to see Stephen Marley, second son to Bob Marley. Starting late he was opened by Jo Mersa (Stephen’s son), Wayne Marshall (out with “Tru Colors” and soon “Comfortable,”) and Zedicus (ADMAS II coming out soon), a DC originated Ethiopian (Ethio-fusion) band. Marley’s tour “Revelation Part 2: the Fruit of Life” sequels  the success of “Revelation Part 1: The Root of Life” for which he won a Grammy in 2012.

The Lincoln theater, on Black Broadway, is great venue for sit-down music and we had the great luck to have requested tickets early enough to have seats dead center, five back. I wondered how this theater, which served blacks during segregation , looked when it was closed after race riots in 68 and not reopened again until 94, three years after the U street Metro stop was built across the street. Now, it is gorgeous venue attracting all levels of people. Tonight it was people of color with a few others.

As a white man living in the “countryside,” as Deisha asked sitting beside us, when I said “farm,” this kind of culture is like visiting another country without needing a ticket or a passport. I am very grateful for that. Used to be I had to have a guide or liaison to visit and feel safe in some areas. Alright Lincoln is too upscale for that comparison but I don’t need to reflect on getting lost while trying to find John Hopkins in Baltimore. (It’s necessary to visit these other places as well. The continued hiding of poverty in America means too many think it doesn’t exist.)

We had extra tickets we gave to two women behind us in line. They were great company for the evening. Quite frankly I was glad the others hadn’t shown up, which was the premise for my getting to go anyway. It got a little sketchy at one point when Vertise said this music would be so spiritual; she hadn’t been out in a long time and thrilled to be there. I responded:

I am not religious but this is my church for tonight (and smiled).

After about a minute with Deisha talking her way through this break, Vertise decided I wasn’t too offensive and we all had a fine time for the rest of the evening. Dancing in our chairs, singing when we knew the songs or could actually understand the lyrics, and going out for smokes and drinks during the several intermissions.

Deisha hadn’t been out in years, had raised several children, and had just finished her first college course, failed it, and was taking it again. She showed the kind of energy and determination that makes liars out of POCphobic conservatives. She has the kind of hope, realized, that is often only hoped.

Once you have left college it’s hard to go back. Adult education is more difficult by far. When people question this I ask them about the French in Mexico to which they usually are mute–something taught to most high schoolers when they learn about Mexican Independence. Further that most US citizens couldn’t pass a naturalization test and are clueless about their own constitution much less who their Senator is. It’s not easy for anyone to return to school and more so when it starts as an uphill battle on so many levels. Frankly, I wish I could have pulled an Elvis and done an on-the-spot scholarship program.

We had arrived at the show in a cab called  by Uber (app that requests cab ride) right in front. Embarrassed I asked to pull ahead. We aren’t stars. Not my turf. No homeys waiting for me. Why rub it in that I can take a cab. Leaving, later,  the cab was on the other side and while others were thumbing to attract a moving cab we jumped in. The driver was Ethiopian and we talked about the show. He made a point of how Rastafarianism wasn’t Ethiopian. I let that pass–Rastafarianism is Ethiopian and Haile Selassie, their dictator was, and for many still is, considered king and god for Rasta’s. Someday they would go back to home, their spiritual and possible all humanity’s place of origin–Ethiopia being at least one birth place of humans.

I asked what was on his radio–? He turned it on (not many ask what he listens to or even talk to him) and said it was gospel. Ethiopian gospel. He was Christian, by my inference. Hence the earlier statement. What many don’t know about Bob Marley is he converted to Christianity shortly before death. Some claim his conversion was due to being close to death. Others that he had a nurse that convinced him. Others that it was a natural extension of the Christian-based Selassie who openly claimed he was not god until he visited Jamaica and said “I am who you think I am.” That he wasn’t the prophet forces some Rasta’s to fall back on the bible and their roots in Christianity.

Bob wasn’t originally Rasta. Born in a middle-class family it wasn’t until he left home and fell in love with Rita who is extremely devout that he converted to a religion. Rita his first wife remains devout and fights to have his remains moved to Ethiopia.The entire religion shows how religion can be used against itself. Originally brought by missionaries to subdue natives, they took it, changed it, and made it an anthem against Babylon, the West and imperialism. More that plantation culture and then modernization left these places more impoverished than when the missionaries arrived. Speaking against oppression, racism, and materialism has an easy echo through the world. All of the oppressed on all levels have something in common.

That so many people think of Rasta’s as smoking and dance music revelers without the religion and meaning against oppression keeps them disenfranchised.

It was an easy church service for me. It is so foreign I can hardly be offended as I hardly know it–let me listen before I speak. Besides I am the one visiting, being respectful of their space–and hoping for the same in return. I suppose if it were to have grown to a nationalized Rasta religion or if I lived in Jamaica I might be more aware and reactive. For this night it was beautiful music with beautiful people looking to have a beautiful world.

Here is Stephen’s Revelation Part 1 album.

Here’s a song from Revelation Part 2.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Salt Lake Tribune Interviews David Silverman

Posted by Jim Newman on April 17th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in religion

david silevreman in utahOh the jokes I remember from living in Utah, geographically gorgeous, culturally not so pleasant.

You know why Christ wasn’t born at BYU? They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.

Ok then.

You know how you can tell which sheep belong to the Bishop? They have Pink Bows.


You know why Mormons have their own planets? No one else would play with them.

You know why Mormons have their own section in heaven? They think they’re the only ones who made t?


How many Mormons does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One man and three wives.


You know why Mormons are so overweight? They think eating ice cream is sex.


You know why Mormons speak in tongues? They don’t. No one understands them.


You know why teenage sex isn’t a problem in Utah? They just get married.

Last but not least.

You know why it always rains during Mormon Conference? God’s crying.

I’ll be here all week. Buy your drinks early.

I wouldn’t make such fun of them if I hadn’t been told I was satan so many times…If I hadn’t had so many friends that had been ostracized and hurt by them.  On a more elevated plane.

Interesting stuff come out in this interview. David Silverman was an inventor with some 74 patents, knew he was a nonbeliever at 6,  his father came out at 30, and there is almost no difference between an agnostic and an atheist.

What do you think of Mormonism?

Mormonism demonstrates the power of indoctrination. Unlike older religions, we know much about how Mormonism was created. … Mormonism has been proven wrong beyond reasonable doubt, yet it persists, due to the power of indoctrination. From this we can learn how strong childhood indoctrination (let’s just call it brainwashing) must be, and can only imagine the power of such indoctrination for the older religions, where such data as criminal records and plagiarized texts cannot be obtained.

Why did you stage a march around Temple Square during LDS conference?

We tried to get billboards, but were unable to find a single Salt Lake City-based company that would take our billboards. Then we tried to put them in a mall, any mall. They were not offensive, but happy, friendly, saying, “Hey, we’re atheists. Come party with us.” But no one would take them. It’s not right and it’s not American. People were angry. We decided to take that anger and show the Mormon church that atheists will not be squelched. We wanted our message to be public and vocal, to be an example to other atheists in the Mormon ranks that they have a place to land when they leave the church.

I am so glad I left Utah.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Reconsidering Barbara Ehrenreich’s Wild God

Posted by Jim Newman on April 17th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in atheists, Famous People

barbara ehrenreichAfter listening to a few interviews and reading a few more of Barbara Ehrenreich, while waiting to read her new book “Living with a Wild God: a Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything” myself when a check comes in, I have to reconsider her dialog with wild god(s). My first post responded strongly to an interview where it seemed like her mystic experiences troubled and excited her in a long repressed way, at least in expressing them. Further that her materialism was yielding to idealism where it’s all in the mind. Her interviews in the NYT, NYT Self,  NYT magazine, HarpersSlate, Salon,  NPR, and POI added more.

I was wrong. And that’s the great thing about evidence. I can be wrong. There’s no shame in it. It’s really quite liberating. We all would hate to have to be right all of the time. I’ll probably revamp my view again when. My own didactic personality is peripatetic anyway. Anyone who has followed my peregrinations here has seen my thoughts are as linear and singular as a crab circling the beach. Arguments are never singular in either direction or number. Which puts me at odds with most scientists and rationalists.

I find myself on a similar journey as a kindred seeker with Ehrenreich.

Ehrenreich has been a strong force against the psychobabble of people like Martin Seligman who first positioned positive psychology in both study, grants, and popularity. In her previous highly readable books she wails on the idiocy of American can do attitudes, motivational seminars beware, while praising the gumption and resourcefulness of  common workers, blue and white collar. This you can do it mind numb is used to pillage and pacify too many who really can’t do it and need shitloads of help. Indeed, information technology has become the coal mines of today. It may help to have a positive attitude, like any other drug, but it wold be better to be real, get support, and change the system.

BeforeI joined the skeptical movement, which is what I am even more than an atheist, I spent considerable energy deconstructing science and reason. The first for prostituting itself to industry, product grants, and research myopia. The second for its insularity as a formal system that thought itself self-sufficient, self autonomous. Working in technical publications allowed me to see engineers, scientists, and logicians (I worked on PALASM for AMD which is a language of the basic logic of EPROMS; controls fundamental computer logic) as being nearly as biased as the rest. The rest being the mystical and New Thoughters that invaded my public and private life of concerts, nature, writers, friends, and Hippies trying to drag me into New Ageism, ESP, and parapsychology.

A basic issue was consciousness. Never in my wildest dreams of youth could I imagine adults would be so sincere that only humans have consciousness, self-awareness, cognitive frameworks, and conceptual abilities. Everything in my experience showed many things to have these qualities. When Jane Goodall showed chimps to be tool makers the reaction by most was not really or a paradigm shift. My reaction was of course; I read everything she wrote and saw her several times.

Ehrenreich’s wild god is a metaphor for consciousness experienced in others and as perceived by us by our limited ways. A fisherman does always believe his fish in pain. A dog trainer often denies their animals are more than Pavlovian automatons. A lion tamer forgets his Tiger is still a tiger and may someday play with him to death, in reverse blindness. I attributed all this nonsense to religions which worked against the animisms and paganisms of foragers who had no issue whatsoever with most if not all things having consciousness.

Further I see no issue with rocks having a kind of consciousness, nor other inorganics. After spending so much time with algorithms and computer logic I could even attribute a weird kind of consciousness to them–something I didn’t find alliance with until finding Godel and other  mathematicians that were platonists of a different ilk. I couldn’t take that though. Consciousness is never separate from materials. The silly idea that a thought has no form was vapid and facile to me. I was a terror to those who thought ideas had an independent, self-autonomous life. What recourse do you have to anything but the Mute button if you deny material? Only an existential nothingness that allows any meaning as meaning, where action is the only consciousness but doesn’t say what to do, hoping movement is enough.

Communication as consciousness is a tempting description where even bacteria inform each other. Where chemistry and the physics of that substrate rules. Remarkable to me that it took so long to prove the vast communication between lifeforms through a macrobiotic world. Where consciousness is a team of players, adversaries even, usually, communicating. Where trees communicate to each other through vast networks of mychorhiza. Get rid of the mychorhiza and plants and trees suffer from both nutrient loss and lack of communication to other vascular plants. Not some sort of plants love western music thing but direct communication through chemistry.

By this measure I have long been interested in metaphysics or mysticism but was driven away by rampant woo. Only forager society anthropologists, naturalists, and creatives were willing to understand that I might be willing to spend days and weeks climbing mountains and having deep relationships with so-called objects simply for the view. The same for repetitive actions, mantras, contemplation, and psychoactive drugs. Just being there was enough.

I don’t call this mysticism or a wild god but communicating with nature directly but I often experience it–I live by it. Once called the sublime by those like Beethoven, classicists, and now called the awesome, the inspiring, or the feeling of something more, else, I can’t choke down this verbiage. It is too easily called god. A kind of god religions steal to show their god must be that god with their assumptions of form, content, and all the other clap-trap they can’t possibly witness. Even if “god” were atoms, waves, mass, extension, or form that speaks nothing to what religions claim, mystical or not.

Perhaps Ehrenreich is speaking to that in which case it does provide a more accessible means of getting people to talk beyond their personal god, and more about how we experience consciousness. I am afraid that to her benefit it will be seen as ubiquitous to all types of theology or spirit. It may also backfire to more spiritual but not religious gunk that needs to be cleared away with some kind of expectorant. It’s all in the dialog.

Jim Newman, bright and well