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( Jul. 5th, 2008 12:11 pm)
We've just been Jehovah's Witnessed.

First time it's happened to me, surprisingly.

Accompanying reading materials were mostly benign... apart from one short paragraph suggesting that "Studies have found" that blood transfusions can do "more harm than good". Presumably bleeding to death is far more healthy.
spudtater: (Default)
( Feb. 10th, 2008 03:04 pm)

Archbishop creates miraculous weather event: mighty hurricane in tiny espresso cup

First time I've ever felt sorry for the guy, I have to say.

Edit: Many people, huge numbers of people, would be greatly relieved [if he resigned] because he sits on the fence over all sorts of things and we need strong, Christian, biblical leadership right now [...] Is it just me, or do these General Synod people sound a bit frothing?

spudtater: (Default)
( Aug. 16th, 2007 11:35 pm)
I was sitting on the bus today, when an elderly, fairly sharply-dressed black gentleman descended the stairs and peered out at the church outside. "Fucking Christianity!" I heard him exclaim, which I admit I was not expecting. He then proceeded to inform the bus in general, and me in particular, that he had no love in his heart for any Christian church — "speaking", he was quick to point out, "as somebody who used to wear the collar myself". He went on to add the disclaimer that he had nothing against Jesus, who he still believed in and rated as a pretty swell guy. The man was remarkably soft-spoken and matter-of-fact about all this, considering.

Throughout this conversation I was a little unsure of what to add to this, other than seeming politely interested.

Before getting off the bus, the man calmed down and apologised for his sudden tirade; "this lot just get me so riled up". And he was gone, leaving only a group of slightly bemused passengers behind him.

I don't know why I thought this was worthy of an LJ post. He was just such a quirky character.
spudtater: (Default)
( Apr. 7th, 2007 12:06 am)
Just saw Crucify Me on't telly. Interesting. I was half expecting it to be a bit of a publicity-seeking stunt, but something about the guy's demeanor convinced me that he was intensely serious about the whole thing. I cannot for the life of me ever imagine wanting to nail myself to a cross, but I do totally understand the idea that sometimes, there are things that you have to undertake as part of your own personal spiritual journey.

As far as him finding his faith again, I can say in all honesty that I'm happy for him. He initially lost his faith in a negative way, and though he said that it was losing his faith that brought about his depression, I have to say that from what I saw I would think it was the other way about.

Because, no, I don't want people to be unhappy. This is one of the big negative stereotypes about atheists; that they're unhappy people who want other people to share in their misery too. And it's one of the biggest challenges for any individual atheist to turn an initially very negative set of concepts (there is no God to love and comfort you, death is permanent, life is unfair) into a healthy and positive attitude to life (including concepts of freedom, dignity, and potential).

How should I bring this ramble to a conclusion? On a personal level, a person's faith or lack of it is really not that important. It's more important that they have hope, and mental health, and face the future with a positive attitude. Everybody's got their own spiritual journey to make, and I can appreciate Dominik's... even if I have my suspicions that he may be madder than a sack of ferrets.
  1. Have been battling meeces recently. Like any Edinburgh tenement, the place is full of holes that mice can get through. I went to B&Q to buy expanding foam, but an employee advised me that mice just get a taste for that and chew through it. So, as per his advice, I've been stuffing holes with wire wool instead. (It is a well-known fact that sheep that give us wire wool have no natural enemies.)
  2. It struck me this morning that, presumably, Richard Dawkins has a godparent. Worst. Failure. Ever.   8^)
  3. I've just been told by my MSc dissertation supervisor that there is the possibility of getting access to a Lego Mindstorms kit, with a Java interpreter installed on the brain brick. It seems my Braitenberg vehicles project might not end up being purely simulated after all...
spudtater: (Default)
( Jan. 5th, 2007 10:12 pm)
An AP/AOL telephone poll of 1000 americans revealed that, among other predictions for 2007, 25% expect the second coming of Jesus.

(From [livejournal.com profile] autopope).
spudtater: (Default)
( Jun. 21st, 2006 10:26 pm)

Stephen Colbert, who very frequently rocks, in an interview with Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, on the subject of displaying the ten commandments in courthouses etc. Laugh track added post-interview.


(Even those of you who are religious want to watch this one. It's brilliant.)

Stephen Hawking says pope told him not to study beginning of universe

'Hawking, who didn't say when the meeting was held, quoted the pope as saying, "It's OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not enquire into the beginning itelf because that was the moment of creation and the work of God."'

— AP, 15/06/2006

And this doesn't really fit the topic of religion, but I have recently discovered that some people apparently still believe in the theory of phrenology. (That's the one about reading people's personalities by examining the bumps in their heads.) Oh dear.

spudtater: (Default)
( May. 12th, 2006 12:02 am)

There's a fantastic discussion with Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens (recording, mp3 format) on the Guardian blog. It's supposed to be about the proposed Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill, but as Stephen is stauntly atheist and Christopher describes himself as anti-theist, it descends at several points into a general bitchfest about religion. The religious among you may wish to give it a miss. (Though it's not nearly as vitriolic as the Dawkins stuff I linked to a while back).

My favourite part. Cut for length, not bitchiness. )

But I take issue with one statement made in this conversation, and that is that all religious are inherently creationist; that they imply an argument from design. Even ignoring religions such as Buddhism, where the creation of the world is not discussed, and Taoism, which describes the how but not the why of creation, I think there is a large and oft-overlooked thread of spiritualism throughout most religions that considers irrelevent, silly or even insulting the idea that God has anything at all to do with the physical world.

In particular my thoughts turned to this article in the Scotsman a while ago: Creationism dismissed as 'a kind of paganism' by Vatican's astronomer. The theologist and astronomer of the title basically shuns the entire idea of a God that meddles in the physical plane, either now or at the beginning of the universe.

I guess what I'm saying is that outspoken atheists, and especially the more famous of them, tend to be exposed only to the evangelising and fundamental of theists. It's easy to forget that this vocal minority is outnumbered by their more reasonable and less literal-minded fellow worshippers. And it's easy to pigeonhole religious people as rabid and irrational, a stereotype that alienates more people than it helps.

There may be more on this tomorrow. For now, goodnight.

spudtater: (Default)
( Feb. 9th, 2006 12:03 am)
I note with some anger that British newspapers have decided almost unanimously to not actually print the cartoons of Muhammed that Muslims found so offensive1. The Guardian, for example, reckons that it would be "senselessly provocative to reproduce a set of images [...] which pander to the worst prejudices about Muslims", not realising that without the cartoon(s) in question, the entire article is pretty much useless to us. A cartoon caused massive riots! We're not going to show you what it was, though!

ramble )

And now, the cartoons in question3.

Cartoons! Offensive! Firebomb this journal! )
spudtater: (Default)
( Dec. 24th, 2005 06:57 pm)
I'm celebrating Saturnalia this year, I think. I get to decorate an evergreen tree, and exchange presents with family and friends. Sounds like fun! (The feasting and drinking sounds pretty good, too!) I'll be celebrating it on December 25th, i.e. tomorrow, following the lead of Emperor Aurelian (technically that's the date of dies natalis Solis Invicti, not Saturnalia, but same difference).

In other news, my brother has shown that he does in fact have some use, by demonstrating how to fold a t-shirt in three easy movements (standing up, no less!).
spudtater: (Default)
( Dec. 16th, 2005 01:05 am)

I've talked about the different versions of Santa, but there's one very interesting aspect I haven't covered yet: the companions of Santa. These are beings who accompany Santa (or similar gift-bringer) on his journey to deliver his presents. In Britain and America we think of him as travelling alone, or with a nameless elf or two. But other cultures have much more fleshed out characters.

The companions of Santa )

What have we learnt from all this study of Santa? Well, that Santa is merely the most modern incarnation of a figure who appears to be older than written records can trace; a figure who has left widespread and highly variant figures all over Europe and beyond. He predates his namesake St. Nicholas for sure, he predates Christianity, and he predates Coca Cola by a long way. So if anybody tells you that Santa was invented by the Coca Cola company in the 20th century, you can now quite thoroughly correct them!

spudtater: (Default)
( Dec. 9th, 2005 02:42 pm)

I've talked about the various characters who went into the modern Santa Claus, but as [livejournal.com profile] sigmonster pointed out, my list of winter gift-givers is far from complete. Here are a few of the more esoteric ones, ranging from the slightly odd to the downright bizarre:

Here we go here we go )
spudtater: (Default)
( Dec. 8th, 2005 02:17 pm)
So, the theoretical state of Limbo (where babies who died before they could be baptised go) is about to be abolished by the pope.

Hence this.   8^D

The history of "Santa Claus" is a convoluted one. His roots are many and varied, with each country and culture seeming to contribute something to the legend. Here are the main ones:

Cut for length )
spudtater: (Default)
( Dec. 5th, 2005 11:34 am)
Five questions from digitalraven )

Right. Anybody who wants questions in return, comment. I will (eventually) get round to asking them. (I'm still thinking of questions for [livejournal.com profile] gominokouhai for the last one.)

[When deciding between what is right and what is wrong] do not go by:

  • ...what has been said for many years
  • ...what is compatible with traditional practice
  • ...what is said in widespread news and rumors
  • ...what is written in a book
  • ...what logical reasoning leads you to believe
  • ...what a philosophy says should hold true
  • ...what is "common sense"
  • ...what fits with your preconcieved opinions and theories
  • ...what a person of high social or intellectual standing says
  • ...what your guru tells you

...but if after observation and analysis you find that certain moral guidelines lead to harmony, are without blame, are praised by the wise; if, undertaken and observed, they lead to benefit and happiness, then you should abide by them.

--Buddha, The Kalama Sutta



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