I like each of my posts to be about one specific thing, so I’ve resisted the temptation to clump together various random, unrelated thoughts. But today I’ve got a number of little niggling things that are bothering me, plus some bits of unfinished business. None of these items deserves an entire entry to itself; they're just some mentally scribbled notes I wanted to clean out from the inbox of my mind.
1) I subscribe to a few Google alerts. One of my categories is “religion, presidential candidates,” and every day I receive at least twenty pieces of email culled from news sources and blogs. There seems to be a great divergence of opinion about whether the candidates’ pious posturings will matter in the next presidential election. Some of the messages in my mailbox have headlines like: “Religion Not a Major Issue, Polls Say.” But about an hour later I’ll be sent a commentary titled: “Candidates’ Faith Likely to Play Key Role in ’08.” Regardless of which of these summaries you choose to believe (being an atheist, I believe neither), there’s still an awful lot of goddledygook out there. I have never yet received an alert saying either “Brains Not a Major Issue, Polls Say” or “Candidates’ Intelligence Likely to Play Key Role in ’08.” What I object to is that the religion dialogue is going on at all, not the degree to which it will be effective in electing someone.
2) The verdict is in — sort of — on the Nonbelieving Literati format. Among the responses, there seems to be an ever-so-slight preference for each of us posting his or her own essay, so that’s what we'll do this time around.
3) Hillary Clinton is seen by the morons who take part in polls as one of the least religious of the current presidential candidates. Yet, according to Mother Jones she has been a member of a Christian terrorist cell for fifteen years. Read about it here. (All right, maybe “terrorist” is too strong a word for most of those people. But they sure terrify me. And they should similarly affect anyone who believes in separation of Church and State.)
4) A story making the rounds of the newspapers a few days ago told of a group of approximately 300 people — actors, scholars, and various other blowhards among them — who have signed a “declaration of reasonable doubt.” This document has nothing to do with religion; it’s being pushed by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition. The document names 20 “prominent” doubters of the past, including Sir John Gielgud, Orson Welles, Mark Twain, and that eminent Shakespearean scholar, Charlie Chaplin, all of whom thought it was impossible for an ignorant country bumpkin to have written plays that demonstrated so much knowledge. (And isn’t it a good thing for those guys that they died before an ignorant country bumpkin ... aww, you finish the joke, OK?) Anyway, the signers are the literary equivalent of atheists, and it’s hard not to take some pleasure in their assault on the orthodox position. There’s no news yet whether anyone from the Coalition plans to publish a book called “The Shakespeare Delusion” or “The End of Avon.” In this matter, I, personally, am militantly agnostic. I don’t have all the facts (no one does), so I don’t have an opinion. Nor do I feel I need one. Unlike the bible, the plays are great literature, and I’m not sure it really matters whether Willie or the Flying Spaghetti Bard wrote them.
5) Only two of my readers successfully solved the puzzle at the end of my scavenger hunt through the Atheosphere. They are: Hemant Mehta (no surprise there, eh?) and Martin Engbers. My pal yinyang managed to find all the objects, but so far has not come up with the final answer. I’m not revealing anything, though, so if you’re still thinking about making the effort, go for it.
6) I think it’s time for all atheists and others who believe in the First Amendment to begin seriously challenging the concept of “hate speech.” No, I’m not saying we shouldn’t object vociferously whenever we hear offensive anti-whatever remarks; we should definitely tell our friends, relatives, neighbors, and even casual acquaintances to put a lid on it if they make odious generalizations about any group. But let’s call it hateful speech, without quotation marks, not “hate speech,” as if that were an officially recognized category. For example: The other day, Emmy-winning Kathy Griffin said, when she gleefully accepted her statuette at the unaired Creative Arts ceremony: “A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for the award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. So all I can say is, ‘Suck it, Jesus.’ This award is my god now.” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, immediately called this “hate speech.” The league has now successfully lobbied the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to censor Griffin’s thank-you when the highlights are broadcast. Not only that: Donohue is demanding—demanding!—an apology. But here’s the deal: All speech, except for trivia about the weather or cute kitties, can be labeled, in some way, as “hate speech.” (Even the cat-cooing might be thought of as hate speech by militant dog-lovers.) Fortunately, we live in a country where — so far — anyone is free to say the most hateful things, even “The pope is an asshole” or “Shut the fuck up, Bill Donohue.”
7) Mother Teresa was not an atheist, OK? She spent her life spreading superstition among the world’s poor and helpless. She may have had her occasional doubts, but they sure didn’t keep her from ramming religion down people’s throats. Good Catholic that she was — and funded in large part by the Church — she once said that abortion was “the greatest destroyer of world peace.” Oh, yeah, Mom T. thought it was just peachy to make sure those destitute people didn’t kill their defenseless unborn babies. What a small price for the pitiable masses to pay to ensure peace on Earth.
8) I’ve been getting a lot of traffic from the Jesus in Food Web site. Since his appearance in edibles seems to inspire so much interest, I’m thinking about trademarking the name of a frozen pizza that would feature his picture buried somewhere under the pepperoni and mushrooms: Christ on a Crust. I’ve also got an idea for a new variety of deli sandwich: Him on Rye (made from the ultimate mystery meat.) In the candy department, how about Sermon on the Mounds (“blessed are the coconut makers”)? Of course, each of these products would come with all the wine you can drink—just add water.
9) Why do I keep receiving emails from sexy women who wonder if I’d like to be their “pen pals”? These notes hardly ever come to the address bearing my actual name, but at least five a week are sent to The Exterminator. Where in this blog have I ever depicted myself as someone who needs more writing to do? Obviously, my head is cluttered enough.