Saturday, September 30, 2006

Praise Be To His Noodly Appendage

Edit: Sorry about the delay twixt posts, I actually started this a while ago and saved it as a draft, so when I published it, it was published under the date I had originally saved it, which meant it appeared somewhere at the bottom of the page. Oh well, it's here now.

...For He is fully deserving of praise. I speak of course of his Noodlieness the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I have of late purchased His Gospel, and have also of... slightly more... recently... of late finished reading it and been truly enlightened. I first found out about the Church of the FSM back in '04 or '05, when I signed up for the FSM forum, and have been expectantly waiting for the Gospel to come out for quite some time now. And now that it has, I am not disappointed at all. It's really a much better read than the Bible.

...Stupid Bible

But seriously, the whole idea of the FSM is brilliant. I wish I had thought of it, and I greatly respect Mr. Bobby Henderson (Prophet) for bringing the idea into the public realm. Indeed, this book shows that the FSM has indeed transcended internet cult status and pulled itself into the light of public viewing. But I think at this momentous occasion the best action would be to look not to the future (because the future hasn't happened yet, and things that haven't happened are like monkeys, exciting at first, but then increasingly more annoying as time wears on... or like cows), but to the past.

Take a moment to reread that. OK.

And so it is with great pride that I have assembled this brief (HA HA HA HA) history of Pastafarianism. Consider yourself converted.

It all began with a letter to the Kansas School Board.

The Board had been seriously considering putting intelligent Design into schools as an alternate theory to Evolution. Bobby Henderson, in a brilliant stroke of genius (which he later accounted to a vision from the FSM) wrote a letter to the Board complaining. See, I could just give you a link. But this way it makes the post so much longer:

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I a’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I am sure you see where we are coming from. [...]

In conclusion, thank you for taking the time to hear our views and beliefs. I hope I was able to convey the importance of teaching this theory to your students. We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

Sincerely Yours,

Bobby Henderson, concerned citizen.

P.S. I have included an artistic drawing of Him creating a mountain, trees, and a midget. Remember, we are all His creatures.









And so it began...


Soon after, emails began coming in from members of the School Board, some congratulatory:
Dear Mr. Henderson, Thanks for your message. Thanks for the laugh. Your web site is fascinating. I will add your theory to a long list of alternative theories I intend to introduce when it is appropriate. [...]

I will be one of the four member minority who will be voting against the flawed science standards currently being proposed by the six member majority.

Sincerely, Sue Gamble


And some not:

From: Mrs. Kathy Martin, District 6

"It is a serious offense to mock God."


Along with the letter, Bobby Henderson also forged a website, which soon attracted a cult following. From this spawned a forum, and from there it was an easy road to the glorious status it now holds of everyone on the planet having vaguely heard of it. Take this famous conversation between President Roosevelt and his secretary of state Cordell Hull for example:

President Roosevelt: Hey, what religion are you?
Cordell Hull: I'm a Pastafarian.
President Roosevelt: Oh yes, Pastafarianism, I have vaguely heard of it

See?

One of the truly brilliant things about FSMism is it's mutual appeal to all freethinkers. I speak not only of atheists like myself, but also of anyone of any religion who recognizes the problems that religion causes. Perhaps, with time, Pastafarianism will lead the anti-religious-stupidity front, which it is already starting to do. I foresee a this mock religion being a great tool for tolerance in the world.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

So I have this History assignment to write about my "Hajj to Mecca"…

Dear Mom,

Hi! Guess where I'm writing from! Yeah! Saudi Arabia! Man, what a crazy two weeks this has been! It seems like just a few nights ago when you were disowning me for converting!

But seriously, Mom, this has been awesome! Now that I've gone on the Hajj, I've successfully completed one of the Five Pillars of Islam. I even got a bumper sticker! Also deep spiritual fulfillment derived from connectedness to God, but I can't put that on my car.

Ha! Ha! Anyways, you know, Muhammed was the first person to do a Hajj. We call him "The Big M" around here. Yeah, so, ever since he came back to Mecca and conquered it for Islam, Muslims have been making the pilgrimage here. Millions of people, Mom! You know how Dad always told me to become part of something? It's not the Army, Dad (wherever you are), but it's still responsible for lots and lots of wars and dead people!

You know, Mom, Muhammed was kinda like me. He was banished from his home (Mecca!) for practicing "paganism." Sound familiar? Haha! And so when he had enough followers, he went back to Mecca and took it away from the actual pagans! It's awesome!


Mom, you know how you always thought I converted because I was too stupid to understand Catholicism? Well, some of my new friends find that very offensive! This one guy, Abu-Musab, says that Catholicism is the stupid religion! How about that, Mom? Hmm?

No, Ma, I converted because the Bible's boring. There's too much begetting and not enough killing of infidels. I'm a child of the twenty-first century, Mom. I need action, and I found it in the Koran. Sure, Jesus said he would "slay" his enemies once or twice, but the Koran has that everywhere! Pages and pages condemning the infidels! "Fighting is obligatory," Mom! It's just like in those video games you caught me playing!

You and Dad always told me my life needed structure, but the Church never gave me any! But with Islam, Mom (Ha ha! It rhymes!), I've got salat. No, Mom, not a tasty vegetarian dish. It's prayer! I have to pray five times a day! Oh yes, Ma, five times: Before sunrise, at noon, before sunset, after sunset, and at dusk! That's far more structure than you and your crazy confessions and nightly prayers! Ha!

So that's why I went on the Hajj, Ma. I've proven that I'm an actual Muslim now. I have structure, and friends, and I'm closer to Allah. Who's the loser now, Principal Jenkins? That's right!


Anyways, did I mention how hot the Middle East is? It's sweltering, Ma! It's even worse than Dad's laboratory! Well, there aren't as many pointy things, so I guess it evens out. But when I got here, I was almost dying (also like Daddy's lab!) to change into my ihram! You know what that is, Mom? It's a white uniform! It's like two sheets, but even better, because its traditional! And sandals! Everybody else has to wear them, too, so there aren't any stylish kids to beat me up anymore! Ha ha ha! We're all nerds before God!

And you know what else is cool about Mecca? The Kaaba! It's this big cube-shaped building that Abraham built, in the center of the city's mosque. It's got a big black cloth on it, and my friends say that on the inside there's a room with Koranic inscriptions! They don't let people in, thought, except for the annual cleaning ceremony.

You know, when The Big M conquered Mecca, he didn't hurt anybody, because he was just cool like that. Instead, he just told people to get rid the filthy pagan idols around the Kaaba. So now, instead of worshipping idols, everybody bows down to a gigantic cube! It's awesome!

And not only is the Kaaba awesome, but the whole Hajj is awesome! When I got here, I had to walk around the Kaaba seven times, and then walk up and down a corridor seven times! It's because a long time ago, this servant woman Hagar had to walk back and forth across the desert to get water for her son. Pretty cool, right? And then, after all the walking, I had to drink water from the Zamzam well! Zamzam! Isn't that a funny name? Ha ha! Now I understand how horrible life was for adulterous maids!

So then, after all that walking, I had to walk even more to this place called Tent City. You know what that is? It's this big city of tents! Ha ha! It's in the Mina Valley, which is pretty big. We had to walk here without food of water, kinda like whenever you and Dad took me to Grandma's. Tent City's only about six miles from Mecca, though. And we prayed when we got there, instead of going down to Grandma's basement.

And later, I went to this plain called the Muzdalifah, where everybody had a vigil at sundown. You know what the vigil was for? To become closer to God! Yeah, I know, I just kept getting closer and closer to God during the whole Hajj! Closer and closer and closer! During the vigil, I think I even felt Him! It was awesome!

The most eventful part of my Hajj came on the tenth day, when we all went back to the Mina Valley. This was the part when we all threw stones at these three pillars called the jamarat, because they represented Satan. I don't know if he had real estate in them or whatever, but people seemed pretty mad at those big hunks of stone. There's also this bridge around them, called the Jamarat Bridge, where people can stand and throw the rocks. Awesome, huh?

So I was on the ground, throwing lots of pebbles and having a good time, when suddenly there's this stampede up on the bridge! I see people pushing people and running everywhere, and people falling off and all sorts of painful things! Apparently, a couple dozen people were killed! But one of my new friends told me that happens all the time (in 1994, almost three hundred people died!), so I wasn't too worried about it. After all, they'd be going to Heaven anyways! It's just too bad they didn't get to wage war on any infidels first.

Oh, and also, we had a feast that night! And for the next two days! There was food everywhere! It was awesome!


Say, Mom, if you ever become a Muslim, I'd be happy to go on a Hajj with you. Because, you know, women can't go by themselves. It's a Saudi law! Isn't that silly? Ha ha ha!

Yep, I started out alone, but then I met all sorts of interesting people. I made lots of friends, Mom! Aren't you proud? Ha ha! Although, I won't be seeing some of them for a while. Jacob lives all the way in Australia, Andy lives in London, and Abu Musab said he couldn't tell me where he lived. Isn't that awesome?

Sure, I may have felt awkward around the Arabic-speakers, but there were thousands and thousands of other people who I could talk to! I actually felt like someone! Like a person. Like a person surrounded by millions of other people in blind, unquestioned devotion to a giant cube! I felt awesome!

I'm a much better Muslim than I was two weeks ago, Mom! I've learned a lot. Like how I'm not alone in my struggle to serve God! Oh yes, the Hajj has taught me that we as people should not focus on that which divides us; nay, we should rather focus upon that which divides us…from Jews and Christians.


Awesomely,
Seth

Monday, September 04, 2006

On even more poorly-executed research

The Guardian - Humans 'hardwired for religion':

The battle by scientists against "irrational" beliefs such as creationism is ultimately futile, a leading experimental psychologist said today.

The work of Bruce Hood, a professor at Bristol University, suggests that magical and supernatural beliefs are hardwired into our brains from birth, and that religions are therefore tapping into a powerful psychological force.


Right off the bat, this is obviously flawed - 'beliefs' are not instinctual. Actions are instinctual; beliefs are the result of observation and interaction. No child is born knowing that a spider is poisonous; however, the urge to avoid spiders is the result of our spider-wary ancestors not coming too close to venomous arachnids. The action is passed on, but one must learn the rationalization for oneself.

"I think it is pointless to think that we can get people to abandon their belief systems because they are operating at such a fundamental level," said Prof Hood. "No amount of rational evidence is going to be taken on board to get people to abandon those ideas."


Incidentally, there was no research cited in relation to religion. Hood's "experiments" involved only the concept of irrationality itself:

"For example, many people would be reluctant to part with a wedding ring for an identical ring because of the personal significance it holds. Conversely, many people are disgusted by an object if it has associations with 'evil'."
[…]
Another experiment involves asking subjects to cut up a photograph. When his team then measures their galvanic skin response - ie sweat production, which is what lie-detector tests monitors - there is a jump in the reading. This does not occur when a person destroys an object of less sentimental significance.


Now, Hood should have asked his subjects to cut up - or 'part with' - an item that has obvious sentimental value to someone else. Perhaps a portrait of a stranger's family. Otherwise, my reaction to this is simply that people would be unwilling to destroy family photographs because we're all inherently narcissistic. Instinctually, one's greatest desire is to preserve oneself and our genes, and avoid harming anything to which one has a personal connection. Yes, it appears complex, but that's because we are complex creatures. Our genetic qualities have more venues for expression than a chipmunk's.

He told the annual British Association Festival of Science in Norwich that the standard bearers for evolution, such as the biologist Richard Dawkins and the philosopher Daniel Dennet, had adopted a counterproductive and "simplistic" position.

"They have basically said there are two types of people in the world," he said - "those who believe in the supernatural and those who do not. But almost everyone entertains some form of irrational beliefs even if they are not religious.


Note how Hood dodges the issue of religion. He's trying to say that religion is natural, but then tries to replace the concept of religion with irrationality. He fails to establish that religion is just a result of irrationality, and one that can - and should - be avoided.

In his lectures, Prof Hood produces a rather boring-looking blue cardigan with large brown buttons and invites people in the audience to put it on, for a £10 reward. As you may expect, there is invariably a sea of raised hands. He then reveals that the notorious murderer Fred West wore the cardigan. Nearly everyone puts their hand down.

Unfortunately, it is just a stunt: the cardigan is not West's. But it illustrates the way even the most rational of people are can [sic] be irrationally made to feel uncomfortable.


Simple explanation: People want to preserve their reputation, and avoid association with people perceived as bad. Thus, their chances of passing on genes are not reduced.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Godless Aussies

(via Atheist Revolution)

A recently concluded three-year study in Australia has found that less than half of Australian youths believe in a god.

According to the study, Aussies born between 1976 and 1990 are more likely to follow a secular lifestyle. Only 48% believe in a god.

Dr Singleton said that by comparison, baby boomers now had higher levels of regular churchgoers and believers in a god. Instead, those in Generation Y had more in common with their Generation X counterparts - those born between 1961 and 1975.
[…]
"One of the many predictors of whether we become religious is our parents and unless there is a massive cultural shift, the trajectory will continue," Dr Singleton said.


What's that? Parents are a factor, yet so many children are atheists? I wonder why that could be…

"This generation was taught to question their belief and come to their own conclusion about it[…]"


Oh! That's odd. Kids were encouraged to make their own decisions about religion. How unusual. I wonder why American parents don't do that.



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