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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Noah: High budget movie made to piss off fundamentalists

This movie is stupid and boring.  --Jeanie

Spoiler alert!  I'm going to give some details, so if you really want to see this film without knowing what's going to happen, don't read any further.

This movie served as a comedy until Jeanie lost interest.  We both agreed that it would have been far better to watch in a theater, where we could catch the reactions of folks who thought they were going to see the equivalent to "The Ten Commandments", starring Charlton Heston.  That would have been so much fun.  People watching often is.

It's clear this was a high-budget film.  Russell Crowe is Noah, Jennifer Connelly is his wife, Emma Watson is Shem's wife (I'm bad with names, people, and can only remember the ones mentioned in the Bible, which I've read 27 times, so please don't read into the fact that I don't remember the names of the women--blame the Bible's author for never mentioning them), Anthony Hopkins plays Methusaleh...they really shelled out the big bucks for the cast.

Okay, I'm looking it up on IMDB now.

[minutes go by]

 Jennifer Connely is Neemah, and Emma Watson is Ila.  Anyway, they dragged some big names into this film.  I had to go look because these actresses are accomplished, and it's wrong of me not to care which characters they played.

Anyway, first off all, the movie is nothing like the book.  If you're going into this film thinking it's going to be anything like the Genesis account, you'll be disappointed.  There's a loose framework and a few elements in common, but that's about it.  I had already heard plenty of Internet buzz about how it wasn't like the biblical account, and I didn't care--I have no love for the Bible. However, it seems like they did things just to piss off fundamentalists.  They explain "fallen angels" as beings of light who tried to help mankind after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, who then became rock monsters.  They helped mankind, but mankind turned on them.  Anyway, they end up helping to build the ark and defending it from the men who turned on them, which had to piss off fundamentalists.  These "angels" disobeyed their creator (never called "God" in the movie); they belonged in hell, right?

Things that the movie had in common with the Bible: a few of the names of the characters, the crow failing to find land, the dove succeeding to find land, two of every creature ending up on the ark, the ark itself, the genocide the flood represented, Ham spurning his drunken father at the end of the story, and that's about it.

Here are the differences, off the top of my head, without doing a detailed analysis:

  • Only Shem had a wife when the flood began.  Ham and Japheth both had wives when they entered the ark in the Bible. 
  • Conflict is created when Methusaleh makes the barren Ila fertile with his blessing, and Noah, who has it in his mind that his creator intended for mankind to be destroyed (he thought his mission was simply to save the animals and die), believes he has to kill Ila's and Shem's offspring if they have a girl.  It's clear in the Bible that God intended to save Noah's family because they were the only righteous ones left on the corrupted Earth (except at the end of the story, he decided that wickedness in men will never be cured, and the flood was basically a wasted endeavor--seriously, read the book.  I'm not making that up.). 
  • More conflict is created when Ham decides to try and find a wife, finds a girl who wants to be his mate, then loses her in a stampede of humans who are trying to get to the ark when the rains come, all because she gets her foot stuck in a trap.
  • Tubal-Cain (descendant of Cain and the king of the wicked people) leads and army to try to take the ark, because of course there needs to be suspense right when the flood begins.  
  • The fallen angels get back into heaven when their bodies are ripped apart.  
  • The "creator" never talks to Noah.  He communicates in visions and dreams, which Methusaleh needs to help along because Noah's never shown what to do to avoid the flood in his dream.  He does it through the use of a potion of some sort.
  • Noah has to decide whether or not to kill babies.
  • Tubal-Cain ends up on the ark, the only survivor of the wicked people, all to create more conflict and suspense by tempting Ham to kill his father, and giving Tubal-Cain a chance to kill Noah. 
I'm sure I can come up with more differences and similarities with a full analysis, but I'm sure people will get the idea: this film is a re-imagining of the Genesis story.  So...what's the point?  Why make a film about Noah that not only isn't like the Genesis account, but also contains downright blasphemous elements (like fallen angels helping Noah build the ark and getting back into heaven)?  I'm pretty sure the whole point was that human beings corrupted the planet, made conditions horrible, and would be judged for it; that message is pretty heavy-handed and blatantly stated by Noah when he recounted the story of the fall of man when they got onto the ark.  He also revealed at that point that his family were to be the last humans (until he found out Ila was pregnant), so an extension of the message is that the world would be better off without humans.  I think.

This is nothing like the book, and they're all white!   --Jeanie
Yeah...that's another thing.  This all-white cast looks nothing like the first humans, who most certainly had a high melanin content in their skin.

As far as movies go, religious connections notwithstanding, I didn't find it unwatchable.  I found a lot of comedy in it, which I'm sure wasn't the intention of the filmmakers.  If you want to waste two hours of your time on a fantasy that doesn't really have a message of any importance, this film is for you.  If you are expecting to have your religion validated or receive a more palatable version of the Genesis flood on film, you're not going to get it.  I really do think that the intention was to piss off believers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I don't believe in unrequited love

Recently, someone revealed that he is "in love" with someone who is in a relationship.  I commented that I don't believe in unrequited love.  I think two people can fall in love and never be together, but I don't think it can be love when the feelings aren't mutual.  If there's no reciprocation, the person who thinks he's in love is fixated on the idea of this other person being with him.  It's infatuation, not love.  It's putting the other person on a pedestal, thinking she's the perfect person for you, when you haven't been with her to know her quirks and flaws.   You don't know what it's like to be intimate with her, and you won't get the chance because she's in a relationship (at least if it's a happy one, and not failing already).

This person said that he liked certain qualities of her personality and the fact that she makes him happy with ease.  That's what friends do.  The fact that the friend happens to be the gender you prefer doesn't make it a romantic relationship.  That idea is only coming from one side.  She's with someone else; she isn't looking for intimacy with you.

If he's waiting for her relationship to fail, he does not respect her.  Who wishes the pain of a failed relationship and a breakup on someone, just so he has a chance of being with her?  That's selfish, and love isn't selfish.  It's unkind, and love is not unkind.  It's an "If I can't have her, nobody can" mentality.

There are plenty of single people out there.  Finding someone compatible is difficult, to be sure, but if you're looking at people who already believe they've found someone compatible, you are looking in the wrong places.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

God's Not Dead: A Movie For People Who Don't Know How College Works

...or introductory philosophy classes, or relationships between atheists and their significant others, or their parents, or motor vehicles...

If you watched this film and your intelligence wasn't insulted, you either weren't paying attention, never met an atheist, aren't familiar with college, aren't familiar with philosophy, aren't familiar with the Bible, or any combination, if not all, of the preceding.

Ultimately, the movie attempts to reinforce the myth that atheists are former Christians who have lost their faith because they were mad at the Christian god.  I can't speak for all atheists, but having been part of several atheist groups in the flesh and also the online community for the past 23 years, I assure you that most atheists are not believers because the evidence for gods is lacking.  Yes, I said "gods".  It's not just the Christian god atheists reject; it's all gods.  All of them are myths.  All of them require faith to believe.  The "evidence" presented in the film isn't evidence at all, and dismisses all of the magic and mysticism required to accept the Bible as a whole--which the film clearly wants the viewers to do.

For my part, it started with reading the Bible and asking questions in Bible study classes.  I had long given up on Catholicism; confession killed Catholic dogma for me.  I could not get a straight answer on why I needed an intermediary for confession of my sins.  It was based on the precedent of Paul's confession in the New Testament, but the Catholic priests in the Middle Ages used absolution as an income source.  Penance could be bought.  Before this discovery about the practice, I had already asked the question this movie suggests can be turned around on me: who or what created God?  The movie's main character, Josh Wheaton, tells us that they believe in an eternal god, but that belief requires faith and has no evidence to support it.

In any case, getting back to why I lost my faith: I read the Bible twenty-seven times in the span of a few years.  I've forgotten more of the Bible than most people have actually read, and I find it absurd to believe it's a basis for morality or a practical guide for life.  The genocide in the land of Canaan alone kills it for me, but that's one problem among hundreds--perhaps more.  Do people really expect me to believe that genocide was necessary?  Even enslavement of the people who were in the "promised land" would have been more moral than genocide.  Let's discard the talking snake, the magical trees, virgin birth, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, incantations, magic, and all of the other unprovable parts; where is the morality in genocide?  The explanation offered to me for this genocide is that it was God's mercy that spared the potential descendants of the people in that land from being damned, containing the numbers to those who lived at that time--which brings me back to the idea of slavery.

I do not condone slavery in any form, but if we look at the example of the slaves who were brought to the United States (and the colonies before it), we can find arguments some Christians made for the morality of the practice which include the idea that they saved pagans from damnation by forcing them to convert under bondage.  That's amazing reasoning to me, but it's totally biblical.  Abram (before he was Abraham) used an army of slaves to achieve military victory.  There were rules for slavery--for buying and selling and beating, for pricing based on gender, for circumcision.  How does one justify the ownership of people as moral?

I could go on, but the point is that it's not anger that led me to reject faith, but lack of evidence and the absurdity of the evidence offered.  My questions were met with "You have to have faith."  People offered me books, like Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict.  People have sent me more apologetics since.  It's all easily torn apart--and that leads me back to the movie's situation.

The writers of this screenplay either do not know how college works, or they expect their audience not to know.  First, an introduction to philosophy will usually begin with Aristotle, not a discussion of atheism.  In fact, the discussion of the necessity--or lack thereof--of gods will usually be reserved for epistemology courses.  Secondly, if this was a state university--and I'm not sure if it is ever revealed that it is a state college--the kind of practice in which Kevin Sorbo's character engaged would not go unanswered.  There would be legal action.  An agent of the state cannot force a captive audience to agree to an idea or go against one's religion.  It's a violation of the Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, as well as the Fourteenth (which applies the Constitution to states and provides equal protection to all classes of people under the law).  Finally, the notion that there is only ONE Christian who would resist the initial class exercise anywhere in the United States is insultingly absurd.

The whole premise for this movie seems based on urban legend stories about evil atheist professors who berate their students about their religion, and some Christian gives each professor his comeuppance.  There's the one where the atheist professor tells the class that if God exists, he will keep chalk from dropping on the floor.  When it catches in the cuff of his pants twice, he runs screaming from the room, and some Christian student gets up and witnesses to the class.  In a more noxious urban legend, a Marine gets up and punches the professor for some reason, saying that God was busy protecting soldiers in Afghanistan, so he was sent as the agent of God.  There are more, but the point is that there is this ignorant notion that college is a place where professors force atheism on students.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I couldn't even tell you the religion of any of my professors.  I can guess, but I don't know for certain, because they were all professionals who taught the subject matter at hand.

I dropped religion on my own, and when I did drop it, I felt totally alone.  I felt free, but I felt alone in my thinking.

Christians have always had support networks.  The persecution portrayed in this film is such a lie, it's an insult to those of us who have had the courage to come out in favor of reason, who have stood up to religious bullying to say that we don't accept the myths.  When I came out, there was no Internet widely available.  There wasn't an atheist group on my campus, and I had difficulty even finding another atheist.  I met a couple before I rejected faith, but most of the people I met after were religious to some degree.  There was a Campus Crusade for Christ.  There were other religious organizations.  There were churches available.  There was nothing for atheists.  This film wants us to believe that the Christian who stands up for faith is alone, but it would be far more believable that a Christian student would be on his own on a campus in Europe than any in the United States.

The final point I want to make is that every single atheist in this movie is an asshole.  The woman who gets cancer likes to ambush Christian celebrities with insipid interview questions and a hostile attitude.  Her boyfriend is a complete jackass who doesn't care about his mother with dementia, and who breaks up with the girlfriend after she finds out she has cancer.  The atheist professor is a dick to not only students, but to his wife?  Girlfriend?  I'd have to watch it again to find out for sure, but she's a believer, and he ridicules her faith in front of his professor buddies at a dinner party she helped prepare.  All of them seem to come to faith in the end (we're not sure about Dean Cain's character, but he's left speechless by something his mother says about the devil's deception of people), which is also a bit sickening.  A preacher telling a dying atheist that he has a second chance to accept Jesus is rude and unwelcome.  I'd tell him to go away and let me die in peace--or better yet, stop trying to get me to accept Jesus and call 911!

Can I shred the arguments the Josh Wheaton character made in the film?  Certainly, but people have already done that.  Check out the following link:

There are many videos on YouTube where atheists have picked apart the movie, as well.

Perhaps I'll give my own take on the arguments made in the film at some point, but what bothers me the most is that there really isn't a case made for the existence of God; it's mostly quote-mining of scientists and taking them out of context.  And making a case for Genesis...that's just funny.  I have a Facebook page called Skeptical Bible Reading, where I have gone through several chapters of Genesis already to point out the problems.  Check it out.  I'll be doing more writing there.

I'm also thinking about reviewing the films Pure Flix--the producers of "God's Not Dead"--makes.  I think there's a lot of comedy in them.  At least, that's how my fiancee and I treat films like this one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Stop forcing religion down our throats

I love how atheists are always the bad guys for wanting religious displays removed from tax-supported land.

"But it's tradition!"

Yes, it's a long tradition of shoving your religion in our faces, using money that partially came from us.

"But God is on our money.  It's part of our motto.  It's on our coins."

Yes, because in the 1950s, religious hysteria about "godless" communism (which wasn't actually godless--they just taxed churches in the USSR, and religious leaders feared that) caused Congress to legislate religious entanglement with the state.  Most of your parents were born in the 50s or a decade or two before.  It was on the coins sooner, but that was a sneaky little piece of work on the part of two members of the National Reform Association (now the American Family Association--a rabidly anti-gay group), who, after failing to get the United States to acknowledge Jesus in the Constitution, got Congress to pass a bill with vague wording that gave them carte blanche on the coin design. Teddy Roosevelt wanted to put out a coin without "In God We Trust" on it, but religious bullying pushed it through Congress.

You have private property.  You have church property.  You have all the rights in the world to put up religious symbols.  I've driven by your houses, though, and they have plastic snowmen, Santa, reindeer, lights, candy canes--everything but nativity scenes and other religious symbols.  I don't see a placard with "In God We Trust" over your doors.  I've seen crosses in your houses, but not on your front lawns.

You have 365,000 churches (approximately) in a country with 300,000,000 people (again, approximately), but only 39 million of you attend church on a weekly basis.  That means that there is a church for every 107 people who actually attend weekly (there area  lot of tiny churches in cities).  You have more than enough facilities for religious fellowship.  You have more than enough places to put your religious ideas on display.  Why do you need our money and our cooperation?

You don't see atheists trying to ban churches, but when we respectfully ask you to keep your religious symbols off of tax-supported property, we're the bad ones.  When we ask you to keep religious out of schools, we're the jerks.  I don't get it.  You want to force religion down our throats and simply expect us to shut up and take it.

I'm not going to take it, and I don't feel sorry at all that atheists are trying to use the courts at every turn to get religion off of public property.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Get ready for two years of suck

With the Republicans taking over the Senate, both houses of Congress have Republican majorities.  The Republicans do not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, but now that they have a majority in both houses, they have all kinds of opportunity to wreak havoc on the country.  Here's what I expect to see:

  • Attempts to repeal parts or all of the Affordable Care Act:  House Republicans have attempted to repeal Obamacare several times in the past few years without success, because the Senate squashed these attempts.  Now, the Republicans in the Senate will rubber-stamp them, most assuredly, so either the Senate Democrats have to filibuster, or President Obama will have to veto.  Will the Democrats bend or stand firm?  That's what remains to be seen.  
  • Attempts to pass a "defense of marriage" amendment: Chuck Todd, whose analysis I have pretty much despised since I first saw him on television, claimed that the Republican victories are a repudiation of President Obama.  I strongly disagree.   In every race where Democrats distanced themselves from the President, they lost.  In races where Obama was involved in the campaign, they won.  Tom Wolfe won in Pennsylvania, and he had no problem siding with Obama.  I think the Republican victories have to do with a few things, and one of those involves all of the states having their anti-marriage equality laws declared unconstitutional.  Given that the victories occurred in largely red states--religious states--it stands to reason that anti-gay bigotry fueled Republican turnout. 
  • Way too much compromise in order for Democrats to remain relevant:  This is the big potential mistake that scares me the most.  To get around the filibuster, which Senate Republicans used a record number of times during the Obama Presidency, the President and Senate Democrats compromised far too often with Republicans.  The best possible thing the Democrats could do right now is go into damage control mode and not let anything Republicans try to pass go through.  Make the Republicans compromise--which they are loathe to do--or don't let anything pass.  Unfortunately, I envision Democrats bending, just to make it look like Congress is doing something and the President is not a lame duck.  
  • Mandate:  Even though the Republican victories came in mostly red states and during a mid-term election where voter turnout is usually down, the Republican politicians and their media cheerleaders will label the takeover of the Senate a "mandate".  Now, to NBC's credit last night, they did not make that assessment; they said that the elections were too tight to call any of these victories a glaring indictment of Democrats.  
  • Impeachment:  I don't know if they're going to go this far, but I can envision a huge waste of taxpayer money on impeachment proceedings with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress.  Then again, impeachment could get them destroyed in 2016. 
My advice (for what it's worth) to Democrats: stay on the people who represent you in government.  Tell them to stand firm and use the tools available to them to stop Republicans from running roughshod over our country.  Look forward to 2016 and work for overwhelming victory till then.  And take a lesson from this mid-term election: these were tight races, and every vote counted.  If turnout would have been better for Democrats, we wouldn't have a Republican Senate.  Your vote matters in EVERY election.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

About letting the market decide

"Let the market decide."

The free market ideologues will have you believe that the market is perfect when it's unregulated, or, at the very least, that it is at its best and most efficient.  They would have you believe that an unregulated market would be the best option for the most people, or at least, that's the line they sell you, while they are fully aware that it would be what's best for those who already have wealth.  They would have you believe that an unregulated market would result in more competition, not less, in better products, not lower-quality ones, and in lower prices, not higher.

I have huge problems with the concept of an unregulated market, especially after working with the people who would control that market for most of my adult life.  The one thing that people must bear in mind is that business is only about profit.  That's its aim.  Whatever concepts people add to it to make it more bearable, profit is the only goal that ultimately matters, because without profit, business won't exist.  Sure, there are not-for-profit businesses that exist for charitable/humanitarian/philanthropic purposes, but no one expects the people who sell most goods and services to do it for free.  I don't.  However, I have several problems with the market that make it worrisome for me to dispense with regulation entirely.

First, the current philosophy of capitalism involves paying labor as little as possible.  The idea that "capitalism is the greatest engine for freedom" couldn't be more false.  The market built itself on the exploitation of labor, and it continues to exploit it.  The slave trade thrived for centuries to support capitalism, and was itself the worst example of unbridled capitalism.  When people argue over the causes of the US Civil War, there is a crowd that says it's about states' rights, and there's a crowd that says it's about slavery.  They're both right, but they both miss the truth.  It was really the fact that slavery was the backbone of capitalism in the South that caused the South to secede.  As country after country abolished the slave trade, capitalists in the South saw that the United States was going to abolish it soon, and they wanted to preserve the institution as long as possible to preserve plantation profits.  Preservation of profit not only prolonged the enslavement of millions of people, but also resulted in the lost of hundreds of thousands of American lives, all over capitalism.

Secondly, there is no interest in the greater good built into the idea of making profit.  Business only has interest in profit, so the only important consideration in business becomes how to maximize profits and preserve cash flow.  There's no interest in making life better for the maximum number of people, nor is there consideration for future generations.  Some people involved in business might consider these concepts, but there's no guarantee.  Of course, the concept of "the greater good" itself is problematic; who determines what constitutes "the greater good"?  What is "good"?  We would have to agree on a definition in order to work toward that end.  I think a decent example of a standard would be what medical professionals use in patient care: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  At its base, the hierarchy has survival needs, then moves on to things people need for emotional well-being and intellectual growth.  I think society becomes better when more of these needs are met by the greatest number of people.   Will everyone agree on this standard?  I would say "probably not" if I wasn't sure that the answer was "definitely not."

Next, the marketing of goods and services relies on manipulation and the presentation of the least amount of information to the public.   The market is best served by an ignorant population, not an informed one.  Ignorance breeds poor decision-making, however, and leads to poor representation in politics.  It leads to all kinds of disaster, as well.  Take, for example, the introduction of a species to a an area foreign to it to rid crops of a pest.  That species has no natural predators, so they infest the area, and their numbers get out so out of control, they become pests themselves, leading to ecological disaster.  Arguably, the levees keeping New Orleans from flooding broke because of bad decision-making regarding their maintenance, and anyone who watched the news in 2005 knows that result.  Ignorance led to unjustifiable war in the Middle East.  Can we blame the market on these things?  Well, the introduction of species to foreign environments had a direct capitalist cause, but the examples illustrate what happens when ignorance reigns, rather than what happens when the market is in control.  Still, the market wants ignorance, because it's easier to sell products that either do nothing or cause harm to a few--or even many--if the population remains ignorant, and ignorant politicians are a by-product of a culture of ignorance fostered by the market.

Finally, capitalism leads to a greater quality of life for the few, not the many.  The ultimate result of an unregulated market would resemble the medieval feudal system in Europe; most of the wealth will remain in the hands of a few, and the rest of the people will work for scraps.  Right now, people are kept far too busy and too poor to do anything substantial about the disparity of wealth that exists globally, and the market will work hard to preserve the status quo.  They will be entertained with junk food for the brain on the Internet, television, and radio.  Take a look at the news in the United States, for example: there's rarely anything of substance in a news broadcast.  How does news of a murder many states away affect life where you live?  It doesn't.  It doesn't inform you.  It only serves to shock you and keep you watching.  Look for in-depth investigation into anything on the news; you'll be hard-pressed to find it.  Very few journalists engage in it.  Why?  The news is a for-profit industry, and it's easier to provide superficial stories than it is to infiltrate organizations and businesses to provide investigative reporting.  The responsibility is to the bottom line and to the shareholder, not to the consumer.

If we are going to have a market, it should be a well-regulated one, tempered with information and consideration for what's best for the maximum number of people, not one that fosters ignorance, has no responsibility to labor or the consumer, and not one that influences politics.  The market should not decide how much freedom we have.  The market should not be the sole arbiter of what direction science should take.  The market should not be the determining factor in what makes the news.  If capitalism is going to survive, we need to regulate the hell out of it.

Friday, October 10, 2014

This atheist doesn't give a damn about Carrie Underwood's song

There's a rumor going around about atheists being angry about an overtly religious song by Carrie Underwood.  I wouldn't even have known about it if people didn't post this nonsense on social media.  Without checking sources to find out which atheists are trying to get the song banned, conservatives perpetuate a falsehood that raises the ire of the ignorant against people who aren't doing anything to harm them.

  • The United States Constitution prevents legislation that would get any song banned.  Sure, atheists might boycott overtly religious music, but get it banned?  How?  The claim is ridiculous on its face, and even if some atheist or group of atheists tried, it would be legal folly.  Expensive legal folly.  
  • They're assuming that atheists would care about Carrie Underwood's music.  I don't think I've heard a single Carrie Underwood song.  She doesn't sing in a genre where I'd have the opportunity to listen to her.  What is it, country?  Atheists who listen to country have to be used to religious themes by now; they've been part of country music for as long as I can remember.  
  • There are so many music choices out there, no one need be bothered by a single song by a single artist, ever.  Unless the music industry decided collectively to only produce religious music, atheists have and will always have plenty of opportunity to listen to music without religious themes.  Radio stations limit what they play, so this song might get a lot of attention on certain stations, but no atheists need be subjected to religious music against their will. 
I don't even have to ask if people are stupid enough to believe that atheists would be angry--as if atheists all think with one mind and speak with one voice--at a religious song, because I know they are.  If they weren't, this nonsense wouldn't be all over Facebook, Twitter, conservative blogs, and fake news sites.  

Just stop it, idiots.  We don't give a shit.  I don't know the lyrics, I haven't looked it up, and it's doubtful I'll ever hear the song.