Friday, September 15, 2006

Report Card


Disclaimer:
There isn't one.

Chris Bateman has another religion-oriented post up. I plan on responding in more depth at some future point. I've got quite a bit cooking, but it needs a little longer in the oven. There's a lot of necessary mulling before I commit anything to the digital winds. More metaphors must be mixed before the fermentation process completes.

In the meantime, however, I've taken the liberty of giving a small critique plus grade to each of the Atheist Religions cited by Chris.

Mostly, I was bored. Also, though, I miss the Book of Ratings.


Humanism

As a religion, people get kind of shafted by Humanism. It's mostly just an affirmation not to be such an asshole each and every hour of each and every day and maybe, just maybe, use your fucking brain for a change. It's "Do Unto Others . . . " with a lot of overhead. American anti-intellectualism pretty much ensures that Humanism will always remain on the fringe. One of the drawbacks is that every few months someone has to write a new manifesto that promises to revitalize the radical notion that humans deserve dignity from their fellow humans, then a flame war erupts, then there is haggling over semantics and finally a schism. Whatever you do, stay away from the Transhumanists. C+


Naturalistic Pantheism

This won't work for me. Pantheists consider the Universe divine and sacred, and I don't know how one would recognize something divine or sacred. I think that the universe is complex and awesome and pretty fucking mysterious, but I don't think that's the same thing. You could use a similar metaphor and just believe in Leibniz's monads. Or Philip K. Dick's VALIS. If nature is God then why resort to the latter metaphor anyway? If you're just calling it God because you want the leeway to anthropomorphize, you're probably better off with something more authoritarian. C


Atheists for Jesus

Definitely can't hang with this one. What words were attributed to this mythical figure that form any kind of concrete ethics? Do unto others? Turn the other cheek? Not peace, but a sword? Between ripping off every other sacrificial god-man and the eschatonic, prophetic gobbledygook, Jesus lacks a certain clarity. This, of course, is great when you want to justify any old thing, but falls apart when you try to maintain consistency. Why not pick Mark Twain? Or Appolonius of Tyana? Or Balzac? D-


Theravada Buddhism

This is where that pesky philosophy/religion semantic debate pops up. If it's simply a subjective process of self-reflection based around meditation, then why all that rubbish about non-self and attaining enlightenment? They also have that whole Appeal to Dead People thing, where all the old disciples of Lord Buddha attained enlightenment but almost nobody will get there nowadays, because we suck. How very convenient. Oh, and they still have that Buddha-worship nonsense, where he supposedly obtained omniscience and supreme compassion. Bully for him. Everyone wants to be a superhero. B


Ch'an Buddhism

Lots of internally contradicting statements. It's well known that oxymorons lead to spiritual awakenings. Just think of The Sphinx from Mystery Men. They seek to erase the self and attain a state of no-mind. The tricky part is that destruction of the self is akin to suicide. No hero-worship, so far as I can see, but plenty of zaniness. It's the Tiny Toons of religio-philosophy. Do-do-dee-o. B+


Taoism and Confucianism

Taoism's a blend of pseudoscience and folk mythology. Think of it as the Dim Sum of mysticism. Confucianism, on the other hand, is mostly an ethics. We also tend to credit it with the rise of Bureaucracy, a religious organization based around ladder-climbing and losing paperwork. Oh, and corruption. So if you like lots and lots of rules and authoritarianism combined with superstition and poisonous herbal remedies, then this might be your cup of tea. C-

Bonus: Tantra's pretty cool. It works for Sting. But it also takes a lot of patience and practice. Why not just cunnilingus and cock rings? A, if you're determined enough


Jainism

Likes the Truth, emphasis on the big 'T'. This is what you want if you really, really want to dig into nonviolence. They even refuse to destroy whole plants for food. These guys are ascetics, like, in a major way. Guess that nonviolence isn't total, because they can definitely kill a party. They're really into the notion that the world will go from shit to good to shit, and so forth, in perpetuity. Eternal Recurrence malarkey. Also incorporates the Cosmic Accounting System known as karma. There's lots of talk of karma particles that adhere to souls, which treads dangerously close to Scientology territory, except that Jainists are unlikely to ask for all your money in exchange for brainwashing you. Harmless, if they're skilled enough. B


Jediism

No. F+


Discordianism

A joke that's not a joke that's a joke. This religion is syncretic only in the sense that it throws in everything, plus the kitchen sink. Ha, Sink! And then throws it all out. Mostly a way for extravagant/flamboyant theater majors to act wacky and pretend it's deep metaphysics. On the plus side, you get carte blanche to be eccentric. And the drugs, man. Also, no stuffy Popes, but high risk of cross-pollination with prominent nerd groups. Did I mention the drugs? A

Church of the Subgenius

Didn't X-Day come and go already a few times? Why wasn't this religion canceled? Can I get my money back? Ah, fuck it. B

3 comments:

Chris said...

Just a small point, but Discordianism is full of Popes! Check the small print. :D

Take care!

PS: your human test is getting harder. With my hangover this one doesn't even look like letters!

Chris said...

Oh, and on the subject of drugs and religion, are you aware of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church? These guys are awesome!

Here's a quote:

"Herb (marijuana) is a Godly creation from the beginning of the world. Its purpose in creation is as a fiery sacrifice to be offered to our Redeemer during obligations."

Yes, no wine in the E-Z Coptic church - it's a big fat joint for the congregation! :D

If my wife and I ever take a trip to Jamaica, I definitely have to check out their religious services.

Patrick Dugan said...

Not a bad list, but if you're going to dis transhumanism off-hand (which you're free to do so) I'd like to read a more fleshed out critique and grade of it, despite it not being included in Chris' original post.