A post at Boing Boing has drawn my attention to a courthouse in Cumberland County, Tennessee, where awhile ago a statue of Moses had been placed on the lawn. As it is illegal to mix church and state, the lawn became designated a “free speech” zone, and many other statues of various faiths and practices were likewise portrayed.
The most recent of which is the addition of a huge 3D statue depicting the Flying Spaghetti Monster, created by local artist Ariel Safdie.
Image via the Crossville Chronicle
The Flying Spaghetti Monster was originally one man (Bobby Henderson)’s belief in/parody of Intelligent Design. More specifically, it was a protest against the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to instate the teaching of Intelligent Design as mandatory. It has since then become an internet phenomenon, and is sometimes held up as an example of atheism or empiricism. It’s system of beliefs are called “Pastafarianism”, some outlines of which include:
- pirates as the ultimate ideal
- monotheism in regard to the Flying Spaghetti Monster (the creator of the world)
- the notion that Bobby Henderson is a prophet.
For me, this opens the debate between cult and religion, heterodoxy v. orthodoxy. Is this really a valid system of beliefs? Is it less or more outrageous than certain fringe interpretations of organized religion? For example, in Islam there is Wahabism, which even the Saudi family do not practice as stringently as they might claim. And in Christianity we have Fred Phelps and his Church‘s take, which states that homosexuality is leading the way to damnation. Who gets to make the call on what is defined rightly as “religion”, and what is not?
I’ve just been reading this post at Pharyngula, discussing the incredibly stupid argument that the Christofascists are now using to denounce reason — that Darwin is somehow responsible for the Holocaust. PZ Myers links this little gem by one Denyse O’Leary. O’Leary says:
The idea of making Jews extinct in the sense that the dinosaurs are extinct – as the Nazis tried to do – was derived culturally from Darwin, not from the Church. Also derived from Darwin and his supporters – rather than the Church – was the view of Jews as simply a gene pool rather than a race/religion/culture/Jesus’s family/God’s chosen people/essential part of history/essential part of our neighbourhood/people we know. The stew of traditional issues sometimes overflows into violence, but not into a eugenics program.
That is why the Nazis, who were very much influenced by these new Darwin-inspired ideas, killed Jewish-born Christian converts like Edith Stein, as well as all other Jews. Whether Jews were Orthodox, Reform, or atheists made no difference to them – because they treated humans as if they were animals, NOT because the Nazis were egalitarians in any meaningful sense.
First of all, who the fuck is arguing that the Nazis were egalitarians? Is it just me or did that come out of nowhere? I wonder what crowd O’Leary is running with, that she feels the need to emphasize that Nazis — I repeat, Nazis — are not egalitarian “in any meaningful sense.” No shit, lady.
Anyay, PZ Myers does a great job explaining why this idea is stupid. Do read him for that. I want to explain why it’s offensive, which I have already done before.
First of all: as a Jew, as grandchild of Holocaust survivors,* as a woman, as a person, as a lesbian, I know who my allies are, and it’s not you, Denyse O’Leary. From that post:
know who will protect my right to my traditions. I know who will protect the liberal, semi-secular synagogue where my brother was bar mitzvahed last month. I know who will protect my religion’s traditions of discussion, debate, and reinterpretation. I know who will protect our values of justice, education, and community. I know who will stand with us against violence and exploitation. I know who will stand with us and say, with seriousness, “Never again.” . . . I trust the atheists, the agnostics, the secular humanists, the intellectuals. To whatever extent that fellow religious people overlap with those groups, I trust them, too. These are my real allies. An enemy of secular values is my enemy, too.
An enemy of secular values is the enemy of any minority group, actually, because while there certinly can be evil atheists, secular values provide a better safe-guard against injustice than religious values ever could. Only by valuing truth, knowledge, debate, and inquiry, only by valuing equality and diversity, and only by valuing dissent, discussion, and revision, can we protect ourselves against evil. Science and secularism value these things; religion, in general, doesn’t. Christofascism most certainly doesn’t.
Furthermore, I disagree with an attitude that runs through her post. Here’s an example (emphasis mine):
Darwin was instrumental in discrediting the traditional way of looking at human beings. This is a fact that everyone admits and many celebrate. How often have you heard that Darwin’s great achievement was to knock humanity off its pedestal and show that we are merely evolved animals, accidentally evolved at that?
What is wrong with being “merely” miraculous accidental creatures in this vast, beautiful world? Why is everything not enough? That is my biggest problem with religion: what is wrong with the entire world? Why is your ideology predicated on making people believe that everything they are, everything the can see, hear, taste, touch, smell, or otherwise experience is shit?
So, in summary: Christofascists, please leave me and my history alone. You are no ally of mine; you are no friend of the Jews. I repeat: you are no friend of the Jews.
If you don’t understand why appropriating someone else’s story disrespectfully for your own purposes is wrong, try reading this eloquent post about it; it’s about personal stories, but I think this case is substantially the same.
* Escapees, more like. They got out virtually the day before everything got really bad.
And, bonus: another, linked in the first’s description.
Aw, what a pleasant way to start the morning!
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Check out this really awesome Christmas coloring and activity book about squid and atheism– The Squidmas Story: An Atheist’s Seasonal Coloring and Activity Book. But that’s not all; there’s much more holiday (and/or non-holiday related) paraphernalia regarding atheism, squid, marine biology, and science for all ages available at Dorid Designs. How appropriate and cool! Keep it in mind this holiday season if you partake in any sort of gift-swapping celebrations, or score sustainability points by using what you see there as inspiration for your own home-made/recycled designs/creations.
P.S.- Someone should really write a book or something about the phenomena of atheist cephalopod-love as is expressed regularly on the internet.