The Uninspired Manifesto

Friday, November 30, 2007

Something For The Catholic League To Actually Complain About

With all the bullshit about The Golden Compass flying around, somehow the Catholic League managed to miss out on a film that takes their concept of The Golden Compass to a literal level. Firstshowing.net has an excellent write-up. (Rotten Tomatoes also has a set visit article that's worth checking out.)

"Franklyn is basically about four intertwining stories, three of which are based in contemporary London and one of which is based in a kind of parallel fantasy environment called Meanwhile City. Our hero in that strand is this sort-of masked vigilante detective who's the only atheist in Meanwhile City, played by Ryan Phillippe, who basically runs around trying to extract people from cults, has a big cynicism about the whole thing and hates The Ministry with a vengeance."

What is Meanwhile City? "It's this place which is sort-of run by a shadowy, religious uber-power called The Ministry who has decided, over the centuries, that as long as they can get their population to believe in something - anything - they can control them. People have faiths and religions based on strange things like The Seventh Day Manicurists and Washing Machine Street Preachers. Their doctrines and dogmas are all based on things like washing machine instructions."
From everything I've read, regardless of any atheist content, it still looks like an excellent film. It stars Ryan Phillippe, Eva Green (who was excellent in Casino Royale), and Sam Riley, and is set to come out in 2008.
posted by Nick at 12:51 AM 0 comments

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Really Should Watch My Local News More Often

So, last night I was baking a cake (fuck you, it's my kitchen and I'll do what I want) with my local news on in the opposite room. Now, I rarely watch my local news; and by rarely, I mean never. So, when I heard the words 'Harris County' and 'Bible monument', it's understandable that I had no fucking idea what was going on. Anyway, here's the story from the Houston Chronicle:
Harris County loses lawsuit over Bible monument

HOUSTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review lower court rulings that a monument outside a courthouse featuring the Bible should be removed and that Harris County must pay the legal fees for the woman who sued over the monument.

Harris County Attorney Mike Stafford had asked the high court to vacate a ruling by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake, who sided with a woman who sued in 2003 claiming a monument featuring the King James version of the Bible was offensive.

In the appeals court ruling, a majority of judges said preserving Lake's ruling would serve judicial and community interests by discouraging refiling of lawsuits on the same issues by the same parties.

...

"This case has always been about religious freedom," Kallinen said. "In the United States, we are a nation of many religions. And to stick with one sect of Christianity, that one respresented by the King James version Bible only, is not what America is about."
We won... Yay?

This went all the way to the Supreme Court, and I had no idea it was even happening. In my defense though, along with not watching local newscasts, I also don't read the local newspaper or associate with anyone that would discuss current events. In any case, the monument has been moved and plans are in place to somehow revise the monument in order to make it less offensive.
posted by Nick at 11:19 PM 1 comments

Saturday, November 24, 2007

More Pullman Hate

So, I begin my return to regular posting with the story I've been trying to avoid because of how much it angers me; The Golden Compass. Every day, I open my Gmail account, and check my Google alerts, only to find 10 new stories about how the new film 'The Golden Compass' is subverting innocent movie going audiences into becoming atheists.

I first read 'The Golden Compass' in 2000, after finding a copy in my school library. I was only 12 years old, but already confirmed in my non-belief. After only fifteen or twenty pages, I was hooked. I loved the story, the characters, everything about it. After finishing the first book, I immediately returned it to the library, and picked up 'The Subtle Knife', followed soon after by 'The Amber Spyglass' when it was published in the US in 2001. I wasn't very knowledgeable about atheism at the time, and unless someone were to point it out to me specifically, I didn't see any connection to religion in the first two books. With the third book, even though it uses the name God, I never connected it to being anti-religious, as it's laid out that the children are not going after God, but rather an arch-angel that has taken the place of God. Years passed, and though I regarded the experience as quintessential in my early teenage development, I had largely forgotten the books themselves. Then, I got word, almost a year ago, that New Line Cinema had auctioned the rights to a film version of 'The Golden Compass', and it was going into production. This gave me pause, as I reflected on how much I enjoyed the books, finally deciding I needed to re-read the trilogy before the release of the first (of hopefully all three) films. This brings us to a few months ago, when the first negative press about 'The Golden Compass', Phillip Pullman and his atheism popped up. I reported on the first of the controversy, discussing my disdain for those who criticized the work based solely on Pullman's atheism, and left it at that, hopeful the controversy would burn out quickly, and I could enjoy the film upon it's release. But that didn't happen.

As the days passed, more and more christian/right-wing blogs and news sites picked up on 'The Golden Compass' controversy, until the Bill Donohue and The Catholic League released a pamphlet titled "The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked", which - though I haven't read it personally, information I've gathered on it suggests that it - contends that the film itself, though religious themes have been greatly watered down, will drive parents to buy the books for their children for Christmas, exposing them to "Pullman's anti-Catholic hate". Since being drawn up, Donohue's pamphlet has made the rounds to thousands of religious people, inspiring a series of e-mail campaigns directed at warning christian parents to stay away from the film. This sparked a long line of newspaper articles, and news reports outlining the controversy and warning everyone to "do their homework" before allowing their children to see the film.
This leads us to now, with me sitting in front of my computer, typing away, wondering how one little book can divide so many in this day in age. I mean, fuck man, Dawkin's "The God Delusion" didn't stir up this much shit.

First off, let me state that I am a movie fan above all else, and from that point of view, there are legitimate complaints. In order to give Daniel Craig top billing along with Nicole Kidman, they had to cut up the film, as his character only has three or four scenes in the book. Other than that, all arguments about the religious content of the film are unfounded, and I have problems with both sides. My biggest problem with the Catholic League's argument is that they're warning people about a book published in fucking 1995. For twelve years, they could have said something about it, but only chose to do so when New Line commissioned a feature film based on the book, and they could get some press from it. Other than that, he simple fact that none of them even read the series before lambasting it, and applying their own interpretations on it. Of course, all one has to do is listen to any member of the Catholic League discuss scripture for a few minutes, and it becomes clear that it's nothing new to them. On the atheist side, though, we have a bunch of whiny self-important asses crying over the studio removing any religious references that could be considered offensive. It's not as if butchering a novel's film translation is anything new for a production company. Of course they removed anything that could be deemed anti-religion. They did that a long time before this controversy even started. Also, as much as I respect Ellen Johnson for all she's done, please stop trying to defend this movie. You're doing a terrible fucking job. The film itself has never, and will never contain any influential atheist material.

Still, though, the debate rages on, dividing people all across the country (but mostly just online) over an issue that should have been swept to the wayside a long time ago. The latest casualty of which, comes to us from CTV.ca:
The Centre for Inquiry and the Canadian Secular Alliance is calling an Ontario school board's decision to remove a children's book from its library shelves, "an overt example of the discrimination against atheists by the religious."

The Halton Catholic District School Board ordered "The Golden Compass" to be removed from library shelves at dozens of schools after receiving a request for review from a member of the community.

...

The board -- which oversees some 43 elementary and secondary schools in Ontario -- has pulled the book from public display and two other Pullman titles from the "Dark Materials" trilogy. The books are available to students upon request.
This article has been showing up a lot around the atheist blogosphere the past couple days, with cries of discrimination ringing out. While I certainly don't agree with the boards decision, I can't say I don't understand it. After all, they oversee Catholic schools, and as long as that stupid fuck Bill Donohue is spraying his bigoted hatred over every 24-hour news channel he can find, they'll follow suit.

The only good news I can relate is that the film opens in just under two weeks, (Dec. 7th, my birthday of all days... how fucking perfect is that) and we can put all of this behind us. Good night...
posted by Nick at 10:06 PM 2 comments

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Life, Death, And This Hot Chick At Chili's

So, there's quite a few things going on with me at the moment. Most pressing, though, is my upcoming trip to my mom's for a bit of in-between holiday celebration. (I'm timing it for exactly halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I won't get roped into celebrating either one with them.) This means a couple of things: First, I'll have to pack away my Dawkins and Hitchens books, as not to offend the fragile christian sensibilities of my mom's part of the family. And secondly, I'll have to sit through a lecture covering everything from my sporadic visitation (with longer intervals between each one) to my lack of faith, including - but not limited too - church attendance, prayer, and whatever seemingly intelligent questions they read in the latest pamphlet from some random christian publication that preaches combating the recent rise in secularism. I've always hated these little 'talks' (as they call them; though they do most of the talking, while I scroll through shows they've recorded on their DVR) but it seems that lately, they've become more hostile towards my responses. Granted, this could be mostly my fault, because as they become more hostile, I, in return, have become more sarcastic and begun to mock their beliefs more openly. It's not to the point that I call them stupid, but it's close.

For example, on my last visit, after a particularly heated back and forth, we all went out to a restaurant, and standing in front were a few volunteers for some christian charity that was sponsoring a blood drive. As we approached the front door, a young attractive blond woman wearing a powder blue t-shirt with something akin to 'Give Blood For Christ' on it, approached me in particular, reaching out with a flyer, which in retrospect, I should have read, and asked if I would like to donate. I'm not sure why she was directed to me in particular, (most likely the 'Coexist' t-shirt I wore that night) but without a moment's hesitation, I crumpled the piece of paper, thew it into a nearby wastebasket, replied, "Sorry, I'm HIV positive," and walked inside.

It's statements like that, that I find the most rewarding as an expression of humor, while my mother and step-father seem put-off by the fact that I would willingly and randomly announce to a group of complete strangers that I have AIDS. Of course, I don't.. I know that, they know that, but instead of seeing it for what it was, (attempting to make myself laugh) they became defensive by condemning me for lying and making both them and the 'oh so wonderful' jesuits uncomfortable.

So, after all that, we finally get to the point of my story. Upon leaving the restaurant, instead of conceding to my mother's complaining and apologizing, I handed the young woman a folded napkin that included my cell number, and the phrase 'Wanna Hook Up?' Later that night, I sat alone outside smoking a cigarette, thinking about life and death. What I would do if I knew I had only a short time left; who would I talk to? What would I say? This inevitably led me to think about what would happen when I did die. I'm very firm in my non-supernatural view, and I know that nothing will happen when I die. There will be no afterlife, no eternal suffering, (as so many loving christians are quick to point out) but that doesn't mean it's not a disturbing concept. Still, I've always maintained that this is the most important contention between theists and atheists; while atheists can accept there is no heaven or hell, and no consciousness after death, theists are held by this belief. I know this is probably an over-simplification, but almost every theist I've met to this point have been genuinely shocked that I don't believe in an afterlife.

F. Forrester Church once said:
Religion is the human response to being alive and having to die.


It's impossible to know what happens when a person dies, but given the information we currently have, it's a safe assumption that there's nothing out there for us. While most religious people would contend that we do, in fact, have a soul and it will continue on in some form long after our physical bodies have deteriorated. I don't believe in souls, only the majestic power of the human mind, continually evolving to help us understand the universe around us. While I was sitting there, smoking my cigarette and looking up into the night sky, imagining the possibilities that lay centuries ahead of my time on this planet, it pained me to think I wouldn't be around for that. To see our scientists map the farthest reaches of the Milky Way galaxy, and possibly discover alien life-forms...

As I finished my cigarette, putting it out in an ashtray next to me, I took one last look into space just in time to see a small comet fly across the sky, and the realization that it could all be over tomorrow brought me back to the present. There's a lot of things wrong with the world today, but at the same time, we're the proprietors of great scientific advancements, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else...
posted by Nick at 11:35 PM 2 comments

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quality, Not Quantity

So, it seems that once again, I've been caught up with the various goings on here at my house, and haven't been able to update the blog. I do promise to start updating regularly soon, but until then, I wanted to leave you with some comedy.

For the benefit of those of you that don't scour shitty B-movies as much as I do, I wanted to entice you with what is by a wide margin, one of my favorites. It's called Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, and let me attempt to explain the plot. Basiclly, Ottawa is over-run by vampires who are killing all the lesbians and harvesting their skin to graft over their own so they can walk around during the day. Local clergy, having no other option, reach out to Jesus for his help. What follows in 90 minutes of Jesus Christ, with the help of his sexy female companion, Mary Magnum, and a Mexican wrestler, Santos, fighting their way to the head vampire to save the lesbians.

If that isn't enough for you to walk away from your computer right now, and seek out this DVD, there's something wrong with you. Anyway, to point out the greatness of theis film, I present you with the "theme song" of the movie, 'Everybody Gets Laid Tonight' by The Hammerheads. (Note* The guy making the speech at the start of this video is Jesus.)

posted by Nick at 11:25 PM 0 comments

Monday, November 12, 2007

Church Sponsored Youth Therapy

Article from Bismarck Tribune.
The name of the organization tells it plainly: Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Wisconsin-based group wants a U.S. district court to rule against any public funding of the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. The legal complaint further demands that public agencies not refer troubled young people to the program as long as religion plays any part in the treatment.

...

It's alleged that "children are committed to the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, without their consent, by county social service agencies or the (state)Department of Juvenile Services and/or the (state) Department of Human Services, and all the children receive religious inculcation, including those who are committed by public agencies."

The atheist foundation might have its strongest argument on a constitutional basis if it's true that "children are disciplined for refusing to participate in the spiritual aspects of their therapeutic treatment plan, including suspension of privileges; prolongation of commitment (to the program). ... Refusal to participate in religious activities is considered non participation in a child's treatment plan."

This certainly isn't a new occurrence, as church sponsored therapy or rehabilitation programs are the most commonly court ordered. I believe I've talked before about my own experiences, including AA, NA, and court ordered therapy sessions along with school ordered counseling sessions, all of which for some reason had to be infused with religion. In NA (Narcotics Anonymous, for those of you who don't know), for example, we started every meeting with a mandatory prayer, which, on the occasions I did not participate in, I was reprimanded for several minutes before we could continue. When I first began the program, among the first few questions the counselor asked me, was what religion I would like to be identified by. When I responded with a 'No Preference' (Seemed less intrusive than atheist, and I really wanted to stay out of the spotlight), it began a line of questions trying to connect my substance abuse to my lack of religious affiliation. In my court ordered therapy sessions (for an entirely different reason) the same line of questioning came up, trying to connect my lack of faith to what got me expelled. (They were in some ways connected, but not like that)

My point is, though, that a purely secular rehab program would work just as well, if not better because of the forced segregation. A court ordered program needs to be all encompassing, and not attending a church sermon or praying in a group isn't going to affect a person's rehabilitation. I was never an addict myself, so giving up was as easy as losing my dealer's number and not having any way to contact him. Almost a year later, and I don't even miss it. Still, my biggest influence was the stories I hear in those AA and NA meetings from life long addicts who've suffered horrible loss and tragedy at the hands of their addictions, not 12 fucking steps. Hearing a young mother openly weep as she discusses the death of her young son while she was high on crystal meth did a hell of a lot more for me than a few fucking bible verses.

Don't get me wrong, though, I can understand a person using religion as a crutch to help them with their addictions, or stay clean, but its not for everyone, and the court system has to understand that. Forcing a person to conform to ideals they don't agree with is only going to hinder their progression in any program, especially one as vital as this. All I can say, is that I hope the Freedom From Religion Foundation is successful so that more young people can get help without having to suffer through a fucking recruitment speech for the christian church.
posted by Nick at 5:41 PM 0 comments

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Long Break...

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I've been out of commission for some time. Besides the DVDs from my last post, I've been working a lot and haven't been keeping up with the news. And when I so check up on it, which I have from time to time, every other story is another christian group harping on The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman, and the atheist agenda. I've voiced my sentiments on the subject before, and I'm so fucking tired of these assholes acting as if it's the worst book ever written. If you don't believe me, for whatever reason, search google for recent reviews on Christian web blogs for 'The Golden Compass', a book that came out 10 FUCKING YEARS AGO!

Anyway, I'll try to get back here for a few posts before I leave for work tonight, but If I can't make it, be sure to check out all the blogs on the Atheist Blogroll on the left side of my page for opinions that are better worded and use the word 'fuck' less often than I do.
posted by Nick at 6:18 PM 0 comments