Sunday, June 29, 2008

An Atheist Questionnaire

I was tagged by Da'as Hedyot, so I guess I'll do my blogging duty.

Q1. How would you define "atheism"?

Strictly as simply the lack of belief in gods. But in general, practically for those who take the title, it subsumes a whole series of assumptions about humanity and our relationship with the rest of reality. The basic worldview asserts that the universe was an accident without consequence or meaning. Humans exist purely by luck and our interaction with the rest of reality doesn't go beyond it being merely the otherwise irrelevant backdrop for the navel-gazing human drama to play out. Morality is subjective (and therefore is without any means of authority to orient right from wrong).

That, in the end, we are all nothing (ala Hawking) but the chemical scum placed on a moderate-size planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

Blah, blah. Everyone knows about this already. Modern OJ, relatively chilled.

Q3. How would you describe "Intelligent Design", using only one word?


Q4. What scientific endeavor(s) really excites you?

Space exploration. Biological systems. Deep-time evolution.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the "atheist community", what would it be and why?

To stop defining themselves by what they are not. It's terrible when the only way they seem to be able to progress their cause is by attacking the alternatives. Not that the method doesn't have its place, but the "atheist community" seems far too sure of its worldview which it only reached by denying the views of others.

Q6. If your child came up to you and said "I'm joining the clergy", what would be your first response?

Alright, just make sure you don't get so frum that you won't eat in my house anymore.

Q7. What's your favorite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

Meh. I'm so bored with that endless debate. Generally it's a matter of someone asserting something about God and I just say, "Oh, how do you know that impossible to know thing?"

Q8. What's your most "controversial" (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

I'm not an atheist. That tends to get 'em riled up and remarkably few seem to comprehend the significant gradations between I and some Biblical literalist.

Q9. Of the "Four Horsemen" (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favorite, and why?

I like Dawkins. Actually I liked him before he became a militant atheist performer since I appreciate his contributions to evolution, but even so he's great with the turn of phrase and he makes his points with excellent clarity. Harris though seems to be the most reasonable-sounding of the bunch.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

Hmm. I really don't care all that much. How about the next virgin-addled pro-murderer before he completes his massacre?

Hoc est Pocus

I found this absolute gem when I was reading "When They Severed Earth from Sky" (y'know, the book that describes the mentality of mythmaking and how the seemingly strange stories were actually invested with good data in the absence of a literate public).

Page 135: "Hocus Pocus is a mutilation(!) of the Eucharistic phrase Hoc est corpus [meum], "This is [my] body."

I don't know if this is true or not, but it's a brilliant little insight for a common subversive streak of a society dutifully unimpressed by the Church's magic of transubstantiation.

I just had to share.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Anim Zemirot

Think about it:

Sweet hymns shall be my chant and woven songs,
For Thou art all for which my spirit longs--
To be within the shadow of Thy hand
And all Thy mystery to understand.
The while Thy glory is upon my tongue,
My inmost heart with love of thee is wrung,
So though Thy mighty marvels I proclaim,
'Tis songs of love wherewith I greet Thy name.

I have not seen Thee, yet I tell Thy praise,
Nor known Thee, yet I image forth Thy ways.
For by Thy seers' and servants' mystic speech
Thou didst Thy sov'ran splendour darkly teach,
And from the grandeur of Thy work they drew
The measure of Thy inner greatness, too.
They told of Thee, but not as Thou must be,
Since from Thy work they tried to body Thee.
To countless visions did their pictures run,
Behold through all the visions Thou art one.

Better than Artscroll.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Confucius say "Follow Halacha"

Yen Yuan asked about benevolence. The Master [Confucius] said, 'To return to the observance of the rites through overcoming the self constitutes benevolence. If for a single day a man could return to the observance of the rites through overcoming himself, then the whole Empire would consider benevolence to be his. However, the practice of benevolence depends on oneself alone, and not on others.'

Yen Yuan said, 'I should like you to list the items.'

The Master said, 'Do not look unless it is in accordance with the rites; do not listen unless it is in accordance with the rites; do not speak unless it is in accordance with the rites; do not move unless it is in accordance with the rites.'

-Lun Yu (The Analects), 12:1

Interesting: this symbol of Confucianism means "total harmony, righteousness, in your own life and in your relations with your neighbor." Reminiscent of a couple of familiar tablets, eh?