January 15, 2009

The Freedom From Religion Foundation boldly advertises "Imagine No Religion" in Portland, Oregon.

Imagine no reaction.
The billboards have been introduced in 14 states since late 2007.... But in Portland, the signs aren't inspiring much furor...

"I worry more about the Bible Belt places, where there is a sense of entitlement, that everyone is a Christian," [some Portland guy] said. "In Portland, someone who chooses to be a Christian is a pretty thoughtful person about the faith."
Hey, did the estate of John Lennon endorse this campaign or is the Foundation just creating the impression that it did?

Speaking of God and appropriating John Lennon, check this out:

35 comments:

Henry said...

What? No picture at the link?

Here's one.

Yachira said...

Act Up!

Meade said...

I don't believe, had he not been murdered, that John Lennon would have cared for that childish perversion of his own work.

Synova said...

a mini-blitz of its irreverent billboard

I honestly read "irrelevant billboard."

Elsewhere, lately, I've been discussing religion in science fiction, and movies, and stuff... why do writers avoid it, or do they? That sort of thing.

It seems to me that for a while many of the most famous science fiction authors "imagined no religion." New colonies on distant planets were designed to be "religion free" on purpose. Because the authors involved thought that humans really would be better without it.

That's not done so much anymore. In fact, I think it's likely one of those things on a list of what will date your work or make it difficult to sell. Not that everyone decided all of a sudden that religion was a good thing, only that it can't be gotten rid of. It's one of those things that humans, if they don't have it, will invent. If it's not a god, it will be crystals, or ancestors, or psychedelic drug use.

(The billboard is pretty... but I'm not sure if "imagine no religious art, no stained glass" is the message they were aiming for.)

Henry said...

Synova -- have you read A Case of Conscience by James Blish (from his pre-Star Trek days)?

I like your stained glass message:

Imagine no religion
No colorful stained glass
No Tiffany or Duffner
No Morris Arts and Crafts,
Imagine Philip Johnson
Living in his house...

Smilin' Jack said...

"The Freedom From Religion Foundation boldly advertises "Imagine No Religion" in Portland, Oregon."

Hee, hee--I grew up in Portland--they're preaching to the choir.

mcg said...

Kind of a dumb song, really---the original John Lennon version of "God", that is. "I don't believe in Hitler?" Lotta good that attitude would have done the Jews in Germany. Did you believe in Chapman?

TMink said...

"I worry more about the Bible Belt places, where there is a sense of entitlement, that everyone is a Christian," [some Portland guy] said."

I am not sure about the entitlement, but more Southerners actually do identify themselvs as Christian. What has that got to do with entitlement?

"In Portland, someone who chooses to be a Christian is a pretty thoughtful person about the faith."

That makes perfect sense. I believe that Christianity is most effective as a mildly persecuted spirituality. It weeds out the posers, and the posers bring down the example of the people who love Jesus and work to follow His teaching.

Trey

TMink said...

Of course, Elvis Costello had the last work on "Imagine" in his song "The Other Side Of Summer."

"Was it a millionaire who said "Imagine no posessions?"
A poor little school boy who said "We don't need no lessons."

Nailed!

Of course, I rather enjoy Lennon's songs, Imagine too.

Trey

TMink said...

WORD, last WORD.

Trey (who is going to get a cup of cofee)

lurker2209 said...

Synova, I'll jump off your comment to shamelessly promote one of my favorite science fiction works: Battlestar Galactica, which returns tomorrow night! Yay!

I think part of the reason for the absence of religion in 'classic' science fiction works (Asimov, Clarke,etc) can be attributed to the cold war period. If you look at the earlier eras, where science fiction was starting to grow out of fantasy, there are many more mystical elements (e.g. Juls Verne).

The cold war seems to have led to the assumption that absolute rationality was the ideal, because of the potential for a single irrational decision to result in the nuclear devastation of the planet.

Science fiction hasn't really been around long enough to suggest which approach will be typical as the genre evolves over the next hundred years, but if I had to bet, I'd say that the absence of religious elements of some type will be an outlier and not the norm.

ricpic said...

Imagine Philip Johnson living in his house...

Imagine No Future

Girls don't make passes
At men who wear Philip Johnson glasses.
No loss for men who wear Philip Johnson glasses.
They only Achtung! to dicks up their asses.

Synova said...

To me the cold war is typified by the concept of "godless communism." I think it's quite possible that in terms of cart and horse, the worship of science and rationality came first.

Other things were happening at the same time... eugenics, for example. We know what Hitler was up to, but often ignore that Hitler was only taking the intellectual trends of the day in places like England and the United States and taking them to logical and obvious conclusions. Galton?

We'd discovered heredity and evolution and cracked the mysteries of the atom. The most famous promoters of science to the masses during those cold war years, Asimov and Sagan, were evangelical atheists. (Sagan later said he had softened on the position.)

I suppose every generation figures that they know better than everyone who ever lived before them.

Pogo said...

Dalrymple: "The curious thing about these [evangelical atheists] is that the authors often appear to think that they are saying something new and brave."

New and brave would be the same poster with symbols from Islam on it. A stained glass window? What pussies.


Christopher Hitchens wrote in God Is Not Great: “Religion spoils everything.”

Dalrymple responds: "What? The Saint Matthew Passion? The Cathedral of Chartres? The emblematic religious person in these books seems to be a Glasgow Airport bomber—a type unrepresentative of Muslims, let alone communicants of the poor old Church of England. It is surely not news, except to someone so ignorant that he probably wouldn’t be interested in these books in the first place, that religious conflict has often been murderous and that religious people have committed hideous atrocities. But so have secularists and atheists, and though they have had less time to prove their mettle in this area, they have proved it amply. If religious belief is not synonymous with good behavior, neither is absence of belief, to put it mildly."

blake said...

Hard to get people excited over nothing.

Oligonicella said...

synova --

"I suppose every generation figures that they know better than everyone who ever lived before them."

Given the progression of humanity over time, I'd say they were generally correct.

traditionalguy said...

Why is everyone suddenly wanting to drive out Christianity? What you will get in its place will be a fierce return to selfishness, murder and enslavement of the defenseless, all without any restraint by biblical teachings. If this sounds like fun to you, please stay in Portland.

reader_iam said...

Imagine no religion.

OK.

Next?

blake said...

Given the progression of humanity over time, I'd say they were generally correct.

"Progress is a theory."
--Will Durant

Synova said...

Given the progression of humanity over time, I'd say they were generally correct.

Because we build on what came before. Not because we throw it out.

David said...

Exam Question:

A federal district court recently held that the issuance by South Carolina (my adopted home state) of a license plate with the words "I Believe" was unconstitutional. The plate also was designed with a cross near to the phrase.

Discuss the constitutionality of the following license plates:

1. An "I Believe" phrase with no cross or other symbol.

2. An "I Don't Believe" phrase with no cross or other symbol.

3. An "I Don't Believe" phrase with a cross.

4. A "I Believe" or "I Don't Believe" phrase (buyer's option) with a Darwinian Fish Symbol.

Note that in all cases the licence is an optional "vanity" plate.

Extra credit for explaining how we got so fussy about all of this in the first place.

Glen said...

That's a rather lovely piece of political theater. I disagree with all of it (excepting "God is a concept by which we measure our pain") but I admire the effort.

Ironically, it only serves toreinforce GWB's honesty and humanity. You can edit video to twist and reorder his words. But you can't extract his essence. And that essence is good.

Back to you Haters.

m00se said...

I'd be good with "Imagine no Portland". But then we'd have to relocate all the lesbians. Imagine all those Conestoga wagons full of silcone!!

Revenant said...

To me the cold war is typified by the concept of "godless communism." I think it's quite possible that in terms of cart and horse, the worship of science and rationality came first.

I would say that anyone who thinks communism worshiped either science or rationality doesn't actually understand what Communists believe. Certainly Communists claimed to have science and reason on their side, but so does the Intelligent Design crowd. Anyone who thinks that people are capable of acting en masse to fairly distribute wealth to those who deserve it is, in my view, not someone who is doing much in the way of empirical reasoning based on available evidence. :)

Anyway, the reason science fiction of the 1930s and onwards was generally irreligious is that there is, and has been since at least the 1930s, a strong negative correlation between being enthusiasm for religion and knowledge of science. Most of the "giants" were professional or amateur scientists; unsurprisingly, most of them also had little interest in religion except as a plot device.

Besides, if you're going to write about religion you either have to include the supernatural in your book (and there are few cheaper plot devices than "God, i.e. the author, just made it happen") or leave them out (in which case a religious group is just like a secular group, only with motives the reader is less likely to understand).

Oligonicella said...

Synova --

"Because we build on what came before. Not because we throw it out."

Historically both true and untrue. Not everything is fit to keep. Not everything is right to throw out.

Synova said...

Nice to see you back, Rev. I've been hoping that all is well with you and that your holidays were good.

I don't think that communism worshiped science and reason, but it certainly used it to gain and keep power, just like others have used religion for the same purposes.

I do think that there was a sort of self-conscious futurism during those many years that led to a lot of things, including eugenics. I'd love to get a good look at the text book that was the issue in Inherit the Wind because I've been told that while the bit about Darwin was small, the bits supporting eugenics were significant. But I wouldn't put eugenics as the *cause* of people's attitudes any more than I'd put communism as the *cause* of people's attitudes.

People were trying to put aside superstition and the people who considered themselves enlightened and informed did seem to have gotten a few pretty stupid ideas of how to apply humanity's new found mastery of the physical world.

It's not at all that everything was a bad idea, but that a few things were.

When I write science fiction I tend to avoid religious elements. I have a very strong aversion to making mistakes that could mislead, and an upbringing that includes a father who condemned religious fiction. But mostly it just doesn't come up. Most science fiction is as you say, but for a while it was trendy not simply to ignore religion but to put forward an explicit picture of a future where humanity had progressed past the need.

I figure that's about as foolish a notion as all the silly science fiction about people suddenly deciding that they don't like the taste or texture of food and would rather just eat the pill on their plate.

"Imagine no Religion" might be wishful thinking, but it's not intelligent or rational.

Revenant said...

I don't think that communism worshiped science and reason, but it certainly used it to gain and keep power, just like others have used religion for the same purposes.

I don't see how you can credibly claim that is true. When one thinks of nations that excel in the areas of science and reason, communist nations are all but absent from the list, aside from the brief space race between the USSR and the USA. The communists gained and kept power through the good old-fashioned tactics of brutality and terror.

I'd love to get a good look at the text book that was the issue in Inherit the Wind because I've been told that while the bit about Darwin was small, the bits supporting eugenics were significant.

Yes, but those weren't the bits being objected to. William Jennings Bryan was openly backed by the Klan; the notion that blacks were inferior beings whose genes we'd be better off without was, to put it mildly, not something they took issue with. Eugenics was about heredity, not evolution or the origin of species. The latter two were controversial, whereas pretty much everyone agreed that idiot parents breed idiot children.

for a while it was trendy not simply to ignore religion but to put forward an explicit picture of a future where humanity had progressed past the need.

I'm not sure what books you're thinking of, but so far as I can tell it pretty much still is. What has changed is that in the past the authors would explicitly point out the lack of religion and mention it as a quaint anachronism. Now the stories are just quietly nonreligious.

Revenant said...

"Imagine no Religion" might be wishful thinking, but it's not intelligent or rational.

Let's suppose God doesn't actually exist.

Now we're in nature vs. nurture territory. Do people believe in God because evolution has wired us to believe in a higher authority even when one doesn't exist? If so, that opens the possibility of correcting that through genetic engineering.

If, on the other hand, it is "nurture", and people believe in God because they learn to do so, then there's nothing at all ridiculous about a future society in which people are simply disinterested in religion because religion has lost its importance. Religion has already lost much of its importance in the western world, after all.

Synova said...

When one thinks of nations that excel in the areas of science and reason, communist nations are all but absent from the list,

When one thinks of nations that excel in the areas of social justice and economic equality they don't generally think of Venezuela, and yet those are the themes Chavez uses to gain power. Those are the themes Mugabe used to nationalize agriculture and business.

What people think will work has little to do with what actually does work.

In the rhetoric, at least, the Soviet Union was very much into science and reason. Their failure, to the extent they failed, is beside the point.

Certainly you don't mistake results for intent.

Synova said...

If the "god shaped hole" is a matter of evolution, using genetic engineering to remove it may remove who knows what else. The human brain "fills in" an incredible amount of information... take sight... we see a suggestion and evolution has taught us to see the tiger, or recognize a face. If God is like bunnies seen in the clouds, removing our ability to see those bunnies would probably break us. People are prone to seeing patterns in all things, in events, in anything, and concocting theories about why things work. Kill God and we might kill Science.

Religion has become far less important to people, but the indications are that those without religion are more superstitious rather than less. Wasn't there a study that showed as much? More likely to indulge in magical thinking, more likely to believe in ghosts or spirits, more likely to be a conspiracy Truther.

The opposite of faith, statistically, doesn't seem to be reason.

Revenant said...

When one thinks of nations that excel in the areas of social justice and economic equality they don't generally think of Venezuela, and yet those are the themes Chavez uses to gain power. Those are the themes Mugabe used to nationalize agriculture and business.

They're also themes Jesus spoke approvingly of from time to time.

Let me put it a different way: the Communists didn't take over Russia because the Russians were impressed with their claims to commitment to science and reason. They didn't take over China that way, either. They took over, in both cases, because the mass of people were poor, starving, tired of war, an willing to yield to whichever strongman came out on top.

Now, in places like England and America they often gained intellectual street cred with the left-wing intelligensia with their supposed science-and-reason schtick. But they never went much of anywhere in the developed world, because the notion that Communists were exemplars of science and reason was, to paraphrase Orwell, one of those ideas only an intellectual could be stupid enough to believe. To the extent that Communism became popular here it did it through appeals to naked self interest: the rich have money, you don't, so let's take their money and give it to you. That's a reasoned argument, admittedly, but it isn't an argument about reason. :)

Synova said...

That's a reasoned argument, admittedly, but it isn't an argument about reason. :)

I can't argue with that. :)

And I truly am glad to see you.

Revenant said...

If the "god shaped hole" is a matter of evolution, using genetic engineering to remove it may remove who knows what else.

Right now, we don't know. It might radically alter the human psyche; it might not. However, there is every reason to think that we will eventually have a complete understanding of human genetics, and thus a complete understanding of the implications of removing the "god hole". That leaves plenty of room for an author to pick what those implications would be, or even to say that there aren't any. Doing so contradicts nothing we know to be true and is in accordance with what might be true -- which makes it exactly perfect for science fiction.

People are prone to seeing patterns in all things, in events, in anything, and concocting theories about why things work. Kill God and we might kill Science.

So far as I can tell, I completely lack that "god shaped hole". There's nothing I feel about the way devout people feel about God. So I'm inclined to think that removing that trait won't do much of anything at an individual level.

But even if removing that trait "kills science", I still don't see how it makes for an implausible story setting. It almost makes it more plausible for humans to still be around a thousand years down the line, since given current trends we're on track to either blow ourselves to bits or become quasi-divine beings ourselves.

And it is good to talk with you again too, by the way. :)

Chip Ahoy said...

Do you know what kills me?

This is about religion and a tiny bit off topic, but it still kills me. I keep hearing over and over and over ad nauseam how the Mayans and Aztecs and other people of mesoamerica built tremendous wonderful stupendous pyramids and cities, studied the heavens, and created a math and a calendar even more accurate than our own at a time when Europe was languishing in the Dark Ages. That's balderdash! Poppycock! Pure codswallop. Idle flibbertigibbet. Condemnable godwottery. What they fail to mention, these intellectuals doing the instructing, is the building projects of Europeans during that same period which compared to other European periods is pejoratively referred to as dark, and less pejoratively as medieval -- the great castles, and the abbeys, and cathedrals at Aachen (790), and at Chartes (1200), and at Salisbury (1260), to name a few among many many others, with their tall columns, soaring ceilings, thin walls, flying buttresses, and towering inspiring colored windows, adorned inside and out with sophisticated carvings, compared with rough clumsy heaps of stone with passageways so short modern people must bend down to creep through them, in support of an incredibly aggressive economic order that demanded continuously running over each other, appropriating their neighboring tribes material goods, taking large numbers of live captives, with a priesthood so grotesque they never even bathed, that ripped out the beating hearts of their prisoners and offered them up to insatiably blood-thirsty gods, then dumped the lifeless bodies to tumble down the steps of pyramids to pile up at the base in numbers so inconceivably large that at times entire cities were abandoned until the air was cleared of the stench of death.

That's what.

Imagine there's no that! Good riddance.

blake said...

then dumped the lifeless bodies to tumble down the steps of pyramids to pile up at the base in numbers so inconceivably large that at times entire cities were abandoned until the air was cleared of the stench of death.
...
Imagine there's no that! Good riddance.


OK, imagining.

Now what do I do Saturday nights?