Monday, March 19, 2007

Dueling Bible Quotes

I'm watching this nice piece from Nick Gisburne (disclosure: it's mostly quite sedate, but ends up with "Fuck off, God," so maybe not so safe for work), and it reminded me that at the YMCA we belong to, they have a whiteboard featuring bible quotes. A certain quote will be up for a few weeks, then it'll change. And I always have a totally evil impulse to sneak up and write a contradictory passage underneath it. Of course, I would never actually do such a thing.

But this is my
turf, so let's make it a feature. Whenever they put a new one up, I'll post a response.

Current quote: "For with God nothing shall be impossible." Luke 1:37

This is almost too easy: ""And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron." Judges 1:19

They don't believe what they believe they believe

A year or two ago I read a short article, I believe in Free Inquiry, regarding what people say they believe, versus what their other beliefs and actions reveal. And it showed that people often seem to genuinely think they hold a belief, yet everything except their subjective assertion indicates that they don't.

I think religion is rife with examples, probably because it encourages compartmentalized thinking, avoiding inquiry, and denying dissonance. For instance, most Christians seem to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient god. Whether you're a hardcore Pentecostal or a cafeteria Catholic, that is a pretty basic shared belief. Also nearly universal is petitionary prayer. Tell your friends and family that you have cancer, and most of them will tell you that they will pray for you. People pray for huge things like an end to war, and ridiculously minor things like finding their car keys. There's a show on the local Christian radio station that is just a laundry list reading of prayer requests: "A woman in Greensboro prays that her swollen foot be healed . . . A man asks that his daughter find God . . ."

So my question is, how can you simultaneously believe that God knows everything that has and will happen, and knows the contents of your every thought, that He has a plan, that His will is not to be questioned . . . and then ask him to cure your psoriasis? Presumably He gave you the psoriasis, knowing full well how torturous it would be, and how much you would wish it gone. Indeed, He knew you would beg for relief, yet went ahead and caused it anyway. It makes no sense to ask for HIS WILL to be undone, given the omniscient/omnipotent/has a plan meme.

Another example struck me this weekend while listening to another Christian station (yes, I am a skeptomasochist). The preacher was going on about how people essentially choose to go to hell. If someone has heard the gospel, yet does not believe, that person is culpable and will go to hell. He strongly stressed that if you go to hell, it's your fault. But of course, this is in the context of a religion that believes that one omnipotent god created all of us, deliberately (since He knew Adam and Eve couldn't avoid sinning) to be inherently evil, vile, and irredeemable sinners. So how again is it our fault? We're created flawed, condemned for those flaws, and if we fail to say some magic words or lack the ability to believe in "things not seen" we get eternal torture? It makes no sense, unless you're discussing Original Sin and the crucifixion in one speech, and in an entirely unrelated speech discussing how we humans are really all to blame if we make the wrong choices. Then it seems it's easy to forget about the glaring inconsistency.

I'm not saying I'm immune to thinking I believe something and then acting to the contrary, or holding contradictory beliefs. However, I welcome being made aware of such inconsistencies. I like to examine my positions and modify them when presented with appropriate evidence. As Adam Savage said recently on Mythbusters, "I've been proved totally and completely wrong - I love it!"

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Vagina Moronologues

So, three high school honor students were suspended for uttering the word "vagina" at a school talent show. It seems the administration felt it would be traumatic for the attendees to hear this word, despite the fact that about half of them were carrying one in their pants that very night. So in anticipation of the event, the school told the performers they could do their reading from The Vagina Monologues, but they couldn't say the word "vagina." They said it, and they were suspended.

According to AP, "Principal Richard Leprine said Tuesday that the girls were punished not because of what they said but because they disobeyed orders not to say it." Oooooh, OK then. Dick Leprine (may I call him Dick? I think I may) is clearly a legal genius. If only he'd been around during those pesky Vietnam protests that culminated in Tinker v. Des Moines - see, the students aren't being punished for saying something - nonononono, that would be suppression of free speech. They are being punished for disobeying an order not to say the word, so everything is peachy keen with the Bill of Rights. Is this George Orwell High School?

I guess we're all just lucky the girls didn't offer a different portion of Eve Ensler's show, in which she intensely repeats, "Cunt . . . CUNT . . . cuuuuuuunt."

In related news, a theater in Florida (where else?) changed the title of Ensler's play to "The Hoohaa Monologues," after receiving a complaint from a passing motorist. Get this: the woman said she drove past the sign, and her niece asked what "vagina" meant, and that she was offended she had to answer that question from the child. Hell yeah, I'd be offended, too - offended that a kid old enough to read, and in possession of a vagina herself, didn't know the correct word for it. But clearly that is not the source of this phobic ninny's complaint. She evidently thinks no one should talk about such a dirty, evil, disgusting organ.

All this hysteria (new spin on that etymology!) ties in well with a little movie we just rented, This Film Is Not Yet Rated. It's not a fantastic movie, but it does highlight the fact that the MPAA, the de facto gatekeeper of movie distribution, seems to really hate vaginas. Well, really the whole related area, and its most popular use. You can show people having their brains blown out, being eaten alive by zombies or monsters, getting hung on meat hooks or having their nipples ripped off, and get an R rating. But, if you show female pubes in a sexual situation, you get an NC-17, and your movie makes no money because few theaters will show it. HEAVEN FORBID you should show someone going down on a girl, and the girl liking it. If people under 17 see such things, our civilization will collapse. It's a well known fact that kids do everything they see in movies, and we don't want our children having good sex. Please confine their viewing to shootings, stabbings, chainsaw massacres, and flayings. Heterosexual rape is OK as long as it's clear the victim is not enjoying any sexual pleasure. In this way, our children will remain innocent, and our girls will remain virginal until marriage, which is the most important thing, after all.

Seriously, what is going on with this weird phobia of the human body, never mind human sexuality? People have parts, and they have names. Are we so infantile as a culture that we can't bear to say "vagina" without at least giggling, if not outright fainting? Or is it indeed a perverse desire to keep teenagers from knowing about sex, in the patently stupid hope that then they will never have sex? And if so, why is the very word "vagina" so verboten? Sure, sex often involves vaginas, but plenty of vaginas exist sex-free. Most of us came through one to get here, for Pete's sake! Can we not simply acknowledge their existence, using a legitimate biological term? Apparently, many people still can't, and that's both frightening and sad.