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Wurst or worse?

Eurovision, the pan-European songfest, is no stranger to controversy. Whether it is the traditional block voting (did I hear Cyprus award 12 to Greece? Belarus awarding 12 to Russia?) or latex monsters bashing out a hard rock pseudo-religious song (that in itself is a bit of a mindscrew), there are always plenty of things to discuss and comment on in each year's festivities. And if ever the songs should seem too drab to bother with, one can always play "spot the Abba influence" or see how far into the performance we get before somebody has a mid-song costume change, though in these sober years, it is rarely done Buck's Fizz style.

This year's winner - Austria. With a song performed by a gay man in drag. These days this probably wouldn't be worth mentioning, some guys dress up as girls and are so convincing that real girls can't tell the difference. The exception? The fact that there is something jarringly wrong with a bloke in a ball gown with a full beard and moustache. That just looks... weird. Really really weird.

But, Conchita put on a performance that was bordering on awesome. As I said on my review of the songs (not that you'd know, still haven't marked it up yet!), prior to Austria's entry, it was a question of "is any of this deserving to be a winner?" and afterwards the question was "is any of this good enough to rival Austria?". And, indeed, Austria won. There was some competition by two others, however "Rise Like A Phoenix" was epic enough it walked away with 290 points. Not an absolute runaway success (Sweden 2012's Euphoria garnered 372, and Norway 2009's Fairytale holds the highest score at 387), but certainly it seemed to me to be the performance worthy of winning. I strongly suspect that it might have been awarded more votes if it wasn't for the performer's attire (bearded lady).

Which is why it isn't really much of a surprise to read an article in The Telegraph that says: Conchita Wurst is responsible for flooding that left over 50 people dead earlier this month, church leaders in the Balkans have claimed.

No. Just... No.

Let's just assume for a moment that God is real and exists. Why isn't Conchita suffering? Fifty people lost their lives because "God is thus washing Serbia of its sins"? Would this be the same God that loves us and cares about us? Or maybe this is the same megalomanical God that is quite happy to severely punish people (including his own son) for the sins of others.
This sort of crap being spouted by people whose only claim to anything at all is that they profess some sort of moral superiority because they believe in a ghost story really really annoys me.
Therefore...

Let's pick up on Genesis again - Genesis 1:27 says "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him". The problem here is that we have not been made in God's image. If you examine a human body, you will find numerous artefacts left over from our story of evolution - the appendix and the tailbone, to name just two. Also to make the more aggressive of the species have sensitive reproductive organs dangling in an easy-to-attack position, not to mention the various back problems of a species that hasn't completely evolved to support an upright stance - there are many things wrong with the human form. If God is perfect, he does not look like us. Rather, it is humans that created God in our image because we could not handle the truth that God looks like a giant squid.

In addition to that, it should be pointed out that we ourselves may be evolving. To pick three types of humans: Caucasians, Negroids (black people) and Mongoloids (east-Asians). It is my suspicion that Negroids are the oldest type of human, basing that on the knowledge that our origins have been traced back to Africa. Which is next? Asians or white people? If you consider the eyes, there are actual differences in structure between the two. It is also interesting to note that those with Down's Syndrome tend to look Mongoloid in appearance (indeed, this was a perjorative in the less PC '80s). Unkind people might use this nugget of information to dismiss a huge chunk of the earth's population as a mere genetic mutation...but this is easily countered by asking - what is evolution except a series of successful genetic mutations? Obviously these differences are fairly small - Blacks and Asians are not different species - evolutionary changes take many thousands of years. For now, we'll just have to be content that Asians are "cuter" (not just my opinion, a study (Growing Young, 1989) suggests that they're the most neotenised), and that Blacks are just that much better at football...

Carrying on - the line above (Gen 1:26) says "let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.". A specific exception here is bacteria for two reasons. The first is that such things were not known about when the bible was written. And the more obvious is that the truth is that we are totally owned by bacteria. Indeed, if it was not for our innate capacity for violence, we would be owned by most animals and quite a few things that creepeth. Consider even, the average household cat. Anybody who "owns" a cat will be quite aware that while a cat can be an extremely loving creature, it owns you, and will have no qualms about walking away if the situation is not beneficial to cat. At best, we can consider ourselves "current guardian of cat". Sure, we can lock the cat away, chain it down - but then it can always try to scratch your eyes out. We, egotistical little creatures, absolutely do not have dominion over the creatures of this planet. Even with tasers and guns and nuclear bombs, we are susceptible to such tiny things as the bite of a mosquito, or even a disease such as Poliomyelitis - the eradication of which was depressingly hindered in places such as Nigeria by "religious leaders" (note the scare quotes) describing the vaccination to be some sort of American conspiracy and thus forbidding its use by the believers. Yet another in a long long list of people with a mite of authority basing their pontifications on an ancient and contradictory text rather than anything that even remotely resembles science or, indeed, common sense.

Now let's look at Genesis 2:18-23: "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.".
Interesting, this. Man is the important one, woman is the servile assistant. What could possibly be wrong with this? How about that if Adam had decided that he was content with cattle, our history would begin and end with Adam. Women are the half of our species, the only part of our species, capable of giving birth. Capable of creating life within themselves. For all that religions would like to oppress and restrict roughly half of the world's population, it is not only easily arguable that females are more important than males, but genetics points this out extremely clearly. A woman is XX, a man is XY, there is no such thing as a YY. Religion was not created by any God, for if it were, the creation of his capable of bestowing a new life would surely be the more important gender. No, religion was created by man for the benefit of man.

In Exodus 22, there are a long list of retributions. Steal an ox, you must replace it with five. Steal a sheep, you only need to give back four. Sleep with a maid, she becomes your wife. Sleep with an animal, you die. That sort of thing. And haphazardly thrown in is Exodus 22:18 - that infamous line - "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live".
What absolute evil and terror has been wrought in blind fanatical obeyance of that line; because it is so easy for idiot men to look at a woman who has specific knowledge, like how sucking on a piece of wood from this tree can make your toothache lessen, and scream "wwwwiiiittttcccchhhh!!!!". And, look, we're right back to our innate capacity for violence. Never mind against animals, we're pretty good at destroying ourselves.

Now let's turn our attention to Exodus 19. This chapter is the preface to The Ten Commandments, and it basically recounts the story of a crazy bloke climing an active volcano.
The following chapter, Exodus 20, recites these commandments, which are:

  • I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  • Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
  • Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
    And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
  • Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Yes. Seriously. God has ten things to tell us, and he wastes the first four on pompous self-glorification. Doesn't it seem strange that the giant squid that created everything and made us (but not exactly in his quivery squishy tentacled image) seems so utterly incapable of making his existence clear that he needs to devote the first four commandments to reminding us this?
I note that I will be angering God by writing this text. Not that I care, I don't feel unduly threatened by a mythical creation. However, according to the scripture, for the enormous sin of failing to believe in God, my child will suffer. Her children will suffer. Her children's children will suffer. And possibly my child's children's children's children will suffer. People to whom I'll be nothing more than a badly dressed fugly photograph of some geriatric fart so damn ancient that I was around in "the Facebook era". They will suffer because today I am providing reasons for why this whole religion thing is a crock. Yes indeedy, this is truly a loving God.

It is interesting to consider the exact wording of the first commandment. This is bordering on being an admission that other gods do exist, but this megalomanical one wants to be The Big Head Honcho Cheese.
Oh, and maybe we ought to have words with the Catholics - wouldn't statues of Saints count as graven images of things in heaven? In which case, isn't the Catholic Church setting you (and generations of your children) up for a world of pain with the expectation that you will pray (bow down before) to the relevant (graven image) of the Saint (in heaven) appropriate to your needs? Going on an air flight and don't want to die screaming in agony in a huge fireball? There's an app Saint for that. Just don't tell your children, they (and several generations to follow) will suffer acne their entire lives...
Oh, and in a "you couldn't make this up" twist, the Patron Saint of Flying (air travel, pilots, etc) is St. Joseph of Cupertino.
[if you thought St. Christopher, he's good too - but he is the Patron Saint of Travel; Joseph is specifically for flight]

What's wrong with taking God's name in vain? Probably the only time a fair few of us bother to remember God at all is when we utter such phrases as "Goddammit!" or "Oh, God only knows...". If I was God, I'd be thankful for at least that much out of somebody who never goes to church unless somebody died. So, hey, feel free to take my name in vain, as much as you like, though I will admit that "Rickdamn Ricking useless piece of Rick!" just doesn't quite sound catchy enough...err...or even sane.

PS: God. Jealousy? Does that mean you are coveting your neighbour's worship? Funny how the rules don't apply to you. But isn't that always how it is?

  • Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
    Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
    But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
    For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Yeah. We've done well at keeping this. Funny thing is, though, for many people, our time of rest is a weekend. Two days. For a single days is not enough to leave one reasonably refreshed. It might suffice for omnipotent squids, but it just isn't enough for lacklustre humans.
Here in France, the general work week consists of 35 hours which conviently works out to be five 7 hour days. Sure, people work on Saturdays, some even work on Sunday. They'll get two days off sometime else (a shop that is open on Sunday morning (and this is many of them, which do good business catching the church crowd - I hope the irony is not missed on the squid) will typically be closed all of Monday). Self-employed businesses differ in how much effort they put in - some (bakers, newsagents, etc) put in hours that would make a EU 'crat recoil in horror (what d'you mean you're open from 9 to 7.30 six days a week?).
  • Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
God forbid we should actually honour our parents because they gave us life and raised us.
No, this carries an explicit threat. Although, one must question the sanity behind the logic of "respect your elders or your days will be few". This sounds like a Middle Ages curse.
To be honest, this commandment is a pile of bull. You can honour your parents like you might honour your boss or your Emporer, what does this mean, really?
Far better to love your parents, for love is a bond deeper than any notion of honour can ever hope to touch.
Not just your parents, but your partner, your siblings, and your children. If you fail to manage that (without good reason), you fail as a human. You don't really need a stupid commandment to tell you what ought to come naturally.
  • Thou shalt not kill.
  • Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  • Thou shalt not steal.
  • Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
What the hell God? Please find me a civilisation (Christian or not) that has not already figured out that killing each other is A Bad Thing, that having supposedly paired-off people boinking other people is A Bad Thing, that stealing stuff is A Bad Thing, and that lying to falsely implicate somebody is A Bad Thing. I bet you that no civilisation or social system on the planet hasn't figured out that the above (or a close approximation if they don't, for instance, pair off (some south American tribes with no specific concept of "self")) are necessary for the harmonial continuation of their way of life.
Of course, it is worth mentioning that you are specifically prohibited from lying about the activities of your neighbour. Other people don't count, you can clearly lie about them all you like. I guess this means Vladimir Putin is a Nazi. Some dozy Prince said so, so it must be true...
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
Really... Not content with stating the bloody obvious, we're now trying to control impure thoughts? Every time somebody looks at a new flashy iThingy or what-have-you and says "ooh, that looks nice", they are coveting it. A man commenting on a woman's dress - sorry lady, your dress might be lovely but he is looking at your tits and is feeling jealousy towards the person you have come with. I'm afraid I have never in my life coveted my neighbour's oxen, but I would like to have his tractor...
And note how "wife" is lumped in here with such posessions as servants and domestic work animals, classified merely as a "thing" that is the neighbour's property. This is institutionalised mysogeny. God loves his humans and yet the scripture repeatedly hammers home the notion that women are worthless. How can God love half of the world's population by insulting them, deriding them, and oppressing them? That's a damn funny definition of love, if you ask me.
I can only imagine that any woman who believes in religion is either doing it because her husband told her to, her family expected this of her, or she is dumb. What other explanations can explain a woman believing in something that continually reminds her of her lack of worth?

Actually - God - let it be known that coveting stuff can be beneficial. It can motivate people to get up off their fat asses and aim for something they want. It can drive innovation as an "I can do better than that". And, yes, your neighbour may not like his maidservant being winked at, but she might have just found her future husband...

 

Pray tell - why do we not have the following commandments:

  • Thou shalt not rape a female, lest thy penis be cleft from thy body with blunt instrument and much hammering.
  • Thou shalt not harm a child, neither physically nor emotionally.
    Thou shalt not filleth a child's mind with religious bollocks, for that is the gravest of all cruelties that a child can suffer.
    Instead, instill in thy child the capacity of reason and question, including questioning you, and they doth maketh up their own mind.
  • Thou shalt not steal a person for the purpose of making them thy manservant against their will.
  • Thou shalt not murder, or attempt to murder, entire civilisations because they do not believe in me; it doth not be thy concern, just know that I shall blesseth their children with severe acne to the fiftieth generation and visiteth herpes upon the females and swollen gonads upon the males.
  • Thou shalt not queueth for the latest iPhone, purchase thy phone a week later and permiteth other people to findeth the bugs.
  • Thou shalt not limit freedom of thought
  • Thou shalt be respectful of others, even if thou disagreeth of their choices.
  • Thou shalt love, be courageous, and most importantly - know thyself.
  • Thou shalt switcheth off thy bloody mobile phone in public areas, we dost giveth not a shit to hear thy ringtone.

 

I shall now quote from Exodus++, there is only one chapter:

"And finally", God spaketh thee, "the rain and floods are not caused by homosexual men. Not even homosexual men that dress as women and win international competitions. The rain and floods are caused by the sheer quantity of effluent that you pump into the world that I have created for you. I maketh this world for you, give you dominion over everything except cats and bacteria, and your behaviour is to crap in every single corner of it. That is worth more retribution than every gay man added together..." And off walketh the Lord in a big tentacled huff, for the anger of a giant squid is truly something to behold.

 

 

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Alexander, 28th May 2014, 07:04
Listen, we did not end up as a product of evolution. That is, we might have evoluted from certain creatures, but life itself did not originate in the volcanic lava and tropical lakes as they prefer to believe. Life on Earth was likely planted/created/delivered by an extraterrestrial form of civilization which *might* be still watching us from somewhere far away (or not so far). There's nothing shocking in accepting such possibility; different levels of development provide different opportunities and mentality - just like we now possess an obvious supremacy over the people who lived 6000 years ago, and could *theoretically* anihilate them easily if we met them somewhere. Religions are nothing more than people's *representations* of this supreme power which invested life in Earth - no wonder most of them are built on a similar basis. Therefore attacking religions and "God" is meaningless because they are nothing more than time-specific symbolic images of something else. And since that something else is pretty likely to be actually out there, in one shape or another, I wouldn't completely disrespect those who attemped to describe it with their time-specific understanding of the world (nowadays we talk about UFOs and laser swords, back then people used to think in the categories of ribs, mud and soil, nothing surprising there!). In short, it's not about denying "God", but about denying the supremacy of the universe over Earth, and that is not a "sin", it is simply short-sighted.
Gavin Wraith, 28th May 2014, 20:00
Such is the desire for meaning that life has had many explanations. It is a rare stellar infection. As stars take aeons to formulate an idea, it may take a long time to call up a disinfective gamma-ray blast, by which time the infection may have spread elsewhere. 
 
On another tack, may I recommend Olaf Stapledon's Starmaker. That tackles creation of a lot more than mere life.
Rick, 1st June 2014, 00:39
Alternatively, life did in fact come from way off in outer space, but it was a random event (just as random as the arrangement of the stars themselves); and we "evolved" from this simpler form of life into creatures best suited for the planet that we inhabit. 
The problem I have with aliens watching us from far away is the same problem I have with mankind being created in God's image - namely it somehow makes us special. We are only special because we think that we are. 
Yes, we could easily destroy people from 6000 years ago, but then right now we have more than enough capability to destroy each other today. Watch the news channel of your choice and you will see this over and over again. 
As to the idea that our (real?) creator is "out there" and sentient - well, that's basically standardised religion given a post-modern makeover. I shall await something that resembles actual scientific proof. Until then, I shall continue believing two things: 
1, We are "an accident". Life started on this planet in some manner, and it has spun out into many many different creatures from bacteria to bugs to birds to us. Our only "specialness" is that we appear to be more self aware than other creatures, and thus have been able to make advances that, say, the average cat has been unable to do. In this respect, we are remarkable. 
2, Given the vastness of space, and the number of planets around the number of stars that would appear to share similarities with Earth, I believe that there is life elsewhere in the universe. Whether or not they are more or less advanced than us is not really a question. Let's just stick to "something that we can identify as being alive" and work from there should we ever meet it. While it is an interesting exercise to search the skies looking for signs of life, it is worth noting that we did not have electricity and radio communications until the last hundred or so years. Before that, our planet will have been more or less silent in terms of radio spectrum emissions, not to mention pretty dark at night. When you look to the northly night sky to get your bearings, you look at a star called Polaris. It is a useful star for us right now, but it is very very far away. If it exploded this very night, we wouldn't see that for nearly five hundred years. Polaris, as we see it now, is how it looked in December 1582. Likewise, Deneb in the middle of Cygnus (find Polaris, then look about 60 degrees to the right) is even more ancient - what we see today is how it looked in 1216BC. Many of the familiar stars are much closer (Altair, 1997; Vega, 1989) but beyond the ones we can see with our eyes are millions we cannot see without telescopes. I rather fear humanity will have come and gone before a species equivalent to us ever notices that we existed at all. 
So I wish SETI lots of luck, but I don't expect that they will find anything, not even God.
Alexander, 1st June 2014, 06:08
I don't know what makes us so "special" in the hypothesis about the outer creator/influencer. What if 80% of the life in the universe was "created" (as in not accidental), would that make everyone special too?  
I agree with you that religions need to be updated, because they are nothing more than contextual representations. But my point was that it is silly to attack the very notion of their existence and the way they are constructed. In general, if we assume that the "creators" created life on Earth, regardless of the purpose it would be logical to suggest that they wouldn't want us to destroy each other immediately, therefore they could have invested the framework of morality, simplified as "don't be bad to each other". Now, whether this is represented through The Ten Commandments or otherwise, is purely arbitrary and context-specific. Surely the Bible could have told about The 2893 Commandments, one of which would be "do not discriminate bearded transgenders who wish to express themselves", but can you really blame the entire construction of this representation for failing to include all aspects of morality?  
No, I don't think religions are mankind's biggest enemy. Even the high-ranked people who manipulate the zealous kamikaze terrorists are not driven by religious motivations, but by something else.  
And technological development is always exponential. As you said 100 years ago the planet was dark, now we reach Mars somehow. If our discovery of other forms of life (although I believe it will be the opposite, and purposely so) would depend only on technological development, the logic of the exponential growth would likely make this achievement closer than never. In 100 years time going back in time *might* not seem as funny as now. The problem is that I'm not sure it's technological development that we need.

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