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Friday, February 22, 2013

"The Flying Spaghetti Monster": Cutesy New Face on a Deadly Atheist Project


Dung beetles. Egyptians worshipped them because their round balls of manure reminded Egyptians of the roundness of the sun. This is the principle of sympathetic magic. Like objects have power over each other. 
Baboons worshipping a dung beetle above a sun disc, or ball of manure. 

In her book "Mythology," classics scholar Edith Hamilton uses the illustration, above, to explain why the Greeks mattered to us today in a way that the Egyptians, for all their monuments, never could. The Greeks made their gods into men, and their men into gods. It matters what we worship; it matters what myths we tell ourselves. 

Father Piotr Sosnowski murdered by Nazis near Tuchola, 1939. Source
The French Revolution guillotines cloistered Carmelite nuns, July  17th, 1794
China is committing a cultural genocide against Buddhist Tibet. Source 
Miguel Pro, Mexican priest executed for the crime of belief. Source
Soviet mass graves. It is estimated that 100,000 priests, monks, and nuns were executed in the Soviet mass terror of 1937-38 Source
Photo source. The Khmer Rouge massacred tens of thousands of Buddhist monks. source
The pictures, above, all reference persons of various faiths murdered by regimes who justify their actions with atheist ideologies. It matters what we worship. It matters what myths we tell ourselves. 

source

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is an atheist project. Its goal is to communicate that religions are indistinguishable, but all religions are silly, ridiculous, and without merit. Its message is false. It does matter what we worship; it does matter what myths we tell ourselves. 


"The Flying Spaghetti Monster" is a recent invention by atheists. It sounds cute and harmless and possibly funny.

I open this blog post with a series of photos of persons of faith murdered by self-professed atheists, who justified their murders with atheist philosophies. These photos are serious and depressing.

Why illustrate a topic as funny sounding as "The Flying Spaghetti Monster" with pictures of atheists murdering people of faith?

I'll try to explain, below.

***

"The Flying Spaghetti Monster" argument goes something like this: religions are really weird and ridiculous and stupid, and people who believe in God are really weird and ridiculous and stupid. These weird, ridiculous and stupid people who believe in God tell weird, ridiculous and stupid stories – myths. Society makes us respect these religions. We don't want to respect them, so let's invent our own god, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. When we demand respect for our obviously ridiculous deity, we will reveal exactly how weird, ridiculous, and stupid religion really is.

***

In "Save Send Delete" I talk about my relationship with a media atheist. I call him "Rand," a pseudonym. Rand loved the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He didn't see any difference between a parody of religion invented in 2005, and the Judeo-Christian tradition, or any other religion.

Rand told me he didn't much like poetry. He had problems with language. He liked science. He liked sentences in which words named concrete, easily identifiable nouns. He didn't like metaphors. He didn't like allusions. He liked numbers. You always know exactly what a number stands for. Three always means three. Not two. Not four. Three. You didn't have to guess. You didn't have to untether your thoughts from the material world and follow the mystery paths that insight opens.

The Psalms were completely worthless to Rand. Shakespeare. Rumi. All that fussing around with language. What was the point? If you want to say something, just say it directly.

If I tried to tell Rand that societies accomplish what they accomplish in large part because of the myths they tell themselves, he wouldn't get it, at all. To him, if you wanted to accomplish something, you just got up and did it.

History tells us that Rand was missing the point. Entirely.

***

The Flying Spaghetti Monster was invented by Bobby Henderson, a 24 year old physics student. I suspect that physics student Henderson has the same problem with what are traditionally thought of as right-brain functions that Rand had. What is poetry to Bobby Henderson? Metaphor? Imagination? Myth? Its power?

Too, like Rand, Henderson may have become used to thinking of himself as smarter than other people, and thinking of other people as just plain stupid.

If your brain performs only what are thought of as left-brain functions, it would be easy to say that the creation story in the book of Genesis is just plain silly. Why would any deity banish his beloved creations because they ate a piece of fruit?

Those of us not so entrapped in the left brain understand that Genesis is one of the most profound stories ever told, and it's not about apples. But the depth of the story remains obscured to Bobby Henderson and his followers.

Not understanding the power of the Judeo-Christian tradition, they mock it. They insist that all religion is silly – because they don't understand it – and that all religious people are stupid – because they don't understand people of faith.

And they have allies.

Political Correctness insists on the dogma of Cultural Relativism. All cultures are equally valid and worthy. To say otherwise is to be a racist, imperialist, oppressor.

You cannot say that the Judeo-Christian tradition offers anything that any other tradition does not offer. You cannot say that the Judeo-Christian tradition is any better than the religion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Political Correctness is so pervasive that many of my students have no idea what the phrase "Western Civilization" means. Many of my fellow PhDs, never mind students, associate slavery exclusively with the relatively short-lived Atlantic Slave Trade. They know nothing of the Muslim Slave trade, which lasted centuries longer, into the current day, and enslaved millions more victims. They don't know, or don't want to hear about, the role that the Judeo-Christian tradition of "let my people go" played in the Abolition movement. They don't want to know about the liberatory force that early Christianity exercised on women's lives.

When I confront my students with the differences between oppression and freedom, they fall back on an atheist dogma: Human Progress. People inevitably get better as time goes on. An unseen hand, evolution, just nudges people inevitably forward. Rand believed in this.

This idea, that life inevitably gets better because evolution nudges humans forward, is patently and obviously false. We see humans go backward every day. The atheist concept of inevitable human progress should be exposed for the faith-based fallacy that it is.

Rather, it is a society's religion – its faith – its myth or master narrative – that determines what that society accomplishes.

***

Five thousand years ago, ancient Egypt was a tremendously wealthy, advanced society. It produced monuments that still arouse awe. Pharaonic Egypt lasted for three thousand years. To what end did ancient Egypt devote its prodigious energies? One end: ensuring that the god king pharaoh enjoyed a cushy afterlife.

Mummification was necessary for a good afterlife. The slaves who built the pyramids were not mummified. No afterlife for them! The pharaoh's pets were mummified. Pets over people. This approach makes for some very impressive tombs. It also made for three thousand years of slavery for uncounted, nameless human beings.

The obsession with the pharaoh's afterlife lead Egyptians to worship, inter alia, the dung beetle and the ibis.

Egyptians worshipped the dung beetle because dung beetles push balls of manure around on the ground. The roundness of the balls reminded Egyptians of the sun. Egyptians worshipped the ibis because the ibis' beak is curved, like the curved crescent moon. This is the logic of sympathetic magic: something like something else has power over that something else. Round balls of poop have power over the sun; bird beaks have power over the moon. This is the logic of ancient Egypt, a society dedicated to giving one man, the pharaoh, a happy afterlife.

Egyptians mummified millions of ibises. Millions. Millions! But not the countless human beings whose blood, sweat and tears created the pharaoh's monuments. Greek historian Herodotus, who visited Egypt, reported that "Whosoever shall kill an ibis or a hawk, whether it be with his will or against his will, must die." Egyptian priorities for you.

***

Compare three thousand years of Egyptian thought to the couple of hundred years sometimes called the "Greek Miracle." During their relatively brief Golden Age, the ancient Greeks produced Euclid's geometry, the Hippocratic oath, Artistotle's "Poetics," Socratic philosophy, Archimedes' physics and engineering, Greek architecture, the Olympics, democracy, the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, etc.

What's the difference between ancient Egypt and ancient Greece? Greece didn't make these advances because of some inevitable, evolutionary progress. Greece made these advances because it was telling itself a different story, living by a different myth, following a different religion, than ancient Egypt. Egypt made the pharaoh the center of the universe. Greece made "man the measure of all things."

Two different sets of myths. Two different sets of accomplishments.

Do we really want to agree with the Flying Spaghetti Monster atheists that all religions are the same?

***

In "Save Send Delete" I do my puny best to state: as an amateur student of history, as someone who has lived and worked in Africa, Asia, Europe, both in the West and under the Soviets, as someone who has lived and worked with Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and Pagans, I believe that the Judeo-Christian tradition makes the world a better place. I would believe that even if I were not a Christian.

People much better qualified than I, of course, have advanced the same argument. I first came across the quote, below, in Rodney Stark's book "The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Lead to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success."

A member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences tries to account for the success of the West:

"One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this.

***

Don't throw away Western Civilization and the Judeo-Christian tradition, is all I'm saying.

1 comment:

  1. I, too have reviewed Stark's VICTORY OF REASON. It is an eye-opening book. To see my review, please click on my name in this specific posting.

    This whole business about the "Flying Spaghetti Monster" is a mockery of God. Saying that, because some gods are unreal, therefore God is unreal, is like saying that, since some kings (King Arthur, Midas) are mythological, therefore all kings were mythological.

    Thank you, Dr. Goska, for inviting me to post on this blog.

    ReplyDelete