Thursday, April 12, 2012

Make music, not war

This is wonderful.

Men and the religion versus science thing

Men have been dominating atheist debate. Well, they would, wouldn't they? After all, the monotheistic religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - are patriarchal, while the main critics of religion in atheist circles are mostly male. It's become a contest between science and religion, while the history and sociology of religion, particularly the history of women's role in religion, has been largely ignored.

I've written about this sort of thing before - click here to read it. Was reminded of it again by two things. The first was a thread on Facebook about original sin, linked to the TV debate in Australia between Richard Dawkins and Cardinal George Pell. When asked about the story of Adam and Eve, Pell said,
Adam and Eve are terms - what do they mean: life and earth. It’s like every man. That’s a beautiful, sophisticated, mythological account. It’s not science but it’s there to tell us two or three things. First of all that God created the world and the universe. Secondly, that the key to the whole of universe, the really significant thing, are humans and, thirdly, it is a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and suffering in the world.
Dawkins said,
I’m curious to know if Adam and Eve never existed where did original sin come from? But I also would like to clarify the point about whether there was ever a first human.
Both of them ignore the history of the allegory, which is important. If you don't understand how and why this story developed, you won't understand where modern Christianity and Judaism get some of their ideas, and how the mythology has been twisted so that Eve became the villainess, rather than the heroine of the story.

The second TV programme that reminded me of the masculine bias in explaining religion is the current BBC and Open University series, Divine Women. Click here for the OU page. If you concentrate on demolishing Biblical mythology without understanding the shift from matriarchies to patriarchies, and how old myths have been changed to reflect male power, your understanding of religion will be limited. Male bias in religion is bad enough, but male bias in atheism is just as annoying.

One of the reasons that female goddesses predominated in the past was that only woman can give birth; they were venerated because of it. Paternity wasn't recognised. When it was, that's when the shift happened, as men sought to claim their offspring and the ownership of their property. This is still a major factor in religious justifications for the subjugation of women today. Men are excused for spreading their seed (a man's got to do what a man's got to do, or he'd go mad with frustration - or something along those lines), while women who lie with men who aren't their husbands are vilified.

Click here to read how the Creation myth was copied from an earlier Sumerian myth.

Painting of "The Fall of Man" by Rubens, whose women were realistically voluptuous, just as most early female fertility figures or goddesses were.
Photo of a female fertility figure, probably a goddess, seated between two leopards and giving birth, from Catal Huyuk, an Anatolian settlement, Turkey.  c.7250-6700BCE

Friday, April 06, 2012

Calm down dears!

There's been a lot of fuss about the web surveillance issue over the last week or so, and most of it ill-informed and exaggerated. To read some of the stuff on the Internet, you'd think that David Cameron wants a team of snoopers in his office at No. 10, scrutinising your every email, blog post, tweet and online grocery order, just to see what you're up to. Some daft individuals have suggested copying him into every email, so that he'd deluged with the things. It's ridiculous. Having written as much on Facebook, I get the impression that some of the people on my friends list think I'm in cahoots with Cameron, or completely bonkers.

This is more or less what I've written there...

Lib Dem blogger Stephen Tall has made some sensible observations about the web surveillance hoo-ha. As he states,
The government case in favour of extending interception of communications is straightforward: the law was created before the recent technological advances such as social media and smartphones and Skype, so all the new legislation will do is bring these communication methods into line with those that exist already for letter, email, phone etc.
This will mean revision of The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, introduced by Labour, which regulated the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation, covering the interception of communications.

The media has whipped up a storm about the proposals, which aren't complete, creating a lot of OTT reaction that isn't justified. If there was another terrorist attack, say during the Olympics, that could have been prevented by the interception of the plotters' communications, and it wasn't, there'd be a huge fuss about that. You can't have it both ways, and if you're not a criminal or a terrorist, you'd have to be very paranoid or conceited to imagine that your emails would be of any interest to anyone other than the people they're addressed to.

I refuse to sign silly petitions against email snooping or bay for Cameron's blood (I reserve my criticism of him for more important issues), and I'm happy to be in a minority of one, though actually there are many who'd agree with me. As Frank Zappa said, "It has never mattered to me that thirty million people might think I'm wrong. The number of people who thought Hitler was right did not make him right... Why do you necessarily have to be wrong just because a few million people think you are?"

The moral of this blog post is: don't let your imagination run away with you.