Sunday, June 27, 2010

“The Book of Eli” - Spiritually Inspirational Film or Confirmation of the Horrors of Religion?

[Warning: movie spoiler]

I like Denzel Washington -- always have. I also like action films. So when “The Book of Eli” came out last week I picked up a copy at the local rental joint, bought some Good and Plenty and Sour Patch Kids at Walgreens, and settled in with Mrs. Hump to watch Denzel kick ass and take names in a post apocalyptic America.

What we got was lots of slice and dice / shootin’ and killin’ as a middle aged Denzel (Eli) makes his solitary trek across a devastated landscape. Inhabited largely by low life uncivilized lawless illiterate rabble, the survivors and their off spring of a war that took place perhaps 35 years earlier, the hero dispatches hoards of evil doers with his uncanny martial arts skills. Armed with sword, shotgun, pistol and bow and arrow, nothing can stop him from fulfilling a spiritual quest as he heads west along the “Road of Death” carrying the sole surviving copy of the Bible.

We learn that the nuclear war which destroyed civilization as we know it, plunging the planet back into the dark ages, was a religious war. As a result all copies of the Bible were rounded up and destroyed by the survivors, presumably to prevent another such occurance

The voice of God in his head tells Eli to take his Bible west, guided by “faith and not sight,” [we learn later that Eli is actually blind, and is presumably able to kill everything in his path and appear sighted because of a God given “force” that would be the envy of Luke Skywalker and Yoda combined]. Eli quotes the bible to a rescued damsel who joins him, while being pursued by a megalomaniacal fiend and his henchman bent on obtaining Eli’s Bible thus using it to establish himself as the dictator over the region, if not the country. It’s logical that the Bible could be a catalyst for consolidating such political power; the surviving populace being largely illiterate, unschooled, and impoverished. Sound familiar?

Ultimately Eli reaches his destination, a pocket of civility and educated people who are dedicated to restoring civilization and are collecting and preserving the most important cultural and technological advancements of Man.. And while he loses his King James volume along the way Eli is able to dictate it from memory -- word for word, chapter and verse from Genesis to Revelation -- to the scholarly old scribe who promptly publishes it into bound volumes. Immediately after which Denzel croaks.

To the 86% of Americans who are believers, and especially to the 78% who are Christians, this is the story of a man obediently fulfilling a commandment from God to not let “His” written word be lost for all time. Thus Eli is given powers from God and a faith that compensate for his sightlessness, and who in spite of great odds, is carried by his devotion on a mission to repopulate the planet with copies of the Bible – sacrificing his life in this noble, indeed Christ–like cause.
The epilog if there was one, would be that God prevails, goodness will follow, and the Word will once again be spread across a godless planet to those who have never heard it, thus restoring civility once again. No doubt heart warming to religionists who will be brought to tears at Eli’s devotion, demonstration of God’s power, the promise of continuity of their belief for ages to come, and the opportunity for the ultimate salvation of Earth’s survivors. To theists’ it’s a dream fulfilling ending.

But to the thinking, to the remaining 14% of us, its meaning is much different. It’s a harbinger of the devastation that the divisiveness of religion, and the fanaticism that inevitably follows, is poised to one day wreak upon the planet. It’s a testament to Man’s willingness to ignore history condemning himself to repeat it. It’s an ode to ancient superstition, a justification for its bigotry and ignorance that will continue to pervade men’s minds far into the future. It’s a lost opportunity to rid mankind of the greatest deception and source of division ever perpetrated. To those of us who reason The Book of Eli is a horror story with a nightmare ending.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hump’s dog explains her “trip to the other side”

That's my Staffordshire terrier Ella when she was a puppy. She's now 14 year old. On medication for congestive heart failure she also has various other infirmities, discomforts and peculiarities associated with being 98 years old in human years not the least of which is occasional incontinence, a lack of discrimination as to where she poops, and a tendency to bark at trees, chairs, and nothing in particular.

From time to time she also tends to arbitrarily feign death, or at least to pull the old Redd Foxx
“I’m coming Elizabeth” dramatic dying routine sending us into a tizzy. This morning Ella bought the farm … again, or so she says.

I called the vet when her legs collapsed from under her. Panting rapidly her tongue started to turn blue. We agreed he’d come and help her die comfortably at home as soon as his office hours finished at noon.

Ella lay quietly on the big pillow on our covered porch while my wife stroked her head and I rubbed her belly, dripping water into her mouth from a syringe. Ella’s eyes were closed; her breath became more shallow and even. It didn’t look like she’d make it until noon. We quietly waited for death to come.

Forty five minutes later she was eating a bowl of chopped meat, lapping up water, and taking in the smells, sights and sounds of rural New Hampshire from her porch perch. Ambling down the steps she casually emptied her bowels on my perfectly manicured lawn. She was back to normal.

“WTF, Ella!!?” I demanded “I figured you for dead.”
“You sound disappointed.” She passively retorted.
“NO, of course not. But you came THIS close to your final vet’s visit.” I said holding my fingers a Milk Bone’s width apart.
“You know I hate that son of a bitch he always smells like he’s had is arm up a cows ass. And what happened to our ‘do not resuscitate’ agreement?”
“Uh , yeah… but he wasn’t coming to resuscitate you.”

She was nonplused by this. She’s been around long enough to know that I wouldn’t rush her demise any more than I would delay it if her quality of life took a major downward turn.

Ella yawned and let out a series of barks for no reason in particular. “You needn’t have bothered, I was ostensibly dead.” she casually offered.
“No you weren’t. You were just, I dunno, having one of your old dog moments. And if you died how is it you’re not dead now?”

She pondered this for a moment, head cocked to the side. “It wasn’t my time I guess, but the experience was as vivid as that dump on the lawn. My whole life rushed before my eyes, from puppyhood right till this morning. Next thing I know I was in a big open sun lit field. Hey, remember the cocker spaniel you had before me? Well, she was there. She asked how you were doing. I told her about your weight gain. And there were lots of other dogs running around sniffing each others butts, chasing balls, chewing on steak bones. Then some nice old guy came out with chopped meat and fresh water and we all chowed down while the cool morning breeze blew across our ears and some babe stroked my head.” She closed her eyes, and smiled a satisfied dog smile.

“Wait a damn second!” I protested “What are you saying - that there’s an afterlife, a doggie heaven? That my rejection of ancient myth and the supernatural is wrong? That my acceptance of natural law and reality was a mistake? That everything I have come to accept as reasoned and logical is now completely null and void?” Ella could tell I was becoming agitated.

“Hey, Big Guy … don't get your flea collar in a knot! Did you hear me say anything about heaven or an afterlife? You’re a semi-educated human; haven’t you heard about the effect of oxygen deprivation, endorphins, various other brain chemicals and how they cause vivid memories and hallucinations in near death situations?”
I was embarrassed. Of course I understood these things. They have been studied and understood by the medical profession for years. I chalked up my emotional over reaction to the stressful events of the morning.
“Besides,” she added “after 14 years I thought you knew me better. What do you take me for a brain damaged cat, or worse, a damn theist?”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

“GOD LOVES you, and God is good.” Oh…Really?!

“God loves you, and God is good.” Was the reassuring comment from a religionist on a facebook discussion thread. She was defending her imaginary sky friend from a withering attack by a couple of atheists discussing the uselessness of religion.

My reply to that typically bland and predictable Christian throw away line was: “Good for what?” No answer was tendered by this self appointed publicist for her god.

I suppose if one never read the Old Testament, avoided biblical criticism, and simply fast forwarded through the New Testament without giving their God’s behavior much thought one could pick out a few dozen verses that were good, maybe even loving, if not unique to Christianity.

But as we all know, the god described in that hideous tome exposes itself to be overwhelmingly a vengeful, murdering, genocidal, sexually obsessed, misogynistic, homophobic, brutal, slavery endorsing, self centered, arbitrary, cruel, contradictory and confused tyrant.

Had that Christian PR woman bellied up to the bar and not just tossed a platitude and run, I’d have challenged her to a duel of verses. For every verse she provided that implies a good and loving god, I could match her with one and a half verses that demonstrate it to be evil and hateful. All she would be left with is trying to defend her position with:

· “But they had it coming they were [pick one or more] an evil culture, religion, civilization; a mean group of children; uppity women; horrid witches; unclean animals; expendable offspring.” aka excusing the inexcusable by rationalization.

· “You’re taking it out of context.” but can’t or won’t give a context which makes it good and justifiable by any ethical standard.

· “God works in strange and mysterious ways / who are we to know or understand God’s plan?” Cop out. If her god’s intent and actions confuse her, and are more than its actions at face, her how can she profess to know god’s intent is good, or that it loves anything other than itself?

I for one wouldn’t want to be loved by this hideous beast of a god. After all, it loved all its original creations, all their offspring, all those animals, everyone who doesn’t believe in it, and its very own son. Look what it did to, or threatens to do, to them. Nah, if such an evil being were real and we couldn’t kill it, I’d rather it just ignored me or didn’t know I existed.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hump’s Annual Non-Religion Themed List of the Most Annoying

Once a year I depart from my usual modus operandi and reflect on (aka rant about) secular things and people who irk the shit out of me. Well, that time is now.

Mrs. Hump could recite this litany of losers from memory, having heard me rant about them so often that it’s become almost a daily ritual. I figure my readers should have the enjoyment as well. So here, in no particular order is
Hump’s Top Ten Most Annoying Secular People and Things:

  1. Terri Seymour - of the early evening Hollywood gossip show. This talentless twit’s claim to fame is being the ex girlfriend of Simon Cowell. Her toothy grin and English accented high pitched raspy voice that sounds like she gargled with crushed glass, make me want to drive ice picks into my eyes and ears every time she appears on the screen. The world might better be served if she did the same to herself.

  2. Sharon Osborn, Randy Jackson, Mary Murphy, Bruno “the gay guy … what’s his face?”, Howie Mandell - and every other second rate pseudo-celebrity “judge” on TV talent shows whose vapid comments, crocodile tears, need to say “Yo, Dog!” to everyone, and over the top enthusiasm for mediocre crap, makes the already vast wasteland that is TV even more of a waste.

  3. Teabaggers - not guys who perform the sex act by the same name (that’s cool), but the political hacks and know-nothing-but-hate red necked crazies who have rallied under the banner of “NO” to reason and sanity, and “YES” to bigotry, extremist rightwing conservatism, and ditto headed Sarah Palin worship.

  4. Pristiq Anti-Depressive Commercial - featuring that wind up toy doll look alike of the depressed actor and a repetitive loop elevator music theme. If you weren’t depressed before watching that pitifully grating and hideously long commercial, you will be when it’s over. Maybe that’s the point.

  5. Right Wing TV and Radio Personalities – i.e. Rush, Glenn, Sean, Bill, Coulter, Sarah Palin, et al. Proof positive that being a deluded religionist, hate filled racist, and having a sub 100 point IQ doesn’t stop one from having a platform, attracting mass appeal, and making millions of dollars in the Land of Opportunity and Stupidity.

  6. British Petroleum Executives - the perfect reason to bring back scourging and crucifixion. Possibly a justification for invading England … if they had anything we wanted.

  7. Anne Currie- she of the flubbed teleprompter lines, insipid questions (i.e. “How do you feel about losing your entire family in a fire?”), and the ever popular sad-eyed melodramatic “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” platitude. If NBC feels it absolutely must have Asian representation what’s wrong with finding one with a brain stem? How about Jackie Chan or Kim Jong-Il?

  8. “Sex and the City”- anything even remotely related to the TV show; the actors their clothes, their horse faces or M&M sized facial moles; the writers, the sponsors, the movie or the theaters that show it.

  9. Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jason (“My Name is Earl”) Lee, Jenna (“Dharma and Greg”) Elfman - and any other personality / actor who is so shallow, brain washed and gullible that they buy into, support and promote the Scientology cult thus attracting even more idiotic followers.

  10. Sideways and Backward Ball Caps – If you’re a kid and can’t get your hat placed properly on your head ask your folks to take you to a neurosurgeon, because you look like a mental defective. If you’re an adult, damnit… the “bill” is meant to keep the sun out of your eyes, not off your fat sweaty neck! Wearing it backwards doesn’t make you look cool, just moronic. Grow up!

Whew … I don’t know about you, but I sure feel better.

Oh, I could go on. There are so many more that deserve my wrath and disdain:
New Hampshire drivers who drive 5 mph under the speed limit; Joan Rivers’ face, voice and daughter; Regis Philbin’s senility and lack of talent or reason to live; Larry King’s oversized alien shaped head, $even divorces, and ability to attract women old enough to be hi$ granddaughter$; that peculiar Canadian addiction to hockey and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (aka Kraft Dinner); people who don’t buy my book because it’s not on Kindle, are just a few. But Terri Seymour just came on TV and I have to go find those ice picks.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Praise Jesus...Hump's in line for $3 million, Lord willing.

“Dear Beloved. Greetings in the name of God. May the blessings of God be upon you and grant you the wisdom to understand this situation and how much I need your help."

The above is the opening greeting from a typical email I receive two or three times a month to a couple of my email accounts. Invariably it purports to be from an old Christian widow woman who is dying from cancer and for reasons known only to her and Jesus she selected me to oversee the charitable distribution of her $10 million dollar estate for which I will be rewarded 1/3rd of it for my trouble. Although her residence varies currently she claims residency in Saudi and based on how long I’ve been getting these, she has been in the throes of death for some two or three years now.

The letter is long and crammed full of references to Jesus, heaven, finding her reward, blessings, and is signed “Yours in a Loving Christ” or some such nonsense. It seems all she needs is my full name, address, and phone number to get things going. Occasionally I reply to these emails wishing the poor “woman” a lingering and hideous death, and promising her that Satan and I will be happy to double team her when she reaches her reward in Hell ... I being the one with the hump and the enormous member. Much to my disappointment I never get a reply.

What’s fascinating about this is the assumption that by invoking Jesus and tossing out endless Christian platitudes that the target will be swayed to participate in this blatantly transparent scam. The scammers obviously see Christians as particularly vapid and open to being ripped off by anyone sharing their delusional beliefs. They are well aware that Christians have abandoned all common sense, opting to believe the most ridiculous things on faith. Plus, they are scammed every Sunday when they drop their money into the old collection plate at church. And since America is a hot bed of fundamentalist stupidity, they also assume that every one of the thousands upon thousands of Americans they email is a believer ripe for the picking. After all, not once have I received an offer from an dying rich woman addressed to “Dear Reasoned and Rational Freethinker.”

I’m guessing they meet with some success with this strategy, since the letters haven’t changed much in two years. If so, Dog bless ‘em.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Let the Mother and Fetus Die for Superstitious Idiocy. Or save a life? A Nun's Dilemma.

That was the choice of Sister Margaret McBride, a member of the ethics board of a hospital in Phoenix, when an 11 week pregnant woman came into the emergency room with pulmonary hypertension.

The doctors determined that the pregnancy must be terminated immediately, or the mother and her fetus would die. With no time to spare, Sister Margaret decided to save the woman’s life (who already had four other children at home) and permit the pregnancy to be terminated.

But what is a no brainer exercise of common sense, humanity, and good judgment … opting to save one life as opposed to losing both the woman’s and the fetus’, and leaving four kids motherless ... seems to be a cardinal sin to the Church. Sister Margaret was excommunicated from the Church. Whole story here:

Speaking for the Phoenix archdiocese Thomas J. Bishop Olmsted (smiling shaman in his mystical costume pictured above) said: "An unborn child is not a disease ... the end does not justify the means.”

What!? Was there another means to ensure the woman or both the woman and the fetus survived? What is that other means would the bishop recommend? Prayer? How many times has prayer reversed a fatal syndrome that required immediate medical intervention? Would the death of both the mother and the fetus, and leaving four children motherless been the Church's preferred outcome???

This is religious mindlessness and hypocrisy at its worst -- mindlessness because the Sister did the only logical, reasonable and humane thing, for which she should be proclaimed a hero, if not a saint. Instead she is demonized and cast out by her “loving church” because she somehow offended their imaginary man-god and broke with unthinking, unyielding, inhumane doctrine.

Hypocritical, because while for decades priestly abuse of children and it’s destructive impact on them, has been tolerated, covered up, or ignored by bishops, cardinals, and the pope himself…with virtually NONE of the perpetrators, or their enablers being excommunicated. Why … because mass sexual perversion is tolerable, but saving a woman’s life and giving a child his mother back is intolerable? Because the sex abuse was by men, and this break with irrationality was by a woman?

Any Catholic who is not enraged by the injustice, the misogyny, the hypocrisy, the blind disregard for the greater good being perpetrated by the Church by this act is beyond contempt. Between all of the grotesque trespasses perpetrated by this arrogant medieval cult of ignorance if there was ever a last straw for leaving it behind, this should be it.

[Thanks to Rachel H. from Texas for bringing this important story to my attention]