Thursday, December 23, 2010

Special People

Just when the Christmas season is entering its comfort and joy stage, we can always count on a message to lift our spirits. This one is from Ricky Gervais in The Wall Street Journal.

Gervais was the creator and star of the British version of “The Office”, which is said to be superior to our version of “The Office”. I’ve never seen the British version. I enjoy the one on NBC though I do wonder what planet the people that make it live on. During the Christmas show, Good Guy Jim hit Dwight with a snowball in the office. I do not know of an office where Jim would not have been escorted out.

Mr. Gervais op-ed is titled,” Why I am an Atheist”. Just in time for Christmas.

In the past few years, atheism has become more evangelistic, if you don’t mind the term and in his own way, Mr. Gervais is sort of a Billy Sleep-in-on-Sunday.

Basically, the pitch for atheism is this: You are stupid to believe in God.

He begins his article by saying, “Why don’t you believe in God? I get that question all the time. I always try to give a sensitive, reasoned answer. This is usually awkward, time consuming and pointless. People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary. They are happy with their belief. They even say things like “it’s true to me” and “it’s faith.” I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe,” comes across as both patronizing and impolite.”

Of course, we folks of faith are always wondering about what Ricky Gervais believes and how as a comedian he obtained all scientific knowledge and reason. Funny, I’ve known several professors (with PhDs) that taught subjects like Biology and Chemistry at Whoop-de-do Universities and they believed in God. I guess they didn’t get the memo that said it was the very definition of logical impossibility.

He deals with the arrogance argument by stating that Science is humble. “It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know”. Ok. “It bases its conclusions and belief on hard evidence. It doesn’t hold on to medieval practices because they are tradition”. That Science is one fair dude, unlike all of you religious people and your medieval practices of throwing leaches down your trousers and prayer. He concludes this paragraph with ...”believing in something doesn’t make it true”. Fair enough, but not believing in something doesn’t make it false.

He throws us bone by admitting that belief in God “does no harm”. Thanks, Ricky. Usually we are treated to historical reviews of The Spanish Inquisition, (which nobody expected), The Crusades, and a million other events done in the name of religion. One of the online comments to this piece said, “Science flies you to the moon; Religion flies you into buildings”. Of course, it would be too much to add religion created orphanages, hospitals, and universities. It would be impolite and patronizing to mention that science gave us bombs and bullets.

One thing about Atheists that I’ve noticed that for all of the mention of Science and Reason, it always seems to come back to what we awful stupid Evangelicals say: experience. In their experience, there is always somebody or something that turns them off to religion. You get a three hour treatise on the impossibility of God and it turns out that they had an Aunt that would hit them with a wooden spoon to make them go to Mass.

Gervais has an experience. He is from a working class background and “mums” didn’t have hope that their kids would grow up to the doctors—they just hoped the kids didn’t become criminals. “So bring them up believing in God and they’ll be good and law abiding. It’s a perfect system”. Ah, the old opiate of the masses.

Gervais was eight, drawing a picture of the crucifixion when his 19 year old brother asked him why he believed in God. He says: “Just a simple question. But my mum panicked. “Bob,” she said in a tone that I knew meant, “Shut up.” Why was that a bad thing to ask? If there was a God and my faith was strong it didn’t matter what people said.
Oh…hang on. There is no God. He knows it, and she knows it deep down. It was as simple as that. I started thinking about it and asking more questions, and within an hour, I was an atheist.”

Gervais doesn’t reveal how his mother knew it “deep down”. He does not share how his brother had more of an insight into this matter than Martin Luther King, Jr, Mother Teresa, Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Barack Obama or the million of others that were not blessed with the special skills of reasoning of this young man.

That is really the essence of the current popular atheistic arguments. Gervais apparently believes that every believer is weak and the idea of an entertainer being an atheist causes them to question their own belief. He says, “In a way they are asking “what makes you so special? “How come you weren’t brainwashed with the rest of us?” He is special because he created a TV show and has been in movies, which means he is, by definition, better than us.

Just as “The Office” had a creator, so must the world and the cosmos. Too bad in Gervais' quest for science and reason he didn't stop off in the Liberal Arts department and read John Updike's short story "Pigeon Feathers". Maybe he would be little more questioning and not as dogmatic.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Restless Farewell

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article that caused quite an uproar. It has nothing to do with tax policy, unemployment benefits, fiscal policy or (my favorite) what the dollar is worth compared to other countries currencies. The article was about Bob Dylan.

The piece written by John Jurgensen titled, “When To Leave The Stage” seeks to answer the question: Should Bob Dylan Retire?

Of course, the answer, my friend, is not really blowing in the wind, because I would venture to say that eight out ten readers of The Wall Street Journal probably think Dylan died in 1973 (actually, this was Bobby Darin, who was finally murdered by Mack the Knife).

Dylan (98 years old) is in a pack of Rock Stars from Paul McCartney (107 years old) to Peter Townsend (a spry 90 years old) that are not forever young. Jurgensen asks “For people of influence in any walk of life, from corporate leaders to sports stars, the question of when to leave the stage is a crucial one. Do you go out at the top of your game, giving up any shot at further glory? Or do you dig in until the end, at the risk of tarnishing a distinguished career?” It is a good question.

It seems everyone wants to stay to the bitter end. Brett Farve is the perfect example. It is not enough that he has been a professional quarterback longer than this year’s Freshman class has been alive and has a Super Bowl ring. No, he’s got to prove it to you that he still has it. You just wish he wouldn’t text it.

Unfortunately Jurgensen tries to bloster his case by quotes from fans who walked out of Dylan’s 2010 concert finale at The Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. On the Dylan blogosphere, there were reports that this concert was the concert of concerts with Dylan mingling with fans after the show, which is almost like seeing the Pope sitting around drinking a Slurpee.

Jurgensen quotes an individual stating he would never pay to see Dylan again. The only problem is that sentiment has been following Dylan ever since he hopped up on stage at dear old Hibbing High to play that confounded rock music. Think about when he “went electric” in ’65. Being called “Judas” in ’66. The boos in San Francisco in 1979 after his conversion to Christianity. You could on and on. People walking out on Dylan is just another day at the office for him.

My favorite sentence in the article is this: “Though he never had a conventionally pretty voice—that was part of its power—lately he's been sounding like a scatting Cookie Monster”.

That was a nice part of the article. Dylan’s voice and the word “pretty” have never been used in the same sentence before to my knowledge. I have seen some of the 2009-2010 concert footage on YouTube and “Cookie Monster” is a good description of Dylan’s voice, although my son describes the voice as sounding more and more like Louis Armstrong.

The problem is, of course, is Dylan himself. He barely plays the guitar anymore at concerts (although he has a cracker jack band supporting him), he arranges his songs to where they are almost unrecognizable, and he never acknowledges the audience. One of the these days somebody ought to do a serious marketing book about how this little dude has sold almost 21 million albums in 1991 and moved 3.7 million in concert tick sales and grossed more than $192 million on tour because his public relation skills stink.

But there is your answer right there. As long as there people who will shell out money to see a legend croak out songs, Dylan will be on tour. When that dries up, Dylan will “bid farewell in the night and be gone”.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This Week's Picks

Before we get into the Conference championship games, last week was an incredible weekend of College Football. Auburn came back from 21 points to defeat Alabama. Boise State lost to Nevada and with it, a chance to play in a BCS bowl game. Now it looks like Boise State may play in a lower tier bowl. I’ve been a Boise State basher all year, but I don’t know how you can fall from the Fiesta Bowl to the Hey Man Let’s Fight Hunger Right Now Bowl on the basis of two errant kicks. Just don’t seem right.

Here in the Great State of Georgia, UGA beat Tech and now both teams finished the season with a 6-6 record. They both should just stay home this bowl season.

This Week’s Picks!

Cam vs. Cluckers: South Carolina played Auburn tough this season and The Old Ball Coach has been to many SEC Championships. However, I just don’t see this South Carolina team beating this Auburn team. Cam takes the money and runs all the way to the Mythical National Championship game. Auburn wins.

Gobblers vs. The Dag Burn Noles: Virginia Tech is partially responsible for the Boise State mess because if they had beaten them in September like they were supposed to, none of the “Should Boise State Play in the Championship?” talk would have happened. Then Tech loses to either Dolly Madison or James Monroe and it looked like Hokies were going to have a sad year. Yet, they turned it around, although in the ACC that is not exactly that big of deal. Still, they are way better that Joe Jack’s Seminoles and should defeat them without breaking a sweat. Virginia Tech wins.

OK vs. The Huskers of Corn: Oklahoma is just a lil’ bit better the Nebraska. Boomer Sooner wins.

Georgia Southern vs. William and/or Mary: The Eagles have drawn the number two seed in the FCS playoffs. Interesting fact: I know a player on The Tribe. His name is Matthew Crisafi, a 6’4”, 302lb lineman. My son played on the same baseball team, The Keller Interiors Braves at Oregon Park In 1999. My memory of Matthew is he was already taller than me when he was eight years old. Best wishes for Matthew, but I hope for an upset. It won’t happen. I’m doing my reverse mojo and picking William and/or Mary.