I heard about Agora from Jason over at the Wild Hunt. He first mentioned it in ’08, where he extolled it as likely to be a Pagan-friendly work. Well, that was enough for me, so I waited for it to come out.
And waited some more.
Meanwhile, Jason was giving occasional tidbits: the movie was to center around the life of Hypatia and the destruction of the great library at Alexandria. I vaguely remembered the name Hypatia from posters my mom had around the Math room of Women In Mathematics, but that was about it. So I added to my “Reasons To See This Movie” list “feminism”. Somewhere along the line (likely also from the Wild Hunt, although I can’t find the post), I heard that Christians were up in arms about the movie because it depicted them as violent oppressors of Pagans; you know, because it was historically accurate. So I added “anti-Christian” to that list. Anything that upsets the Christians is probably worth my time.
Well, it has finally been released and I went to see it yesterday. (Two days ago, it was playing at two, count them two, theaters in LA. Yesterday, it was down to one. If you have any interest, find a local theater now or it will be gone.)
A. Maz. Ing. While it did treat Pagans perhaps more sympathetically than Christians would hope, what I got out of it was more atheistic than pagan. The film takes place in the midst of the clash of three religions: the Hellenic/Egyptian paganism of the elite class, the Christianity of the slaves and masses, and the Judaism of the middle class. And clash they do. The film impressed upon me the fact that religions are a danger to those around them; this was true across the board.
Further, two of the main characters changed religion: both for an increase in their social status. Religion, then, is viewed both as something changeable and as expedient. Both undergo crises of faith which are met with two responses. One is told to neither doubt nor question; the other is guided by a friend toward an even deeper faith. In the end, the first realizes the error and acts to undo the harm religion has caused; the second becomes ever further entrenched in the religion. I found this to be a wonderful allegory to how religion often treats its adherents: those who are given the strongarm (don’t question, just have faith) are more likely to leave while those whose questions are dealt with sensitively end up further in. Perhaps, also, the relationship with the questioner’s answerer is important; for the one who leaves, the apologist is a cold, violent missionary; for the one who stays, the apologist is a trusted friend who knows the true reason for the questioning.
The film is also quite a good piece of historical fiction. It takes a time about which much is known and brings to life certain characters about which slightly less is known. The major events of the film happened; and likely happened in the way they are depicted. The relationships between the characters may or may not be true, but are a reason to watch the film. The New York Times‘ film reviewer said, that there is no sugar coating on the difficult subjects and certainly, horrifying events like the destruction of the library are shown in almost gory detail. The sins of humanity’s past are laid bare for us to see. And for us to wonder whether or not they are truly in our past.
I don’t want to give too much away, but I found it to be a rousing film for feminists, historians, and atheists alike.
Perhaps the most interesting part for me was the depiction of the Christian morality police, the Parabalani (here is the Catholic Encyclopedia entry and the Wikipedia one, which is mostly just copied, although there are some word changes which make it a wee bit more objective). Their depiction in the film was quite interesting. The Mutaween they were not, but they were certainly violent defenders of the [Christian] faith.
Definitely worth watching, whether to enjoy the rich visuals of Hellenic Egypt, to savor the ever-wonderful storytelling of Alejandro Amenábar, to bask in the feminism of the world’s first-known female mathematician (and astronomer and philosopher), to stick it to the Christian man by enjoying a world where pagans held power and Christians were the rioting mob, or to revel in the antitheistic message of a time when violence ruled all religions—just like today.
This is how our president defined our country yesterday. Explicitly denying that it was a “Christian nation” and explicitly stating that this fact is one of our “great strengths”.
It’s nice to be reminded of this—and by someone so high in the administration! It is vogue for politicians to exclaim “God bless America!” Whether or not The Divine smiles upon us is not the issue, the issue is which Divinity is being invoked. Likely not mine, which makes me bristle. Change the invocation just a bit and even the Christian right will object: “Allah bless America” and “Goddess bless America” are nearly epithets.
I look forward to what the religious response to this will be—will our secular roots continue to be denied? Will this be further proof that Obama is the anti-Christ? Or will this be accepted as an endorsement of pluralism? An invitation to dialogue?
Our country is yet young and still going through growing pains. I see our insistence on religion in the public sphere as evidence of this. I think the Secular Coalition’s crowing may work against them, but this may indicate, not a turning away from religion but a turning towards acceptance of non-religion. A big step for us.
One of the many reasons I don’t post with my IRL name here (I won’t say “real”, since xJane is just as real in many ways) is because I am attempting to manage my image. In our internet age, I still find it to be very important to not ruffle feathers in a public way (so that I can find a job, even with a company I may not agree with) while at the same time ruffle feathers (feather-ruffling is something most people need more of).
Accordingly, I can say that I am not embarrassed about anything on my Facebook page. (Except, perhaps, who my “friends” are, but that cannot be avoided in many cases.)
Here are some recent articles I found interesting about Facebook: the first (hat tip to @greaterumbrage) is the humorous Facebook survival guide for adults. A great way of explaining “the Facebook” to people who ask. In fact, I may just send this around to some people I know…
Linked to in that article are two more of interest (to me, at least, and enough so that I want to share):
A discussion of “Facebook drunkfail”, also a humorous take on the subject (please please please Google “Kevin Colvin”, regardless of whether or not you click on and read that link, and read the first page that comes up. I think John bought me a drink from him once at the Edison…). A serious subject, though, and the major reason I (a) post here as xJane and (b) carefully edit my FB page (and (c) have two Twitter accounts).
Finally, this was probably in the news but I missed it because I live in a hole right now (luckily, a fact of life I’m used to), but Obama’s speechwriter committed a Facebook drunkfail that made it farther than Facebook. Here’s one woman’s take on it—one that I happen to agree with.
(I thought about posting links to these on my Facebook page but decided that was too meta for me…)
The Vermont Senate, finding (correctly) that Civil Unions for gay couples fall short of providing equal rights, voted overwhelmingly to approve Civil Marriage for gay couples. The matter still has to go before the Vermont House (and since I’m late to this, may already have gone), where it is expected to pass. The margin by which it was approved is too great for the governor to veto (if he were to try).
As others have said before me, This Is How We Do It!
Texas is reviewing its science standards, specifically with the desire to remove them altogether. Skepchick has a great discussion of exactly what this means, but here’s the short version:
Now: what you can do:
Just to drive home the point that we need to actually educate our children, not just indoctrinate them, here is a recent BBC documentary (in 6 10-minute segments) about a 13-year old girl, Deborah, who lives on her parents’ farm with some of her 10 brothers and sisters (the ones who haven’t yet left home to spread the Good News.
Deborah and her siblings have been home schooled and rarely leave the compound. When she does, it’s to give tracts out to her peers while they’re waiting for the bus. Her oldest brother has moved out and is working toward a chef’s degree. Deborah leaves home to go visit him in the fourth segment.
The whole thing is worth a watch, even though it’s long. My favorite part (besides the general creepiness and the “omg, it’s my sisters!”-ness of it) is that her brother is specifically turned off by flirting women. I can’t wait for the follow up documentary after that one hits.
It’s Blog for Choice Day and I encourage everyone to visit the blogroll of bloggers taking part and to visit their blogs, if only for this one post. Also, feel free to revisit my posts from ’07 and ’08. This year’s topic is “What is your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress.”
I always find these kinds of things difficult. I don’t have a favorite band/book/movie, but I could give you a top five. So I think I’ll take that approach. These aren’t in any order except the order they come in, but they’re all up there.
1. Repeal of the Bush doctrine of the “conscience clause”. This is near the top of my brain right now because I recently read (and was subsequently incensed by) this, the story of a woman whose IUD was removed by a religious nurse, who then proceeded to lecture her about why she was morally opposed to it and then refused to put it back in. The nurse stated, “Everyone in the office always laughs and tells me I pull these out on purpose because I am against them, but it’s not true, they accidentally come out when I tug,” which suggests to me that she’s a serial assaulter.
The medical profession is different from most professions (it’s usually lumped in with the legal profession) in the sense that certain things are required of medical professionals that are not required of anyone else. I’ve likened conscience clauses before to a vegetarian working at Subway and refusing to serve meat. That was probably a wee bit flippant, but I do believe that, since the medical profession is so specialized, when one goes to an doctor, one is entitled to the best medical care that doctor can provide. Having an surgeon refuse to provide a patient with an appendectomy because the surgeon is a Christian Scientist should be illegal. Sure, where it is possible, allow the surgeon to find another surgeon who can provide this (often emergency) procedure. Where none can be found, the trained surgeon employed in the capacity of a surgeon at the hospital the patient has been admitted to may be expected to provide that surgery, regardless of the surgeon’s religious beliefs. The fact that it’s even being considered is repulsive and baffling to me. We require attorneys to provide legal service to criminals, regardless of the attorney’s belief of guilt or innocence. Where attorneys don’t want to face that kind of situation, these attorneys choose a different area of practice.
Replace “appendectomy” with “abortion” and my views do not change.
2. Codification in some way of the right to reproductive health services nationwide. This probably involves both the Congress and the President, since we all know Bush would have vetoed anything that allowed women to have a shot at doing anything for themselves. Roe v. Wade objectors are working their way up the courts inch by inch in an effort to get it repealed. Many states have laws-in-waiting that will go into effect as soon as it is repealed. With a Supreme Court stacked against reproductive rights and a rabid base who routinely files cases intended to make it to that Court regardless of the success of the last case, having a statutory law, rather than a common law, is a necessity.
The oft-quoted fact that Viagra is covered by many insurance companies that do not cover birth control pills is proof positive that there is a problem in this country with treating women as full humans when it comes to health care. Codification of this right would solve the insurance issue as well as the access issue. It may even solve the education issue, since more and more medical schools are removing certain reproductive health care procedures from their required curriculum making them instead optional.
3. Age-appropriate sex-ed classes that have a medical, rather than a religious, basis. How are we even having this conversation?! If I want to learn about god, original sin, or hell, I will go to a religious teacher. If I want to learn about oil, the periodic table, or sulfuric acid, I will go to a chemistry teacher. This is not rocket science, folks: if we want our children to learn about penises, ovaries, and menstruation, what is required is a biology course. Perhaps a sociology course to cover things like “no means no” and the etiquette of being sexually active in a world of STDs. And yes, abstinence should be included in a sex-ed course; but not exclusively. Options and consequences should be truthfully (I know that’s hard for religionists…and some parents) and openly discussed, explored, even debated. Each person will then be able to decide for him or herself what choices will be made. But choices cannot be made if options are not given.
And yes, as indicated above, I think that a rudimentary course in how men and women should act toward one another in a sexual context (“no means no” and epithets like “slut”) should be included.
4. Support for parents in the workplace. Note the plural. Women may well need some physical time to recover following childbirth, but the child itself requires more attention when it is first born than later in life. Whether the parents are two gay men adopting, a het couple having a natural child, or a lesbian couple with a sperm donor (or any of the myriad other options and combinations), both parents should be assured of paid leave to care for the new addition to their family. And, upon returning to the workplace, they should be assured that they have a job.
I’d like to work into this some sort of acknowledgement that often, one parent quits their job and returns to the workplace some years later (above I was thinking more in terms of months), to find that her (it is most often a woman) marketability as a worker has vastly decreased, but I can’t figure out how to work this into legislation.
5. Repeal of the Global Gag Rule. I would hope that, if the above hopes come to pass, this would be an obvious inclusion. If we secure reproductive rights internally, we have no call to presume to infringe upon them externally. But it may slip through the cracks. Not only does the Gag Rule reek of imperialism and I-know-better-than-youism, it is inherently dangerous to men and women alike, especially in regions beset by an AIDS epidemic. People in need of medical care are entitled to the best medical care that society and current medical knowledge can give them—not the best care that the United State wants them to have (how is it that these are two separate things?!). Not only has the US no right to impose religiously-based medical care upon its own citizens, it has no right to do so for citizens of other countries.
Finally, as an aside that I don’t think either the President or Congress has much, if any control over, I think that (daily) birth control pills should be over-the-counter, since there’s no LD50 for them. For morning after pills, an argument may be made for keeping them behind the counter in the same way that cigarettes are.
I’m catching up on local news (read: blogs) while my cousin is in town (trying not to be too antisocial by spending all my free time blogging) and enjoyed particularly this most recent post at Daylight Atheism: No Holy Ground, a rational look at the conflict in the so-called “Holy Land” and how it is in fact not ironic but completely predictable that the “Holy Land” is the source of so much strife.
In other posts over there, I found this awesome quote:
[B]y divorcing salvation from good deeds or even the intent to do good deeds, evangelical Christians have made getting to Heaven an entirely arbitrary reward. In essence, they believe that there’s a secret password to heaven – one that’s hidden among thousands of indistinguishable alternatives – and the only thing that matters about your time on Earth is whether you can discover it. Raising a family, falling in love, showing compassion to your fellow humans, creating beauty, working to advance the knowledge or the common good of humanity – all these activities […] are meaningless and merit nothing. Finding the hidden password is the only thing that matters, and if you fail to find it, you’re consigned to eternal torment.
which you can read in context here, in a discussion about the irrationality of evangelical belief.
said the friend sitting next to me at Christmas Eve dinner, with a vague look of disgust on her face, like I’d just admitted to enjoying self-flagellation. I was in the company of a number of people who had escaped Western religion (all some form of Christianity) and landed firmly in Eastern religion (all some form of Buddhism). With three beautiful dogs wandering about, Deva, Metta, and Gaia, this was a decidedly religious environment. And yet, there was no prayer before dinner, no implicit religion anywhere. There were buddha heads, mala, and yes, even crosses hung on the walls and displayed on shelves. But this was a place I felt at ease enough to say something atheistic enough to “out” me.
Later, another attendee told a story about a different dinner to which an atheist was inadvertently invited. One who waxed lyrical about the evils of religion and the stupidity of the people engaged in it. He was quieted with a “Yes, fundamentalism of all kinds is horrible,” and a glass of alcohol. This may or may not have been aimed at me, but was accompanied by shock that anyone could presume to know for sure what is or is not.
It is true, however, that my particular brand of atheism is less anti-Divine and more anti-Religion. As far as I am concerned, religion is objectively fucked up. But I believe that there is in all beings something special. Something worthy of awe, respect, love, acknowledgment, and equality. As a feminist, I can believe nothing else. I strive toward treating everyone with a namaste attitude. I feel filled with a sense of wonder when I walk in the forest, talk with good friends, or meditate. There is something out there, which name I give “the Divine”, that I cannot deny. Nor do I wish to.
And so I call myself an atheist to distinguish myself from any religionist who might make you uncomfortable by trying to convert you (or even just by talking too much about it). And while I have a great deal of respect for the hard-core, dyed-in-the-wool, fundamentalist atheists, I also don’t consider myself one of them. DH calls himself a “humanist”, though I’m not certain how he defines this, in order to avoid the atheism label (although he is the only person I’ve ever met who grew up completely outside of any religious influence).
I’m a dualist, a pantheist, a pagan, a feminist (in the religious sense, though not a Dianic), a meditator, a yogini, a post-Christian, an ex-Catholic, a Jino (Jew in name only); a pray-er to Bastet, Au-Set, Gaia, & Luna; a talker-with-animal-spirits and to trees; a student of Fire, a daughter of Earth, a foe of Water, a student of Wind; and an atheist. I meditate, I cook, I swim, I do yoga, I ski. I pray to the deities that strike me at the time, be they Mary or Skadi, Ra or Thor. I pray to the animals whose flesh I consume. I cast spells to help and to harm. And I reject the effect of prayer (whether as meditation, as supplication, or as spell) on anyone or anything other than the one who prays. I’ve seen and touched things that cannot be explained and which I cannot deny. But having no desire to foist them upon you, or to congregate with others in an effort to gain favor with a being who we cannot hope to affect, I reject the labels of religion. I refuse to allow anyone’s religion into my government and hope for a secular society, where all practice whatever they believe in their homes; whether that means meditation or family dinners.
“Yes,” I should have said, “I really am an atheist. But that makes me just like you.”
Obama’s first YouTube-Side Chat. I’d love to get the audio in podcast, since I have more time to listen than to watch. I’m so glad that he’s doing this (I’ve been saying for some time that the Fireside Chats need to be brought back, to increase trust and transparency; in this case, also to increase hope). I don’t think that this first one was very substantive (certainly he can’t really have done anything yet), but I do think it’s important as a gesture. via.
Education and Religion.
Two stories of interest, each proving the importance of the other.
In the first, an English Catholic bishop blames educated members of the Church for sowing dissent among the rest. He clearly has a low opinion of his own faith, that it is so easily thwarted; or a low opinion of his faithful, that the best of them are uneducated boobs.
[Third story, more of an aside: Letter to the Red States outlining the differences in the voting public for Obama and for McCain (as well as some others. Not sure where this started, I got it in an email. If someone would like to track down the true author, I'll link to that instead).]
The second, a horrifying story in which the Taliban agrees with the Catholic bishop above: education is a threat. Education of women an even greater threat, one that they are actively discouraging by acts of violence and terrorism against the women who teach, the girls who wish to be taught, and the parents and family members of both.
Education is a threat to faith. One Catholic bishop and a bunch of terrified Afghan men agree: only unthinking members of society will stay in their place and allow the power to maintain their stranglehold upon truth and freedom.
On a lighter note, a quick reference guide for religions, the Big Religion Chart. From Aladura to Zoroastrianism, it breaks down religions by name, origins & history, number of adherents, god(s) and view of the universe, human situation & life’s purpose, the afterlife, practices, and texts. It also provides helpful links to learn more. Christianity gets one entry, a fact which should sober all those people lobbying to enforce their world view upon the rest of the country (although outliers like Jehovah’s witnesses, Mormons, and Unitarians, who are only arguably Christian do get their own entries). I know I’ve got some additional research to do (after finals!, I have to remind myself) to learn more about religions I’ve never heard of as well as to see where I fit.
Final quick hit: Another (do we need another?) Argument for the ERA.
I’m sorry I’ve not been posting recently, law school has finally caught up with me and consumed my life. I had to cancel the event that makes the holidays bearable for me (a goose-filled gamer fest) because I simply hadn’t the time to prepare and plan it. One of the prospective attendants told me that, while she wasn’t glad to miss it, she was glad that I couldn’t handle it because it made me seem more human. I’ll send her a card when I fail my first semester: “from xJane, now officially a Human.”
I have, however, been reading blogs mostly regularly (I didn’t yesterday, what has happened to me?!) and have compiled a bunch of links that I
wanted to share wanted to dedicate a whole post to each one. I haven’t the time to do so, so this is effectively a link-dump. I’m sorry, but Safari thanks you (“There are 7 windows open in Safari, with a total of 32 tabs.”).
Read more >>
Synchronized debating. This is exactly why the internet is so important. Why fair use is not just some abstraction but something that affects each of our lives. And, it’s funny. So learn more about both candidates and a little something about the wonders of the internet:
I have to post this, since it’s lolreligion. By now, I’m sure everyone has heard that a particular Christian called others to join in prayer at the bronze bull on wall street to ask god to “shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the ‘Lion’s Market,’ or God’s control over the economic systems”. Which itself sounds super creepy. via etal. Now, attentive biblical scholars will tell you that there is a huge difference between worshipping a golden half and worshipping a bronze bull. I mean, they’re both metal cows, but that’s where the similarity ends. God didn’t say anything about bronze bulls. Just trees, golden calfs, & so on. So, they’re obviously in the clear. Still, this is funny:
from sf_drama stolen without permission.