Tag Archives: Civilization

Family Radio and the end of the world!

17 Jan

Last week I was driving home from work here in Columbia, SC and on the other side of the street was the most ridiculous bus. I tried to grab my camera to take a picture, but the light changed and it moved on. I did, however, remember the name and made a note. Luckily there are plenty of pictures online. The bus belonged to the group “Family Radio“, an apocalyptic Christian group eagerly counting down the days till all of humanity, including everyone you love, dies in bloody agony at the coming of their god.

Have you heard the awesome news?!?!?! The world is going to end!!!!1 These people are really fucked up. Though the bus is an improvement over their old one:

Free candy for children only!

Apparently they’ve decided the world is going to end on May 21, 2011, and even though people have been incorrectly deciding this for thousands of years. (But oh no, THIS time we’ve got it right. THIS time he’s coming back. We’re special, everyone else was wrong because of X,Y, & Z) It’s a good thing people like this don’t date much. Can you imagine how long they’d wait on the front porch if you stood them up for prom? Jesus has stood them up for over 2000 years and they still don’t get the hint that he’s just not that into them.

Look, this idiot even painted her brand new car with the date when she gleefully awaits the death of all humanity. You know what, I would gladly join their church and pray with them if they signed over all their money and property to me. Why wouldn’t they? The world’s going to end anyways! They’re going to be swept up with Jesus! What hesitation should they have to sign over all their worldly possessions to me? They ARE sure it’s going to be May 21, 2011, right? They wouldn’t happen to have some doubt and be keeping their things just in case, would they? They shouldn’t because according to the bible in Acts 5:1-11 the apostle Paul kills a couple for doing just that.

I really wonder what all these idiots are going to do on May 22, 2011. Can you imagine? It’s happened to thousands of people before throughout history. It’s going to be extremely awkward. The lady in the picture here is probably going to be huddled around her family and these other wingnuts, hands clasped in prayer, eyes squeezed tight, waiting for the clock to strike 12…tic toc tic toc. When it hits there will be silence. She will have her eyes squeezed shut for a few moments till she carefully opens one and looks around… “Maybe it’ll happen sometime today, not right at midnight?” And so she’ll spend the entire day paralyzed with anticipation, just like the rest of the sheeple. When it comes close to midnight of that day she’ll start sweating bullets. “It has to happen! Why is it taking so long! Why aren’t everyone I hate dead!?!?”

As midnight comes and passes she’ll lie there in bed, staring at the ceiling in shock. “Fuck….fuck fuck fuck!!! I have to go to work in the morning!” (The 21st is on a Monday) She’ll maybe get an hour or two of restless sleep, get up, make some coffee, grab her keys and stumble out to her c…..”Oh FUCK! Now EVERYBODY is going to know I’m an idiot!!! People are going to be pointing and laughing at me where ever I go!” (And you damn well deserve it!) How awkward and embarrassing is that going to be? She’s eventually going to have to take it to a body shop and have it all removed, or paint over the date with the new and revised date in case she’s in denial. This is all assuming they haven’t signed over all their possessions to their leader, which is a very real possibility; and I guarantee you if it doesn’t work out, he’ll be on the first plane to the Caribbean with all their money.

Empires and Faith

21 Oct

People have been warning that “society is going to collapse” since the dawn of societies millennia ago. Despite a track record of failure spanning longer than recorded time, some modern day religious people like to pull out this gem to argue that refusing to adhere to their world-view will cause the downfall of life as we know it. In actuality, it is the world view of the religious person that will collapse if everybody ignores him; but what can you expect from someone who has the infinitely arrogant view that the entire universe was created solely for them, that they are the chosen creature of an invisible god, and that they alone hold the keys to truth, knowledge, happiness, and everlasting life?

The “logic” of the religious person making this claim is thus: God it watching us and demands worship. If we worship and honor him he will favor us. If he favors us our society will flourish. If we don’t honor god then things will go wrong and our society will crumble. Assumably god “favors” a society be subtly intervening to make the crops grow, the buildings stand, and the trains run on time…you know, stuff that would normally happen in a well managed civilization. The whole thing has an African witch doctor feel to it. No matter how you try and disguise it, what the religious person is suggesting is just an advanced and dressed up version of a rain dance.

Now anyone who actually takes the time to study civilizations will know that there are many reasons why they collapse. These reasons usually contain a mixture of economic, environmental, and political factors, but “failed to appease the sky god” is never a valid factor. At this point we can expect our rain dance shaman to chime in “but god causes those things!” This claim is unfalsifiable, untestable, and completely lacking in evidence to support it so it can safely be dismissed.

Before we continue I must point out a seldom thought of fact about civilizations: The idea of “civilizations” is an arbitrary delineation made by historians in order to neatly classify specific periods of activity in a given area. When a civilization collapse, as many have, it is not like a tsunami suddenly comes and wipes them off the map. There are no trumpets on high that announce to the people of a civilization when their civilization has fallen. The buildings, people, and customs remain. Sometimes people move out of an area, but they still exist. In rare cases a city is hit by a natural disaster (like Pompeii). However, more often than not the political system changes and those who used to belong to political system X now belong to political system Y. When the Roman empire collapsed all the Roman citizens around the world did not vanish; they simply assimilated into the local political system. Bottom line: civilizations don’t end like the apocalypse.

What I would like to do today is take a very brief look at some civilizations to show that the collapse independent of religion. However, when religion does play a role in the collapse it is often the over zealous practice of that religion that ends up harming the society. (contrary to the claims of our rain dance shaman)

One of the most obvious examples of an extremely religious empire collapsing is the Spanish Empire. At it’s height in the 16th century Spain was a superpower. Their army and navy was unmatched, and they had a monopoly on the riches of the new world. The effects of the Spanish empire can still be seen today. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world! Spain’s rapid growth and mismanagement in the 16th century ended up crippling her in the 17th. She collapsed primarily from economic and political problems, but these were exacerbated by religion.

Spain was a shining example of a society that put god first in every aspect of life. Forged in the bloody crusades of the Reconquista, birthplace to the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, and mother to the fanatical order of missionaries, monks, and assassins, the Jesuits.  Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain, was on the front lines of the split between Catholics and Protestants. He was the champion of the Catholic church and swore to return the protestants to the fold, at the edge of a sword if necessary. When he failed to force the protestants back into the church he retired to live out the rest of his days at a monastery. His crusade was passed on to his son, Philip II who pursued it all the more fervently.  Most famously Philip bankrupted his country and cut down entire forests to build his great armada. This massive fleet of ships was to take thousands of soldiers, the inquisition, and god’s fury to England. When the armada was destroyed Philip started building a second one, but died before it was finished. Philip’s confessor once told him that it was better to lose his whole empire than to lose his salvation. It would take Spain centuries to pull out of the economic downturn set off by the mismanagement of their empire and the ultimately pointless wars over religion.

Earlier I mentioned the Roman empire. Rome was founded in 753 BCE and the barbarian invasions began in the late 300’s CE. This was a civilization that lasted over a thousand years. Between 27 BCE and 180 CE existed the “Pax Romana” or “Roman Peace”, a time of relative stability and economic flourishing. To help put that in persepective, he United States has existed only slightly longer than Rome’s golden age.  In 313 the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and issued the “Edict of Milan,” ending persecution of Christians and making the empire religiously neutral.  Sixty-seven years later (380 CE) Theodosius I issued the “Edict of Thessalonica” making the state religion of Rome Christianity. The imperial city that had lasted for a millennium was sacked by barbarian hordes three decades later. Did Christianity cause the fall of the Roman empire? No. There were a lot of complicated factors that led to the eventual collapse; but it should be pointed out for our rain dance shaman that the collapse of that civilization coincided with the the conversion to and enforcement of Christianity.

 

How about the British Empire? Here was a Christian nation that also once ruled a quarter of the world’s population. The empire was not only a means of transmitting western culture, but the Christian religion. Wherever British armies went, missionaries soon followed. Despite bringing the gospel to millions, England lost her empire after WWII.

What about the French empire under Napoleon? The Ottoman empire? The Japanese Empire? The Mongolian Empire? The Greek Empire under Alexander the Great? All of these empires fell because of natural economic and political reasons, not because they didn’t worship hard enough. But lets look at some smaller examples.

The Puritans: Unhappy with the more moderate and relatively tolerant society in England, they left for the new world to set up a theocracy in 1620. Seventy years later and the colony was hunting and executing their own citizens for witchcraft.

Easter Island: Home to the famous Moai statues. Here was a civilization so obsessed with pleasing the gods that they destroyed their own ecosystem in the process!

 

Easter Island is important because it so wonderfully outlines a major problem with focusing to heavily on religion in your society: you tend to neglect the things that matter, like food, water, shelter, and political/economical/environmental stability. You can see this fact echoed in the Human Development Index. The most religious societies in the world are also the worst places to live.

So where do we stand today? The United States is arguably an empire. Despite it’s secular constitution and first amendment protections, we are an extremely religious country. God has been placed on our money, wedged into our pledge, and adopted as a second national motto. 86.7% of our congress is Christian. 98.7% of them believe in a higher power of some kind. For the majority of the past century our nation was ruled by deeply religious men. Churches have tax exempt status despite meddling in politics. Half the country doesn’t except the scientific fact of evolution. (The rest of the developed world accepted it an moved on over a century ago) There are millions of houses of worship in this country. Religious programing floods the airwaves. Religious lobbies are very powerful in Washington.

All this and our rain dance shaman wants more. The utter saturation of religion in American society is not enough. Things are starting to go badly for America despite our devotion. Some assure us it’s because we’re not trying hard enough. If we only prayed a little more, worshiped god a bit louder, things would turn around. But in reality this will never work. It will never work because it is ignoring the actual causes of our problems. A poor economy, an over extended military (which some like Palin feel are fighting wars that are god’s will!), and a failing school system are only a handful of the actual problems dragging this country down. But the rain dance shaman ignores this. They won’t be happy until the country is turned into a Christian Saudi Arabia. By the time they manage to create hell on earth it’ll be too late for them to be held accountable.

 

Atheist game quirks

4 Jun

This is kinda silly, but my atheism affects my gaming habits. How so? Well when I’m playing a game such at Total War, Age of Empires, or Civilization I will try and make my empire as atheistic as possible. In the Total War games I delete all the churches and instead build schools and universities. If I can’t dismiss or assassinate my own religious leaders, I send them off to the very corner of the map. In the Civilization games I refuse to adopt any religion when it is invented, and try my best to avoid researching religious techs. As for Age of Empires, I build the church grudgingly to get the technologies, and then delete it the moment I’m done. (When I played I usually played online and there are other non-religious techs available at the church, so I needed them to play my best against other people) Again, this is all really silly and I know that it’s just a mechanic of the game, but I like to imagine that somewhere, in an alternate universe, my little nation exists. It’s for this same stupid reason I hate to delete units. 😦 I can just imagine the NPCs kissing their families and children goodbye before being executed, all at my command to make room for another 20 heavy infantry. (If I absolutely have to kill off villagers in AoE I delete the male villagers. Beautiful women being killed is a major pet peeve of mine) I know they’re just 1s and 0s, but I care….