Behind Buddha’s Smile

28 Sep

Behind Buddha’s smile is a wounded child.

The beatific being with the bountiful belly and over-sized earlobes hides a big ugly secret. The West’s favorite “other” religion, Buddhism, and the better-known Tibetan Buddhism of the Dalai Lama, were the topics of this week’s Mythicist Milwaukee show podcast. Joining us in the studio was David DiValerio, associate professor of religious studies at UW-Milwaukee with a special interest in Buddhism.  A “conscious atheist”, DiValerio’s childlike enthusiasm for the subject is that of a true academe: lingering fascination tempered by clinical objectivity.  His one-hour primer on the great eastern religion itself made a nice change of pace for the podcast, thick as it is with Christ-Myth Theory and the Abrahamic faiths.  But beyond basic Buddhism, the conversation quickly uncovered a typical cache of controversy.

The author of two books on Tibetan holy men, DiValerio readily acknowledges that the West is bottle-fed a custom brew of pasteurized Buddhism, but tends to blame the demand side, as thirsty seekers pine for a peaceful, easy escape from the Judeo-Christian guilt/fear faith models that drove them into therapy.  The tall, cool draught of the Dalai Lama is one tasty IPA.  Like a bespectacled, bullet-proof, diaper-trained Gandhi, a New-Age no-judge Jesus, he need but sweetly smile while pearly, well-placed platitudes parade upon on his lips, and we happily drink.

This, of course, is a slickly marketed fantasy, and only a naive fool would think any major Buddhist establishment could somehow be free of the corruption and abuse that has plagued other major world religions.  The truth it would seem, brought to light by a concerned listener, hints at a scandal of more, shall we say, catholic proportions.  Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, as it turns out, house a culture of institutionalized sexual abuse. Not terribly surprising in the all-male schools, where boys are involuntarily enrolled as early as age 5, to live, work and learn under older monks and masters who have taken a vow of celibacy. Say what you want about the Catholics, at least they don’t throw kindergartners into the seminary on a whim, with complete impunity. Several eyewitness accounts from victims have been documented, blogged and YouTubed, but no one is doing anything about it.  Until now.

Listen to the podcast here to get a glimpse at the reasons behind this issue, and follow these links to read more:

Child Abuse in Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries
Are Buddhist monasteries suitable places for children
Sri Lanka’s hidden scourge of religious child abuse.
Bhutan’s Buddhist monks accused of sexually molesting boys.
Stories of children abused in Bhutanese Buddhist monasteries.
Not in the name of the Dalai Lama.
The lamas who give Tibetan Buddhism a bad name.
Members of Mythicist Milwaukee plan to partner with SNAP, The Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests to kick the door open on this chronic, insidious culture of child sexual abuse.
-RM

 

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Cleanliness is next to GodLESSness

8 Aug

HARD BY the bindweed blooms and chicory, in between coyote crap and Queen Anne’s Lace, the stalwarts of KRAFt plied the frontage road again in search of shit.  All manner of shit.  ‘Twas the annual midsummer Adopt-A-Highway cleanup down by good ol’ Apple Holler.  The popular country-themed tourist destination has much to offer, including, unfortunately, bags of collateral litter discarded by legions of give-a-care patrons.

2016-08-06 11.42.24Bucolic fields abut the west; east the interstate screams in the heat.  Scribbled down the middle like a crooked suture, our strip of dirty shoulder both delineates and reflects this striking contrast.  One part lugnut…..one part badger skeleton.  Set against a cascade of colorful parachutes, the cleanup always reminds me of the wonderful juxtaposition of worlds that marks this turf, and remains one of my favorite things we do.   It’s great exercise, something interesting always happens, and it never fails to engender real conversation and strengthen friendships.

This is one of the only pure communities service activities we engage in, and I know in the rush to do greater things, I sometimes lose sight of how important that is.  Yes it’s nice to have our sign out there and yes it’s nice to have someone honk and wave in appreciation once in a while.  But let’s face it….no one gives a shit.  If they did, they wouldn’t have thrown their nasty filth out the window to begin with. No, this is a largely altruistic, completely thankless, utterly necessary bit of do-goodery for the earth, and those who came should be proud.  It’s not easy to get up early on your day off and come out to walk 6 miles, so thank you to those who did.  We even merited an appearance by the Nicaraguan Nightmare himself, Myth-meister Antonio Desconocido.

Among the more interesting items found were an unusual hubcap, a sad mouse who had literally drowned himself in his drink, and a recently rifled pocketbook plopped on the road by a runaway perp. We had six trash-pickin’ apostates apply themselves, about as many as we ever get.  The route was extraordinarily clean, yielding only 5 total sacks of shit, and that includes half a bag from a bridge adjacent to our track that a giddy Antonio could not help himself from cleaning.

The next cleanup will be around Halloween, coincidental to the massive crowds that haunt the Holler at that time.  I know we’ll see you at that one…..helping us clean up after the rest of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Atheist Thanksgiving Grace

26 Nov

KRAFt cover

An Atheist Thanksgiving Grace

We’re thankful that we have our health

We’re thankful for our worldly wealth.

We’re thankful for this smorgasbord,

We’re thankful that there is no lord.

We’re thankful for the food we eat,

We’re thankful for this turkey meat.

We’re thankful for Atlantic Cod,

We’re thankful that there is no god.

We’re thankful for police and then,

We’re thankful for the firemen.

We’re thankful for the rescue squad

We’re thankful that there is no god.

We’re thankful for this bounty which,

Reminds us that our land is rich.

We’re thankful we don’t live abroad

We’re thankful that there is no god

We’re thankful that our life is long

We’re thankful that our army’s strong

We’re thankful for our family

We’re thankful there’s no deity.

We’re thankful that the Doctor’s smart

We’re thankful for the songs and art.

We’re thankful for the path we’ve trod,

We’re thankful that there is no god.

We’re thankful from the mountain ridge,

We’re thankful from the Brooklyn Bridge

We’re thankful from the esplanade,

We’re thankful that there is no god.

c. 2013 Rob Moore

“What Is Atheism Again?”

15 Nov

As the reporter for the local NBC affiliate prepared for the interview, she tossed me a cockeyed look…. “What is atheism again?”, she asked, as though we’d discussed it before at some long-forgotten frat party.

I thought to myself, this person is responsible for informing the public, how does she not know the definition of the word atheism?  But her ignorance illuminates exactly why we are doing this.  For every person who equates the word atheism with Satanism, there is another person who can’t even define it, when it should in fact be the default position.

     All of us are born atheist, and only come to religion, or even a god concept, through some form of indoctrination.  There is no evidence for a supreme being, and science has explained all the basic questions whose mystery gave rise to the concept, so atheism should by rights be the default position, with no designation whatsoever.  Those fringe thinkers who then choose to assert the existence of the supernatural, devoid of any proof or logical thread of reason would need to be identified accordingly.  Instead, we live in a world so steeped in faith for so many millennia, that the opposite is true.  Those who choose to make decisions based solely on reason and evidence are a minority.  Think about that…In America, a minority of people make decisions based on reason.  Such a hated minority in fact that studies have shown that a short, fat, bald, female, gay, black Muslim serial killer could sooner get elected president in America than a godless heathen atheist.

But why are we so hated?  Couple of reasons, the first of which takes us back to our intrepid reporter’s ignorance.  What is atheism?  Of course the answer is a lack of belief in a god or gods.  But let’s dissect the actual word and see what the Greek roots mean. There are only 2 Greek root words involved here. a, meaning without, and theos, or god.  Without god. That’s it. There is no root word for belief in the equation.  The simple beauty of the word itself reflects the truth that everybody knows.  There are no gods and there is no god.  The absence of god is so obvious I’m surprised it doesn’t get added to the old saying about death and taxes.  And the truth hurts. God is a comfort myth, and not many people want to face the reality of mortality.   At least Muslims, hated as they are, validate the Christians’ worldview, a paradigm they know instinctively to be untenable.  If you’ve ever heard the old Puritan saw, “God helps those who help themselves”, then you’ve heard Christians tacitly admit that they understand that there’s no one out there.  The existence of atheists reminds them of all of that and they hate it.

Secondly, it’s human nature to fear change, fear the unknown, and fear what you don’t understand.  At this point in US history, sadly, atheists represent all three of those things to the red state folk.  It’s heartbreaking to think that it would have been easier to get elected as an atheist in the first half of this country’s history than the second.  But that’s what’s happened here.  The first great secular nation on earth has no secular voice in policy, becoming, in many ways, a de facto theocracy, where it is guaranteed political suicide to come out as an atheist.  The nefarious result of this political shift that buried atheism in America, when it probably should have been the next big thing after Deism, is the vicious cycle of decline in education we are witnessing now in full spiral. We see it both in the policies of right wing imbeciles like Scott Walker and wannabees like Santorum and Huckabee.  And we see it in the product itself….news reporters who don’t know what atheism is.  Critical thinking is a skill we are robbing our children of by continuing to enable those who would present archaic religious dogma as any sort of knowledge whatsoever.  It is not. It’s child abuse.

This is why we do what we do…

     For minds not yet broken, give them the critical thinking skills they will need to compete with graduates from around the world who long ago gave up myth and superstition for reason and knowledge.

     For minds already broken, by estrangement from friends and family for daring to think for themselves, offer them community.  Why did our gay friends succeed?  Because they came out.  Now everybody knows somebody gay, and the fear is gone.

     For minds already made up, we know we aren’t going to change many, and none of us want to.  Keep your religion, just keep it in your church and your home where it belongs.  Keep it out of my schools and my government.  And understand we are part of the pluralism which sustains your sect, and one of the only groups truly interested in protecting that pluralism, and we are not going away.

So what is atheism, my dear, innocent, tv-face reporter girl? It’s the lack of belief in the supernatural yes, but it’s also much more.  It’s a neighbor, a friend, a relative, a demographic and a movement.

And it’s everybody’s birthright.

 

Synchronicity: Atheist Brings Mythicism To Kenya

4 Nov

In a meeting made of motormouths, our friend David Fitzgerald summed it up succinctly:

“It’s fun to watch the synchronicity beginning…”

Half a world away, a handsome, articulate Harrison Mumia held sway (somewhat) in a hall full of interested spectators…..in Kenya.  That country’s top atheist, Mumia had put together a Google Hangout with today’s leading Jesus Myth Theorists, with the express help of Mythicist Milwaukee, and it’s co-founder Sean Fracek.  Fitzgerald, Drs. Richard Carrier and Robert Price all tuned in from around the US early Saturday morning to discuss, or rather, expose the idea of a mythical Christ. To indoctrinated Christians no less, in Africa, whom had never remotely considered that Jesus Christ might be more myth than messiah.  Harrison himself called the event “historic” in his subsequent post, and it will shock no one to learn that nothing of this nature has ever hatched in Kenya.  Sadly, the event will remain historic, as the planned live YouTube broadcast and recording succumbed to a technical glitch.  Those of us lucky to be listening in however, will never forget. 40 or 50 eager Kenyans, mostly Christians, fighting to get their questions introduced to a panel of theological scholars that would have made any myth geek jealous. All of this orchestrated in a matter of days after a chance encounter between two atheists from opposite ends of the planet.

Synchronicity indeed.

Fitzgerald’s observation had come on one of the extended breaks that marked the hours-long web-conference during which Mumia did his utmost to organize his bustling room full questioners.  These breaks afforded MM team members, mostly there to observe and help moderate if necessary, a rare and welcome chance to cyber-pal around with their heroes. Personally, I was there just hoping to take a few bullets from the duel machine guns of information that Price and Carrier become whenever they speak, or glom a couple of gleaming crystals of condensed, edible knowledge that Fitz unleashes everywhere he goes, like the shiny objects you collect in video games.

But when I sensed a pause I grabbed my chance and queried the council:   Was it just me, or was there really an actual movement afoot?

“Yes,” affirmed David right away, “It’s fun to watch the synchronicity beginning…”

The “Nailed…” author had nailed it on the head.  Synchronicity is what’s been missing.  The components of the movement have always been there.  Atheists, Humanists, Agnostics, Freethinkers and the rest, all have their own angles, but sans a defining dogma to unite behind, any hope of solidarity was slim at best.  But religious violence has granted the effort new vigor, and with the internet’s input of instant information, we might just finally have our tie that binds. The best part is every brand of skeptic in the world can wield the weapon of wisdom at will.  Here was an Atheist in Kenya unveiling Mythicism on a group of Christians, not as a cudgel but a tool, imparting the skill of critical thinking on a nation long numbed by machine-like indoctrination processes.

This is the synchronicity behind the growth and expansion that marks the secular movement of today.  A Mythicist likely cares little if you believe in god, as an Atheist finds Jesus’ historicity entirely moot. Freethinkers may not agree on much, but we all can get behind a world where decisions that affect society are based on fact and evidence, and knowledge and logic and truth.

The infamous herd of cats has found its common ground: The green and fertile pastures of Reason.

Hear more about Harrison Mumia and Atheists of Kenya Sunday on the podcast.

Priest Presides Over Blood Moon Ceremony – MythCon2 Wraps in Style

4 Oct

2015-09-27 21.08.24

A secular ceremony, of sorts.  Even atheists have their rituals, and celebrations are certainly among those.  As I leaped on a chair to take this pic, invisible to a crowd enraptured with the splendor above, I smiled to myself broadly at the cosmic coincidence. MythCon2, primarily the product of a love of Mythology, took a bow beneath a blood-red moon.  The once-in-a-lifetime lunar eclipse, total and titian, tantalizing and terrifying, would have been of enormous astrological significance to the ancients.   The very stuff of myth and superstition.

The globe beguiled with a ghostly glow while the gathering gawked…..goddam, but it was red!  Red in a pining, provocative, other-worldly way.  Red in a way that can’t really be described, the effect through telescope or binoculars was even more enchanting.  In a room full of skeptics and science geeks, thinkers and poets and dreamers and doctors, the conversation centered squarely on the sanguine satellite.  In the rush to prepare for the weekend, I’m not sure anyone had foreseen it, but certainly no one in attendance will ever forget the galactic symmetry.  A gang of secularists and mythicists, humanists and atheists, freethinkers of every persuasion cavorted like a coven in a modern day Blood-Moon Ceremony.  There was even a priest in attendance! Killah Priest himself, a master of words and gnostic imagery, stared in wonder astride his disciples.

The ritual was not one of worship, but not without wonder.  Which of us could not be stunned speechless for a moment at the sheer beauty, the infinitesimal odds and the comfort of the science that lets us begin to get our heads around the scope of celestial grandeur.  Save the sense of wonder, but skip the supernatural; this congregation’s ritual was one of celebration.  A celebration both of astronomy and a job well done, but also acknowledgement of facts undiscovered and goals yet to achieve.  Mythicist Milwaukee’s Mythinformation Conference 2 was as rare and exciting an event as the scarlet beach-ball above. KP, Mandisa Thomas, Arthur George and David Fitzgerald educated an enthusiastic crowd, each with their own unique perspective on the secular movement.

In the Book of Joel, lunar eclipses are described as portents of destruction.  Today, we understand with certainty the cause behind the mysterious beauty, but those remain who would use this natural event to scare, control and bilk the innocent.  Perhaps in the future, thanks to the tireless work of diverse, dedicated teams like this, everyone will be able to separate Myth from Truth.  And celebrate both with equal fervor.

A “W” rose in the deepening dark as the goddess slowly donned her crimson cloak, and Cassiopeia cast an approving glance at the revelers far below her, and smiled once more at the irony.

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The Worship Of The Rose

29 Jun

Stop and smell the roses, so they say, and right they are.
Myself had sampled several ere I traveled very far.
The road is long and dusty but the Rose is soft and sweet,
I find the effort futile, fail to focus on my feet.

I’d rather smell the roses than abide the avenue;
The dirty road’s for everyone, the Rose, she blooms for you.
Enjoy the random rose that grows along the narrow track,
You’ll find the finest roses are the ones who smell you back.

Everybody knows The Rose is born of beauty rare;
Aroma permeates, intoxicates, but can’t compare
To peeling back the petals and the secrets they expose,
For loving all the layers is the worship of the Rose.