Adult Onset Atheist

Monday, August 22, 2016

2nd Amendment, 3rd movement

I recently had the opportunity to watch Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture played at an outdoor performance of the Utah symphony. The symphony did a great job, but the best part was –of course- the CANNONS. How can a live concert be un-awesome when it includes choreographed artillery? Take that 2nd amendment haters!

Until I looked up the history of the overture in advance of seeing it performed I has assumed that it was penned for some celebration of the American (pronounced “Murkan”) war of 1812. This conflict resulted in the death of the amazingly named “Zebulon Pike” and the penning of the American national anthem. The American National Anthem features rockets, and I lovingly pictured some 19th century “battle of the bands” with a war of 1812 theme where Tchaikovsky and Francis Scott Key both tried to use pyrotechnics to win big.


Unfortunately Tchaikovsky really penned the 1812 overture to celebrate the Christian god’s divine intervention against the Christian, but slightly more secular, army of Napoleon as he threatened Moscow in the early fall of 1812. Tchaikovsky heavily sampled “La Marseillaise” and the Russian hymn “Spasi, Gospodi, Lyudi Tvoya” (O Lord, Save Thy People) to melodically juxtapose the themes of the two opposing armies. For some reason Tchaikovsky used the French anthem in use at the time of his writing the overture and not the one that the Napoleonic armies used (Veillons au salut de l'Empire).

The mythology presented by the overture is that by praying lots the more pious Russians conjured up a bit of severe early winter weather, and this drove the better equipped and much larger French army away. Interestingly, in 1880 (the year Tchaikovsky wrote the Year 1812 festival overture in E♭ major Op. 49), there was a severe blizzard in North America.

The narrative of praying away the invasion of French influence invading Russia might also have worked if the story was about the influence of the Paris Commune over Russian society, and in 1880 this narrative would have been fresher in the minds of those who first heard Tchaikovsky’s new overture. However, despite the fact that it had only been destroyed nine years earlier, in 1871, the Paris commune's most lasting influence over Russia would still have needed a bit more time to percolate through the mind of Karl Marx before it invaded Russia with its full effect.

It might be interesting to replace the “Spasi, Gospodi, Lyudi Tvoya” samples in the 1812 overture with bits of the “Internationale” (whose 1871 lyrics were finally put to music just 8 years after Tchaikovsky wrote the 1812 overture) and change the meaning of the artillery choreographed in to the work?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

23 Freedom!

Ted Cruz lit up the GOP convention last night, but mostly because of what he did NOT say. Ted though it best to not specifically endorse the official GOP nominee.

Ted told the gathered throng to “vote their conscience”, and did not suggest anyone in particular. Many booing attendees believed he should have suggested Donald Trump since he was the party nominee, and the guy all the GOP money would be going to elect, and this was the GOP’s party he was invited to speak at. I’m not sure what Ted’s “vote your conscience” means in terms of actionable voting suggestions. Much of his speech was devoted to Hillary bashing, and so I don’t think it was a veiled endorsement of Hillary. Maybe Ted wants people to vote for Jill Stein?

What Ted did specifically mention was “Freedom”. He used the word 23 times in his speech. That’s a lot of freedom. Hurray for freedom!

One mention of Freedom was especially interesting. Here is the exact quote:

“Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Atheist.” – Ted Cruz GOP convention 20 July 2016

I would love to know exactly what Ted means by religious freedom for atheists. It is actually a great thing that he mentioned us in a speech. Since Ted has not been a big supporter of an Atheist’s right to live a normal life I am suspicious. However, he did mention us, and not in an obviously bad way. He could have mentioned Hindus or Buddhists, but he mentioned Atheists instead. That’s a couple points for Ted that I never expected him to try and earn.

Ted only mentions God five times, and most of these are in colloquial phraseology like “God bless” or “God willing”. He did not try to outdo Ben Carson’s God/Lucifer rant.

It is also interesting to note that the vice presidential nominee (Pence) also failed to invoke God in any magical way. He was very clear that he is a Christin first, but he failed to mention how any God is suggesting to him that the people of his state would be more blessed if they had a hard time getting abortions or if their tax money went to Gay conversion therapy instead of HIV outreach. Pence is a piece of work. I had hoped he would stand up in front of the RNC and tell everyone how much of a piece he really was.

I suppose there will be time to shake down the TP ticket before November.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Carson - it burns

The RNC is in full swing. Donald Trump has been officially nominated. It is tradition for the nominee to fill many of the slots with speakers from his “tribe”; Mitt Romney filled the podium positions with normal-looking Mormons, and Donald Trump has filled the podium with D-list celebrities. The wife gives a speech outlining the humanity of the candidate, and Melania Trump gave such a speech that was remarkably similar to the one given by the wife of the last successful presidential candidate. The RNC is dotting all the "t"s and crossing all the "I"s needed to make this a successful campaign.

Some of my acquaintances (those who actually waste time thinking about things; I believe they are derogatorily called “elites”) have disparagingly exclaimed things like: “The stupid – it burns!” But many voters in this country already know that the stupid only burns a little at first, and then it cleanses; fire cleanses, and so does stupidity when you open your mind to it.

Open your mind to the stupidity – The burning sensation goes away after a while.

Former republican candidates have taken the stage to throw their support behind Trump. Wednesday Ted Cruz will contribute his vision to the cacophony. Last night Ben Carson spoke to the crowd. These are people who had/have millions of supporters.

Ben Carson spoke out about the danger Atheist ideas posed for the country. He stated that acknowledging god –I assume his god and not FSM- was required for a robust American future. The following is a direct transcript of a portion of his speech to the 2016 RNC:

“This is a nation where our founding document -the Declaration of Independence- talks about certain inalienable rights that come from our “Creator”. This is a nation where our Pledge of Allegiance says we are “One nation under God”. This is a nation. This is a nation where every coin in our pocket, and every bill in our wallet says “In God we trust”. So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer? Think about that. The secular progressive agenda is antithetical to the principles of the founding of this nation, and if we continue to allow them to take God out of our lives God will remove himself from us, we will not be blessed, and our nation will go down the tubes, and we will be responsible for that; we don't want that to happen.” – Dr. Ben Carson to RNC, 19 July 2016

Will Ted Cruz one up Carson in the fervor with which he invokes a magic being to save America from Atheist ideation?

The rhetoric presented by the podium fodder at the RNC does not simply echo the passive prayer circles of salt-of-the earth Americans who are simply exercising their individual beliefs; these are the voices of an activist anti-science socially repressive agenda. These voices have succeeded in filling the GOP platform with language that guts environmental regulation, and even calls for the essential dissolution of the EPA. There is special contempt for the idea of climate change, and this rejecting of the science behind climate change is stronger than it has ever been; the more we discover about climate change science the stronger the GOP’s rejection of it has become.

On first read the platform does not look like it contains any support for some radically ignorant ideas like intelligent design. This does not mean that the ideology of the party figureheads has strayed from the woefully stupid set of ideas embraced by young earth creationists. It simply appears as if the strides made by LGBTQA+ groups in the past four years has created a warm living group to serve as targets of religious hate. Here is Ben Carson on the “absurdity” of transgender identity:

“It is silly for us to engage in something that we have known for thousands of years. We have known what a man is and what a woman is for thousands of years. All of a sudden, we don’t know anymore. I said that is absurd.” -- Dr. Ben Carson interview with Katie Couric 19 July 2016

While there is enough in his stance on transgender identity, and he goes on, to get upset about, I would like to put your focus on the repeated assertion of a timeframe for the knowledge he cites. Humans have only known for “thousands of years”. He did not evoke “tens of thousands”, or “over a hundred thousand”. If he wanted to bring in the collected wisdom of a larger set of evolutionary branching he could have said “millions”. However, the world is only a few thousand years old according to Young Earth Creationist wisdom even if a longer earth history might help make hateful rhetoric sound a little more powerful.

I have been told that the foibles and incredible stupidity on display at the RNC are evidence of insiders destabilizing the Trump campaign from the inside. Some long-term republicans I know have openly endorsed Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately pandering to stupidity and ejection of establishment republicans may only help to strengthen the Trump campaign.