Sunday, September 2, 2007

Carnival of the Godless #74, Pulp Edition!

The heavy fog filled the streets of the city, helpfully concealing almost-seen figures as they made their separate ways into the abandoned warehouse. A muffled clank of a chain falling away from a back door was the only clue that a clandestine meeting was about to take place, a meeting featuring a team of five of the greatest adventurers in the history of skeptical inquiry -- yes, my friends, it was time for another ...

Carnival of the Godless!

Thrown together by chance, kept together by a shared passion for truth, The Godless scour the globe to investigate, debunk, and confront issues of religion, belief, and atheism!

Occam: The Joy of Reducing Arguments To Their Smallest Bits
The first of the five to rise and give his report was the massive Occam, whose motto "Why use a razor when you have fists?" was the terror of poorly-reasoned criminals the world over. Muscles rippling in his arms, he clenched the massive fists with which he smashed all arguments down to their smallest bits, and growled his report around his toothpick.

"You guys know I been busy busting up bad arguments around the world, so when Christopher Hitchens' new book 'God is Not Great' came out, I just didn't have time ta read it. Luckily one of our operatives, Vihar Sheth, did it for us. His report, which he calls 'How Religion Poisons Everything' is posted at green | rising -- check it out, I ain't got time to read it out loud to yas."

Occam cleared his throat, and the other four looked around for the freight train that sounded like it was coming through. Embarrassed, the giant hurried on.

"I was passin' through India when I got wrapped up in this huge dust-up, a giant scrum involving Mother Teresa's Suffer Squad takin' on three opponents -- Cheerful Iconoclast's 'Mother Teresa's Sadomasochistic Theology' on cheerful iconoclast; 'No more Mr. Nice Guy!' with 'Motherfucker Teresa' over at No more Mr. Nice Guy!; and Greta Christina's "Where is my Faith": Mother Teresa and Suffering posted at Greta Christina's Blog.

"I haven't seen a fight like dat since the five of us took on The Cruise Crew and Team Thetan !" Occam's face lit up at that memory; Scientologists really know how to fight!

"Next I met with someone known only as 'The Ridger', who really had me thinkin' wit somethin' she terms 'I cast you in that role' posted at The Greenbelt, about how the Christian God seems to force people to do evil just so he can punish them."

Settling into his role as presenter, Occam cracked his knuckles. "The next person I met, you won't believe -- I mean, I like a good fight, but db0 picks one wit the very idea of Heaven in 'Heaven against Humanity', posted at The Antichristian Phenomenon.

"And speakin' of fights dat rock heaven and hell, it sounds like Holly Ord got into one with her father-in-law, it's covered in The Prejudice of Atheism on Menstrual Poetry."

Occam rubbed his massive square jaw in confusion at this point. "I'm not great wit' geography," he said, "but I couldn't figure out why dis next one wasn't in Texas. Seems 'Austin' Cline has some problems wit' dat villain Straw Man -- he takes de guy on at Why is Robert Morey Not an Atheist? on Agnosticism / Atheism.

"Austin then goes on to point out how a lotta Christian philosophers seem to lament the fact dat atheists can't be actively discriminated against any more with Lamenting the Absence of Imposed Christianity, Anti-Atheist Discrimination posted at Agnosticism / Atheism.

"Finally, vjack makes de argument dat 'Belief Does Not Equal Truth!' on Atheist Revolution."

With a happy grunt of relief, Occam settled his bulk back into the padded chair, looking around to see which member of the The Godless would step up next to report. He didn't have long to wait as a warm voice filled the dimly-lit room.

Ex Nihila: The Joy of Creating Something From Nothing

"Thank you, Occam, I am sure we all enjoy getting our hands dirty from time to time demolishing bad arguments. As you know, however, I spend my time searching for examples of wonderful, new creations, ideas or art never before seen. I found three outstanding examples I hope you'll like.

"First, Doombreed proposes a symbol atheists can use to identify themselves that's different from the Dawkins 'Red A'. Called simply 'An Atheist Symbol', I hope you'll go take a look at Legal Alien."

Toying with the skull rings bedecking her fingers and fidgeting slightly (which caused several whorls of color and light to pop into and out of existence), Ex Nihilia moved on to her next item. "As long I was looking at drawings, a good one from Thad Guy showed up called Not Just Atheists? Godless Atheists posted at Thad Guy. Thad strips his figures down to their bones even as he does the same to the argument being parodied. A nice, quick, fun sample."

With a big smile, Ex Nihila came to her final entry. "Nothing gets your point across like a good song parody, and Steve Snyder came through with one for the Lord's Prayer that he says is snarkily rebutting a claim that AA is 'secular' at The Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly."

Settling her black net wrap around her pale shoulders, Ex Nihila returned to her own chair to see what the next member would have to say.

Scope: Peering into the Hearts of Humanity

The trenchcoat-clad, whippet-thin young man who stood next resembled nothing so much as some sort of wraith. The large magnifying glass enlarging one eye gave him an almost distorted look, but his gaze nonetheless burned bright. "I have used the power of my various scrying devices a great deal recently," he began, "and have peered into the hearts and histories of four people I found particularly fascinating.

"First, Adam H had an interesting conversation with a young friend in 'conversations with vincent' which is related at ...And That's How You Live With A Curse. It's a touching, human story that I think you will find as interesting to observe as I did."

Scope stood stock-still, gaze fixed on some distant vista visible only to him. His voice never wavered as he moved on to the next topic. "I too, have encountered the Cheerful Iconoclast," he said with a brief look towards Occam. "He discusses why he became an atheist in 'The Post In Which I Agree With Mark Kleiman', posted at cheerful iconoclast.

"I am not the only one who seeks to see the reasons why we perceive what we perceive, what lies beyond our senses. There is another, Eric Michael Johnson, who touches on possible biochemical and neurological explanations for feelings of faith in The Feeling of What Happens posted at The Primate Diaries.

"In another crossover, I also encountered The Ridger, but this time in the course of re-examining an old Hollywood film, in 'The Devil at 4 O'Clock' on The Greenbelt."

The steely gaze finally wavered, and the thin black hands clasped the edges of his cloak as Scope finished. He more collapsed than sat in his chair, and closed his eyes as if relieved that, for a time, they could finally rest in their endless search ...

Skeptica: The Pure Cold Light of Reason

Skeptica rose crisply and straightened her note cards. "I also searched for arguments, though those of a nature less inclined to fisticuffs," she said as she glanced quickly over at Occam. "What I found are some excellent examples of skeptical thinking applied to religious issues.

"In item number one," she continued without checking her meticulous notes, confident as always that her exceptional memory would not fail her, "Edward Baker presents Argument by Incredulous Substitution posted at In Defence Of Reason. I think his ability to spot a bad argument might rival your own extra-sensory skills, Scope."

Scope's magnified eye flickered open briefly before closing once more.

"Next, C. L. Hanson gives a skeptical, though sympathetic, look at the question of Does it matter that prayer doesn't work? posted at Main Street Plaza. I think you'll find her thoughts fascinating.

"Moving on, John acutely observes that the large number of translations of the Bible has a profound impact on how it is accepted, which he argues in You can never have too many translations of the Bible posted at hell's handmaiden.

"I should note here that after reading John's argument I got into an altercation with Gideon, the nefarious villain who shoots high-powered, full-metal Holy Books at the forces of light." Occam's fists clenched as he shot up out of his seat. "Naturally," Skeptica continued, "he was no match for my Ray Gun of Reason. He'll trouble us no longer." Relieved, the rest of the group resumed their seats.

"I am not the only skeptical inquirer to grapple with powerful forces arrayed against them, however, as Jared Asay discovered when he took on a Nuclear Physicist's attempt to rationalize faith. He recounts his epic battle in Me Versus A Nuclear Physicist posted at Axis of Jared."

Sketpica frowned. "I don't usually condone slapping around scientists, but it was definitely warranted in this case. Science's naturalism may be methodological only, but those methods can often be great weapons in the fight against poor reasoning, as Ron Britton shows with his post Molecular Evolution Proven on Bay of Fundie. Battling Behe has suffered another setback!

"Many times in our quests we have all come across the Hitler Gambit, where someone will fling the 'fact' that Hitler was an atheist at us as 'proof' that godlessness leads to horror. Austin Cline tackles that vector for us in Adolf Hitler on God: Quotes from Adolf Hitler Expressing Belief & Faith in God - Adolf Hitler had Faith in God that His Agenda was Divinely Ordained posted at Agnosticism / Atheism.

"Finally," Skeptica concluded as she carefully placed her unused notes into her lab coat pocket, "tobe38 compares religious belief with smoking in Holy Smoke posted at A Load of Bright. I think you will find that he is not just blowing hot air."

The others sat in stunned silence that Skeptica would make a joke -- even a bad one -- leaving a small awkward silence that was eventually filled by the final member of the Freethinking Five.

The Cladist: Classifying That Which Cannot Be Classified

Straightening his turban, the sepulchral hero with astounding powers to bind his opponents into strict categories rose and spoke with his deep, booming voice. "As always, I have uncovered those items that otherwise defy classification. I have wrestled with them, and ultimately -- as must happen in the end to us all -- I have put them in their place. MY place." Rubbing his skeletal hands together, The Cladist revealed his findings.

"BlackSun unearthed a delightful bit of modern flimflam in his expose of the myspace Profile of the ‘El Morya’ posted at Black Sun Journal. Apparently this 19th century fabrication is as unkillable as Dracula!"

Cackling, The Cladist gestured dramatically as he revealed his next bit of arcana. "In my extensive travels, I was delighted to come across someone with the same passion for the proper use of labels as I have. Pixelation argues for a new classification for babies in I was born an iTheist posted at A Pixelated Mind."

The long face grew grim suddenly. "I hate to report that not all issues involving the classification of a baby's religious status end so harmlessly. Only Three Notes reports on the death of two newborns in Canada because their Jehova's Witness parents refused them blood transfusions in Reforming Religions: Religious Rights vs Human Rights! posted at Only Three Notes.

"And finally, my friends, Francois Tremblay presents Collectivism and relativist morality. {Part 1/2} posted at Check Your Premises."

With the presentations all made, the five adventurers rose again, settling their raiments about them. Clasping hands, they vowed once more to never surrender to the forces of ignorance, darkness, and fear.

Can it be doubted that the city slept more soundly that night, knowing that the vigilance would not waiver, that there would always be those out there in the night, defending the rights of skeptics, atheists, and freethinkers everywhere to venture where few dare to roam?

Until next time, my friends, when again The Godless reunite in their next Carnival, I wish you ... Good Life!

I'd like to thank Brent for letting me host CotG #74, and all of you for following the link to this new site. I apologize for any confusion -- between agreeing to host the Carnival and now, I decided to separate out the atheist content of Nerd Country to this new domain to keep things more orderly.

Finally, I took a bit of a risk with the presentation of this edition, writing it in a style reminiscent of the great pulp paranormal novels of the 30's and 40's. I hope you don't mind and, for those of you unamused by the style, that you are still able to find the entries you want easily. I hope you enjoyed it!


Only Three Notes said...

This must be the best carnival i have ever seen. You have put lots of effort in organizing this. Anyways, just a small correction. The incident of parents rejecting blood transfusion for their children took place in Canada not UK. Keep up the amazing work!

The Ridger, FCD said...

Mind? This is one of the most imaginative presentations I've seen. I love the themed carnivals anyway and I love the old pulps - and I love that you put me in here! Thanks for your hard work.

Jeff Hebert said...

Thanks for the kind words, they're much appreciated. And sorry about the UK/Canada screwup, I've now corrected it.

cheerful iconoclast said...

I thought it was great. Much more entertaining than a simple list of links.

Good job!

Zeno said...

Wowie zowie! I am blown away!

db0 said...

Excellently written carnival. I agree that more carnivals should be more than a collection of links and this post perfectly exemplifies why.

Keep up the good work.

PS: Did you actually draw the cartoon characters?

lunartalks said...


Completely destroyed my mental picture of William of Occam, though. Weedy and monkish was in my minds eye.

I think he might have said: 'There is no god.' Anything else would have been unnecessary.

Great, great carnival.

Aerik said...

Hoorah! That was one of the better editions of COTG. I love it when a host can come up with such a fun theme. The giant robot edition was nuts, too.

Mike Haubrich, FCD said...

Very Entertaining! There is yet hope for Texas.

I the throng in saluting your presentation of this COTG. (Damn, I wish I had submitted something this time!)

Mike Haubrich, FCD said...

"join the throng" was what I meant to say. "join the throng."

As my birthday beer accumulates in my brain, I imagine that I should probably spend more time reading than posting.

Jeff Hebert said...

PS: Did you actually draw the cartoon characters?

Yes, that was me. Drawing super-heroes is kind of my day job. Still feels odd -- and great! -- to be able to say that.

"join the throng" was what I meant to say. "join the throng."

Just be glad you didn't type "join the thong". Although in light of your birthday, maybe that would have been really good!

I'm glad you all enjoyed it, thank you very much for the kind comments. They mean a lot to me.

db0 said...

hehe, the funny thing is that they actually look more like villains that heroes :)

Reginal Selkirk said...

"Austin then goes on to point out how a lotta Christian philosophers seem to lament the fact dat atheists can't be actively discriminated against any more"

Really? Try joining the Boy Scouts of America or the American Legion. Try applying for Faith-Based Iniative money.

Jared said...

The bar has been set for future CotG's! Outstanding job, Jeff, and thanks for including my post!

John Moeller said...

This is one of the first CotG's I've read. Great work, and very creative.

MothandRust said...

Skeptica is really really cute! Gotta love the skeptics. They always look over their glasses. love that.

Hmm, now you have thrown the gauntlet down on Carnivals and I've got to follow it when I host the next one... sigh. I'm inspired though and have an idea!