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JISHOU, HUNAN — Hello, Carnival readers! Welcome to my little neck of the virtual woods, coming from you live from “Godless” China. I blog here about teaching English as a Second Language, but also about living in the Middle Kingdom, church-state relations, religious hypocrisy, free speech matters relating to students and teachers, science, and pretty much anything else that pops into my head.

Please take a look around my space here, in between reading these great submissions to the current edition of Carnival of the Godless.

The Postman at “Gone Fishin’: Postcards From God” delivers a heartfelt letter from Gawd to His/Her/Their/Its peeps in “Dear People of the Book.” Gawd has not improved His/Her/Their/Its writing style much in the last 2000 years, since this letter is every bit as confusing and self-contradictory as the Book itself. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for us.

(By the way, judging from His/Her/Their/Its blogroll, I think Gawd lives in Kentucky now. This explains a lot about the Bluegrass State’s politics – confusing and self-contradictory. But I digress.)

Torquemada

Tomas de Torquemada

One of Gawd’s best buds was Tomas de Torquemada, the first Inquisitor General of Spain and the last guy you’d invite to your kid’s bar/bat mitzvah. As Romeo Vitelli tells us at Providentia, Tomas was instrumental in ten of thousands of Jews either converting to Catholicism or getting the Hell of out of Dodge (or Spain, as the case may be) during the 1500’s. But hey, he was just following Gawd’s orders.

Speaking of strange religious practices, how about The Church of Body Modification‘s? No, we’re not talking about chopping and channeling a ‘49 Mercury, though it would be a lot more fun. We’re talking about your body, as in tats and piercings. Matt at The Village Heathen tells us about a member of the church, a 14-year-old girl, who was suspended from school for sporting a teeny, tiny nose stud. The family intends to file a complaint against the school for religious discrimination.

Matt’s got some body modifications himself, but not for religious reasons. In his post, “How I Overcame Childhood Indoctrination,” he credits the comments left by atheists at a Christian youth message board to get him to thinking about Gawd. The results were not pretty (from Gawd’s perspective). Matt went on to the harder stuff, like visiting atheist websites and blogs, and reading the Bible with a critical mind. It took years, but finally Matt left religion — and a childhood phobia about going to Hell — behind.

Signý is another refugee from theism, but from the Muslim community. In “When We Were Single,” she relates how men of her faith suddenly took a keen interest in her when she, a lukewarm convert, started hanging out with more devout Muslim sisters. But that interest had a downside: she discovered that converts are second-class citizens, and Muslims are every bit as racially divided as Baptists in the South are.

Nevertheless, Signý did get married, but if you want to hear about what happened after, you’ll need the check out the rest of her blog, Here in Glitnir.

Churches are losing a lot of young people from the flock. Raithie, The Teenage Atheist, is one of them. This thoughtful 16-year-old blogger offers two posts for our consideration. Here’s an extract from the first, “I’ll Create My Own Meaning, Thanks.”

If you depend upon a celestial skydaddy to enrichen your life, your life can’t be all that meaningful. Meaning is what you extract from your life and surroundings. It’s an entirely personal discovery. You acquire it from your memories, experiences and from the people who you love and consider close. What is meaningful and special to you, is what essentially offers your life meaning. Your the one with the chisel, not any ethereal, invisible being.

In his other submission, “I Fear Nothingness,” Raithie contemplates death, the end of his existence and the meaning of life from an atheist perspective. I am humbled. When I was 16, I was more worried about getting my driver’s license and getting that pretty blonde to talk to me.

Belief in supernatural influences is not limited to Christianity or Islam, of course. There’s all that New Age-y stuff that’s maybe even sillier. Maria at the Fledgeling Skeptic tells us in “Stomping Puppies” how she shot down her mom’s hopes that numerology can improve one’s love life. (Personally, I think the best number to start with is the other person’s telephone number, but to each her own.) Maria gave mom a Michael Shermer book, and is waiting for her mother to stomp on that now.

“Is Gawd dead?” Atheists would say Gawd was never there to begin with, but some theists object to the notion that He/She/They/It might be RIP. Kel at Kelosophy imagines a spectrum of responses to those timeworn questions, “How do you respond to the atheist’s charge that God is dead?” and “How would you respond to one who proclaims God is dead?” Here’s the Fundamentalist Theist response:

If God was really dead then why did blasphemer Christopher Hitchens get cancer?

I bet that fun-loving guy,Torquemada, would have enjoyed that one.

Why are there so many possible responses to these questions? Perhaps it’s because we each make Gawd in our own image. Andrew, the 360 Degree Skeptic, in “Freethought Musings: the political necessities of an abstract god” suggests losing the concrete depictions of the ancient pantheons enables monotheistic believers to imagine Gawd in whatever form suits their purpose.

How about the notion that religious belief is a virus of the mind? A writer for the Guardian in the UK tackled that question, and showed how clueless she is, according to Steve at the Socratic Gadfly. Susan Blackmore is ignorant on both memes and religion, he says.

Steve also takes the religious in Virginia to task for their lack of consistency about pro-life matters, as the recent execution of Teresa Lewis shows. Shouldn’t pro-lifers also oppose capital punishment? Or to put it another way, shouldn’t pro-lifers (if they’re really serious about this abortion = murder stuff), expand the death penalty to include the women who get abortions? I mean, come on, why stop with women who plot to kill their husbands?

(Of course, there’s always those nifty torture devices from the Inquisition, and those punishments listed in Leviticus. I bet some pro-lifers would get off on those.)

On a less serious note, let’s talk about the “Three Crazy Things Parents Worry About. As Dan at MyDadBlog.com argues, parents nowadays don’t really worry about the really big things, like a decent education or health care, they get their underwear in knots about protecting their kids against isolated events that get way too much media exposure. Their Number 1 fear: child molesters. Number 2: vaccines. Number 3: foods that can kill you.

And from Thailand Breeze we close with an observation from nature. Animals kill each other, but not because of their egos. Only humans have that nasty habit.

And that ends another Carnival of the Godless. Hope you enjoyed your stay here, and y’all come back now, y’here?

[Yes, it’s the end. What, were you expecting the Spanish Inquisition? No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise, surprise and fear! …]

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