The Problem with Atheism

briefhistoryofreligion

So, I found this comic strip in my Facebook feed.

While I agree with the basic sentiment, I’m not so keen the extreme spoon feeding aspect of it. It’s not very nuanced, subtle or sophisticated. An atheist might like it because he agrees with it, but it’s not going to convince anyone to abandon religion, any more than clever posters convince anyone to stay off cigarettes or drugs.

Religious belief is a drug too, and like a drug, it can only be stopped with a strong emotional trigger. You quit smoking because you coughed blood that one time and it scared you witless. You quit the heroin because your wife intervened. You leave the church because it taught your family to disown you when you came out as gay. You stop believing in God because your whole family died in a series of senseless accidents, your prayers and kindness having fallen on deaf ears.

Religion is like your favorite car, sports team or consumer brand, times a hundred. It’s an emotional commitment. It becomes a part of your identity. Giving it up is painful and humiliating. Anyone attacking it is pushing your buttons. Nobody ever got anywhere by pushing all the wrong buttons.

Give religious people a honorable, pleasant way of leaving their religion behind, something better than the church, and they will come in droves. I’m a long-time non-believer and even I can see that churches are great gathering places, and that religions offer some very powerful creeds for young men to swear allegiances to; some greater cause to believe in.

Atheism is a very lonely place in comparison, because it is defined very specifically as the lack of belief. Very few people will rally around not believing in anything. Humanism and their organizations are somewhat better, but pale in comparison to the euphoria, happiness and unity offered by the more free-spirited churches. You just can’t beat emotions, they are at the core of the human experience.

Asterix, Villages and America

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I was reading an interview with the new artist-writer duo taking over Asterix & Obelix from Albert Uderzo, when I came across a passage about how this duo thinks Asterix & Obelix isn’t popular in America because the Americans have neither villages nor a history of Roman occupation.

This got me thinking: Norway has no history of Roman occupation. Is there, however, anything resembling traditional European villages in Norway? We have a word for village, landsby, but it is never used about settlements in Norway. You always find it in some article or documentary about a foreign country. But I had to be sure, so I went on a Wikipedia walk, and I found this:

gardstun

«In the time after the Black Death in the 1300s, a unique farm structure developed in Norway, with free farmers who somewhat owned their own land, contrary to the most of the rest of Europe. It deviated in other ways too; in Central Europe, people lived in distinctive villages, while in Norway, the settlements clustered around various types of farmyards.»

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That is indeed what I’m familiar with from Norwegian rural life. A big family with many children living in a house in the middle of a field, and the next family some distance away across the next field, miles away from the nearest market town.

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Villages, by contrast, are a foreign (yet charming) concept. Fantasy novels and role-play games are full of villages and foreign invaders who threaten to disrupt them. I think these are universally appealing concepts: The cozy, warm, fallible villagers contrasted against the bureaucratic, cold, efficient hordes. This, I think, is where Asterix & Obelix appeals to many.

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And the lack of success in the United States? European comic book culture would be unrecognizable to an American: «Newspaper comics serialized in magazines? Comic books that are not about superheroes? Comics with cultural sophistication and historical references? Donald Duck as an adventurer and Mickey Mouse as a detective? Cute characters in violent settings? This is too weird for me.»

The Americans can have their superhero comics. In the meanwhile, Europe can enjoy the fact she has come up with her very own brand of successful popular culture. No matter where you come from: Have a good read!

Nerden

Selvportrett

Avbildet ovenfor er et eksemplar av Homo Sapiens Nerdicus, en enfoldig skapning som lever i både utmark, innmark, Danmark, tysk mark, løvmark, mark i rompa og ikke minst: Finnmark, som er ynglestedet til akkurat denne 31 år gamle hannen.

Nerder har mange gytesteder, men faktisk parring forekommer sjelden. Tusener flokker sammen i Vikingskipet hver påske og utfører sinnrike parringsdanser, men alle håp knuses umiddelbart fordi ingen noensinne husker å invitere hunnene. Mer flamboyante affærer finner også sted.

Nerdens veier er i det hele tatt ganske uransakelige, og lite faglitteratur er blitt publisert på feltet. Det synes nødvendig å belyse dette emnet, og derfor begynner jeg nå å skrive denne bloggen. Kom, bli med inn i vår verden! Du vet det ikke ennå, men kanskje du til og med har en liten nerd i magen?

Trenger vi psykologer?

Jeg vet ikke hvor jeg fant dette sitatet, men: «De store metastudiene har likeledes kommet til at de forskjellige former for behandling er like gode. Det er ikke metoden for behandling som er avgjørende, er det forholdet mellom pasient og terapeut som virkelig betyr noe, konkluderer de.»

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En god psykolog er altså en som vil lytte til dine bekjennelser.

Jeg leste en plass at psykologisk behandling er mer som en kunst enn en vitenskap. Det virker for meg som at hva vårt samfunn behøver er mer emosjonell varme. Mennesker som kan si de rette tingene; ikke flere hodekrympere.

I våre store, anonyme byer blir vi alle usynlige, og de ensomme må hyre profesjonelle bestevenner.

Khuong Viet Tempel

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Nei, dette bildet er ikke tatt i Asia.

Hvis du vil se et ekte buddhistisk tempel trenger du ikke reise lenger enn til Khuong Viet-tempelet i Lovenstad, rett utenfor Lillestrøm.

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Tempelet er yngre enn det ser ut. Det ble nemlig bygget i 1989 av vietnamesiske buddhister. Jeg har ikke klart å finne mye informasjon om dette tempelet, men det frister å reise dit og ta noen høyoppløste bilder.

Jeg er ikke religiøs, men det er noe appellerende ved buddhismen. Det er ingen gud å tilbe, du må ikke tro på mirakler, og det nærmeste du kommer kristendommens syndkonsept er Karma, som egentlig ikke betyr noe annet enn handling, at dine handlinger kan få uante konsekvenser.

Buddhismens idéer om gjenfødsel (Punarbhava) er også annerledes enn man kanskje skulle tro. Det handler ikke om at akkurat du skal gjenfødes, men heller at livet er en syklus av fødsel og død, og at alt resirkuleres. Nirvana handler i stor grad om å slutte å bekymre seg så mye, og å få det rolig i hodet, og innse at man ikke kan klamre seg til det man har i livet.

Livets hjul (Dharma) går rundt og dramaet fortsetter, uansett hvor mye du forsøker å stanse det.