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105 unconscious children temporarily buried alive in the name of religion.
September 6, 2002 1:07 AM   Subscribe

105 unconscious children temporarily buried alive in the name of religion. In a horrible ritual witnessed by an Indian government official, who quit his position shortly afterward, children were worked until exhausted, wrapped in cloth, and then buried for one entire minute. Sometimes it feels like that we will never shake off the need for ancient tradition, myth, and groundless faith, but there is a bright side. There are more non-religious people now than ever. As the information age expands, education becomes more accessible and may be the most important factor in determining how religious one is. Unsurprisingly, a follow-up article on the mass-burial quotes, "Inquiries also revealed that no educational programme had been introduced anywhere near Perayur in the last six years."
posted by skallas (93 comments total)

 
I really don't see how this is so bad. I mean, unless I am really missing something, the children were not hurt. There is no indication they suffer from this. So it’s dramatic--big deal. I don't see any substantial difference between it and any number of other religious rituals practiced in the west. That, of course, may be your point, considering the following links.
posted by Nothing at 1:42 AM on September 6, 2002


Atheism is a religion. You people just don't like to admit it. But it takes a hell of a lot of faith to believe everything can be explained scientifically.
posted by nyxxxx at 1:44 AM on September 6, 2002


nyxxx: Atheism is a religion.

No it isn't. Its arguably a religious position, it doesn't share traditional religious elements like prayer, powerful beings, afterlife, etc. Also, one can be an atheist or an agnostic without being a scientific materialist. The positions are mutually exclusive.

I find this whole incident pretty shocking, no its not a Jonestown, but picturing hundreds of adults doing their best to knock out children to make their wishes come true is so beyond ridiculous its not even funny. This is also highly under-reported (i found 2 online sources), and the scale of 105 buried little bodies and the mental processes of the adults who should be caring for them doing this is beyond comprehension.

Ignorance mixed with religion is a powerful thing. Here in the first world its used to validate and defend bigotry, hold back potential healthcare breakthroughs, etc. If we're lucky education and sense will win out and we will have less nuts openly being bigots, mixing government and religion, willing to bury their children, fly planes into buildings, etc.
posted by skallas at 2:00 AM on September 6, 2002


Nearly thirty million Americans "Do not subscribe to any religious identification" according to a new comprehensive survey...

Thank god.
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:03 AM on September 6, 2002


It may not be a religion but it certainly engenders a religious zeal in its proponents.
posted by johnnyboy at 2:08 AM on September 6, 2002


nyxxxx: Not everything can be explained scientifically, and that is the entire point. Religion is about taking a group answers - a rulebook that says, "This is how the world works. Here is Good, here is Evil', and adopting what you observe to fit the patterns inside that rulebook.

Science is about taking what you observe, and trying to make the best rulebook you can out of those observations. These are fundamentally opposite methods of approach. Are some of those scientific observations and conclusions going to be wrong? Yes. Inadequate? Always yes until you can place the book outside the universe (obviously any object within the universe cannot describe the whole of the universe). But science isn't supposed to have 100% of the answers. It is simply supposed to continually reduce the distance between the answers it does have, and the hypothetical set of all the answers that only finds expression in the entirety of the universe.

Religion doesn't adapt this way, in my decades of experience having practiced it.

Atheism doesn't have to be religion, either, because atheism doesn't exactly mean what people think it means. Most people view religion as having some kind of belief in God, gods, or universe-as-God(s), with atheism as a polar opposite being the refusal to believe in any such thing and agnosticism falling squarely between for those 'still seeking' or willing to admit they didn't yet know (heretics!). In fact, agnosticism technically means belief in (a) God(s) when one is not sure of the form or characteristics of said deity(ies). The meaning of today "I don't know whether or not there is a God/gods" has no specific classification of which I'm aware.
posted by Ryvar at 2:08 AM on September 6, 2002


From an Indian-Express op-ed piece.
What stunned the nation was that this 400-year-old custom, of ‘burying’ the kids for about 60 seconds, was performed in the presence of a delirious crowd which included Tamil Nadu’s minister for housing and urban development. His presence signalled an element of official patronage and complicity in this blood-curdling ritual. That the parents of the kids who did not fall unconscious were fined Rs 1,000 indicates the coercive nature of this macabre exercise. Therefore, for the police to wash its hands of the affair by arguing that there have never been any fatalities, and for the state government to keep silent in the face of national outrage, smacks of a shocking insensitivity. So far there have been no attempts to book the practitioners of this unholy ritual or ban the practice.
posted by skallas at 2:18 AM on September 6, 2002


Countless conscious men and women tortured and killed in the name of scientific research.

Condemn science. Since we've already got our broad-stroke paintbrushes out, that is.
posted by David Dark at 2:30 AM on September 6, 2002


Ryvar: agnosticism technically means belief in (a) God(s) when one is not sure of the form or characteristics of said deity(ies)

Merriam-Webster online: Main Entry: ag·nos·tic : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and prob. unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god

Agnosticism doesn't know whether there is/are a god/s, and makes no claim either way. Weak atheism adopts the position that there is no need to posit god/s without evidence for the existence of same, and strong atheism denies the existence of any god/s.
</derail>;;
posted by sennoma at 2:55 AM on September 6, 2002


stunned the nation... blood-curdling ritual... macabre exercise... shocking insensitivity... unholy ritual

Biased much? The first link is little better, and markedly light on facts (and heavy on the scare quotes). It seems that the children are not supposed to pass out, just stay still; and that one throwaway line about making sure they are exhausted so that they won't wriggle sounds like journalistic hyperbole. Without more information than is contained in the links given, it doesn't seem all that traumatic to me.?
posted by sennoma at 3:11 AM on September 6, 2002


i'd like to point something out:


just because a person doesn't believe in god doesn't necessarily mean that they put their faith in science. because hey, in the end, maybe they just don't give a shit either way.
posted by joedan at 3:22 AM on September 6, 2002


Interesting end point, Skallas... This world free of 'religion' that you long for.

Had we two worlds, identical in every way, World One with its present mix of religions from its human beginnings, with all their influences, good and ill; and World Two, completely free of any behavioral/belief system known today as 'religious' or 'religion'....

What would that Second World be like now....who or what would its people and its cultures be? Would we be happier? Wiser? More or less 'advanced'? More or less 'human'?
posted by fred1st at 3:40 AM on September 6, 2002


While religion is responsible for some very odd (and very dangerous) things, it's also responsible for some very useful bits. This article makes the point that often the benefits of religious practice can be lost when the religion itself is rejected - particularly the Bali example about 2/3 of the way down. The big problem comes when you have to try to divorce the ritualistic elements from the purpose of their inception.
posted by monkey closet at 3:59 AM on September 6, 2002


I'm with Sennoma on this one. It seems reasonably harmless to me.
Is this another case of westerners questioning the cultural systems of others? and aren't these regional practices contributing to cultural diversity and encouraging a sense of community? Religious practices are not only for the religious; isn't Halloween based on a religious rites?
I'm an atheist (not a card carrying member I fear) but I still like to sing carols at Christmas.
posted by bramoire at 4:03 AM on September 6, 2002


lie 60 seconds in a sandpit? pretty harmless ritual as "no one has ever been hurt". Cut a snippet off my newborn baby boy? Can anyone seriously say no one's ever been harmed by that? [granted 99.9% of time everything is fine, it is far more dangerous than a pretend burial]. On preview, i'm with bramoire.r
posted by dabitch at 4:24 AM on September 6, 2002


just because a person doesn't believe in god doesn't necessarily mean that they put their faith in science. because hey, in the end, maybe they just don't give a shit either way.

That's what I was about to say. It's perfectly possible to see the flaws in the various religious systems and reject them on that basis without ever attending a single science class.
posted by Summer at 4:32 AM on September 6, 2002


skallas, seeing as you posted this same FPP to your own 'blog word for word, I'm not sure why you felt that it was necessary to post it here as well. Also, the construction of the post and wording is hardly conducive to any sort of unbiased discussion of the role of religion in poorly educated societies.
posted by MrBaliHai at 4:34 AM on September 6, 2002


I'm not sure why you felt that it was necessary to post it here as well

MeFi is a much larger wheel to grind his tired axe upon.
posted by yerfatma at 4:41 AM on September 6, 2002


just because a person doesn't believe in god doesn't necessarily mean that they put their faith in science. because hey, in the end, maybe they just don't give a shit either way.

Amen.

Sometimes it feels like that we will never shake off the need for ancient tradition, myth, and groundless faith, but there is a bright side. There are more non-religious people now than ever.

I really don't have a problem with religion so long as it doesn't cause harm. While I agree that there has been a history of violence in religion, to insinuate that IT is the cause of humanity's inherent evil nature and by becoming non-religious the world will be a happier safer place to be is just silliness. Instead of playing the blame game (being no better than the other side in this) look at the people involved instead. It is humanity that is evil (and good), not religion. Of course, in the end, I couldn't really give a shit.:)
posted by poopy at 5:53 AM on September 6, 2002


Preach on, poopy. People do evil and claim it's in the name of religion. People do evil and claim it's in the name of science. People do evil and claim that it's for the benefit of the human race. People do evil and claim it's in the name of Kuwait. Pretty much just excuses to remove the responsibility for crappy actions.

People do bad bad stuff. The rationale that they use doesn't really enter into it. Yeah, the crusades were supposedly motivated by religion. Sadly, we can get rid of religion and keep having the same pointless, bloody wars all the same.

People also do good in the name of all of those things. Does it mean that those things are inherently beneficial? Nope. But I don't think that it works the other way, either.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 6:04 AM on September 6, 2002


Atheism is a religion.

Seen on Slashdot, unattributed:

"If atheism is a religion, not collecting stamps is a hobby."

All religions are belief systems, but not all belief systems are religions. It's a pretty simple concept.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:36 AM on September 6, 2002


Does anyone know if Hinduism is the only largely practiced polytheistic religion left in the world today? When you think about it, its fairly amazing the India, a country with a large educated class, etc, still practces a religion virtually unchanged for 3-4k years. I can't think of anywhere else in the world where that is true....certainly Zeus, Ball, Ra, etc are no longer worshipped.
posted by pjgulliver at 6:51 AM on September 6, 2002


as a moderate claustrophobe, it doesn't seem harmless to me. jeebus... physically exhausted to the point of passing out, being mummified in cloth and then buried... screw cultural differences, i'm certain 60 seconds seems like an incredibly unpleasant eternity for a lot of those children.

and since they only bury their female children, and since females are disposable in too many cultures, i have to assume that there are risks and they're fully aware of them. they probably don't want to risk losing their boys.

*running outside for a breath of fresh air*
posted by t r a c y at 7:00 AM on September 6, 2002


I disagree with the premise of the FPP ...

Strong religious affiliation is surging in many parts of the world; for every one educated liberal American who abandons the family faith, there are ten people converting to an enthusiastic Christianity (mostly) or Islam (to a lesser extent) in Eastern Europe/Russia, Africa, or East Asia, who were previously, as a practical matter irreligious whilst nominally atheist, animist, Buddhist, Taoist, Confuscionist, etc.. And Hinduism, while not much in the evangelical front, is doing quite nicely on the Indian birthrate alone.

Moreover, within Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, the outperformers are orthodoxy and/or fundamentalism (which shares a common appeal with orthdodoxy, although it has a more radical external form) ... e.g., for every one American Catholic who is questioning the authority of his bishop these days, there are twenty new African converts embracing the authority of the Magisterium.
posted by MattD at 7:02 AM on September 6, 2002


It's really hard sometimes to avoid falling into the dark side of any belief system.

Trust me.
posted by Darth Vader at 7:14 AM on September 6, 2002


MattD, did you get those facts out of the article in the new issue of the Atlantic (which unfortunately is not on their website yet so I can't link....)
posted by pjgulliver at 7:16 AM on September 6, 2002


I really don't have a problem with religion so long as it doesn't cause harm.

Lies are inherently harmful.

"If atheism is a religion, not collecting stamps is a hobby."

Nice, Pink!
posted by rushmc at 7:33 AM on September 6, 2002


tracy -- actually, the article says that they bury the boys too. Girls have to be prepubescent, while boys can range in age from 4-20.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:36 AM on September 6, 2002


Can anyone with medical knowledge say whether the kids were in danger? I know that brain damage begins after @2 minutes of oxygen deprivation... what about 1 min combined with the way the children were rendered unconcious?
posted by gsteff at 7:39 AM on September 6, 2002


Lies are inherently harmful.

Oh, I see. Lies are harmful. Religion lies. Religion is harmful. Lies are harmful. My parents lie. My parents are harmful.
posted by poopy at 7:56 AM on September 6, 2002


tracy -- actually, the article says that they bury the boys too. Girls have to be prepubescent, while boys can range in age from 4-20.

ohhhh ok, thanks... i guess i missed that part while i was busy trying to catch my breath and not feel like passing out 8-) so all in all i still think it's a bad ritual.
posted by t r a c y at 7:57 AM on September 6, 2002


Does anyone know if Hinduism is the only largely practiced polytheistic religion left in the world today?

Many Hindus (like many ancient greeks & romans) believe in one god, the everythingness, which may incarnate in various ways. Many christians believe in multiple gods - to start with father, son, holy ghost, but then esp. catholics often get into mary & all the saints & ladies etc. Polytheism & monotheism are not as distinct as some people make them out to be. I've read that Judaism arose out of a cult of the war god Yahweh in a wider religion, which is why he says things like, you shall have no other gods before me (forget the rest of them, they're losers). It's common in polytheistic cultures for people to concentrate their efforts on one god.

Anyway, this ritual doesn't seem especially harmful to me.
In Dinka society, males go through an initiation at about 16 or 17 that includes cutting 7 -10 gashes across their foreheads after a long day of war games. Many of them pass out for a little while and the blood is collected in pits that they lay above. But it's the moment most looked forward to by young dinka, and looked back upon with great fondness by the elders. It's meaningful within their culture. They also have tooth extractions at the age of 10 for both genders, no anesthesia, but boys consider the initiation more intense.

Of course, cultures have to change when they're affected by other cultures; once the dinka become part of sudanese culture, the ritual isn't seen in the same context, and it's probably not considered a moment of bravery or beauty, but just weird and stupid. So that changes everything.

Rituals are just ways to organize fear and pain and emotional reactions so that we can deal. I made up a ritual for myself when my hair was falling out from chemo. I think meaning in ritual comes from the same place meaning in a piece of art or music comes from - it isn't literal or scientific.
posted by mdn at 8:00 AM on September 6, 2002


Oh, I see. Lies are harmful. Religion lies. Religion is harmful. Lies are harmful. My parents lie. My parents are harmful.

Faulty logic. Religion is a lie (in his opinion), your parents merely tell lies. Religion always does harm, your parents are merely capable of doing harm.
posted by Summer at 8:19 AM on September 6, 2002


MrBaliHai, yerfatma: You're certainly at liberty to disagree with skallas's premise (as a non-stamp-collector myself, I don't have a problem with it), but to say the post should not have been made is ridiculous. I, and I imagine many others, would not have seen the story otherwise, and it's certainly as newsworthy as most front page posts, regardless of whether any children were actually killed. Thanks, skallas.
posted by languagehat at 8:23 AM on September 6, 2002


polytheism in India exists because the greater part of India is unmodernized. I believe the literacy rate is about or less than 50%. India is not your average country.

There is no average country.

Christianity is not polytheistic.

There is much posturing and fakeness here.

I am sleepy and will go now.
posted by firestorm at 8:38 AM on September 6, 2002


languagehat: my comment was directed more at the etiquette of skallas' post rather than the premise. I consider his posting of it to his own 'blog then here to be a stealthy form of self-linking which is generally frowned upon in these parts, as is pre-biasing the discussion with trollish comments such as:

but there is a bright side. There are more non-religious people now than ever.

Agenda-driven, soapbox posts like this belong on a personal 'blog, IMO.
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:43 AM on September 6, 2002


Faulty logic. Religion is a lie (in his opinion), your parents merely tell lies. Religion always does harm, your parents are merely capable of doing harm.

I know almost nothing about logic being an average person with an average education, but to claim that religion ALWAYS does harm seems the same as saying that O'Reilly (or insert organization here) is ALWAYS right.
posted by poopy at 8:50 AM on September 6, 2002


i see no one is expressing any concern here about the coconuts that are being mercilessly broken in half in the name of so-called 'religion'- shame on you all!!
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:54 AM on September 6, 2002


languagehat: my comment too had little to do with the content of the post and a lot to do with the poster's seemingly endless amount of anger toward the religious.
posted by yerfatma at 8:56 AM on September 6, 2002


poopy - if you think that religion is a lie and lying does harm then religion always does harm. I think what rushmc meant is that the kind of lie religion represents prevents you trying to find the truth about life. It's a lie that keeps you ignorant. I suppose some people might not consider that harmful.
posted by Summer at 9:00 AM on September 6, 2002


Atheism is not a religion, but it is reactionary to the point where many of its assertions are as unprovable as those of orthodox religion. A human trying to prove or disprove the existence of God is like Sherlock Holmes trying to prove or disprove the existence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Disprove that my hairbrush isn't the demiurge. As much as that is a silly, irrational assertion, humans cannot prove otherwise.
You don't need religion to lie to yourself. At their most pure, many religious strip away lies to leave naked truth. Zen Buddhism (especially the Rinzai sect) is an example of a religion that searches for unfettered reality, without offering any soft options.
I concur with your concerns about the welfare of these kids, but going on to extrapolate about the evils of religion is weak and just plain silly. If you must troll, put some force into your punches.
posted by RokkitNite at 9:02 AM on September 6, 2002


I think what rushmc meant is that the kind of lie religion represents prevents you trying to find the truth about life. It's a lie that keeps you ignorant. I suppose some people might not consider that harmful.

I'm agnostic myself and I - like everyone else - want to know what IT all means. I believe that religion and science both seek the same answer, they just go about it in different ways. Yes, religion has committed some hainus deeds but then again, what organization hasn't? Look at the Nazis. Even science when trying to do good inadvertently causes harm. Science has brought us where we are today (in regards to technology,etc). Is this a good thing? Will it ultimately be science that does us in? Not religion?

I'm still waiting for the WWF match between Jesus and Darwin.
posted by poopy at 9:10 AM on September 6, 2002


I say we need to invade India, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.
posted by Stan Chin at 9:12 AM on September 6, 2002


what are you trying to say here poopy ? that aside from invading europe and gassing millions , the nazi's were okay?
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:15 AM on September 6, 2002


I say we need to invade India, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

Been tried before, the results are visible ;)
posted by bittennails at 9:17 AM on September 6, 2002


what are you trying to say here poopy ? that aside from invading europe and gassing millions , the nazi's were okay?

ooops. sorry...i was unclear....i was referring to the nazis as using science for their own twisted beliefs, but that even when science is used to benefit us it can go all icky.
posted by poopy at 9:19 AM on September 6, 2002


eventually everyone will get over this religion shit and join the human race.
posted by Satapher at 9:21 AM on September 6, 2002


oh right.
using science for population control and the destruction of others.....glad we stamped that one out.....
now back to the 1 minute burial........
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:24 AM on September 6, 2002


oh right.
using science for population control and the destruction of others.....glad we stamped that one out.....
now back to the 1 minute burial........


OK. Maybe I'm STILL being unclear.

Nazis used science as a tool to help kill and torture people: This is bad.

But even when science is trying to help (medicine,etc), it can have unintended consequences: i.e. overpopulation, which creates new problems.
posted by poopy at 9:30 AM on September 6, 2002


MrBaliHai: Point taken. But I'm worried about the "stealthy form of self-linking" idea. Surely it's not against the rules to post something both here and in one's own blog? If someone has to actually go to your blog and discover the repetition, it seems like they're just trying to find a reason to slam you. I once posted a link here and then referred to it on my blog; is that OK? I realize this discussion is more suited to MeTa, but people are up in arms there about too many posts, so... I don't know what to do...
*throws up hands and runs gibbering in circles*
posted by languagehat at 9:30 AM on September 6, 2002


Eh... you get into all of these debates, but basically, everyone's got faith in something... RELIGION is a set of rules, faith is something else entirely. Religion opresses. Faith uplifts. Someone can have faith and religion at the same time--but no one is without any faith... even if their faith is based on the absence of something.

There is a stark difference. As a Christian--someone who has faith in Christ--I desire to never have "religion." Jesus even opposed that.
posted by psychotic_venom at 9:53 AM on September 6, 2002


languagehat: I see your point too, and I've linked my comments in threads to things on my own webpage when I thought they were germane to the conversation, but as yerfatmama says, this seems like nothing more than a transparent attempt to push the buttons of a larger number of people. Yeah, probably a topic better suited to MetaTalk, but I'm as tired of the constant nitpicking there as you (although I'm obviously part of the problem, not the solution). I think I'll just join you in running around and gibbering.
posted by MrBaliHai at 10:29 AM on September 6, 2002


I dunno, hyperbolic language aside, I don't really see the harm in this ritual. I was prepared to be all hostile and "won't someone think about the children" about it...but I just can't work myself up into a furor about something which I have no cultural basis for understanding.

Would I want to be buried? No. But then again, those aren't *my* gods. Were they my gods, perhaps my opinion would be different.

Christians and Jews and Muslims regularly cut off bits of their boy's genitalia. I think that's pretty icky and lasts quite a bit longer than a minute.

My point is this, culturally the majority of argument being held in this thread is from people who've never seen India, who've never read the Veddas, who have no basis upon which to judge the religious activity of a culture so radically different than our own. Nobody got hurt, nobody has *ever* gotten hurt. Live and let live folks.
posted by dejah420 at 10:43 AM on September 6, 2002


"If atheism is a religion, not collecting stamps is a hobby."

On paper, perhaps. But in reality Athiests are quite often just as zealous as the fundies. Bumper stickers on cars, arguing at parties, constantly making it known that they are in fact athiests and what exactly this entails.

To use your analogy, I don't see many non stamp-collectors poking their heads into stamp-collecting newsgroups just to make it known that they, in fact, do NOT collect stamps and express the reasons why.
posted by glenwood at 10:51 AM on September 6, 2002


But in reality Athiests are quite often just as zealous as the fundies.

Assuming zealotry is relatively constant, zealous atheists are far less numerous than zealous Christians, if only because atheists are far less numerous than Christians.

Bumper stickers on cars, arguing at parties, constantly making it known that they are in fact athiests and what exactly this entails.

Atheists generally don't put anti-religion bumper stickers on their cars, because it's a sure way to get them vandalized by "Christians." Although I've been thinking of putting one on mine, because it's a '92 Buick Le Sabre with 150,000 miles on the clock and already needs $500 worth of body work, new windshield, and a new set of struts that it, frankly, is just not going to get because I'd rather put the money toward a new car. Or at least a different car.

I don't see many non stamp-collectors poking their heads into stamp-collecting newsgroups just to make it known that they, in fact, do NOT collect stamps and express the reasons why.

I don't see many atheists poking their heads into religious newsgroups to point out that they are not religious, but that's because I don't go into religious newsgroups. Because I'm an atheist/agnostic (but mostly an apathetic).
posted by kindall at 11:43 AM on September 6, 2002


dejah420 - you and me man, were the only ones going "aint that the same as cutting bits off...?"

i think a lot of traditional rituals are strange, wanting to yell that old comedy retort: "hey someone tell the drag queen his purse is on fire" in an orthodox church. Religion is something important to the person practicing it. Wanna dance all night or circumcise your son? ok. you do that. I will not agree, but i don't feel like ruining someone elses channel to God or the Gods either. Not yet anyway. You'll get me on the female circumcision topic. Oooh that burns me.
posted by dabitch at 11:44 AM on September 6, 2002


mrbalhihali:I consider his posting of it to his own 'blog then here to be a stealthy form of self-linking which is generally frowned upon in these parts

Bullshit. I echo a lot of my posts and comments on my blog, and this has nothing to do with self-linking. If you have such a problem with me using my own blog to echo stuff I've written on Mefi then I suggest you learn some tolerance. Accusing me of self-linking without a link is really ignorant and probably has more to do with an ad hominen towards me than any real break in the rules.

Thanks, but no thanks, I'll post whatever I want on MY BLOG. When I start making FPPs pointing to everythingisnt.com then I will take your ridiculous anal complaint seriously.

I understand this is a religious discussion and it is 100% guaranteed to get argumentative, but your complaint makes absolutely no sense.
posted by skallas at 11:49 AM on September 6, 2002


mrbalhihali:I consider his posting of it to his own 'blog then here to be a stealthy form of self-linking which is generally frowned upon in these parts

Also, your comment is an assumption. How do you know where I posted it first?

If you have problems with this post and believe I purposely broke the rules please take it up with the community in metatalk.
posted by skallas at 11:59 AM on September 6, 2002


To use your analogy, I don't see many non stamp-collectors poking their heads into stamp-collecting newsgroups just to make it known that they, in fact, do NOT collect stamps and express the reasons why.
posted by glenwood at 10:51 AM PST on September 6


I don't see many atheists poking their heads into religious newsgroups to point out that they are not religious, but that's because I don't go into religious newsgroups. Because I'm an atheist/agnostic (but mostly an apathetic).
posted by kindall at 11:43 AM PST on September 6


Same as kindall. Are these newsgroups being hit by real "atheist evangelists" or are they just being trolled? Also I've been buttonholed by proselytizing believers far more often than by proselytizing atheists.

That said, many of us can be obnoxious and disrespectful, but I think that's more a mark of a "militant" character type, than part of the baggage of being an atheist.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:00 PM on September 6, 2002


even when science is trying to help (medicine,etc), it can have unintended consequences: i.e. overpopulation, which creates new problems.

This is true of . . . everything! Parenthood, cooking, transportation, fornication, literature, everything. Saying that (x) can be bad because (x) sometimes has unintended negative consequences is a virtual non-statement.

I realise that I'm getting in woefully late on this one, but here are my two cents:

I grew up Baptist, my whole family is "religious" to one degree or another, but it never really resonated with me. Still, I respect the beliefs of my friends and loved ones.

That being said, when the discussion comes up, I find myself being evangelical with my atheism, or more generally with my skepticism. If someone says, "I believe in ghosts," or, "oh, you're a Scorpio, so you're behaviour is x and y," or "Jesus is the Son of God," I have trouble not questioning their beliefs.

I'm trying to curb that, but there is nothing more stimulating than intelligent disagreement.

Or something . . .
posted by mikrophon at 12:31 PM on September 6, 2002


mikrophon - i totally agree it's true of everything. I was basically referring to the orginal post:

Sometimes it feels like that we will never shake off the need for ancient tradition, myth, and groundless faith, but there is a bright side. There are more non-religious people now than ever.

Which, to me, seems to indicate that as long as we all throw out our primitive beliefs in things non-scientific and embrace the higher order of education and reason that the world will be a better place. I just don't buy it.

As MissCranky said, 'Sadly, we can get rid of religion and keep having the same pointless, bloody wars all the same.'
posted by poopy at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2002


polytheism in India exists because the greater part of India is unmodernized. I believe the literacy rate is about or less than 50%. India is not your average country.

Wow. That's incredibly ignorant, and pretty offensive. Hinduism isn't some tribal nature religion; the foundational Sanskrit texts were being written while Billy Graham's ancestors were still living in fucking caves. Literacy? The body of literature on Hinduism, ancient and modern, is as extensive as that on any religion; more extensive than that on most, I'd wager. The religion has been in a constant state of reflective intellectual evolution for the past 5000 years, and modern Hindu theology is quite intellectually and spiritually advanced. Makes most fundamentalist Christian theologies look like a kindergarten Sunday School lesson, if you ask me.

Also, I have to agree with mdn that Hinduism isn't any more polytheistic than Christianity. To simply refer to Hinduism as "polytheistic" betrays a great lack of sophistication in your understanding.

Oh, and on the subject of modern polytheisic religions (particularly in inarguably "modern" countries with high rates of literacy), I have two words for you: Japan. Shinto.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:54 PM on September 6, 2002


I don't think this burial ritual is very bad. But according to this article, some human sacrifice is still performed in India: Killing for 'Mother' Kali. This is horrific.
posted by homunculus at 1:29 PM on September 6, 2002


I understand this is a religious discussion and it is 100% guaranteed to get argumentative

And of course the fact that you set the tone by editorializing in the FPP had absolutely nothing to do it, I suppose. Having a discussion implies that you're willing to hear other people's ideas and listen to them with respect. How can you expect anyone to discuss the topics you set forth in an intelligent manner when you poison the well before anyone even has a chance to comment?

If you have problems with this post and believe I purposely broke the rules please take it up with the community in metatalk.

Would it make any difference? I doubt it.
posted by MrBaliHai at 1:32 PM on September 6, 2002


Many christians believe in multiple gods - to start with father, son, holy ghost, but then esp. catholics often get into mary & all the saints & ladies etc.

Back to Polytheism, i don't care if your believe in God(s) or not, but try to keep the facts straight. Christianity in any shape or form is NOT polytheistic. As far as Catholicism goes, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in the same- the Trinity has 3 parts that make up God, or rather the 3 parts are all on in the same God, I always hate wording that part (Holy Spirit=ONE God, Jesus=ONE God, Father=ONE good- they are all the same ONE God). and Mary & the Saints, i dunno how people even think they are a God (and if they are, it is asking them to pray on our behalf to God, cause they got tight sonnections with God...or something like that).
Polytheism claims that different Gods are responsible for different things in the world; monotheism claisms there is one God responsible. This is not a matter of what one thinks is right or wrong, but just how it is.
posted by jmd82 at 1:33 PM on September 6, 2002


Christianity is not polytheistic.

If you're reacting to my comment, I wasn't trying to say that it is but that various people will interpret their religions to fit their needs. Plato believed in one god, Zeus; the rest were just personifications, myths & superstitions. In christianity, there are those who think of one god, and jesus was just a momentary incarnation of that god, while others think of jesus more primarily as god and imagine an attractive european man as the creator of the universe. And then there are those who pray to patron saints and various other miracle workers (look at many catholics in South America, eg). So the line between mono- and polytheism is not absolute. Schopenhauer considered the hindu religion closest to his idea of existence which is one force (for him the "Wille") behind everything. Yogis consider the world the Maya, or illusion, and the only real thing the universal soul, or the Brahman. The various deities are secondary incarnations.
posted by mdn at 1:53 PM on September 6, 2002


the Trinity has 3 parts that make up God, or rather the 3 parts are all on in the same God, I always hate wording that part

Yes, I would hate wording that part too, since it doesn't really make sense. But if it works for you, then just apply the same logic to hinduism, where it's even easier, because the brahman is not just all the gods in one, but everything that exists in one - the fabric of existence, the uni-verse, etc. I guess it's kinda like Spinoza's Substance, too, which in it's extended form is the material world, but in it's essence is god.
posted by mdn at 2:00 PM on September 6, 2002


"Yes, I would hate wording that part too, since it doesn't really make sense."

It makes perfect sense. The Trinity is like a clover.

Small, green, and split three ways.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:14 PM on September 6, 2002


MrBaliHai, so I'm not guilty of self-linking now? Funny how that works. If you have a problem with the content or opinion then intelligently raise your voice. Calling me a self linker more than once without a shred of evidence and then quickly switching the subject to my opinions in the FPP, which last I checked are completely legal here at mefi, is pretty pathetic.

Please take this up in metatalk if you're going to continue on like this. Ironically, you accuse me of poisoning the thread just by stating my opinion, yet you are doing your best to derail the very same thread with your repeated calls of "Skallas is a self-linker!"
posted by skallas at 2:24 PM on September 6, 2002


I grew up Baptist, my whole family is "religious" to one degree or another, but it never really resonated with me. Still, I respect the beliefs of my friends and loved ones.

I went to my first Southern Baptist service last Sunday. The minister called the people in India "knuckleheads" because they allow their children to starve while "worshipping" cattle. He also said that the earth was only a few thousand years old and that he was not descended from monkeys and anyone who thought differently was a knucklehead.

I kept checking my watch to see what year it was.

Later after church, the people I attended with, the Significant Other's family, praised their pastor and asked me if I enjoyed the sermon. I've lost all respect for these people, even though they are good-hearted and loving.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:30 PM on September 6, 2002


problem with the content or opinion then intelligently raise your voice...

then quickly switching the subject to my opinions

I know I'm not involved, but I couldn't resist not pointing that out.
posted by Stan Chin at 2:32 PM on September 6, 2002


So the trinity doesn't make sense?

Then explain this one: Light is both a particle and a wave.

It's possible for something to be more than one thing.

And just for the record, while I was raised Southern Baptist, I'm now Wiccan.

And why isn't Wiccan in the spell check dictionary?
posted by nyxxxx at 2:37 PM on September 6, 2002


So the line between mono- and polytheism is not absolute.
Point take. I just get annoyed when people completely misinterpret what Catholicism teaches. This is not to say you don't know what they teach, but I'm always weary when people post innacurate info, as people who don't know otherwise may see that is being true (though, I do get your point the absolutes)
Then explain this one: Light is both a particle and a wave.
Funny, i was actually defending St. Thomas Aquintas' theory that something can't be what its not today against someone who was using the light being a particle and wave example.
posted by jmd82 at 2:49 PM on September 6, 2002


skallas, quite frankly, I'm rather amused by how personally you seem to be taking this, particularly after your comments about evanizer in MeTa just the other day. If I'm guilty of ad hominems, changing the topic, and making unsubstantiated accusations, then you are equally so. As for the issue of self-linking, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one and drop my objection.

If you wish to say anything else to me, please direct it to e-mail. I have no intention of cluttering up MeTa with another F_and_M-type thread about editorializing on the front page. We've already hashed over that enough, I think.
posted by MrBaliHai at 3:07 PM on September 6, 2002


Then explain this one: Light is both a particle and a wave.

It's possible for something to be more than one thing.


A wave is an action; a particle is matter. Light travels at the speed of light where matter equals energy, so it is both.

It's possible for something to have more than one attribute, or to be described in terms that seem to contradict one another, but the jesus=god thing seems to me to not work very well. These are specific personalities who have stories written about them. Did jesus wrestle with jacob or walk around in eden? Did the holy ghost have nails put through his palms? Are these meant to be 3 attributes of one energy which is something else, or are they meant to actually be one another? If they're three attributes of some ultimate God-god, can that ultimate substance attribute itself in any other way?

because they allow their children to starve while "worshipping" cattle

I recently read that this actually makes economic sense since the cattle are used to plow fields where they grow food; if they ate the cattle, they'd eat that year and then starve to death next year, instead of being hungry but alive for many years.
posted by mdn at 3:24 PM on September 6, 2002


mrbalihai: As for the issue of self-linking, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one and drop my objection.

That's all I wanted. Its a shame it took you this long to admit it. I won't address the rest of your post as its more metatalk material and would only continue your attempts at derailment.
posted by skallas at 3:26 PM on September 6, 2002


Then explain this one: Light is both a particle and a wave.

There are a bunch of ways to explain this (prima facie nonsensical) statement. My favorite is as follows: Science seeks to describe physical phenomena, such as light, by modeling them in intellectual constructs. These models are then tested for correspondance to the observable nature of the phenomenon according to the scientific method. In the case of light, we have two models: wave and particle. The wave model explains some observations, the particle model others. In "reality", or "truth", light is neither a particle nor a wave; it is something richer and more difficult to describe. Understanding the particle and wave models, however, allows us to appreciate the phenomenon and lets us reach for a more complete (and accurate?) model of the phenomenon.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:42 PM on September 6, 2002


A wave is an action; a particle is matter. Light travels at the speed of light where matter equals energy, so it is both.

This is inaccurate. Even at nonrelativistic speeds, particles have an associated wavelength. Called the de Broglie wavelength, it's given by Lambda=h/mv for nonrelativistic particles, where Lambda is the de Broglie wavelength, h is Plank's constand, m is the mass of the particle, and v is the velocity of the particle. Relativity really doesn't have much to do with the wave-particle duality, as I understand.

Sorry about the tangent.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:21 PM on September 6, 2002


MDN, yes that did occur to me...as any vegetarian can tell you, you can feed a lot more people with grain than with cattle that feed on the grain...just proves what an ignorant ass that minister is.

To sum up: no children were harmed in this ritual so why let it bother you? I say we go after the snake handlers here in America.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:26 PM on September 6, 2002


I don't see many non stamp-collectors poking their heads into stamp-collecting newsgroups just to make it known that they, in fact, do NOT collect stamps and express the reasons why.

Rather a pity, that, since stamp-collecting is such an inherently silly act.
posted by rushmc at 6:12 PM on September 6, 2002


I don't see many non stamp-collectors poking their heads into stamp-collecting newsgroups just to make it known that they, in fact, do NOT collect stamps and express the reasons why.

and i don't see many atheists going to church to tell people they are atheists... oh wait...

not that christians are as innocuous as stamp collectors of course, stamp collectors don't have to brand their cars, bodies, and clothing with their preference... when's the last time you saw some atheist jewelry?
posted by rhyax at 6:58 PM on September 6, 2002


Atheist Jewelry

Surprisingly enough, I see them quite often. Of course, not as often as Christian products, but that's obviously because Christians greatly outnumber atheists. They're also by their nature better organized in groups, socializing and all that. Atheists I think tend to be more individualistic, and reject grouping with others who have similar goals. I don't mean to stereotype, just stating what I've observed. Not saying there aren't organized atheist groups, its just that most I think more apathetic than anything, and the militant ones are just trolling Christians.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:06 PM on September 6, 2002


pjgulliver: When you think about it, its fairly amazing the India, a country with a large educated class, etc, still practces a religion virtually unchanged for 3-4k years.

Whoa! This statement is so far from India's actual history that it makes my head spin. I barely know where to begin. Let's see...

True, many of India's religions continue to trace themselves back to the Vedas, which are (at best guess) about 3200 years old, give or take several centuries. But in that time, the traditions have changed so drastically that it's hard to see a meaningful continuity. For starters, almost none of the rituals described in the Vedas have been practised regularly for ages. Many Indians have been able to recite the Vedas without even knowing their contents. Many of the ideas we now identify as most central to Indian religion -- karma, reincarnation, spiritual liberation -- aren't in the Vedas at all.

As for the gods, they change dramatically as well. Most of the gods mentioned in the Vedas haven't been worshipped in a long time. New gods often take their place. One AIDS relief worker has actually invented one, which gets at least some worshippers.

Even the term "Hindu" was first used by medieval Muslims, and most Indians didn't identify as "Hindus" until the British listed them that way in the census. Change and diversity all over the place. The big difference between "Hinduism" and, say, African traditional polytheisms is that, in various ways, Hinduism got much more systematized over its history -- not always by Indians themselves. But it didn't start out that way.
posted by ramakrishna at 10:11 PM on September 6, 2002


Lies are inherently harmful.

ooooooooooooohhh so cool.

Myth, story, and symbolism are harmful because they don't document physically true events? In some ways they are the ideal way to convey truth and wisdom. This is like those refutations of the entire Bible and all its message because none of that stuff really happened. What dogshit.

Spend time on real problems not creating more. Foolish controlling dogma is a problem, groundless faith is troublesome at best, dangerous threatening practices based on loose religious interpretation are a problem, not story, myth, symbolism, and all religions of the world.

Between 'religious' people who don't really understand their own religion and ardent atheists who don't give religious meaning any credence whatsoever, I'd say the people that fully realize its purpose and power to help humanity are relatively few indeed. It's been pointed out to me before so I shouldn't be surprised.

Ancient tradition = dark side? The western academy is based on plenty of ancient traditions. Inquiry? Rigor in logic? Bad seeds in this post.
posted by mblandi at 11:53 PM on September 6, 2002


Church doctrine has the trinity as one, but that's not the way most people that I know practice their Christian faith. The way they practice it, it is polytheistic. They might be able to parrot the idea of the 3 that are really one. At least they probably could describe that better than they could describe say immaculate conception or why Jesus had it in for the money lenders in the church/"forgive us our debts trespasses" stuff, but just barely.

And, I'm not entirely sure that church doctrine isn't a cheat to reconcile the old testament need of a monotheistic religion against the the integration of various stories and traditions from converts and conquests.

For a more modern corollary, we can clearly trace the integration of African tribal religion into the worship of saints and voodoo.

Going back a little further, while I'm hesitant to dismiss the passions of Jesus, because that belief has become so central to a lot of peoples faiths, the resurrection is awfully similar to the resurrection of Osiris, and other early pagan traditions that came before God cloned a piece of his essence to walk among us and make the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.
posted by willnot at 12:31 AM on September 7, 2002


willnot: a cheat to reconcile the old testament need of a monotheistic religion against the the integration of various stories and traditions from converts and conquests.

Why is this a "cheat"? When your newly adopted belief system tells you one thing is true, and what you've always learned from your parents and culture tells you another thing, why shouldn't you try and reconcile them? It's possible to fail at doing so, of course -- they may turn out to be so far apart that your attempt to put them together just makes them both ridiculous -- but I think the effort is a good one, not a cheat.
posted by ramakrishna at 8:46 AM on September 7, 2002


Myth, story, and symbolism are harmful because they don't document physically true events?

Myth, story, and symbolism shared as such are not lies. They are only lies when portrayed as true.
posted by rushmc at 8:49 AM on September 7, 2002


I say a cheat because the church would have you believe that its teachings are the one truth. There's a pretty big swing between there is but One God, and Oh, you worship other gods? OK, well you can keep doing that so long as you wrap them up in our packaging.

Actually, that's not fair. I doubt that it was calculated at the point of origin. It's more likely that as people tried to reconcile their historic belief systems with their new belief systems, they naturally morphed the faith they practiced.

The "cheat" comes a couple of hundred years later when the church leaders look and say we have a fundamental disconnect here. Our tradition says one God, but these people are worshipping many gods, what can we do?

Should we break the stone tablets and trudge up the mountain to see if we can find a bush to give us another one? No, we'd better not risk that. As His agents, it falls to us to derive a solution to this. We could kill or torture them all until they practice what we want them to practice. There's precedent for that. Yeah, but the roots of this run awfully deep. In fact some of us actually believe it. That may be more than we can manage with our fledgling little sect.

Look why don't we just say that the many gods are one god? Come on, Bill - what the hell does that mean? Many gods are one God? It doesn't make any sense. So, who says His will has to make sense? Look, we'll make it a central mystery of our faith. In fact while we're at it we'll integrate that transmogrification witchcraft that is so popular with all the housewives. Get some fancy robes, they'll eat it up.

It doesn't make it any less polytheistic, but it sure does cause me to question the veracity of the truths the church traffics in.
posted by willnot at 9:24 AM on September 7, 2002


I still wouldn't call theologies of reconciliation a cheat. If you hold a belief and find others who disagree with it, you have basically three options: one, throw out your belief and adopt theirs (which obviously doesn't always work); two, decide that they're completely wrong and you're completely right (exclusivism); or three, see their beliefs as a slightly misdirected version of yours (inclusivism). The latter, IMO, is no cheat; it's a pretty decent way of preventing holy wars. It makes you question the veracity of the church's truths? Fine, but everything should make you question. I don't see incorporating polytheistic traditions into monotheism as being inherently more suspicious than anything else.

I don't see "many gods are one god" as especially ridiculous. Consider the slogan e pluribus unum: out of many, one. Does the USA have many cultures or one culture? The incredible diversity of Americans and their cultural worlds is always there; and yet there is such a thing as "American culture," as immediately becomes clear when you leave the US and visit another continent. Europeans look down on it, Arabs hate it and Asians crave to imitate it, but they all know it's there, despite all the differences within it. American culture is many and one at the same time, and I don't see why the same couldn't be true of a god.
posted by ramakrishna at 10:45 AM on September 7, 2002


I agree Rushmc. The truth they contain is lost from the point where their historical reality becomes a question forward. It is a bad question. I would still say that in some cases their truth begets a timeless truth and even intersection with historical reality, so I can see why official positions are out of responsibility required to assert them as dictum truth, leaving them open to endless myopic attack.

Perhaps myopic is harsh. People should question what is presented as unquestionable. More of that, we need it.
posted by mblandi at 7:09 PM on September 7, 2002


what is presented as unquestionable is that science will cure all ills , money will make you happy, a good looking partner and a successfull career will fulfill you and that really , truly , one day you will win the lottery....
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:37 PM on September 7, 2002


...and then you die.
posted by poopy at 10:53 AM on September 8, 2002


preferably like james dean or marilyn monroe......it's true baby..............our own society wants to bury us alive ......
under a heap of empty promises and not for just a minute either................
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:58 PM on September 8, 2002


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