Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category.

The Wicked Witch Is Dead

I actually jumped for joy when I read that Scalia is dead.

This is the best thing to happen to this country since Lee surrendered to Grant.

Some people are saying we should be respectful. Express condolences to his family.

Screw that.

Liberals have been nicer. Do we have anything to show for it?

As far as “respect”: A man who was disrespectful towards others in life deserves none in death. I hated the man before he died. Frankly it would be illogical not to be glad he’s dead.

As far as condolences to his family, from what I have read they have the same nasty views he did.

Someone on Twitter thought it was shameful for people to say bad things about Scalia since he had a family, and asked if we would say the same hateful things about our own fathers. I replied that since my father is a drunk who treated my mother like garbage, yes I do. Call a spade a spade.

One reason I really hated Scalia is that he claimed to believe in a religion whose founder told his followers to protect the poor and the powerless, yet he sided with the rich and the powerful every time. For a long time, Catholics in this country were discriminated against. Catholics were the other. Yet Scalia had no problem pulling the ladder up after himself. [1]

And I am tired of people saying how smart he was.

Scalia thought that there was more support for creationism than evolution. First off, this is not true. There is much more support for evolution. The Discovery Institute has had 20 years to make their case and publish some research. So far nothing. Anyone who says that evolution (or climate change) is not settled science frankly is not paying attention to science. (Yet, in true Taxicab Fallacy style, they have no problem enjoying the fruits of the scientific method.)

I am reminded of that episode of John Oliver‘s show where he starts moderating a debate on climate change. The denier says that the science is under debate. John Oliver says it is not, that at least 97% of climate scientists say that climate change is happening and that humans are causing it. He says in order to show the true scientific consensus he brings in a bunch of people wearing lab coats. As he said, this “debate” should not be happening. And the same is true for evolution.

Secondly, I think that goes against the position of the Catholic Church  [2].

I suppose it takes a lot of intellectual talent and effort to spend your life saying that up is down, night is day and black is white. But if you go through your life being wrong about a lot of things, and using your intellect to justify things that are not true, then you are really very stupid.

And now, the strict constructionists are not only telling us we should not politicize his death, but that Obama should not appoint the next justice. Where does the constitution say he has to wait? And would they tell a Republican president to wait?

Lastly, some nutjobs are saying that Obama had Scalia killed. They think it’s just “too convenient” that Scalia died. But let’s remember Scalia was

  1.  A nasty, spiteful person
  2.  79 years old
  3. Fat.

He’s lucky he lasted as long as he did.

[1] Sidenote: There are some things in the Bible that sound pretty good: Be nice to everyone, give to the poor, don’t pray in public. Yet many Christians act the exact opposite. Is there some grand conspiracy going on here? Atheists get the joke Bible that tells you to be nice, but once you convert you get the real Bible, the Jerk Bible.

[2] From the page cited:
Concerning biological evolution, the Church does not have an official position on whether various life forms developed over the course of time. However, it says that, if they did develop, then they did so under the impetus and guidance of God, and their ultimate creation must be ascribed to him.
So I guess they are not really affirming or denying evolution. Sort of like how they have no position on the Shroud of Turin. The Catholic hierarchy may not be smart, but they can be shrewd.

Cartoon image from the always-bizarre Uncyclopedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use and perhaps even Unfair Use (but who knows what the second one?).

Dancing skeletons from a 1493 woodcut by Michael Wolgemut, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Europeans considered many things up for grabs in that decade.

Image of crowd of scientists taken from Google search. It is a screen cap of John Oliver’s show on HBO, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Unused Comment and a Quote

Aert_de_Gelder_-_Esther_and_MordecaiGoing through some files, I found a small piece that I think I intended to post as a comment on The Immoral Minority. I did some searching, and I don’t think I ever posted it.

I think I wrote it during the 2012 campaign for president, since I quote something that Rick Santorum said.


To 7:47:
“And overthrow these folks who think they know how to orchestrate every aspect of your lives.”

Did Santorum really say that? The guy who probably has wet dreams about forcing people to church at gunpoint said that?

In all seriousness, how do some of these conservatives function? They go on about “freedom”, yet they seem to have very definite ideas about how other people are supposed to live their lives. Given that many of them are religious nutcases, they also seem to want to control the thoughts inside your head. If I have fewer rights because of my beliefs (or lack of belief), then what sort of “freedom” is that? Conformity is not freedom. Obedience is not freedom. I don’t know if I could define freedom, but I do not want the “freedom for some” that these people are pushing.

Plus if you took what Santorum was saying, and told his supporters that a Muslim cleric was saying it, then they would be horrified. Why is Christian Sharia Law any better than Muslim Sharia Law?

To 8:24
I thought “GOP” meant “God’s Oil Pedophiles”.


Also, here is a quote from a comment that someone else left on The Immoral Minority in 2015 that I liked:

You righties mock the Islamists, yet you do the same things: glorify weapons of death, glorify those who use them, teach the usage of weapons of death to children, and by your ideology teach your people to hate the ‘other’ – thus ensuring that eventually, the ‘other’ is obliterated by your weapons of death. All because you, just like the Islamists, are totally lacking in any positive, socially transformative, ideas that are uplifting to your fellow man, including those with whom you disagree. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is anathema to you, just as it is anathema to the Islamists. Your ideology is ‘obliterate your neighbor’, the same ideology that they have.

 

Image from Wikipedia page on Aert de Gelder, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Ireland and the Roman Corrupt Church

Recently, the Republic of Ireland voted to allow same sex marriage. I’m sure you have heard all about it.

Some Catholic conservatives are saying that foreign money influenced the vote. They are upset about this. And completely oblivious to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is ultimately a foreign institution in Ireland. They seem okay with the Roman Corrupt Church.

Jim Bob Duggar ran for US Senate and lost. He thought he lost because of “sin in the camp.” Granted, there was sin in the camp, but in both cases it is interesting that a lot of conservatives just cannot accept that some people disagree with them. There always has to be some cosmic explanation or the other side cheated or grand conspiracy to keep people from the truth. They never look at the most obvious possibility: People really do not want what you are selling.

A few conservatives hoped that Ireland will endure another Cromwell or another famine. Someone wishes that a country will endure a repeat of two of the worst things that ever happened to it. Simply because Ireland wants all people to have the same rights. Please, conservatives, define freedom for me.

The Roman Cadillac Church has been losing influence in Ireland ever since it was revealed that Eamon Casey, the bishop of Galway, had used church funds for several years to pay child support for his son. There have been other abuse cases all over Ireland. Frankly, Ireland should have booted the Roman Corrupt Church out 1500 years ago. Lost the land, lost the language, kept the oppressive religion. Pretty raw deal. I think the Irish have done more for the Roman Corrupt Church than they have done for us.

There have been a lot of abuse cases for the Roman Corrupt Church on multiple continents over several decades. The standard response from the Roman Corrupt Church is to pay hush money, move the priest somewhere else, and wind up repeating the cycle. And blame the victim if it ever goes public. This pattern is so pervasive in the Roman Corrupt Church and has gone on for so long, I think it comes from or has the approval, knowledge or imprimatur of people high up in hierarchy in the Vatican itself.

I know a guy here in Austin who grew up in Dublin in the 1970s. When he started junior high school, his older brother took him aside one day and told him not to get too close to any priests: No retreats, no sports. He might meet one of “those” priests. There were not that many, but if things go badly you were on your own. So people in Ireland knew about this in the 1970s. It looks like Sinéad O’Connor was correct.

Some people defend the Roman Corrupt Church by saying “it’s not that many priests”. True, it’s not. I have read that the number of priests who engage in this bad behavior is actually in the low single digits. The problem is that the Roman Corrupt Church protects its own criminals, pays off the victims, moves the criminal priests around without any attempt at rehabilitation or finding them some other job or turning them over for prosecution, and then the criminal priest engages in the same behavior in their new parish. As people said during Watergate: It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup that counts. And a coverup usually results in the crime repeating.

When people defend the Roman Corrupt Church by saying “it’s not that many priests”, they are showing that 1. They are pretty stupid individuals, and 2. Tacitly admitting how truly evil and stupid the Roman Corrupt Church is. If they Roman Corrupt Church took these guys out of circulation somehow at the first sign of trouble, there really would not be a problem. But, no, protecting the church takes priority.

A few years ago, Mark Zuckerberg gave Newark public schools $100 million. My brother posted a long rant on Facebook (of all places) going on and on about how stupid Mark Zuckerberg was for doing this. He said that problem was that the Newark public school system was a bloated bureaucracy that cared more about itself than the people it claimed to be serving.

Which to me sounds like the Roman Corrupt Church.

Image from Wikimedia,  assumed allowed under Fair Use. Ever since the 2000 United States presidential appointment, I thought that blue on maps was good, and red was bad. This is an exception (although the Ulster Prods are real loony tunes).

Language: Thoughts On The Word Public

I am a regular listener of Freethought Radio, which is produced by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. One of their activities is to prevent or stop government endorsement or support of religion.

When they talk about this, they will sometimes use the word “public” to describe the activities in question.

Usually it is something like prayer at city council meetings, or a city or county giving money to a church. They will describe it as “public support” or “public endorsement” of religion. This is the same use of the word “public” that we use when we say that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a “public” university.

Many of the opponents of the FFRF will use the word “public” differently when they attack the FFRF. They say that the FFRF wants to eliminate “public expression” of religion, or they want to “take religion out of the public square”. Here, I think the word “public” has a slightly different meaning. Here “public” means being a part of society, and does not refer to government support. Sort of like when parents tell their children to behave in public.

I wonder whether some critics of the FFRF are intentionally misleading people by this use of the word “public”. The FFRF does not have a problem with the “public expression” of religion, or of religion being in the public square. There are a lot of billboards put up by churches and religious organizations, and the FFRF does not try to have them taken down. The FFRF does put up its own billboards as well. They have no problem with religion existing in society. They simply do not think it should be supported by our government. And for the most part the courts agree with the FFRF.

The word “public” can also be a bit confusing in the business world. The “public sector” refers to the government. Many people in this country work for various levels of government, and are said to work in the “public sector”.

However, a “public company” is a company that is not owned by the government. It is owned by people and institutions in the private sector, but it is called a “public company” because shares of ownership in that company are sold on stock exchanges. A “private company” is a company whose ownership is not traded on an exchange. So a company in the private sector can go public, trade for years on an exchange, and then go private, staying in the private sector the entire time.

There are some government entities in the United States that do own shares in public companies. These tend to be the retirement funds for workers in the public sector, usually at the state, county or city level. Many people in the US do not like the idea of governments owning a company, yet public retirement funds is not considered a problem. These funds are generally given some independence from the governments whose workers’ money they are managing. Some of these funds (such as CalPERS) have been activist shareholders, but their goals are no different than other activist shareholders. Some retirement funds invest largely in index funds. But these retirement funds never get a majority stake in companies. At least not in the US.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Huckabee: Just Following Orders

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has been in the news lately.

First he said that we must become a god-centered nation, and that laws come from god, not from man. Well, Governor Huckster, god is not telling me what to do with my life, you are. Put if you are telling people what god wants, aren’t you putting yourself in god’s place? Isn’t that a sin in your religion?

He also said that he really, really doesn’t want to hate gay people, but he has to. He’s just following orders. He has to be a jerk until a new version of the scriptures comes out. “…It’s really not my place to say, ‘Okay, I’m just going to evolve.'” But it is your place to say that. You are choosing to follow the bible, you are choosing to let it guide your decisions. You are not the passive agent you are claiming to be.

The Immoral Minority lists many other rules that Huckabee is choosing not to follow. He is not advocating helping the poor either, even though that is mentioned many more times in the Bible than homosexuality. He doesn’t think his god is telling him to help the oppressed, but it’s telling him to kick people around. I guess it’s another example of christians doing the easy thing instead of the right thing.

Christians use this excuse to evade responsibility all the time. This happened to me once on the CTA. Some bozo starts trying to talk to me about religion. I told him there is no god, and he told me I was going to hell. He said, “If you have a problem with that, talk to god.” I told him that god wasn’t the asshole pestering complete strangers on the bus.

You should not advocate a position and then evade responsibility for that position.

Image from Wikipedia,  assumed allowed under Fair Use. The picture is of Peter von Hagenbach, who used the Superior Orders Defense in 1474.

Guns, Property, and Religion

A bill was filed with the Texas Legislature called the Teacher’s Protection Act. You can find the text here. The basic idea is to limit liability for teachers in self-defense situations.

First off, I thought that people already have a right to self-defense, regardless of who or where they are. According to the article, lawyers at the Association of Texas Professional Educators feel the same way.

But what is interesting about this one is that it allows “deadly force”. That phrase is used several times. I am guessing this means guns. I guess it’s not enough to be a pro-gun legislator in Texas. You have to be so pro-gun you have to file redundant bills.

It does say that “force or deadly force” can be used by the teacher to defend themselves or other people. What is interesting is there is also a provision for using force to protect school property. Not defense while ON the property, but defense OF the property. I guess putting that in the same section as defending actual human beings was not enough.

Back in the 1990s, Whoopi Goldberg had a talk show that was on late at night. One of her guests was George Carlin, and he said something that has stuck with me all these years: Democrats care about peoples’ rights, Republicans care about property rights.

Republicans seem to want to take that as far as they can. Some of them probably want to go back to the 1850s.

This bill was mentioned on The Immoral Minority blog. There is one paragraph in the comments that I think sums up a lot of the religious people in this country:

You righties mock the Islamists, yet you do the same things: glorify weapons of death, glorify those who use them, teach the usage of weapons of death to children, and by your ideology teach your people to hate the ‘other’ – thus ensuring that eventually, the ‘other’ is obliterated by your weapons of death. All because you, just like the Islamists, are totally lacking in any positive, socially transformative, ideas that are uplifting to your fellow man, including those with whom you disagree. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is anathema to you, just as it is anathema to the Islamists. Your ideology is ‘obliterate your neighbor’, the same ideology that they have.

Image from Wikimedia,  assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Skepticism And Atheism

In this article, “the skeptic movement” and “skepticism” refer to scientific skepticism. Broadly, this means using science to test claims. It does not mean being skeptical of science, or about its claims or methods. Many people who claim to be “climate change skeptics” are in fact climate change deniers.

Over a year ago, there was an email from a skeptics group that I attended a few times. The leader said she did not want the group to be too identified with atheism. She wanted the group to stay focused on broader, scientific, testable topics. She said atheist groups tend to talk about one topic.

True.

But I have a few things to say from the other side, and I see a few things I don’t quite agree with about the skeptic movement. And I would like to see more cooperation between the two movements.

While the skeptic movements seems to have larger numbers, I think that skeptics tend to talk about topics that are irrelevant to larger society. A lot of skeptics seem to shy away from the topic of religion altogether, and are not willing to combat its influence in society. A lot of skeptics do not like to say they are atheists, which I find kind of odd.

Despite what the Religious Right would have people believe, religion has not always been a major influence in American society. If the Founding Fathers really wanted this to be a Christian nation, oddly it slipped their minds to every state that clearly. In the 1912 election, all four major candidates supported evolution.  Even in the 1960s/1970s, when the skeptic movement started, religion was not the big force it is today.

Skeptic groups tend to talk about less consequential topics: astrology, alternative medicine, homeopathy, big foot, anti-vaxers, card tricks Randi did in the 1970s. It is amazing to me that skeptics go on about logic, evidence and critical thinking, yet they have ignored this huge political and cultural shift in our society. And why not look at issues that affect people?

And religion should be tackled in a meaningful way. As some have pointed out, atheist groups win lawsuits against prayer in schools, the Wall Street/Bible Belt circus is passing legislation that is making life worse for just about everybody. Sometimes even people who claim to be for this stuff.

I honestly think some Dominionists want to line up all skeptics and atheists and have us all shot. Homeopaths don’t seem that aggressive.

Some skeptics think that atheist groups are a bunch of jerks for filing lawsuits about prayer in schools. At least atheist groups are taking some action, and counteracting a negative force in our society. Sure, skeptics got PowerBand taken off the market in Australia. As the Mocking Maori would say, “You rock.”

Religion is used to justify a lot of bad policy, and infects everything: birth control, justification for not paying teachers more, energy and climate change (jesus will come back before the oil runs out). Granted, the anti-vaxers are causing deadly diseases to come back. However, that seems to be all they are doing. Religion affects and infects pretty much everything.

Have you ever heard an argument against gay marriage that was not religious? Are astrologers trying to stop science from being taught in schools? And if they are, I don’t see bills about astrology being brought up in multiple states simultaneously, as you do with creationism. Or creation science. Or intelligent design. Or “academic freedom”. Or whatever they will call it next time. Are Big Foot Truthers taking over school boards? We have Representative Paul Broun saying evolution is a lie from the pit of hell. (How can you be a doctor and not accept evolution?) Alabama state senator Shadrack McGill said that teachers should not get a pay raise since teaching is a “calling”, and paying them a decent salary is unbiblical. Illinois Representative John Shimkus says climate change is real and happening, but we should not do anything about it because god promised not to destroy the world by flood again.

A lot of conservative politicians go on and on about this being a “christian nation”. When a bunch of elected officials say we are a Vedic Nation, get back to me.

Plus, skeptics are pro-science, pro-women’s equality, and generally pro-gay rights. We already like the things religious people hate. Other forms of pseudoscience are not trying to set policy in so many areas. Why pat yourself on the back for using logic, evidence and critical thinking to combat minor forms of pseudoscience, when you are ignoring the major one?

Perhaps advocating science education and promoting scientific literacy will help us make progress on a lot of issues. I just think that the two movements should work together more. And I think the two groups should become more politically active, even if all they do is contribute money to candidates and/or organizations. I think other ways are to fund scholarships and contribute to endowing university chairs/professorships.

Don’t think that pushing science won’t put you on the radar of religious folk. Look at the reaction to Cosmos. When people who see the world in black and white are against you, you have to deal with them whether you want to or not.

One thing throwing a wrench into the works (at least here in Austin) is the status of the Center For Inquiry. I guess a major donor stopped donating money, and a lot of their activities might get scaled back. So some of us in Austin are trying to decide if we should wait for CFI to figure things out, or do something on our own. There is the Texas Theocracy Watch and the Secular Texas group. One guy wants to raise enough to buy a building, and have enough left over to run it off the interest.

It will be a lot of work to educate the public. There is a group for women here in Austin called Secular Suzies. I heard that one woman signed up because she thought “secular” meant “religious”. I guess that is the way things are in Texas: If people don’t know what something is, they assume it’s Jesus.

Now to the other point: Are skeptics atheists?

Some do not want to call themselves atheists because the term “atheism” has a bad image. But by avoiding it, aren’t you compounding that problem?

Why do people say that skepticism does not equal atheism? You have to have a double standard: be skeptical of other religions besides your own.

I am okay with equating the two. (Although I have met a few atheists who say they believe in UFOs). So maybe not all atheists are skeptics, but I think that all skeptics are atheists. At least from a functional, pragmatic point of view.

Can I prove that no god exists? I guess not. But the ones I have heard about so far have not been too convincing. So I am okay with saying there are none. Let’s be precise about something else.

I find it odd when some skeptics say there might be some other god out there that we have not encountered, so we really cannot say there are none.

Most skeptics reject all religious/supernatural claims, so why insist that you cannot say there is no god? What god are you holding out for? This god-who-might-exist would have to be different than any conception of god anyone has ever had, or any god any human has ever believed in. A god who is not involved in events, or creation of world, or who interacts with people in any way. Which means you have to change the definition of god. Some people might call that “sophisticated theology”. I do not have a problem rejecting what you cannot define.

First image from LOLtheists, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Second image from My Confined Space, assumed allowed under Fair Use, frequently NSFW

Neil deGrasse Tyson On Science Deniers

Crooks and Liars embedded a video with Neil deGrasse Tyson on the place of science in our society. It’s a good interview.

I mention it here because he talks about the taxicab fallacy. He does  not use that term, but I think he expresses the basic idea.

The Immoral Minority had a post with another good NdT quote. There is a difference between scientific claims and political claims.

Just yesterday I listened to an episode of the Green News Report in which they covered the climate change “debate” between Bill Nye and Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn kept saying there is no scientific consensus on climate change. There is.

98% of climate scientists say it is happening and caused by humans. It is not a scientific controversy. A scientific controversy is when a sizable proportion of scientists in a field have not been able to make a determination. I do not know what the threshold is to stop saying a thesis is under debate, but I am guessing that it is lower than 98%.

A thesis might conflict with your political ideology. Or your religion. It might hurt your profit margin. It might inconvenience you. But all of those are different than scientific controversies.

Not everyone in this world believes in any sort of god or spirit. And not all who do are christian. And since there are so many denominations, obviously there is a lot of disagreement within christianity. So why don’t conservatives apply the same “there is no agreement” logic to their religion?

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Thoughts on States’ Rights and Local Control

It seems that conservatives push states’ rights when they disagree with the federal government. But when a state does something they do not like (usually a state other than their own), they have no issues siding with the federal government. They go on and on about local control, but they have no problem butting in when someone somewhere else does something they do not like.

Right now Wendy Davis is running for governor of Texas. A few months ago, the Texas Tribune Tribcast said it might look bad for her if most of her money comes from out of state. A lot of Ted Cruz’s campaign money came from out of state. The guys who ran against Hillary Clinton for Senate got money from outside of New York. A lot of Tea Partiers have gotten money from outside their states/districts. For people who go on and on about unchanging values, they sure seem willing to cast them aside when it’s convenient. IOKIYAR.

Many of them say gay marriage is a states’ rights issue. A lot of the money for Proposition 8 in California came from the Mormon Church in Utah. Why can’t those Utah conservatives mind their own business? There are a lot of states with laws against gay marriage. But I bet if they thought they had a chance of getting an amendment to the US Constitution passed, they would go for it.

When New York passed a law allowing gay marriage, Rick Perry said that was a good thing. He said if you’re okay with that, then live in New York. If you are not, you can live in Texas. I think that how they want people to think they view states’ rights. But then after he said that he was quiet for a few days, and said that gay marriage is always bad. I wonder what happened. Perhaps some of his paymasters had a talk with him about it.

Ted Cruz recently criticized the Obama adminstration for not going after people for marijuana laws. As some have pointed out, he doesn’t seem to think that states should not make their own laws on gay marriage, gun control and abortion. But don’t hold your breath.

And when a level of government below the state does something a conservative does not like, they think it’s okay for a state to make a law overriding a local law.

Travis County has required companies running gun trade shows to perform background checks for all “person to person” gun sales. And Greg Abbot had threatened to sue Travis County. Why can’t Travis County do what Travis County thinks is best? Would it really be so hard to have it in a different county? I have heard Taylor really wants to build up its economy. And Hutto has nowhere to go but up. (Hutto is northeast of Austin. It is about as small and rural as it sounds.)

One of the things I forgot to mention in my review of my first year in Austin is that Austin recently banned plastic bags at retail stores. At first I kept going into HEB and get to the counter and realized I did not have a bag. And I still see people walk out of the store without stuff in bags and they put things in their car one item at a time.

Well, a Repub in the lege from another part of Texas proposed the Shopping Bag Freedom ActHis objection was that it could spread disease and bacteria, and it is an overreach of big government. I wonder how he feels about chemical plants polluting rivers and blowing up. To see why a bag ban can be a good idea, see this page.

Sometimes repubs have this magical view that state goverments can do no wrong. Unless they pass a law allowing people to smoke pot or allowing gay marriage.

Then there is the issue of Park 51 in New York City, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque”.  A lot of conservatives were against it, even though it got approval from a local zoning board. And let’s not forget, that Constitution they all claim to love says we ALL have religious freedom. I thought it was funny seeing all of these repubs fall all over themselves screaming about this. They don’t want outsiders telling them what to do, yet they have no problem sticking their noses in other people’s business. The best part: Seeing conservatives get soooooo concerned about NYC. Usually there is a competition amongst conservatives over who hates NYC the most.

Sidebar: This country is becoming more urban and less rural, and they seem to think that only people in small towns are “real Americans.” How can these people say they love America, when they hate most of the people in it?

These people talk about freedom. My question for them is: Freedom for whom to do what?

I am not saying that states’ rights is not a valid issue. But if you look at segregation and gay marriage, it seems to get the most airtime when Southern conservatives see something they do not like. If they only time you talk about states’ rights is when you want to kick someone around, do not be shocked if some people do not get on board.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Star Trek and Religion: Who Watches The Watchers

The general consensus is that the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is when it hit its stride.

There is an episode in the third season that dealt with religion called Who Watches the Watchers. The basic plot is that some Federation anthropologists are observing humanoids whose technology is at the level of humans a few thousand years ago. But due to equipment failure, the anthropologists are discovered, and one is captured by the aliens. Then a few crew members go down, and one of them is captured.

At the beginning of the episode, the aliens seem atheistic. They regard beliefs in gods and spirits as superstitions of their ancestors. But as they encounter Starfleet’s advanced technology, the aliens think that the Enterprise crew are gods. By the end, the crew reveal themselves as nothing more than beings with more advanced technology, crew members are rescued, and the observations must come to an end.

Throughout the episode religion is regarded as superstition and magical thinking, and something that societies (and individuals) must outgrow. I got the impression from the Memory Alpha page for the episode that it is not a fan favorite. I like it a lot. I like episodes that tell a nice story for an hour and also touch on larger themes in culture and society.

There were a few good quotes about religion in the episode. Here are a few from the Memory Alpha page:

Horrifying… Dr. Barron, your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago, they abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you are asking me to sabotage that achievement, to send them back into the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear? No!

Picard

Are you sure this is what he wants? That’s the problem with believing in a supreme being: trying to determine what he wants.

Troi

Image from Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use.