Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Catholics, Artists, Atheists, Crime Victims, Mystical Cat, and Thor

•You know I love seeing subcultures overlap, and I’ll likely see it happen again when creative folk (some two dozen musicians and artists) with more than a few serious Catholics among them mix it up with the bohemians of the East Village this Saturday (7pm-on) for the East Village Arts Festival in the courtyard of the Immaculate Conception Church, 14th St. and First Ave. ($10, BYOB, eastvillageartsparty[at]

(It’s not a religion-themed event per se – though I can’t help noticing that one of the organizers, Jeff Smith, is also on the board of Storm Theatre, the church-dwelling Upper East Side theatre that premiered the musical stage version of The Last Starfighter, a sacred tale to many gamers.  The gamers don’t actually know for sure that high scores will lead to contact with aliens, of course – but they have hope.)

•I referred in the entries of the past two days to agnostics who have some respect for religious institutions, and I indeed retain some despite all the negative encounters with religion I’ve by now had.  Unlike the aforementioned crypto-agnostics, though, I think we can be open and honest about doubting the supernatural claims of religion without feeling we’re recklessly imperiling all the stuff that people actually seem to care about in religion – the moral rules, the community, the poetry, the architecture, the sense of purpose, and so on.  Just because the zealous say it all logically ought to fall apart without the core supernatural claims doesn’t mean it would (even if in some sense I agree with them about the logic).

I suspect humanity can – and indeed eventually will – find ways, as we usually do, to retain the good parts and slowly weed out the bad.  In the meantime, I should probably express more support than I normally do for groups who are at least trying to replicate the socially-useful elements of religion, however lame humanity’s first attempts at anything are: Ethical Culture Society, Humanist organizations, etc. (I’m not necessarily endorsing the various green or socialist agendas that these sorts of groups often sign onto – but then, keep in mind that plenty of actual religions have such agendas as well these days, in case you’ve forgotten the Pope’s last Euro-blatherings about globalization or climate change). 

•One very targeted effort to perform a function too often reserved to religion – grief counseling – is Grief Beyond Belief, started by one of the people back at Brown who might superficially have seemed most at odds with ostensibly-conservative Todd, namely Rebecca Hensler (griefbeyondbelief[at], memorable as the queer, mohawked redhead in a leather jacket bearing ever-changing leftist slogans on the back.  But you know I always had a soft spot for the punks (and, let’s be frank, the lesbians), and she married a libertarian woman, so she’s extended family.  And so is the son she lost, inspiring the creation of this “faith-free grief support” organization, if you’ll forgive me jarringly bringing that up in the final sentence of a flippant-sounding paragraph. 

•Oddly enough, speaking of coping with bad things, within days of hearing about Grief Beyond Belief, I also met – through the semi-Catholic cabal noted above – a woman, Rosario Rodriguez, who survived being shot in the chest (a centimeter from the heart) by a burglar and now blogs about violent crime survivors in general.  And you thought you had problems. 

•It’s worth remembering that Islam also endures in large part because it fulfills some of the social functions alluded to above, though you’d think it was
nothing but a stealth terrorist program to hear some people talk about.  As an atheist, I have less patience for religiously-inspired violence than just about anyone, believe me, but as I’ve said before, if Islam-in-general is a homicidal menace, as some seem casually to regard it, then America’s 3 million Muslims don’t seem to be racking up a very impressive bodycount – though I’m not forgetting those incidents that have occurred, by any means.  Maybe the signal just hasn’t gone out yet, right? 

And perhaps sharia will be imposed immediately thereafter, though only about one isolated court case in U.S. history has referred with any legal deference to sharia, so even in Dearborn, MI, if you expect to get stoned, you’re probably on drugs. 

•Lest that last item sounded too deferential to religion, rest assured that this video clip of a mystical cat pretty much captures how seriously I take supernatural claims of any kind.  And while we’re doing animal clips, check out “Shopping Penguin,” surely a glimpse of a future in which commerce and animal welfare are melded, and this footage accidentally shot by a flying seagull for good measure.  But for the real art, remember: Saturday.

•Finally, a little something for the pagans, or at least an appalling rock video from an old band called...Thor.  I may yet pit Thor against Jesus – with the hipsters and creative types watching – ah, but more about that in the fall.  

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