Atheist Climber Prominent People Project

September 24, 2010 § 7 Comments

Atheist Climber Blog is turning One year old on October 10! Yay! And I remember like yesterday thinking “Do I have anything to write about? Will anyone care? Will anyone read it?” I just wish I had taken more baby photos!

Well you have all spoken to me by visiting and commenting on my blog. My measure of success has been reflected in the blog stats with over 60,000 page hits, over 100 subscribers, and more than 1500 comments for the 100+ articles and videos I have posted. This far surpasses my expectations and for that I thank you all.

To celebrate, I am in the process of interviewing a selection of prominent figures in humanism, atheism, science and critical thinking. Most of these will be in the form of written interviews, but who knows? I might, down the track, do some video or audio interviews too. This will be dependent on how these interviews are received by my readers.

I don’t want to say too much at this stage, but suffice to say, I already have confirmation from a few very prominent and important people who I’m sure you’d recognise. More information to come. So stay tuned!

The first interview will be published on Atheist Climber Blog’s first birthday, October 10, 2010. So come celebrate with me, and feed your brain with the words of some great thinkers.

Thanks again,
Atheist Climber

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“Dear God” – XTC, 1986

September 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is an oldie but a goodie. I heard this song on the radio (3RRR) this morning and it reminded me how good it is, and it is certainly pertinent at this juncture. You an read about the song here. From the Wikipedia page about the song:

“The song riled believers because of its anti-God sentiment which might be interpreted as either dystheism or atheism. In the UK, when the song was originally released as a single many record shops refused to stock the track, fearing a religious backlash.”

“Dear god, hope you get the letter and…
I pray you can make it better down here
I don’t mean a big reduction in the price of beer
But all the people that you made in your image
See them starving in the street
‘Cause they don’t get enough to eat from god
I can’t believe in you

Dear god, sorry to disturb you but…
I feel that I should be heard loud and clear
We all need a big reduction in amount of tears
And all the people that you made in your image
See them fighting in the street
‘Cause they can’t make opinions meet about god
I can’t believe in you

Did you make disease and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind after we made you?
And the devil too!

Dear god don’t know if you noticed but…
Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book
And us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look
And all the people that you made in your image
still believing that junk is true
Well I know it ain’t, and so do you
Dear god
I can’t believe in
I don’t believe

I won’t believe in heaven or hell
No saints, no sinners, no devil as well
No pearly gates, no thorny crown
You’re always letting us humans down
The wars you bring, the babes you drown
Those lost at sea and never found
And it’s the same the whole world ’round
The hurt I see helps to compound
That father, son and holy ghost
Is just somebody’s unholy hoax
And if you’re up there you’ll perceive
That my heart’s here upon my sleeve
If there’s one thing I don’t believe in

It’s you
Dear god”

First Aid Kit – Hard Believer

August 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

While this track is over a year old, I heard it on the radio this morning, and thought I’d share it. It’s simple, intelligent and fits nicely into my worldview. In particular, the second verse is particularly poignant.

“Well I see you’ve got your bible
Your delusion imagery
Well I don’t need your eternity
Or your meaning to feel free
I just live because I love to
And that’s enough you see
So don’t come preach about morality
That’s just human sense to me”

Double Rainbow Guy and The Insane Clown Posse

August 15, 2010 § 15 Comments

“Double rainbow, all the way! WHOOOOAH!!!” – Hungrybear9562.

“Fuckin’ magnets, how do they work?” – Insane Clown Posse.

Above are 2 examples of seeing the wonderment of the world around us, and appreciating that all we have is amazing, but with one big difference. The former is someone expressing wonder in a beautiful world, the latter is a stupefying display of ignorance proclaiming that everything is a miracle, so stop asking questions about the world.

The seemingly drug-addled words of Hungrybear9562 (the Double Rainbow Guy), while maybe a little overly emotional are heartening in that he is brought to tears by a particularly beautiful rainbow. I have felt this kind of wonderment before, and revel in it when I do. It’s the feeling that something is so beautiful, so awe-inspiring that words fail, and it’s all you can do admire this beauty. And sometimes we feel the need to get “back to nature”, to get away from the trappings of the modern world, computers, blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc., and simply be in a natural environment.

In the latter half of the 18th Century there was a movement in literature, art and music, dubbed Romanticism, which arose as a reaction to the Age Of Enlightenment and all the upper-class trappings of that period, and which sought to bring this kind of wonderment in the beauty and power of nature to the forefront of people’s minds. From Wikipedia comes this description of Romanticism:

“The movement validated strong emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation, horror and terror and awe—especially that which is experienced in confronting the sublimity of untamed nature and its picturesque qualities.”

"A mountain scene, Val d'Aosta" - William Turner

"A mountain scene, Val d'Aosta" - William Turner 1845.

The Romantic movement gained momentum during the Industrial Revolution, I think partly through fear of the industrialisation of the time, and partly because people felt there was a disconnect between man and nature, and wanted to bring this back into the sphere of the arts, hopefully to remind people about the grand wonders of the world. And while much of the Romantics works were of a given religious significance by the artists, writers or musicians, the fact is they were dealing with subjects that are universal among people, because these subjects are about our world and what it means to be human.

I find the reaction of Hungrybear9562 to be refreshing in a world driven by economies, products and politics. He asks “What does this mean?” repeatedly, in a naive and almost endearing way. And while it was perhaps an overreaction to the chance refraction of light through drops of water in the air, to see someone sufficiently moved by this act of nature and physics is endearing, albeit a little uncomfortable.

In contrast to this honest reaction to the wonders of the world is the pseudo-philosophical song by The Insane Clown Posse “Miracles“.This brazen spouting of inane rhetoric is an embarrassment to all the progress we’ve made as a species. It asks questions about the world, and proclaims everything to be a miracle, but anyone with an 8th grade education should be able to refute most of this drivel with at least some kind of plausible answer. proclamations such as “Music is all magic,You can’t even hold it, it’s just there in the air, Pure motherfucking magic Right? This shit’ll blow your fucking mind.” And blow my “fucking mind” is exactly what it has done. Surely they can’t be dumb enough to call the interaction of sound waves in the air causing the vibrations inside your ear magic right? Wrong. Consider mind shattered. It goes on:

“Music is a lot like love, it’s all a feeling
And it fills the room, from the floor to the ceiling
I see miracles all around me
Stop and look around, it’s all astounding
Water, fire, air and dirt
Fucking magnets, how do they work?
And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist
Y’all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed

(You can see the full lyrics here.)

The most embarrassing thing about this verse in the song is the fact that the question of how “fucking magnets” work can be fixed with a simple Google search, but then again, they give the game away with the next line. They are touting living in an ignorant and insular world, one where science is wrong, and all that is real is what we perceive to be real, and nothing more. This kind of willful ignorance is not only embarrassing, but really seems plain lazy. If they spent as much time thinking about the world as they spent doing their freaky clown make-up they might have an actual thought worthy of some merit. And to get angry because a simple physical process like magnetism is beyond their grasp shows the level of intelligence we are dealing with here. To say everything is a miracle is much like the religious view of the world, where instead of really making a concerted effort to try to discover why things happen a person will throw up their hands and claim “God did it”. Richard Dawkins has variously stated things like this:

“One of the things that is wrong with religion is that it teaches us to be satisfied with answers which are not really answers at all.”

And I can’t see how not knowing is better than knowing, especially when it comes to basic principles of physics, chemistry and biology. While I can’t fault ICP for trying to draw attention to the wonders of the world as I think the idea itself is quite good, to look around you and see that everything that exists is special, what is problematic is the way they portray this is in a dumbed-down quasi-philosophical manner, or at very least, in such a non-intellectual way as to make me embarrassed for them in their complacent and willful ignorance. This kind of rhetoric, where you can’t believe ANYTHING you are told is dangerous, because bring too close-minded means you are not willing to accept facts. It’s this kind of attitude that has given rise to the emergence of anti-vaccine lobbyists and the teaching of creationism in the classrooms of our kids. I really hope this is not a sign of the dumbing-down of society, and I hope that the kids that listen to this trip are smart enough to know blatant stupidity when they see it.

Luckily the song is completely laughable to anyone who went to highschool. And besides, who would not believe a grown man in clown make-up?

And we do live in an amazing world. One can feel a sense of wonder and amazement at the natural world by simply taking a walk in a forest, swimming in the ocean, sitting in a serene park or watching a thunderstorm. And I think it is really very healthy for our minds and bodies to feel this, it can put into perspective some of the things we take for granted, and also make us wonder why we worry about the trivialities of modern life. But while this awe of our natural world can help to keep us humble, one should not be so close-minded (or open-minded for that matter) that facts are dismissed as propaganda or lies.

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Music – Supersuckers “Born With A Tail”

July 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is what some people think it means to be atheist. This used to be my theme song when I did a radio show many years back.

“Born With A Tail” – Supersuckers

I’d rather choose my soul to lose
Than leave around just one confused
And lose desire
Don’t know if I’ll ever learn
Can’t wait ‘til I get my turn
To burn in the infernal hell fire

I’m waiting for my last drive
While the bugle of my backside
Blows a losing beat
Hope I don’t run out of gas
Bet my sacrelicious ass
Ain’t nothing down there that scares me

(Chorus)
Oh yeah!
And you know!
I’m in league with Satan
And you know
There can’t be no debatin’
My hell-bound trail
I was born with a tail!

I’m evil!
Yeah, and I run free
There’s molten lead in me
So let’s get the hell
Got the goods
Brother bring it on
My mother done brought me up wrong
And you can use my dick
As a walkin’ stick as well

(Chorus)
Oh yeah!
And you know!
I’m in league with Satan
And you know
There can’t be no debatin’
My hell-bound trail
I was born with a tail!

It’s time to fly the finger
Yeah, that middle digit brings your point
And it drives it home
On my head there’s no crown of thorns
This evil scalp has earned its horns
I’m on a highflying time with your mom before I go

(Chorus)
Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah!
And you know!
I’m in league with Satan
And you know
There can’t be no debatin’
My hell-bound trail
I was born with a tail!

There’s a Star For You – RIP Mark Linkous

March 8, 2010 § 7 Comments

“There will come a time gigantic waves will crush the junk that I have made. When the moon explodes or floats away I’ll lose the souvenirs I’ve saved. La la la.” – Sparklehorse, Sunshine from “Good Morning Spider” –1998

Mark Linkous

Imagine a universe which was at the same time incredibly oppressive and overwhelmingly beautiful at the same time, where sex, death and insects each hold a special place of power, where horses symbolise the strength of loneliness, angels are the mothering of a loved-one, where other people are both distant and close. Imagine a universe where the sunshine and the water are living beings, so beautiful and terrible as to awe and reverence. Imagine a universe with more questions than answers, where the depths of depression and the highs of jubilation walk hand in hand.

This is the universe of Sparklehorse.

Sparklehorse

Sparklehorse

I first heard Sparklehorse in 1997 on a compilation “Diversion – A Slow River Compilation”, a CD my friend Stephen had given me, with the song “Heart Of Darkness”. In the context of the compilation, this song really stuck out as some of the most heartfelt and tortured music I had ever heard. Later, in 1998, Stephen also gave me a copy of “Good Morning Spider”. This album changed my life.

Listening to Sparklehorse, for me, is a place of perpetual twilight, floating on a boat in a lake at sunset, watching autumn leaves fall, sitting alone in a room listening to old scratchy 45s, the moments between waking and sleeping. The lyrics are full of opposing sentiments, and strange and surreal metaphors.

I’m the dog who ate the birthday cake.

It’s a wonderful life.

It’s a wonderful life.” – Sparklehorse, It’s A Wonderful Life from “It’s A Wonderful Life” –2001

Sparklehorse’s songs, and Mark Linkous’ lyrics, can at times be so gut-wrenchingly painful as to draw tears, at other times so beautiful and romantic as to make your heart sink, so uplifting sometimes as to cause a deep sense of belonging to the universe, and so isolationist at times as to throw you into the pits of despair, right there along with him. He lived a life of the losses of others and rallied against that with anger and defiance (“Sick Of Goodbyes” –  from “Good Morning Spider” – 1998), and at other times as if reassuring a friend in need of comfort at the end of their life (“Hey Joe“-  from “Good Morning Spider” – 1998, written by Daniel Johnston).

Mark Linkous collaborated with some of the best, including PJ Harvey and Tom Waits, and recently in a duet album with Dangermouse, teamed up with Frank Black, Iggy Pop, David Lynch and Wayne Coyne among others for the brilliant album “Dark Night Of The Soul“. (The entire album is available to listen to here.)

Dark Night Of The Soul

Dark Night Of The Soul

Mark Linkous’ songwriting comes from a place deep within his tortured being. In his brilliant mind, he saw connections between things, patterns and meanings that the rest of us are unaware never know. It seems, in order for someone to make a real and profound difference in music and art, one has to live a lonely and tortured existence, one has to see the beauty, but is also intensely aware of the ugliness of the world. Mark Linkous lived this tortured existence, and, on March 6th 2010, died as a result of it.

RIP Mark Linkous. “You are worth hundreds of sparrows“.

Further reading:

New York Times
David Wm Sims
Rolling Stone

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