Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, March 6th 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog.

The Resistance left meetings at ASU taking cars and light rail up to the First Friday Art Walk, arriving in parts around 7:30pm and found an noticeable crowd attending the various parts of our favorite artists’ faire. They set up in their usual spot in the triangular easement between the split of 3rd at Roosevelt. Joining the Resistance again with Kazz also was Spyral who spent most of her time next to the Resistance speaker on Roosevelt.

The Way of the Master preachers set up on the same corner and also across the street closer to 4th and Roosevelt. In attendance we had Valerie, Al, Lee, John, Edwin, among other notable faces. Passing out tracts and using their amplification. Both the position on the triangle and across the street used amplification; and later into the night two positions were set up on the triangle on opposite when Edwin came from across the street to the triangle.

Omar spent most of the night talking to John2 from Streetfishing. He is the large male with a heavy face and loud voice who generally sets up on the opposite side of 4th and Roosevelt. He also brings two young girls with him ages ranging possibly between 8 and 10 years old, who he uses as an excuse to tell people to “Watch their language,” and also uses to pass out tracts. The girls are polite and quiet, clean up after themselves and attempt to avoid people littering tracts by simply dropping them on the ground—it’s not uncommon to see them darting out from where they’ve huddled near John2 to hand one out.

During Omar’s stay John2 switched out once or twice with another preacher. They compose themselves of a behavior where they totally ignore Omar and other passersby who he offers his amplification to. No actual conversations happen. They spend a lot of time claiming the attention of members of the general public and then make broad claims about respecting them when others who are in the cone of the amplification want to also ask and answer questions.

At one point Omar began playing EBM music in between his questions and John2 approached him.

“I appreciate the discourse,” John2 said to Omar, “but the music is beneath you.”

“We don’t really have a discourse, though, you just ignore me the entire time,” Omar replied.

And there certainly was none the entire time that I observed.

Amid those who took up Omar’s offer of amplification—he would switch to his megaphone—were a few young ladies, a passing man, and Nicky, a bespectacled, outspoken young woman who had joined him last First Friday when speaking to John3. As always, the Streetfishing preachers spent most of their time totally ignoring them, using mirror-speech, and expectedly ordinary rhetoric on anyone who stopped to talk to them. Ignoring Omar and Nicky also managed to produce something of a cacophony on that corner very similar to what happened to the WoTM preachers on Mill when they wouldn’t reply to the Resistance early on.

The crew from Rocky Horror Picture Show passing out pamphlets also came to visit the WoTM preachers on the triangle at 3rd and became embroiled in some sort of strange siege, with black fishnets, lace, and eyeliner—oh and golden underwear (as per an overweight Rocky with a friendly face and red fliers for all.) After a small discussion they dispersed, took over the corner there, and handed out their fliers by pronouncing ecumenical acceptance of everyone using talking points counter to common Christian fundamentalist rhetoric. “At RHPS we accept you even if you’re gay! We don’t care. Bi? Come with us! Boy. Girl. Whatever. RHPS is the place for you.” Their position and the verbiage certainly increased the number of people who took pamphlets from them.

The WoTM and Streetfishing preachers finally left the area around 10pm—slowly filtering out as that witching our rolled around.

The night wound down with a few groups of Christians stopping to talk to Issac, Rocco, and Kazz. At last one of them had an alpha who promised to pray for Kazz, and another promised to pray for Omar. To which he stated that it wouldn’t have any effect, she said she was going to pray anyway.

During one encounter, Spyral stood by handing out various tracts as Kazz was speaking as the conversation necessarily wended between common points from the Nephilim. When Spy attempted to give one of the atheist tracts to one of that group she was roundly refused.

“Why won’t you take it?” Spyral asked.

“Would you take a tract from me?”

“Yes.”

“Why would you take one if you don’t believe in God?”

This went around a few times where Spyral pointed out—like I would—that we do actually read all of the material we take. That, in fact, taking a tract is precisely like giving someone else time to speak to us, time to listen to their words. It is extremely common that tract bearers will refuse literature from us after we accept it from them; it is also common for them to not want to listen to us while at the same time proselytizing. This group managed to both listen and speak, but that fell down when it came to exchanging tracts.

One of the members of the group mentioned that this was her first time at First Friday but she had not been able to take any time to enjoy the booths and artists because she had come out to hand out tracts. Notably, a similar thing happened to Spyral because she kept to the Resistance speaker and didn’t manage to spend time around the various artists and music.

Hopefully next time both can have a much better experience by being able to be part of the celebratory atmosphere, the art, and the glimmering amazement that is the Art Walk.

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, February 6th 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Friday, February 6th 2009.

Note: A correction was made to the observation report for Saturday, January 24th 2009.

Just like last week, the Way of the Master preachers and a couple others additional to the group, split themselves across Roosevelt. They took up their mantel in the triangle of dirt lot at 3rd and Roosevelt, with Jim and Valerie, as usual with a Prayer Station—including a little cross and two candles reading, “Jesus”—and across the street there were Edwin, and a few others. The Resistance set up at the triangle with their speaker and Omar went across the street to talk to the other group.

There were also two other evangelical groups at the Art Walk. One of them happened to be Vocab Malone’s group further away, and a Christian Rock Band a short distance from Conspire.

The evangelicals across Roosevelt had a large man who brought his young daughter with him (7 or 8 years of age.) A behavior which many of the Resistance react with some disgust. This behavior does seem counter-normative to the mainstream culture, but a great deal of cultures do involve their extremely young children in rituals and activities of subcultures. It may not itself be counter-normative to the evangelical subculture because it is extremely often that small children appear with these groups. This behavior is however not blatantly counter normative to the outlying culture, otherwise it would have diminished away by now—it is well known that religious cultures are affected greatly morally by the cultures they are embedded within.

A blonde man with a moustache and beard had a long, frenetic talk with Omar across Roosevelt. And this is one of the things he said as he was starting to bow out,

“God bless you,” he gestured to the sign. “Godless for Goodness. I know, I know, we will see each other again.” He was referring to a previous statement about how in 30 years Omar would “come to his senses” and realize that this crazy blonde guy that he talked to on the street was right. To which Omar pressed him about believing that he was correct and therefore Omar would be wrong.

The conversation disintegrated quickly when the blonde man wasn’t willing to concede the plausibility of opinions on these matters and it descended mostly into Christian dogmatic mirror-speech.

The triangle side of Roosevelt saw Joe, Brian, Kazz, and others holding one-off conversations with the evangelicals. Including more notably Valerie and Jim. Joe spent a lot of his time quoting from the Bible, talking about varied translations from Greek and Hebrew, and even wrote a variation of Epicurius’s Riddle on the ground in chalk. Including a phrase saying, “Defeating God for over two-thousand, five hundred years.” The riddle is the famous “then whence come evil?” question. Heated discussions were spotty, mostly one on one, some small crowds, but nothing altogether noteworthy.

The setup of the Resistance drew in quite a few interested people who took a look at signs, read them, and looked around wondering what it was about. However, without Kazz at the station for a long period of time, and others not really standing near it, they didn’t find anyone to talk to and eventually wandered away bemused. While many people were engaged during the beginning of the night, very few were even noticed later into the night.

The Prayer Station was broken down around 10pm and the entire force of evangelicals on Roosevelt left around 10:30pm. The evangelicals across the street left a little bit earlier. Melting into the crowds.

Kazz’s newest sign was taken and destroyed. A whiteboard that read, “Do you believe in God? Why?” and then listed statistics, logical fallacies, and other evidence that distinctly does not support the existence of the various incarnations of the evangelical god. Including starvation statistics, amid other elements. The vandals managed to grab the sign without notice, ripped it to shreds, tore the top askew, and left only one word on the entire sign:

“God?”

An interesting message if this was done by anyone from the Christian culture.

Overall crowds ran from thick and thin, people did stop to have discussions with Kazz and others, the evangelicals gathered crowds here and there, but mostly added to the First Friday backdrop in the same manner they did before. The sidewalks got chalked, a good time was had by many.



Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday January 24th, 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, January 24th 2009.

This night reared its ugly head at about 8pm with a surprising number of people on Mill Ave. The Resistance appeared at about that time and the new set of preachers were wandering about already—this being Jeff Rose and Vincent Piater, also Valerie and Jim of more familiar people.

Jeff says that he’s going to be here for another week or so before returning to his preaching circuit in the UK. Going on about how he normally preaches in Glasgow, and other places. Apparently he has quite a wide ministry, and it will be interesting to hear how the Scotts take him; I think I already have some ideas how the Irish would, if the sort of reactions he inspires on Mill are any indication.

Jeff does not present himself well. The way that he plays the crowd is in a manner deliberately like 3rd graders arguing, picking up clipped phrases from those talking to him and trying to turn them over and over in his hands; he also spends time demagoguing the audience with divisive speech, designed to rile and incite violent emotions. and It’s particularly disrespectful of his audience and the listeners and makes it obvious that he’s just out there for the spectacle and the theater.

He is a powerful and passionate speaker and when he’s actually replying to people and being part of conversations he sounds intelligent. However, when it comes to his act he descends into the disrespectful, delivering what he certainly knows to be misrepresentations of his debate opponents. He also spends a lot of time pretending friendship in the fashion of one who knows Machivelli well—“To stab someone in the back, one must first get behind them.” It is hard to believe that he actually considers himself “friends” when he spends a lot of his time belittling the Resistance, misrepresenting what they said in a juvenile fashion, or simply pandering to the crowd in a sleazy car salesman tone.

Perhaps both his charge of friendship and his preaching are both acts; it’s impossible to tell when a person behaves differently to what they say.

“Put your faith in Jesus Christ,” shouts Jeff.

“Put your faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” replies Kazz. “Put your faith in Zeus. Put your faith in Thor.” He points out that from the perspective of the atheist outsider any of these sound bites can be switched out with any other god.

Jeff consistently misunderstands or misrepresents what’s being said to him. He plays dishonest linguistic games with cuts of the oppositions speeches such as a parody reply about gravity:

“I don’t believe in gravity;” says Cale; “it’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Noodly Appendage pushing me down to the ground.”

“Atheists don’t believe in gravity! So go jump off that building and you’ll fly!”

And then there’s simple, blatant nonsense:

“Do you believe in leprechauns?” Kazz asks.

“You don’t believe in God,” he replies, “so obviously you do believe in leprechauns!” And on and on.

It is obvious for some reason that Jeff inspires an atmosphere of threat and violence, possibly from his immature invective which is polarizing to the crowd. It seems to empower rude, uncivil behavior on those who listen; this generates shouting matches, and gives expectation to would be bullies and drawing animosity from many sides of the social gem. Several near-violent incidents happened while he preached.

When everyone was in front of Urban Outfitters a black youth wearing a safari-style hat kept sneaking around to his speaker, and yanked out his microphone cable. I didn’t get a chance to speak to him, but he seemed to claim that he wanted to test the Christian non-violence sympathies. This is certainly not a good behavior and only tends to create more potential violence, and in fact it did.

After his second successful attempt to yank the cable, Jim (the man with Valerie) said, “Try that again.” He folded his arms and gave a glare. “Try it again.”

Finally the whole thing came to a head. The third time the black youth went for the cord, Vincent jumped him and struck him hard in the chest, throwing him from his feet. The black youth hit the ground hard and slid, legs splayed. That set him into an angry attitude; he dropped his backpack, and stormed back posturing. He stood up against Vincent, threatening, and others had to get between them and talk over his angry words to diffuse the situation. Certainly it seemed like soon the police would have to be called.

Later, in front of the Post Office a small group of males appeared. All in their early 20s or late teens (college age) and displaying the jock or frat brother look. Broad bodies, square faces, t-shirts, jeans, while they looked fairly fit not a one was athletic or even muscular. One in particular, a young man wearing a blue t-shirt that read “AERO” bullied and threatened others who were speaking to Jeff. He repeatedly threatened Joe,

“You should really take that over there.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m going to knock you out.”

And he would tell other people things like, “Walk on Spiderman.” As if looking for a fight.

While a lot of this was going on, he and his four friends formed almost a line of scrimmage next to Jeff, and facing the Resistance. Folded arms, glaring, with the alpha male posturing, calling names, bullying, and generally threatening. While Jeff called people “perverts,” “garbage,” insulted their children, the alpha threatened to punch people, dismissed them, and attempted to intimidate anyone who spoke back to Jeff himself.

They eventually left, but not after calling Kazz a “freak.” Among other behavior that created a lot of animosity in the Resistance, especially Brian who spent a bit of time posturing himself (although not in the presence of the boys) about how he was actually a lot bigger than any of them and perfectly ready to rumble if they started anything.

Jeff’s preaching seems to be designed to create this sort of mistrust and strife in his audience. The Way of the Master preachers (with the exception of Jeremiah) generally do not produce this sort of violence and polarization, even with their rude and deliberately divisive speech. So it must be something in particular about Jeff’s message that is designed to exploit an in-group and out-group experience in his audience. In fact, yesterday he faced another instance of violence against him, reasons are unknown.

A man pulled a knife on him, grabbing his bullhorn cord. Then, after threatening to cut the cord, the man put the knife against his chest. According to Jim Coleman, police arrived quickly and arrested everyone—but they quickly released most, took the knife brandisher to jail. It is told that the knife was taken away, and the brandisher would spend a night or two in jail before being released.

It has become obvious that Jeff invites a lot of this behavior with the method of his preaching. He uses deliberately immature speech that panders to the drunken and bullies-at-heart, he has an ultra-loud amp which drowns out almost all replies, and he does nothing to dismiss or disarm building animosity in those who speak against him and especially not in those who are bullying those trying to converse with him. In short, he is using demagogue techniques in order to incite and rile the crowds that he gathers.

Because Jeff is going out of his way to create this divisive atmosphere, it is doubly more important that the members of the Resistance not fall into the maw of the spiraling violence. Try to remain calmer, don’t become angry at him or passersby who want to support him by either bullying or intimidating. Try to calm down passersby who are riled and irritated by his belligerent speech; he obviously does not care about what he’s doing because he doesn’t do these things or he’s oblivious to his incivility. So it falls on you to not allow things to escalate.

Good luck out there, and please continue to leave Mill a better place than when you arrived.

Editor’s Note 02-07-2008: There has been a correction to the above. Originally it read that Jim had been the one that jumped the black kid who was pulling the speaker cord. Valerie corrected this in pointing out that it was in fact Vincent. As this actually sounds more plausible than Jim, the change has been made.

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, January 2nd 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Friday, January 2nd 2009.

The Resistance arrived sometime around 7pm mostly in the form of Kyle and Kazz who set up their amplified apparatus near where the evangelical Way of the Master preachers had set up in the triangular dirt parcel between traffic lanes. It’s an interesting little region that seems to simply be set aside from development because it’s ensconced between roads.

The Anonymous vs. Scientology protesters also reappeared in front of the newly bought Scientology Corporation building. The Scientologists had set up their blue tent with the endless-loop video and the lonely chairs, although this time the small cluster of chairs had an announcer who chose the scenes to play from the video. Cale decided to go and take a free stress test. The results were pretty much similar to the previous time I followed various members of the Resistance/STFS during these. He also professed interest in getting a free guide from them, but didn’t get a chance. 

Shortly Todd and Rachel also appeared and started to lay into Valerie who had the mic at the time and was proselytizing to some Asian girls who had stopped. We also had Edwin, Lee, John, and others. And a new guy, who I’m going to call Shawn3, a balding late 30s to 40s man, with a somewhat playful attitude—this comes up later—who stood around and spoke with people with the preachers and at one point even took the microphone.

At one point Shawn3 decided to play a game with Todd and said, “Well, you seem to be a scholar.”

“Well, not really,” Todd said.

“You seem to be quoting the bible a lot,” said Shawn3, “and if you quote the Bible you must have read it.”

“No, I don’t.” Todd plucks at his shirt, shrugs, and says, “Actually, I don’t quote the Bible. Ever. I haven’t even once tonight. What are you talking about? I have read the Bible, yes. Years ago. But I don’t quote it.”

“Well, if you’ve read the Bible then tell me is the Book of Hezekiah in the New Testament or the Old Testament.”

Of course, there is no Book of Hezekiah. Apparently this is a common inside joke beginning to emerge within some segments of the Christian population about people who say that certain quotes exist in the Bible that don’t, so a nonexistent book has been invented to hold them. (I wonder if Ghostoftheday and others have heard this one, perhaps the Book of Hezekiah is actually in the Gibberish Bible and we don’t know it.)

After Todd couldn’t answer the question correctly, Shawn3 went on to ridicule him and call him a liar because he said he’d read the Bible, so on so forth. None of this was very compelling because Todd never claimed to be a Biblical scholar and certainly a single person cannot know everything in the Bible by rote memorization without a great deal of study. I am certain that people who read To Kill a Mockingbird do not know offhand the name of Scout’s cat.

Later on during the night I stood by and listened to some conversations between Kazz and John, and the subject seemed to be about the rampant sexism in the Bible. This was interesting because during that time also Todd and Rachel were still talking to Shawn3 and their subject paralleled almost exactly the other discussion.

“What does my being a woman have anything to do with this conversation?” said Rachel.

Then, about ten minutes later, the conversation dissolved into a sudden caper as Shawn3 ran away—chased closely by Rachel and Todd. He sprang away, running, “Don’t chase me.” Of course, Rachel chased him around the one tiny tree there was, and then pincered him between Todd and she; putting her hand on Shawn3’s shoulder as if to root him in place.

From what I can tell the conversation had degraded quite a bit because, like most people, both Rachel and Todd find general sexism to be irreconcilable with reasonable behavior. Fortunately, the chase scene was more playful and less hostile than it actually looked and while Shawn3 tried to end the night without too much bad feelings, Todd felt like he had been too disrespectful and rude to interact with further.

Rachel apologized for “manhandling” Shawn3, although it didn’t really look to me like she was—she is actually quite tiny compared to Shawn3, so I figure that she felt bad about putting her hand on his shoulder to stop him after he ran away.

In all, it seemed a pretty fun night for everyone.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 20th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 20th 2008.

A few of the Resistance had already appeared by the time that Kazz showed up with his speaker and microphone. When he started up, Jim was on the mic for the evangelicals (this is Valerie’s Jim) and he stepped down an instant later. To which there was a quip from Kazz, “Yeah, he’s afraid of me.”

Almost instantly a woman with straight, lank dark hair stepped up and started talking to Kazz. Her name, I would learn during my later interview of her, is Diana. I missed a lot of the conversation between her and Kazz, but I think that they discussed some of the ordinary first-day evangelical sound bite memes. (See Agents for Christ section.)

I actually got asked, “So, whose side are you on?” by some of the onlookers who had been drawn into the crosstalk between the Resistance and the evangelicals. With an amused wit, I replied that I’m on the people’s side, really, since I like people.

Also visiting the Resistance tonight were Spyral and Gina. Spy is an actual accredited anthropologist (opposed to my amateur) who joined into a bit of the conversations that were scattered about with her own thoughts. I really should have stayed and recorded her presentation when she spoke with Diana and others because she’s well spoken and comes from a different philosophy of thought than I do.

Bill

A twinkling funhouse of mirror-speak—right down to the vision warping, bent type. He started out the conversation with the obvious starter of asking what I thought was going on. This particular starter has always confused me a little, especially because after I notice that’s what they’re doing it makes the approach feel actually disingenuous—as if the person who is talking to me didn’t care that I was standing there personally and just set off to strike up this script.

He tried very poorly to use a watered down version of Pascal’s Wager asking me how it would go for me if the Christian god happened to be true—asking if I’d agree if it would go badly for me. I have never found this compelling as I generally ask if they actually have asked that question for every god that they’ve discovered? I mean, how would he feel if the Morrigan is actually real, and she’s not happy that he hasn’t been out in the field of glory killing and maiming for her.

If someone wants to play Pascal’s Wager why don’t they wage it with every belief system they meet? Easy answer: because it would take them forever to wager every god ever imagined.

His mirror-speech was just a series of propagandist and conversational tricks. Eventually he did go on to talk to Brian while he stood near the Resistance’s speaker on the stand, but I missed out on most of that conversation.

Diana and Danielle

I spoke with Diana and Danielle, sisters. I could be wrong about Diana’s name, she could be Diane—but I recall thinking of the Italic goddess Diana, Greek Artemis’s likeness as the goddess of the hunt. Danielle wore this lovely little matching woolen sweater and cap, topping off round spectacles and also watched quietly like I normally do.

They haven’t yet visited Mill before, so I welcomed them. And I learned that they are basically a nomadic family who go from place to place evangelizing. Sold all of their worldly possessions and now they live out of an RV. I hope that they had a good time. I gave Diana a copy of my book as well just because.

The Agents for Christ

“I believe he is going to reveal himself to you. I honestly have no hard feelings,” Diana to Kazz.

The really interesting thing about Diana is that the holy book she was carrying was only the New Testament. After debriefing Kazz on his encounter with her I am told that she didn’t have a strong cognition of a lot of Old Testament phraseology and so on. I’m not sure what schism of Christianity that they belonged to, but I always thought that the entire Bible held some sort of significance for most of them.

With Diana were a number of younger children, who like children, tended to parrot back sound bites. Even once there was a mention of people being “expelled” for speaking about Creationism, which Kazz took as a mention of Expelled, the badly drawn propaganda movie by Ben Stein. A movie which has been by in large revealed to be a fraud by a number of watchdog organizations and roundly laughed out of the academic circles for citing people who had lost their careers not for Creationism but for being cheats and frauds. (One man in particular was shunned by his peers after he himself resigned because he skipped the process of peer review by reviewing his own work and inserting it into a journal; deliberately bypassing the rules is indeed a good way to get “expelled.”)

Some interesting messages came up which paraphrase down to, “So my son couldn’t stand up in a science class and preach about Creationism?” And really, Kazz replied that there is very little anyone can preach in a science class—in a very straight-up way, no students get to disrupt a classroom by choosing to shout at everyone in the middle of any class. An adult who disrupts a college class certainly would get removed by security and expelled from school; we treat children differently than adults in that we attempt to educate them as to classroom etiquette. If a student stood up during a biology class and started talking only about gravitation, it would create the same sort of disruption as making noises about Creationism, or social studies, or political science, etc ad nauseam.

There is an academic forum for science already.

I have received a card from Diana that I will get scanned and put into this document so that people can see it.

Diana tells me that her brother-in-law is the one who runs their little group. They came out to see the Way of the Master evangelicals because there was some e-mails that had gone out about Mill Avenue. As I said above, they live out of an RV and have a semi-nomadic life. Moving from city to city to evangelize at cultural centers.

Mill Ave is a good place for them to show up, therefore; and that way they’ll get a chance to talk to people like Kazz, Omar, and others who are compassionate and interested in presenting the case for atheism to even the evangelicals and would really like them to know that in spite of propaganda, people like the Resistance and atheists do not wish theists harm.

Hopefully they shall come out to Mill Avenue more often.

Kazz and Jim

Our friend, Jim in his wheelchair, stopped to talk to Kazz about some things.

Mostly it was a conversation about physics, studies, and probably a lot of things that Jim has brought from Answers in Genesis—a profoundly wrong propaganda website that spends a lot of time pretending at science but has never actually succeeded in getting a single article through peer review due to numerous failures in rhetoric, evidence, and process. I could bring up more about AiG (again) but why.

I wasn’t totally privy to the conversation but it is well know to me that Jim spends a lot of time trying to understand the world. It would probably help him some if he got away from AiG or at least looked at the lay descriptions from others in the community as to how AiG is misinforming people.

The most common type of misinformation that AiG delivers is a type of refutation that tends to go: “This is a wrench. It can be used to tighten bolts and it’s good at it; but here’s a screw, the wrench does a terrible job of tightening screws; therefore wrenches are bad tools.” A great deal of the AiG documents about dating methods run this pattern: they take a dating tool, pick a well-known and documented situation where that tool would never be used, and therefore isn’t used—like using a wrench to tighten a screw—and then suggest this means the dating tool is wholly inaccurate and useless.

I don’t see how this sort of abuse of lay people is really useful to anyone. It damages extremely good pursuits of scientists and the knowledge of the public about these tools. These disagreements promulgated by these lay sites about these tools don’t exist in the scientific community because they’ve already been hashed out. Scientists using these dating methods do not grab their wrench when the screwdriver would be required; or either when neither will work. And the reason why is obvious: they would be destroyed by their peers when they went to publish.

Lots of people are fooled by this. Why? Because they’re credulous lay people (who very much want to learn and grow and understand) who don’t live in academia and therefore cannot tell the difference between the wrench and screwdriver.

Vocab Malone and Vince

Vince got himself into a long winded discussion with Vocab Malone and a bunch of the people who hovered around him—also people who were good at the rapping that Vocab does. The discussion sounded pretty interesting, but I missed out on some of it because I don’t have a background in Christian history. I believe it revolved around some sort of theological discussion about the nature of the Christian god, YHVH. Specifically about how it changes through the Old Testament of the Bible into the New Testament.

I should be clear here that this conversation was mostly Vocab attempting to unwind and understand Vince’s concepts, listed below (also see comments) not so much a discussion as Vince elaborating–which is something he often does at extreme length–and Vocab querying. Here I’m trying to frame Vince’s explanations. Hopefully he might comment too at some point.

The premise stretched on about how YHVH is flesh and his holy (where holy means something like complete, mature, finished…) And that YHVH has improved over the journey of the Bible, matured from the entity at the beginning of the Bible to later on. It sounded almost like an interesting character study of the mythological character of YHVH. And Vince did mention part of the Flood myth that I recall where YHVH does promise never to destroy the world again with a flood.

The last part I mention because one of the Jewish scholars that I’ve spoken to about this promise is that it seems that the promise is only not to flood the world again. Not a promise not to murder everyone again with something else. Apparently the appealing inference from that passage seemed to be that YHVH promised not to destroy the world again, when in fact it may not have actually promised that.

Vocab eventually had to leave, but Vince stayed on speaking.

Later that night while the Resistance went on to do Cthulhu carols the group who remained behind from Vince’s discussion started to break out and stop people heading past and going to Borders (which had closed.) One of them attempted to rephrase the Good Person Test using the judge metaphor with a few stopped passersby as I watched and listened.

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, December 5th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Friday, December 5th 2008.

Yes, the title above is a joke. When wrapping up the night on the microphone, Todd told the dwindling crowds about the STFS, the Mill Avenue Resistance, “Perhaps we’re the Roosevelt Resistance at the moment—I don’t know.”

The STFS hit First Friday in force and I followed in their wake because, well, I haven’t been to First Friday in so long and I guess I can give up on Mill Ave for a night… Sigh.

I noticed that there were at least twelve of the various evangelical preachers who visit Mill Avenue out tonight. Taking various turns on the loudspeaker (whom the Resistance moved quickly to set up against) were Valerie, Sean, and Linda.

I also saw two very young girls handing out tracts with the evangelical group. I received at least two tracts from them.

Discussions at length

The most conversant among the different speakers against happened to be Joe. Bringing with him his vast Biblical scholarship. And there were some fun discussions about misinterpreting the Greek in the Bible, the fact that there are multiple translations of the Bible; which ones people accept, which ones various groups don’t… I heard about an Oxford Annotated Bible that is very good for people who want to examine the literary criticism of the work as well.

These discussions realistically denuded the veil of provenance atop the usage of the Bible for anything. It should be apparent to anyone discussing this subject that if there are thousands of different schisms that use this book as their holy book and each one chooses a different translation that somehow the actual knowledge was never written clearly enough to be propagated in situ. Multiple rewrites, editing, rejection and acceptance of books by various councils and histories have rendered a vast and glorious mythology but no basis to argue truth from. The mere fact that wide swaths of it are interpreted different between different agencies of history and community says that often the book itself is irrelevant to the message. It’s a religious MacGuffin used only for its semiotic relevance.

Some of the more interesting conversations occurred out of the various translations of Greek words. And thus one of my favorite Greek words came up, logos [λόγος]; near and dear to my heart as a linguist and an author. I am extremely familiar with how languages shift, how translations themselves are always a psychological transference from the translator; even language itself shifts within a single culture over a century enough to change the meaning of any work and we can watch this happen.

While Valerie spoke to the crowds, Lux, wearing a gothic styled plague doctor outfit came by and took up the mike. She posited to use a truncated version of the Epicurean paradox—to which most replies are woefully inadequate or require a revision of commonly understood positions by Christianity about the nature of their gods. After getting a titter from gathered moral philosophers, she melted back into the night; her black parasol bobbing through the crowds to vanish finally in the distance. (You can read more about her on my First Friday Nights post.)

Joe got himself some kudos from Valerie tonight because he is polite, well spoken, and extremely scholarly. So I’m glad to see that there is at least a great deal of glowing respect between the parts of this divide. I would like that to remain for the most part.

The Prayer Station

The evangelicals set up a strange booth out of PVC pipe and a table with a large, crimson banner, white lettered: PRAYER STATION. At least one group of passersby actually came to pray with them.

Kevin wanted to know about the station and the hand-outs of glowing noodles; but didn’t want to speak to them with accompaniment, so I offered to go. By in large the evangelicals are not hard or harsh people, they’re people. Which is part of the reason why I’m out here writing about the interactions.

There was little to be learned, though, because the person manning it happened to be eating at the time. However, Kevin did score some glowing noodles which John was kind enough to locate and offer… The STFS mostly swung them at each other

Trevor and Brian on addiction

Later that night I discovered Brian, and his spiked-up purple hair, in a discussion with Trevor. The conversation had gone the way of the witnessing from hedonism—or as I’d think it is, “I was addicted to everything, sleeping with anything that moved, but I’m better now.” Basically the “I got bettah,” of the evangelical bag of witnessing. Suggesting that whatever religion they are selling is therefore a panacea for any given lifestyle that they had become unaccustomed or disenfranchised from.

This rankled on Brian because he too had once spent a lot of time taking drugs and watched some of his friends die from it. Trevor gesticulated and shifted his weight a lot every time he fell into mirror-speech, reciting off entire reams of pleated experiences with drugs and trying work his religion into it. Brian—who admitted to being a little drunk at the time—replied with hollow baritone incredulity basing his argument on the addiction for addiction premise.

The trade-off premise posits that religion is just another addiction that was used to replace the previous one. It does not in fact elevate the person out of whatever hole they were digging themselves into; but instead replaces the risky lifestyle with a slightly varied risky lifestyle. I don’t know that I can fully advocate this sort of a position entirely. While religiosity is apparently addictive in pattern—since the deeply seated forms of it represent a fundamental break from reality—it indeed is often visibly less risky than irresponsible drug culture. It is indeed a totally different type of irresponsibility when used as a bludgeon on good reason and sanity about reality. It is apparent that Trevor is either poorly socialized or he is deliberately provocative and both of these are tied to his religiosity.

I am probably not quite framing Brian’s argument properly here. I would like him to come and give us a clearer example of how he argues these topics.

The Agnostic Position and Mount Rushmore

A newcomer to the fray, Travis, was having a poorly-gone discussion with Sean. Unfortunately, it literally went nowhere for either of them, primarily because Sean wasn’t listening and constantly misrepresented Travis’s position with gross misunderstandings. For example, when Travis brought up that he was Agnostic, Sean attempted to counter with, “The position of the agnostic is that they cannot prove anything; they look at something like Mount Rushmore and state that they cannot say how it got there. Man or God.”

The agnostic position doesn’t apply to Mount Rushmore. No sane agnostic need say that they cannot say how Mount Rushmore got there because of their agnosticism; it only applies to the supernatural. The supernatural is not manifest; Mount Rushmore is manifest. We can go to it. Test it. Examine it. Look at the documents of its creation—if we really want to verify them we can look at the stones themselves and find evidence of tool usage, wear, and repair. All of these things are evidence that will corroborate documentation and other provenance about Mount Rushmore.

Sean has been misinformed by someone about the agnostic position and is promoting a baldly stupid argument against it.