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, 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.

Morality Note to Backpack Radio Listeners

If any of you heard Vocab on the Backpack Radio show tonight saying, if I remember correctly, that someone from this site said there was no way we could tell people that torturing babies for fun was wrong, I would like to briefly answer that.

While we each have our own individual ideas and viewpoints, and they are sometimes misunderstood, I don’t believe that any of our members would say that torturing babies for fun, or for any reason, was acceptable behavior.

We don’t need a god-given moral law to determine that. We know and understand pain and death, and with the exception of sociopaths who are devoid of empathy, we also apply this understanding to other people, and in many cases even to other animals.

Although we can’t say “this is wrong because God says so”, we can say that it is wrong based on our own sense of right and wrong or the general consensus of our society on the issue.

Just like we have generally come to an agreement that the animal and even human sacrifices depicted in the Old Testament are wrong, along with stoning disobedient children to death (which is also in the Old Testament among many other murders of men, women and children), it is only the most aberrant people who would consider torturing babies to be fun or even close to acceptable.

I think that the widely varying ideas of morality, even within a single religion, are a good indication that, as we believe, a person’s sense of right and wrong is built up out of all of their experiences and all of the things that are taught to them (particularly as children) on the foundations of their own minds which are shaped by purely physical processes.

We may not have a god to tell us what is right and wrong, but we do have a sense of empathy and the capacity for rational thought, and that is enough.