29 November 2007

Talking Snakes

The On Faith discussion section at the Washington Post is often interesting and usually worth a glance, although its contributions and comments vary from the informative and enlightening to the ignorant and drearily predictable. This week's discussion topic relates to America's apparent obsession with sex scandals, and asks whether sex outside of marriage is a sin, whether it's a public matter, and whether it's forgiveable.

Richard Dawkins, whose views on the God of the Old Testament were described a couple of weeks ago by the German bishop Wolfgang Huber, leader of Germany's mainstream Protestant churches, as 'an expression of anti-Judaism', weighs in with a hefty piece beginning with:
'Of course sex outside marriage is not a public matter, and yes, of course it is forgivable. Only a person infected by the sort of sanctimonious self-righteousness that religion uniquely inspires would apply the meaningless word 'sin' to private sexual behavior. It is the mark of the religious mind that it cares more about private than public morality.'
There's a certain irony in the fact of the entire article being saturated in Richard D's own brand of sanctimonious self-righteousness, not least in that sweeping generalisation about what Dawkins regards as 'the religious mind', his certainty that adultery is a private matter, or his musings on what he sees as our obsession with monogamous fidelity.

For all that, though, he does raise interesting questions about whether the religious beliefs of our elected representatives should be a matter of public record. 'Shouldn't we refrain,' he asks, 'from prying into a politician's private religious views, just as we should refrain from prying into their private sexual behavior?'

Even given the questionable assumptions on which it relies, it's a fair question, to which I think Dawkins gives the right answer for entirely the wrong reasons.

Skipping over the week's revelations of Tony Blair's apparent reluctance when Prime Minister to speak openly of his faith for fear of being labelled 'a nutter' -- something which raises a few questions of its own, some of which I'll surely return to another day -- Dawkins cites a recent article by Christopher Hitchens and homes in on Mitt Romney instead. Romney, in case you've being living in another world, is one of the contenders for the Republican candidacy in nexy year's Presidential election in America. He's also a prominent Mormon, something which earns him a severe kicking in the eyes of Dawkins and Hitchens, who believe that he has questions to answer about his 'cock-eyed view of reality' and the 'bizarre beliefs' of his Church.

I think it's a bit unfair to single Romney out in this regard, since I'm fairly sure that Dawkins and Hitchens believe pretty much all religious people have a cock-eyed view of reality and hold to bizarre beliefs, which roughly equate to beliefs other than their own. Mind, perhaps the didactic duo are simply arguing that other American politicians regularly talk about their religious beliefs, and that Romney shouldn't be let off that particular hook.

Anyway, regardless of the motives of the Waldorf and Statler of militant atheism, I couldn't help but be a bit surprised to read of some of the things in which Mormons supposedly believe. I'm afraid that my knowledge of the Mormons is rather limited, so I was somewhat startled to discover that they apparently believe that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri.

The Brother used to live in Kansas City, so I asked him about this. He was well aware of it.
'Talking snakes ten a penny there?'
'Actually, they're a dime a dozen,' he replied.
'Even better value, so,' I mused.
And then, wondering whether this was the case, I did some quick sums. If you can get ten snakes for a penny, well, that would give one snake for 0.1 pence. Allowing for current rates of exchange, and assuming we're talking about a British penny, which may not be a safe assumption, that means each talking snake works out at roughly 0.2 cents a snake. A dime, on the other hand, is a ten cent coin, it seems, so a dime for a dozen snakes means that snakes gives us just over 0.8 cents a snake.

Clearly, like Superman, I can't count.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

You should read Under the Banner of Heaven (or that's what I think it is called) by Jon K-something-or-other, the dude who wrote the book about everyone dying on Everest.

It was good. Though my recollection of names apparently is not!