Thursday, March 08, 2018


The other night Cerian insisted on filling in my census form; I dictated any answers that weren't obvious to her. When I struggled with the question about religion, she became impatient. 'You're a boring old left-wing atheist', she said. 'Stop trying to think of something romantic & enigmatic to say.'
Many New Zealanders object to the census question on religion; some also dislike having to list their ethnicity or ethnicities. I disagree: I think both questions are vital. The answers we give to them are a sort of gift to the future.
The folks at Statistics NZ talk about the role census data plays in planning the future, but I'm preoccupied with the past, & the numbers from old censuses can open doors into many rooms of NZ history. The data on ethnicity and religion helps us remember liminal, marginalised people & communities.
During our study of Great South Road, Paul Janman & I became fascinated by the presence of Assyrian hawkers, refugees, on the road of the late 19th century. We used census data to corroborate newspaper reports about the hawkers, & ended up talking about NZ's semi-secret Syrian past on national TV, & linking it to contemporary debates about refugees.
After waiting ten minutes for me to declare my religion Cerian became fed up. 'Give me your answer', she threatened 'or I'll call you a Mormon'.
'Alright' I finally said. 'Put me down as a pagan atheist.'
'Don't be silly!' Cerian replied 'There's no such thing!'
'Pagan atheist isn't as silly as you think' I countered, in a voice that was leaking confidence. 'I'm an atheist because I don't believe in god, but a pagan in the sense that I tell my kids Greek & Polynesian myths, and support people like Sio Siasau, who are trying to recreate the ancient shamanic religions of the Pacific.'
Cerian was unimpressed. 'You just like drinking kava and staying up all night talking to Sio, that's all. It's not a religion.'
Cerian eventually relented, and let me be a pagan atheist. She called herself agnostic, and told the census that our kids follow a religion called 'Magical'. Aneirin is interested in a range of Pacific & Mediterranean gods, & recently told me that his favourite deity is Zeus, 'because Zeus fires electrical bolts, & electricity makes TV'.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

so typical. idle bloody man. took a woman to do the census for you. if its such a great idea why didnt you do it yourself? Too drunk or high?? Pretending to the kids that Dad is so anti religion. As one of the worst internet trolls in NZ, we know your religion is being evil. Trashing others and making up lies about them. Piss poor research and anything will do for a blog. Man your writing is so bad....give it up. take this trash down. go get a real job, man up, support your family. stop the drugs...

5:45 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I hate the census. I resent it. I admire the Wizard of Christchurch who refused to do one. But to save hassle I filled in my and my son's very quickly. Religion I simply said I had none, meaning I don't go to church. But in fact I am not so sure. I in fact feel that religion, philosophy and science are all with other aspects of human knowledge and awareness, inextricably inter-twined.

Descartes, among other things, put forward a proof of God's existence. I was analogous to that of St Anselm and so on. It and his other writings were attacked by Hobbes who was with some French philosophers. Heidegger tried to investigate being and so on. In any case, my view is that we simply cannot know. We can neither know that there is or is not a God or gods or say Spinoza's generalized view in his Ethics. But I was not going to write down 'I believe that there is simultaneously a god and no god.' That is, it is the only hypothesis I can work with. This violates all laws of logic but it is that which, in my view, could well have energized the initialization of the universe. But this is all part of a more complex view of philosophy I have. I think also that belief is not dependent on truth, and indeed knowledge requires that part of the mind or soul or whatever, to accept (believe) in a thing. This means that an atheistic scientist, who has believed science and its laws all his life, could wake up one day, and find he or she no longer believed any of it....This would mean that, despite that scientist being able to work as scientist, and allowing the links of science to work, he now no longer KNOWS that the laws of the universe are true. Actually after I postulated many of these things I found that Bertrand Russell's introduction to Wittgenstein's book explicates how W. showed that all logical propositions are tautologies, R. also realized we can never study the universe from the outside...However in W.'s later work he moved as we know to the problematic nature of language etc.

In my wanderings on my Dewey Dec Project related to my Infinite Project I have got ot the children's section. There are a series of books indeed about mythologies. The one I picked up randomly was on Germanic Gods who are as strange as the Greek ones.

10:22 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Aneiron would have to counter some of the Germanic gods who were one eyed and many other really strange gods. But the making electricity one is good! It reminds me that I had an electricity set as a boy. With a magnet and iron filings the patterns of magnetic flux can be shown. With a battery and wires you can show how a motor or generator (same thing always - essentially) work, and I had a make and break buzzer, a kind of relay, a low to high voltage transformer (like a car coil), switches and so on. Something like that Aneiron might like. Also my father had a gyroscope. Look up gyroscope's. If you can get a really good real one, and get them spinning they sit on a bench and they angle over the bench, not falling as gravity is opposed by their centrifugal force. (Also the old spinning tops we used to paint them with a special enamel paint in different colours and spin them.)

You can also tell Aneiron that Richard was a at a (Central Institute of Tech) in about 1985 where they had a Tesla coil. There we all stood around it and the Tesla coil threw (silent) "thunder bolts" at us and made the light bulb filaments light up even those that were broken that we were holding in our hands. These eerie bolts are at millions of volts although a very low current (so they are safe and you feel nothing). Tesla who developed ac theory used one to impress people wherever he went.

But the high voltage transformer I had gave quite shock (as a car coil can). It can lift voltage from say 12 volts to nearly 12,000 volts, Again the current drops, no power is gained but a car coil can give you a jolt. Then there are "meggers" for testing resistance. They use a high voltage. Insulation resistance is no good if it is below 1 megohm....Ohm was an engineer scientist as were Faraday and Henry and farads and henrys are measurements in electrical engineering.

It is also, with some nous, to make a radio receiver, a crystal set, that uses no electricity! Tell Aneiron it picks up the waves in he air, the invisible and magical waves. (Electromagnetic). Some of those waves that radios and televisions pick up are actually "white noise" and are the microwave noise that are as old as the universe. If you off-tune a TV or get that "noise" you are listening to the beginnings of the Ubniverse. We are back to religion...

10:22 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Should be "it is also possible, with some nous to make a crystal set"...

10:24 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

And you can tell Aneiron that huge ships use large gyroscopes to keep ships going steadily, as much as possible in one direction. And aircraft use them also. It is also for this reason that bullets are "rifled" so that they spin, and the gyroscopic effect keeps them in a more or less straight line, unlike muskets etc which were less accurate...

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