Saturday, September 01, 2007

Exhaustion - And A Break

Today, I realized that I have reached a point of exhaustion. I am physcially exhausted from a combination of working forty hours a week, at nights, at a physically demanding job; the demands of being a parent and spouse; and the desire to always put up my best at this blog. The past week has provided interesting and frusrating times, from Sen. Craig's prosecution for public lewdness and consequent resignation to the revelations yesterday that the Bush Administration was providing disinformation on visiting Democratic lawmakers in Iraq. In between, I have had on-going disputes with readers who continue to deny reality, as well as having to witness the defensive reactions of Democrats who have managed to acquiesce to the least popular President in history, out of fear not so much of him, but of press reactions to a possibility that never came to pass. Rather than being proactive, using the support of the American people to change the way things are done, the Democrats show the world they are a bunch of losers, equally unworthy, like the Republicans before them, of the trust placed in them by the American people.

I'm bushed. Wiped out. On a day off I managed to sleep for five hours today. The combination of intellectual, physical, emotional, and psychological exhaustion have left me empty inside, and I do believe that, as with my time last June, I need a break. I shall not be blogging this next week, returning next Sunday (the day after my upcoming trip to see Rush on the south side of Chicago) in the hope of being refreshed, renewed, and restored. My hope is to keep away from the computer as much as possible, staying away especially from anything that smacks of right-wing demoagogy and fundamentalist nonsense.

For now, then, have a good long weekend, a good week, and when all is said and done, I hope to be in a better mood, better frame of mind, and better able to continue this blog. Take care, and God Bless.

My Favorite Book

As not much has been going on, which is good for a "holiday weekend", I thought I would take a moment and talk about my favorite book. It isn't a great novel, like A Hundred Years of Solitude or Crime and Punishment. Nor is it Barth's Church Dogmatics or Reaping the Whirlwind by Langdon Gilkey. It is a slim volume of fantasy by an author named Parke Godwin, entitled Waiting for the Galactic Bus. Disguised as science fiction, the work is a scathing attack on religion, America, pop culture, and pretty much any sacred cow you might wish to name. By turns funny, infuriating, insightful, warm, disturbing, with an ending that doesn't satisfy because it refuses to tie up loose ends, consistent with the view put forth in the book, the book offers readers a challenge should they choose it, or an alternative to pretty much everything they have thought to be true.

It concerns the doings of two young aliens, stranded on Pliocene Earth by an angry older group who find it a hoot to strand annoying youth after a graduation party gone a bit out of control. Barion and Coyul, the two twin brothers, awaken to find themselves stuck, bored, and intrigued by a group of primates wandering the savannah upon which they had earlier partied themselves to exhaustion. Coming from a species of "electron-cycle life", they can materialize and dematerialize at will, and, as Godwin notes, "[o]n worlds where they were not understood, the higher life forms proclaimed them deities, wrote sacred works, promulgated dogma on what they were supposed to have said, and flattered them with the sacrifice of surplus populations. Where they were understood, the natives tried to sell them trinkets, real estate and surplus daughters."

Giving the australopithecines an evolutionary kick in the pants, Barion and Coyul together realize that they have created a monster called homo sapien sapien that is by turns sublime and awful, capable of transcendent beauty and the most base horror, sometimes simultaneously. Along with the inability to manage a creation a tad out of control, there emerges a problem they had not even come close to anticipating - they don't die. Godwin notes that as energy can neither be created nor destroyed, once a certain level of intellectual awareness and energy had been reached, that center of consciousness continues after physical death. The problem is that they carry all the cultural and psychological baggage of human life with them - including a tendency towards dualism that, while couched in the poetic language of dessert, usually ends up being either envious desire to satisfy a sense of haveing been wronged, or a guileless remorse for deeds by turns insipid or destructive, resulting in "Topside" for the irredeemably self-righteous, and "Below Stairs". Godwin notes that, after an initial period in which the recently departed indulge their greatest desires or worst fears, they usually settle down to continuing the kind of life they had while embodied, only with fewer distractions. As he writes of the "Hell" Coyul constructed for those who damn themselves, "the exits were well lit and their use was encouraged."

Two young Americans, Roy Stride and his erstwhile, confused girlfriend, Charity Stovall, become the center of a metaphysical storm that Barion insists may yet be the destruction of everything they have labored not just to create but to maintain against staggering odds. In order to stack the deck, cook the books, do what it takes to save humanity from its own worst propensities, Barion talks Coyul into (a) convincing them both they are dead; and (b) taking them Below Stairs and allowing them to indulge both their most base fears and most grandiose fantasies. For Roy, this means becoming the leader of the Fascist movement within hell, toppling the "government" through a violent coup, only to be discovered with his spiritual pants down. For Charity, it means realizing that he has punished herself enough, first with fears of damnation, then with desire for the shallow excesses of what we all call the good life. She comes to first fear then loathe, then finally feel nothing but derision for Roy, whom she once thought of as a "great man", precisely because she discovers both the real horror behind all his talk, and the meaningless following of contingent rules imposed solely for the use of controlling others. She frees herself through the help of, among others, Judas Iscariot, John Wilkes Booth, and Coyul and Barion, who end up destroying Roy Stride's mind in a process of revelation that relativizes and shrinks all his beliefs and desires through the sheer enormity of the reality against which he insists to rage. The greatest difference in the world, as Godwin shows, is between those like Charity who can accept this, and those like Roy who cannot.

Full of humor, great insight, and the occasional moment of horror or grief, I would recommend it to anyone who believes they either have it all figured out, or for those (alternately) who believe such is impossible. For my part, if the afterlife is even remotely as Godwin portrays it, we all have much to look forward to.

Saturday Rock Show

This weekend in Rockford is the Annual "On the Waterfront" festival, which includes multiple stages of live music every day, all day. Sunday night, Kansas will be performing along with opening act Dave Mason. At one time, the late 1960's, Dave Mason was considered an up-and-coming guitar player/song-writer. A founding member, along with Steve Winwood of the jazzy, folky rock band Traffic, when the first band broke up (Winwood joined Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Rick Gresch in Blind Faith), Mason hoped to turn a successful band in to an even more successful solo career.

When Winwood reformed Traffic and recorded, first John Barleycorn, then The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, he didn't invite Mason along. The results were some of the best music ever. Below is the title track to the second album named.

Wasted Energy

In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm talks about a numbers runner he knew who had a memory so powerful, he had no need to write the numbers down. He also had a great head for figures. Malcolm recalled this man and asked the non-rhetorical question, "What if this man's gifts had been used for good?"

I had reason to recall this story when I cruised over the the 4simpson's blog this AM (no, I won't link; yes, it's like a sickness with me) and read, in Neil's weekly roundup, as he goes off on some creationist jag against "Darwinism". I had reason to remember this story when I read an earlier piece in which Neil discusses what he calls "sound doctrine". The feats of intellectual gymnastics present in these pieces are impressive, even if they are meaningless. While I know it is necessary to fight the creationist scourge wherever and whenever it raises its ignorant head, but I must confess I am weary of the fight. There is no reasoning, no basis for discussion because, in the end, those who refuse to acknowledge the reality of the wonderful diversity and complexity of life in all its variegation exist in a different world from the rest of us.

Along with a refusal to acknowledge the reality of the wonder of nature, in Neil's case, he actually believes God cares for something called "sound doctrine"; in Neil's case, there is such a thing at all. I weary of discussions that (a)mean little, and (b)accomplish less. I would much prefer that someone of Neil's obvious mental capacity and energy were to put it to use trying to figure out how to work together and live together, rather than telling everyone how right he is.

For the record, I do not indulge in the sin of which I accuse Neil. I make no pretentions to haveing figured out the way the world really is. My words in this blog are not proscriptive, but rather descriptive. I have no desire for others to think the way I do, to see the world as I do, or to accept the way I live, think, or believe. When I encounter those who insist that some part of this living, thinking, or believing is inherently wrong, I protest. Not so much out of the belief in the transcendent truth of my own beliefs, but out of the belief that my own beliefs are my own, and I would much rather discuss points of commonality than get in to endless discussions over who is right and who is wrong.

Neil has no such sense of the limit of his own life and thought. He honestly believes that God has bestowed upon him wisdom, sagacity, and insight to insist that others are to live and think and believe as he does. Too bad. It's such a waste of such a wonderful gift.

Blasted Computers

My computer is on the fritz. Thank goodness my wife has the exact same kind of laptop, or I would feel bereft of connection to the modern world!

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Call to Repentance

In my on-going attempt to digest Volf's dense arguments in Exclusion and Embrace, I offer here some of his thoughts on the question of what Jesus' call to repentance means in a society in which the powerless, victims of the multiple indignities imposed upon them by the powerful, are called to change their lives, or, as Jesus is quoted as saying in the Gospels, to "go and sin no more". The following are abridged from pp 115-116 of the aforementioned book, published in 1996 by Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN:
It is not easy to know what Jesus called his hearers to repent from; he speaks often of sinners, but rarely of their sins. The social consensus of his contemporaries about what counted as sin is not of much help; we know that he challenged his contemporaries on that very issue. So we have to infer what he wanted people to repent from by looking ah how we wanted them to live; sin appears here as a failure to live the life of discipleship as described in the Sermon on the Mount (Gnilka 1993, 212). . . .Devotion to wealth and hatred of the enemy are sins of which the followers of Jesus must repent. Especially for the powerless victims of oppression . . . the two injunctions translate into a critique of envy and enmity. What possible political significance could these seemingly private attitudes of the disprivileged and powerless have? one could be tempted to object. These unfortunate people may be "healthier" if they got rid of their negative feelings, a psychiatrist might counsel. But why would a prophet admonish the disprivileged to repent of them? More specifically, what possible social import could such repentance have?

. . . The most seminal impact of enmity, we might argue . . . consist in transforming the violent practices of the dominant into dominant practices. Once the link between violence and social status has been established, victims are prompted to seek redress for their oppression with violent means. The social impact of envy and enmity, singly and in combination, is to reinforce the dominant values and practices that cause and perpetuate oppression in the first place. Envy and enmity keep the disprivileged and weak chained to the dominant order - even when they succeed in tolling it! All to often, of course, the do not want to topple the dominant order; as [Zygmunt] Bauman says; they "demand the reshuffling of cards, not another game. They do not blame the game, only the stronger hand of the adversary."

The dominant values and practices can be transformed only if their hold on the hearts of those who suffer under them is broken. This is where repentance comes in. To repent means to resist the seductiveness of the sinful values and practices and to let the new order of God's reign be established in one's heart. For a victim to repent means not to allow the oppressors to determine the terms under which social conflict is carried out, the values around which the conflict is raging, and the means by which it is fought. . . .

Other than his coining of the neologism "disprivileged" to describe a certain segment of society, this certainly has a resonance with the words and deeds of, among others, Martin Luther King, Jr. Or am I off base here?

For the record, I think that this is not a total interpretation of what Jesus calls us to; no single interpretation is complete. In the context of a social and political theology, however, it certainly does have aspects that commend it to our attention. As long as we are willing to set aside traditional understandings of "repentance", "sin", even Volf's use of the care-worn phraseology of "changing hearts", this opens up all sorts of possibilities.

Cult of No Personality

I was listening to the Bill Press show this morning on the way home from work, and the guest host was interviewing Naomi Wolf. Wolf has a new book coming out I look forward to getting, called The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. In it, she details, through a pretty extensive historical overview, the steps open societies take on the road to becoming dictatorial (she does a synopsis in this piece in the UK's Guardian newspaper). She doesn't mention one important piece, which I do believe we are witnessing here in the good old USA, the creation of a "Cult of Personality".

The phrase entered our lexicon after Nikita Kruschev denounced Stalin in the late-1950's. Part of the indictment was that Stalin had dispensed with concern for furthering socialism, raising himself above the pursuit of scientific socialism. The phrase has become a touchstone for analysis, and was even used in a great song by Living Colour, who opened its meaning to include not only Stalin and Mussolini, but Mohandas Ghandi and JFK. The video and audio also include clips of MLK and Malcolm X. Very disturbing precisely because they have a point.

With a die-hard core of supporters, roughly 27-34% of those polled, the Bush Presidency is, at least, consistent in its lack of appeal. For all that, however, those die-hard supporters, not just in the mainstream press, but in the blogosphere as well, refuse to admit that he or his Administration have ever, even once, done anything wrong. While the rest of us find him at turns frustrating, infuriating, and a source of amusement (like most small children), for some, he simply can do no wrong.

The most important myth-creator of them all is William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard. Kristol is a former aide to Dan Quayle (he apparently didn't teach Quayle how to spell), and is the son of original neo-cons Gertrude Himmelfarb and Irving Kristol (an example of his drooling sycophancy can be read here). One thing that is important to understand about the rise of the neo-cons is that the original group, including Norman Podhoretz, Kristol, and Michael Novak, were all originally leftists. Kristol and Podhoretz were actually communist fellow-travelers for a time. At a point in American history when communism was fashionable among a small group of intellectual leftists, there were splits due to the various contortions forced upon Party members because of, first, the Trotskyites, then the Nazi-Soviet pact followed by the invasion of the Soviet Union by the Nazis. The intellectual dishonesty forced upon thinking individuals became too much to bear (along with personal animosities spawned by abstruse theoretical debates between various Party factions), and many people drifted away. Yet, certain habits die hard, among them a disdain for democracy, a love of intrigue at the expense of openness, and a war-mongering that is tireless in its pursuit of enemies.

Kristol the Younger is the inheritor of a tradition steeped in toeing an ideological line without reference to anything external. The development of a Cult of Personality centered on our current President makes sense in light of the neo-conservative rootedness in Stalin's thug-like ruling of the Comintern. For those for whom ideology and power are more important than people and democracy, it makes sense to "Now Praise Famous Men" at the expense of democratic norms. As Bush's numbers continue to inhabit the cellar, Republicans may increasingly feel frustrated they have tied their wagon to this particular horse. The problem, however, is that they have little choice. The results are the slow withering not just of American republican institutions and our democratic civic culture, but of the Republican Party.

While this is a dangerous trend (as insidious as it is disastrous for our democratic way of life), it can be countered not just by naming it, but through the simple process of derision. Moreso than analytical arguments, just making fun of how insipid, ridiculous, ignorant, befuddled, and out-of-touch President Bush is can help break the spell those weavers of tall tales like Kristol attempt to foist upon us. This does not mean we dispense with analytical criticisms. We should just supplement them with a good old-fashioned satirical expose of what a comical fellow Bush is. Not only does the Emperor have no clothes; he has no personality, either.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Pre-Emptive Strike - Neil Wants To Refute Me

Over at this thread at Marshall's place (a discussion of whether or not nuking Japan at the end of WWII was justified), Neil, of the "4 Simpsons" blog, writes the following:
Sorry to be off topic, but I wanted to let you know that I appreciated your response on Geoffrey's idiotic "Dead baby jokes" post. I'm debating whether to do a post on his hopelessly flawed radical pro-abortion views.

I am honored that something I wrote is considered dangerous enough to be in need of refutation by a fundie. Since my post was not so much about pro-choice, but rather the skewed moral priorities of those who place more worth upon a human fetus than they do upon real, live children (and, of course, other human beings as well). I have heard nary a peep from a single right-wing Christian about President Bush's plan to gut the S-CHIP program, designed to provide health insurance to the most vulnerable in our society. All we ever get from them are flash-cards of aborted fetuses (for the record, my preference is "feti").

This is my complaint in the post in question. THEY DON'T GIVE A TINKER'S DAMN ABOUT REAL HUMAN LIFE. Why is that so hard to fathom? They carry on and on about the sanctity of life, yet they continue to support a President responsible for government-sponsored death, whether in the form of state-sponsored murder in the form of execution, state-sponsored terrorism in our war/occupation of Iraq, and state-sponsored neglect of our poor, through the defunding of S-CHIP (among many, many programs to help the poor). I would truly like to believe they love life, and want all human beings to have life, and it more abundantly, but I don't buy it, because their actions speak much louder than their constant bleating.

I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice. The nice thing about this country (unlike, say, China) is the state does not force anyone to have an abortion. If you choose not to have one, why, don't. If you believe that life is sacred, then work to end the war, work for universal health care, more funding for school breakfast and lunch programs, work to end capital punishment, work for more funding for AIDS and cancer research, work for more funding for infrastructure improvements, work for rebuilding New Orleans. If you believe in the sanctity of all life, work for equal rights for all citizens - including gays and lesbians. If you believe in the sanctity of life denounce the America-hating, woman and gay-hating comments of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in the wake of 9/11.

Finally, Neil, no matter how impeccable your logic, no matter how irrefutable your conclusions, I wouldn't be convinced, because arguments don't convince me. Life convinces me. Live out a consistent practice of upholding the sanctity of life, and maybe then we'll talk. Until then, "refute" all you want, because I honestly couldn't care less or be less impressed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It Reminds Me of a Song

Please note, the following post contains strong language and references to drug use. For those who might be offended, please consider before continuing.

OK, so everything reminds me of a song. As I've said, any excuse to post a Tool song.

Over here at ER's place there is a comment that has to be seen (not necessarily read) to be believed. As drlobojo asked, does he have a line to Central State Hospital?

The song of which this reminds me is "Rosetta Stoned" by Tool:
(BOLD indicates official lyrics which correct earlier guesses)

Alrighty, then ... picture this if you will.

10 to 2 AM, X, Yogi DMT, and a box of Krispy Kremes,
in my "need to know" pose, just outside of Area 51
Contemplating the whole "chosen people" thingy
when a flaming stealth banana split the sky
like one would hope but never really expect
to see in a place like this.
Cutting right angle donuts on a dime
and stopping right at my Birkenstocks,
and me yelping...

Holy fucking shit!

Then the X-Files being,
Looking like some kind of blue-green Jackie Chan
with Isabella Rossellini lips, and breath that reeked of
vanilla Chig Champa
Did a slow-mo Matrix descent
Outta the butt end of the banana vessel
And hovered above my bug-eyes, my gaping jaw,
and my sweaty L. Ron Hubbard upper lip,
and all I could think was:
"I hope Uncle Martin here doesn't notice
that I pissed my fuckin' pants."

So light in his way,
Like an apparition, [that]
He had me crying out,
"Fuck me
It's gotta be
the Deadhead Chemistry
The blotter got [right] on top of me
Got me seein' E-motherfuckin'-T!"

And after calming me down
with some orange slices
and some fetal spooning,
E.T. revealed to me his singular purpose.
He said, "You are the Chosen One,
the One who will deliver the message.
A message of hope for those who choose to hear it
and a warning for those who do not."
Me. The Chosen One?
They chose me!!!
And I didn't even graduate from fuckin' high school.

You'd better...
You'd better...
You'd better...
You'd better listen.

Then he looked right through me
With somniferous almond eyes
Don't even know what that means
Must remember to write it down
This is so real
Like the time Dave floated away
See, my heart is pounding
'Cause this shit never happens to me

I can't breathe right now!

It was so real,
Like I woke up in Wonderland.
All sorta terrifying
I don't wanna be all alone
While I tell this story.
And can anyone tell me why
Y'all sound like Peanuts parents?
Will I ever be coming down?
This is so real
Finally, it's my lucky day
See, my heart is racing
'Cause this shit never happens to me

I can't breathe right now!

You believe me, don't you?
Please believe what I've just said!
See the Dead ain't touring
And this wasn't all in my head.
See, they took me by the hand
And invited me right in.
Then they showed me something
I don't even know where to begin.

Strapped down [to] my bed
Feet cold [and] eyes red
I'm out of my head
Am I alive? Am I dead?
Can't remember what they said
God damn, shit the bed.

Hey ...

Overwhelmed as one would be, placed in my position.
Such a heavy burden now to be the One
Born to bear and bring to all the details of our ending,
To write it down for all the world to see.

But I forgot my pen
Shit the bed again ...

Strapped down [to] my bed
Feet cold and eyes red
I'm out of my head
Am I alive? Am I dead?
Sunkist and Sudafed *
Gyroscopes and infrared
Won't help, I'm brain dead
Can't remember what they said
God damn, shit the bed

I can't remember what they said to me
Can't remember what they said to make me out to be the hero
Can't remember what they said
Bob help me!
Can't remember what they said

[We] don't know, [and we] won't know (x12)

God damn, shit the bed!

Pr, to put it another way . . .

The Ambiguities Of Good, Evil, Us, Them, With A Glance At Why They Hate Us

The following are excerpts from two different books. I offer them with no commentary, only for your study and consideration. The first is from The Killing of Sarajevo by Zeljko Vukovic (1993, p 134):
I am a Muslim, and I am thirty five years old. To my second son who was just born, I gave the name "Jihad". So he would not forget the testament of his mother - revenge. The first time I put my baby at my breast I told him, "May this milk choke you if you forget." So be it. The Serbs taught me to hate. For the last two months there was nothing in me. No pain, no bitterness. Only hatred. I taught these children to love. I did. I am a teacher of literature. I was born in Ilijas and I almost died there. My student, Zoran, the only son of my neighbor, urinated into my mouth. As the bearded hooligans standing around laughed, he told me" "You are good for nothing else, you stinking Muslim woman . . ." I do not know whether I first heard the cry or felt the blow. My former colleague, a teacher of physics, was yelling like mad, "Ustasha, ustasha. . . ." And kept hitting me. Wherever he could. I have become insensitive to pain. But my soul? It hurts. I taught toem to love and all the while they were making preparations to destroy everything that is not of the Orthodox faith. Jihad - war. This is the only way. . . .

The second is from War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Christopher Hedges, pp 50-52, abridged:
I sat one afternoon with a Bosnian Serb couple, Rosa and Drago Sorak, outside of the Muslim enclave of Gorazde where they had once lived. . . .

Five months after [their son] Zoran's disappearance, his wife gave birth to a girl. The mother was unable to nurse the child. The city was being shelled continuously. There were severe food shortages. Infants, like the infirm and the elderly, were dying in droves. The family gave the baby tea for five days, but she began to fade.

"She was dying," Rosa Sorak said. "It was breaking our hearts."

[Fadil] Fejzik [a Muslim neighbor of theirs], was keeping his cow in a field on the eastern edge of Gorazde, milking it at night to avoid being hit by Serbian snipers.

"On the fifth day, just before dawn, we heard someone at the door," said Rosa Sorak. "It was Fadil Fejzic in his black rubber boots. He handed up half a litre of milk. He came the next morning, and the morning after that, and after that. Other families on the street began to insult him. They told him to give his milk to Muslims, to let the Chetnik children die. He never said a word. He refused our money. He came for 442 days, until my daughter-in-law and granddaughter left Gorazde for Serbia."

A Thoughtful Response

In comments on my "Dead Baby Jokes" post from a couple days ago, Marshall Art wrote the following comment:

Are you TRYING to be an ass(One of my wife's favorite terms of endearment)? Mom2 and I "enjoy" weeping over the deaths of millions of PEOPLE? What kind of crack is that? And to say they are not really children? Is that what your education has taught you? You do realize that as I taught you at my blog, that from the moment of conception that "unreal" person has it's own unique and HUMAN DNA that distinguishes it from either of it's parents, AND is alive. Hence, living human being. Biology 101. Dig it.

Then you go on with the equally insulting and quite frankly, stupid inference that because of our anti-baby killing position, we make a distinction, as do those of your Klanish ilk, between those born or unborn. Nothing could be further from the truth, aside from your perspective on life. I'm surprised it took an article like this to awaken you to this reality. I'm further surprised that you give a flying rat's ass how we compare in this area against other nations, rather than the fact that the problem exists at all. Where are YOUR charitable dollars going, Planned Parenthood?

I also take exception to the statement that "our nation blithely permits the deaths of real children." both for the inference that it's true, and for the continued bullshit that there's a difference between born and unborn children. How freakin' Nazi-like. They are NOT "theoretically" alive, you shameful pretender. Shame that you run with the crowd that laments the lost potential with every homo that dies of AIDS and can't aknowledge the lost potential of every child put to death through abortion.

But to your point, as shabby as it is, I had, before distractions caused my blogging digression to other topics, hoped to continue my thoughts on character and honor and how that would, or should play out in situations regarding parenthood. Your posting of this "news" together with my righteous stance regarding abortion, is most easily tempered by the adoption of true moral character. A man of honor does NOT engage in intercourse without first having the ability to support the child that accepts that invitation to life, whether he's married or not. If sex is so important, if one is so freakin' spineless and weak-willed to resist the urges, GET FIXED!

In the meantime, holster that six-gun outrage and direct more of your charitable dollars in that direction. Preach (or seek same from the Mrs.) the value of such character and honor as has been lost in this culture. Teach the kids that they are scum if they wallow in sexual self-gratification. Such will solve both problems, the one you think is more important, and the one I KNOW is equally as important.

Leaving aside his ad hominem attacks, I want to invite readers to consider level of invective in this rather heated response. Just consider how morally questionable someone 's view of life is who insists that he can write coherently about "honor" and in the same breath insist that we teach our children they are "scum" for engaging in out-of-wedlock sexual activity. Imagine, if you you will, telling one's children they are "scum" for any reason whatsoever. Equating people who do what most of us have done with dried semen is horrific; to insist that we some kind of obligation to so describe our children is downright abusive. For the record, Marshall, as the parent of two daughters, I would no more tell my children they were "scum" for any reason whatsoever than I would cheat on my wife.

I also find it intriguing that he writes so blithely of "homos", and later in comments not only defends such an appellation, but says that some of his best friends were "homos" who died of AIDS. How admirable that witnessing such a tragedy did nothing to change his perception and create a sense of empathy or compassion. Also for the record, yes I weep far more for "homos" who have died from complications due to AIDS than I ever have or will for any aborted fetus because the former are living, breathing human beings whose lives are deemed less worthy of sympathy and compassion. The latter are just as I described them - a fetus. I do weep for those who have made such a decision. I do not condemn. I do not judge. That is the difference between us, I do believe. I do not look upon the world and believe for one moment that I should make judgments about the fitness of other human beings to live, die, or be full moral agents. I do make judgments about those whose actions are certainly beyond the pale, but I do not dehumanize them, in a convenient trick eliminating them from my circle of concern.

I look forward to reading what you might have to say about "honor". One of the great "pagan" virtues (so-called because it was not a specifically "Christian" virtue as discussed by St. Thomas Aquinas - faith, hope, and love), part of honor includes a level of concern for others, recognizing our debt and responsibility to others in a community of reciprocity and support. The Founders were, for the most part, students of Honor, seeing and embodying the (small "r") republican virtue of honor as it applied to their self-sacrifice in first, working to remove the colonies from underneath the yoke of British colonialism, then seeking to "form a more perfect union" through the Constitution. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to ensure that we, 231 years later, could be free, secure, and prosperous. In turn, we have repaid the debt we owe by pissing away our freedoms, creating a society of unequal wealth, and reducing our military to a broken shell. It might seem that honor on our part would insist we do what was necessary to fix the destruction wrought in the name of "liberty". That's my take, anyway.

Finally, if my wife called me an "ass" on a regular basis, I might consider changing my behavior.

I almost forgot. My family calls me "Geoff". I much prefer to go by my full name, however. Just for future reference.

Wish I Had Said This

Digby links to this piece which says what needs to be said better than I have ever read it said before:
Republicans have shown no sign of believing in "the right to keep your own money" or in limited government or in a "strong defense". Allowing rich people and corporations to make use of (and often ruin) public services without paying for them is not giving you "the right to keep your own money"; in fact, it's making you pay for the things they get more use from. Limiting the power of government to protect your Constitutional rights is not "limited government"; neither is allowing a president the power to summarily deprive individuals of those rights "limited government". Bankrupting the Treasury in order to give the DoD money it doesn't need (and doesn't spend wisely) while you go blow up other countries that posed no threat to the US is not "a strong defense".

Conservatives have always supported intrusive government, they have always endangered Americans by aggravating other countries, and they have always been very happy to collect taxes from ordinary working people and use that tax money to fatten the Malefactors of Great Wealth while depriving the rest of us of our freedoms. Those same people conned a number of libertarian-minded young people in the '70s and '80s into believing that conservatism was liberalism and vice-versa because a few intolerant lefties went overboard in their objections to morally reprehensible expressions of racism and sexism. I would have thought these kids would have grown up by now and realized that they're still paying taxes but under the Republicans they're getting less for them - and that's before the bill for all that "strong defense" comes due. How dumb they have to be to think it makes sense to be both Republican and gay after all this just doesn't bear thinking about.

All the reality-denying crap we hear day after day from Republicans on everything from Iraq to the economy to taxes to the environment has taken a toll on our collective psyche. I do believe that most Americans are tired of the Bush Presidency not just because of Iraq (although that is surely the most important reason), but because of its across-the-board refusal to acknowledge the way the world really is. I realize this may difficult for some to understand, so I shall try to be as brief as this little piece is:
The Republicans are morally bereft, intellectually bankrupt, and politically noisome. It is in our national interest to reign them in as soon as possible before we reach a point from which we cannot recover. To be fair, and equally unpartisan, the Democrats need either a spinal cord, or replacement also, because, while wielding authority, they have little power, and use what little they do have to aid and abet the criminality of the Republicans.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Can Prove The Bible Supports Infanticide

As the Psalmist says (Psalm 137:9), "Happy is he who seizes your babes and dashes them against a rock." And in the Gospels we read, (Luke 10:37b), "Jesus said to him, 'Go and do as he did.'"

Now, this exercise actually "proves" nothing of the sort, except that one can pretty much "prove" anything if one grabs a verse here and a verse there from the Bible, puts them together, and insists they say whatever we want them to say. As someone who has been subjected to the practice of having Bible verses thrown at him, I can say that it is infuriating (to say the least) to try and wriggle around this kind of nonsense. How does one respond, how can one respond? The real response seems so tepid, so weak-kneed and namby-pamby that it might actually be easier to give in and say, "You know what? Your reading of the Bible is far superior to my own."

Except, of course, I refuse to do that. How can I? While I freely admit that there are as many ways to read the Bible as there are people who do actually read it, and that no reading is necessarily normative (unless an individual or church accepts it as such). All I can do is explain that I find the practice of tossing around Bible verses like candy at a Fourth of July parade to be a gross misuse of Scripture. As I showed above, one can use the practice to "prove" anything one wants, which, of course, only shows that one has actually "proved" nothing except one's felicity with scanning a Concordance.

While I think it's kind of fun to do what I did above (it really rankles some people who think they have a monopoly on the Bible to have it shown how truly insipid they are), a much more mature approach when confronted by those who use it to "prove" this or that or the other thing is simply to deny the legitimacy of the method. Reading the Bible is the beginning of one's journey of faith. One starts there, never wandering far from that starting line, of course, and always wrestling Jacob-like with the angels (and demons) who reside within its pages. If one never gets further than the Bible, if one assumes there is nothing in the two-thousand-year history of the Church to teach us, or the five-hundred year history of Protestantism, or however far one wishes to reach back; if one believes that some confession or tradition is illegitimate (as I do of fundamentalism; I admit it freely, but only because, after repeated exposure to it, I find it wanting of any modicum of grace, love, peace, humility, gentleness or pretty much any other fruit of the Spirit; I am speaking more here of fundies who dismiss liberalism, Roman Catholicism, my own Arminian heritage [they tend to be Calvinist], pretty much any tradition other than their own) and refuses to engage it; if one denies the reality within which they live for the pages of a book they cannot even read in its own original tongue (I am speaking here of fundies who deny the veracity of science, history, or pretty much anything else that might "contradict" scripture); if these and other conditions not names apply, then one is not so much seeking to live out a Christian life as defending a dead ideology. Fundamentalism is not so much a stance of faith, but rather the fearful reaction of those for whom life and world have grown far too complicated. For me, faith is open to life, living, breathing, brave yet humble, willing to admit error while not surrendering the prerogatives of the faith. For fundies, it is a stance of constant vigilance against the threats of reality to their little enclave. The only weapon at their disposal is the Bible, from which they think to fashion the weapons to fight off the ever-encroaching world.

When their own weapon is turned on them, however, watch out. This doesn't prove I know nothing about reading the Bible. It only proves that a literal reading of Scripture, and using such a reading to "defend" a position one has taken is intellectually nonsensical.

They Hate Gays So Much, They're Tossing Craig Under the Bus (UPDATED With Link)

I wasn't going to comment on the whole Larry-Craig-pulls-a-George-Michael thing that was reported yesterday afternoon, because I found it pretty silly. I think it is unfortunate that Craig attempted "to make the whole thing go away" rather than fight the charges. Pleading guilty to tapping one's foot does seem a bit, well, odd. As someone who has spent an inordinate amount of time in public restrooms - in airports, bus terminals, rest areas, truckstops, shopping malls, you name it, I've been there - I had absolutely no idea that tapping one's foot on the floor meant one was interested in "lewd behavior". I always thought it meant a really good tune was going through someone's head. Ah, well, live and learn. . .

What I find fascinating is that now the story has become public (it occurred early in the summer, back in June), the Republicans are tossing Craig aside. All one need do is scan these Think Progress stories - here, here (this one has the unfortunate title, in light of the events in question, "Brownback on Craig"; I'm not sure I'm hungry anymore . . .), and here - to see that for Republicans, being a closeted gay man is far worse than, say, insider trading (former Senate Majority leader Bill Frist) or destroying the reputation of a young woman who was sexually harassed (Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch during the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill debacle), or supporting a war/occupation the country no longer sees as in its national interest (all Republicans except Chuck Hagel, and of course everyone's favorite "inderpendent" Joe Lieberman). If one breaks actual laws, that's horrid. If one is, in the words of that wonderful country-western song, "looking for love in all the wrong places", especially love from someone of the same gender, then, apparently, one is as heinously wrong as can be.

For the record, I do believe that compassion and sympathy for Sen. Craig are far more appropriate than the current feeding frenzy. At least Sen. Craig knows who his friends are, and who they are not.

UPDATE: For a more thorough rundown of right-wing hypocrisy and ludicrous behavior, see this post by Glenn Greenwald. How could I have forgotten David "Senator Call Girl" Vitter so soon?

Monday, August 27, 2007

More From Volf, With Pictures and a Link

This is a photo of Miroslav Volf from his faculty profile at the Yale Divinity School.

The following passage is a working out of the details from Walter Wink's Engaging the Powers, specifically what Wink calls the Domination System. Volf asks the not unimportant question of such an abstract concept - what does it look like, and how does it work? The following, part of his description, is more than apt in light of recent history. It comes from p. 88 of Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996):
In extraordinary situations and under extraordinary directors certain themes from the "background cacophany" are picked up, orchestrated into a bellicose musical, and played up. "Historians" - national, communal or personal interpreters of the past - trumpet the double theme of the former glory and past victimization; "economists" join in with the accounts of present exploitation an dgreat economic potentials; "political scientists" add the theme of the growing imbalance of power, of steadily giving ground, of losing control over what is rightfully ours; "cultural anthropologists" bring in the dangers of loss of identity and extol the singular value of our personal or cultural gifts, capable of genuinely enriching the outside world; "politicians" pick up all four themes and weave them into a high-pitched aria about the threats to vital interests posed by the other who is therefore the very incarnation of evil; finally the "priests" enter in a solemn procession and accompany all this with a soothing background chant that offers to any whose conscineces may have been bothered the assurance that God is on our side and tht our enemy is the enemy of God and therefore an adversary of everything that is true, good, and beautiful.

Aw this bellicose musical with reinforcing themes is broadcast through the media, resonances are created with the background cacophony of evil that permeates the culture of a community, and the community finds itself singing the music and marching to its tune. To refuse to sing and march, to protest the madness of the spectacle appears irrational irresponsible, naive and cowardly, treacherous toward one's own and dangerously sentimental toward the evil enemy. The state for "ethnic cleansing" and similar "eruptions" of evil - personal as well as communal - is set. The first shot only needs to be fired, and the chain reaction will start.

I do hope that some of this rings some bells. In light of the fact that it was published five years before the attacks on September 11, 2001 and six years before the drumbeats for war with IRaq began to beat, it does make one pause, no?

Music Monday

Few cities have ever been represented musically as well as New Orleans. Few cities have as their greatest cultural legacy the gift of American music as rich and profound as New Orleans. Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Louis Armstrong, Harry Connick, Jr. - all of them bring us New Orleans with each and every turn of phrase, each and every chorus, each and every arrangement. Yet the best representatives of New Orleans are The Neville Brothers. I first heard The Meters (Cyril Neville's outfit that transformed into the Brothers in the late 1970's) as a child growing up; my one trip to New Orleans more than made clear to me why I loved their music, and continue to do so. This Music Monday is a treat for me (all of them are, but this one allows me to pay a debt of thanks to a group of musicians who represent a city in dire need; we need to save New Orleans so the Neville Brothers can continue to have a place to come from, as well as return to).

Here are The Meters, from 1993:

Here are The Meters and The Neville Brothers together on David Letterman.

No One Is Innocent

As I continue through Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace, I must admit mixed feelings. At times he weaves a tapestry of dialectics that is a wonder to behold, even if it is, in the end, meaningless. On the other hand, he occasionally composes passages of profound prophetic power (I like the alliterative lilt of that, don't you?). One of Volf's moves in his exploration of identity and exclusion is a leveling of the playing field between the victim and victimizer, between the oppressor and oppressed. By recognizing the universality of human sinfulness, we come to a place from which negotiation may ensue. Or, perhaps, we come to a place where those who perpetrate crimes against others receive a "get-out-of-hell-free" card. The dilemma is not a small one from a theological perspective, and in the following passage, Volf addresses it head on (the passage comes from pp. 84-85 of Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Mirolsav Volf, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996):
Where does the "no innocence" perspective leave us? Gzing paraluzed at a world in which "fair is foul and foul is fair"? Listlessly withdrawn from a wolrd in which no improvement is possible, because every action is a shot in the dark? What gain does recognition of solidarity in sin bring? In addition to freeing us "from delusions about the perfectibility of ourselves and our institutions" (Wink 1992b, 71), it pricks the balloons of the self-righteousness of perpetrator and victim alike and protects all from perpetuating evil in the name of presumed goodness. Solidarity in sin underscores that no salvation can be expected from an approach that rests fundamentally on the moral assignment of blame and innocence. The question cannot be how to locate "innocence" either on the intellectual or social map and work our way toward it. Rather, the question is how to live with integrity and bring healing to a world of inescapable noninnocence that often parades as its opposite. The answer: in the name of the one truly innocent victim and what he stood for, the crucified Messiah of God, we should demask as inescapably sinful the world constructed around exclusive moral polarities - here, on our side, "the just", "the pure", "the innocent", "the true", "the good", and there, on the other side, "the unjust", "the corrupt", "the guilty", "the liars", "the evil" - and then seek to transform the world in which justice and injustice, goodness and evil, innocence and guilt, purity and corruption, truth and deception crisscross and intersect, guided by the recognition that the economy of undeserved grace has primacy over the economy of moral deserts.[italics in original] Under the conditions of pervasive noninnocence, the work of reconciliation should proceed under the assumption that, though the behavior of a person may be judged as deplorable, even demonic, no one should ever be excluded from the will to embrace[italics in original] because, at the deepest level, the relationship to others does not rest on their moral performance and therefore cannot be undone by the lack of it.

I believe there is much truth here, although I also believe that it is necessary to arrive here only after a certain, how can I put this, honest self-assessment. That is, rather than first saying, "you know, we're all sinful", we should begin with a confession of our own sin, not as a condition of humanity, but the very real evils we have committed against others.

This is not to damp down the truth embedded within this passage (especially in light of our President's repeated invocation of the "us versus them" rhetoric, the labeling of our alleged adversaries as "evildoers", and his continued insistence that nothing less than ridding the world of evil is his goal). It is only to suggest that the realization of what Volf calls "pervasive noninnocence" should only arrive after we have admitted our own noninnocence.

Dead Baby Jokes

You know, Marshall Art and Mom2 enjoy weeping and wailing over the deaths of millions of "unborn babies" through the government-permitted practice of abortion on demand. As I do not share their grief over the not-yet-born, but am concerned with the lives of very real, very born children, I thought I would give notice to this article that was highlighted by Digby:
An estimated 2 million babies die within their first 24 hours each year worldwide and the United States has the second worst newborn mortality rate in the developed world, according to a new report.

American babies are three times more likely to die in their first month as children born in Japan, and newborn mortality is 2.5 times higher in the United States than in Finland, Iceland or Norway, Save the Children researchers found.

Only Latvia, with six deaths per 1,000 live births, has a higher death rate for newborns than the United States, which is tied near the bottom of industrialized nations with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with five deaths per 1,000 births.

The joke, of course, is that so many on the right piss and moan concerning abortion while our nation blithely permits the deaths really born children. We grieve over terminated pregnancies, but turn our eyes and silence our collective outrage when real children die due to inequities in the delivery of health care that are directly related to socio-economic inequality. Weeping over aborted fetuses (feti? I am never sure how to make a plural of a Latinate word in English) costs no one anything, entails no risk, and threatens the established social and economic consensus not at all. Redressing the imbalance that is demonstrated by the fatality rates of newborns, however, would pose all sorts of risks to our current status quo. This, I contend, is the difference.

That and, perhaps, a slightly warped moral compass that prefers the theoretically alive to the very real alive. Those who are not yet alive have only a theoretical demand upon our care and concern. Those who actually have been born, however, come situated with all sorts of racial and socio-economic baggage that allows us to ignore their plight because we can deem them of less worth, and therefore less in need of our concern.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


First, let me say that any excuse to post a Tool song is OK by me. The following is concert footage of Tool's "The Grudge", and the person operating the camera apparently was unaware that trying to capture an image in low light from a distance leads only to a black screen. Much of the time I believe the attention is supposed to be on lead singer Maynard James Keenan. The result is darkness, although this is not necessarily bad, this being Tool.

My wife preached forgiveness today, with the title of her service, "The Grudge". Had she asked my advice, I most definitely would have had her use this song. "Give away the stone/Let the waters kiss and transmutate/The lead that crushes in to gold". That is what forgiveness does - I honestly don't care whether one uses a Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, or non-religious defense of forgiveness, the end result is the same. We are freed from the burden of hate, from the oppressiveness of carrying this weight that will crush us if we let it.

Just thought I'd share this. Again, any excuse to post a Tool song. . .

The Horrors of Religious Belief

I have been dealing recently with those who question the rationality of religious faith, and insist that it serves no useful personal or social purpose whatsoever, and is best discarded. I was considering the view this morning as I listened to my wife's sermon, in which she spoke of forgiveness. One example she used - and there are many from recent events one could use, but I like this one - was the treatment of the perpetrator of violence against their community by some Amish folks. A deranged individual killed several Amish girls; the community gathered together in a display of solidarity and showed this person the real meaning of forgiveness.

Isn't that awful? What a display of intolerance, violence, and terrorism! What a shocking example of irrational behavior! What a horrid example for the rest of the world to follow!

Or, perhaps, not.

Let's Pretend

For the moment, let us pretend that the comment I highlighted and discussed in this post a couple days ago has some kind of legitimacy detached from the fact that its appearance raises all sorts of questions about the integrity of those who put it up. Let us pretend there exists, within it, some kind of argument requiring, or at least inviting, a response. Personally, the question posed by one of the anonymous posters on that particular thread reminds me of the rant of a fifteen-year-old faced with a situation created by his own immaturity and inexperience, to whit, when are the grown-ups going to come and fix the mess I've created? Having said that, we shall nonetheless carry on and re-post the (non)original comment with a bit of exegesis, shall we? I tend to disapprove of line-by-line textual commentary for a variety of reasons, yet there seems no other way to deal with this particular skunk in the room. My own comments will appear in boldface within the text itself. Imagine, should you have such a capacity, that these are margin notes in a book. In the words of the motto of my home state, Excelsior!
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are forms of socially sanctioned lunacy, their fundamental tenents and rituals irrational, archaic and more importantly when it comes to matters of humanity’s long-term survival, mutually incompatible. This is not so much an argument as an assertion, for which no evidence is given whatsoever. It also happens to be a very poorly worded run-on sentence; as the Prince of that particular grammatical error, I know it when I see it.There are names for people who have beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common, we call them ‘religious’; otherwise, they are likely to be called ‘mad,’ ‘psychotic’ or ‘delusional.’Please, for the sake of this piece, define what "rational argument" is, because that is a loaded term, with no settled, general understanding. ‘’ To cite but one example: ‘’Jesus Christ—who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death and rose bodily into the heavens—can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. A few Latin words spoken over your favorite Burgundy, and you can drink his blood as well. Is there any doubt that a lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad?’’As this describes several variegated strands of Christian belief, some of which despise each other, considering the holders of opposed viewpoints to live in gross error, I'm not sure how one can understand the statement with any coherence. Even five minutes of study of the history of Christian thought would lead one to understand that, by tossing together various opposing strands of the tradition, violence is done to any serious, thoughtful consideration of the issue. Of course, the person who composed this sentence in all probability is both ignorant and mean, so there you go. The danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.’’Another possible danger of religious faith is that they may well justify horrors in the name of God. Or they may insist that human beings are better off living together even with all their differences than belittling the views of other who happen to think and live differently than they do. I guess I thought that was what liberalism was all about. Boy, was I wrong!

Criticizing a person’s faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture.Really. I thought it was pretty common practice, but what do I know? I'm an insane person, after all . . . On this subject, liberals and conservatives have reached a rare consensus: religious beliefs are simply beyond the scope of rational discourse.There's that word again, "rational". This particular liberal believes not only that certain understandings of "rational discourse" are so limiting they should be dispensed with; on the other hand, an expanded notion of "rational discourse" most certainly includes a discussion of religious belief. There is a distinction between the privatizing of religious belief, and walling it off from someone's truncated ideas of what constitutes "rational discourse". Criticizing a person’s ideas about God and the afterlife is thought to be impolitic in a way that criticizing his ideas about physics or history is not.’’Historians question each other's ideas of history all the time. Physics is kept alive by questioning pretty much everything in physics. Or did you not know that?

A zippered-lip policy would be fine, a pleasant display of the neighborly tolerance that we consider part of an advanced democracy, if not for the mortal perils inherent in strong religious faith. I suppose we are going to have examples given of these mortal perils?The terrorists who flew jet planes into the World Trade Center believed in the holiness of their cause.Ah, here we go. Therefore, all relgion spawns terrorism What a shockingly clear display of logic. The Christian apocalypticists who are willing to risk a nuclear conflagration in the Middle East for the sake of expediting the second coming of Christ believe in the holiness of their cause. Such fundamentalists are not misinterpreting their religious texts or ideals. They are not defaming or distorting their faith. To the contrary, they are taking their religion seriously, attending to the holy texts on which their faith is built. Unhappily for international community, the Good Books that undergird the world’s major religions are extraordinary anthologies of violence and vengeance, celestial decrees that infidels must die.This is a wonderful demonstration of the intellectual closeness of fundamentalist Christianity to a blinkered view of modernist rationalism. Both accept certain interpretations of religious texts as normative, claiming others as nonsensical, irrational, and otherwise erroneous. Who knew that rationalists were closet fundamentalists?

In the 21st century when swords have been beaten into megaton bombs, the persistence of ancient, blood-washed theisms that emphasize their singular righteousness and their superiority over competing faiths poses a genuine threat to the future of humanity, if not the biosphere: ‘’We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbors believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the book of Revelation,’’ he writes, ‘’because our neighbors are now armed with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.’’This is one of those further plagiarized texts, with the "he" in the quoted section not identified. It happens t be torture apologist Sam Harris.

I have a particular ire for religious moderates, those who ‘’have taken the apparent high road of pluralism, asserting the equal validity of all faiths’’ and who ‘’imagine that the path to peace will be paved once each of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others.’’This is the morally dubious and intellectually vacuous assertion that those whose views we care not to understand are inherently wrong. Again, the quote is loaded, with the word "unjustified" being used without definition. Religious moderates are the ones who thwart all efforts to criticize religious literalism.Actually, I criticize it all the time. So do most religious liberals of whom I am aware. Perhaps someone would be so kind as to point me in the general direction of a non-fundamentalist who demands that fundies not be criticized? By preaching tolerance, they become intolerant of any rational discussion of religion and ‘’betray faith and reason equally.’’I am no fan of "tolerance", much preferring an open-ended pluralism that recognizes the real differences as legitimate, but still worthy of criticism and rejection. This is a straw argument here, based on absolutely no real examples.

The human need for a mystical dimension to life like mysticism and other forms of knowledge, can be approached rationally and explored with the tools of modern neuroscience, without recourse to superstition and credulity.Except in the case of Sam Harris who defends reincarnation, infantile glossolalia, and ESP.

At this time Islam is the reigning threat to humankind.Actually, American imperialism is the reigning threat to humankind, or had no one noticed that? Much like a gruesome, Inquisition-style Christianity of the 13th century only leads us to believe not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development,’’ I couldn’t help but think of Ann Coulter’s morally developed suggestion that we invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert their citizens to Christianity.Except you would have us invade other countries kill their leaders, and convert them to rationalism, rather than, perhaps, learning to live with differences, and finding other ways of settling disputes and managing conflict.

I will say this of Faith: it has been the foundation of every religion, every cult, every sect, every religious terrorist organization that desired to gain advocates whose will greatly exceeded their intelligence. When a religion asks that its followers believe all that it declares, and to do so without evidence, it speaks volumes of the intent and meaning of that religion. These churches, temples and mosques, they will keep their followers in the shadows of millennium past. Evolution is still howled as the great enemy of faith. It simply has the greatest following of scientists and evidence. It's not scientifically that any religion has ever tried to debunk Evolution. They brought forth no evidence. They claimed no new discoveries. Their only tactic was to point to tattered and very old scriptues -- to flip through the pages, and read the rancid words, almost as if they were pure gold. Faith does not require investigation, or evidence, or demonstration, or observation, or logical deductions. It simply requires that a person believe, in spite of what evidence may say: it requires that a person blindfolds themselves when demonstration is shown, to use earplugs when anyone speaks of logic, and to turn away at every reason for them to believe what Faith tells them is wrong. Those cults and sects which have utilized violence for the realization of their apocalyptic future -- they required nothing but the willpower and a great deal of Faith.This entire paragraph is a host of sentence fragments, run-ons, misspellings, all evidence of a hurried individual not concerned with the structure of presentation. It asserts without evidence; it uses all sorts of loaded and laden vocabulary without definition. It is so full of ignorance, stupidity, condescension, and hatred, it is best left to stand on its own as a monument to the failures of such a "critique" as this.

Overall, this has been a stomach churning exercise for me. There are far better ways for me to spend my time and intellectual energy than tending to the ravings of an ignorant lunatic. At least, however, I have taken a good, careful look at this passage, so now I never have to do so again.

Virtual Tin Cup

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