Archive for February, 2009

Switch Hitter

Friday, February 27th, 2009

So last night I was thinking about the lengths some Jewish people go through to obey their religious stricture against doing work on the sabbath. This can involve elaborate set ups with lights on timers and pre-prepared meals and all manner of things that I don’t remember. And all of it hinging on great philosophical musings over what counts as work and what doesn’t.

I thought I’d get God’s opinion on this so I brought the subject up. I figured there were two ways he could go on this. The first is that it’s a lot of silliness and the world would be better off if they spent that time and effort on things that actually matter, on things that would improve the world. The second is that at least they’re spending time on trying to be spiritual, that spending all that time and effort on things at least ostensibly religious brings them closer to God and helps them to be better people.

God, being his usual whimsical and mysterious self, wouldn’t commit to either tack and wouldn’t even tell me if there was maybe some third way that I hadn’t thought of. He just told me again that we have free will and if we choose to spend our time trying to decide if flicking the light switch counts as work but the energy expended by the light being on doesn’t, well that’s our choice. I finally just told him, look, if he didn’t spend so much time being mysterious we probably wouldn’t spend so much time coming up with ways to commit atrocities in his name.

He agreed.

Then he asked me to turn on a light.

Take it for a Spin

Friday, February 20th, 2009

The Tibetans have an interesting variation on prayer, in the form of prayer wheels. A prayer wheel has a prayer written on it, usually many, many times, and is designed so that a person can easily spin it. The idea is that when you spin the prayer wheel it is as if you recited each copy of the prayer written on it each time it revolves. Basically it’s automated praying, but like so many things religious the automation is artificially restricted to the level of technology that was around when it was invented. In this case that’s done by telling people that if the prayer wheel is spun by an electric motor the benefits of the repeated prayers accrue to the electric company, not to the owner of the wheel.

God tells me that prayer wheels provide the percussion section to the daily drone of praying. The wheels tend to clack and because of the nature of their spinning the clacking has a rhythm to it. As prayers go, this makes them easier to sort of mask out than most, but even with God acknowledging that I couldn’t get her to admit that the repetition has no incremental benefit.

What I did get her to say is that prayers in general are kind of like car alarms. When car alarms were new everybody paid attention. When an alarm went off people would look, they would even come out of houses and stores to see if anything untoward was going on. But over time, as they saw time and time again, that nothing was happening, that nothing was going on, that it was a false alarm and an automated one at that, they got a lot more lax. They’d look if they were already outside and it wasn’t too far away, but that was it. Well now we’ve gotten to the point where we not only don’t look unless we’re right on top of it, mostly we just want them to shut up. And the sooner the better.

Happy 200th

Friday, February 13th, 2009

It’s Friday the Thirteenth. I could talk about that but when it comes down to it, that’ll happen again next month, so maybe I’ll talk about it then. Instead I’d like to mention that yesterday was the 200th birthday of both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln.

Now if those two seem like strange people to put together in a post on Unscriptured, let me bring up a couple of things that God pointed out to me.

Both of these men had to have the courage and conviction to face off against countless opponents, both in their lives and in the decades since, that were good at using the Bible to support the positions that they wanted to hold all along. In Darwin’s case it’s been people that would like to make a literal, God-dictated, account of the way things were out of something that was clearly intended to be a fable at worst, an allegory at best. In Lincoln’s case, the thing he mainly wanted to do was to preserve the United States, but he ended up having to abolish slavery well before he thought we were ready. At that time, and ever since, there have been disingenuous souls who try and misdirect the argument by saying that it was about State’s Rights, without wanting to cop to the fact that the only right it was really about was the right for States to allow slavery. And, at the time, they too were only too willing to point to slavery in the Bible to make their case that it was the natural and right order of things.

Well, God and I are here to tell you, the Bible is not the inerrant word of God. It’s the errant ramblings of power hungry men, some sane, some not, some in touch with God, most not. Like Aesop’s Fables or the tales of the Brother’s Grimm, the Bible has a lot of good advice but not all of it still applies today. So take a moment to wish a Happy Birthday to Chuck and Abe and then learn to take some responsibility for figuring out what’s right and what’s wrong. After all, some other people that depended on religious leaders to interpret things for them ended up drinking a pretty bad batch of Kool-aid.

Rainy Days

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Today was one of those rainy gray days. The kind of day where the light makes it feel like twilight all the way through, where it feels like the day is ending even when it’s barely begun.

I asked God if she ever felt like that, like whatever she was supposed to get done didn’t matter because it was already time to give up and go home.

She told me that, yeah, the dark ages were kind of like that for her.