Archive for October, 2009

Costume Foolery

Friday, October 30th, 2009

It’s nearly Halloween. Just one more day. God and I were talking about some of the traditions and we quickly moved on from trick or treating to other things. One thing that God said to me in particular was that humans like to be scared.

Let me clarify that a bit, because the English language has some truly awkward imprecisions. We don’t like the state of being scared but we like the act of being scared, the moment of being scared. We like the jolt of adrenaline or the rush of endorphins or whatever it is that the little drug dealers in all of us go pushing at the moment that fear hits us.

That’s what’s at the core of the success of horror movies and stories. But fear isn’t the only thing that can pump our chemicals. Stephen King has said that he’ll try and scare us but if he can’t work up a good scare he’ll settle for grossing us out. That’s a good observation, because grossing us out really is a sort of fear-lite. It’s fear one step removed. The things that gross us out tend to be things that can hurt us, but that do it slowly, stealthily. We’re scared by things that will rip our guts out and leave us for dead, but we’re grossed out by things that breed germs and harbor viruses, things that can infect us and make us sick.

But remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. The axe wielding murderer may make a better Halloween costume than dressing up as a virus, but the swine flu has already killed a lot more people than have been hacked apart by axes. And it’s just getting started.


Not Dead

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

One of the big aims of Christianity is to try and convince us that there is life after death and that if we live our pre-deaths well that our post-deaths will be good. To put that in their terminology: if we live lives substantially without sin, and then seek forgiveness for what sins we do commit, we will ascend into Heaven upon our deaths. That’s a pretty tall order to teach.

I mean look at what they’re up against. It’s Halloween season so it’s a pretty easy time to see what they’re up against. Just look at our horror movies. What are the perennial favorites, what are the monsters that just keep coming up again and again? Frankenstein’s monster, mummies, wolfmen, zombies, and most especially, vampires. These are all dead things that just won’t stay in their graves. Well, maybe not the wolfmen, but still, four out of five isn’t bad.

So there’s the Christians, beset on every side by the living dead, trying to convince us that those aren’t real, but Heaven is. Say you buy into it. You decide to do the Christian thing and read up on your Bible. You breeze on through the Old Testament, getting all worked up about what a righteous jerk God can be, but then you get past all that and move on in to the New Testament. God may be a bastard but he managed to turn out a pretty good son. Jesus is all “love your neighbor” and “turn the other cheek” and stuff. Then he goes and raises Lazarus from the dead. You think back to the last zombie flick you saw and you just know this can’t turn out good.

That’s what the Christians are up against.

And I haven’t even mentioned how much the Holy Spirit has in common with ghosts.

Out of the Pool

Friday, October 16th, 2009

One of the big tenets of Western religion is monotheism. There is only one god. Now the pagans that the Christians were trying to convert were into many gods. They had a god of the trees and a god of the lake and a god of the mountain and on and on. The Christians countered with the holy trinity, god the father, god the son, and god the holy spirit, but even that wasn’t enough to keep the pagans happy. So the Christians added saints, and saints you can find for every little thing.

For instance, right now I could be spending my days praying to Saint Isidore of Seville, the Patron Saint of Computer Programmers. Or Saint Cajetan, the Patron Saint of Job Seekers. Or Saint Frances de Sales, the Patron Saint of Writers. So many saints, so little time.

Now I can see two probable reasons for the Christians switching the game from a multitude of gods to one god and a plethora of saints. The first is simple oneupmanship. They wanted to be able to say, “my God is better than your God,” or more directly, “my God can beat up your God.” The second reason is one of control. When there’s a different god for each little aspect of our lives, it’s pretty easy for people to slip in new gods whenever they need it. Invent a new alloy and need a god to pray to so that your new batch will come out pure? Invent a new god and spread the word. Nobody will know that you made it up and, hey, it may catch on. But the Catholics are big on centralized control; I think it’s the early Roman influence. They want an official list of saints and only they get to add new ones. Sure there’s a process for nominating and vetting and all that, but they get the final word.

So let me state those two reasons again, but a little more baldly. The first reason is that they want God to be all powerful, the be all and end all, quite literally. The second is that they want to keep power vested in their own bureaucracy. They want job security and control, like all bureaucrats everywhere.

Now let me switch directions for a moment. One of the big arguments against the whole notion of a “created” universe, in general, and against an “intelligent designer” is the old “turtles all the way down” problem. If the universe was created by God, who or what created God? But I’m not going to go there today. What I want you to think about today is a simple combination of the notion of an all-powerful god and the notion that there are many gods. Not many gods in our “universe” but many gods somewhere else. Can you imagine living in a place where everyone around you is omnipotent, where every need and desire is fulfilled with just a thought, where gossip is pointless because everybody already knows, literally, everything? How boring would it be when the mainstays of conversation are “I know that,” and “yes, you’re right.”

So maybe God created our universe as a way to get away from that. It’s a place for him/her to get away from it all, to go and relax, to see the unpredictable. Maybe we used to have lots of gods because his friends dropped by to see what he was working on. Maybe we’re down to one because they weren’t impressed, or maybe he got selfish and wouldn’t let them in anymore.

Now that I can believe. The Old Testament God is petty, vindictive, jealous, and all around a jerk. I can see him having a friend over, letting that friend work on, say, trees and then getting all miffed when the guy also does some work on bushes, because the dividing line between bushes and trees is pretty ill-defined. “That’s it,” God would scream, “everybody out.” It’s his universe and no else is allowed to touch it, they’re not even allowed to see it. And then, well, here we are.

Left Ahead

Friday, October 9th, 2009

God told me today I shouldn’t be be angry at the political conservatives, I should feel sorry for them. I mean, sure they’re doing their best to fight against the very-Christian idea of universal health care, and sure they’re doing their best to make sure that myself and other homosexuals not only won’t be allowed to get married but won’t be allowed to even have the same civil rights as married couples, and sure there’s any number of other progressive movements that scare them so much that they’re fighting them tooth and nail, but hey, think how hard it must be on them to spend so much of their time scared of everything around them.

And that’s what it really boils down to, simple fear. The essence of Progressivism is to see ways in which the world can be better and then try and make the changes that will bring about that better world. The essence of Conservatism is to see all the ways that changing the world can screw it up. Conservatives know that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; Progressives know that you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

In their way, each of them is right.

But if you’re going to be right, wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to be on the side that gets to imagine the good things to come rather than worry about the bad things? And another thing to think about. What would the world be like if progressives always got their way? You don’t know? Well I don’t either, so there’s a whole universe of possibilities to consider. But what would the world be like if conservatives always got their way? That one we do know, if conservatives always got their way, we’d still be living in caves.

God the Father

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I’ve often wondered what a religion would be if it did not involve God. Religions clearly fill some sort of need in the human psyche or else they wouldn’t be so pervasive. So if their were no God, and we didn’t invent God, what would take the place of religion?

Well, here’s the thing, I don’t really know what need religion fills. And God won’t tell me. So I can’t really answer my question. But I did come up with something that seems to have a structure that operates like religion, so I told it to God, and now I’m going to tell it to you.

The Mafia.

Okay, before I get my kneecaps broken, let me say this… I don’t actually know anything about the mafia. Or rather, everything I do know comes from movies, books, and TV. So I know about the fictional mafia but not about the real mafia. But the fictional mafia seems to work a lot like a religion. They have all sorts of rituals. They occasionally go to war with each other. They give a lot of power to the “father.”

I mean, can’t you just see some guy coming over to your house and saying, “You got a real nice soul. Be a shame if anything were to happen to it.”