nemorathwald: (I'm losin' it)
Somehow, my desire for sincere work does not rule out performing the occasional wedding.

A young military couple were being sent overseas, and arranged at the last minute to be married by a Justice of the Peace so as to be less likely to be separated by the military. Upon hearing this plan, their families asked to be allowed to put together a real wedding they could attend with all the trappings. The Justice of the Peace would already have done the legal work; the following ceremony would be for show. The families had to work fast. No clergy could be persuaded to perform a ceremony on the Fourth of July with twenty-four hours notice. They went hunting for someone, anyone, who would know how to make the service look and sound traditionally authentic.

Their friend-of-a-friend Tomak thought of me, mostly because I perform the Coffee Ritual at Penguicon. I ritualistically grind, brew, and serve coffee, and parody the High Church singsong cadence, while wearing a Pope costume with a Starbucks logo on the hat.

Tomak: "You're a Bible college dropout, right?"
Me: "I graduated, actually."
Tomak: "Rock on!"
Me: "With an art degree."
Tomak: "Good enough."

When asked what denomination I was, Tomak told them "he was trained Baptist, but now he's more ... Unitarian Universalist." That's one way to put it. I should remember that one.

Jen worked very hard Friday night to put together a setting complete with an altar, unity candles, a humongous Bible with side-by-side English and Greek translations, and a lovely printed manuscript of the ceremony for a memento. She wrote the ceremony, and pasted a printed copy inside a black notebook for me to glance at, since I lacked any time to memorize my lines. I wore a black suit and white turtleneck.

I would like to live in a world in which prayer and encouragement is never a paid acting performance. I didn't want to encourage a young couple that they are doing the right thing, when every evidence available to statistics and brain science tells us they are most certainly not. But it's their lives to live as they choose.

I was worried that I would feel terrible; that it would be the most desperate and grasping thing I've ever done for money. In other words, I felt like one must feel when preparing to appear in one's first porn film. If porn stars can do it, I have no cause to demur. Yes, I said; I will draw from porn stars' strength of determination, learn from their example, and set aside these silly qualms. I will not Hoekstra.

I did not dwell on it while it was happening. I just went with the flow. I kept my mouth shut as much as possible before and after. I was thanked and praised to the skies by clients and their families who were thrilled to tears. Then I hopped in the getaway car and put it out of my mind for several days. The back of my mind is constantly aware that there is video, which might appear on YouTube and come back to haunt me. If I make a habit of presiding over the downfall of beautiful relationships every day, I would experience emotional corrosion quickly. I take comfort that perhaps weary porn stars and reluctant wedding officiants might be the Yin to each other's Yang on some weird karmic scale.
I mentioned this essay on The Sci Phi Show and said that I'd put it back at the top of the site when the episode aired so the listeners could see the illustration, so here it is.

Imagine if transportation was defined as a device that uses horses or sails-- automobile drivers would be accused of denying the existence of transportation.

We're genetically programmed to see an Alpha Male in our primate pack as the source of truth and moral law. This explains the difficulty I have in communicating alternative models of truth and moral law to bible believers. It's not that they reject the model I present, it's that they literally don't know what I'm saying. It's a mental block. We take away the concept of the Alpha Male Monkey in the sky, and they think we've declared truth and morality to be nonexistent, because to them, "right" is defined as: "whatever the Alpha Male Monkey says." By definition. I put the discussion behind this link ...with drawings. ) Morality doesn't look like this:

It looks like this:
Read more... )

The manger scene in front of the civic activity center near R's new apartment.


The sign reads "THIS DISPLAY DOES NOT REPRESENT ANY ONE RELIGION." That is counterfactual but I'll give them an "A" for effort. The photos were taken last week; when I drove past this morning, the sign had been torn down.

Every Christmas Eve and Easter I get paid to operate a video camera for the services of the church I used to work for. As I sat listening to the sermon titled "Yes Sam Harris, There Is A God", in between moments of slack-jawed astonishment that any pastor would make a favorable comparison between Santa and one of the most intellectually sophisticated ideas in human history, it also occurred to me to wonder: "If we secularists are really all that intolerant, how would he explain my presence here?"

I'll tell you how I explain it. Friendship. It's not some forced artificial obedience to an ideal of tolerance, it's sincere friendship with the pastors, staff, and members, pure and simple. I was no less chummy with the organist just because he thinks I shouldn't like technology so much, no less nervous around the cute girl just because she thought R should have treated her medical problems with prayer, no less friendly with her dad just because he agrees with Jerry Falwell about 9/11 being a punishment from God, because one learns that ideology is best left on soapboxes and set aside otherwise. With doctrinaire standards, none of us could have any friends. Better yet, I like to think of my life as a web-comic starring a cast of eccentric and opinionated goofballs like myself. That makes everybody seem lovable and their quirks enrich my experience. If that's not toleration I don't know what is.

Sam Harris might agree. He's one of my personal heroes, and I don't think the pastor's unflattering interpretation of "Letter To A Christian Nation" was more accurate than Harris' unflattering interpretation of the Christian bible. Harris, and Dawkins, and Dennett, are remarkably civil and even gentle. It's difficult to recognize that, because faith has had sacred cow priviledges for so long that any opposition is seen as ugly.

I recognize good people. I've learned that the virtue or monstrousness of someone's opinions seldom has any correlation to the virtue or monstrousness of their behavior, so we must be judged by actions. Given a set of extremely different drivers who approach your broken-down car on the highway, one driver who is a racist pig, another who is an atheist, another who is devoutly religious, and so forth, the odds of which one will pull over to help you is pretty much even. Sweet and kind people can mouth the most awful atrocities while on a soapbox but not go through with them when they witness real people in real pain; the other side of that coin is that sociopaths can be very gifted at faking what you want to hear.

That goes to show that Matthew 12:34 is another place Jesus of Nazareth was wrong, by the way. On that note, if I ever write a book of the type Harris, Dawkins and Dennet have written, one advantage I have that they lack is a knowledge of theology.

Happy Holidays, everybody. And no, there is no formulation of well-wishes that would offend me, so don't worry about it.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
Carl Sagan died ten years ago today. An extended excerpt from the epilogue to Billions and Billions, written by his wife Ann Druyan, was posted to the web, and five or six years ago I read it while wandering in the collapsed shell of a faith that didn't work for me. Sagan's good death influenced my development for the better as much as did his good life. I wonder if that is why so many people are memorializing this anniversary as much as that of his birth?

To the bible-believer, the death of any humanist is a repudiation of what he or she stood for. Many a time I've heard it said of the death of one who was publicly irreligious that he or she "knows better now." Fear is a powerful influence on the ability to think clearly. I've often been asked "what if you're wrong? You would spend eternity in hell." This argument-by-threat is equivalent to a prosecution attorney telling a jury "There is no good reason to suppose the defendant is guilty of murder, but what if he is? He would sneak into your houses and kill your families. So you'd better convict him." The vivid imagery of hell actually makes that tactic work.

It's possible, as Sagan demonstrated on his deathbed, to be an atheist in a foxhole; to see the biblical mythology the same way that a bible-believing Christian would dismiss a threat from Allah or Hare Krishna; to not be cowed by the groundless fears of folklore. As Sagan famously said, "I don't want to believe, I want to know." This confidence makes it possible to do as he did, and stare one's own obliteration in the face with a level of coping skill few achieve even in adulthood. As Eric Hoffer wrote, "Faith, enthusiasm, and passionate intensity in general are substitutes for the self-confidence born of experience and the possession of skill." Sagan exemplified this distinction. Once I began to realize what it was like to go out and experience for one's self instead of taking someone's word for it-- to research and find out rather than to postulate convictions-- faith seemed a paltry stop-gap measure for knowledge, if not a symptom of downright insecurity.

Thank you, Carl Sagan. I wish I had not missed out on your life.

This has been part of the Carl Sagan memorial blog-a-thon.

Mr. Toll

Dec. 8th, 2006 04:56 pm
The very best years of my education were the last two years of high school-- the years in public education. In particular, an astronomy teacher named Mr. Toll made a significant difference for the better, on my life and on who I am as a person.

I spent my Junior and Senior years at Roseville High because my parents could no longer afford religious private schooling for all of their children. Rather than put me back into home-schooling, they allowed me, their eldest, to complete my education in the public school system. Perhaps it was financial desperation, or perhaps it was in the hopes that the church brainwashing had sufficiently set in to resist the exposure to other influences. It had set in enough that I went on from Roseville High to attend an insane cult compound named Pensacola Christian College, but two years at Roseville High were a crucial break in the program of church-run education which carefully conditions the perceptions and world-view of students to be mindless Christian soldiers.

During that break, my mind was expanded and I was exposed to better role models. (By the way, the excellent science fiction in the Roseville High School library didn't hurt either when it came to expanding my mind.)

I was shocked, at first, when Mr. Toll admitted with no shame that he was a member of CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal. Yet despite this, to me he clearly wasn't a bad person. To the contrary, when compared to members of the church, his motivations were more honest, his vision of the universe and our evolutionary place in it was more beautiful, his friendship with students was more inclusive, his hope for this life (rather than the afterlife) was more inspiring.

By demonstrating a passionate interest in finding a happy and moral place in the universe as it truly is, he served as a role model it make it seem like a viable alternative for me to give up insisting by faith that the cosmos is as we wish it to be. The seeds which Mr. Toll planted of scientific honesty, and of a humanism which I can only clumsily term "anti-misanthropy", took several years to finish bearing fruit. Nevertheless I could never quite fit in religious fundamentalism after I took his astronomy class, and through many subsequent influences and experiences eventually became a well-adjusted and happy secularist.
The phrase "the Alpha Male Monkey" may be the most useful new explanatory tool I've encountered in years. [livejournal.com profile] paranthropus gave it to me in a recent LJ post about primate group psychology. It was an inspirational and motivational insight into the evolutionary biology of my psychology which has kept me up at night thinking of the implications. I wrote about it in this subsequent LJ post, but it occurred to me that this is valuable for explaining myself to bible-believing Christians.

We're genetically programmed to see an Alpha Male in our primate pack as the source of truth and moral law. This explains the difficulty I have in communicating alternative models of truth and moral law to bible believers. It's not that they reject the model I present, it's that they literally don't know what I'm saying. It's a mental block. We take away the concept of the Alpha Male Monkey in the sky, and they think we've declared truth and morality to be nonexistent, because to them, "right" is defined as: "whatever the Alpha Male Monkey says." By definition. I put the discussion behind this link ...with drawings. ) Morality doesn't look like this:

It looks like this:
Read more... )
nemorathwald: (I'm losin' it)
The village of Hell, Michigan threw a party yesterday because the date was 06/06/06. My friends and I visited, and found it to be strangely worthwhile.

It's a large clearing in a forest. I had to drive all over Hell's half acre to get there. The road to Hell is hemmed in on both sides with trees, and on 6/6/6, it was also lined with cars on either side for a couple of miles. The townsfolk clearly were insufficiently prepared; they did not expect tens of thousands of people to break Hell wide open. They had good intentions-- but they paved the road to Hell with asphalt.

The three buildings were the general store, the "Screams" ice cream shop where Hell freezes over, and the Dam Site Inn. Behind this restaurant I visited a river with a dam across it. This town is where Hell Creek is dammed.

It's said that "wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereby," but that was not the case. Other than the scattering of homes, the only three buildings in Hell had lines stretching out in which one could wait for an hour, more reminiscent of the line for Peter's pearly gates. Hell is long lines.

There were a lot of signs to stick your head through and take pictures with; hearses painted with macabre and beautiful illustrations; a bell with a huge wooden gong; souveneirs for $6.66; people wearing elaborate monster costumes and handbaskets; and a singing, guitar-strumming vampire from whom we bought CDs. And yet despite the quick depletion of everything to see in Hell, and almost nothing to do, the occupants of Hell had no fury like a woman scorned. Instead there were smiles everywhere. It was the typical fairgoing crowd, made up of hundreds of curiosity seekers from most walks of life, plus massive quantities of bikers and several extremely visible police. I expected to say "never was there a more wretched hive of scum and villiany" but ... no. Not so much.

I arrived too late to see the main attraction, which was a street preacher. He warned the revelers of impending catastrophe and offered salvation, until the bikers blew an enormous cloud of tire-smoke on him. (Image from the Detroit Free Press is here.) And the street preachers walked away; that means on 6/6/6 the bikers made the lame to walk. But they were still lame.

I'm kind of upset that I missed it because that's really what 6/6/6 in Hell Michigan is all about. We were there to celebrate that man's insane mythology just like we celebrate a TV show or a comic book. These tales would not have come down to us through the centuries without people who took them seriously. He was like that lady I met at a Star Trek convention who said that one day, after she fell down the stairs and hit her head, she started picking up transmissions from the Pliades constellation, and forgot 200 words of Klingon vocabulary.

The original author of the book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Christian Bible didn't take 6-6-6 seriously, and might be amused by the Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia of those who do. The attributes of the Beast, such as this number, were a set of euphemisms he used to represent Emperor Nero, who was persecuting Christians at the time. He couldn't come out and name the things he was talking about because he would get in trouble, so the entire book is full of satirical symbolism. Our own editorial cartoons will probably make no sense 2000 years from now, but I hope they don't become the source of a superstition.

Images behind this link. )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
And so concludes another discussion, this time with someone who says he is "completely objective now as faer [sic] as is humanly possible". According to him, the way to become objective is to stop hardening your heart against Christ, and instead harden your heart against anything other than Christ. I particularly love how he prefaces a statement by saying "LOGIC:" Isn't that cute?

On the one hand he is proud of his higher education and expects me to take his word for it because of this; and on the other hand he simultaneously considers universities to be in the business of deceiving people. He is really impressed with pseudoscientist Creationists who have not published any papers through peer-reviewed journals. In those rare moments where he stops telling me what my motives are and attempts to put together an argument, this is the main thrust. He eventually concludes our exchange with a frustrated series of insults couched in love and friendship. He specifically denies that I got to him, but obviously I did. Poor guy.

Not trusting e-mail alone to keep my records, I am archiving it here even though it will be of limited interest to you. I am also removing the name of my correspondent.
Read more... )
At one time or another I've faced down most of the arguments listed on this site: Over 300 Proofs of God's Existence collected from discussions with religious people on the Internet Infidels forums. It just keeps getting funnier and funnier.

17. ARGUMENT FROM INTIMIDATION
(1) See this bonfire?
(2) Therefore, God exists.
Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
Did you really think that every modern bible believer accepts the findings of Copernicus? Witness so-called Creation Science in its purest and least hypocritical form. Geocentricity.com is the homepage of the Biblical Astronomy Association. They attempt to prove the existence of "the firmament" using sophistries and fallacious reasoning clothed in scientific language. All that serves as a good education in how to detect their type of pseudoscience through its comparison with other pseudosciences like Creationism, but when you get to their Credo they unclothe their dishonesty in plain sight:

"...All scientific endeavor which does not accept this revelation from on high without any reservations, literary, philosophical or whatever, we reject as already condemned in its unfounded first assumptions.

We believe that the creation was completed in six twenty-four hour days and that the world is not older than about six thousand years. We maintain that the Bible teaches us of an earth that neither rotates daily nor revolves yearly about the sun; that it is at rest with respect to the throne of him who called it into existence; and that hence it is absolutely at rest in the universe. ..."


{blah blah blah salvation}

" Lastly, the reason why we deem a return to a geocentric astronomy a first apologetic necessity is that its rejection at the beginning of our Modern Age constitutes one very important, if not the most important, cause of the historical development of Bible criticism, now resulting in an increasingly anti-Christian world in which atheistic existentialism is preaching a life that is really meaningless."

So there they blow it by showing their hand and revealing what's really at stake is that they can't mature emotionally and accept the cosmos as it is. As soon as they remove such passages (the same way Creationism was dressed up as Intelligent Design) watch out Kansas school boards. What is really most important about this website is that they acknowledge, and effectively demonstrate with specific passages and arguments about them, that the Christian bible teaches geocentrism and cannot be accepted literally without it. The bible must be taken figuratively.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
In a recent reply on this blog to [livejournal.com profile] rikhei's question
I get the impression that you feel our political system should reflect Christian morality - if that's so, may I ask how you feel about the doctrine of separation of church and state?
[livejournal.com profile] sibbidy said:
This country was founded on Christian morality. The seperation of church and state was created so the government would not interfere with the church, not vice versa.

What this fails to take into account is that the involvement of your church in the state is state involvement in church-- just interfering with somebody else's church. If it was Islamic involvement in our government, [livejournal.com profile] sibbidy would quickly see a demonstration of this.

The view she expresses is Christian Supremacism, an interpretation of religious freedom identical to that of Islamic Supremacists. The shared idea of these movements is that since their nations have traditions from one particular religion, "freedom of religion" means that other religions are free to practice in privacy as tolerated guests. In this interpretation, the public sphere is a place on which a majority religion can plant a flag as the sole basis for legitimate authority, as Judge Moore did in Alabama, and which currently also exists in Iran.

I'm not sure which I would rather have: a nation under attack by Islamic violence because we hold fast to a principle of separation between church and state, or to defeat Al Quaeda abroad while succumbing to Dr. James Dobson's American Taliban in our laws. But it's clear that the threat from Christian political supremacists will be, and already has been, a greater threat to the personal first-hand experience of you and me than the threat of violence from Muslim political supremacists.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
You know I am not having a very good day when I tell a Republican Party Organizer on PCCboard the following: "If I see even one judge or their families get hurt with the contact info you're distributing, I'm taking your words straight to the authorities to make sure you get put behind bars where you belong."

This is because he said, "we identify liberal judges. We publish their pictures online along with their contact information. When they make bad rulings, we call them at the office, at home, fax them, email them and let folks know who their family members are as well. ... Federal and state judges do not want to be the next abortion doctors. Nobody wants to walk around with a target on their back."

When taken to task by other fundamentalist Christians for being a low-rent South American dictator, he replied: "Don't act so self righteous. We're at war for the heart and soul of this nation and its very survival depends on restoring Godly rule to our country. Unless you are willing to get down and dirty, you won't win, and we must win for our childrens' sakes. Ronald Reagan said it best, "When you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat.""

Elsewhere on the many mouth-foaming and ranting threads on that site about the Schaivo case, I said this to a reporter (also a graduate of PCC) covering Pinellas Park right now:
"It may interest you to know how these events [you are covering, such as demonstrations and riots and signs saying we deserve for God to shed our blood] are being perceived by the blue states. I have met almost no one who cares whether Terry Schiavo lives or dies. By this I mean your opponents are not angered by the thought of her body continuing to live.
However, we are angered and scared by the conservative protesters, pundits and preachers who we see on the news and on talk shows. We are not disturbed that they want Terry's body to keep on chugging away, but we are disturbed by their reasons and arguments.
There is a lot of talk about the Red States (or as they are now known, the Vegetative States) as an enemy nation like the Islamist theocracies, because of the perfect equivalence of what we hear out of the mouths of the fanatical and gullible mobs that fill their mosques and churches and spill out into their streets."


This is why the feuds among some of my friends are so unimportant and I take no part. Feuding power struggles or cat fights in a science-fiction fan club reveal an amazing lack of perspective about what is worth getting mad over. I want to tell them, "How can you call this person an enemy just because of your personality conflict? Have you listened to the theocrats lately? You don't know what an enemy is."
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
The SF author Orson Scott Card posted an essay to a Mormon website about why Mormonism is incompatible with being openly homosexual.

This may come as a surprise to him, but the argument on which Mr. Card bases his entire essay actually is ethical relativity. Let us take an example. Either raping a woman is wrong because of the suffering of the victim, or it is wrong just because god happened to arbitrarily roll some dice and decree it. Mr. Card is among the type who would say the latter. "Against thee and thee only have I sinned," wrote the Psalmist David addressing god. In other words the suffering of the victim is inconsequential. This is a form of ethical relativism. If wrong is only wrong because of the preferences of a deity, then that preference is arbitrary whim because there is no standard higher than god for a god to judge itself against. If instead, Mr. Card believes that god observes behavior and then conforms his own laws to the evidence based on the suffering of the victims, then he is holding his decisions to an exterior standard and is therefore not god. "Arbitrary" means "held to no exterior standard."

Mr. Card thinks god's will is loving, pure, just and good. This statement can have no meaning in a theistic framework, because what standard is he using to let himself stand as judge and jury over god to say that? Is god's will the standard against which god's will is measured? Then we have said nothing about god's goodness, but only that god's will is god's will. That becomes the arbitrary definition of "good." Then it's only immutable in the sense that it immutably defines morality by its whim from moment to moment. Every time it arbitrarily changes its mind, that change becomes the new definition of morality. If it stays the same forever, so what? It is held to one arbitrary roll of the dice, forever.

The Christian or LDS rules-based moral system cannot accomplish the objectivity which they claim they want from a moral system.

This is because it confuses mere rules with moral truths, and bases morality on a set of rules instead of the other way around. Objective moral truths do not change just because an authority changes a rule-- not even god. If Mr. Card believes they do, then he is a moral relativist, except even worse, because he extends it to a cosmic scale. Only rules are man-made or God-made. Objective morality, on the other hand, cannot be man-made or God-made, it's not made by anybody. 2 + 2 = 4 doesn't need to be decreed by royal fiat. Neither does the fact that unprovoked harm of another person is biased towards you and against them. Theism makes it impossible for moral truths to be objectively real. If there is a god, then, and only then, is morality subjective and relativistic.

However, Mr. Card is right about one thing:

"Those who are not willing or able to obey the rules should honestly admit the fact and withdraw from membership. ...the LDS church, which is founded on the idea that the word of God as revealed through his prophets should determine the behavior of the Saints, is under no obligation to protect some supposed "right" of those members who would like to persuade us that neither God nor the prophets has the authority to regulate them."

I would not stop to urinate on Mr. Card's supposed god and prophets if they were on fire. This is not specifically because I disagree with them on an issue, such as homosexuality, which is just one of many problematic issues with religion. It's because of authoritarianism. Just as we can't learn to do arithmetic by always looking it up on a chart, and refusing to countenance the idea that the chart is wrong -- so too we can't practice ethical reasoning by looking it up in a so-called holy book. Therefore there is nothing so evil in the holy books as the claim that we should unquestioningly get our rules for living from them, rather than from personal reason and observation. The specific errors such as the prohibition on harmless sexual quirks would be easily repaired if it weren't for their Stalinesque attitude toward authority.

Nevertheless, I can't help but agree with Mr. Card that there are no gay Mormons by definition. To claim that his view represents a mere misunderstanding of the book of Mormon, and that the book actually does not prohibit homosexuality, is as absurd as saying that chairman Mao really was a capitalist if you read between the lines, and therefore a capitalist can legitimately claim to be a Maoist.

It's time to draw the line in the sand and step firmly across to the ethical side. The Church of Latter-Day Saints, along with other scripture-following authoritarian religions, have abandoned their responsibilities to individually observe the data of lived experience with a mind to personally weigh the costs and benefits of behaviors.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
The project to translate the Christian Bible into Lojban is working from English rather than Greek and Hebrew. It's apparently the Douay-Rheims translation. I think we currently only have one or two Lojban-speakers in Israel and none in Greece that I know of; even if we did, they no longer speak Koine Greek in Greece.

Something recently occured to me that amused me very much. My community of origin believes in secondary inspiration; the doctrine that not only does God directly dictate every word of a canonical text to the original authors (they act only as stenographers), but also Bible translators are miraculously inspired so that they infallibly write every jot and every tittle as God wishes to say it in English or any other language. If I participate in translating the Bible into Lojban and use a descendant of the correct Greek and Hebrew versions (the Textus Receptus according to them), I wonder if my teachers, pastors and parents would have to consider me to be in the ironic position of an atheist who is the mouthpiece of God? Then again, if I use the "corrupted" Alexandrian text on which the NIV is supposedly based, it would create no cognitive dissonance at all, since versions other than the KJV are bibles of the devil as far as they're concerned. Interesting isn't it?

Read more... )
Let me tell you one of the most fascinating stories I ever heard. I read about it in The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong. It's a true story from history about a seventeenth-century would-be messiah named Sabbatai Zevi. The story is worth reading for repeated surprises in the ending that give an insight into how it's possible that people would think Jesus of Nazareth, or for that matter Monty Python's "Brian that is called Brian," to be a messiah.Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
From George P. Dvorsky's Blog, Sentient Developments, comes the following sarcastic prayer.
Dear God,
as we marvel at Thy creation,
this tiny planet Earth on which we dwell,
we stand in awe and reverence in the Universe's unfolding.
As we continue to stand by You and worship Thee,
and as You in turn answer our prayers and watch over us, Your blessed children,
we remain in blissful ignorance as to Thine divine plan.
But far be it for us to question the motives of God,
for You have blessed us with brains too small and weak to comprehend Thine divine logic.
Surely there is great wisdom in sweeping 56,000 souls out to sea, 18,000 of them children.
For certain Thou has shown great mercy by granting these people a life of poverty and their subsequent reward of death by tsunami.
And absolutely must there be kindness in the disease and strife that will inevitably ensue.
And in addition to this holy earthquake,
we thank You for rectal cancer, male nipples, and for all the hopeful mothers who get to live through a miscarriage.
We welcome our ignorance and confusion, and pray that you continue to bless us with Thy merciful bounty and guardianship.
Amen.

My own thought on this is that the human race is currently demonstrating with love and charity that we're not as devoid as the bible makes us out to be. We are not alone in the universe, because we have each other. I throw my lot in with the mortals. The claim that we are incapable of love and therefore those who act in such kindness are just being puppeteered by Jesus, is a base accusation for which bible-literalists should be ashamed.
Well, the conversation with a radio preacher has drawn to a peaceful close. Although my friends list is unlikely to want to read it, I'm including his final letter in an lj-cut below because this Live Journal is my own record of memories. Mr. Thomas has some charitable things to say in parting about his opponent. Then he concludes by relating miracles, never suspecting that Mormons and JWs and Muslims and new age healers and readers of horoscopes and paranoid schizophrenics experience identical events in plentiful supply to validate their claims that oppose his. It's astonishing that the standard of what will pass for a "miracle" these days is so lenient as to be an insult to miracles as described in scriptural narratives. Biblical miracles, had they truly happened, were mostly of a character that would have been impossible to even contemplate as coincidences. You'd think his concept of God would be a big enough God that Mr. Thomas would expect him to do the impossible, at least occasionally. Oh well.

Mr. Thomas' last letter. )

Round Three

Dec. 8th, 2004 05:07 pm
This exchange has brought to mind the saying of Thomas Paine, "Reasoning with one who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." If through technology we could someday revive the dead to health, what might this suggest about Paine's assertion? I'm not sure where this metaphorical connection is going to lead. But here is the continuation, and probably the finale, of the correspondence with a radio preacher.

Mr. Thomas' third reply. )

My response. )

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