Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.
Monday, July 23, 2007
The common ground
What do Santa Claus, Israel, Iraq, the United States, Jews, Muslims, Palestinians, Christians, Tuxologists, the Great Penguin, Jehovah, Allah, and the Easter Bunny all have in common?
I'll give you a hint. I point a human being out to you. Can you show me the "Jew" or "Christian" in him? Can you point it out to me, hold it up to me so I can see what it looks like? If I fire up Google Earth and show you a piece of ground, do you see any lines drawn on that ground that say one side is somehow different from the other?
I guess the first and last items should have made it clear what I'm up to. It's all imaginary. Made up. Just the overheated delusions of jumped up monkeys with delusions of grandeur. There's the world, there's us, there's the stuff in the world, that's it. All this religion and nationality and ethnicity and shit is just made up bullshit. There ain't one single bit of genetic difference between the monkeys who call themselves "Palestinians" and the monkeys who call themselves "Jews", for example. They just made up that silliness and use it as an excuse to kill each other. There is no such thing as some invisible sky demon called "Jehovah" or "Allah" or "The Great Penguin" who strikes down evildoers with lightning bolts or fire from the sky or rains of herring. There's just a bunch of monkeys who try to avoid the knowledge that they're just monkeys by making up invisible sky demons to make themselves feel bigger than other people.
I've been called "anti-Semitic", "anti-Muslim", "un-patriotic" anti-lots of things. But what I really am is anti-bullshit. If you can't smell it, touch it, sniff it, measure it, or otherwise interact with it on a real life basis, it's just made-up imaginary bullshit. And if you come around flogging made-up bullshit, then you deserve the flamethrower you'll get.
The reason you'll get the flamethrower is that bullshit has consequences. "America" may be made-up bullshit, but the guns being carried by monkeys who believe in that made-up bullshit kill just as well as if there was a such a thing as "America" that could be smelled, touched, sniffed, measured. But I can't go and pick up something and show it to someone and say "this is America". I can show people a piece of dirt, but that's dirt. I can show people a building, but that's brick and stone and steel. I can show people a piece of paper with some blotches of ink on it, but that piece of paper isn't "Islam". There really isn't a such a thing as "America" or "Islam" or whatever that you can see and touch. It's just made up bullshit by monkeys with too much imagination and delusions of grandeur.
What we are, friends and mammals, are animals. We are just animals. Animals with big brains and a propensity to spout imaginary bullshit, but animals all the same. We are born, we eat, we defecate, we grow up (can't really say "mature"), we fornicate and reproduce, we grow old, we die. Just like every other animal on this planet. We're unique amongst animals in that we've figured out ways to communicate stuff between us, and figured out ways to build impressive crap, and figured out impressive ways to kill each other and other animals. But in the end, we're just meat. Meat stuffed into sausage skin and wrapped around bone. Meat that has a bad tendency to flap its meat at each other and slice open each other's sausage wrappers to let the meat fall out, but meat all the same.
As for all that other stuff.... it's just bullshit. Made up. Imaginary. Ladies and germs, the Easter Bunny is not real. Neither is "Mexican". Neither is "Jew" or "Muslim". It's all just made up silliness by monkeys that have lost their bearings and lost track of what is true and what is real. What is true and real is that, in the end, we are all just monkeys (well, except those of us who are penguins!), and all the rest of that stuff is just bullshit that we ought to just ignore while we get along with living our little monkey lives in peace. Sadly, though, deluded fools who think made-up bullshit is, like, actually real, keep using those psychotic delusions to give them excuses to kill other monkeys. Pathetic. Simply pathetic. If you're going to kill someone, at least do it for a reason that's real, not for some made-up imaginary nonsense like "race" or "religion" or whatever....
I was walking down the bread aisle at the local Safeway and there were these huge DOUBLE-CHOCOLATE muffins. CHOCOLATE. Muffins. I bought them. I gave into temptation and bought them. Then a few feet down the aisle was this yummy looking jalapeno cheese focaccia bread. I bought that too.
I sinned. I gave in to temptation. That means I'm going to Hell, right?
What do you mean, it only means I'm going to get fat? But... but... what? Give you ten pushups and get the fuck out of your confession booth and go get some exercise? Err... what kind of priest are you, to tell me that I gotta do something practical instead of just pray to Jesus or Mary or Saint Yummylicious? I don't want to exercise! I just wanna pray to Saint Yummylicious for forgiveness!
Waddya mean, Saint Yummylicious don't give a shit about my double-chocolate muffins and if I don't want to keel over from a heart attack I gotta quit eating this shit and go get some exercise? What, did the Rude Pundit sneak into the confessional?
Wadya mean, quit looking to other people to solve my problems? But... but... you're supposed to be the voice of God! What? You mean God wants me to solve my own damned problems instead of expecting Him to wave his magic wand and make me un-fat and shit? Well fuck you, priest. I'm going to go to one of those religions that tell me that all I godda do is bend the knee and pray to Jesus and give all my money to some guy with greased-back hair and fat jowls and I'll be Saved and go to Jesus and don't need to solve my own problems because Jesus will solve them all for me. Screw you and your stupid message that God wants us to take care of our own shit. I'm gonna become an evangelical Christian, bend the knee, accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and have all my sins washed away in the Blood of the Lamb, and then Jesus will take all my problems away, Glory Hallaleujah, AMEN!
What's that you said? "Good riddance"? Well screw you too...
In which this penguin discusses easy answers vs. simple answers -- and why they're not the same.
First, though, a slight digression as I start installing Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn onto the /new4 partition of my server... check back in a little bit... GAH! I need to download a "server install" rather than the "workstation install" that I downloaded, the "workstation install" has a brain dead idiot stupid retarded installer on it that only works with a single IDE hard drive. Be back in an hour or so... sorry about that. Had to reboot my laptop into Linux to burn a new CD with k3b because HP doesn't include CD burning software with their el-cheapo consumer laptops (what a buncha jerks!). The KDE CD burning software is easier to use than anything I ever ran under Windows anyhow -- just click the 'open', select the ISO, and it automatically knows you want to burn a disk with it and gives you a 'start' button to start the burn. Click the start button, watch the progress bars go, and it's *done*. Anyhow, I was on my Windows laptop doing the blogging but had to reboot it to get into a real OS. Anyhow, where was I?
Oh yes. Answers. One way you can tell an easy answer is that it doesn't require much of you. All easy answers are simple answers -- do bad things? Why, just bend the knee and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and all is forgiven, you can go out and do more bad things and still get into heaven! That's a simple answer. But it's also an easy answer. Because it doesn't require anything of you except babbling some meaningless words in the church-house. We have a word for those kinds of people, BTW. We call them "hypocrits". Accepting Jesus into your heart is something that you live, not something you say. Kurt Vonnegut always said he didn't believe in Jesus or God. Yet he lived every day as if he did, indeed, he once said that he would not want to be part of a race that had never produced the Beatitudes. Vonnegut is an example of a man who had Jesus in his heart even if he did not have Jesus in his head. What matters is that you follow Jesus, not that you say you do.
Anyhow, back to where we were. So all easy answers are simple answers. But are all simple answers easy answers? Well, no. As Bryan mentioned in Answers Part I, there are simple answers that are far, far from easy. For example, Bill and Ted's Most Excellent Commandment: "Be Most Excellent to One Another" (a re-statement of Matthew 22:36-40) is simple. But is it easy? Well, Jerry Falwell died today of heart failure. I'm finding it very, very difficult to avoid expressing amazement that he even had a heart, given the hatred that he has spewed over the years. Being most excellent to Jerry Falwell might be simple, but it sure isn't easy.
Okay, so we've established that all easy answers are simple, but not all simple answers are easy. Now hold on, I need to reboot my laptop back into Windows and resume posting from over there, now that my CD is burned... okay, I'm back. Feisty went on just fine with the 'server' disk, now I have Kubuntu and Ubuntu Studio downloading. The latter of which being why I wanted to upgrade to Feisty, except you couldn't upgrade to Feisty from Dapper, but luckily I keep a couple of spare root partitions hanging around because my server has five SATA disks in it (three 160gb disks, two 80gb disks) set up as MD RAID arrays, thus I have no shortage of disk space, so I just installed on one of my spare root partitions after making sure the whole system was backed up first (!!!! Very important !!!) but it looks like it went on real slick. Anyhow, it's downloading so where was I?
Oh yeah. Easy answers vs. simple answers. Now, here comes the kicker. A youngster says, "well, that's the wonder, that God set out easy answers for us in the Bible! And I arrived at this all on my own without anybody giving me easy answers!"
Uhm, no, child, No you didn't arrive at that on your own. A pastor used the exact same words you used, and while you may believe you arrived at them on your own, you didn't. You're repeating what someone told you. I know because a pastor used those exact same words with me thirty years ago, when I was your age. Of course, at 14 years of age I was full of piss and vinegar and thought I knew everything. Now, thirty years later, I just have to laugh. The more I know, the more I know that I don't know shit, and never will, because the universe (God) is just too big, and I'm just a limited hunk of meat.
And when I was 18, I thought I knew some wise things. But I didn't. Like most youngsters that age with any kind of luck, I'd been shielded and sheltered from the realities of life. All I knew was what the people around me knew -- people just like myself, the same race, general income level, religion, and so forth. I'd never met a gay couple, indeed, the first time I met a gay couple I didn't recognize them as gay until it was pointed out to me, "hey, stupid, they have a two bedroom apartment and the second bedroom is used as a computer room!". I'd never walked into a crack house and talked to a gang-banger. I'd never rebuild an engine, or welded a shock tower on, or taught a classroom full of troubled youth in a behavior center, or lived with a Hindu, or worked with someone from a foreign country, or ... well, you get the point. I thought I knew something. But I didn't. I still don't, thirty years later. I can't. Nobody can. The universe is too big, and we're too small. We can know parts of the universe, sort of, somewhat. But we will never know the totality of God's creation, the totality of God, because we are finite and God is not. Heck, even knowing the totality of Man's creation is far beyond any one of us nowdays.
Anyhow, I just have to laugh at running into another 18 year old full of piss and vinegar who thinks he knows all the answers and trots out the same old easy answers that I accepted as true back when I was a kid his age. But life isn't easy. And while there are some simple answers in the Bible, like "love thy neighbor as thyself", they aren't easy either. They may be simple, but they aren't easy. If you're pulling easy answers out of the Bible, answers that don't require anything of yourself or that even require you to impose your will at gunpoint upon another human being, then you need to quit talking and start living and listening. The Quakers know this. That's why the Quakers don't go out evangelizing their religion. They live it. They show people by example how a man or woman of faith is supposed to live, through charity and good works and advocating for peace whether in the neighborhood or amongst the community of nations. When they pray, they don't talk. They listen. Their prayer at the meeting house on First Day is completely silent. God is out there. Are you listening? Or are you repeating what others have told you, and closing your ears to God in the process?
And that's a simple answer. But it's not an easy answer. We monkeys do love to natter away...
Anyhow: faith is a journey, not a destination. If you believe you've arrived at a destination, it is time to close your mouth, and open your ears, and listen. Because easy answers aren't part of God's creation. They're part of Man's.
The most endearing, frustrating, and horrifying attribute of the human race is the search for easy answers to complex problems. Whether it is the easy answer of "kill the Jews" for the complex problem of Germany's poor economy in the 1920's, or the easy answer of "kill the abortion doctors" for the complex problem of abortion, or the easy answer of "conquer their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity" for the complex problem of maniacs running airplanes into skyscrapers, Mankind will never stop searching for the winning lottery ticket in the answer sweepstakes.
But sometimes there aren't any easy answers. Sometimes there aren't even any answers at all. Why did my father have so much sorrow in his life, and such a horrifying end? Why do some men turn to lives of violence and hate? What is going to happen to me in the near future? The easy answer, "it was God's will", is just that -- an easy answer. The universe is infinite, and the notion that we meat animals with our limited grey meat brains are capable of comprehending more than the tiniest part of the infinite is so staggering an act of hubris that it is a wonder that the Creator does not just strike us all down with a blazing series of lightning bolts.
Back to thinking bloggers. This is It may be a blog by a sloppy dog lover, but that's okay, this cat lover reads it anyhow. Why Now gives a nice perspective on the news. And then, hmm... ah yes. I suspect I need to narrow down a representative of that mighty supervillain The Gay Agenda for the final candidate, but which one? A distressing number of blogs on my right margin are created by The Gay Agenda with his evil gay ray gun of gayness that, like, shoots out of television screens and TURNS OUR CHILDREN GAY !!! OH THE HORROR!. Shall it be Mustang Bobby? 42? Hmm...
But there are, unfortunately, several bloggers who have fallen prey to the easy answers fallacy who have fallen off the list of thinking bloggers. There is one ornery old coot who goes around snorting "Who cares, it's all monkeys." Yes dear. And you're a monkey too. What's your point? More distressing is a blogger who is a co-blogger of mine at another site who is much more thoughtful person, except he is always falling for easy answers too. Autism on the rise? Easy answer: It's the vaccines! The 9/11 attacks were awefully convenient for the Bush Administration? The towers were brought down by explosives! Early-onset Alzheimer's runs in the family? Here's some magic herbs that'll stop Alzheimers! Sadly, his once-vibrant blog has become almost unreadable as his quest for easy answers to complex reality removes all skepticism and willingness to consider alternative points of view.
Which reminds me of another young man. This youngster has fallen for easy answers also. He spouts the easy answers given to him by his elders, generally in the form of a simple statement that over-simplifies a complex issue and a scattering of Bible verses that "support" that simple statement, yet refuses to consider the wonder that is the Infinite. He, too, has fallen prey to the fallacy that there are easy answers to life. In his case, the easy answer is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, at which point everything becomes simple and you do not need to consider the complexities of the Infinite any longer, you simply act as a soldier of Christ bringing a scattering of simple statements issued by your elders ("the Truth") to the rest of the population. But the Infinity that is the Creator is far vaster than the contents of any book written in human language. The notion that the bags of water and meat called "humanity" could begin to comprehend more than a tiny portion of the Infinite is such an absurd notion that it doesn't survive the giggle test. One day this young man will find out that reality cannot be encompassed by easy answers. One day this young man will discover that what he thought was "The Truth" is just a small part of the Infinite, and that the faith that he professes encompasses only a small part of the infinity that is the Creator. Then what? I don't know. What, you thought I had easy answers too?
Reminder: People are people. Good or evil doesn't depend on race, nationality, hair color, or economic status. On average, the typical backwoods aborigine in the furthest depths of the Amazon is no more or less noble than any other human being on the planet. Except neo-cons. But neo-cons, like the Sith, chose to go to the dark side. That free will thing.
Some Bible kiddy came around here and spit out a buncha verses that "prove" that Man is inherently evil. I pointed out that his verses weren't even 1/10th of 1% of the Bible and that a handful of verses out of context didn't mean diddly, but I'm not quite sure of that. Anyhow, it's not true. I've travelled all over this country and in a variety of places in the world, and people is people. Mostly apathetic, mostly self-absorbed and concerned only with whatever is happening in their own lives, true. But evil? No. To me, "evil" means that you actually go out of your way to do bad things. And I just have not met many people like that. And I've met a fair number of people who you probably would not want to invite home for dinner, given the fact that I taught in ghetto schools in two different locations. I've met misguided people. I've met stupid people. I've met people who will come to no good end. But I've met precious few people who actually go out of their way to do harm to others simply to do evil, and the one that I remember best is a neo-con "Christian" from Houston who was always ranting and railing about how he didn't want any of his tax money going to pay for schools for "niggers". (Yes, he used that word, at his own private dinner parties, one of which I attended in hopes of getting donations for the school I was teaching at). If the Bible appears to contradict reality, well, either the Bible is wrong or you are reading the Bible wrong. Pick your poison. If you're a Christian who believes the Bible is Truth, the only conclusion you can come to at that point is that your feeble human reading skills simply aren't capable of fetching God's truth out of text written in human language. If you're not a Christian, feel free to consider the Bible just another bunch of snake oil bunkum intended to seperate sheeple from their money.
Who the hell is Mike Gravel? Some cranky 77 year old who is running for President, apparently. He apparently had to take a city bus merely to get to the Washington Press Club to announce his candidacy. A Democrat of the old populist podium-pounding type. While I agree with some of his stuff, I'm not voting for him -- he's just too goddamned old. But he had some good quotes at the "debate" last week:
I got to tell you, we should just plain get out. Just plain get out. [... ] It’s [Iraq] their country. They’re asking us to leave, and we insist on staying there.
You know what’s worse than a soldier dying in vain? More soldiers dying in vain.
... this war was lost the day that George Bush invaded Iraq on a fraudulent basis.
George Bush communicated over a year ago that he would not get out of Iraq until he left office. Do we not believe him? ... How do you get out? You pass the law, not a resolution, a law making it a felony to stay there.
This invasion brought about more terrorism. Osama bin Laden must have been rolling in his blankets, how happy he was, our invading Iraq.
And oh -- it's the Fourth Annual Mission Accomplished Day, where we declared victory in Iraq... and then didn't go home. Given that we won on May 1, 2003 -- why, The Decider even said we did -- why are we still in Iraq? Mike Gravel is right. We should just plain get out.
Iraqi children are being terrorized or killed because of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as thousands of Americans die due to lack of universal health care coverage in the United States. Meanwhile, tighty righties chortle at the notion that the U.S. Supreme Court somehow "protected life" with their muddled decision on late-term abortions, but swiftly change the subject when you start asking, "do post-born children have a right to life", indeed, even delete your messages on their boards when you ask that question. Nevermind that everybody agrees that post-born children are, in fact, people, while not everybody agrees that fetuses are, in fact, people. For some reason, pre-born children have more rights than post-born children in the Brave New World of tighty righty blogs.
Ah yes, the "Christian" Culture of Life. Offer void at birth.
Anything can be justified by taking a handful of Bible verses out of context. The neo-Nazi "Christian Identity" movement, for example, sprinkles Bible verses all through their literature to justify calls for the murder of all non-white Americans, genocide of Jews, and other such apalling un-Christian activities. Only by considering the totality of the life of Christ can you truly begin to comprehend what it means to be Christian. A sprinkling of Bible verses out of context means nothing, especially when said Bible verses are bad translations of Greek translations of Aramaic and Hebrew verses.
There is a saying, "can't see the forest for the trees." Bible verses are the trees. The life of Christ is the forest. You cannot have a forest without trees. But, conversely, a tree, alone, is not a forest, just as a verse, alone, does not begin to express the totality of God's will as expressed in the Bible. Too many people see a few trees and fail to see the entire forest that is God's word as recorded in the Bible.
I can quote Bible verses quite well, thank you, and have done so extensively in the past to support various points I've attempted to make. I have ceased to do so, because the realization has dawned on me that this representation of a few trees as the forest that is the totality of God's will is fundamentally dishonest. Only by reading passages in their proper context can you begin to see the totality of God's word. Scattering verses hither and fro out of context is a means of serving Man, not of serving God, a means of making rhetorical points that serve the goals of Man, not a means of appreciating God's word regarding what it means to be a Christian.
Remember, Republican Jesus* says, "Suffer the little children, for they are worthless after being born." Republican Jesus says, "Begrudge the poor your money, for the poor are just untermenschen and should be exterminated anyhow." Republican Jesus drives the biggest baddest Cadillac Escalade around to attend anti-abortion ralleys, then goes home to a house that's four times as large as ordinary people's houses to prepare his next speech saying how everybody needs to give Republican Jesus more money while poor people in New Orleans are evicted from their homes after their original homes were destroyed because Republican Jesus has spent the past seventy years preaching that the government should not spend Republican Jesus's money on those levees to make them safe. Republican Jesus loves life, as long as life is unborn. The moment that squalling little pupae makes it out of that woman's glory hole, though, it's every child for itself. Remember: Republican Jesus says selfishness is good, greed is the only moral value, and the only life worth anything is unborn life.
And people just LURRRRVE that Republican Jesus. They can't get enough of him. He's not some wimp Jesus preaching about caring for others. He's not some pussy Jesus saying that we should provide basic universal health care to all Americans because, well, it's the right thing to do, to save people's lives by providing basic health care to all (nevermind the economic arguments for universal healthcare, the very fact that we even have to talk about the economic arguments shows just where Republican Jesus's priorities lie). No, Republican Jesus is the kind of Jesus that a lot of people prefer to worship. Like them, he's shallow, greedy, venal, narcissistic, self-interested, loves money, and otherwise an expression of modern American values.
So remember, boys and girls, let's all give a hip hip hoorah for Republican Jesus and the Republican Culture of Life that he represents. Republican culture of Life: Offer void after birth. Batteries not included. Offer may not be combined with any other offer. Have a happy day, sucker!
So what does that mean for us? Not much... other than, of course, than we're going to be in Afghanistan until the Lord Jesus, Himself, returns, at which point He'll take one look and say, "Oh, kiss my cross-hanging ass," and turn around and leave. -- The Dark Wraith
This penguin bows before a true master of snark...
More to follow, after I finish cursing SOB chickenhawks and get my breath back...
"Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce."
-- Molly Ivins, 1944-2007
"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
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