Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ok, Here's My Version . . .

As usual, I waste huge amounts of time on FaceBook. I read posts by people who believe the best government is no government. I read posts from people who believe that abortion is not a crime . . . or is a crime, depending on which post I read. I get posts of all sorts. And advertisements suggesting a hugely breasted girl is going to enjoy the company of my 68-year-old ass while I learn Italian.
      And then I come across post like this'n, which really get me going, mainly 'cause it goes in two directions at once:
Too many people blame God for bad things. God doesn't cause those bad things. They happen because He's either trying to protect us from something worse or because we live in such a messed up world, full of people with free choices (which cause us heartache and pain) and full of sicknesses that are also not in God's will for us either. God does not cause or want us to be sick, sickness is just a part of this fallen world. God is a God of love, forgiveness, mercy and grace

Sure. Ok. So someone gets cancer because God is protecting us -- no, wait, he's "trying to protect us" as opposed to being omnipotent & thus not having to "try" anything -- from something worse? Worse than cancer?
      Wow, what a wonderful deal. There's something worse than cancer and the divine is attempting to get us to something better. Like dead. Yeah, that's deff better 'n cancer, even if you die from it. 'Cause, like, you know, once you're dead, you can't suffer any more from the cancer & you're in heaven praising the lord god almighty for eternity for saving you from the suffering of cancer by killing you off to up in heaving with him. Sweet.
      At which point I usually get reminded that we can't understand god's plan. Like he has one. Like the plan of the day, except it's for the universe & it stretches across time & space ad infinitum.
0600 Reveille
0730 Muster of the Angels before the Divine Throne.
0952 Kill little Timmy with cancer.
0953 Timmy arrives at Pearly Gates.
0954 Timmy outfitted with wings & a harp.
0955 Timmy starts choir practice

Up front and country simple, the "divine plan is not for us to understand" answer is the cop-out answer when the question of divine love & the presence of suffering in the world gets asked.
      Such half-baked dissembling talk is just plain frustrating when folks get into what the divine being of their choice is doing. They can explain the hell out of the good shit -- like how the family prayed for the football team to win & by god, they did, praise god -- but when bad stuff happens it's 'cause god is testing us (which is weird 'cause he's omnipotent & should know our timber) or because we are undeserving (especially good when two neighborhood kids are in a car wreck & one of 'em dies, which allows the parents of the surviving kid to say "God protected our Timmy" not thinking of what that says to the parents of the kid who died).
      At the end of it all, such hogwash as the ratiocination that I quoted above is plainly evidence of a complete inability to use any rational faculty at all in considering how the universe works. And the universe -- as a famous astrophysicist has said, and quite rightly -- the universe is out to get you. Period.
      Now for the average schmucks in the crowd, that's probably good enouugh. But for those who see the world with a slightly less rose-colored set of eyeballs have to pause to answer the question: how does any of this prove the hand of a just & loving god?
      Sure, the sun comes up every morning, but we're a long way from the days of sweating out all night whether or not it would happen. The trees leave out in springtime and stay green all summer, barring a divinely administered drought, of course. We generally are born with all our parts & live to be considerably older than other homonids we have record of. We have medicine to save our asses in most cases, which would be really weird if god wanted to prove his love after having stuck you with an ailment that requires the administration of science as opposed to prayer.
      And yes, I'm being a little bitchy here 'cause the quote above is offensive to human intelligence. It shows a seriously unhealthy, irrationalist, nearly complacent attitude toward how much you get out of life. I find such a worldview not just amazingly beyond belief but also insulting outright.
      At which point I produce my own text of how it really works:
First off, the universe is out to get you. A virus evolves over three or four billion years, makes it through all sorts of mass extinctions, carrying with it some provenance of the earliest forms of life. It's older in time than the recycled calcium in your bones, calcium that was probably part of any number of other regenerated bones in any number of millions of now long-gone lives.
      And gets in your body & you end up dead.
      That's how it goes: nobody is any more important than the last Tyrranosaurus Rex or the first trilobite. We get hatched by some common biologically understood means & if we’re lucky we get through infancy, childhood & puberty without being foolish enough to get ourselves killed off quick. Then we grow older & eventually snuff it, just like the last T. Rex or crinoid from the Silurian or H. Erectus from the Pleistocene.
      That’s how it works. Simple.
      Why it works that way, on the other hand, is easy to discerne. It’s the way life works on this planet. It’s probably the way life works on any planet with the right stuff to allow life to become the common force of change on the planet surface. And of course, such life has to get along with the physics of the planet’s evolution from lump of hot shit collecting more hot shit through cooling down a bit, maintaining whatever active geology that planet has until the planet itself runs out of steam & goes cold & lifeless, usually well before said planet’s star snuffs it too.
      “One day you're here and that's fine, and the next day you're gone and that's fine too."
      And yes, that is a recurring theme in my philosophicalisms. Get used to it.
      But from that perspective, it’s horribly narcissistic to think that there’s a divine being somewhere, went to all the trouble of building a universe of incredibly monstrous size with billions of brazillions of planets & stars & clouds of interstellar whatsit just to have a personal relationship with YOU.

Now if you think that’s horribly callous & depressingly existentialist, fine. But it’s the solid, visible, undoubtable way things work. At the same time, reflecting on that “here today; gone tomorrow” might give you pause to consider that you are here (or that I am here) as a representative of all the lives that have come before me, all the lives that modified the rocks of the primordial planet into what eventually became the food I have eaten over 68 years in the process of being me. And then that, as a representative of all that life, I am able to appreciate that I am such a representative, that every action I take, every thought I make, everything I do says that the universe within me & of which I am a part, knows that it is such, knows that it is alive & that a huge amount of life has gone on just for me to be here, even with a virus that might sneak into my body & try to reduce me to a pile of smelly organic molecules in a box in the ground.
      Unless, of course, you’re into cremation, which case I become a pile of dust not too much different from the rest of the dust on the planet, old dinosaur bones & trilobite shells included.

And I find it very quietly satisfying that I am here because of the ongoing process of chemistry & physics that are part of the universe of which I am a part. I don’t need a father figure imaginary friend in the sky above trying me on for size like a defrocked priest. Nope. I’m here now & some day I will cease to be and that’s just fine. I’ll take the joys I get & be happy with that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Unbelievability of Believers

Being the member of an organization that is responsible for a recent decision of a federal court declaring the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, I get the organization’s monthly newsletter. Usually full of news about this or that court process or essays by members on such topics as atheists in foxholes and the efficacy of prayer in treating disease, the newspaper, Freethought Today always has a section called the “Black Collar Crime Blotter,” which lists the news items sent in by members from local newspaper reports on crimes among the religious and believing oligarchy.     
     Back when I was not retired, I’d sit down to lunch and read from the black collar crime section, sometimes out loud to my workmates. The conversations that came from these moments were often quite exciting. It’s always good to be around open, functional minds and the interesting people who use them.
     But no matter what we said or thought about the individual reports and their legal consequences to the oligarchy or its victims, we were all in agreement about the contents of reports.

Plain & simple: You couldn’t make this shit up.

You couldn’t imagine what would drive a member of the clergy to try nude bible studies in a hot tub (Tulsa World, 6-12-2010) or an 59-year-old-man thinking he could “marry” his ten-year-old niece at Yellowstone National Park and then, upon his return home, spend alternating nights with his “real” wife and his “new” wife. Or that the child’s mother would go along with this nonsense (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7-1-2010). Or that an 83-year-old man, a retired pastor and volunteer chaplain to the local police force, would sexually abuse a young girl in his home over an extended period of time (St. Cloud Times, 7-9-2010).

You couldn’t make this shit up.

At which point all of this goes into my silly human tricks folder, where I keep things like a Mormon losing his faith and becoming a Moslim, if only ’cause the polygamy laws are a little more widely accepted in the latter delusion than in the former.
     Shit you can’t make up.
     All of which also goes to my snicker & headslap of incredulence that people – ordinary homo sapiens modernis like you and me – would think that they could actually get away with some of this shit.
     Scamming money off of folks in the Habitat for Humanity deal while at the same time stealing money from their church. As in the church within which they have some position of trust (Birmingham, NY Press & Sun-Bulletin, 6-25-2010).
     Some of these things are truly stupid moves. Others, because of the defense the perp mounts to prove or mollify his or her guilt, are absolutely barbaric. Like back to the ridge with the geladas. Or back to the grade school class room after pinching little Molly Beans on the neck repeatedly during the math quiz. Stupid shit like that, well, maybe you could dream it up but you’d rather not. At least if you’re normal and have a sense of your own responsibility, culpability or shame.
     But not so the guy who gained the trust of a thirteen-year-old girl by way of his position in the church and then subsequently molested her in the rectory. In his home.
     This jewel of humanity went to court claiming that he was “overcome by the demon of lust” and claimed that the girl was “in heat” and “asking for it” when he did it.
     “It weren’t me judge! It were the devil’s hand on me what did it! And besides, look at her judge! She’s in heat. You can see it in her eyes. You can smell it all around her! Holy Lord Frank Almighty, yer honor! She was askin’ for it!”
     Reminds me of a South Park episode or something.
     “She’s askin’ for it rat naw, judge! Look!”
     Yeah right.
     “She’s beggin’ for it! You can smell it!”
     I can see William Burroughs, with a sneer of glee, or Harlan Ellison coming up with the scene:
Female musk fills the courtroom. The men rip down their draws and start pounding their johnsons. There’s heavy breathing, the sound of flesh slapping flesh. Soon the breathing becomes cries and shrieks of lust. The monkeys all go off at once, impregnating the statue of justice on the spot. The eagle squirts all over itself.
Talk about stupid human tricks. These morons have every defense. They can make it up as they go along, the devil this and the victim’s oppressive attractiveness crawling up their leg like some kind of science-fiction infection, ready to turn everyday moron males into slobbering, drooling hounds, rutting along the ground for the scent of a female in heat. Askin’ for it, even.

In truth, it’s disgusting. Barbaric. But you have to remember, as the third chimp line on this green planet of the clocks, we ain’t that far from the other guys and their other relatives. Rape, plunder, piracy, slavery, misogynous & pedophilic practices such as these religious types get into is no different from the same crap – all of it from rape through pedophilia – that muslim mullah, ayatollahs and imams say is just fine.
     It’s in the Qur’an and the hadith. It’s cool. Go for it.
     In the end I see it all as a simple truth of governing.
     Religion and religious preacherant spew this crap left and right, makes no difference at all who’s god this time or in that place. You’ll always be forgiven by the divine hand if you repent or, as in the case of Mohammedanism, find a passage in scripture that lets you off the hook.
     And man, there’s a ton of folks do this and then repent and figure they’re good to go.
     I’m saved. I’m forgiven. No matter what I do in my minute-to-minute day of life, I will be forgiven if I ain’t already.
     And therein lies my own particular bitter attitude toward all these miscreants: they start out above the law in their minds, working in the hand of the divine and thus part of some imagined realm of what’s right and what’s wrong, and they prey on every sucker, born again or otherwise. They assign themselves the role of aide, guide or spirit friend and they pick their next victim. Whether it’s conning you into believing that, once you snuff it, there’s something waiting on the other side of that last breath. They promise you that what comes next will be better than what comes in the here and now. And then they promise you that it won’t hurt.
     See, that’s the deal on all this: it won’t hurt.
     Right. Ask the little kid got buggered by Faitharr O’Cleeary how that works. Ask the kid, like me, who got back handed by Sister Merry Discipline of the nuns of Our Lady of Fishy Gains.
     Go on. Ask!
     It was frickin’ ugly, actually. It set a mode in my head that allowed for my own delusional rescue. Jesus didn’t save me. Robots did. I couldn’t understand how a woman – ostensibly the wife of Jesus – would be so cruel as to abuse every single one of us in the second grade. No human, in my mind, could do what that nun did. Only a robot sent from hell would be so inhumane.
     Yeah, that’s the start of it.
     Over time it came to me that this nasty shit was part of the package. At some point or the other you have to let your mind say “Oh, that was just one. You can’t judge the barrel by one apple.” Except that you find ’em everywhere.
     Kinda like Chickenman.
     And it’s this omnipresence of the mindset of conning the dim and worried that there’s something better than here and now and it will only cost you your life and a fair amount of your cash to keep the con man working just for you.
     As if the divine hand works for you (almost alone) special and if you shake the hand of the god con man as he greets you at the border.
     Why?
     ’Cause he said so.
     He’s a friggin’ oligarch, man! One of the self-selecting few! Jebus, you can’t see that? Ok, then can you feel this . . . ?
     Like the guy who was spending an overnighter with a family. Got up in the middle of the night and went to unzip a seventeen-year-old kid’s jammies so as to fondle the kid. The kid woke up. The rest is in the Camden, NJ Camden Courier-Post of June 13, 2010.
     Or the suit lodged against the Salesian Society, St. John Bosco High School and the Vatican (Oh, no! Not the Vatican!) by a guy who was abused by Fr. Titian Miani when the rev was dean of students at the high school. (I always wondered about St. John Bosco, mainly ’cause I was into Bosco, the drink, but not Bosco the saint.) All this recorded in the pages of the January 7, 2010 edition of the Los Angelese Times.

So here I sit on vacation, shaking my head as I read the stuff in the black crime blotter, thinking how lucky I must be to (a) have survived that shit (a couple times, as I remember good enough) and (b) I still have enough sense to look at it and realize that it’s mostly stupid monkey tricks pulled by a monkey supposedly in some fashion aware of its own awareness.
     Which is a lot more than I can say for any putative divine being.
     

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Another Divine Oopsie

One of my favorite bits about disbelief is the question of "acts of god." You know: the divine hand works in strange ways, its wonders to perform. Like Norwegian stave churches being hit by lightning. Or churches swept away by tornadoes or hurricanes. Or arsonists setting fire to churches filled with little black chillin'. All that.
     The bad shit comes down and the divine being, even as omniscient and omnipotent as it is, does zilch to prevent the conflagration or destruction or death.
     With Norwegian stave churches, you have this weather pattern problem. Like Norway is far enough north to assure that the wonders of auroral displays being more frequent than thunderstorms with concomitant lightning. Something about air pressure & off angles of solar heating. So here you are in Norway and ZAP! A stave church, built somewhen in the 1400s or 1500s gets hit by lightning and burns to the ground, destroying the center of worship to the divine hand supposedly in control of the lightning bolts. Gone.
     ZAP!
     As is usual after such events, the believing will say that the destruction is a test of their faith.
     Yeah, right. An omniscient god, a being transcending time and space, a being supposedly knowing all that is, was or will be, wants to test the faith of those about whom the divine knows everything.
     I don't get that.
     How does a being knowing past, present and future, complete and inerrant of every person on the planet, need to "test" the faith of believers about which god knows everything?
     If god knows everything and every thought of every person on the planet, wouldn't it know beforehand who is weak in faith and who is strong?
     ZAP!
     Same-same with churches blown down by tornadoes (as has happened around here frequent enough) or churches full of worshipers set to fire by racist bigots. Since when is all that a test of faith? Since god wasn't sure about what it knew? Since god forgot about what it knew?
     An omnipotent, omniscient being forgets? Ain't sure? Has a weakness of mind leaving it in doubt?
     Don't make no sense to me, yo.

ZAP!

So here we go, get up Tuesday morning after a night of rains and storming, only to discover that the famous "Touch Down Jesus" along the roadway to Cincinnati, Ohio, had been struck by lightning overnight. And burned to the ground, leaving behind only the inner metal framework of the "statue" supplicant to heaven.

ZAP!

But even more mystifying is how this particular piece of amorphous, slightly tetched piece of Midwest semi-demi-PostModernist art is part of the grounds of one of those mega churches. The kind with a couple thousand tithing congregants with, I can only guess 'cause I've only read about such stuff, a Starbucks or some such franchise inside the "community center," not to mention other perks to participants in the weekly divine tuchus-licking.
     You know: monster church, two deck parking lot, somebody's always got something going on inside, fancy audio system with flat screen TVs about the place so you don't miss a syllable of the divine word being interpreted for the weak-minded by Reverend Pastor O'Seanessysteinovitch & his pretty wife (with too much make-up) of sixteen years. One of them places.
     Which might make it possible to say that this was a truly righteous "act of God."

ZAP!

By way of this thinking, it might be possible for the divine hand -- if it exists at all in any truly participatory sense in the universe -- to have decided that blotting the church's choice of lawn decoration might have been a justifiable act of the divine will.
     The place makes enough money to spend it on a butter-colored piece of tripe containing damn near every symbolic metaphor of the faith. (And no, I ain't going into how present time Christianity is an accretion of even older saviour/hero myths.)
     There's a freakin' cooling pond out front, from which the Lamb o' God does beseech heaven for release.
     From the pond.
     And even if there ain't a Starbucks inside, it's still pretty nuts, all that money spent on flash and glitter.
     Kinda like the buskers in Seattle makin' enough money in donations to afford an iPod and a nice suit.
     Maybe -- just maybe -- the divine hand dealt this hand to the church to tell 'em to straighten up and go back to Christian humility and caring for the sick and poor and homeless. Like they should in Seattle or Portland, but that's another rant.
     Or, on the other hand, the burning down of the butter Jesus is just another in the millions of lightning strikes occurring around the planet any day, 'cept this one went for the statue, which turns the statue and the church into metaphors by way of interpretation of ancient blathering scripture from the mouth of some guy don't want to miss out on a dime of tithing from his congregation of the multitudes.
     More 'n likely that, at least to me.

Which brings me then, as it always does, to the question of why people will believe myths going back to the early Pliocene if not earlier and have no sense of even grasping the base-band basics of, say, genetic theory or evolution or even the physics of lightning strikes.
     "My church got hit by lightnin'! Oh Lord, what is it that you're trying to tell me?"
     "My church's statue of the Lamb of God got set on fire by latnin'! It is a test of faith! Praise!"
     Yeah, a test of faith.
     A test of faith in the simple laws of physics involved in lightning being a charge between earth and sky, which charge must be dissipated, usually through the highest standing local structure capable of handling the extremes of voltage and current. Like the metal support structure for all that exterior claptrap of a white man's version of a supposedly Middle Eastern holy figure, metaphor or not?
     A test of faith in the guy who designed the framework?
     A test of the volatility of the materials used in making the statue?
     A test of simple lightning strike phenomenology?
     Noooo!
     "It's a goddamn test of faith, you disbelieving pile of evil white shit! Goddammit! Get down on your knees and pray it don't happen to you, scumbag of Satan and god-hatin' sinner!"

ZAP!

So the old "Butter Jesus" is now gone up in smoke. A burnt offering, you might say, to the lord of creation, a lord which took the time out of its busy eternal day to smite a piece of metal and whatever that offended its divine aesthetic.
     One of those rare moments when the divine anger was directly dealt, as opposed to those all too frequent moments when the worshipers of the divine take it upon themselves to smite the heathen disbelievers & others who would insult the faith.

ZAP!

Kinda like that extra brush we had layin' around the yard what we burned up a couple weeks back. 'Cept for us there weren't no god in it.
     It was instead a burnt offering onto the sky. A wisp of smoke & pollution onto the neighborhood. A tendril of "stay the hell away" to the moths and mosquitoes and flies.
     Sure. Lightning Strike Jesus was test of faith. The thunder must have been awesome!

ZAP!
. . . . . .

It has come to my attention, by way of the quickness of a friend, that the Lightnin' Strike Jesus statue cost the church in question $500,000. Half a million freakin' dollars! Enough to build at least two schools in Haiti. Enough to feed a whole island in the Pacific for days if not months! And they say now that they're going to rebuild it! What kind of flaming assholes are these believers anyway? Mental defectives? Yep. Delusionals? Yep. Self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, better-than-anyone-'cause-they-believe morons? Yep. Yep. And . . . yep.

ZAP!
 

Saturday, March 06, 2010

PostModernist Novel to the Rescue

So I'm finished with writing and proofing and rehabilitating and straightening out all the work that went into my book, the PostModernist novel of space, time, mean monkeys and friendly cats herded by a couple time travel guys from the future and all that.
     Damn it was a pile of work.
     But the hardest part -- after the proofing &c -- was keeping my place within the characters and the story line.
     See, the biggest chunk behind the action of the novel was one guy who, in addition to having no faith whatsoever in the possibility of human kindness, sees no proof for the the existence of a just and loving god. Yeah. An atheist.
     What made it interesting, at least from a literary perspective, was the place within the story of a singularity species, a single organism from one planet with multiple intellects spread over the surface of the planet, which surface is covered with the single organism.
     Part of the story line was the eventual escape of this singularity species from its home planet and its taking over seven other worlds before finding Earth. In the process of all this species meanderings and conquests, it has had to deal with time and space. Having figured the technology to move through time as space (or space as time), it is pretty close to what most people say are divine qualities. Omnipresence for example. And transcendent for another.
     As in: the singularity species has to be able to communicate with the rest of itself on the other planets. To do this properly, it must be able to communicate across interstellar distances instantly, which means time travel. And it must exist in complete and constant communication with itself simultaneously everywhere, which means space travel. Thus the singularity species is transcendent.
     Which makes the singularity species fit two features in the phenomenology of a divinity. A god.
     There's a place in the novel where this subject is brought up. Actually a couple places. But the most solid example of this occurs when one of the characters, by dint of having been sent back in time and thus finding himself talking to himself, says
     “Ain’t no god,” the younger D.S. said.
     The elder D.S. squinted at D.S. as if he were a bug and flashed a grin. “Yeah, I knew that too once, just like you. You already met god,” he said. “Up there.” D.S. pointed up at the sky. “Brought your shiny little ass back here to face the music. And I’m the only band . . . ’Cept for her people. People as they are.”
     “Which is to say?” the younger D.S. said.
     “Which is to say that, first, you’re on the wrong continent.”
At which point one might get the impression that I was supporting the belief in a divine hand moving in the universe. Which, if you wanna get picky, is probably true.
     But the point made in the book is not so much that there's a god but that what appears to be divine action might well be -- as it is in the case of the story line -- one man's technology being another man's witchcraft.
     And then there's the story line of the savior/hero myth that is the turning point of the end conflict in the novel: The savior character is given that position not because of a need for his existence within the structure of the society but because the savior character begins to believe that he is, indeed, a true savior to the world.
“Point made. But the humans assign a pattern-level reference for him. He’s special to them. A sign that what the Tribe does ain’t as powerful magic as what they see as a sign. At which point. . .” D.S. stopped pacing. He went back to the console and sat down.
     “At which point what?”
     “At which point, being as how nivenids and humans have a sense of their own self-worth, Sapor decides himself that he’s special.”
     “Which he is?”
     “Which he is if you’re human and believe in ghosts and goblins and spooks and wreaths and such.”
     Njee put her hand on D.S.’s shoulder. “You’re saying that the humans worship him?”
     “No.” D.S. smiled. “No, it’s not that he’s special and they worship him. It’s that they worship him and he likes that feeling. Feeds his ego, you might say.”
     “Oh Frank!” Njee took her hand off D.S. “Damn! He’s fallen . . .”
     “Fallen for the con himself!”
     D.S. turned and faced Njee. They stared at each other for a moment. D.S. wheeled around to the keyboard.
     “Worst part,” D.S. said as he typed, “is if we snuff him he becomes a martyr. And if the Community falls for his shit, they’ll bring him back, which will be a miracle.”
And it's here that I begin to think about things like who will read the book and see that I'm making a very serious statement about the presence of belief within the entire concept of consciousness.
     Simple fact is, as monkeys go, we humans have a wonderful ability to imagine anything we want. If we didn't have that ability we would have never survived the ice. If we didn't have that ability, I wouldn't be able to dream up this crazy story. If we didn't have that ability, we wouldn't have an InterWeb and I'd be talking to my fingernails on some hillside in Africa. If we'd evolved that far in the first place.
     Which makes writing this novel quite the trip.
     I didn't want to set out to write something that others would think was too violent or too dystopian or misanthropic. Oh, lawdy yes, it is indeed misanthropic. Very misanthropic, in fact.
     But even weirder is how I didn't see the need to push the disbelief/nonbelief thing as heavily as I could have done. The story just kinda threw itself together -- with a bit of cogitation and thought about the story plot as I went along -- in a way that, for me at least, worked out in the end.
     What others will think of the story is something yet to be determined.
     So if you want to help me determine whatever it is I'm trying to figure out, buy a copy and read it. Don't tell me it's too PostModern. I know that already. Intertextuality, bending of time and space relationships, juxtaposition of archetypes across extremes. All that's in there.
     That and probably a huge number of typos, most of which I have long since given up on finding.
     And now you can help me find them too!
     The advert in the sidebar will take you to the storefront.
     You already know where I live.
 

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Celestial Dice Again

A while back one of my relatives sent me a link to a page about a guy having survived a vehicle accident that parked him four-down on the edge of a hundred-odd foot cliff. The banner for it read something like "I bet this guy will be in church on Sunday!"
     Now this relative is a church-goin' person, believer and all that. So this missive was sent by way of attempting to get me to join her in the superstitionism of her choice, which happens to be praise-god, witness-for-the-lord, full-gospel, Jesus-focused Christianity.
     Of course, I looked at the picture and wondered if the god that had saved this guy's neck were the same god who'd allowed a drunken, masturbating, rejected-by-call girls Muslim to plow into a British man and his young son, snuffing both of them mid-stroke. I figured that if god were too busy to save them but had time to save a guy at a cliff's edge, then god's reasons for doing what it had done must be very, very bizarre.
     Save a guy in a pick-up to show the world how a miracle works. Let a non-Christian, drunk moron kill a father and son who just happened to be standing by the side of the road when they were mowed down by the car. One guy gets off. The other guy, in the process of getting off, kills two people.
     How's that work, math-wise? How's that work ration-wise?
     How's god think it can save one life to show off its power over evil and bad shit happenin' and let two other folks die from evil bad shit happenin'?
     Don't make no sense to me.
     So the response to that was that god doesn't have to explain itself.
     Which is a blind fall blank answer.
     God doesn't have to explain why it allows evil in the world, leaving us to think that (a) god allows evil for some reason or (b) god has no power over evil, except in rare cases, or © god is a pernicious little vituperative shit who intervenes in the course of time and space just to keep us guessin'.
     Or there is no god and the sunabitch at the edge of the cliff was just lucky and the father & son were unlucky.
     Not that luck makes any sense either.

Now, when I brought these points up with my believing relative, it was is if I had run buck nekkid through the church at the consecration of the host in a mass celebrated by the pope of the universe.
     How could I not believe?
     Well, that's easy. I think the explanation is in my treatment of the situation above. I don't believe because I see no sign of any deity worthy of my going on a huge tuchus-licking prayer cycle. Especially if that deity is as venal and self-absorbed as to let things get the way they are when children are dying of hunger and other folks are wrapping bombs around their children and sending them off into markets to be blown up by remote control.
     "Here, Ahmed, put this on. It fits you nice, don't it?"
     "Boom."
     Yeah, right. I can believe in that. Sure.
     

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Fractured & Fragmented Body of Christ

Got this off a Christian ecumenism site. It's a quote from an editorial published in October, 2000 concerning the Roman Catholic Church's explications in Dominus Iesus concerning the primacy of the RC church over all other Christian churches. The editorial quotes from the Vatican document, in particular that part concerning the position of believers outside the Christian cult's belief system.
    Like Hindus and such.
    Here's the quote:
"If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation. However, all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ."
Now what I find interesting, other than the ability of the RC governance to issue dictates on the condition of "grace" that non-Christians get stuck in, is the fact that it makes a decision about the eternal rewards of those who don't know Jesus.
     Kinda like the police figuring you're guilty before a crime has even been committed. An a priori statement about whether or not you're going to hell 'cause you don't know the Lord before they even got to you to tell you the "good news."

Up front, this is the same game as a mullah saying that all infidels will burn in hell, even those who have, for reasons beyond belief by today's communications systems & the level of political & social activism, never heard of Islam.
     "You will all be punished!"
     And that's it. No more & no less.
     You don't know Jesus? Well, it's to hell with you, Jasper! Ain't nobody gets away without knowin' about the Lord God Jehovah and the Salvation of the Blood & Christ!
     Period.

At which point we get to the point where I'm remembering a cartoon that somebody sent me once. Bunch of post-neanderthals sittin' around the fire, talking about who does what in the universe. Talkin' about belief, god, goddesses, moon & sun, all that.
     One of the cave men says something like "Well, that settles it. Glogh doesn't believe in the wind spirit so we'll smash his head in with a rock."
     The only difference between this and that, between the dictates of the RC church pursuant to the condition of "grace" enjoyed by non-Christians & the retribution promised by the divine lover upon those who are non-Christian, is the fact that it's a cartoon, one, and it's supposed to be a joke, two.
     Yeah, a joke: smash his head in with a rock 'cause he don't know Jesus. Praise!
     On the joke side, such a cartoon, were it to say Allah instead of the wind spirit, would be cause for a world-wide pillage & plunder fest from Muslims. Not to mention the fact that it says a lot about how seriously we take religion, in as much as we (gringos) can put a joke like that in a magazine and get away with it.
     Also on the joke side is the fact that religion itself is indeed a joke.
     As in: I can't believe it. You gotta be kiddin' me!
     And yet so many do believe, a condition that leads me to doubt seriously that any of us humans would be able to survive a big rock from space or an appropriately mutated germ. We'd be so caught up in killin' each other off from lack of faith that the killin' off done by the impactor or germ would be pretty much inconsequential and moot, deaths & body counts and all.
     'Cause you can damn sure betcha that the impactor or the germ would be ascribed to satanic forces acting against the loving nature of the god who wants money or would be the work of the divine hand to show us how we're gonna suffer without all that grace flowin' out over us like something you don't wanna know what I'm thinkin' about.
 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sleeping Through Dead Girlfriend Music

There's a pile of music that came out and went straight into my brain about the time I joined the USN back in '68. Most of it's the stuff I'd been listening to with other hippie types, music that had so much meaning to me then but which I today realize was, for the most part, vacuous.
     Some of the music, upon hearing it today, reminds me of the girls I knew back then, the women I knew back then, when I was a sniveling little shit more interested in getting laid than in getting to know someone well enough to really care about them. Some of the women that this music reminds me of, well, some of 'em is dead. Some of 'em just disappeared into the void of time and have since turned up in the SSDI, deceased as incredibly wrong ages. Or dying from truly incredibly unbelievable diseases.
     One died from the effects of AIDS and liver failure brought on by hepatitis (which she contracted long after I knew her). Another died of unknown causes back in the 90s at age 47. When I was 47 and still no less of a kid then than I was when I first met her. On and on like that, one woman dead here, another dead there.
     And the music?
     Well, when I hear some of the stuff from that time & place in my life, it reminds me often enough of the dead women or the woman I just met & passed on. I call that music just what it is to me: "Dead Girlfriend Music."
     Some of it's so bitterly unlistenable to me now that I would rather turn off the radio or box of whatever's playing it and move on to the next cognitive distraction.
     But some of it, well, it plays a longer role. It makes me remember then and think of now and how much I never heard those words or thought of that song or even listened to the notes with enough sense to realize how much those songs were part of me even then.
     Like it maybe Dead Girlfriend Music but it's also music that reminds me of the peregrinations of mind that I took in the process of losing my faith in faith.

One song in particular is James Taylor's Sweet Baby James, a bit that I remember listening to while thinking of Kathy Alexander as the wind went through what was left of my hair in Navy boot camp. I was there 'cause I didn't want to get drafted and I had the sense at that moment that my life was gone out of my control.
     As if I'd ever had any control of it in the first place, but that's another story.
     Something about that song – probably because it was popular to some of my old friends back in the barrio – made me think of how much I wanted to be with Kathy as opposed to standing on the asphalt "grinder" with a pile of other recruits, learning the dance steps to a routine some ten weeks into our collective futures.
     Now the song in question has some topical referents that I just plain didn't get or heard as somehow homey. The bit about it being a song about a "young cowboy" on the range, "his horse & his saddle his only companion" were only tags to me in remembering my earlier but none less immature at the moment involvement in the daydream of what I had learned from television westerns. Gunsmoke, the Sugarfoot and Cheyenne tv shows were some kind of romanticism thing for the "Old West" that my father said never really existed as they showed it on tv. Didn't stop me from believing that it really was that way or that guns were dangerous in the hands of your range-wandering sociopaths.
     So there was that.
     The other nostalgic stuff about thinking "of women and glasses of beer," well, I wasn't yet then quite that hip to the beer and the women, well, I was pinin' for Kathy, see. So it stuck in my head that way.
     Until a couple days ago when I got in Cindy's car and headed off to the store and what should pop up on the car's playlist but a piece of Dead Girlfriend Music. James Taylor singin' Sweet Baby James.
     As I sang along – 'cause I still remember the words to the song even though I might not remember what it was I was goin' to the store for in the first place – I thought about how the song's lyrics tied to when I was where I heard it repeatedly . . . back in bootcamp.
     There is, after all, a certain range-riding mystique attached to sailors. They make great wanderin' guys for song writers and poets, the probable best to my mind being the song Brandy, by Elliot Lurie. The guy turns down some fine chick 'cause, as the lyrics say, his love and "life and lady is the sea."
     Shortsightedness like this would take decades to filter through to my consciousness, which is why that song and Gerry Beckley's Sister Golden Hair always remind me of Janet Norton, another of the list of dead girlfriends.

But that ain't quite the point yet.

See, as I sang along I came to a part of James Taylor's song (you remember that song, right?) that gave me pause again to consider the meaning of the words from a long-ago worldview as compared with the meaning of the words to this old guy remembering dead girlfriends' worldview.
     The lyrics in question go:
" There's a song that they sing when they take to the highway,
A song that they sing when they take to the sea,
A song that they sing of their home in the sky.
Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep
But singing works just fine for me."
And it was in the end two lines that I started thinking about how much I'd missed by just pinin' for Kathy.
     See, Taylor says (and yes, I'm gonna get academic on you here) that there is a song some folks sing "of their home in the sky" and then suggests that your sleep may be affected by the chance that you believe in this celestial home.
     To me that sounds like a suggestion the Taylor might be saying that he doesn't believe. Not that he doesn't. But the words suggest he didn't at the time of writing. Or that he might believe but that some don't and those who don't, well, their sleep is not disturbed by not believing.
     Which is right where I am now and well on the road to disbelief then but never tied the words in the song to the words disappearing in my head as I discovered my own evolution to disbelief.

It's shocking to me that the song, especially with those lyrics of possible disbelief, got as much air time as it did back then. Back then was when the Beatles caught hell for suggesting that they might be more famous & well-known than Jesus. Back then was when kids were living together without benefit of matrimonial ceremony, and sometimes not just livin' together but actually sleeping together and getting pregnant without benefit of ceremony. It was a time of social upheaval and the damn church heads didn't even catch that line in that song!
     What a trip, so to speak.
     Here all this time I'd put this song on the endangered species list and all along it had been there without any participation from me.
     Which goes back to the concept of the time/space where that song was birthed and what it might have meant for me if I'd been paying attention.
     Even if it is still Dead Girlfriend Music to me to this day, reminding me of a time when I was so seriously disconnected from society by way of having myself included (as opposed to including myself personally in society) in a society that was then as it is now, horribly artificial.
     Hippie days, yo, were seriously artificial.
     Peace and love and all that, sure. But in the end we just wanted to be the usual white gringo kids who had no responsibility and expected our parents to bail us out if we ever got slipped off the high moral fiber or whatever we thought we were pursuing.
     Which weren't much, what we were pursuing weren't.
     We were after hedonism, instant gratification, ratiocinated-all-to-hell escape from responsibility and gimme-now-I-wanna-get-laid. That's what we were after.
     If we actually ended the Vietnam War, I ain't so sure.
     It was Nixon, the creepy old dude who followed LBJ in the president's chair who ended the Vietnam War. And we can look at that move now as the beginning of the end of isolation between China and the USA.
     Maybe Nixon was going after the kids & veteran vote in ending the war but I'd be hard pressed to say that we, as a demographic, actually "ended" the war in Vietnam. Our noise & bustle might have been part of it but I seriously doubt it was all that much.
     We wanted to be cowboys by the fire, sailors on the sea, warm breeze blowin' south over our shoulder, stardust and bullshit. That's what we wanted.
     And out of it all, I remember the dead, male, female & whatever else. Kathy, Janet, Steve, Dick Curwell, the crazy little dude who always came to me when he wanted to get stoned, Renée & Jerome and Susan & all of 'em, dead from our inability to see how close death really is everyday, because we believed we could change the world for the better. Believed that we could make the world a bright & shiny place to live, full of parking lots and shopping and sunshine and all that expanded consciousness stuff that we as a demographic were into then.
     We believed.
     And it helped us to do more than sleep together.
     It hid the meanness of existence from us just as much as the church or religion has always covered for the nasty shit in life by promising a home in the sky.
     If you can believe that.