Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Twitter Updates Up!

Check out the sidebar, I've added a new twitter widget (sounds dirty).

A nice atheistic post

...to lighten your god-fearing day.

I was in the park today--I'll soon write a post on my sister blog explaining why--when I unexpectedly began to have some profound thoughts. Nature will sometimes do that to you. I thought about the grass, and the trees, and how the sunlight filtered through at such a low angle that the rays scattering through...sorry, got into nature-mode again for a moment. What I meant to say is: today I experienced a brief nature moment.

So I sat there, considering the grass, and the trees, and how the sunlig...whoa...did it again.

I considered...those things...and how often I've heard them used as fodder for religious arguments. The convenient fact that trees scrub carbon dioxide from the air in exchange for oxygen is often brought up as one of those "well isn't that a coincidence?!" arguments from design. Though I must say, my favorite example of this: that the grass was put on Earth by god so that we could have something soft to walk on, never fails to make me laugh. Nevertheless, I was considering these "arguments" and considering the fallacy with which they operate. This kind of argument assumes that everything exists for a (usually Homo sapien-centric) reason.

I, for one, argue wholeheartedly against this idea. In fact, as we learn more and more about the evolution of life on this planet, we find that we're really just specks on a piece of rock, as cliche as that analogy is. For example, take a deep breath. Is that oxygen (and nitrogen, et al.) that you're breathing? If so, then you should be thanking a particular type of cyanobacteria (the first major producer of oxygen, and earliest descendent of plants as we know them today), which came into sudden abundance, early in this planet's lifetime.

"Haha!" you may say to me, "but that just proves it! The cyanobactera were placed here to create a hospitable environment for humans! Hah!"

Stop being stupid, is my reply. You're still thinking in terms of grand reasons and schemes and determinism. Those bacteria found a niche in which they could live, and exploited it. Apparently before they showed up, the atmosphere was full of delicious carbon dioxide, which happened to be this bacteria's favorite food. Yum. All that was required was the ability to use it, which the bacteria obtained through chance mutation. These bacteria were therefore able to thrive based on the same mechanism which produced all of the plants and animals we see today:

Life, finds a way to live, and lives. It's pretty much as simple as that.

Sure, you don't get the same kind of cheery take-home message as, "God has a plan for everything," but there's still hope. You can still be consoled in the realization that: You're an evolutionary winner! You see, because Humans, along with the grass, and the trees, and the way the sunlight filtered through at such a low angle that...damn you nature!...what I'm trying to say is that, at least for now, we're winners in the evolutionary sense. Sure, weren't created perfectly by an omnibenevolent being, but we were made--fairly well--by evolution. Every living thing around us is the product of a couple billion years of trial and error. I'm trying my hardest not to get too mushy with this message, but hear me out just a bit more.

Next time you're outside, pluck a blade of grass. Better yet, pull it out by the roots, admire the complexity of the system, and realize that grass exists, solely because it can. That bit of grass came from an early proto-grass-form that said, "hey, I think I'm gonna grow on this flat ground here," and nature said, "okay."

Obviously though, speech was not necessary for the grasses' survival and was removed by natural selection.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back from break!

...a shovel-post.

Hey there, speed racers. I've just found an amazing new site for you all to try out. Personally, I've spent about three hours here today.

You know those magnetic poetry kits you see in bookstores? Well we have the first online, collaborative fridge for your poetic enjoyment.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Last Three

"Jesus Christ, close the door, CLOSE THE DOOR!" Nathan shouted as he dove into the room, with Taylor slamming the steel door behind him.

"What the hell is going--"

The entire room shook in reply. The lights were doused by the electricity failing in counterpoint. It was silent, for a time, as the three frightened figures assessed their situation.

"They've done it. Haven't they?" came the first question, from a voice which sounded like Mark's.

The emergency lighting system flickered on, casting his face in a thin, red light. They were five kilometers deep, in a glorified storage closet whose only connection to the upper world was a rarely used mine shaft. A mine shaft which had very recently been sealed. Nathan did the best to shake the clinging dust from his clothes before joining the others, sitting on bare concrete amidst dark steel barrels stacked two-high.

"Come on, man, I don't wanna breathe that stuff in, do that over there," said Mark, gesturing to the far corner of the room.

"Really? Do you really think it matters--at all--what we do anymore?" came Nathan's reply.

The room again fell silent as the three contemplated the gravity of the question. On the one hand, the dust on Nathan's jacket likely contained several milligrams of Uranium-238, an alpha emitter tracked in from the mine, but on the other, the barrels around them carried more death than they could imagine. Taylor took this time to stand, and, staring at the ceiling, tried his best to peer through the vast amounts of concrete, metal, and rock which separated the three from ever seeing the sunlight again. Mark sat up and said, "Look, we just have to find a way to reopen the door, and, call for help, or something."

"No way. This door seals shut in the case of an emergency, and I'm pretty damn sure this classifies as an emergency. We're not getting out unless they let us out. And, seeing as how the shaft is no longer connected to the surface, I'm not seeing that happening," Taylor replied, throwing down his ID badge. The piece of plastic was useless now, even with the built-in radiation detection. He knew the room better than any of them, he knew exactly what was contained within the containers stacked around them, and he knew that there wasn't the slightest hope for any of them getting out alive.

Taylor had brought his two friends down here, thinking that if the inevitable occurred, they could wait out the aftermath comfortably in one of the radiation-shielded employee areas, deep within the vast uranium mine. The deepest bunker on Earth would be the perfect place to hide, since the site was evacuated shortly after the first alert. What he hadn't considered were the reasons why the facility was evacuated, namely, that it would be a high priority target for the incoming warheads. Needless to say, they hadn't made it to the employee areas. They were several hundred meters away from the first of the "bunkers" when they heard the first explosion, the catastrophe which nearly cut power to the service elevator which was ferrying them down the shaft. The second and third explosions were the ones which forced them into this waste storage area, the coffin in which they would spend the rest of their lives. 

"Well," said Nathan, "what do we do next, guys?"

They would die of starvation, or of thirst, or take their own lives in desperation, long before the radiation poisoning set in. But even so, they would suffer a much kinder fate than that of those still on the Earth's surface.

The nations above had spent decades outwardly pushing for non-proliferation treaties while secretly developing more and more powerful weapons, each nation desperate to have the one weapon, the ultimate passive deterrent to keep it safe. These were the superpowers whose collective motto went something like "the best weapon is the one which never needs to be fired." Fission bombs were a thing of the past, the new technology had rendered those as useless as TNT on the battlefield. But the new bombs came with a price. These weapons were so theoretically powerful that not a single nation dared to test them at their full capacity. Regardless, the weapons sat in their silos, strapped to missiles no one ever intended to use. Now, the anti-matter fallout would continue to ravage the world above, raining gamma rays onto the fallen cities for several days. Even then, the dark clouds which filled every sky caused the global temperature to plummet. The food chains were destroyed in a single day, leading to the mass extinction of life on the planet. Eventually, the only organisms on Earth would be found in the deep seas...and a small room, buried now in the Earth's crust. For the three remaining representatives of humanity, there was only one answer to the question of what to do next:

"We're going to have to wait and see."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Submission to Rama One

...not that kind of submission. I sent in a short story. Well, we can keep the gag. (Which is dirty, and a pun! Oh man, so much connotation density)

Anyway, the real reason I've brought you here today is to tell you that I've submitted a slightly updated version of my short story, A Chance Encounter, to the newly established "Open-Source Sci-fi" blog, Rama One. It's called open source because of the novel way in which the site works (there has been a lot of contention that they're not really using the term "open-source" correctly, but I think it sounds good and conveys the general point, so why not keep it). Here's how it works: basically, every story sent in gets published, which is great, except that half of the stories are going to inevitably be Halo fan-fiction. So, to get around this little nuisance, they've added a very special feature: you get to vote on the stories you like (via a subReddit) and the more valuable stories rise to the top, like the sweet, delicious cream they are. Comments are handled through a similar system. It's pretty sweet.

At the time of this writing, I am, however only the third submission. But, I'd like to bring attention to Rama One, not because I'm especially altruistic, but rather because I'm not altruistic: that's right, Shameless Self-Promotion! So, I'd like you all to mosey on down to the site by clicking here. Read my story (it may still be on the top), forget about all of the rest of the submissions, and then vote on my story by using the link at the right-hand side of the page (you may need a reddit account to do this, I'm not sure).

So there you have it. Everybody wins. I get exposure, you get to read my fabulous writing, the Rama people get some site traffic, and the internet continues to rule my life.

I'll post updates on the story if anything interesting happens. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Book Review - Is God a Delusion?

...By Dr. Eric Reitan, religious philosophizer extraordinaire.

I really wanted to wholeheartedly disagree with this book, I really did. I turned the first few pages, with my thinking cap and goggles of pretension firmly fastened, ready to scoff my way through the roughly 225-page text (this being the way I read most religious "non-fiction" these days), and while I can't lie by saying that this book was completely unscoffworthy, I will say that I had a very hard time disagreeing with the spirit of most of Reitan's philosophy. You see, he comes from a very different intellectual place than most of the religious folks you likely encounter in your daily lives, in that he strives for a religious worldview which is also completely philosophically rational.

*Gasp!* I know.

I should mention a few things before I continue further. This book, entitled Is God a Delusion? is a direct answer to the wave of "New Atheist" literature, or as he puts it in the book's subtitle, to "Religion's Cultured Despisers." (the last phrase is used as a callback to the theologian Friedrich Schliermacher, whom you'll be hearing a lot about when you read the book). These New Atheists include the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and, I suppose, myself. These are the authors who not only had the audacity not to believe in God, but also the gall to enter into the religious/philosophical realm to attempt to prove their atheistic worldviews.

*Gasp!* It's true!

Reitan therefore sets out not only to debunk the claims of the New Atheists, but also to champion a religious worldview which is simultaneously rational and pragmatic. He does so in a practiced and disciplined philosophical style which, as he points out with devastating effect, the atheistic literature is sorely lacking. It is precisely this thorough approach which makes this book intellectually appealing for the lay-religious reader and theologian alike.

*Gasp!* I'm sounding way too much like an actual book review here, I'm going to have to tone it down a bit.

I mentioned earlier that I had a hard time disagreeing with Reitan's philosophy. This is not to say that his arguments immediately convinced me (I'm still an atheist, after all), but rather to point out how well this book is structured and thought-out. Several times during my reading, I would begin to find what I thought were key weaknesses in his arguments--chinks in his intellectual armor which I could soon exploit for a easy victory over his theology. And precisely at the point at which I was sure I could win the debate, he would inevitably roll out his counterpoint and completely destroy my fledgling argument with his philosophical prowess. It's either a testament to my lacking as a philosopher (something which I've never denied) or Reitan's skill as a wordsmith. I think it's probably the latter.

Regardless, I would strongly suggest (nay, I demand) that EVERYONE read this book, whether you're an atheist, agnostic, christian, or pastafarian. Too often do atheists read Dawkins or Hitchens only to have their existing beliefs parroted back at them (perhaps with a more sophisticated British tone), and similarly Christian readers delight at reading the latest Strobel, only to be shown the same arguments that they've been taught their entire life. This is not so when reading Reitan's work. Atheists and Christians alike will have plenty of new intellectual fodder to contemplate while enjoying this read.

In short, this is the type of theology I wish every religious person would ascribe to (if they must, of course). No longer would we have the superstitious, vengeful God of the old testament looming over our heads, or the too-often-used interventionalist God who helps you find convenient parking spots. Rather, we would be treated to the God of Reitan and Schliermacher, the benevolent fulfiller of the "ethico-religious hope."

What's this ethico-religous hope business? You'll have to buy a copy to find out.

And hey, it's just in time for the holidays!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Little Tiny Nietzche

...to help me with my philosophy paper.

I know that recently I've been writing a bit to overwhelmingly about religion, but sometime this week I'm going to cap the whole thing off with a review of my Phil of Religion professor's new book, Is God a Delusion.

So far it's a fantastic book. He's written it to counter the wave of "new atheism" (eek! scary!), which basically means he spends half of the book attacking Richard Dawkins.

But it's a very good book, with a very fresh and well thought-out Christian perspective. Did I mention that you can buy your copy in time for the holidays on amazon.com?

In the meantime I've drawn a picture of Friedrich Nietzche to remind you that "Gott ist tot." Have a nice day.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Different Interpretations - A Religious Musing.

...or, why are we still stuck with religion?

It's no secret that I feel that religions really don't make any sense (at least when looking at them with a modern perspective). Sure, they made a lot of sense back in the day, when our humble, bronze-age progenitors were still seeking answers to their own physical and philosophical questions. I mean, really, it made complete sense, given their historical position, to look at things like storms or earthquakes and attribute them to a supernatural source. Even the purely philosophical questions like, "Why am I here" were usually given meaning through appeal to deities. And you know what? That's forgiven. In fact, what I'm going to argue here, is that the earliest theologians, the ones thinking about the complex issues of their time, were doing a very early version of the scientific method. But somewhere along the way, they got hung up on the theology and left science behind.

Allow me to illustrate with an example. All of this is a gross oversimplification, by the way, but it's a musing, so I'm allowed some creative license. Throw a comment my way if you've got some ideas.

Put yourself in the place of an ancient thinker. You walk out of your hut/cave/townhouse early one morning and notice something strange. There's a mountain in the distance, spewing fire and ash, causing the earth to shake, burning villages, and generally causing destruction on a magnitude you've never heard of.

Holy crap! Right?

You, at the time, have no idea about things like, plate tectonics, or convection currents in the mantle, or that the orange-glowing-death-liquid is actually just molten rock, spewed from deep within the earth. You don't know any of this, precisely because these things won't be understood for another couple thousand years. But your mind starts thinking. What in the world could be causing this? Quickly and subconsciously you begin to scour your mind for past experiences which might account for this phenomenon, and you're left with nothing. To you, this is something completely new--something completely supernatural.

And we all know that supernatural problems need supernatural causes. Boom. Angry mountain god. It must be.

And before you accuse me of making fun of early religions, let me state for the record that scientists use this kind of reasoning all the time. If you've ever heard of this stuff called "dark matter" or "dark energy," you've already seen the angry-mountain-god reasoning at work. In this case we looked at cosmological problems like, "Hey, there's not as much mass here as there should be," and "Hey, why is the expansion of the universe accelerating?" and we've taken our first, fairly meaningless baby steps into understanding the causes. But just because we've given the supposed causes snappy names like dark matter and dark energy doesn't mean that the problem is solved. Not by a long shot. We're no closer to understanding these problems as the ancient thinker was to understanding vulcanism. But the point is this:

We've taken the first step.

Just as the ancients would often answer their questions with help from the divine or the supernatural, scientists today usually answer the questions by proposing new physical laws. It's the same process. But, it's the second step where the tree of new knowledge split, into the scientific and religious. Where the scientist would attempt to solve the volcano problem by going to the mountain, taking soil samples, or waiting for another eruption, the religious branch would study the mountain god, and why he's so angry. They would spend countless hours, creating theories about the mountain god, laying offerings at the foot of the mountain, hoping to stay its wrath. The early theologian would eventually forget all about the mountain which initially spurred the thinking and spend all his/her time on the invented solution.

So much of theology today is so intent on studying the properties of God (and usually only the one of the big-three gods in which you believe, because, come on, those other two gods are ridiculous), that the theologian forgets to include the real world in his/her philosophy. Too much of it is related to squabbling over petty issues and semantics. They fight over whether or not people like me are going to hell, they fight over whether or not an omnipotent god is still bounded by the laws of logic, or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and so on. I say, leave all of that behind, and look at the world in which you live. When you look back, and see the origin of the supernatural, you'll see that it's all unnecessary. It was all constructed to explain the world our ancestors found themselves in, and somewhere along the way, they became more interested in their own constructions than the world itself, building upon layers and layers of abstraction, until the gods we're left with today are studied down to the tiniest bit of banal minutiae possible.

I hear you cry, "but without religion, life would be meaningless, and cold, and horrifying." No, it isn't. These are things you've trained yourself to feel, as a defense mechanism.

We need to step back, and look at the world as it really is.

So what if there isn't an afterlife? That just means you should enjoy the life you have now.
So what if there isn't a higher purpose to all of this? Just realizing that the world is beautiful, even given all of its flaws, is purpose enough.

Stop worrying which god might be the correct one, stop worrying if there is any god whatsoever.

This is what a worldview based on science means to me. It doesn't look for any kind of higher purpose (no matter how mystically theorists talk about their unified theory), but rather realizes that this is the universe we've got. We'd better try and understand what we're dealing with.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Late Night Blurb

The day had broken softly; he hadn't noticed the sun when it first crept through the window, tipping toe across the carpet as time translated into angle. The world exists only as a blur of color and motion, which becomes the whole of his vision as the daily fight for waking eyes commences. His brain will start to switch on, soon, like the flickering of fluorescents in an empty warehouse.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why should Christians believe in hell? (Part III of III)

...the final chapter, until I decide to write another.

In the last two posts I discussed the implications of the two main doctrines of hell. I have found that under close scrutiny, they just don't hold up. So what are we left with?

Part III of III - The Doctrine of Universalism

The doctrine of universalism states that, necessarily, everyone is saved. I've been thinking about this, and there are three versions of this which I can see logically working. I'll call these the "instant salvation," "acclimation," and "graduated salvation," models--again, presented from most to least illogical.

The first type has some very interesting implications. There are some who claim that, since no one can logically be damned, then there is no need for a hell, and therefore everybody gets in. But since you'd probably not want to share heaven with, say, and unrepentant serial murderer, there must be some sort of transformation upon entrance. The first model would claim that, upon reaching heaven, the soul finds itself exposed to the full beatific vision, existing in full, unrequited contact with God. This exposure, the shedding of the epistemic distance from God which souls are ordinarily separated, will instantly reform even the craziest and most stalwart evildoer. Basically, when you get in, you'll be so pleased to be there, you can skip hand in hand with your own murderer through the pearly gates. But you've probably already realized the problem with this one (at least from our selfish human perspectives). "What's the point of leading my good life if I'm just going to share the reward with those sickos? I'm going to church six times a week!"

Which brings me to the second model. In this type of hell, there is no deus ex machina type instant transformation...you have to earn it. In fact, it may take a short stay in hell to convince you that what you were doing on earth...maybe not so good. In this case, the length of the stay in hell and the severity of the punishment would be proportional to the magnitude of your earthly crimes, of course. But like I mentioned in the last post, the stay would only be of a finite amount of time, which would be all but unnoticable when compared to the infinite amount of bliss to which it leads. This is, as pointed out my Phil Professor, is a lot like the Zoroastrian conception of hell (which the Jewish and then Christian conceptions of hell were based upon) in which many people go to hell, but only in order to literally burn the accumulated sin from their bodies before ascending eventually to heaven. Also, since we're in comparison mode (and it'll provide me a good segway into my next paragraph), this tends to be a lot like Dante's Purgatory, the many levelled tower in which those who weren't quite bad enough to get into hell, but not quite good enough to get into heaven were sent to work their way up into the good graces. So even if you're a completely awful person, you can still make it into heaven, provided you don't mind a little work to get there.

Which finally brings me to number three in my list of universalist doctrines, the model which I'm calling "graduated salvation." I'm basically picturing the version of heaven writted about by dante in Paradise. In his version of heaven, there is a graduated system of nine divine spheres, which range from the souls who, though saved, are still slightly deficient, to the final sphere, in which the angels bask in the light emanated from God himself. Although, in a universalist view of this basic, graduated model, we would find that heaven would be divided in a similar way, and those who were closest to God in life would also be closest in death. In this way, there is no need for a hell or purgatory, just a very polite distance between the holy and the people like me. Punishment would instead be replaced by a sort of slighted contentedness, in which those who are farthest from the most intense salvation would feel the ache caused by the physical and epistemic distance from the creator, and would yearn to move to the higher spheres of enlightenment. If movement between spheres is allowed, this may be more like a version of the second model, but with the punishment greatly toned down.

So there you have it. Everything you've wanted to know about hell and more. Of course, I think it's all a load of rubbish, but that'll be reserved for a later post.

Enjoy, have fun, and try not to go to hell.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why should Christians believe in Hell? (Part II of III)

This time around we're going to be discussing the second in my series of posts about everyone's favorite subject: Hell! Today we're taking on damnation from a slightly different angle. To give you a taste of what I mean, C.S. Lewis describes this next conception of hell as being "locked from the inside."

ooh, what could he mean by that? I can't wait!

Part II of III - The Progressive Doctrine of Hell

Due to the many logical problems with the classical doctrine of hell (described in the previous post) the vast majority of "serious" theologians reject it outright, in favor of an approach which is more consistent with God's supposed nature. This leads to, in a broad sense, is the progressive doctrine of Hell.

Do you remember the problem which I brought up in the last post, about the billions of the damned whose only crime was that they had never heard of this Jesus guy? This problem is done away with in the progressive doctrine. In fact, in this case the only souls damned are the ones who have freely chosen to exist in Hell, separated from God, for all eternity. But again, what does it mean to freely choose Hell over heaven, and is such a choice even possible? According to most accounts of this doctrine, everyone, at some point in their life (it can either be during life, or at the moment of death, depending on who you ask) is confronted with the choice between heaven and hell. This may take the form of a sudden religious experience, such as immediately receiving the beatific vision, having all of the knowledge of good and evil spread out before you for a brief, shining instant in which you make your choice, or instead, some claim that this decision is made piecemeal throughout the course of your life (given that exposure to the full beatific vision is said to be too brain-meltingly powerful for a living human to experience). Regardless, the stipulation is that every human, no matter how evil, is given a chance at a free choice. This choice must be free of doubt, clouded emotions, and ignorance, because anything else could not be said to be truly free.

This alternative continues to appease the stipulations put forth by our definition of God; he's still infinitely good (he'd really love to save everybody), but this time he's bound by the necessity of human free will. But who, given the choice between heaven and hell, with all of the knowledge of both alternatives at their disposal, would actually choose to spend an eternity in hell? Really, nobody. There will be a point when you're presented with the choice, between an infinite amount of good and an infinite amount of evil and suffering, and no one will choose the latter. But, there are those that claim that there is a catch here, and that the one way to get around this is to posit people who are deceiving themselves about the choice, in the way that someone may freely choose to become hopelessly addicted to heroin. Just like the addict who is basically choosing to lend their free will to the whims of the drug, the damned soul is choosing to deceive themselves about the heaven/hell choice. In this case, God's hands would be tied by the necessity of free will.

Ah, but therein lies the problem. It's in the initial choice, which isn't actually free. As I mentioned above, the ultimate choice between heaven and hell which needs to be made without any kind of interference, ignorance, or doubt. The choice of self-deception, if the individual truly knew where the choice would lead (hell), would never be chosen. Therefore, even the small number of self-deceivers will not and cannot be damned under the rule of a just and omni-benevolent God. Any free decision will inevitably lead the individual to heaven, even if, under some cases, the soul must be dumped into hell for a finite amount of time. In those cases, the amount of time is just long enough to look around, see how infinitely crappy hell actually is, and decide to jump ship for clearer waters.

But even in those cases, any finite amount of suffering, when compared to an infinite good, approaches zero, and all conditions for the omni-God are still met.

But wait, who's getting damned? Apparently nobody, which brings me to the third and final post, concerning the Doctrine of Universalism.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why should Christians believe in hell? (Part I of III)

...when it makes no sense at all when looked at from the Christian perspective.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the concept of hell. It's been the topic of discussion in my Philosophy of Religion class, and in discussing the hell's many implications, it's become very clear to me that it makes no sense at all, especially when considered from a theologically philosophical standpoint.

Let me begin with some definitions. Hell, whether or not it's a lake of fire or "the outer darkness" as my professor puts it, is a place or state of being where the souls of the damned are sent after death. It is a state in which, according to most theology, the damned soul is cut off from God, and thereby separated from all that is good, there may or may not be extra suffering tacked on as well. The God I will be referring to is the deity in the typical Christian sense, all knowing, all powerful, all good, etc. As as side note: no discussion of "satan" or "the devil" will be taking place, seeing that the theologians have long ago dismissed the logical possibility of the existence of such an entity. That may be fodder for a future post. Hell was therefore necessarily created by, and also sustained by, God (also perhaps future-post-fodder).

I'll also note that I'm splitting this topic into three separate posts, each devoted to a different version of damnation, because depending on what particular version of (Christian, in this case) theology you choose to believe in, there are some really horrible inconsistencies with each doctrine. Here we go.

Part I of III - The classical doctrine of Hell

There are three viewpoints I will discuss, arranged from the most problematic to the most logical (or more correctly put, "least illogical"). The first is what is known as the Classical Doctrine of Hell (CDH). This is the view which is adopted by most lay Christians (i.e. those who aren't otherwise theologians). In this view, hell is a place of eternal suffering where the souls of the damned are sent to be punished for their various sins. It is an irrevocable state; once you're in, you can't ever get out. This doctrine is easily the most problematic of the three, and even though it is probably the most common conception of hell, it is also the one which is most incompatible with Christian dogma. To begin, there is the conception that this hell is eternal. This fact leads to the situation in which you are infinitely punished for a finite crime committed in life (for example, murder). In fact, I will argue that any crime committed by a human is necessarily finite, it would be absolutely impossible for a human mind to conceive of, much less perpetrate any infinite act. This includes even breaking one of the "big 10". Should you be punished in hell for all of eternity for coveting thy neighbor's wife? Really? Therefore, any infinite conception of hell is nothing more than cruel and unusual punishment. Would an omni-benevolent God allow this? The answer is clearly no. Even a god who is infinitely bound by justice would only allow punishments which are proportional to the crime commited.

The reasons commonly brought up to defend this version of Hell mostly align with the thoughts that God is bound to be infinitely just. He would love to save everybody (thereby fulfilling the omni-benevolence condition) but just isn't able to, but only because he is bound by justice. This sounds great, until you consider the act of the atonement. During any conversation with a Christian, you'll inevitably be bombarded with the argument of "Jesus died for our sins!" What does this even mean to someone who believes in an infinite hell? In most cases, the sacrificial act of Jesus was committed in order to fulfill the God's burden of justice, to wipe the slate clean, in order to assure that everyone can be saved. But wait, if the justice explanation is scrapped by the atonement, there is no reason why God couldn't just save everyone.

So then the Christian will retort, as they often do, with the argument, "Well, of course everyone can be saved, as long as they believe in Jesus!" Stop right there. First off, this kind of argument is completely awful, you just need to think about it for a bit. You're telling me, that I've got a soul, and the only thing I need to do is believe in a particular jewish evangelical magician? It's that arbitrary? On top of that, even the Christians can't agree on which Christians will be saved--Catholics will say that only those adherent to Catholicism will be saved, the Mormons claim that only Mormons will be saved, and so on. Should the devout Muslim, or the Buddhist monk, or the amazonian aborigine, be damned forever just because they weren't born in the correct geographic or cultural situation? No, and the Christian should be ashamed by their implicit condemnation of the vast majority of people in the world, just because they're not part of the club.

Next time you find yourself in a crowded space, look around at the people there, and imagine half of them burning forever in a lake of fire. Do this, and then reconsider the Classical Doctrine.

If you find yourself a bit hesitant about the CDH, don't feel bad, because there are alternatives, which brings me to my next post: the Progressive Doctrine of Hell.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A good day for a protest

...in fact, the NATIONAL day for a protest.

Getting back to the blog's hot topic of recent weeks: Gay Marriage. As you all know, Nov 15 was slated to be the national day of protest, against the marriage bans which were voted in during the recent election.










At least 250,000 people were estimated to show up at protests all over the country, and based on some of the images I've seen of the Los Angeles and Boston rallies, it must have been more than that. I mean, there were three protests scheduled for Oklahoma, the most homogeneously conservative state in the country. It was amazing to see the kind of support that this cause can muster, even in the heart of Hateful-hick-istan. Okay, maybe that's a bit much (I don't think so), but I was very privileged to attend the rally held here in Stillwater. It wasn't huge, maybe thirty or forty people, but it was certainly bigger than I expected.

The start of the protest was scheduled for noon. I strode in, with much needed soy latte in hand (it was about 40 degrees out, with a biting wind), not knowing what to expect. What I found there was the most enthusiastic group of people I think I've ever seen. The mood wasn't anger, or distrust, but that of hope and happiness. This is encouraging, given that these people have every right to feel angry and distrustful right now.

I was greeted very warmly by a few of my friends and the most amazing lady who demanded I receive a sticker. They read either: "Gay? OK!" or "Oklahomo!" I chose the former.

And so we stood, for about an hour and a half, flashing peace signs and cheering wildly whenever a car would honk its support. The day's events may not have changed the laws, but it's definitely made me feel better about the whole affair.

A bit of existential comedy

...from Demetri Martin, wordsmith extraordinaire.

This is a series I found recently on youtube; and I must say, it's very brilliant. It features the brilliance of Demetri Martin, in a semi-autobiographical piece about life.

If you're into existential comedy, as I know you are, you should definitely check this out.

Demetri Martin - if i

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

Friday, November 7, 2008

Prop 8 Update

...a small consolation.

the ACLU sent out a press release today which contained a bit of good news for those estimated 18,000 people who entered into same-sex marriages in california.

It looks like they get to keep their married status!

The gist of the release is that there's nothing in the language of the Prop 8 bill that would retroactively strip the marital rights from these couples (no ex post facto wins!). I'm very glad to see this result, I was terrified that these people would be once again stripped of their freedoms, by this absolutely atrocious amendment.

In related news, there is a legal battle planned between civil rights lawyers and the state. The civil rights crowd is fighting to establish the fact that this amendment, in that it strips rights from a specific portion of the population, is against the will of the california state constitution, and if they can prove their case in court, the amendment will be removed.

So, keep tuned for the results as they come in, because believe it or not, this affects all of you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Election

...because everything that changes stays the same.

It's obligatory that every blogger write about this election, if for the simple reason that it's too big not to write about. They'll throw out words like, "historic," "unprecedented," and "momentous" to describe last night's events, and recount shed tears of either joy or fear upon their hearing of the results. Yes, this election could turn out to be the most important event in the history of the nation, and I'm unbelievably happy that after twenty months of clawing and scratching and speaking, Barack Obama has won.

But I'm not going to go in that direction. It's been done. What I would like to talk about instead are the other decisions which were agreed upon last night.

I bought two bottles of wine last night. They were: a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, a medium bodied white which I would slightly chill and toast, if the events called for celebration, and a pinot noir from california, a medium red which smells of blackberry, which would console me if the political tides did not favor my point of view. You can undoubtedly see my motives in picking the two wines. (I was going to pick a reisling and a cab instead, since their characters are more opposed than my selections, but the two I chose have white and black in their names, and I felt that was more appropriate as a symbol.)

This post is not about wine. It's about which wine I was drinking at the end of the night.

I chose the pinot. The black. Let me tell you why.

Even though Barack won overwhelmingly in the general election (my sauvignon was already in the fridge), as I mentioned earlier, there was much more at stake in this election that just the presidential race. Four measures were voted on, and passed, that turned my celebratory tide. Four measures which caused me to turn away from happiness into despair.

They were:

Arizona Prop 102 - Ban on Gay Marriage
Flodida Amendment 2 - Ban on Gay Marriage
California Prop 8 - Ban on Gay Marriage
Arkansas Initiative 1 - Ban on Gay Couples Adopting Children

In the midst of a historic election, an election in which the racial divides in this country were broken down in the most profound way possible, these four measures passed. These measures publicly and officially stripped rights from a specific segment of the population. These measures were fought for with religious bigotry, fear, and ignorance. These measures deny those people in loving, homosexual relationships the same rights as heterosexuals, in a way that can only be described as overt discrimination. In the case of California's Prop 8, it forcibly divorces gay couples who were wed earlier this year. It's a truly monstrous act by the people of these states, an act which reflects poorly on our nation as a whole. How long must it take, how many times do we have to fight for the equality of a specific group only to see another become the social scapegoat before we can realize that we are all citizens of the same nation, that the barriers which once divided us were only in our minds, put there by our strange culture of us versus them?

I don't understand. This has all been done before, and it seems we still haven't learned our lesson. There are people out there who, it seems, feel that they are more entitled to the rights and privileges of this nation than others. We're in a strange place; though, the egalitarian movement has come so far, but still we have to continue fighting. Bravely, women fought for their rights, just as minorities did, just as the gay community is now, but my point is, why don't we realize that this kind of ugly discrimination will never last? Let's come together, strip away the fighting, forgo the cultural scars of an extended battle, and realize that we'll only be truly happy as a cohesive society when everyone is free-- when we're all equal in the eyes of not just the government, but each other.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween

For this year's jack-o-lantern, I wanted to make something that would really scare Oklahomans. So I present to you: the Barack-O-Lantern!



When the photo was taken, it's in the "a bit saggy" phase of the pumpkin morphology, but it's still good. And I used a scented candle for the inside, so it now smells of rotting pumpkin and vanilla.

I stayed home all night, in the hopes that, in classic halloween tradition, countless happy costumed children would parade past my door and I could make their night a bit brighter with a fistful of candy. Instead, I sat anxious by the door, with a five-pound bag of candy held tightly in my grasp, and received zero happy costumed visitors. Zero. Circle-slash kids.

I have no clue what might have happened, I did all I could to tell them that this particular apartment was prime time for some trick-or-treat goodness. I mean, I had the barack-o-lantern placed outside, the outside light was on, I even specifically taped up a sign proclaiming "No razor blades in this candy!" But perhaps I was wrong in my assumptions and kids don't visit apartments after all. Or maybe this apartment complex, as I've previously thought, really is just inhabited by sad, single people.

Oh well, happy halloween, I've got a giant bag of candy to eat now.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Walking

I was out to witness a crime.
Walking alone,
past the gray brick walls
past the sleeping homeless
past countless spray-paint
works of art.

I was sipping a latte
through the "bad" part of town.
in the ill-lit walks
in the store-front sector
in the very middle
of the night.

I was walking down an alley.
To where my bike waited,
chained to a pipe
screwed to a meter
stuck in the ground
and I left for home.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Longest. Sentence. Ever.

...how Marcel Proust instantly became my idol.

The sentence which follows, is possibly the greatest thing I've ever seen in all of literature. There are:

  • 605 words
  • 51 commas
  • 7 semi-colons
  • 2 parenthetical clauses
  • 1 period.
Enjoy.

"Those high white curtains which hid from the eyes the bed placed as if in the rear of a sanctuary; the scattering of light silk counterpanes, of quilts with flowers, of embroidered bedspreads, of linen pillowcases, this scattering under which it disappeared in the daytime, as an altar in the month of Mary under festoons and flowers, and which, in the evening, in order to go to bed, I would place cautiously on an armchair where they consented to spend the night; by the bed, the trinity of the glass with blue patterns, the matching sugar bowl, and the decanter (always empty, since the day after my arrival, by order of my aunt who was afraid to see it "spill"), these instruments, as it were, of the cult-almost as sacred as the precious orange blossom liqueur placed near them in a glass phial-,which I would no more have thought of profaning nor even of possibly using for myself than if they had been consecrated ciboria, but which I would examine a long time before undressing, for fear of upsetting them by a false motion; those little crocheted open-work stoles which threw on the backs of the armchair a mantel of white roses that must not have been without thorns since every time I was through reading and wanted to I noticed I remained caught in them; that glass bell on which, isolated from vulgar contacts, the clock was babbling privately for shells come from far away and for an old sentimental flower, but which was so heavy to lift that when the clock stopped, nobody but the clock-maker would have been foolhardy enough to undertake to wind it up; that very white guipure tablecloth which, thrown as an altar runner across the chest of drawers adorned with two vases, a picture of the Savior, and a twig of blessed boxwood made it resemble the Lord's Table (of which a priedieu, placed there every day, when the room war "done," finished evoking the idea), but whose frayings always catching in the chinks of the drawers stopped their movement so completely that I could never take out a handkerchief without at once knocking down the picture of the Savior, the sacred vases, the twig of blessed boxwood, and without stumbling and catching hold of the priedieu; finally, that triple layer of little bolting-cloth curtains, of large muslin curtains, and of larger dimity curtains always smiling in their often sunny hawthorn whiteness, but in reality very irritating in their awkwardness and stubbornness in playing around the parallel wooden bars and tangling in one another and getting all in the window as soon as I wanted to open or close it, -a second one being always ready if I succeeded in extricating the first to come to take its place immediately in the cracks as perfectly plugged by them as they would have been by a real hawthorn bush or by nests of swallows that might have had the fancy to settle there, so that this operation, in appearance so simple, of opening or closing my window, I never succeeded in doing without the help of someone in the house; all those things which not only could not answer any of my needs, but were even an impediment however slight, to their satisfaction, which evidently had never been placed there for someone's use, peopled my room with thoughts somehow personal, with that air of predilection, of having chosen to live there and delighting in it, which, often the trees in a clearing and the flowers on the road side or on old walls have."

Update: Alright, I actually did some research and found that there are much longer sentences out there...up to 40,000 words, apparently.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Impostor!

...who is actually a pretty good blogger. So I forgive her.

When trying to access my other blog from work, I mistyped the address and accidentally typed just existentialbeatnik.blogspot.com. Imagine my surprise when I was not greeted by my own smiling, cartoon face next to a light-hearted story about street racing, but another blog entirely.

Had I been secretly usurped? What would become of my musings?!

Nah, I soon realized, my domain has a "the" in front of "existential". But I was pleased to check out her blog for a bit, and realized that she's quite the good writer.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A quick expansion of the internet intellect.

If you're ever feeling complacent and bored with the internet (I personally hope that this never happens to you), but if you are, try this:

See the link bar at the very top of this page? Go to the link that reads "Next Blog". Click on it. Repeat. Try this now, then come back to this post after you've explored a while.



You've probably found, as I have, loads of striking things about this type of exploration. You'll undoubtedly be struck by the fact that English is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the language of the internet. I have spent hours and hours just exploring various blogs in various languages and styles and it's really expanded my concept of the internet blogosphere. You'll also find that blogs come in an unfathomable array of different subjects. In fact, just today I found a blog which was completely devoted to pictures of interesting mushrooms. It was fascinating.

Just do this for a while, repeat, keep clicking that link, soak it up, learn about some family that you'll never meet and how their twelve-year-old's birthday party went down, learn all about a japanese photographer without understanding a word of the text, learn about a young girl's love of whatever idol she idolizes, learn about all of these people, if only because you can.

This knowledge, these experiences, are put out there by people who care deeply about these things, and even though the presentation might be shoddy, even though they may still be using the blog's default settings, realize that all of this is part of one beautiful interconnectedness. The internet doesn't have to be about porn and online gambling all the time. This is the future of our modern civilization, and we all shape it in our own unique ways.

Start your own blog, regardless of how insignificant you may feel, because there may be a time, when some random blogger our there clicks on Next Blog and finds...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Late-Night Blurb

He was a menace, a monster. Some called him a destroyer of worlds. Now, with his new-found powers he was able to level cities, kill with a stare, and most terrifyingly, he could be anywhere--and everywhere--he chose. He was absolutely unstoppable now, and standing directly before us. The room lay deathly silent, for a time. CLACK--The sound of a ceramic assault rifle hitting the floor. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, these new ceramic models rolled out with blazing speed when we found that he had learned to manipulate the iron in our weapons. What else could we do? We laid down our arms, laid down our guns, and within seconds, each of our worlds had ceased to be.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Missing

The spider must have gone.

A child stood outside, next to the bushes, under the tree, staring at the vacant space where the web once stretched. He stood there, in the spot which he had determined to be the best to stand, where the web was nicely back lit, allowing for easy inspection of the intricacies of silken architecture. Now, looking around, hoping that the faint glint of taut silk reflecting the porch lights would catch his eye, he couldn't help but feel pangs of regret. Irrational questions filled his mind, he wondered where the spider had gone, what had caused it's relocation, or if it needed help moving the furniture or setting up its new pad.

Regret turned quickly to anger. It had always been there! Yes, for the past week, the spider had always been there, in the early evening, calmly waiting, sitting vertically in the dead center bull's eye of its creation. Swatting the bush (which previously served as the web's bottom anchor) with his hand, the child ran quickly back to the warm light of the back door, and disappeared inside his home. Moments later, rudely woken from its sleep by a terrible shaking, a single, nocturnal arachnid dove into the air, trailing a thin cord behind itself, the beginnings of a new creation. And as it landed gently on a leaf below and began to spin it's trap, it's home, and it's everything, it wondered idly when the boy would come, to pay him a visit.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Secular Tragedy - A response and rebuttal

"Nice work, enjoyed this."

-my mother.


If that's your opinion, then I'm sure that you didn't understand the story. Allow me to first recap the whole of the trilogy.

The Secular Tragedy - Non Poetic Form


This is the story of a man, a convicted pedophile and sexual assailant, an unkempt man who calls himself a captain (although captain of what we'll never know...until the prequel!), who, after escaping from the zoo in which he is inexplicably kept, hops (read: stows away) on a plane to what he thinks is Africa. He's going there to find some place in which he can live a life of normalcy, seeing that he is incapable of doing such in the US.

He is unable to find civilization for many years. He has been wandering through dense jungle, arid desert, and vast stretches of ocean, attempting to find the human interaction from which he so hastily ran in the first act. Suddenly, he finds the first example of civilization he's seen in his arduous journeys, and it turns out to be an amazing example. It's an absolute fairy tale of a village, seemingly perfect in every way. In other words, he finally thinks that his wanderings have led him to a home. But, turns out they're aware of his criminal record, and he is shunned from the paradise-candyland-esque village, just like he's been shunned from the rest of the so-called "normal society."

Fast forward a couple more years, he's been visiting village after village, being cast out of each and every one due to his past (and possibly present) deviant behavior. He's presumably an alcoholic, and even dirtier and more unsightly than ever. While trudging through the jungle, he's struck by a poisonous dart and captured. But what a surprise! His captors know of him! It's as if the greeks had captured Odysseus by a complete accident. It turns out that MacMuffin is something like the village idol, the way that basketball players used to look up to Michael Jordan...except in this case, it's not basketball, but pedophilia. He's found a village of pedophiles, get it? Long story short, he soon becomes their king, and, the first order of business? Revenge.

This is where the story starts to get good.

He launches a campaign which begins with the complete genocide of the surrounding tribes and cities, in retribution for MacMuffin's past discriminatory treatment. It's not all bad, though, the young girls are kept safe from harm. (Until, of course, they're presumably raped by the all-male pedo-village) Once that deed is done, and there is no one to disagree on the orthodoxy of pedophilia, it becomes the cultural norm for his part of the world, which turns out to be the only way in which he can live in peace. But he's finally found it, the normalcy which he had always sought, even though he had to go on an often brutal, sad, and bloody quest to get there. He remains this way, unapologetically until his peaceful, child-loving death.

And that's what I was trying to convey. But...

What does this say about me?

I'm not sure. I would have liked this story to have a happier ending, but this was the way it turned out. Underneath it all it has always been a story about redemption, but instead of the antagonist seeing the error of his way and conforming to the most correct worldview around him, he goes the other way, and says basically, "screw this, I tried to change (in act II), and you still won't accept me?" and then procedes to violently change the world around him to comply with his (admittedly twisted) views.

I also didn't, in any way, want to make it seem like I was condoning pedophilia or rape or genocide or any of the other horrible things that happen in the course of this story, but again, it's just how it had to be. There's a way in which things can be so over the top and absurd, that instead of being shocking or obscene (like they normally would be) they instead become comical (see: the black knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail). That's part of what I was trying to do with this story, to provide an anti-hero who is so terribly awful, that you just can't help but like him.

And the third thing, I was thinking a lot lately about the state of sex offense in this country, and the social pariah you become after even the most minor of offenses (not that I would know, heh heh). I tend to think that, it's not the best thing to do, when you're considering the rehabilitation of a convict, to yell to the world, "This guy? Over there? He's a kid-diddler!" I just don't think that helps someone to get better, like our justice system should do with convicts. I mean, and this goes for any crime, it shouldn't just be about punishing a person for the wrong that they've done, it should be about making them a better person, or at least more normal in the cultural/societal sense of the word.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Epic Limerick - The Secular Tragedy Part III of III

For a better reference, see Part I and Part II


The end of our tale is at hand
and so, dear readers, come stand
at the foot of the mount
and my words you will count
among the wisest of those in the land

dejected and fearing the worst
his emotional wounds needing nursed
so he wandered alone
without cellular phone
and wondered at why he'd been cursed

after surveying dozens of places
and seeing the horrified faces
at one who'd done wrong
endured this torment so long
sadly buying his beer by the cases

and just as he thought to give in
and take his own life with a pin
that he'd stab through his heart
so that it shall never start
in his chest to beat ever again

but a dart was then stuck in his arm
which erased all his thoughts of self-harm
a blowgun he spotted
as his limb's blood was clotted
passed out when the dart worked it's charm

suddenly they found him awake
in a cottage not far from a lake
shouting, "You're one of us!"
he, in a state of nonplus
as giddy villagers started to shake

they said, "Yes, we've heard of your story,"
"of the details both lurid and gory"
you're the best that there is
at getting with kids
and here you can reap your due glory

yes, a village of pedos he'd found
and the -philia there with could abound
appalled and confused
for they'd shaken his views
that here, awful habits were sound

for miles you could hear the men sing
as he became their philosopher-king
using his powers for good
(at least, when he could)
though he needed to mend one last thing

other villages were then swiftly slaughtered
and his men ran away with their daughters
he laughed at them now
as he wiped off his brow
and pulled flaming boats free from their cotters

he lived there in peace for a while
enjoying the heights of new freedom and style
before passing away
MacMuffin was able to say
"never so proud to pedophile"

The End.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Argument From Design - Overview (Paley - Natural Theology)

Since I haven't been writing much lately, you'll have to make due with this. It's an assignment from Philosophy of Religion, in which I was called upon to write an exegesis for this particular article. Feel free to respond to the discussion questions below. **The opinions expressed below do not represent those of the author, or any of those with whom he is affiliated**

Reading Reflection Handout

William Paley, “The Watch and the Watchmaker” (1802)

Prepared by James Hazelton

Overview: In this reading, from Paley’s Natural Theology, or Evidences and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature, we are introduced to what is known as the “argument from design.” In it, he states that upon reflection and investigation of the natural world, it becomes apparent that the wonders of nature are actually the work of a grand designer, God.

He begins with an analogy, in which he finds a watch laying on the ground. Upon inspection of the foreign object, he concludes from its internal complexity that it must have been designed. He speaks of how, upon disassembling the watch, he finds that the parts found within contribute necessarily to the function of the watch, each part being chosen because of its attributes to perform a certain function within the mechanism. He describes the coiled spring which provides power, the flexible chain and systems of gears to translate the motion to the face, which is covered with a piece of transparent glass which allows the time to be read. He concludes from the thorough investigation of the watch that the object is too complex, and its motions and workings too accurate to have not been designed by an intelligence, in this case, the watchmaker.

He begins the next section by anticipating and answering the objections which can be raised against his argument from design. His inference of a designer would not be weakened, he argues, if before finding one on the ground we had never seen or known of a watch, nor would the argument be harmed if the watch were found to be imperfect, or containing extraneous parts. The design would remain evident if this happened to be only one of many possible forms of watch mechanisms, or even if the observer learned that the watch components, under a certain “principle of order,” could assemble themselves into a working machine. Even if the workings and assembly of the watch could be explained by the “laws of metallic nature,” these laws would still presuppose an agent. Just as an architect can produce flawless plans, yet see them come to life in a building which is imperfect in reality, so too can designs of the intelligent forces such as Paley describes give rise to imperfect creations. The fact remains that they are still, at their core, designed.

He then moves from analogy to nature, comparing the apparent design of the watch to that of the eye. He reminds the reader that there are examples of design in nature which, “surpass the contrivances of art, in the complexity, subtlety, and curiosity of the mechanism.” He then gives examples of the human eye and compares its function to that of other animals, pointing out, for example, that birds’ eyes allow them to see objects both near and far with clarity, that the eyes of a fish are efficiently adapted for sight underwater, and those of an eel are tough enough to allow the animal to dig through sand and gravel. He also points out that for the sense of human sight to work as well as it does, there are several biological systems which have to work in tandem: the brow, the eyelids, the tear ducts, and that these are all examples of design.

Having stressed enough the design of the eye, Paley moves on to the broader argument. He asserts that nearly everything in nature possesses in itself, a complete body of evidence for the existence of an intelligent creator. If the eye were not considered in the argument, for instance, the ear alone would provide ample proof, and so on.

Not only, once we accept the appearance of design, do these examples prove that there must have been an intelligent creator, Paley claims that they also prove the “personality” of such a creator. This designer would have to be an entity entirely separate from that which we call nature. Because anything that can contrive and create with intelligence must have a “mind,” and such a thing must be a “Being, infinite, as well in essence as in power.”

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Considering Paley’s evidence of apparent design, does the overall force of the arguments change given the fact that Natural Theology preceded the discovery of evolution and adaptation by natural selection? In the light of modern scientific understanding, is the argument from design still valid?

  1. Every year, millions of lives are lost due to the efficiency with which disease caused by pathogens such as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, parasites, and cancer are able to spread throughout the body. Some claim that by criteria such as Paley’s, these examples can also point to deliberate design. If so, how does this fit with the idea or plans of a God who is “infinitely good” with respect to human life?

Figure 1

  1. Do you agree with T-Rex in his assertion that given enough scientific knowledge, explanations which are usually attributed to a God will become superfluous? Or do you side with Utahraptor’s Paley-esque refutation in the fifth panel?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Blurb

He stood at the temple's entrance, still with fright. He asked of the ghostly figure, "Who are you?"

It's answer came suddenly, as if from within his own mind, "I am a watcher, I am one of those they call deadmen."

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Arslycus, a Scientological Epic

"This brick is mocking me, I'm sure of it"

I still find it funny that this was the last thought of my previous lifetime.

For nearly two thousand lifetimes (if you're reading this on Teegeack, that's about twenty-four thousand years), I had been polishing smooth what was to become a paving stone for the great intergalactic highway. Now, a hundred thousand lifetimes spent polishing the same stone may seem like a long time to a wog, but when you're not used to thinking in terms of the whole of your time track, anything past a single lifetime becomes inconceivable. I had just obtained a new body from the pawn, and I'll quickly remark here that the service was very fast. I had only died the day before, and with a fresh body, I began another lifetime of forced tedium.

Oh, I've not even mentioned where this was taking place. You've all been there in one lifetime or another, so I'll just briefly describe Arslycus. First, picture an enormous city which is built onto a flat plane. Then take thousands of such cities and stack them vertically until you have a complex which is roughly the size of a planet and, boom, you've got Arslycus, and there's no need for an atmosphere of course, the bodies which we were supplied with had no need for that. There were several other city-planets like it, but this one was by far the grandest. Since the production of planets had not yet begun, it was the center of the universe for its time. I say, "for its time", of course because Arslycus no longer exists, and I was there when it happened.

Let me remind you, at this time, the universe was fairly new. Many of my fellow thetans, bored with the constant uniformity of the theta universe, decided to create somewhere new--somewhere with some randomity. Thus the MEST universe (matter energy space time, I can't believe I have to explain that, just grab a tech dictionary if you come across an MU) was born. You all know the story, they didn't know what they were getting themselves into, nearly all of us were soon trapped within some kind of imprisoning body, and this paved the way for corruptors and suppressives to control our minds with the implants. Back to arslycus. There was a new thetan assigned to a brick ahead of me on the highway. He was brand new--first lifetime--still confused and frustrated about his position, and I could tell that there was something different about him, maybe the way his mind wasn't quite numbed like it should have been from the labor. So one day, he got an idea. All of a sudden, the bricks began to move. Everything began to drift backwards towards Arslycus, including ourselves. We felt a great acceleration towards the city, and soon the thousands of tiers of the city began to break apart under an unknown strain. There was nothing that we could do to stop it, and billions of thetans lost their bodies (including the spares waiting in the pawns) and were sent to the between-lives-area (Located very near Teegeack under the fourth planet). This incident was a complete mystery to me until my next lifetime, one which I spent on Teegeack, the prison planet, Earth. I realized finally that the destruction of Arslycus, the deaths of those thetans, and the rise of the planets was due to a simple thought. A thought which brought the concept of mass into the universe. With mass came gravity, and the great cities could not exist under the new strain.

--From auditing session 024409 of member 57300982

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Obligatory Angry Political Blog Post

Alright, this is coming after many weeks of carefully watching the democratic process being thrown to the groumd, beaten severely about the head and neck, and then mercilessly defecated upon by none other than our own government.

This election is a joke, and if you've been following it at all, you already know what I mean. There are serious allegations of last night's New Hampshire primary being rigged in favor of hillary clinton, and most reports seem to be credible.

So the question is this: when the american people no longer have the ability to choose their leaders, then what's the point in calling the US a democracy?

Already hillary has a tremendous lead over obama, according to cnn.com she has 183 delegates to obama's 78. And the vast majority of both of these candidate's votes are from state's whose primary elections haven't yet occurred. That's right, most of the candidates's delegate votes are not chosen by the American People. Gasp!

The reason we have these systems in place is partly due to the fact that, when the country was founded, people were dumb. That's right, even dumber than they are now. Hard to believe? It's true. A very large number of average people were illiterate farmers, who were seen by the political bourgeois as not being fit to choose leaders effectively. So they came up with a system in which the people would vote, but not for president. They would vote for the sole sake of suggesting to other people, the electoral college, who to vote for, and then those people would choose the president. Rather than taking the appropriate steps as society changed over the years and cutting out the middleman, it's clear that government is slowly realizing that they don't need to public's approval to run things anymore. (See bush's approval ratings over the last several years for evidence)

The horrible system of delegates and the electoral college are remnants of the past, and an easy way for the puppetmasters behind the forefront politicians to pull the strings on the unsuspecting american public. The average person on the street would most likely have no idea of the inner workings of the political systems at work, and I'm sure could barely explain how the electoral college system works.

Which brings me to my final point. Who is to blame here? Is it the politicians, running under the facade of a free and fair system, or the public constituency who allow it to keep happening? The vast majority of americans will agree that the last 7 years have been a terrible mess, with the "war" in the middle east, the unprecedented national deficits, the inflation and soon to occur recession, and the outright lies that we are fed on a daily basis by our own administration. People should be outraged.

They're not.

We should be rioting in the streets for just one tenth of the atrocities which have been committed in the sake of "freedom" and the "fight against terrorism". For one, Bush and Cheney should have been called to impeachment hearings during the first term. If clinton faced hearing for having an extramarital affair and lying about it, then those two should have been hanged for war crimes and treason a very long time ago.

The fact that we don't have open revolt could be the product of two scenarios: either we're just unbearably peaceful as a nation, and refuse to speak out against our malefactors, or it could be that we are just passive-aggressively complacent and apathetic towards these crimes. If the latter case turns out to be true, then I fear there may be no future for the american people other than social domination and totalitarianism.



For another take on this subject, consult this article from the Onion.