Category Archives: Faith

Best Halloween Cinema #30: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

So begins the list of the #30 best things to watch for Halloween (I by no means claim this is a definitive list and the ordering is rather arbitrary).

We start this month of horror films off with a TV show. But not just any TV show, the single greatest TV show in the history of human civilization (at least up to this point…Whedon could easily come out with something new that would surpass it in a few years). That show is of course Buffy The Vampire Slayer. High tragedy, high comedy, deep understanding of the human condition, skill in writing, acting and directing, and of course a hopeful view of humanity that forgiveness is possible and that people can grow and improve themselves. There is simply no show in the history of television that has dealt such profound philosophical themes without being heavy handed and with characters who were human and never just two dimensional cutouts who were allowed to followed a predictable pattern.

The reason such a great work of art gets put last in this list is that it’s really not a horror story. Yes there are vampires and werewolves and monsters of all stripes. But even though it has all the tropes of horror, it is not focused on death as any good horror story is, rather Buffy is focused on life, specifically the growing up part of life. And in this respect it works as a good counterbalance to everything that’s going to come after, but that does not mean it does not have its horrifying moments.

So let’s do a quick rundown of some of the more terrifying episodes.

The Gentlemen from “Hush”

“Hush”: Possibly the most horrifying episode of Buffy. Corpse like emaciated men dressed in 1920’s style suits come to town, steal everyone’s voice and rip out their hearts. It’s frightening for several reasons. The first is the villains, The Gentlemen. The scariest monsters are always the ones that look human but are just a slight bit off, the fact that they were so concerned with manners and courtesy in their actions toward one another just adds to the horror because it is so out of place when you’re about to cut out a live and awake person’s heart. The other reason that it’s such a terrifying episode is that it takes away from the characters something they take for granted: their voice. The idea of not having something we have been so dependent on that we take it for granted, like our ability to communicate brings up the simple question in our minds: “what would I do in that situation?” It’s not a pleasant question. We use our voice for so many things and the idea that we should have to live without it–not a pleasant thought. And of course there is the fear of death. Few episodes have shown people so helpless as this episode when being killed, they’re restrained almost immediately so they can’t run away; they have no voice so they can’t scream for help and then they feel everything as their heart is cut out. One of the things that frighten people so much about death is that they think it is something out of their control, that it will come in the night without warning or rhyme or reason and there is nothing they can do about it, and they are utterly powerless in the face of the unknown. It’s powerlessness against it that frightens them (it’s why waiting for the diagnosis of cancer is worse than the diagnosis itself, when you know what it is, you have a name, an MRI, an idea you can fight against or give into, it’s your choice—but when you’re waiting you still have no choice about anything). It is this powerlessness that the scenes of death in this episode capture so well, and remind most of us of our own fears of death.
Helpless: People run a lot in Buffy. But either they’re one episode’s extras whom we’re not really all that invested in, or they’re main characters and we know Buffy will save them. But when it’s Buffy who is doing the running because she has had all her powers taken away, that adds a lot more terror. The safety net of “Buffy will save the day” is gone, and being Joss Whedon, we never had any reassurance that he isn’t willing to kill main characters, so there’s not that usual safety net either.

“Restless”: There is something terrifying about the unknown and the bizarre to most people. If they can’t understand and make sense of it, it frightens them. So putting our four main characters in a rather symbolic and random dreamscape with an unknown assailant killing them, is quite terrifying. Oh and there’s cheese (if you’ve seen the episode you’ll get that).

“Fear Itself”: Finally my favorite Halloween episode in Buffy. The Scooby Gang faces off against a demon who makes them live out their worst fears and then face the fear demon itself. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This episode shows how foolish that is. Why? Because the fear demon is three inches tall, which is possibly the most insightful and genius representation of fear I have ever seen in of all of literature. Fear is something small, something insignificant, and something if you use reason isn’t worth worrying about…yet we let it control us because we refuse to look at it. If we did confront it head on we would probably find that most of our fears are so small and so insignificant that they can just easily be squashed and ignored.

Xander: Who’s the little fear demon? Come on, who’s the little fear demon? Giles: Don’t taunt the fear demon.Xander: Why? Can he hurt me?Giles: No, it’s just… tacky

Honorable Mentions:

None these are exactly great films (not that the top 30 are all Oscar Winners) but they get trotted out every Halloween and I would say they do meet my criteria of an unhealthy obsession with death.

Constantine: An epic battle between good and evil with a poorly executed story of redemption.  Fun but ultimately pointless.

Stigmata: It’s not exactly a horror film, (and I’ll probably deal with it later in my blogs about movies for New Agers) but with all the blood and suffering it has many of the tropes of a horror film.

Bless the Child: Certainly not as dense and preachy as the novel it’s based on, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still just a little preachy.  And then there is just the rather low quality direction.

The Shinning (TV movie 1997): You know the Nicholson/Kubric version of the film is actually well done, the problem is that it seems to completely ignore that there is actually a great book that it’s supposed to be based on. The TV movie, while not without its flaws was more true to theme and characters of the book and thus I prefer it to the older version.

Fringe: Again it’s not really about the fear of death, but there are some truly horrifying moments.  Like in the first episode where everyone’s skin is melting off, that’s frightening at levels I can’t begin to describe.  And that 3rd season episode where they guy is playing with a corpse and through levers and pulleys make it dance ballet, that’s disturbing at a level I seldom see.

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Filed under Art, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Death, Faith, Fear, Free Will, God, Halloween, Joss Whedon, Movies, New Age Movies, Popular Culture

Weekly Meditation: The Peace of God

For this week I would like to propose the following from the opening of spiritual text A Course In Miracles.

This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:


Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.

It’s simple. Clear. Direct. And possibly the only summary of a spiritual text I know of within the text itself. Yet despite the simplicity of these two lines there is a lot to consider.

If you haven't read it, you should.

If you haven’t read it, you should.

Nothing real can be threatened. Which means if you’re worried about something either you’re wrong that it can be harmed, and if it can’t be harmed then why worry about it. After all you are your soul, and your soul is immortal and perfect…what’s to worry about? Or if you’re right and it can be harmed then it must not be real…and well, nothing unreal exists. So why worry about it?
Most of our lives are spent worrying about things. Health? Wealth? Success? Worth? But if you assume you were created perfect by God, then how could you ever be flawed or ever have need or want or lack…which leaves so many things in this world as little more than an illusion, a dream (maybe a nightmare) and it will end as if it never existed.

And that’s only one aspect of meditation up these lines. I would recommend if you do any meditation during the day you bring these lines up this week. Anytime anything upsets you. Anytime you have a moment to think about it. And see if you find your life is more peaceful and happy…

…herein lies the peace of God.

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Weekly Meditation: How you look at Money

Our perception of things affects our actions. You don’t need be a New Ager to believe this; you just need to take Psych 101. So let’s go with that most important of tools in this physical world you live in: Money.

Beautiful, beautiful sweet wonderful money!

sign of the dollarWere you shocked by that statement? Did you think it was incorrect? Did you find it somehow sinful or greedy? Why? Money is a tool. It lets you do stuff. Money is an expression of what we have done and earned in physical form. It is an expression of the best within us and a tool to allow us to do things that make us happy. However I feel that you don’t have that feeling towards money.

Its okay, in our modern culture we don’t often look at money as a tool in helping us reach happiness and an expression of the purity of our work. But even from a psych 101 point of view if you don’t view money as a good thing, you’re going to do things that push you away from money. It’s even worse if you’re a New Ager and believe that thoughts create reality—if you don’t have positive thoughts about money in that case you will literally push money away from you.
So how do we change our perceptions of money? Mediation is good, but actions in this case are far more powerful. Now I could say every time you pay a bill don’t think about the money you’re losing, but rather the thing you bought with your money that made you happy and maybe to go out of your way everyday to buy something small for yourself and think about how money helped you buy something that made you happy. That would be good, except modern culture has probably loaded you down with a lot of preconceived ideas about selfishness and greed and guilt. So let’s start small.


Your meditation for this week is to spend a dollar a day on someone else and think about how that one dollar makes you happy. Tip the barista at Starbucks. Donate a single dollar to charity. Buy a coworker an unasked for snack when the day seems to be getting too long. Just a dollar a day. The only thing is it has to be spent in a different place on a different person each day. And with each dollar you spend think about how doing that small act allowed money to make you happy. You can’t donate a service or an object, this needs to be money, you need to see how money can be a tool to make you happy.


If you can spend more, spend more if you want to. If you’re on a tight budget and don’t feel you can spare $7, dear God you need to do this as you clearly are worried about lack of money and have negative beliefs about money. You need to change your perception of money.


If you do this and focus on the joy that using money can bring, I can promise you will find that there will be more money in your life.

 

The verdict which you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life.–Francisco D’Anconia

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Filed under Charity, Faith, God, Meditation, Spirituality

Why is idiotic theology all the rage on the internet?

It constantly strikes me as odd how, despite the fact that the human race makes major jumps in technology, politics, economics, our spiritual growth seems to be very slow…and in some cases it appears to be making giant leaps backwards.

 

For instance over two thousand years ago in works of the Greek philosophers makes a clear point that has been the basis of correct* theology ever since. This point is that God is pinnacle of all virtues. That might seem overly obvious so let me expand on what the argument was. In a dialogue of Plato’s named Euthyphro the question is

A lot of the basis for this government is in this picture...not a lot of these people are from the Judeo-Christian background.

asked: are things just because the gods say they are just, or do the gods say they are just because they are just. If things are just only because the gods say they are just then what is just is merely the dictate of a tyrant, a universally powerful tyrant, but a tyrant nonetheless. It is to say that might makes right and the gods as the mightiest of all clearly are right because of their power. To accept the second option, that the gods say things are just because they are just, is to say that there is something called Justice higher than the gods to which even the gods have to bow down to…but then why worship the gods and not just skip to that higher thing. This can quickly fall into a series of does that higher thing say what it does because of some even higher law or just because it says so. Now no answer is reached in Euthyphro, an early work of Plato’s, but he eventually gets to the answer over the course of his works. The answer is a third option. God isn’t dependent on some higher concept of Justice, nor is Justice dependent on God, because God is Justice and Justice is God. God is Beautiful, and Beauty is God. God is Truth, and Truth is God. God is Good, and the Good is God. God is Reason and Reason is God.   God is the pinnacle of virtue in and of himself, it is not his power that dictates justice, it is his quality of justice; it is not his might that makes something good or right, it is the fact that he is good and right. And eventually this idea became so prevalent within Platonic philosophy that they gave it a single title to encompass the entire concept of a God that is the pinnacle of all virtues. And to distinguish it from the myriad of other gods wandering around the numerous pantheons of the ancient gods they didn’t give it a name like Zeus** or Apollo, but rather the title the Logos from the same Greek word that we derive the word logic from. They chose this word because this conception of God was that he was the logic, the reason, the purpose, the driving force behind the universe. And this idea of the Logos is the only logical way out of this paradox (or at least the only one I have seen proposed in over 2,000 years of philosophy and theology). Anything other than this way out leaves you with either having to search for a higher power or admission that God is God only because might makes right (in which case he is no better than any dictator).

 

And while Aristotle may have proven there is a God, his logic does not conclusively prove what that God is like, it is here that Plato shows that your only options for God are that God is the Logos or that he is a petty tyrant not worthy of worship because his only claim to power is that might makes right. And while I’m not going to unravel the problem of evil here, experience and common sense show that the petty tyrant is not a viable option in reality…but it is absolutely not something you should be arguing for. God is God not because he is subject to Reason, Good, Truth, and Justice, but because he IS Reason, Good, Truth, and Justice.

 

And for any logical person that should be the end of it.

 

But then I saw this drivel on Tumblr getting reblogged.

 

idiot theology 1idiot theology 2  idiot theology 3 idiot theology 4 idiot theology 5

 

 

So let’s break this down. You have the title card that God is Love but love is not God. Let’s leave this stupid thesis for a second.

 

The next two slides deal with the issue of the problem of evil. In a very inarticulate way these cards are showing the basic problem of people saying, “How can a loving God allow suffering to happen?” Again if I were to get into a severe deconstruction of the problem of evil (which at very least would make this post ramble on for another 10 pages…and nobody wants that) you can come to two conclusions. The first is the one first proposed by St. Augustine and has been the center of intelligent Christian theology (the person who made this little slide show is clearly not in this camp) that God allows evil because he has a plan that will bring an even greater good out of the world than would be possible without evil. It is the logic that we punish our children and sometimes force them to do things that they find terrible because it is good for them and will make them better people in the end. Or you can take the Eastern version that this world is merely an illusion and that evil doesn’t really exist, once we wake up and reach Enlightenment the evil of this world will be nothing more than the suffering of a nightmare, no real harm so no real foul, and it will be quickly forgotten. Both of these answers allow for evil to exist in the world without violating the nature of God being the Logos. And the shortest way of dealing with the objections of the first two slides is “If you could see the full plan of the universe, as God can, you would see that what you describe as something terrible is in the grand scheme of things nothing more than the cosmic version of a parent forcing their child to eat their Brussels sprouts.”***

 

But this slide then goes onto to say:

idiot theology 6 idiot theology 7

Okay the first line is fair enough. Using the problem of evil to attack the idea of God is a bad line of thought, and it can lead to some terrible theology.

 

But it’s the next paragraph where things start going off the rails into the very same bad theology that the idiot who made this complained about just a sentence ago. So the problem here is with the argument is “How dare you say God has to conform to an idea of Love” or Reason, or Justice, or Truth. Not the more rational, you need to admit that your idea of Love (or any of the others) may not be perfect because at this point you’re a human being capable of error. No we went with God cannot be judged by anything because God is beyond Love, Reason, Justice. God may have given you reason and told you repeatedly to use it but apparently it is no way a guiding light back to God. Any serious theologian would say that if that your conception of God and the facts don’t match, then we must defer to reason that either our conception of God is wrong or that you don’t have an accurate understanding of situation.

 

Or as a famous atheist who never applied her own logic to her bad understanding of theology, “Contradictions cannot exist. If you think you’ve found a contradiction go back and check your premises. One of them is wrong.”

If your idea of God doesn’t match up with your idea of love, according to reason, one of these ideas is wrong.

 

Except that this little slide show, that again I kept seeing several times so it’s not like this is just one idiot reblogging this is that your reasoning is not wrong, it doesn’t matter that there is a contradiction, but God is not subject to Reason, or Love, or Justice, or Truth. God is somehow above these things and cannot be limited by them.

 

This is terrible theology. No serious theologian of any faith remotely associated with God would make a claim this stupid.

 

But, you say, you’re blowing this out of proportion. So what if this idea is catching on, it’s not like it’s going to destroy civilization or anything. Which seems like a fair point…except that history actually demonstrates what happens when this idea is prevalent. You see this philosophical battle actually happened before around 1100 in the Islamic Empire. You had two main factions at the time the Mu’tazilite Sunni’s who believed, like Plato, that God was bound by concepts as Reason and Justice, because God was those things; and opposing them you had Ash’arites Sunni’s who believe that God was all powerful and thus could not be bound by concepts of Reason and Justice, because God was beyond those things (just like the idiot who made these slides). Long story short, had the Mu’tazilites won, Islam would have become a civilization of reason, scientific development, capitalism likely eventually…but regrettably the Ash’arites won. And it’s a strange thing when God is not bound by Reason or Justice or Truth, because if he is not those things, those things cease to be relevant to a society. A society that is run by a God whose only claim to rule is might makes right strangely tends to create governments where laws are unimportant and might makes right. A society that worships a God that is not bound by Reason doesn’t value Reason as it serves no purpose in reaching the ultimate goal of life…thus society stagnates as science, medicine, technology all become vain pursuits with no purpose. The idea proposed by these slides is actually the bane of all civilization….don’t believe me, then look at what it did to the Islamic world which is still in many ways stuck in the 6th century.

 

But then comes my favorite part of trying to justify this bullshit.

idiot theology 6

Okay let me pick up a Bible. If they’re correct there should be some very clear passages in the Bible that God cannot be bound by anything and cannot be compared to anything (thus making reason about God impossible) as you see several times in the Koran. There isn’t. But you know what there is in the Bible. The Gospel of John, Chapter 1, which actually says that the idea of the Logos , which states that God is Reason/Love/Justice/Truth and that Reason/Love/Justice/Truth in a very subtle way when it begins with

 

“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.”–John Chapter 1, Verse 1

John1_1-5

Okay yeah, really bad translators have badly translated the Logos as “the Word,” which while literally correct, misses the philosophic idea packed into that particular word. But even if you want to try and say “well they didn’t mean Logos in that sense” your case falls apart because of the clearly self-reflexive nature of the line which goes to prove that this is the self-reflexive Platonic ideal of the Logos.

 

So whoever put this together might want to actually read the Bible, not just in translation, but go back and find out what it meant in the original language. I know that’s so hard, small minded bigoted theology that requires me not to use reason is so much easier…and it will eventually lead to a justification for blowing up people in the name of my God, so win-win for idiots…lose-lose for actual civilization.

 

Please Christians, you don’t have to accept my particular New Age version of God if reason doesn’t lead you to those conclusion…but don’t think idiocy like this is in any way a legitimate understanding of God.

 

 

*Don’t get me wrong, Plato made a lot of mistakes, but this isn’t one of them.

**You really can’t because the word for God and Zeus is sometimes the exact same word in Ancient Greek.

***I’ll fully admit that I have no way of justifying any of this without the idea of Reincarnation—if there was just one life, you would have a hard time making this as a serious argument. Lucky for me science is beginning to show reincarnation is a fact.

 

 

 

 

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Another look at “Heaven is for Real”, Calvinism, and Reality

 

 

Okay so this is going to be even more ranty than usual posts…but the ideas I’m about to deal with are so abhorrent that they do not even deserve treatment as valid points that need to be refuted by logic…but they seem to be held by far too many. This is going to get a little disjointed compared my usual posts, but the work I am commenting on wasn’t particularly well ordered to begin with.

 

So if you may recall my review of Heaven is For Real. I complained that the movie wasn’t very good as a movie or as a defense of near-death experiences (NDE). Now ignoring the flaws as a movie, the problems with the film as a representation of an NDE were numerous. The first was despite there being thousands of examples of NDE this film seemed to have none of the typical trademarks.

 

Some of these trademarks include the tunnel of light. Being often, but not always met by a being of light as a guide through the tunnel. A review of your life. And being given a choice whether or not to go back. (As I said in the previous review, I did not read the book and this film and what I have seen on TV from interviews makes me doubt this story in general).

 

Further, another problem I had was how Christian Heaven appeared in this film. What was depicted with a disturbingly pale Jesus (no Jew from the first century who walked everywhere by foot in the Israeli desert would look anywhere near as pale as they showed him in this film), clouds, gates and other various tropes of a children’s Bible depiction of Heaven.

 

God

And the evidence of NDE’s back me up on this opinion.

From the wealth of NDE’s out there Heaven is more intellectual and less physical than a place of pearly gates and clouds.   Also while the occasional saint, angel and ascended master does occasionally pop up the reality is that most people are not greeted by Jesus. Oh, and most importantly, this typical story is told by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus,
Buddhists, Taoists, Atheists, and any and all other groups you can think of. God doesn’t care about what name you call him by as much as most religions would like you to think. There are lots of books that prove this point, if want to see the evidence for yourself I would start with Evidence of the Afterlife and Life After Life.

 

But you know, the movie and the book were out to make money so skewing the story to their intended Christian audience can maybe be forgiven in the name of rational capitalism.

 

But then I see an article that makes the following brain dead statement:

 

“The book [Heaven is for Real] places the accounts of heaven in a firm Biblical context, with frequent references to scriptural passages. The film does not follow this practice. In addition to quite fanciful descriptions of heaven, there is the suggestion that everyone is going to end up there. There is no mention anywhere of hell or the last judgment.”

 

So the problems with the movie are the parts that actually match up to known facts about NDEs.

 

Any longtime reader of this blog knows I take a particular glee in pointing out what idiots Atheists are. And Atheists are idiots. They hold an article of faith to the point of absolute nihilistic insanity despite the fact that logic, experience and evidence points to a simple undeniable fact that there is a God. The problem however is that this does not seem to be a flaw limited to atheists.

 

So in the light of facts about NDEs:

That people from all religions seem to go to Heaven.

 

That there is a consistency in these stories across culture, generation, and religion (which suggests it’s not just people making up stories).

 

The fact that the people who report these stories have often been brain dead, i.e., their brain was incapable of encoding new memories during this time; ergo it couldn’t have been a hallucination.

 

That the incredibly rare stories of punishment or torment are virtually always included by points like ‘well they flat lined but they weren’t brain dead for more than a second’ or heavy use of drugs were involved in their being near death in the first place (or other things that a legitimate skeptic could use to throw the case out).

 

That no one has ever felt judged during their NDE, even people who lived terrible lives beforehand (most in this category have felt transformed by the love they felt and lived better lives since).

 

So these are facts about NDEs. And what do religious people complain about…it didn’t conform to my interpretation of the Bible!

 

You know I could at least respect the religious people taking the data head on and trying to prove that all these NDE’s are faulty, but they don’t do that, they would rather just shove up their Bible and act like the cast of Inherit the Wind* ignoring all evidence and simply saying they “do not think about things they do not think about” and defer to only the Bible for answers (conveniently missing the numerous times reason and logic are praised in both the Old and New Testaments).

 

But you know, if that the only stupid thing said in this article, “Popular ReligionHeaven For Everyone?”. I might have just ignored it…but not only does the article getworse, much worse, but while attempting to portray itself as an impartial reporting of the debate about the afterlife (strangely the only sides in this debate appear to be the ones who only want to use very limited interpretations of the Bible) but it frighteningly seemed to be a synthesis of numerous articles I’ve been seeing on issues such as heaven, sin, Calvinism and God. All in one place I found most of the incorrect beliefs about faith, God, the soul, and life I’ve been seeing pop up here and there with more and more regularity as this abomination of New Calvinism seems to gain force…to see them in one place was such a gift it had to be taken up and refuted.

 

“There is now a considerable controversy about the film in the Evangelical world. Grossman quotes another pastor, Tim Challies, who criticizes the film ‘that celebrates the heaven we want, not the Jesus we’ve really got who is worthy of worship and won’t allow ungodliness in heaven’”

 

Oh wow. Again I love how no one wants to actually turn to what real evidence there is, only to argue points of theology based on one badly translated book. I also love how they make no bones about the fact that mankind and any non-Christian beliefs are unholy (but let’s be honest here, it’s even more narrow than that, because this vision of God caring deeply about your denomination and if you’re in the wrong one, to Hell with you). But that’s right because we all have original sin. A guy a few thousand years ago broke a rule, ate an apple and we all have to suffer. If you went and shot the great-grandson of a Nazi because the sins of the father carry to the son so forth and so on, you would be called crazy and immoral…but apparently when God does it for all generations to the end of time, that’s a God “who is worthy of worship.” I fail to see why the worst and most immoral aspects of humanity coupled with tyrannical power is worthy of worship.

 

“Other critics have accused the film of failing to emphasize that there is no way to heaven except through faith in Jesus.”

 

Actually the film is quite biased towards Christianity…it’s the facts of NDEs that show that God doesn’t care what religion you follow. These are facts. I’m sorry if you are more comforted by believing you’re sinful and need to be redeemed. But the FACTS say otherwise.

 

 

“The debate over this film reflects a broader split among Evangelicals, which pits the vision of four-year old Colton over that of proto-Evangelical Jonathan Edwards[…]Most contemporary Evangelicals are very much in the middle between these two extremes”

 

This is the point that the article stops being just a bad discussion and becomes more of a trip through evil. But I would like to point out that the two “extremes” this author believes in are on the one hand you have Protestant Christianity and on the other hand you have Protestant Christianity and in the middle you have Protestant Christianity. I fully realize that the site I found this on probably only writes for that audience, and I realize it’s my own damn fault for trying to read other opinions and should just recognize that this is a preaching to the choir moment. But I’m not going to. I may believe that capitalism is the only system that works, and that the only rational argument is between mixed-economy conservatives (like current Republican leadership) and libertarians (like Rand Paul or John Stossel) with capitalists (like Hayek and Friedman) in the middle…but just because I believe these are the only rational options I’m not anywhere stupid enough to think that these are the extremes. There is socialism and communism and fascism on one side and there is monarchism and anarchy on the other. Those are extremes. And to call the extremes all set within a Protestant framework suggests such a limited way of looking at the world that it has challenged and shown to be the bullshit it is, even if no one who read that article ever reads this one. Ideas have power, and dangerous ones like the author of this one must be confronted.

 

Okay let’s get back to this article.

 

god's wrath

The Calvinist vision of God only belongs in Far Side cartoon…in reality it’s too preposterous to be taken seriously.

“But then there still are those who hold on to the old-time religion of fire and brimstone—and those, who having lost it, want to go back to it. The so-called New Calvinists are an interesting case in point; not suprisingly, they have made Jonathan Edwards one of their mentors.”

 

Some people have wondered why I have serious problems with Calvinism and new and vile incarnation…it’s statements like this. Why?

 

Well keep reading:

 

“He was a highly educated theologian and a stern Calvinist—the entire Calvinist package—“total depravity” (all of humanity sunk in sin), “double predestination” (God has decided from the beginning of time who will be saved and who damned), “selective salvation” (Jesus did not die for all men, only for the pre-determined elect). He preached against the Arminians, who modified Calvinism by, among other things, insisting that those who go to hell should have done something to deserve that fate.”

 

The fact that anyone can speak of Jonathan Edwards in even remotely positive terms defies reason…the fact that this author could later go as far to say that “Edwards was an intellectual” is simply preposterous. Unstable sociopath I can buy–intellectual, not so much. But this article is quite sympathetic to Edwards and his beliefs—as it seems he is to most of New Calvinism. Does it only bother me that the belief that all people are sunk in depravity because of someone a few thousand years ago breaking a rule that reason would put up there with “don’t walk on the grass,” that there is no free will and no ability to change our fate, making us not only depraved but mere automatons of a lunatic tyrant. Worse the article is very insulting to what it calls “Vanilla Evangelicals” who might have a problem with this image of God as a raving lunatic. (But then again this article also seems dismissive in one part of Thomas Aquinas for believing that babies who had not been baptized would not suffer in hell, quoting a theologian who makes it clear if you’re not baptized you burn for all eternity.) Of course one my favorite parts has to be the line “there can be no doubt that both Testaments proposed a day of judgment that would segregate the blessed from the damned”—which I’m sure comes as a shock to most Jewish philosophers for the last 2,000 years who take no opinion on the afterlife, let alone a day of Judgment; I guess the Jews just don’t know how to read the Old Testaments in this author’s mind.

 

The article even tries to portray the following piece of Edward’s philosophy as valid:

“Edwards proposes that the latter, looking down from heaven to the torments of hell, will not only do so with equanimity but with joy at the working of God’s justice. To leave no room for any misplaced sympathy, he insists that the righteous will not be moved even if among the sufferers in hell are individuals that once were loved—parents, children, spouses.”

 

There are no words of condemnation for this in the article and that is horrifying. The idea that in Heaven everyone has become a sadistic psychopath who revels in suffering of others (often for crimes such as not calling God by the right name despite living an otherwise moral life) is beyond any rational interpretation of God. If this is what Heaven is and how God behaves, then I will enjoy Hell because this sick, perverted God is no better than some of the more disturbing ancient Pagan deities. In fact, morally this vision of God is on par with Ba’al, the ancient Phoenician God whose worshippers sacrificed live infants to.

 

Thankfully I do not have a God that is this disturbed. God is not like this. Facts of NDEs and miracles and life show that God is not, and cannot be this evil; life is full of signs that are evident for anyone who would like to put to the test of reason (which the Bible actually praises)—and it tells that these that are shallowly called faith have no basis. But let’s return to one of the article’s original lines that complained about Heaven is for Real because it “celebrates the heaven we want, not the Jesus we’ve really got who is worthy of worship and won’t allow unholiness in heaven.” A God who punishes for no legitimate reason, and trust me original sin is not a legitimate reason, is not worthy of worship. Only a rational loving God is worthy of worship. What Calvinism, in all its forms, shows is not a God of reason and not a God of love. It is a sick butcher who revels in the suffering of others. And that thing which is passed off as an image of God is certainly not worthy of worship.

 

Now I’m sure someone could point out that this article which I have taken to task, only brings up the two sides and never actually says which side the author comes down on, thus I’m being overly critical, and unjustifiably so. But, that’s not a valid argument. The article is always positive, even if subtly so, of the Calvinist side and dismissive or insulting of every other viewpoint. This author may have wanted to appear neutral, but he is in no way neutral. You can’t discuss ideas this vile dispassionately because they are not worthy of even a prima facie treatment as valid ideas. And if you find them more comforting than a God that actually does love all his children, then you have issues.

 

One final point. The article closes with:

 

“But I had no intention of diverting attention from the fact that questions about heaven and hell raise serious issues for religious faith, especially for any version of monotheism. The presence of evil in the world created by God is intolerable unless there is an ultimate judgment against it. In the words of the Quran, there will be that day of judgment when every man will stand alone before God.”

 

Ignoring that there are answers to the problem of evil other than damnation, the fact that this Calvinist author sees no problem in finding comparisons between his beliefs and the Koran is abhorrent. If there is one book in all of existence that God had nothing to do with in its writing, it’s the Koran, a book of hate and violence, and the most perverted view of God around…and that Calvinism so easily finds a parallel between their view and the God of hate in the Koran, should give everyone pause given that it does appear to be on the rise.

Now, again, you could claim that this author and his bias is not symptomatic of a larger growing movement.  That would certainly be an argument against me getting this upset, but, at least personally I am seeing these terrible ideas of Calvinism begin to spread ever so slightly, and this is something I would rather over react to than be silent and let it progress unchallenged.

 

 

 

*It should be noticed that the play/movie Inherit the Wind which shows Scopes Trial to take place in a town of backward hicks and prosecuted by a zealot who knew nothing about anything and differs greatly from the real Scopes Trial where the town was somewhere between indifferent and supportive of Scopes, and the real prosecutor was against evolution not because he didn’t understand science but because at the time, the 1920’s, evolution and eugenics went hand in hand in all teachings…and he, strangely enough, had a real moral problem with eugenics—can’t imagine why.

 

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Heaven is for Real…but this movie won’t even begin to convince you of that fact

Heavenreal

 

Shallow. Unmoving. Poor support of the point it was trying to make. Oh let me tell you how much I just loved Heaven is for Real.

 

In a world where there are thousands of Near Death Experiences where people who have been blind from birth can tell you what color the doctors in the OR were wearing while they had flat lined, where people come back with messages from dead loved ones with information that they could have no way of knowing beforehand, or where the person having the NDE goes completely brain dead so there is no way their brain could have just been hallucinating…we bring you a movie about a kid who never actually died and came back with information that any skeptic could tear holes in. Oh, then the movie just sucked on any standard of film making as well.

 

Let’s first deal with how bad the movie is.

 

The film follows a family, the Burpos, as they deal with the fact that their son nearly died and claims to have gone to Heaven. They deal with their own crises of faith and with being somewhat shunned by the community as others deal with their own crises of faith.

 

Well first off there are the numerous financial and personal problems the family in this film had to deal with (beside the kid almost dying). None of them get resolved

The entire film seems to be about everyone, the family, the parish, the community having a hard time accepting the concept of life after death—this does little more than to portray most Christians as shallow people who cling to the church out of fear, which I personally don’t think applies to all Christians, yeah we’ve all met some people like that…but it’s everybody in this film. It’s a little bizarre that this is what is being hyped as a faith based film given that it shows most church going folk to be hypocrites when you just scratch the surface. Yeah, real inspiring.
Also I felt that the writers didn’t even recognize their own hypocrisy in the final sermon in the film (which I’m guessing was supposed to offer some kind of catharsis, though I didn’t get any) among other things chided people for pride…even though it came from a guy who throughout much of the movie refused help from a friend even though he’s $20,000+ in debt and there was no resolution to this (except maybe the paycheck they got from writing the book but I’m trying not to confuse the movie with reality).

 

But the real problem is that none of it is all that moving. From the actors I recognized I have seen them all give better performances, and none of the crises of faith I see anyone go through in this film ever seems to fully make sense to me (I don’t get how all these people who are so active in a church can all be so full of doubts and disbelief…I understand individuals having a crisis of faith, I don’t understand a seemingly entire congregation becoming hostile to what should seemingly confirm their beliefs). No single character’s story ever seems to be dealt with in detail in the film and it just is all half-assed through the run time.

 

Oh and there’s some girl in Lithuania painting pictures…I never really got the point of this and could ponder for eons what possessed the director to put this random and pointless part in.

 

Now a lot of this could be due to the fact that as an NDE goes, this kid’s story isn’t what I’d call ironclad. He never died, his story isn’t particularly consistent, and none of the information he gives is beyond all doubt that he never heard it from other people. I believe in NDE’s the soul actually does touch the afterlife and see Heaven…but I also happen to know from research that there are cases that leave no logical explanation other than a person’s soul actually did leave their body and touch the other side. There is no such certainty here. I’m not saying the kid didn’t experience exactly what he describes (or at least as well as the movie relays it) but there are so many logical ways one could also be skeptical that the movie is only going to affect people who already believe (and in my case, not even that).  I actually am a little annoyed as you can only get so many movies with a theme like this made and distrusted to a general audience…and if you really want to get people to believe in the truth that there is an afterlife, I would not put a movie with such weak backing.  Also I’m just a tad annoyed that one of the most important facts about NDE’s: that everyone goes to Heaven, Christians, Jews, Pagans, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, everyone (because God doesn’t care about that sort of thing) seemed to get lost in a lot of talk of Jesus (I have no problem with Jesus or what he taught, but this film veered a little too much to the you only get into Heaven through Christianity bend for my tastes given that serious research into NDE’s shows exactly the opposite).

 

I have not read the book, and this movie certainly doesn’t convince me I should.
If you want a good movie that is actually moving about the life after death go watch Hereafter. If you want good well researched material about proof of life after this one I would suggest starting with Life before Life–Children’s Memories of Previous Lives or Evidence of the Afterlife.

 

 

Final Grade D-

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A Meditation for the New Year

So recently I saw on Facebook a friend post an idea about how to treat the new year. This was such a good idea I thought I should share it with everyone because it works as a wonderful year long meditation.

Positive thoughtsTake a jar, preferably a clear one so you can see how the things will pile up, and every day write down a list of the good things that happened to you that day. Big things, small things, totally inconsequential things from ‘got a raise’ to ‘Starbucks was really fast today’ and everything in between. Keep it somewhere you can see. For instance I put my first one in at midnight last night–“It’s not 2013” (godawful year, I’m glad it’s over).  Even if it’s something that happens everyday, put it in there, everyday.  Anything positive is good and it must be put in there.

Since, due to the law of attraction, our thoughts create reality, focusing on every positive thing again will help reinforce the positive thoughts and emotions in our life.  Seeing the jar fill up will help keep us in a good mood as it will be a visual cue to think about all the good things that happened to you over the year.  And, if worst comes to worst, then you can empty  the jar on the ground and read every single one as you put them back into the jar, until the memories of the joy brings you back to happiness (or at least out of depression).

thoughts create reality

Now, I assume like all of us, there are going to be things that seem so terrible that we can’t just give them up.  Which is why I bought a second jar.  Whenever I won’t be able to completely push aside one of those negative ideas, I am going to also write it down, (and probably just spend a quick minute to think of any other negative things that are haunting the peripherals of my mind and put them in too) put them in the second jar and light them on fire.  (Please only do this if you can do it safely.)   Even if it doesn’t get rid of them it will be a wonderful cathartic experience to see that which I don’t want in my life burn and go away.  (I find asking the Archangel Michael to cut all chords of energy to that which I find negative also helps.)

Happy New Year

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Monthly Meditation: Pray that everyone reaches enlightenment

 

Enlightenment If you have to pray for something, pray that you and everyone you know reaches Enlightenment as quickly as possible.

Wish everyone the best. At all times in all circumstances. Wish them what is best for the development of those souls.

Every person you meet, without exception.

 

Yes I know this sounds overly simplistic, but it’s not.

 

This point came to me recently when my best friend applied for an internship on the other side of the country. An internship that could very well lead to a full time position. Now while I want the best for my friend, it’s just a little hard to pray that someone you care about moves away.  So at least at a surface level there appears to be a Contradiction. Hence my resolution that I will pray for what is best for her path toward Enlightenment.

 

By praying for this I do not face the contradiction of having to choose between praying for my friend’s happiness or her company.   I don’t have to feel guilty about the very human desire to want to spend time with those you care about. I don’t even have to worry about the outcome, or judge it as good or bad because I have prayed for the best of all possible ends for my friend and be comfortable in any outcome because I know enough to know that no matter what happens in the next day, week, year, or even lifetime I know that minor setbacks or victories can always be necessary steps toward ultimate bliss.

And as an added bonus it works as a prayer for people you dislike as much as ones you care for. If there is a truly terrible person in your life pray that they reach Enlightenment quickly as well. Think about it, if your assessment of a person is accurate and they are as terrible as you think then the only ways for them to reach Enlightenment is either they will experience some kind of spiritual revelation that will radically change their outlook and behavior…or what is far more likely for this kind of wretched person to get closer to Enlightenment is for karma to come calling to collect on all those terrible things they have done. Let the joy of the Schadenfreude wash over you for a second…and now realize you never wished them harm or discomfort, only Enlightenment…so none of the negativity that would come from wishing harm to another is attached to you, if harm befell them it’s their own damn fault for incurring that karma, you merely wished them to progress on their journey.  By focusing on the final end you don’t have to worry about the intermediary stops, and you never have to be worried about whether or not your prayers have been answered or not as you can merely assume that they are being answered and you just can’t see far enough down the road to see how the pieces fit together.

 

If you only pray for yourself and that for others what happens is in the best interest of everyone reaching Enlightenment as quickly as possible (actually the universe already tries to do this but because people become fixated on wrong ends they make the journey unnecessarily longer and more complicated) we never have to be worried about  how everything turns out, we never have to give into our egos and wish ill on others, and we can rest assured that no matter what, we wish the absolute best for those around us.

 

I pray that whatever events occur it is the best interest of you reaching Enlightenment with as little delay as possible.

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Monthly Meditation: Long Term Goals

Looking to goal

It is the long term goals that should hold your attention.

 

So it has been a while since I’ve put up a meditation.  I’m sorry, but nothing has been coming to me on this front and I feel nothing is better than something that is halfhearted and forced out.  So I’m now going to title these monthly meditations, and hopefully will have something come to me at least once a month.

 

However, something has come to me at last.

 

There is an expression by the Dalai Lama:

“If there is no solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it.”

 

This is an excellent thought and a variation in sentiment on the Serenity Prayer.

 

However, this or the serenity prayer isn’t always appropriate because sometimes, regrettably, we don’t always have the wisdom to know whether something can or cannot be done.

 

For instance a few years ago I was unsure if I should focus on my writing or use my time to find a new job as I was very unhappy in my job at the time.  Or should I split my free time between the two? At the time I made the correct choice and focused on writing, although at the time I probably didn’t consciously realize why that was correct decision.   But it was the correct decision because it focused on the long term problem and not the short term.

 

There have been other instances in my life that were like this, and when I reflect on them, when I focused on the long term problems and working to resolve those things tended to work out (as they did with my job…although admittedly not in the way I would have planned).  And when I focused on the short term problems, problems just kept piling up.

 

And suddenly in the last week I have realized that it is always the long term issues that need to be focused on.  Always.  It’s not enough to look toward the future, you have to look to an actual long term goal.

 

It’s ironic that I didn’t see this sooner as this has been my complaint about politics for so long, that our elected officials only see the immediate problems and their immediate solutions to an immediate problem which in turn only causes long term issues.  But this is true of personal lives and problems as well as in politics.

 

You need to focus on the long term issues, the long term problems and the long term goals first.

 

If you are directed toward the long term goals, the small things work themselves out either because you don’t focus on them as much or because God (or whatever name you want to use) tends to help you get over the small crap of the short term issues.

 

So the thing to focus on for this meditation is, as I’ve suggested before, make a list of what you really want in life.  Now prioritize them—what you want the most at the top, the lesser things at the bottom. (Hint: Happiness should be at the top, and the next few should be exactly what you need to have Happiness)   Now circle the top five or six.  And now forget about the rest.  Focus on those. Figure out what you need to do to get those, figure out what you need to learn, to find, to create to achieve those top three (four if you count Happiness, which your other things should all lead to).  Forget about everything else.  Every free moment you have should be focused on those things.

 

All the other small stuff will take care of itself, just keep focused on the long term goals.

 

The meditation for this month will be in training your mind to ignore all the smaller issues and stay focused on the major things.  Have a little faith, that if you are directed toward your ultimate goals, everything else will sort itself out to help you reach those goals.

 

 

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Evolution, probability, and the first cell…

Evolution is a miraculous and wonderful thing.  It literally describes how everything from the first cell division to a highly evolved erect ape came to be.  Every adaptation, every change, every little small piece of growth from single celled organism to problem solving primates.

The problem is what is on either side of that string of beauty.  Evolution cannot begin to describe the jump from highly evolved chimp to self aware human.  No other animal other than humans has ever been shown to ask questions or contemplate abstract ideas (and we’ve tried to get chimps and gorillas taught to use sign language to do just that).  The jump from animal to sentient human is an infinite jump that evolution doesn’t quite explain.  But more than that evolution has a problem explaining the beginning of the chain.  A big problem.

Now the usual argument is that random amino acids just luckily formed together to form a DNA strand that not only included the information to create a cell, but also all the cell structures necessary to have read that and replicate that information at the same time (Like having a biological CD with the information to build the first biological CDR and luckily also having a biological CDR to read it, which is lucky since the information to build that first CDR had never been read before then).  And let’s ignore the improbability of that situation or the pure luck that the first cell also had the needed building blocks around to form more cells.  That first cell just hit the cosmic lottery.

DNA

Because in universe where the laws of physics dictate that things get more chaotic not more orderly as time goes by, stuff this complex just forms by chance.

Let’s just look at that DNA strand.  Now one of the smallest DNA strands known for a basic prokaryotic (it has no nucleolus) cell is about 490,000 base pairs in length.  But you know that’s pretty long as it is.  And that’s the shortest one we’ve found after billions of years of evolution, the first cell must have had a much shorter DNA strand (let’s ignore that at 490,000 base pairs the cell doesn’t have all the processes to sustain life and such a cell needs to live off other cells to provide it certain necessities in life).

Now the most basic cell we can find performs well over two hundred processes (unzipping DNA, processing chemicals, building cell walls, letting certain amino acids in, copying DNA and RNA, etc., etc.).  Yes, yes the high school version of the cell seemed so neat and clean…but so did the high school formula to figure out the velocity of a falling object, but we all know the equations necessary to figure out air friction and the influence of various forces on a falling object would drive us insane with the advanced Calculus needed, so we’re just happy with 32 feet per second per second.   So it is with the cell. Even the most basic cell is like a Cray Supercomputer in its complexity, and certainly much more complex than the simple diagram you learned in high school.  But for sake of argument let’s say that the least number of processes needed to sustain life and reproduce a new cell is 150.

And let’s say that each of those functions only require one amino acid chain (which is what DNA actually creates) of only three amino acids in length.  Now to create an amino acid chain DNA must have a start and stop code in the DNA as well.  So any amino acid chain needs 3 lines of DNA to start the process, 3 for each amino acid (so 9 in our example) and 3 to stop the process or 15 base pairs in length. So you need 15 bases pairs for each amino acid chain, multiplied by 150 processes.  Giving you a needed 2250 bases pairs needed.   This number is preposterously low, but go with me on this.

Now each of those 2250 base pairs needs to be the right amino acids to get the function correct.  Now there are only 4 possible base pairs (represented by the letters G,A,T, and C). And they need to be in the right order so that each line in the base pair has a one in four chance of being the right one.  And you have to do this 2250 times over.  (Now I’ll admit that there are base pairs that produce the same chemical in the amino acid chain, TAT and TAC, but given how ridiculously low my number of base pairs is, let’s just say it balances out…you could also argue for filler code as all life now has…but keep in mind that such code is also given to harmful mutations…let’s just go with the hideously low number as it is).  So we have a one in four odds, 2250 times over…or 1 in 4 to 2250 power.

1:42250

That’s the odds of the most basic DNA strand forming.  But let’s say I’m still over shooting the odds even with my hideously short DNA strand.  Let’s say it’s just 1:42000 is equivalent to 101204  (there’s a decimal in that power, but let’s just round it out…in fact let’s round it to an even 1200).

1:101200

 

Basic Cell

It’s more likely that a land slide would produce a BMW than this thing would just randomly form.

So how likely is that?

Well I could tell you that it’s close to 1:108 when it comes to odds of winning the lottery. But I don’t think you fully understand the difference between 108 and 101200 and I can’t blame you.  A 1 with 1200 zeroes after it is something you don’t often consider.

But let me give you some general figures to give you an idea of the size of this number.

The US National Debt: 1013

The number of seconds between the Big Bang and the present: 1016

The number of protons and neutrons in all atoms in the visible universe 1080

 

Okay maybe I can’t give you a way to conceive that number.

Let’s be honest if the number of protons and neutrons in the visible universe is only to the 80th power (and if the whole universe was a trillion times as big as the visible universe then it would still only be to the 92nd power) then I can safely say that the number of times you’ll have to conceive of anything to the 1200th power is probably pretty low. You have better odds of winning the lottery twice a week every week of your life.

I’m sorry if you can sit there and tell me something that is so improbable that isn’t just effectively zero, it is zero, happened by chance, you’re insane.

Now those who believe that there was no hand of the divine in the creation may say I just don’t understand science…and it may be true I don’t have the firmest grasp on all aspects of science…but I can safely say that anyone who thinks the first cell just happened by chance clearly doesn’t have the foggiest concept of math or probability.

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Social Issues on the Right—Penny Smart, Pound idiotic beyond idiotic

For years now there has been something that bothers me about the abortion argument. Yes I agree that there are far too many abortions.  I, however, tend to view it as a symptom of a larger problem caused by the entitlement culture devaluing life, its meaning, getting rid of virtue based ethics, offering incentives for short term thinking.  Abortion isn’t the problem it’s the government spending and rules that encourage it that are.  So I find the near obsession with abortion to be a distraction from the real cause.  But what’s worse is that in the desperation to win, social conservatives are giving progressives every bit of ammunition they need to further wreck society. I have noticed for the last few years a disturbing trend—and that trend is the biggest problem I have with the social conservative movement, they have given in to the leftist materialism.

Here is the problem with the modern anti-abortion movement: they hold as gospel truth the idea that life begins at conception.  They maintain this because somehow just because a sperm cell and egg cell join together then you have a full genetic code and the modern anti-abortion movement is based on this idea that if you have a full genetic code then you’re a human being.  Thus every single embryo frozen in fertility clinics is a human being—I’m sorry but this is certainly one of the dumbest, and certainly in the running for the dumbest, idea I have ever heard.  A human being is something far more than just a genetic code.   But the modern abortion movement in its desperation to oppose all abortion and prove that abortion at any time, for any reason, under any circumstance, for any purpose, in any place, by any person, in any manner, way, shape or form is evil has given into the leftist materialism.  They hold that human life is nothing but genetics.  That it is our genetics that make us special.  That the complexity of genes somehow puts us above all other forms of life.  You know that .1% that sets us off from a chimp can’t be the source of our uniqueness in the universe.  (Nor can even the 30% of our DNA we don’t share with the sea sponge).    I’m sorry this is wrong, this is as wrong as wrong can be.  What makes a human life have value has nothing, not a single thing, to do with DNA.   It has to do with having a soul; the human soul is what makes a human being have value…so unless you can PROVE that the human soul enters the embryo at conception then you have no case that human life begins at conception.  None.  Now from my New Ager perspective I can point to several concepts where the soul does not enter the body until the third trimester…but social conservatives (and I do mean the very vocal, very powerful, Santorum-esque fringe here, I think it’s too large a fringe, but it is not everyone who simply calls themselves a social conservative…I just mean the people who only vote on this issue with blinders on to all others) will not even entertain what I consider evidence so it’s really not relevant to this conversation.  You could argue that it’s still living cells but that doesn’t work because if you remove my kidney for a transplant it’s still a living clump of cells, but it does not have rights in and of itself because the soul is not directly attached to the kidney.

cute baby

This is a human being. Not because of genetics. Not because of its brain. But because of its soul.

Now why have social conservative done this?  They didn’t use to hold this line.  But I think they got tired of having to argue a spiritual point with people who aren’t very spiritual…and you can’t really prove when the soul enters the body (at least not from a traditional Judeo-Christian viewpoint)…and then there is that problem that as far as I remember the Bible only ever associates the soul with breath (as was the common metaphor in the ancient world), which kind of has that problem of suggesting the soul only enters upon birth.  Of course that would at least suggest a far more logical God than the idiot that the modern abortion movement implies—an idiot who despite infinite prescient knowledge will stick a soul into a frozen embryo that could sit there for years (think of that soul’s existence, that’s about as close to Hell as you could possibly get if God is really that dumb). I refuse to believe in an idiot God.  God does not follow arbitrary rules for the sake of following reason, because to do so would mean that God does not believe in reason.  And if that is the case, then God is not God.

But instead they chose to go with a simple scientific argument and completely ignore the soul.  You can get people in the middle with a purely scientific argument.  You can get them to more than agree to ban 2nd trimester abortions and put even more regulations on first trimester abortions if you’re just making the argument that life begins at conception because of genetics.  Yeah, they could prove that the soul is there before hand if you turned to modern science and studies on life after death and reincarnation, or just to modern psychology which shows that children learn even in the womb…but none of that evidence goes back to conception, and remember that the unwavering goal of social conservatism is that ALL abortion must be outlawed.  THERE MUST BE NO EXCEPTION, the goal is that all abortions will eventually be banned (as if you can stop black markets, but let’s ignore economics here).  And all other points of policy, philosophy and goals are secondary to abortion when it comes to social conservatives.   Since social conservatives can only win with the genetic argument that life is nothing but a full genetic code and living cells, the soul and its importance gets left behind.

And this is where it gets dangerous.  What have we seen in history?  We have seen, time and time and time again that when the soul is not valued, that when religion or spirituality does not have a place in society, that when government and society say that human life is merely a pack of genes and a group of cells then you see the value of a human being fall apart.  Why?  Because genes are chemicals. They have no intrinsic value except what you can use them for, what you can get out of them.  They become merely a means to an end, and cease being the end in itself.  You see ethics fall aside and utilitarianism prevail. You see eugenics or transhumanism say these genes aren’t any good or aren’t good enough, let’s get rid of them and replace them with something we deem better (who deems what is good is only guided by utilitary value, because if human life had intrinsic value you’d never go down this road).  You see the argument of let’s get rid of these people because they are of no value and aren’t getting rid of themselves fast enough on their own.  You see this or that group is deemed inferior because they do not serve the utilitarian needs of those in power.  Let us sterilize and put them off to the side because we can get nothing from them…you see tyranny, fascism, communism.  The argument of that life is just being living cells, an argument detached from the soul, leads to a mind-set based in materialism.  I would be foolish to claim all atheists are unethical, but history has shown that when society embraces that kind of materialism that denies the soul (1930’s Germany, Russia, China) you get that kind of mass genocide, without exception.  You could say that religious people could never lead us down the path where the soul isn’t valued, but look to every time that religion has gone insane, it is always in the name of dogma and policy on Earth that leads to religious bloodbaths—it never comes from a side that believes that the soul, by virtue of being a human soul, has value.  The places that believe people are equal throughout history (from an early version of this ideal in the Hellenistic Era, to Poland not giving into Europe’s anti-Semitism, to the spread of religious liberties seen during parts of the Enlightenment, to America stating “that all men are created equal”*), when people value human life because of the soul (whether that’s the word they use or not) you see prosperity…when they don’t you see misery.  Without exception.

you are a soul

I love the picture and the quote, because it’s true… but C.S. Lewis probably did not say this .

It is the eagerness of social conservatives to win on this one little issue of abortion that affects a miniscule amount of society that is giving this kind of materialism the long range tools of philosophy to devalue all life.  They have given progressives the inroad to destroy the true value of human life. They devalue life with their argument and they perpetuate it…sure we don’t see a lot of it now (although caring more about body counts than liberty when it comes to foreign action, when a country doesn’t go into full on demands for heads to roll when some asks “what difference does it make” to the administration aiding and abetting murder, where people care only about their right to put poison into their body more than the need to fix the system…you could say we’re already seeing the devaluation of human life, but maybe I’m reading too much into that).    And to save lives they have given their enemies the greatest tool to destroy life. And I am seriously worried that in the desperation to win the abortion argument by giving up the religious based argument and going for gross materialism social conservatives are actually sowing the seeds for a worse blood bath than the one they believe they are stopping.  And all for bans on 2nd term abortions. What a bargain!

What profit social conservatives should they gain abortion but lose liberty?

*Yes, none of these are perfect examples and you will always be able to point to people or groups or policies that contradict the value of the soul.  It’s because people and society are a mass of contradictions, but in the eras I list they were more dominated by valuing the soul than not.

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Bi Weekly Meditation: Causing small acts of positive energy

“They might be giants, and we might be pygmies; but we stand on the shoulders of giants, so we can see farther.” Attributed to Sir Isaac Newton

 

So by now you have probably figured out that for my meditations I prefer to list actions and habits to instill rather than just things to focus on during the typical quiet sitting type of meditation.  Now this is not to say that we don’t all need that 20-30 minutes of silent reflection every day (though we so seldom get it). But it is best when it is 20-30 minutes of keeping your mind as blank as possible. Focusing on certain things in your life or certain mantras can be wonderful things to do in preparation for the silence, but it is the moments of silence where you clear you mind of everything and listen to the universe is what is important.

 

But I like action.  Actions that help calm your life.  Actions that bring happiness into your life.

They bring a positive feeling that dispels worries and concerns that not only make your daily life easier…but actually also help with those moments of quiet meditation, because when you’ve dispelled the worries they don’t intrude on your trying to clear your mind of all things. If you’ve ever sat on the beach you probably know how you can close your eyes, empty your brain and then suddenly 20 minutes have gone by and you didn’t have a single thought…conversely after a bad day you can’t quiet your mind to save your life.  So it’s best to reinforce everything you do during the day with positive actions if you want to provide for the best setting for effective meditation.

 

So what I would recommend for the next two weeks is to make every place you go to better than you found it.  Hold a door for someone.  Compliment someone.  Pick up a piece of trash.  Leave a tip for the barista.  Help someone with their work.  Something, anything.  But no matter where you go make sure you did something that made it better than when you got there.  Now our knee jerk reaction to this is, why would that matter–so I do one thing, it’s not like anyone else is reading this blog, what will that matter.  But that is why I included that quote at the top.  It doesn’t matter how little your impact is, it doesn’t matter how small your actions are, even the pygmies who can see further can see further, and your action have made something better.

 

Just psychologically it will help dispel every single negative emotion because every single memory of the day will focus on the action you choose to take which made something better, wherever your mind roams you will see good…and that will lead to a much happier disposition.  From a New Age standpoint it gets better.  You will be spreading positive energy that will go every where, even if only in very small amounts.  But it will have a cascade effect.  Your aura will become positive energybrighter with every act and thus every place you go you will have more of an effect on those around you. If you could just get in 5 positive things in before you go to work every morning, (which I know is a lot given most of our morning routines involve avoiding people*) then you might by the time you get to work be very well immune to the usual low level negativity that surrounds the usual work place.

 

Just try it for two weeks.  Everywhere you go leave it better than when you found it.  Everywhere.  See if you don’t feel the change in your daily life and in your meditations.

 

 

*But if I may suggest…(1) compliment someone either in person if you live with someone or via whatever social media we all know we check first thing in the morning. (2) Share a blog, really it does make the author feel better (they like me they really really like me) (3) Leave a tip at Starbucks of at least a dollar and thank the person who gives you the drink, we often under estimate the power of a thank you (4) you will inevitably see a piece of trash somewhere between your residence and work, pick it up and throw it away (5) hold the door for someone on the way into work.  Just a suggested list but you get the idea. Small things.  Small things that pile up on each other.

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Bi Weekly Meditation: Calm

Okay, so very quickly, here is this week’s meditation.

Rather than do something of my own I found a wonderful site you may not be aware of.  Calm.com.

It offers 2, 10, and 20 minutes guided meditations.

You can pick the nature scene with that is accompanied by the matching background noise and for a few minutes just relax.

Calm 1

There are others but I felt this gives you an idea of the kind of backgrounds they have.

Listening to 2 minutes of this is better than a 15 minute break.

The discovery of this site has been a godsend to me, trust me, use it a couple times during your work day, you’ll find your stress level goes down, your productivity goes up, you’ll leave work happier, you get more done in the day.

It’s a nice reminder to just occasionally clear out from all your troubles.

calm 3

The other nice thing is that even when the meditation is over the sound of the scene will continue and you can just leave it on as relaxing white noise.

Works wonders for trying to get to sleep too.

So this week I would recommend that you just try out this site and see if it helps you regain some quiet and control in your life. calm 2

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The Core Values of True Conservative Belief

“We ought not to listen to those who exhort us, because we are human, to think of human things.…We ought rather to take on immortality as much as possible, and do all that we can to live in accordance with the highest element within us; for even if its bulk is small, in its power and value it far exceeds everything.” — Aristotle

Knowledge of Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do. – St. Thomas Aquinas, Two Precepts of Charity.

So I have been looking for the core of conservative belief lately.  What is conservative, what isn’t.

Why is this even an important question?  Well because the conservative movement is overly obsessed with the idea of what a true conservative is (it doesn’t help when your main opposition is a bunch of blind followers in the Democrat party who will kneel before anyone who promises them more shit, and libertarians* who will promise them pot).  Paeloconservatives.  Neoconservatives.  Fiscal conservatives.  Social Conservatives.  Compassionate Conservatives.  (Hint I consider only two of these terms not be contradictions).  It’s a wide range.

And there is no big help when looking to intellectuals.  Sure there is Russell Kirk’s famous list of highly dense academic speak, I even used it in Republicans and Reincarnation, but over the course of his career he kept changing the last few points, making it more and more isolationist, and it’s so complicated as to be useless.

The Wizard's Rules Sword of Truth

Meanwhile, while I love Goodkind’s eleven wizard’s rules, and think them an excellent companion to Aristotelian philosophy, they’re not all that specific.

Then of course you could name certain policies…but that doesn’t work because what is conservative today isn’t conservative tomorrow.  Facts of reality change, priorities get shifted…for instance every conservative needs to be a fiscal conservative, however one can still be a conservative and willing to make a deal to that would raise deficit spending when a more important goal is present, say, toppling an evil empire.  And real conservatives, love the nature of America to take pieces of every culture and incorporate them into the melting pot of this nation…but right now reality and sanity dictate we need to concentrate on border control and being a little more picky about who gets in.

So the problem I’ve had for nearly a year is to find something that is accessible, adaptable, and always accurate in describing the core beliefs of conservatism.  And I just realized it was so bluntly obvious that I didn’t see it (but then again I haven’t seen anyone else talk about it all this time either)..I’ve even stated it, it’s just always been implied.

What are the core values of conservatism that remain the core values at any time any place any situation? The thing that binds Aristotle to Cicero to Aquinas to Locke to Burke to Smith to Adams to Goldwater to Reagan?

The Four Cardinal Virtues and the Three Theological Virtues.

Four Cardinal Virtues
Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, Justice

Prudence

Temperance

Fortitude

Justice

Faith
Hope

Love

The first four come from Aristotle, the last three from Paul (although I would argue they are implicit in Aristotle if you read all of his works) and they are the basis for the most perfect system of ethics ever created.

Think about it.   Liberals only care about results, damn what rights or means you have to violate to create your Utopia (and that’s even before you consider they lack the follow through to do anything); the crazier members of the Libertarian party only care about means and an absolutist idea of right, to hell if you need some minor infringement to make a society properly function or to secure the vast majority of your rights.  Only the virtue based ethics of Aristotle deal in the reality of needing to consider ends and means.  And this refusal to look at only ends or means is one of the first reasons why the virtue ethics are inherently conservative—conservatives by nature see the whole.

Now let’s look at the virtues themselves.

Yes, Aristotle listed a lot of other virtues,

Sense of Shame

Pride

Wit

Proper Ambition

Truthfulness

Righteous Indignation

Generosity

Friendliness

Magnificence

Good Temper

But all of these are natural extensions of the other seven.  So let’s go over them and show why they are at the heart of conservatism.

In the order which most highlights the political aspects.

Cardinal Virtues
Justice.  Conservatives believe in the concept of Justice, that people should be rewarded and/or punished by what they deserve.  Merit.  Earning.  The basis of meritocracy of free market capitalism.  This is of course opposed to the liberal obsession with fair. It’s not fair.  Things should be fair.  Life’s not fair.  And of course whereas Justice requires the equality of opportunity and equality before the law, liberals want the equality of fairness where everyone has equal results.

Prudence.  While a highly complex concept that the word prudence doesn’t quite convey the complexity for the classical concept, it might be best defined as the knowledge of what should be valued.  With Prudence comes the understanding that the only truly valuable thing is Happiness (again I’m using the classical definition of a life lived well) and to value all the subordinate good that are required for Happiness.  This includes liberty, because Happiness cannot be achieved without free will, actual achievement.  Liberalism values material things and sees no higher point to life other than living, social conservatives only value society and some perverted view of God and not the individual or their happiness

Temperance.  Often mistaken for moderation, Temperance is taking the knowledge of what to value from Prudence, and deciding how much you should value it, at what time, in what place and in what manner.  In very simple terms this is the pragmatism of what works so clearly Keynesian economic and the libertarian desire to wipe everything out in one fell swoop without letting society adjust are right out.

Fortitude.  Again often misunderstood to just be courage, it is more tied into the previous three virtues as the will to do what you know to be right.  This throws out RINOs who stand for nothing, and worst of all the politically apathetic who seem to feel that there is no value in anything and nothing worth fighting for.

For purposes here, I am going to take Faith and Hope together because this is the primary difference between paleo and neoconservatives.  Paleoconservatives with their isolationist ways at their core are only looking out for themselves (clearly also lacking in that last virtue) but this is also because they do not have any faith in humanity or hope in the inevitability that republicanism and capitalism will spread to everyone.

Love, the last of the theological virtues and what must be required for all stable society. It is the belief that other humans have value and worth, and must be respected and helped when possible. This is actually the basis for capitalism, democratic-republics, friendship and all progress.  The belief that human beings are worth it (it’s a belief you don’t find in many political beliefs).

I have no doubt that I will come back to this theme over and over…but it has become clear to me that one or all of these virtues is missing in every political philosophy other than true conservatism.

(This will be the first post in an ongoing series on these virtues.)

*Not that all libertarians are this bad, but you have to admit there is a disturbing high number of single issue voters in your party…and their single issue is one that is really dumb. Of course Republicans have social conservatives who are just as stupid.

**I’m just going to gloss over these for now, don’t worry I’ll eventually have numerous blogs dedicated to this now that I’ve figured this out.

 

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Movies that show the rich as good #2: Meet Joe Black

“Should I be afraid?”
“Not a man like you.”

Meet Joe Black is a great movie for several reasons. A powerful love story. An insightful look at what life is about. And oddly enough a story about a businessman making sure his life work remains great. (Also the only time in history the IRS was even tangentially heroic…and not, you know, worthy of the treatment at the end of Braveheart).

Meet Joe BlackNow some might think that the story about the businessman trying to keep hold of his business when he knows for certain he will die in the immediate future is really a secondary plot line—that the love story of Death (Joe Black) and Susan is far more important than Anthony Hopkins business tales. And people who edit movies for TV and in-flight movies would agree with those people. However the director Martin Brest thought that it so ruined the movie that he got the Director’s Guild to agree that his name could be removed from the cut without the business story line—the Director’s Guild receives hundreds, some years, thousands of requests to have directors names removed because the director was unhappy with the result…virtually all of them are denied.* So that this was granted tells you that this plot line involving Hopkins’ character of Bill Parish is absolutely important.

Why? Or as Death puts it:

Joe Black: Bill, why at this juncture are you letting yourself be so concerned by business matters?
William Parrish: I don’t want anybody buying up my life’s work! Turning it into something it wasn’t meant to be. A man wants to leave something behind. And he wants it left behind the way he made it. He wants it to be run the way he ran it, with a sense of honor, of dedication, of truth. Okay?

Because this film shows us that life isn’t just about love. It is about life. The big and the small things (like peanut butter). And this movie shows the depth of love, not just romantic love, but the love of parents and children, of friendship, of siblings, and of life itself. Love is one of those massively important things…but so is accomplishment. In fact, if you look at the needs of people’s accomplishments, achievements, the attainment of goals is, according to psychologist Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, is the next thing we need to achieve in our quest for Happiness.

Now the liberals out there are probably rolling their eyes when they hear attainment of goals or achievement, as theyMeet Joe Black Dance think that you attain goals you must do so by taking from others. They see a world of static wealth and prosperity, where if I am to be successful another must fail, where if I am to be wealthy another must be poor, where if I am to be happy another must be miserable. Which is why they must tear down the strong, the successful, the happy, because in their warped mind those people are taking strength, success and happiness from others. Reality tends to be quite different. Whereas historically most economic and political systems have done the liberal thing and only shifted money and resources around, or at best created wealth at an astoundingly slow rate…capitalism literally creates wealth where it did not exist before. It takes work, ideas, creativity, individual and cooperation, risk, and planning to create wealth…but capitalism is the only system that can sustain long term innovation to create wealth out of what was previously worthless. Wealth thus has no limit, so long as there is liberty and drive to keep creating it. It parallels the other thing we seek for constantly in life: love. Just because I love my spouse doesn’t mean I have to love my parents, my siblings, or my children, or my friends less…they may all be different kinds of love, but an increase in one does not diminish the others. And the movie is quite clear; we need love in our lives:

Bill Parish: Love is passion, obsession, someone you can’t live without. I say, fall head over heels. Find someone you can love like crazy and who will love you the same way back. How do you find him? Well, you forget your head, and you listen to your heart. And I’m not hearing any heart. Cause the truth is, honey, there’s no sense living your life without this.

To make the journey and not fall deeply in love, well, you haven’t lived a life at all. But you have to try, cause if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.

But again back to the Maslow’s hierarchy, life isn’t complete with just love, we also need accomplishment. And the character of Bill Parish certainly has accomplished as the founder and chairman and CEO of a multinational media empire. As he discusses his business he states:

Meet Joe Black ConfrontationSee, I started in this business because this is what I wanted to do. I knew I wasn’t going to write the great American novel, but I also knew there was more to life than buying something for a dollar and selling it for two. I’d hoped to create something, something which could be held to the highest standards. And what I realized was I wanted to give the news to the world, and I wanted to give it unvarnished. The more we all know about each other, the greater the chance we will survive.

Sure, I want to make a profit. You can’t exist without one. But John Bontecou is all profit. Now if we give him license to absorb Parrish Communications, and he has his eye on a few others after us, in order to reach the world you will have to go through John Bontecou. And not only will you have to pay him to do this, far more important, you’ll have to agree with him.

He veers almost into the territory of an Atlas Shrugged hero there…Yes I love making money, but I love making my creation more and you could offer me all the money in the world to scrap what I have built and I would throw it in your face. He is a man of morals which are more important than just money. Which is something else that correct philosophers from Aristotle to Maslow understood, while there are charlatans that can make money, they often can’t keep it going and can’t create. Yeah there are terrible businessmen out there, but the majority of the rich, from the so called Robber Barons to Mitt Romney the rich who come to their money through work and achievement are among the most generous people in the world (Please see Who Really Cares by Arthur C. Brooks for further proof).

And it is this mixture of accomplishment and love and morality that makes the character of Bill Parish so admirable that even Death views him as someone to learn from.

The man from whose lips fall “rapture” and “passion” and “obsession”? All those admonitions about being “deliriously happy, that there is no sense in living your life without” all the sparks and energy you give off, the rosy advice you dispense in round pear shaped tones. […]It requires competence wisdom and experience, all those things they say about you in testimonials. And you’re the one.

And as we see through the course of the movie as he cares for his family and their happiness more than his business, and the achievements he has made more than just buying another day or two of his life, why when right before Death takes him he asks, “Should I be afraid?” The obvious reply to someone who has built and accomplished and loved the only answer can be, “Not a man like you.” Bill Parish stands out as a man who has excelled in every aspect of his life…and it’s amazing that Hollywood would show such a character as being.

Meet Joe Black Death

*If you ever see a movie directed by Alan Smithee, there is no Alan Smithee. That’s the name the Director’s Guild puts on films they allow the real director to distance themselves from. Producers or a studio have to ruin beyond the telling of it a director’s film before this is ever granted.

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Filed under Capitalism, character, Death, Faith, Fear, Individualism, Long Term Thinking, Love, Movies, Movies for Conservatives