Monday, March 15, 2010

Doodlemastery Bible School Part 3: False promises and exaggerated claims

Here it is at last, the product of all my postponed projects and procrastination. And we're only on Chapter 3 of Genesis. Gah... Some quick notes first.

It should be clear to readers which comments I make as legitimate logical and moral claims, and which are just me dicking around with wordplay, etc. If I'm being uber-literal, chances are it's just me poking fun at a confusing document and making inappropriate and lame references to things. However, do keep in mind that many self-proclaimed Christians interpret the Bible literally. So while I'm probably missing the richer literary significance and undertones of the book, I'm also pointing out its inadequacies as a moral guide.

And it's also poorly written.

Also keep in mind that I'm reading this as both a work of fiction and a list of purported historical accounts. Mostly fiction, since no historian would take this seriously and themselves be taken seriously by anyone other than backwards patriarchal conspiracy theorists. When I'm referring to the characters of the Bible, they are just that, characters, not actual people. Just like in The Passion of the Christ. So when I call God a dick, I mean God the character. If the biblical God were to be real, he would be a dick. A dick of infinite, incomprehensible magnitude.

Thank God he doesn't exist.


Oh! And we're in for a treat for this reading, since in this Bible (Douay-Rheims, for those of you who recall) Chapter 3's introductory lines tell us that the reading includes "the promise of a Redeemer". Oh, joy of joys! We're finally going to see how Jesus fits into this misogynistic jumbled cooked-up creation myth. I mean, this most holy creation account.

Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God had made... (Genesis 3:1)

As Ricky Gervais noted, "In my humble opinion, I think the snake was a mistake."

Really, what is the function of this snake if not to deceive people? Seeing as there's little good in deception during this (fictional) period of time, it seems the only thing this snake can do is be a bastard, since God created him to be a bastard. But then that would make God a bastard too, wouldn't it? Same goes for God creating psychopaths and the violently insane. If you ever get any high-minded ideas about free will and God's benevolence in creation, just remember there are people with neurological disorders that make it medically impossible to make morally good decisions.

Also note that this chapter never states that the serpent is actually the devil. It's heavily implied, I know, but then the punishment that follows for the serpent doesn't make much sense. This chapter also seems to suggest God made the devil a liar deliberately.

... And he said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?

And the woman answered him, saying:... (Genesis 3:1-2)

"Holy shit, a talking snake, what the fuck??" Kidding, she never seems to question the presence of a talking snake. Maybe it was like a Disney movie and all the other animals could talk? I don't know. But it doesn't seem to matter, since humans at this point appear to have the IQ of a cup of noodles.

By the way, I didn't add those italics. I don't know why they're in the goddamn Bible.

... Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat:

But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. (3:2-3)

Well why the hell put the tree there in the first place? What purpose is there in a tree that causes people to die? Or what point is there in arbitrarily punishing people for eating from a tree that's like any other? It's like having a door that's not broken, won't set off an alarm, doesn't lead to a prohibited area, and has no special designation, but still has a sign on it that says "Use Other Door". Just put a fucking wall there!

Consider the obvious fact that Adam and Eve - who, I remind you, represent all of the potential future for humanity - are dumb as bricks, since it's implied that they were just created a day or so ago. They don't even know what lying is, for Christ's sake. And as far as they can tell, each fruit is like every other, and there's no reason for them to think their beloved God would plant a tree there just to trap them into becoming mortal. So for a more apt moral comparison, it's like filling a baby bottle with arsenic and then warning an infant not to drink from that one bottle, which looks the same as the other bottles.

This doesn't bode well for God's reputation as the moral nexus of the universe.

And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. (3:4)

"You shall walk the walk."

For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil. (3:5)

I hate to bring this up, but... knowing the difference between good and evil is a good thing. Ignorance isn't virtuous, especially not as far as moral discrepancy is concerned. If you're wearing a blissful smile on your face while you're maiming and killing people... that's fucked up. God's word doesn't really have any input on that. And if you think it does, I'd like to stay as far away from you as possible.

Knowledge = gladness.

And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold: (3:6)

"Um... Eve, the... the fruit, you're supposed to go for the fruit. Don't look at the tree like that. Keep your eye on the prize, Eve. Honey? Hello?"

...and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat. (3:6)

So she didn't even have to bother tempting Adam, she just handed the fruit to him and he said "Yes, Dear". Didn't he know it was the forbidden fruit? If he didn't then he was suckered into damnation and God was wrong to judge him, and if he did know then he was a passive moron. Did God not create intelligence yet?

And the eyes of them both were opened: and when they perceived themselves to be naked, they sewed together fig leaves, and made themselves aprons. (3:7)

Okay, Christians, Jews, seriously, stop trying to pass off your prudishness as part of human nature, or from some unseen moral source. Human bodies can be pleasing to the eye. Oftentimes people want sex. We're not all suddenly going to become sex offenders if we admit that sex, even casual sex, can be nice. It's part of who were are. Get used to it.

Come to think of it, Adam and Eve were butt-naked back when they were without sin. And once they knew they had sinned they became ashamed of their nudity. So doesn't this mean that we can only be free from Original Sin if we're naked and not ashamed of it? The message is clear: all Christians must become nudists upon being saved. It's the only way to be sure.

Also, where did they get the thread and know-how to sew those leaves together? And were they really wearing aprons? That means their backsides were completely exposed, butt cheeks flapping in the wind.

Gah. I need goggles to read this thing.

And when they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in paradise at the afternoon air, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the Lord God, amidst the trees of paradise. (3:8)

Oh, so God's voice was walking along in paradise. That makes perfect sense. What the fuck does that mean? Sure I'm being an anal literalist, but why don't you tell me what the correct interpretation is? Did God have a body that was walking? Did he say something? Did Adam and Eve just sense him? What could the writers possibly have been trying to say??

And yeah, I know that God is omnipresent and omniscient, so Adam and Eve are being idiots for trying to hide. But then how does God alarm people like that? Did he just say "OOGA BOOGA, I AM HERE, FLEE BEFORE MY GODLINESS"?

And the Lord God called Adam, and said to him, Where art thou?

And he said: I heard thy voice in paradise and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself. (3:9-10)

Clever dick, that God, asking where Adam was. Adam had not yet learned the first lesson of not being seen: not to stand up.

Gotta sympathize with Adam here, though. I know I'd be afraid if I was naked and out in the open. This is textbook psychology stuff.

And he said to him: And who hath told thee that thou wast naked, but that thou hast eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? (3:11)
"Shouldst"? Quick posthumous tip for Olde English writers: if you can't pronounce it, don't write it. Can you imagine trying to contract the negative form of that word? "Shouldstn't."

And Adam said: The woman, whom though gavest me to be my companion, gave me of the tree, and I did eat. (3:12)

Adam: the world's first rat.

And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this? And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. (3:13)

Well, the snake asserted something that wasn't true. He didn't really go to great lengths to conceal his intentions. I know it's supposed to be the first lie in the history of creation, but where's the lesson in that? Were the writers afraid that Jews/Christians were so gullible as to believe anything a talking animal tells them? Then again, we are talking about people who take a fair amount of bullshit based on faith. If skepticism were the actual lesson then we'd all be a lot better off. Critical thinking does a clayman good.

We're all claymen, remember? We didn't evolve from goo, you know. God crafted us from clay. So instead of being treated like animals, we're supposed to be treated like... dirt... yeah...

I think you may have heard this before.

And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle,... (3:14)

Good thing the snake isn't a cow.

...and beasts of the earth. (3:14)

Damn, spoke too soon.

Upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. (3:14)

I'm pretty sure snakes don't eat dirt, unless God is assuming snakes keep their mouths wide open as they crawl along the dirt. God is kind of dense, isn't he?

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel. (3:15)

Hey, go easy on the snake, man. He's only doing what he does best. If you had just given him some legs, spats, and a top hat, he could have been a great entertainer. That would have been much more fulfilling (and awesome) than the cunning you gave him.

Also note the first instance where God creates hostilities where none existed previously. God's love at work, ladies and gentlemen. Just imagine how much suffering could have been alleviated if we were still at peace with snakes. Anti-venom would be obsolete. God must be pushing antidotes for profit.

I'm talking about living life on peaceful terms with snakes. Sometimes I think this book will drive me out of my damn mind.

To the woman also he said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over thee. (3:16)

Welcome to Misogyny 101.

About making childbearing painful... Did Eve have a wider pelvis before the Fall, and God shrunk her down a couple sizes? It's like a magical hereditary corset. This would also suggest that C-sections are sinful. Won't all our mothers be thrilled to find out.

Just going to interject an idea of mine, as if it's not what I've already been doing. What would have happened if Adam and Eve didn't have any kids? What if they told God "No, go fuck yourself" and lived the rest of their lives and died childless. That'd put God's panties in a bunch. He went through all this effort to create a universe to set himself up as master of the human race (Why?), and then the first generation just dies out uneventfully. What would he have done? Would he just say "Well, that happened" and start all over again? Would he try creating more humans? What if he did and didn't tell us? That'd be quite a story, I think. God keeps trying to make mortals to rule over, and evolution by natural selection beats him to it. God sounds like the kind of guy who could try over and over for 4 billion years without getting anywhere.

And to Adam he said: Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife,... (3:17)

Ohhh, so Adam's mistake was listening to his wife! That explains it. Nope, can't see where anyone gets any ideas of patriarchy from the Bible.

I think Adam should have said "Hey come on! The writers didn't even give me a chance to make an argument!" I know I'd be pissed if I were a character in a book that was this poorly written as to skip over a critical piece of dialogue.

...and hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work; with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. (3:17)

If hard labour in the field is supposed to be Man's curse, isn't smart agriculture cheating? Why did no one give any explanation once agriculture technology yielded massive surpluses? Shouldn't someone have said that we have to leave our fates up to God? But then, that'd mean a lot of theocrats going hungry. You see if it were a woman trying to use reproductive technology, then it's a different story. We can't have women making decisions about their own lives, there's a God to appease!

Speaking of women and agriculture, since men are supposed to suffer in the fields, what about when women till the earth alongside men? Does God get pissed?

Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth. (3:18)

Herbs? Do we have to? Can't we stick to fruit and meat? Next thing you know, you'll be forbidding us from eating bacon. But God wouldn't do that. Nope. That would be mighty stupid.

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread til thou return to the earth,... (3:19)

"And in the sweat of thy back shalt thou eat beef, and in the sweat of thy pant leg shalt thou eat butter..."

...out of which thou wast taken, and into dust thou shalt return. (3:19)

See? We're all claymen. Or dustmen. Whatever.

And Adam called the name of his wife Eve: because she was the mother of all the living. (3:20)

So Eve didn't have a name at this point? Did Adam just call her "woman" up until then? It seems so, since he's said a grand total of two things in his entire existence so far.

And I presume she's mother of all living humans, rather than other animals. And not the dead, fuck 'em.

And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. (3:21)

It's good that they glanced over the part where God makes the animals come apart at the seams. I don't think we needed to see that.

And he said: Behold Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil: now, therefore, lest perhaps he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. (3:22)

What? What?? Wait, what?! They hadn't eaten from the tree of life yet?! Why?? They were allowed to before, and you didn't mention it? God is a cheating, selfish bastard. That means humans don't die because of Original Sin, it's just because God is a prick who didn't let them eat from the Immortality Tree. Then why create the tree in the first place??

And as for the extremely abstract Christian claim that "us" in this passage refers to the Trinity (three persons in one god and all that nonsensical nonsense), keep in mind there are angels that God appears to talk with routinely, including the devil. Or maybe he's just a schizophrenic.

And the Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which he was taken. (3:23)


And he cast out Adam; and placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubims, and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (3:24)

Isn't it great proof for the Bible that we can't find Eden anymore? It must be under a spell, like Hogwarts. If one can claim that Eden exists somewhere, then I'm going to find a magical means of breaking in. You'd think someone would try by now, or at least that they'd mention such attempts in the Bible. Can't you imagine it, people trying to break into Eden, The Great Escape style? Just imagine how many tunnels Adam and his descendants must have dug.

The question that should be on all of our minds at this point is this: Where is the "promise of a Redeemer"? That's right! Abso-fucking-lutely nowhere. God just said "You fucked up, grab your shit and get the fuck out." The real point of this chapter is this: Don't piss off your boss.

This is supposed to be the epic story that is the prelude to the salvation of mankind. Let that sink in when doing further biblical readings. I expect better storytelling from The Office than I do here. This tale is flat, unsympathetic, and with no meaningful metaphors. Why this story? Why this creation story? There are better ways to communicate the Fall of Mankind than eating a piece of fucking fruit. Literally interpreted, the story sucks. Figuratively interpreted, the story blows.

So do you understand now why God needed to send his beloved Son to bloody himself for our own good? I don't. But hey, we're just reading it from beginning to end, so that we're always thinking in context, right? At some point it'll all make sense, right?

After all, we've just started page 4. Only 1,228 pages to go...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Back at school, at work...

And feeling more at home too. Really, you have no idea how much better it is to be here rather than at "home" in New Jersey. Finally I'm free from being regularly subjected to the hateful ramblings of the likes of Rimbaugh and Herr Ratzinger. Well, free to torture myself with them when I choose to anyway. I'm kind of a masochist like that.

So now I'm back with my Xiaohuan (big woot for that ^_^ <3), with my social life (whatever social life that is), with greater productivity in both school and work, with my games and my gaming circles, with my own room and mini-fridge, and with an all-around better selection of foods. Me and Xiaohuan already made a chocolate cake. You can't get that kind of goodness on your own at home. Not if you're me, anyway.

But just as importantly for the few desperate souls who waste time reading my blog, I'm back with my Douay-Rheims Bible. Oh yes. Doodlemastery Bible School classes will resume on Sunday, if not sooner. We have a lot of catching up to do, after all. We're going to up the pace with this, so get ready for some more poor English translations and nonsensical interpretations of God's good word. We're really going for it this time.

Just a quick note about my writing style. I've noted how lately my posts tend toward angry rants, going on about the idiocy of certain facets of culture, particularly religion. Well there'll be more sideswipes and deconstructions of religion in general and fundamentalism in particular, but more in the style of my prior posts where I was a more calm, sarcastic bastard. I liked that tone of voice better, to be honest. I don't pull off the enraged lunatic feel very well. So less lamentations and more wry quips are in store for any who give a shit.

All this and more on Doodlemastery.

But wait! There's more!

(There's no more for right now, that's all I could think of.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Because I know no better

Maybe now I ought to write how I feel at the moment.

I wish I knew more about how you feel. About him, about me, about life. But that knowledge would only be a means to me, not an end. I'm not especially jealous, and I shouldn't be, considering everything I put you through. I want to know so that I can understand better and try to help you get through it. I just hate seeing you suffer. That's partly what happened when I first said I'd change and try harder. It had to be rammed into my skull, but I realized the extent to which you were suffering because of my obliviousness.

And now I see you suffering because of old wounds and continuing uncertainty. And I'm afraid because I don't know what to do when it's too much for you to bear. I wish I could ease your burden, make it easier to get through the day. But sometimes I'm just not sure what to do. I'm trying, and I'm going to try as hard as I can this semester. If all goes as planned there should be a lot of great memories at the end of it. I just hope it will be enough for you to go on, that maybe it'll lift your spirits and give you more confidence in finding your own happiness in life. To be a part of that would be a great honor for me. It would be a part of my own happiness.

I know the heartbreak you felt and the memories you bear are far worse than anything I've ever had to experience, but to some degree I understand. That's why I want you to know that I'm here. I'll try to understand what's tearing you up inside, and share the pain just to let you know you're not alone. You're not. As long as we're together I'll be here for you. Talk to me if you need to. Let me know what I need to do. Don't shy away from telling the truth. All that matters is that we get through it as best as we can, and enjoy what we have along the way.

You said I like you because I think you're the person you pretend to be. That's not true. I like you for you. I don't expect you to be sunny all the time, but when you're not I want you to know I'm here, and I'll listen and support you as best as I can. And as for the pretending: You remember Nyu? She's the girl Lucy said she'd be if she never had horns. But to some degree that's who she really was, when the voice of her instincts didn't have control over her. Do you really want to be cute and cheerful? I think you are, when the world allows you to be. But you're stronger than that, strong enough to be cheerful in spite of the world. I don't think being angry often makes that cheerfulness any less genuine. Everyone has more than one dimension to them, and happiness is another dimension in your life too. I want to help you be who you want to be. It takes strength to be cute ;)

And you are cute in spite of your troubles, Xiaohuan.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

No Bible review, but a general review of biblical things

Yeah, big disappointment, but as soon as I get back to that copy of the Bible I have on campus I'll resume tearing it apart (metaphorically) starting from Chapter 3 of Genesis. In case you've forgotten I ever did that sort of thing, here's Part 1 and here's Part 2. I might, might do Part 3 next week, but that's unlikely. So the week after, definitely.

Really. For sure.

In the meantime, I have to comment on that particular bit of literature and its impact on humanity. No, not the Necronomicon, that'd be too interesting. Maybe you've heard of this new movie The Book of Eli, the story of a man on a quest in a post-apocalyptic world, at odds with a despotic villain who knows of the power Eli has, with the hope of humanity hanging in the balance. I'm going to ruin this for you: it's a Bible. The guy owns a King James Bible, supposedly the only one left in existence. Yeah, because in the future suddenly the most stubborn faith America's ever known is totally abandoned because... the plot demands it. And where the hell did all the Bibles go? Isn't it supposed to be the most published book in existence? And isn't this a "Christian nation"? Really, do they expect us to buy this? America's population is far more religious than just about any other first world country, and you notice ours isn't doing quite as well in terms of economic stability, equality, freedom, democracy, health, happiness... okay, you get the idea. So yeah, we're least likely to survive Armageddon, but whoever's left is bound to be reinterpreting the Bible to explain why the end of the world isn't quite the end of the world.

After all, you can reinterpret the Bible to explain the earthquake in Haiti, because absolutely everything must be explained from a biblical perspective if you own a Bible and can't get your nose out of it. Yeah, as far as I can tell most of the news coverage of the earthquake is decidedly secular, but some of our religious residents feel the need to comment on how this fits into their particular worldview. Which is perfectly alright, as long as I have the chance to logically dismantle their arguments. For instance, I've been personally (repeatedly) confronted with the interpretation of the Haitian people as being "good people" because of their religious conviction. I don't doubt that they're good people - whatever the hell that's supposed to mean - but I don't much fancy folks being defined by their beliefs. I don't deem people to be "good" just because they're atheists, just that they have more realistic religious views than theists. It has no more moral bearing on people than if they preferred stuffing to potatoes. Hearing about Haitians singing hymns amidst the rubble in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake does not exactly warm my heart, regardless of comparisons to the Whos of Whoville.

Did that sound inappropriate to you? Sounded that way to me when I first heard it, spoken as if it were bemusedly insightful. For Christ's sake, their capital city is in ruins. Cute little tidbits about their deeply-held convictions have no place in serious conversations, especially not at a time like this.

I gotta get out of Jersey.

But leaving the state will not save me from the ramblings of Pat Robertson. If you haven't heard his latest babbling nonsense about Haiti, you've been missing all the good television. He's claiming that the Haitians did a deal with the devil back when they were slaves rebelling against "Napoleon the Third or whatever". I love the way he quotes the devil himself. "Okay, it's a deal." Apparently the devil is a used car salesman. That's a decidedly shortsighted deal on the part of the Haitian slaves, don't you think? "Oh yeah, he's the master of lies, but he's also the master of great savings." Okay, what exactly did the devil do to help the Haitians get freed? Near as I can tell the Haitian rebels did a fine job of defeating the French on their own. Could it be that Napoleon (the Third or whatever) had no interest in maintaining his American territories? Nooo, I'm sure it was our awesome Americanness that made him sell the Louisiana territory to the United States. And how exactly does a deal with the devil entail economic poverty and political instability? I'm pretty sure those events that led to Haiti's sufferings unfolded by themselves without some magic imp with a pitchfork egging people on.

This brings up another interesting problem with the whole "deal with the devil" idea. What does the devil get out of it? Haiti is in ruins and suffers continuously and... then what? What good does that do the foul deceiver? Okay, Dick Cheney probably has some interests in human suffering, but what about Satan? What benefit or profit is there in this deal? Power? I'm pretty sure the devil would have all the power he could want. Hell, if direct possession of a human being's body is within his power, what isn't? God doesn't seem to care about keeping him in check that much. Sure, the guy in the sky saves a soul here and there, but that's just for PR (which is doing remarkably well, I might add). Once you're on this earth, you're in Hades territory. All the holy water and biblical babbling in the world can't keep cancer at bay, so what good does it do against the devil? So if the deal isn't for power, what else could a supernatural entity want? Just watching human suffering? Hell, I can do that for free. I could watch myself watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to do that. Or does the devil want souls? If he wants the souls, I think he can get them himself. For fuck's sake, if he can possess a person, why doesn't he just make the guy curse God's name and kill himself? I have to doubt God would really care whether a person intends to do what he does. It's the action and not the intent, you know what I mean? If not, then I'm sure God would be perfectly alright with two people of the same gender being sexually involved with each other, right?

So what does that leave us with? There's not really any other reason why a demigod - in effect if not in name would be interested in freeing some slaves in return for making their descendants miserable. Ohhh it's because he's EVIL, right? That's the hallmark of bad writing, in my opinion. So he has no personal reasons for doing what he does, he just does it, because... the plot demands it. Great. We're right back where we started. Basically we've restated what Socrates said way back in the dialogue Euthyphro, that there's really no way to serve anyone with godlike powers.

Can you hear me in the back, Herr Holiness?

So what does all this have to do with the Bible? An excellent question. How many objections to these issues would include anything to do with the Bible? I've heard the complaint that the view Pat Robertson presents on his show is not a biblical one, but I have to point out that the Bible has no one single perspective, and any perspectives in there are bound to be ones that no living human being still retains without believing themselves to be a biblical character. Have you read the Bible lately? Man, I try to get through it from beginning to end and I'm already sidetracked on the third chapter by the monumental quantities of stupid that precede it. There's a lot of things in that there Bible that most self-proclaimed Christians tend to ignore, for reasons fairly obvious. So, who's biblical now? I'm guessing sociopaths and inbred mountain folk. Doesn't that give you so much confidence, knowing our leaders are such pillars of virtue with a biblical perspective on life?

My whole point with this is that the Bible is really irrelevant. Totally and completely, with the exception of a few nutters. Even Christian fundamentalism is a religion that's only about one hundred years old, part of a revival movement in the Western world concerned totally with contemporary issues that matter only to social conservatives: sexually promiscuity and deviance, irreverence, and questioning the way the world works. It's just very handy that the writers of the Bible were as ignorant and bigoted as the leaders of the conservative movement.

The Bible's not a guide you see, it's a reference.

And as for the Bible's impact on people who have never read it before: if they're impressed, it's because they want to ignore all the awful bits in favor of the more "Christian" parts. If there was only one Bible left on earth, its contents would not remake the world. There's far more important ideas to preserve, and human beings are far more important than any of those ideas. That makes the people of Haiti worth more than all the Bibles on earth, so what good would "turning to faith" (as if they didn't have enough) do for them now? When a nation is in a state of ruin and people are in despair, belief in oneself and in other human beings does far more than anything contained in any one tome.

If only someone could tell the makers of The Book of Eli that. It'd save a whole lot of moviegoers money.

Please welcome our next sucker!

Game Show Network seems to be the only worthwhile television for the time being, and that's even taking into account the coverage of the earthquake in Haiti. If I want reliable news, I'll go to the BBC. In the meantime I'll watch mind-bogglingly stupid contestants make fools of themselves on unmemorable game shows.

These shows are idiotic by design, and quite obviously so. The prime example is Deal or No Deal, a show where nothing substantial happens and greed overwhelms what little sense these contestants have. Oh god... having Greed flashbacks... Chuck Woolery... No! Agh! Get away from me!

Where was I? Ah! Deal or No Deal, the show where 26 samples of eye candy present the player with 26 cases labeled with meaningless numbers that you can pick in any order without affecting the outcome of the game in any way. Each case contains an amount of money (okay, a tile with the number of the prize money on it) ranging from one cent to $1 million, and the contestant gets to choose one, since choice is the foundation of American life. Once you do the math and acknowledge the logic behind the design of the game, it becomes clear that your choice of a case does not affect your odds of winning for or against you. Which nicely sums up the impact of your case choices for the remainder of the show. The game proceeds with the contestant choosing and opening the remaining 25 cases, eliminating the hope that their case contains any of the revealed amounts. In other words, once you choose your case, if you open the case with $1 million, you know for a fact that you've lost the top prize. Isn't this a nice game? It tells you in advance that you're a loser the moment you started. Most game shows will bullshit contestants into thinking they can win more money than they'll earn in their whole lives, even though it's made perfectly clear from the moment of their introduction that all contestants are hand-picked for their blithering idiocy. For entertainment value, you see. Folks at home want to feel smart by comparison.

Despite this, many contestants on Deal or No Deal proclaim with very obnoxious attitudes that their case is indeed the million dollar case. Nooo, you don't know that, and you can't know that. You hope it's the million dollar case, but what you know is that odds are 25 out of 26 that you don't have it. In fact, your odds of having the million dollars are as good as your odds of choosing the penny. And even if you choose the right case, you have to play all the way to the end, eliminating alternate prizes until you decide to risk everything just to see if you got it out of sheer blind luck. In other words, there's no intelligent way to play this game. But chances are, if you're on the set, you're too stupid to know that. And it's great to watch. It appeals to the sadomasochist in all of us.

Oh, but there's more. Our host is Howie Mandel, a former comedian if you can believe it, and given his performances on the show, I find the "former" part highly plausible. Every so often the contestant must stop choosing cases so that Howie can pretend to talk into a ringing remote control, supposedly linked us with the "Banker", a man we can only see in silhouette in a booth overlooking the set. I'm sorry, but the Banker is not at all an effective villain, even for a game show, so stop acting like he's the biggest ass in the world. It has no impact on the show and he's not memorable at all. Although that lack of memorability does explain why they made Darth Vader the guest banker in a special Star Wars-themed episode...

Excuse me, a little part of me just died right there.

The Banker - who acts nothing at all like the respectable moneyholder all Monopoly players are familiar with - makes the contestant cash offers based on their odds of getting a better prize. The object of this is partly to tempt the players to stop, but mostly to expose them for the greedy fucks they are and later to taunt them mercilessly when they knock out all the big prizes and the offers drop. It is at the moment that an offer is made that a contestant can either say "Deal" and push the Deal button to accept the prize offered, or "No Deal" and close the plastic casing on the button to continue playing a mindless game of press-your-luck. Wait, no... Press Your Luck... Peter Tamarkin... Come on come on, Big Bucks Big Bucks Big Bucks, no Whammy no Whammy STOP!

Ack... I'm a very sad person...

So over the course of watching this show so many times, I and some members of my family have devised numerous ways to rob the show of any of its intended entertainment value.

1) Get rid of the cases. My father for once made a very wise observation: The cases choices are meaningless, so this game is essentially just offers with people declining them thinking they can somehow get something better. So if that's all the gameplay there is, then just get rid of the cases and the models and don't let the contestants choose any numbers at all. You could run this game with any random number generator. In fact, you don't even need a host or a Banker. That'd be quite the game show, wouldn't it? Just a contestant and a laptop, and a leering audience which finally gets to see just how much this game really amounts to on a personal level. The laptop assigns the contestant with a random unknown prize, then it eliminates prizes all on its own, only showing the results with the calculated offers for the contestant to say "Deal" or "No Deal" - represented in this case with the retro Interweb key placement of "Y" or "N". Basically the game will look like this:

Round one:

$18,000 - Y/N?

Round two:

$35,000 - Y/N?

Round three:

$22,000; You may no longer win $1,000,000 or $750,000 or $500,000 - Y/N?

Etc, etc. Reviting, isn't it?

2) Accept the first offer. When a contestant accepts an offer, they're asked what their hypothetical next choices of cases would have been if they continued to play, and the resulting offers are also displayed simply to mock them, before their own case is finally opened to reveal whether they made a "good" or "bad" Deal. Like it matters. So what if the contestant accepts the very first offer they get at the beginning of the game? For one, the audience and host would be baffled as something like that has never happened before and never will, since greed (not the show of the same name... >_<) is the driving force behind the whole show. The pointless involvement of a few of the contestant's family on the side will never have started. And best of all, all of the remaining cases would have to be opened one at a time. All of them. That's 19 cases after the first round to open. That's at least a half dozen hypothetical offers to blaze through. It would be the most pointless and tedious game ending of all, and I'd love every second of it.

3) Go with your case; play all the way through the cases without hesitation. This was my idea, and consequently my favorite. The best way to do this is to show how meaningless the order of case choice is, by choosing the cases in order. Your case is number 1, your next choices of eliminated cases will be 2, 3, 4, 5, etc, until the final two cases are your case 1 and the other case 26. The only way to thoroughly mock the game by playing in this way is to not even consider any of the offers. As soon as Howie raises the plastic casing around the Deal button, you have to slam it back down without giving any time to the offer or even for Howie to say "Deal or No Deal?" (I only recently saw someone do this after the first round. A contestant actually chose the cases based on random draws from a bag of numbered ping pong balls, and then when the first offer came up she closed the case before Howie could ask if she wanted to take the offer. I doubt I'll ever see how that show ends.)

So much of this game show is padding based on case selection and offers that you have to blow right past all of it and continue choosing the cases in order, despite all reason or force-fed tension. Since family members are asked to stand on the sidelines and cheer the contestant on, the family must also adopt this mindless mentality in order to shut Howie up and get the game over with. Contestant and family must all approach this without any hint of involvement or emotion (especially not humor, since cracking a smile ruins the dry feel of the joke being played on the show). Attempts at small talk should be met with direct monosyllabic responses (yes, no, etc), the face should be completely blank with the body giving no indication of disposition whatsoever, and whenever Howie tries to make the contestant or the family members stop and consider their odds of winning, all should give the direct and unthinking response of "Play the game, Howie." The facade must be complete, even for commercial breaks. The contestant should just stand there without saying a word until the game resumes and then they proceed selecting the cases in order and immediately declining all offers.

It would be a monumentally stupid occasion for all of television history. And I would bask in that moment of glory when pointless, mindless, boring game shows like that get contestants who treat the game in the same way.

All this is an excellent reason to move to Japan immediately.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm mad as hell

And why shouldn't I be? Do you read the New York Post, or at least look at their headlines? Do you listen to talk radio constantly, or watch Fox News, or EWTN? Do you even know what EWTN is? Do your parents scoff at terms like "heterosexism" or such ludicrous left-leaning media outlets as... The New York Times? Does your whole extended family find nothing wrong with fundamentalists brainwashing little children into thinking their bodies are immoral vessels worthy only of contempt, except as baby-making apparatuses over which they have no right to control? Is your whole rational worldview persistently under siege by pestering about imperfections in the scientific method? Do you know what it feels like to be religiously proselytized by your own mother? Have you ever had your mind under constant siege from all of this bullshit at the same time for as long as a month or more?

Is it any wonder that I'm the psychological mess that I am today?

Goddamn, everything in this house seems like an insult both to my intelligence and to humanity at large. Think about what right-wing media does for a sec, and don't bother listing examples of left-wing bias either because all they ever do is highlight the icing on this shit sundae that is the religious right, and any way you put it they don't even stack up to what "Fox and Friends" do alone. Right-wing media is essentially telling America that half of Americans are irredeemable assholes who know nothing about anything and want to destroy America. Half. Anyone with a progressive or non-conservative idea in their head is presented as some kind of hippie/socialist/satanist. And that probably includes you, if you're reading this. How does it feel to have yourself collectively condemned with half of the nation for not being religious or nationalistic enough?

Do you realize what this means? It means that these media asshats are antagonizing conservative Americans into hating half of the nation's population, disregarding everything that half says and needs, and enforcing some loose form of authoritarian corporate theocracy. You may think that's an extreme take on the situation, but what the hell do you think the people who support this kind of garbage want? They want some idyllic perfection of the American dream, like some ultra-orthodox status quo middle class 1950's suburbia with not a tolerant or deviant thought in anyone's head. And since that Dream is impossible since half of Americans don't fit the standards to make that happen, the Right's failures will be continuously blamed on liberals until the right people are elected into office to implement enough of the right kind of control over people's lives so that the right people will be happy and the wrong people - people who, say, might think the idea of global warming might have some merit - are nicely marginalized into socioeconomic oblivion.

You don't fit the ideal? Into the loony bin you go. Because if you even think for a second that maybe gay people should be allowed to marry the person of their choice and adopt some kids, you're automatically lumped into the same category as pedophiles and incestuous devil-worshippers. (And where the hell are these secret enemies-of-the-state, these supposed gay atheist cultists who do nothing but devour fetuses and rape children so that they instantly become homosexuals? Do fundamentalists still believe that Dungeons & Dragons groups actually engage in witchcraft? And I have to wonder, where do these witches and sorcerers get their magical powers? From Satan? I didn't even know God let him give human beings any kind of powers, but that's theology for you.)

And I have to say here that the Right is very much concerned with controlling your life in particular ways. You can't get or provide an abortion, you can't get contraceptives, you can't be taught evolution without being told it has as much merit as 4000-year-old fair tales, you can't have any reasonable control over what substances go into your body, you can't trust scientists, you can't demand things of your government, you can't depend on anyone for food and shelter since that would perpetuate a "welfare state", you can't have dependable access to healthcare, you can't bring any charges against white-collar criminal pricks, you can't get married to the person of your choice, you can't adopt a child without the church's say-so, you can't demand better standards of living, and you can't care for the rest of the planet in any way whatsoever. But you can enlist in the army and fight wars nobody but a select group of people have interests in. You can mercilessly beat your children and force them to think the way you want them to think. And you can choose between a select range of expensive healthcare plans, low-income housing developments, and unhealthy fast food diets which a few big names in business and industry will be happy to oblige. And you're perfectly free to have no resources or choices or expression or freedoms of your own, as so many of our 3.5 million homeless do now.

But what can you do if the people closest to you since childhood (literally close in this case) actually believe this kind of bile that spews forth from the radio every minute of every day? What are you supposed to do? You can't very well get a new family, and you can't make a stand if you have to live under the same roof. But that's my situation, and it becomes more difficult to ignore all the time.

You know, it's not so much the ideological conflict that gets to me as it is the sheer offensiveness of the things being said. I can't help it if there's no reason to believe in God, so why am I condemned as if I'm some kind of anarchistic terrorist? I'm just a college student who's trying to find his own way in life, I can't be crammed into this picturesque world of religious devotion and political fervor. Hell, I don't ask the same thing of anyone else. I don't tell religious people to stay at home and not let me know what they believe, and I don't expect people to join the Communist Party or anything. I don't even expect anyone to like gay people. I just want to be left the hell alone, without having my ideas put into a forbidden category. I want people to coexist without fighting over the survival of their ideologies, as if their lives and their prospects at happiness depend on it. I'd rather people would learn how to manage their lives better and look at things a little more rationally and have more compassion for people who are just different and do no real harm.

I mean, seriously, it's the ideas that are corrosive and stupid. Not everyone who clings to them is stupid or intends evil on anybody. But I just get so fucking pissed off when someone says something so hateful and harmful, something that flies in the face of all established forms of logic, and so many people nod their heads and acknowledge their willingness to act on this kind of idiocy. Are you out of your fucking minds?

The New Jersey senate just said no to gay marriage. Why? Why? Why? What reason is there for denying people of the same gender to marry one another? Do they present any special threat to each other by nature of their relationship? No. Do they present any special threat to any children they intent to adopt? No. Do they present any special threat to the justice system or society at large? NO. Just NO. Okay? There is no social anarchy or "sexual madness" about homosexuality. How would allowing gay marriage lead to the breakdown of American society? Because Timmy will have two mommies?? No kind of marriage between two willing persons of different families could lead inherently to any level of social unrest. EVER. But who are we kidding here? It has nothing to do with what legalizing gay marriage will do to American law or the relationship between church and state (since churches can't be required to give anybody a marriage, and frankly I wouldn't want a religious wedding anyway.) It's just that certain people don't like homosexuals. Don't bullshit me with "It's not what they are, it's what they do". That's like saying "It's not that I hate you personally, I just hate the fact that you exist."

Okay, let's get more explicit about what we're talking about here. A man and a woman may hold, kiss, and have sexual relations with each other as they see fit. Well, okay, maybe they don't have that much freedom since some would say that the only kind of sexual contact allowed is conventional heterosexual intercourse within the context of marriage without the use of contraceptives. Ignoring for a minute the... utter strangeness of that level of authoritarian orthodoxy (don't pull any cultural relativist bullshit on me, it has nothing to do with what people should be allowed to do in reality), take a look at what is considered appropriate. A man can put his penis into a woman's vagina, and rub it anywhere around that general area, and in many contexts is allowed to put it (along with his fingers, tongue, etc) anywhere else on the woman as he pleases, and the woman is likewise allowed to fondle the man in any way that seems suitable to her.

Now, what isn't appropriate is for two men to put their penises anywhere on each other for the purposes of sexual stimulation, ever. They're not even allowed to use their hands, tongues, etc, for these purposes with one another. For some reason the act of placing the penis within another man's anus is seen as abhorrent, and I have to doubt it's for sanitary issues. And women are likewise expected to not couple with one another and stimulate each other's clitorises or vaginae for these same purposes. Even kissing and caressing man-to-man or woman-to-woman for the general purposes of romantic stimulation and expression is too much for some minds to bear. Why? There's nothing in biology that says you can't do that, since it's obviously possible to do it regardless of other people's discomfort at the idea. Religious texts hold no water on this issue since they elsewhere have no moral bearing on anything (unless you want to know how long a person may be kept as a slave), and saying "God says so" likewise has nothing to do with whether or not doing something to somebody is nice. Do conservatives simply not like thinking about homosexual intercourse? THEN DON'T THINK ABOUT IT! Nobody's holding you down and forcing you to watch people have sex, even if done in public! What does it say about social conservativism in general if the main driving argument is that homosexuality is icky? "Eww" should be the paraphrasing for any argument anyone makes against same-sex marriage.

What the hell am I still doing in Jersey? I don't want to be here, I want to be back at school learning shit and spending my time with people I care about. Dammit, don't you just get so fucking pissed off, just so fucking pissed off, that you can't even think straight anymore? Any semblance of daily life become impossible around this level of bullshit. Every day I'm wandering around going "It would be nice if this semester- FUCK, THAT'S STUPID!" God... you'd think that with all the time and energy that it takes to write something down and get it revised and get it produced and get it prepared to be put on the air, that a person would think to themselves "Wow... What I'm saying is really fucking stupid!" Somebody has to know! Somebody has to realize what's been happening with all this mass pandering to stereotypes and misconceptions and myths, all over the country. It's got nothing to do with people anymore, people are just treated as vessels for ideals, harbingers of American values, effigies of unpatriotic evil. And when people are acknowledged, the world is suddenly full of saints and demons, and it's okay to sling mud at one another like we're in a fucking zoo exhibit. Why don't we just pass out white hats and black hats and sort out who has to wear which hat so we know who's on which side? "Me? Oh, I'm against the death penalty, so I'll be over here with the abortionists, Wiccans, and necrophiles, thanks."

Doesn't anybody get that I'm not on anybody's "side"? There are no "sides", if there were there'd be 7 billion different sides right now, since nobody knows anything about what they stand for anymore. I'm either on everybody's side or I'm on my own side. I like to think I'm on my own side, and my side stands for helping everybody all at once. I don't care what they think about my methods, I'm just trying to accommodate everybody's needs and dreams. It makes no sense, since it's an impossible task, but none of this makes a lick of goddamn sense in the first place. Everything's screwed up, but some things work out, and that makes it worth trying.

Somehow that's part of the definition of doodlemastery. But that's just something that exploded into existence in my head one day.

I miss you <3

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The most meaningless term in the world

Okay, maybe next to "doodlemastery".

But "faith" is the most empty and uninspiring concept I've ever had to confront.

When I was younger, this word meant everything to me ("faith", not "doodlemastery" you twit, keep your head in the game). Of course, remaining a Catholic would have been an unwise career decision for the 17-year-old I was when I finally came to the age of reason. So now the word has even less meaning for me than "tacorific".

That's a great word, by the way, I wish I had more use for it.

Every time the word is used it means something different, because everybody uses it in a personal way that reflects their beliefs. And everybody's beliefs are different by at least a small amount, even in a supposedly monolithic religion. Take God as an example. Some people think he's an invisible sky man, or woman. Or three people. Or several more. Some believe that he's the universe, or completely outside of it, or both (the hell does that mean?). Others will tell you that God is a sort of abstract concept encompassing the core nature of existence or morality. And others will try to snag you with the idea that God is anything that a person holds in their heart as being greater than themselves. One person on Penn&Teller's Bullshit! tried to imply that for an atheist, "God" could be a rock. So what, would an atheist be someone who believes that the rock doesn't exist?

Arockist. There's a new meaningless term for you. But still more substantive than faith.

So what does one mean by "faith"? Let's just say for the sake of argument that in a casual conversation mentioning the scientific theory of the expanding universe, your devout mother inappropriately posits that you need to accept that kind of belief based on faith.

Let's just say.

Well clearly in this case faith would be defined as something related specifically to belief itself. But it can't possibly be the same as belief, can it? I doubt that every little thing you accept to be true or probable would be considered by a religious individual to be an "act of faith". Although when you get in a prolonged conversation with just the right kind of rationally desperate mind, you'll find yourself confronted with the assertion that you believe the earth is round in the exact same way that they believe an invisible person sends hurricanes to collectively punish residents for housing those who wear feather boas and use nipple clamps.

So let us distinguish just what we mean when we say we believe things to be true. Yes, we are all the same in that belief means any one thing any one of us acknowledges as part of their personal worldview, something we really think of as part of reality. No, we do not believe in science and sandwiches in the same way as others believe in gods and ghost phalli, precisely because of the reasons we believe them. I'd wager that most of us believe most of the things we do for reasons in of themselves. Explanations, elaborations, facts, tidbits, data, hints, clues, signals, signs, patterns, consistencies, conclusions, necessities, and logic. This isn't just cold scientific shit either. I believe my girlfriend exists and cares for me since I can see and hear and feel her, and all my past experiences and all of the consistencies and logical conclusions in life would lead me to believe she's a person who cares for me. And she can use the same facts about me to realize that I'm a person who cares for her too. If I began to discount my senses (not question or doubt them, I do those all the time and I still get quite good results, thank you) then as far as I know I could be spinning ass-over-teakettle in a vat of tar, with no girlfriend and no sense of direction or reason.

Do people believe in the supernatural for reasons too? Well... yes... kinda... a lot of the time, I would hope. Although the reasons for religious and spiritual belief tend to be murky and vague at best and often using mixed data, if not precisely contrary to all available data. The belief in a creator God could be attributed to the rational conclusion that everything requires a beginning and an end, but this leads to the logical problem of where God came from and when he intends to end his existence. Where exactly do you leave a divine suicide note? Ah, but this problem was solved long ago, since we all know that God is beyond our rational laws of logic and so he can have no beginning or end. Then how can we conclude that anything else must have a beginning or an end? Why then does the universe need a beginning, and even if it had a beginning couldn't it also forgo the logic of requiring a creator?

How? Why? Because God says so, that's how and why. And who says God says so? Lots of people say God says so, including God, purportedly. And we all know how reliable the clergy and religiously orthodox are.

I'm not a big fan of the "just because" explanations, myself. I much prefer an individual to say "I don't know". I do it all the time. Does it mean I'm wrong, that I give up my beliefs? No, it means I'm not asserting anything for anyone else to believe and therefore am not the one who has to account for himself, so shut the fuck up, would you kindly.

So clearly faith is not synonymous with all belief. What is it then? Some beliefs? What is it about the belief in an expanding universe (a scientific fact) and the belief in a Jewish demigod (a not-so-scientific fact) that could lump both of them in the same category as beliefs taken on faith? Perhaps our purely hypothetical mother was implying that we don't personally know very much about either of these belief systems and therefore assume them both to be true for convenience's sake.

Before we get into just how belittling it is for religious people to be told their heartfelt beliefs about God are just an assumption, let's compare religious and secular assumptions, shall we? Of course we will, because it's my blog and my rules.

A layman can have a reasonable amount of confidence in scientific theories because science is a very rigorous process of eliminating erroneous notions in light of new data. Bullshit ideas are not highly publicized in scientific journals, and when they are they're quite open to review and revision. The same process of observation, controlled interpretation, experimentation, and calculation that tells you the universe is most likely expanding at an accelerating rate is the same one that's given you little things like medicine, atomic energy, modern engineering, information technology, fuel-efficient cars (well maybe not in America...), and ice cream. (Ice cream! Yay!)Science has an impressive track record and can only be improved with better science. You can't very well go about disproving scientific notions with half-baked ideas, random-ass guesswork, or "revealed knowledge". I have not yet seen a hypothesis being supported by the scientific method, then be disproved by some paranormal sort of gnosis. You'd think that someone could tap into the source of that knowledge and set everything straight, but apparently the money isn't good enough to convince "real" psychics and prophets to see daylight.

Religious belief, on the other hand, is assumed because of the overall weakness of the believer's original worldview. Do you honestly think it's a sign of strength for theism if it's just a convenient assumption? I'm sure that most religious believers would rather be certain that they have reasons for thinking there is a God. You know, like any other sane person. But if you just assume there is a God and then base your worldview on that, you've made your entire worldview completely fucking arbitrary. There's nothing to argue about or test with religious belief if that belief is already formed from an arbitrary baseless assumption. In science you can get things wrong, you can be disproved, unless you decide to forgo logic in favor of "faith". Isn't it beginning to sound like a vapid, insulting word already? Faith. "I don't need reasons, I have faith." Nobody wants to admit that they're stupid, but that statement comes close.

Maybe I'm being too harsh here and there's some other meaning to faith other than belief itself or assumed belief. Something more personal and heartfelt, like trust. Could that be what it means to have faith in something, to have trust in it? Possibly, sounds like a good match doesn't it? Aren't we faithful to our loved ones, and have faith in each other? We often mean it in the same way that we mean trust, personal trust. Which makes more sense, I suppose. After all, the devout are more likely to identify with a religion where you feel like you can trust whoever is on the other side of reality. Okay, so there's quite a bit that's still assumed in this relationship, like that the people on the other side (not to mention the other side itself) actually exist. But still, at least we have a definition that unites religious and secular worldviews, right?

There's only one problem. It doesn't work beyond that personal level of trust. Remember that in this case we're talking about the theory of the expanding universe, and by that connection the scientific method itself. Science has no personal identity, not even the scientists. What, is it implied that we have personal trust in the scientists collectively? I guess, but science isn't about authority, it's about facts and logic. If an idea has no reflection or base in reality, all of the scientific authority in the world couldn't make any more sense out of it. That's why science is so open to revision, so that nobody gets to declare a monopoly on truth, and bad ideas can be exposed and deconstructed and taunted, sometimes with pointed fingers and laughter. Creationists are still new to this sort of thing, so they think they're under selective treatment. But they're not, they're selectively intruding on science with no idea how it works, and accordingly they're surprised when they're ridiculed and their ideas are discounted as nonsensical nonsense.

Besides, there's one definition of faith that our not-at-all-real-life mother has neglected to consider, and this one's going to be a dandy when trying to apply it to "faith" in the expanding universe. When I was in high school, I was told by my Christian Ethics teacher that faith was a personal relationship that one had with God. Specifically this is referring to love. Thus it was explained to me the difference between knowing about somebody, and knowing somebody, biblically (Eww). Look, the universe and I have been through a lot together, we're virtually inseparable (what with me being made of matter and all), and it will continue to mean literally everything to me, but... I'm just not up for that kind of commitment on a cosmic level. And... there's someone else, a human girl I've been seeing for a few months. She means so much to me, and it may not seem fair, but I'm just not really into infinitely vast stretches of time and space. I'm really more interested in cute peeps, at a personal level at least. So this isn't goodbye to the universe, but I think that it would be best if the universe and I were just good friends.

And thanks, Bible, for making even the word "know" an inneundo.

"I knew it... three times."

The problem I always had with this definition of faith is that it's not exactly healthy to love someone you don't even know. Marriage arrangements on internet chat rooms are not encouraged, so why should anyone be expected to give unconditional love to some hyped-up ancient celebrity, a battered, bearded, tripped-out zombie man with an intellect from before the Dark Ages who no sane person has ever even met before? Unless you count rituals where celibate men in robes say some magic words over breakfast cereal and claim it's become the flesh of said zombie celebrity. Damn, this is some weird kind of kink. I'm not sure how eating one's flesh is an expression of love, but it's pretty sick, divine or not. You'd think that if a god wanted his "substance" - and I don't even want to know what the hell that is - to be put into a human being he would just will it, and not have to bother with this disturbing imagery. But then, that would make too much sense, and we've got a lot of irrational bullshit to accommodate. And the first time I heard this illogical definition of faith as love, I told my teacher "But I can only know a person if I at least know that they exist."

I never got a good reply to that. If I was manic enough, I'm sure I could think of something.

There's only one other definition of faith I can think of, and it's the one thing a religious mind would be holding onto at this point: hope. Faith defined as hope for something you cannot see. And it's at this point that the self-degrading of faith as a concept gets to truly pitiful levels. It's essentially admitting that there's no reason to believe in anything you claim to have faith in, so one can only hope that maybe everything will turn out alright in the end. This is stupid because if you have no rough guesses of the chances or the odds in your head, then you have no hope, it's all just completely random. If you have some idea of what your chances are, then you have that much hope to go on. None of this of course has anything to do with whether things will turn out the way you want them. This isn't Oprah, people. Hoping things will become so will not under any circumstances make it more likely to become a reality. You have to act if you want things to happen, and if everything in your mind tells you it's impossible, then you're just being stupid. I've heard of people acting with good reason while everyone else thinks they're crazy, but believing something you don't think you have good reason for? That's wishful thinking in a nutshell, and there is no genie in that nutshell. You get zero wishes. Divide those wishes by the chances that you're right and you get FUCK.

If a person is left without real chances of success, if they have nowhere to go, and things aren't likely to work out, then that's just sad. Can we accept that? Terminally ill patients, people under oppression, and people with very serious life-altering ailments are under unfortunate, often terrible circumstances, and that sucks. It's awful that bad things happen to good people, so can we just acknowledge that little fact? It's probably one of the more important things you'll ever learn, so don't pray for people, don't hope that Jesus will descend from the clouds and make everything picture perfect, DO SOMETHING. The only morally reasonable options are a) do something to give people hope b) if you have no hope, either try to fight all the way anyway or come to terms with it or c) cope. Being in a circumstance where you have no hope and can't do anything about it and can't even come to terms with it is probably the saddest thing conceivable, and you can only do what you can to get by until your suffering can be alleviated. But that is not how people who can act for the better ought to be thinking. Don't try to cope with the fact that there's no justice, no peace, no loving God in sight. Accept reality for what it is and work for the better.

So no, clearly-not-my-actual-mother, I don't have faith in the expanding universe, or anything else for that matter. I don't assume, trust, or hope that it is so. I'm what I call "reasonably certain with some degree of falsifiability". I'm also reasonably certain that regardless of the baseless, broad, insulting, stupid, offensive, demented, illogical, arrogant, authoritarian, high-minded, pseudo-philosophical, self-proclaimed to be "humble" bullshit claims that you have, that you're also reasonably certain about most things in life too.

I therefore have no use for the word faith, except to define that meaningless quality in certain religious contexts in which so many are still so intellectually preoccupied and so overly emotionally-invested. Belief, assumption, trust, love, and hope are all fine concepts all on their own. Faith has nothing to do with any of them.

Fuck faith.

"Faith is believing what you know ain't so." - Mark Twain