Sunday, August 14, 2005

Oh, no... horrible, worst thing... worse than turning into tree.

Monday, August 08, 2005


For example, I am familiar, by this point in my life, with too much of Hinduism and Buddhism to believe that the tenets of those traditions have not taken root in my own faith. Maybe it's my own idiosyncrasy--I can't read most things dispassionately; I can't not try to imagine what it would be like to be enlightened; I have to try to imagine an enlightened (in the Buddhist sense) Christian. (I don't claim any expertise here, not enough expertise anyway to suppose that my imaginings are worth anything.) I know, for example, that my understanding of eternal life is grossly heterodox--in the credo, I'm with it completely except (and exactly so) for the words "We look for the resurrection of the dead." I'm quite sure that when I die, the creature Cameron will be annihilated, and that's probably the best thing for Cameron; there is a reward that doesn't really include "Cameron lives forever" as such. The difficulty lies in the fact that this "one" aberration extends more or less naturally into almost everything about my faith--sin, hell, reward, sainthood, and so forth. (If you're curious about what I'm talking about, I'm happy to share, but it probably shouldn't be posted on a blog, at least not now.) For now, I'm sharing this as an illustration of how small perturbations can change the whole nature of a belief system.

From the perspective of protecting the true doctrines of faith, syncretism is terribly dangerous, even in the most miniscule doses. If you've wondered how to get from the Beatitudes to horrors like the auto de fe without invoking cynicism and realpolitik among religious leaders, I think this is your answer. It is possible to believe that a minor alteration of the truth is as completely wrong as anything else, and believing that, it is a small step to rooting out heresy at any cost--no need for cynicism. Most of those reading this post are not religious people, so I imagine that this little discussion hasn't been terribly interesting. It's a useful exercise, even so, to examine what you believe, especially the things you believe based on some source, canonized or not, and determine what parts of that belief don't really come from that source. Well, it's useful for me.

Okay, Imma stop now.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Imaginary Books (4)

Here's some more, and some of them were gifts. You should take a look at Tyson's offerings in the comments to the last imaginary books post; at least one of them almost made me fall out of my chair.

Mickey Mouse is a Rat: Disney and the Mob

Operators Manual for the Motorola 83V, Digital Phallus Modulator for Male Creatures

A Study of Links Between Asthmatic Symptoms and Uncontrolled Cuticle Growth from the J. of Statistical Holistic Medicine, 1977.

Rectilinear Approximations to Female Libido Outperform Maximum Likelihood Models from the Bulletin of the Psychistorical Modeling, 2007.

The Deeper Meaning of =

When I was on Fire

Set a Man on Fire, and He'll be Warm for the Rest of His Life

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


what a dick.

People like to say nasty things about all sorts of intellectual people--Derrida and Foucault come to mind, Darwin, Marx, etc. I am of the opinion, however, that Freud was, at least, one of the most corrupting, corrosive influences on reasonable discourse in the history of history. I'm not much of a Freud scholar; I've read two or three books of his essays, but on the whole, very little of it sticks in my head because, I think, it's so contrived that my mind has nothing to hang on to. (On the other hand, I'm not even sure it's Freud himself that I have a problem with.)

Why does this come up today? Well, I'll tell ya. Yesterday, I got myself involved in an argument about atheism. (I do this unfortunately often, and in my circles it's usually just me against quite a mob of folks.) When this happens I am frequently subjected to claims like the following:

To the religious mind, the payoff is the imagined safety from the existential struggle, especially the fear of death and eternal oblivion. All religion evolves from overwhelming fear -- fundamental, all-consuming, visceral fear -- so devastating that it will sacrifice reason, honor, children, cultures and nations just to placate an imaginary placebo god. If you believe, it matters not how silly the belief is, nor what price you have to pay -- it gets you through the night of existence.

It's like there wasn't ever a man named Kierkegaard or something. That aside, I'm not sure why one would expect that so precise an indictment of "all religion" would turn out even half correct, given how many different forms religion takes, even among the adherents to a single story. When I hear this sort of thing from a person, I hear in it the little snippets of half-learned, half-remembered, half-imagined psychoanalysis that have burrowed so deeply into our minds. There was a time when one could happily assume that other people were conscious agents.

Carry on.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Someone probably already said this

All sorts of people are freaking out about racial/ethnic profiling in "randomly" searching bags in subway stations. Now, I'm sure it's true that most of the likely terrorists are from the Muslim world (not that Afghans, say, are easily identifiable as "middle-easterners," and brown people can un-brown quite a bit if they stay out of the sun), but does no one remember that the second most deadly terrorist attack in American history was committed by guy named McVeigh?

That said, here's something I haven't heard any one else say. Suppose we are successful in suppressing terrorist attacks of the London Underground scale. Suppose we stymie attacks intended to kill even 5-15 people. Then we've limited the body count of a successful terrorist attack to 1-2 people at most. Living in America, that isn't terribly frightening. An illin' heroin addict is probably just as likely to get you as a terrorist. But the point of terrorism is to scare the shit out of you--so how are they going to frighten you? I draw your attention, then, to the possibility of random acts of torture. It's easy to make a good approximation to napalm in bottle, squirt it all over an arbitrary white guy, and set him on fire. What do you do to stop that?

I'm just taking the long view here.