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Old Blog Posts June 19, 2006

Subject Book Review: “A History Of God” Part 1
Posted Date: June 19, 2006 – Monday – 2:43 PM

My family is mostly Evangelical Christians. They could be called Charismatic, or even more specifically Pentacostal. They pretty much think of themselves as “non-denominational” Christians, though. We pray and go to Church; and fervently believe The Bible is the infallible “Word Of God”, to be taken as literally as possible. The historical man Jesus Christ is also God, and only by acknowledging this and submitting to Him can you be “saved”. That is how we thought…

Being saved is very important; if you were not “born again” then you were destined for hell fire. “Non-Christians” and even many Christians are damned, if their doctrine is too different from our doctrine. But it is important to show these people how powerful “God’s Love” is, so that they can be saved too. To not witness about Jesus was also grounds for hell fire, btw. What kind of evil person would just let people go to Hell without warning them! Many times this really screwed up relationships, though. For some reason most people don’t want to hear about how they’re going to Hell unless they repent. And apparently being friends with someone just to get them saved wasn’t appreciated either.

But don’t get me wrong. Community is very important to Christian evangelicals, but not so much secular Community unless you were witnessing. Many times the people in your church are your best friends. Helping each other, living together, praying and playing. It is very safe and supportive; affirms your belief and strengthens your faith.

I knew some people who weren’t Christians; mainly family members who weren’t saved and the people in the neighborhood. We went to a Christian school. Rarely would these people be talked about without someone wishing that they would get saved like us.

When I was a kid I pretty much accepted all the above as the facts of life, both the good and the bad. I didn’t much question what I was being taught on Sunday or at school. But I knew there was more out there.

I was a big reader; the first “adult” book I read was “The Good Earth”, but Pearl S Buck. It had death, life, sex, poverty, terror, drugs, love, hate, redemption, faithfulness, anger. It was quite eye opening for a nine year old. I really liked science fiction, adventure tales, and mysteries. Mainly I only read the classics, as my parents and school distrusted anything too modern.

At 12 years old I decided to read the Bible. I had a pretty good idea of what it was about; and I knew plenty of key evangelical scriptures by heart, of course. But I hadn’t really “gotten in deep” with the scripture. So I started reading. Well, it had death, life, sex, poverty, terror, drugs, love, hate, redemption, faithfulness, anger. Sweet!

The guide suggested I read the books out of order, starting with the Gospels, then some Moses books followed by some Acts and Proverbs. But I ignored all that and just started at the beginning. The Creation of the world. Adam and Eve, Cane and Abel. The Tower of Babble. Noah and the Ark. And Moses…wow. What a guy he was; completely nuts. Charlton Heston was awesome in that role.

The whole time God was kicking major butt for the Jews, too. I mean; they were his chosen people. I could relate to that some. I knew Christians were now the chosen people just like the Jews were then.

But then I got into the books of law, and things got pretty weird. Now I understand why they have guides; it’s dangerous to read this stuff without guidance! Honestly, it scared me. The thing that freaked me was I hadn’t even heard of most of the rules in these books. I mean; we were taught some of them, but not very many. This led to the first chink in my “armor of faith”.

As an adult, I understand more why this really hit me. For example, here’s a a couple of verses:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.
Leviticus 18:22

Also you shall not approach a women to uncover her nakedness as long as she is in her customary impurity.
Leviticus 18:19

First verse is about fags, second is about rags. While both may be gross to some, many Christians are definitely against homosexuality, and probably don’t even know about the verse right next to it. “Sorry pastor, but we have to ask. Did you have sex with your wife while she was on her period?”

Even Christians weren’t following ALL the Bible, and didn’t think they had too! And I didn’t blame them; most of this stuff didn’t make any sense. But somehow these same people also said the Bible was infallible and contained the only law. I was confused.

Later my theology became more sophisticated, as I got into the New Testament, but somehow even then these questions never had a good answer. Jesus had come to “fulfill” the law and set us free from it, so why were we following some of them and not others? Is the Bible infallible, or is it out of date? Who gets to choose which is which?

I didn’t un-realize all this at twelve, of course, but it was the start. There are many History’s of God. More to come, but you should read this book…

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Subject Book Review: Illuminatus! The Trilogy
Posted Date: June 9, 2006 – Friday – 4:03 PM
An insane romp through the ultimate conspiracy theory, “Illuminatus! The Trilogy” reminds me that our generation didn’t invent irony.

Written in the late 60s to early 70s, it predates Foucault’s Pendulum and that other really popular book by…what’s his name…Dan Broooowwwwn…that’s it! And now Ron Howard is directing the movie version. Enh…I’ll rent it. Although I just rented “Date Movie” and I kind of enjoyed it, so maybe I’m not that good of a judge.

Illuminatus! has everything Dan Brown doesn’t. Does Dan Brown have talking dolphins, submarines to Atlantis and a conversation with Leviathan? Does he have societies so secret they don’t even know they exist? And Ayn Rand spewing anarchist libertarians? Does he have Arificial Intelligence, Cthulhu, and John Dillinger? I thought not.

In one scene, the 50 foot Goddess Eris throws the Apple of Discord at the Nazi golem who are trying to kill the people at the European woodstock. This causes the Nazis to fight each other over the Apple (the heart’s desire), allowing the crowd to slip across a floating bridge to safety, hallucinating the whole time (the crowd was, not the bridge, of course). An agent of Discordia had secretly dumped LSD into the communal coolade, and it was a hot day.

You see, a bunch of very evil men were trying to “immanentize the eschaton“, so they could become immortal energy like Billy Graham. And they needed a lot of people to die to do that.

And then things get a little complicated.

If you’ve ever watch the six oclock news and thought it hilarious, this book’s for you. Or if you you think Sarah Silverman is funny and not just hot. “Well you see son, mommy is one of the chosen people, and daddy believes that Jesus is magic”. Or maybe if you think ponies are really nice…I don’t know. Really, if you love to read you’ll love this book. And if you don’t love to read, did I mention that it’s filled with lots of sex, tons of drugs, and some rock and roll?

Anyway, here are some principles of Discordia:
———————————————————————-

To diverse gods
Do mortals bow;
Holy Cow, and
Wholly Chao.

———————————————————————-

GREATER POOP: Is Eris true?
MALACLYPSE THE YOUNGER: Everything is true.
GP: Even false things?
M2: Even false things are true.
GP: How can that be?
M2: I don’t know man, I didn’t do it.

———————————————————————

“The rights of a “Pope” (everybody is Pope) include but are not necessarily limited to:

1. To invoke infallibility at any time, including retroactively.
2. To completely rework the Erisian church.
3. To baptise, bury, and marry (with the permission of the deceased in the latter two cases).
4. To ex-communicate, de-ex-communicate, re-ex-communicate, and de-re-ex-communicate (no backsies!) both his-/her-/it-/them-/your-/our-/His-/Her-/It-/Them-/Your-/Our-self/selves and others (if any).
5. To perform all rites and functions deemed inappropriate for a Pope of Discordia.”

————————————————————————–

The Law of Fives states simply that: ALL THINGS HAPPEN IN FIVES, OR ARE DIVISIBLE BY OR ARE MULTIPLES OF FIVE, OR ARE SOMEHOW DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY APPROPRIATE TO 5.

The Law of Fives is never wrong.

——————————————————

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Subject Games of Chance and The Mark of the Beast
Posted Date: June 8, 2006 – Thursday – 10:57 AM
Washington state recently made it a Class C Felony to gamble online. To put this in perspective, Felonies are most often issued for “aggravated assault, arson, burglary, murder, and rape.” You know, when you fill out a job application, where they ask you if you are a felon?

Our legislature claims this was to bring our laws more in line with federal laws. Whatever. Currently no one has ever been arrested for gambling online, ever, even though it is technically a misdememeanor.

That the punishment does not fit the crime should be obvious, even the common law “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” would tell you this (we may think this phrase is barbaric, but it was actually very moderate for it’s time).

In fact, crimes where the victim harms only himself have always been tough to “punish”; they belong more on the “treatment” side of law enforcement. IE: How do you “punish” someone for attempting to commit suicide, or shooting up heroin? I wish this was better understood. But I digress…

But here’s what I wanted to comment on:

From Komo:
“Lawmakers who supported the law say all gambling in Washington is regulated, but online gambling is different. ‘It’s too difficult to police’ says co-sponsor Senator Karen Keiser.”

IE: “Because a behavior is difficult to police, we’re going to make it a serious crime.” This sort of logic could be used to pass some pretty terrible laws! Like ones that say it’s legal to play games in a physical casino, but punishable with years in prison if played at an online casino.

I understand the sentiment; and am fully aware that “the house always wins”. Being a poker player, I come face to face with plenty of degenerate gamblers in the casinos, on the roulette table and sitting at the slot machines. In fact, it was depressing me so much that I pretty much only play in card rooms these days, where you play against each other and the house “rents” the table for a small cut of the action (Poker is a game of skill and strategy; similar to Backgammon, and I can prove it).

With the gradual erosion of Fourth Amendment rights, these unfair and unjust laws will become more enforceable. At the very least we may learn the handy phrase, “Enforcement discretion” (children call this “Not Fair!”), which is the only true reason to have laws like this.

In other gambling news, a judge ordered two bickering attorneys to play Rock, Paper, Scissors to make a decision on something small. This isn’t as odd as it seems, RPS, throwing dice, drawing cards and other “games of chance” have traditionally used to settle disputes as well as to wager money. Chance may be a harsh mistress, but she is ever impartial.

Tarot Cards, I Ching sticks, Astrology, etc also tap into the power of chance. Randomness gets mixed with mythic archetypes to make the actors more sensitive to patterns in their own unconscious. Well, that’s how I see it, at least.

Chance is also used in the mathematics of “Game Theory”, which, dispite it’s silly name, is a highly evolved and quite useful field of mathematics. Computers also use quasi-random numbers for many things, but if I told you then I’d have to kill you.

And since you’re reading this, 6/6/6 passed without any incident, unless you count the fact that Hollywood is completely out of ideas. Oh yeah, and this lady’s car broke down.

FYI, the word for “fear of 666” is Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. Not to be confused with “Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia”, which is the fear of long words.

Doctor: “I’m sorry sir, but you have Hippopotomonstrosesqui-”
Patient: “Ahhhhh! Ahhhhh! Ahhhhh!”
Doctor: “-pedaliophobia. Oh. Sorry.”
Patient: “Ahhhhh! Ahhhhh! Ahhhhh!”

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Subject Arius: The First Christian Heretic
Posted Date: June 5, 2006 – Monday – 11:02 AM

It was about 300 years after the death of Christ, and things were going pretty well for the Christian church. In the West, persecution by Rome had ceased due to Constantine’s Edict of Milan, which ended all religious persecution across the empire and restored the wealth that had been stolen in previous years.

As is human nature, now that they weren’t under direct threat Christians started arguing with each other. The Bible had not been canonized yet, so there were many different “flavors” of Christianity, not yet one catholic (Greek for “universal”) faith.

It was a theologian named Arius started all the trouble. His question appeared harmless at first glance, “How could Jesus Christ have been God in the same way as God the Father”.

Arius was actually very moderate for the time; he did not deny the divinity of Christ, but considered him a “lesser god”. And he was able to use accepted scriptures of the time to back himself up. Being a musician, he set this to song and the debate spread across the land.

Arius’ bishop had an assistant named Athanasius, who strongly disagreed with Arius. Jesus Christ was fully and completely God, and also fully and completely Man. He was equal with the Creator, as was the Holy Spirit. Thus the concept of the “Trinity” was made concrete. Athanasius also believed that to deny the full divinity of Christ was to earn eternal damnation.

A theological war broke out, with both sides supported at some points and banished at others. Athanasius himself was banished at least 5 times, although not all banishments were due to theology. This controversy went on for quite some time, and for some believers it continues to this day.

Near the end of his life, Arius gained a chance to sway things his way, with Constantine calling him back from exile and commanding Athanasius to reconcile Arius with the Church. Athanasius refused to do this; and Arius gained entrace with the Emporor. After he presented his Creed, Constantine declared his works orthodox and ordered Alexander (Arius’ and Athanasius’ old bishop) to give Arius communion. But quite suddenly Arius died under unusual and embarrasing circumstances, most likely due to poisoning.

So in the newly forming Universal Church, Athanasius view of God prevailed; and he went on to be a very influential theologian; even to being the first to identify the New Testament Canon, and today he is considered “The Father of Orthodoxy”.
Whether or not he murdered Arius, Athanasius has been criticized for using physical force, bribery, and excommunication to enforce “Gods” will. His defense was that he was saving future Christian souls from Hell; a justification repeated many times throughout history. Father of Orthodoxy indeed.

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Subject An Inconvenient Truth
Posted Date: May 27, 2006 – Saturday – 1:56 PM
An Inconvenient Truth opens across the nation this week; it will be in Seattle on June 2nd. Please see this movie.

Environmentalism started in the 60s, and was a basic tenant of the flower children. Unfortunately this made environmentalism a religious or political thing, piting average small town America against the godless communist hippies. So when Global Warming was first suspected; liberals believed in it and conservatives didn’t. In general; people follow the party line.

But I’d like to point out that neither politicians, liberals, or conservatives discovered Global Warming! Scientists were actually the first ones to notice that things were going haywire. But things take time in science; tests needed to be made; data needed to be checked and validated. Predictions made and confirmed. As more and more scientists did this; it became clear that the earth was warming rapidly; and carbon dioxide was the problem. Eventually a scientific consensus emerged (just like in other fields like physics or biology), pinning primary causes on deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels.

So please, this should not be a political issue anymore; it’s a real scientific fact, observed and verified

Of course that doesn’t mean that every little detail is correct. The ecosystem is incredibly complex; and behaves in a chaotic manner. Weather is also extremely unpredictable on some levels (“Will it rain in Seattle tomorrow?”), and very predictable on others (spring comes before summer, and “Will it rain in Death Valley tomorrow?”). in fact, a meteorologist was the first person who discovered a fractal, and subsequent research led to Chaos Theory.

PS: Check out this article:
“Nevertheless, data trump politics, and a convergence of evidence from numerous sources has led me to make a cognitive switch on the subject of anthropogenic global warming. My attention was piqued on February 8 when 86 leading evangelical Christians (the last cohort I expected to get on the environmental bandwagon) issued the Evangelical Climate Initiative calling for national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon emissions.”

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Subject Scott Adams and the Exploding Deity
Posted Date: July 5, 2006 – Wednesday – 3:17 PM

I was actually going to blog about this book called Against All Enemies that my buddy Ethan loaned me, but I got distracted. I had recommended the book God’s Debris to my friend Suzanne, and ended up trying to write down my thoughts on that book instead.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert wrote this book,and has even made it available online for free. It’s a though experiment wrapped in a story. The premise is the skeptic’s creed; “The simplest explanation is usually right. The thought experiment is Try to figure out what’s wrong with the simplest explanation. Sounds simple.

The main character is an old man called “Avatar”; he knows everything and is the voice of God on earth. He has a number of conversations with a delivery man, in which he makes many claims and discusses a bunch of things; like probability, free will, omnipotence, belief, and science. For those who have your mind made up about most things, this book will just give you a headache. For others it’s an enjoyable, albeit jarring, experience.

It’s a tough book to write about, though. The whole thought experiment makes you very aware of the words you use, and the concepts that you express. It’s humbling, really; to realize that our answers to everything are shallow and destined to be incomplete. This is a good thing, though; it’s an accurate perspective. I can proudly say it’s made me a little more humble!* :)

Rather than cover all the topics, I’ll just talk about one small part, and then throw in some clever quotes.

Probability. How does a coin know to come up heads and tails 50% of the time each? Why are bubbles round? How does cancer happen? Probability. Personality, genetics, environment and weather, and the stock market. All obey probability rules, up too galaxy clusters and down much smaller than a grain of sand. It’s important to note that humans we are not exempt! We have an X chance of being a boy/girl, black/white, healthy/sick, good/bad, live/dead etc. (Why do good people die and bad people live?).

Even the basic building blocks of reality obey probabilistic laws. Absolute knowledge and reality are denied us at a fundamental level. Probability expresses the limitation of human experience and thought, and per Quantum Mechanics it is also a principle of nature.

One could say that from a scientific point of view there is only probability, and no observable absolutes can even exist outside of that. As the old man says, The answer IS that the question has no why. I love that; it comes close to expressing something…

As I re-read the book, I noticed that the arguments of Avatar were less compelling than the first time around; they seemed more contrived and much more incomplete. Scott Adams would appreciate that; he would say his thought experiment was working.

If this interests you, check out the free ebook at the link above.

Here are some quotes from Gods Debris:

What sort of arrogance assumes God is like people?

Delivery Man: If God doesn’t have free will, he wouldn’t be very omnipotent
Avatar: Indeed. And being omnipotent, God must be able to peer into his own future…
Delivery Man: “Yeah, I know; you’re going to say that if he sees his own future, then his choices are predetermined
Avatar: Omnipotence is trickier than it seems.

(for me, this whole conversation is like trying to describe up and down to a person from Flatland, only one dimension up).

Scientists often invent words to fill the holes in their understanding…

A (true) belief in God would demand 100% obsessive devotion, influencing every waking moment of this brief life on earth.

At some level of consciousness, everyone knows that the odds of picking the true religion-if such a thing exists-are nil.

We are God’s Debris.

from Wikipedia:

In a letter to Borh Einstein writes: “Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the Old One. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.”

Bohr, who sparred with Einstein on quantum theory, retorted, ‘Stop telling God what He must do!’

(I heart Bohr…)

 

*Numbers 12:3: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” This seems innocent, until you remember that Moses supposedly WROTE Numbers!

 

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Subject Snpllenig is an iulloisn
Posted Date: June 26, 2006 – Monday – 3:16 PM
jsut raed tihs…….. I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are witren, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azmanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas thought sepllnig was ipmorantt! Ceehrs !
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Subject Book Review: “A History Of God” Part 2
Posted Date: June 24, 2006 – Saturday – 9:40 AM

Someone pointed out that my previous book review had little or nothing to do with the actual book. Well, I’m getting to it…eventually. The title wasn’t just a play on a Mel Brooks movie; I actually planned to follow up.

I guess it’s impossible to talk about God without having all these subjective feelings on the matter; and without being able to make objective statements. I think most people have imagined something bigger than themselves, and then imagined something bigger than that. Pretty soon you imagine the biggest thing, and that’s one of the more generic descriptions of God.

An even better description would be the being beyond the thing beyond the biggest thing. Or even better, the un-being beyond the things, as God can not really be called a being.

Not that this makes any sense. Talking about God in a factual way becomes impossible, because he becomes beyond fact. But also thinking of him in an emotional or personal way is not complete, because he (she) is beyond a subjective viewpoint as well. Many mystics and wise men resort to paradoxical and contrary statements to try to express these problems. God is nothing and God is everything are both true. God is not only mysterious, he is beyond mystery.

This hasn’t stopped people from speaking for God, though. Many prophets and preachers have spoken throughout the ages, and different Religions have been formed out of these teachings, and out of the teachings of their followers. So you could say that God has a history; or at least the search for God has a history.

When it comes to learning things, I’m much more comfortable with facts than stories and mythology. Facts always seem real to me, while stories were for amusement. I only gradually realized there are stories that teach us things, and these stories include both facts and mythology.

Science is very wise in this one way, that it recognizes that fact is story. It then ruthlessly weeds out stories that are not based on objective proof, and keeps the ones that are. Religion, on the other hand, is interested in stories that cannot be proven, that require faith.

The History of God is the history of an exploration of the unknown and unproven. It has many leaps of faith, taking us beyond anything we thought possible. This includes many evil things, but also includes many good things. Like everything else humans do, really. Christianity and Islam both have their roots in Judaism; and all three have many things in common.

All worship the One God, and have infallible written scriptures of various forms. All three have revered their prophets, and recognize Abraham as the first prophet of God. All three have formed or taken over large societies, and many times made those societies more humanistic and progressive than anything before. But they have also abused and warped society, making it oppressive, violent, and domineering. All three have had times of debate and formation of dogma, and all three have entered periods where no new dogma can be formed.

Anybody who believes in Islam, Christianity, or Judaism should read this book, at the very least to try to understand a little bit about the different relationships; the histories between their religion and the other two. I dare say you could learn a thing or two about your own religion as well!

Anybody who doesn’t believe should read this book to try and understand what all the fuss is about. And then you can have intelligent things to say when people start talking about this stuff. The next time someone tells you something is biblical you can start wisely spouting off about the Pentateuch, the Ecumenical Councils, Martin Luther’s revisions (he was a rabid anti-Semite), and the historical debate over Revelations. Not that this proves anything, but it sure throws them off track!

The truth is, nothing man made is infallible; and religion and scripture are man made. God is a subjective experience in that every mans view of God is different, or he may not believe in him at all. But is is also an objective experience, with people of the same and different faiths experiencing similar things. Religion can be great, when it is combined with realistic humility, but it can be terrible when combined with our own prejudice.
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Subject Distance, Emptiness, and the 11 Mile Web Page
Posted Date: June 22, 2006 – Thursday – 2:44 PM
If an atom where 22 miles across, the proton would be about 14 inches and the electron about 1/72nd of an inch.

That’s hard to think about. 100 000 000 to 1 000 to 1. Our minds aren’t wired for those kinds of ratios. After all, they don’t help us procreate or avoid being eaten.

Even so, some guys put together a webpage to demonstrate the size of an atom. For some reason scrolling across that page reminds me of looking up at a mountain or staring between the stars. Something to do with perspective…

cl

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Subject Ever wonder what a million birds look like?
Posted Date: June 22, 2006 – Thursday – 3:35 AM
They look like thumbprints.
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