Archive

Archive for the ‘Book Walkthroughs’ Category

By A Preponderance…

December 4, 2017 Leave a comment

We left off with the idea that we need some sort of deity in order to be moral. A ridiculous claim that even my religious students do not stand by. We’re still searching for the evidence that the book promised…

Continuing on with his decrying of the morality of the non-believer he begins citing the bible. Sigh, the problem here should be obvious. If he’s going to be claiming proof, undeniable proof, then he can’t cite evidence that requires you already believe. That’s a perfect example of question begging. This line from 2 Thessalonians 1:9 “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power,” begins our conversation about hell. The “These” in that line are those that do not obey the gospel of Jesus. Which, is a little weird, since there is very little to obey in those books.

Now, now, I’m not retreading the mythicist line about that not being a real person. I’m talking about the four books themselves. There’s very little to obey. Most of the books are stories about Jesus, but as far as obeying there’s very little. What is there is sometimes contradictory, i.e. Matthew’s Jesus says that we must obey the laws of the prophets (Old Testament laws) while Luke’s Jesus says (16:16) that they don’t matter anymore since John the Baptist. Just sticking with Matthew we are told to let all those see our good words (5:16) but then to not do that and instead do our good works privately and not bring attention to them (6:1, 23:3-5). So who goes to Hell? Those that do good and slap their names on the side of buildings or those that do works and never talk about them? In both cases we have individuals that are both following and not following the gospels. In both cases these are “red letter” passages, meaning they come from the mouth of Jesus and not some epistle writer.

God, according to our author, respects our free will in much the same way that a person with a gun against your head demanding your money respects it as well. You’re free to not give it, but the consequences are there. Which, fine, a religious person has to believe this. However, I’ve written time and time again that if the only thing keeping a person moral is the threat of hell, it’s not morality it’s compulsion. A moral act ought to be done without the consequence in mind. If I tell the truth I should do so not because of the threat of hell but because I have an intrinsic respect for the truth (whether that be Kantian, Utilitarian, or some notion of Justice).

Palaszewski then wraps up this chapter with speaking of the most important event in the history of time–the sacrifice of Jesus. Which, again, is only something if you already believe it. There’s no evidence for the non-believer to accept here. He’s merely assuming the conclusion and then using that to justify the premise. Here’s where he’s going to get himself into trouble. Let’s assume that the story happened and that Palaszewski’s earlier remarks are also true. Good? Having a problem? You should be because it’s contradictory.

If God respects our free will and allows our choices to dictate whether we go to hell or not then how has he been punishing people prior to the sacrifice of Jesus? According to Catholic doctrine (and most Christian doctrines) heaven is opened by Jesus’ death. This means that prior to this, it doesn’t matter what kind of choices you made you were still going to Hell because you couldn’t have known about Jesus or this gospel. Some Catholic thought tries to work around this by offering the Purgatory solution. That all of the prior dead, still under the sin of Adam, were not in Hell but Purgatory and when Jesus was dead for those two days (it’s not three, not by any measurement of time) he lifted them up. This is provided you had only committed venial sins and not mortal sins the latter of which is automatic hell. Again though, that is required that you knew the difference between them. Nevertheless it is the fallacy of special pleading, we have to accept the existence of this purgatory which is not mentioned in the Bible in order to justify this contradiction.

I have two kids: one was baptized and the other was not (long story). Does this mean that the one with at least the exposure to church goes to heaven and the other doesn’t simply by virtue of that exposure? According to our author, yes. Yet, it’s not exactly their choice at this point. The same goes for someone born in China, while they may be aware of Christianity, they are more than likely not believers so according to the author they are going to Hell because they aren’t fulfilling their life’s sole purpose in worshipping god. That’s not the respect of free will because those kids in China did not have the opportunity.

Thus far, nearly half way through this book, we’ve seen no evidence, no argument, no proof of the truth of Christianity or Jesus. Instead, I must ask: what am I reading? Given what we’ve gone through so far, I’m reading a book that is designed to give arguments to people that already believe so that they can throw them at non-believers. It also serves the point of making believers think that they have some kind of intellectual foundation for their preconceived notions. The biggest problem though is that these aren’t good arguments. They might confound a new atheist, but a mere introduction into informal fallacies will quickly nullify anything this book is saying. It’s pure counter knowledge.

Advertisements

Jingly Keys (By A Preponderance of the Evidence)

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve just about given up any hope that there will be some kind of evidence for “Jesus” in this book. The introduction was just that, ‘I believe in Jesus everyone else is wrong, but here’s the evidence for why you should believe.’ The first chapter was allegedly about framing the question correctly. Which, to be fair, is a good idea provided you actually do that and not go on a long screed against what the author perceives as “liberal/atheist/communist/etc. values.” The second chapter was allegedly about the search. Now, here I was hopeful because that might mean we should arrive at some modicum of evidence. Instead we were treated to incorrect historical facts and the referencing of people on the bad side of academic honesty. The third chapter is titled “Evil, Pain, and Hell.” Here’s the problem, before we even start the chapter: we know what this is about. It’s about the problem of evil. Fine, I’ll take it, however it’s weird that we’re already launching into apologetics for a thing we haven’t proven yet.

The normal course of this type of thing is to first establish the existence of the divine being then defend it against criticisms. This is assuming I’m going to give the person a pass on which deity it is that they’ve proven. To reference last time’s post, William Lain Craig doesn’t prove Jesus or the god of the Bible, he attempts to prove the existence of a divine power. With that “done” he then makes a giant leap and just says, “Jesus.” This the problem with using him as your academic foundation. So here we’re at a long chapter that is essentially one giant red herring: the problem of evil.

When we condemn the act or the evildoer, we tacitly acknowledge the reality of the law in our hearts. Yet if we use the existence of evil to deny the existence of God, we destroy the standard on which we may judge what is evil or good…We are left with a Utilitarian construct [sic] on which to build our world.

There’s a lot there and it’s in the second paragraph of the chapter, so we’re not getting very far today. First off, no we don’t tacitly acknowledge “the law” we acknowledge our emotional reaction to an event. That emotional reaction, can be based on a religious law but this is not a necessary condition of it. We have an emotion called “empathy” which causes us to react to the suffering of others when it has not been overlaid by other emotions such as hate. I can feel terrible about the mass shooting in Texas (the one in the church) even though I don’t know those people, share their belief system, or geographic location. I can feel bad for the people who died in the earthquake in Iran, even though, I’m told they hate me. Why? Because they are human beings and I don’t want to see people suffer. This has nothing to do with some kind of “law.” I’m not acknowledging anything.

Palaszewski misunderstands the “epicurean paradox” (not actually Epicurus’) as well. The paradox does not disprove the existence of God, a God, or many Gods. What it does is disprove the need to worship the being, or that it has any kind of involvement in our world. It is, in essence, an argument for Deism. The whole point is that that the belief in a god that cares about human suffering is silly because if that god existed it’s not doing anything about it and is thus uninvolved. It doesn’t matter which prong of the paradox you want to latch on to: whether not able, not willing, or not knowing; the very idea that the evil exists means that the god is not involved in the world. The Epicureans, who again did not come up with this paradox, believed that gods existed but that they were just different beings with a wholly distinct type of existence. The paradox also argues against religious devotion, because, as the Epicureans actually argued the gods don’t need or want worship. Perfect beings don’t “need” because that implies deficiency.

Denying the existence of god does not deny the source for morality. Even the author knows this because he cites one that was made famous by the atheistic philosopher John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism is not, as he characterizes it, doing whatever is useful. It is whatever contributes to the common good or lessens the amount of bad in the world . Typically, this is gauged with pleasure v. pain. No god needed. That’s just one: Aristotle’s virtue ethics, the Epicurean and Stoic schools, Kant’s imperatives, Rawl’s theory of justice, etc. All of these do not require a god. Hell, even Aquinas’s doctrine of double effect doesn’t need a god to resolve moral conflicts, it’s just that the underlying foundation for his ethics is based on the bible and Catholic teachings–but you could run his five point system without being religious very easily (easier than running through a 12 step program while being an atheist).

The author is right about one thing though: moral laws do require a standard. It can’t just be arbitrary moral relativism. However, what he gets wrong is that it needs to be a divine being, and specifically it needs to be the divine Jesus being. The problem is that he’s assuming the conclusion–which all moral arguments for the existence of god do. The existence of morals only proves “god” if you have already begged the question that god exists.

The standard apologetic move is then to wash away all things with “free will.” God allows people to be evil because of free will. This is little comfort to the victims who did not choose to get murdered/raped/robbed but it’s their go to argument. The issue here is that the will can assent to commit an act without that act being successful. If I intend to commit genocide, fully intend to do it, that should be the immorality not my success. The god being could thwart the consequence of evil and still punish those intending it. Otherwise we’re left with a weird contradiction between Jesus telling us that adultery is looking at a woman with lust in your eyes and a purely consequentialist position of being successful at evil meaning that I would have to have intercourse with a woman not my wife. It can’t be both, that’s a contradiction.

Is God? “Jesus BY A Preponderance of the Evidence” IV

September 4, 2017 Leave a comment

Is God what? You might be asking. Well me too, but that’s not our author’s point. The entire point is to shorten the question down to two words so that it seems so simple, but then to spend thirty pages trying to explain those two words in such a way that “is god?” seems like a deep and thoughtful question. “Is god?” makes about as much sense as asking “are peaches?” but because we’re dealing with the g-word people just assume there’s more to the story.

Which is something religion gets away with all of the time. Just put the phrase, “well from a theological perspective” in front of any stupid question and people will consider it to be meaningful. A person can justify just about any ridiculous behavior by claiming that the behavior is “part of their religion” and all of the sudden it’s treated with at least the appearance of respect…unless you’re a scientologist, everyone’s pretty on board with ridiculing them. Don’t want to speak to your wife for a week? Just say it’s part of the religion. Now, it’s somehow less bad.

What I realized during this month’s preparation work is that this is going to be awhile. The book itself is around 150 pages. I’m skipping the anecdotes, so I’ve got about 130 pages to read. We’ve already arrived at page 23, meaning we’re 1/6th of the way through on post 4. The problem though is that today’s post covers ONE page. That’s not a good sign, but there’s so much here that I can’t just move on.

The chapter begins discussing how “Is God?” is the most important question in our lives. I wonder if the author was tired of writing “does god exist?” and just shortened it out, because that’s the meaning of his two word question. Let’s ignore a continuing diatribe on how dumb this is, and get to the meaning of the assertion. Is it the most important question? There are two answers to my question. The first is “yes” if the answer to the question is “yes.” If we can prove god is real, then that necessitates that it becomes the most important question. This would then be followed by other questions such as “Is god Christian?” “Is god Muslim?” Hindu? etc. Then we would have to parse out the sects, schisms, and heresies; i.e. the history of the world up until recently. If the answer is “not yes” because nothing has been proven, we can just move on with our lives and get to more important things. Of course, for some people, who believe the answer is “yes” it’s important despite that it’s not an objectively proven thing.

Of course, there are three answers to the question he actually intends on asking which he addresses, “Agnosticism is as much an answer as atheism or a profound faith in a Creator Law-Giver God.”

I love the bias of that statement. You’re either in the “don’t-know camp” the “don’t believe camp” or the “totally awesome deep admission of the one true divine power for whom you have a deep and meaningful relationship with camp.” At this point, we get that the author believes in, not only god, but Christian God and Christian Jesus, yet the point of this book is to show the objective evidence for such a belief. As I said earlier, we’re 1/6th of the way through and we’ve only gotten a list of what constitutes that proof and not the proof itself. So we’re still waiting on the proof. To be fair, he’s right: those are the only possible answers to the question. Win for him I guess.

According to him the answer to the question is important because “Where we believe that rights and obligations are defined by man, or are ‘naturally endowed by our creator,’ critically affects the workings of any civilization.” My general problem with this kind of assertion is that it’s often a false dichotomy. On the one hand, yes a society will be influenced by its morals. That much is certainly true. On the other hand, if those rights are naturally endowed then we ought not need a religious authority figure to explain them to us. Since, as he’s claiming, they are natural they would not need to be taught. Yet, we do need to be taught them, so they cannot be naturally endowed.

This reminds me of Adam Smith, who wrote “Wealth of Nations” as an ethics book wherein the basic thesis is that everyone acting in their own self-interest will naturally produce the best kind of society. I’m being way too short with it, but his point is that we will make laws and morals that protect ourselves but will be generalizable to the rest of society treating everyone the same. We don’t need a creator to instill morals and rules, we all want laws protecting us against murder because we don’t want to be murdered. The real problem for our author is that when religious laws invoking creator gods are established we often have more killing in the name of society than we do otherwise. Saudi Arabia is one of the most religious countries on Earth, and they have the death penalty for a great many things in the name of “the Creator.” We also have lists of laws in the religious texts that have nothing to do with morality but somehow the deity thinks that they are super-important. Prohibitions on tattoos, what to eat, wear, who we can speak to, etc. About five of the ten commandments, these are not laws about morality but religious tribalism laws. Thanks, I’ll pass.

Finally, he ends with claiming that our answer to the above question is given in a cultural context which then becomes the cultural idiom. Yes, agree completely…maybe not with the idiom part. One of my favorite podcasts is “God Awful Movies” where the three hosts watch and then ridicule what are known as “Christian Movies” (and some other religious movies). A recurring problem with these movies is when they tip their hand too much and reveal the sham of their belief. When the anti-Christ character in the Apocalypse movie turns out to want world peace and to feed the hungry, that’s tipping the hand, because he’s the villain the good guys are going to stop. Here our author has tipped it as well. He’s admitted that there is no proof and that his belief is cultural. I’ve said it before: the only thing stopping an evangelical pastor Kentucky from being an Imam in Riyadh is the geography of their birth. They both want the same thing, almost eerily so, but they dislike each other because they don’t worship the same book. Born in the US means you are statistically a Christian, whether you keep that or not is one thing, but that’s the cultural importance.

Hopefully we’ll start getting to some evidence soon. It would be helpful that he actually not pretend to have written a book about evidence and actually had done it.

Jesus By a Preponderance of the Evidence I

July 3, 2017 Leave a comment

This post is the first in a monthly series wherein I’ll go through the claims made by Robert Palaszewski in his book “Jesus By a Preponderance of the Evidence.” The subtitle of the book is “The Objective, Rational, Historical and Scientific Evidence for the Truth of Christianity.” The book is supposed to be an argument that not only was Jesus a historical figure, but also that the religion of Christianity is true. This implies that we’re going to prove the Jesus as Son of God idea as well.

I’ve read the first chapter and the first thing I need to lay out is that I’m skipping the “Journeys” sections. The reason is that they anecdotal, and I suspect made up, stories about people coming to Jesus. They are not proof of anything, if true, they only serve to prove one person’s journey, so there’s little to look at or do with. Personal accounts are not objective, they go against the grain of what the book describes itself as, and I’m not sure what they are doing here.

There is nothing but DNA. We are but a cosmic accident, products of nothing but chance. Therefore, we owe no allegiance outside of ourselves. God is chance. he is accident. He is the great Nothing. God is dead. The very notion of God is dead. We are free to remake ourselves in any image we want. We are free. We are masters of our own souls…”

This, the author claims is the mission statement of the current age [It’s also, itself italicized, but I’ll italicize any block quotes from the book]. And, oh boy, is there a lot to unpack in there. It’s claimed that this kind of statement (there’s more to it as well) is what the high priests of our time, the scientists, tell us. It however is not. I could probably write for the next month on just these three paragraphs but I’ll just have to pick one part. The notion of an “accident” is a popular one among the apologists. It offends the personal identification that we are somehow special amongst all of the other creatures in the Cosmos, but there’s little evidence that this is so–other than wanting it to be the case. It’s pure anthropomorphic justification for our place in the universe and is reminiscent of the more modern cosmological arguments that talk about universal constants and the odds against life that drive whatever authority this argument mysteriously still possesses. The real problem is, that “accident” is a matter of perspective; if you are a believer you can still buy the physics explanation for why we are here. Just ask the Catholic Church, they endorse it but then say that God is the Prime Mover in all of it.

The “God is Dead” thing drives me nuts. Yes, it comes from Nietzsche. Yes, he had syphilis and eventually went crazy (the book it comes from, Thus Spoke Zarathustra is from his middle period when he was about stage 2 of Syphilis). What needs to be kept in mind, is when and who says it. Nietzsche, puts the line into a fool character walking a tight rope. And cherry picking the quote is just stupid, the full line is “God is dead, and these are his tombs.” It’s a comment about how people mourn their religion inside dark places instead of celebrating it like the ancient Greeks/Romans did. Also, for an Atheist, god isn’t dead–he was never alive to begin with.

From that long screed we move on to Pontius Pilate. For some reason I’ve been seeing this a lot lately from the apologist crowd. In John 18:38 Pontius, while interrogating Jesus, asked “What is truth?” and this is somehow meant to be the rallying cry of those denying Jesus. However, and I can’t believe the biblical “scholars” ignore this, is the context of the quote. Never mind that it would be odd for an Atheist to be deriving authority from a line in the bible, but John 18:37 has Jesus telling Pilate that he is speaking the truth and his followers are those of the truth. When Pilate asks, “What is truth?” he’s not using it in the general sense, but referring to the thing that Jesus just said sense. Even if, and I would dispute this, Pilate were using it in a general sense the context of the conversation still revolves around him interrogating someone suspected of a crime. Pilate, and by extension non-Christians (as Pilate was likely not an atheist), are not advocating for epistemic relativism.

Yet that’s the tone filling out the rest of this section, what follows is a long screed about what people like me believe. I always find these entertaining, because apologists could just, I don’t know, ask. The takeaway here is that atheists are cultural and moral relativists. What’s good, is what I determine as good and I have no right to inflict that kind of judgment on anyone else because morality doesn’t derive from a divine source.

This leads into a discussion of all the ways that society is crumbling around us because we no longer Jesus hard enough. Violence and sex in pop-culture, violence in the streets, sexual liberation, etc. The usual accusations thrown at the next generation by the previous despite the facts that the world has actually been getting better. We even go so far as to cite a study which, in his words, “The Journal of the American Psychological Association can argue that pedophilia is not so bad.”

I found this rather shocking so I found the footnote (I hate endnotes) and checked the study. It says no such thing. What the study actually determined was that the stereotype of the damaged victim of sexual abuse was just that, a stereotype. While there was long term damage the general assumption that the victims were “lost causes” was not borne out by the evidence. What seems to have a moderating effect on the outcomes of the victims is the level of support that the victim receives afterward. There is nothing in this paper that claims pedophilia “is not so bad.” Maybe the author should have read the paper instead of repeating what someone told him about the study as it really affirms the need for victim support post abuse.

This however would go against his desire to make sure that everyone reading is offended. I am, but that’s because he didn’t read the study or if he did, he didn’t understand it–whether purposefully or accidentally.

Then we have a long argument against moral relativism. A section I agree with, if not for the shoddy examples and poor construction of the argument. One of his arguments that we atheists apparently make, is that “there is nothing to sin against” so therefore everything is permitted. Yes and no, there is no sin, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t immoral actions. Shooting children in a daycare is wrong and immoral, but not a “sin.” His tactic here is to parse out the words in an extremely pedantic manner. For him all immoral actions are “sins” so if you don’t believe in “sin” you can’t judge something to be immoral. That, however is not a working tautology because I don’t use the one word. In general I’m against moral relativism, and to be fair he gives an interesting analogy with various religions, they can’t all be right.

Religion is a zero sum game. Of the many competing religions only one, if you believe in them, could be considered true. Allah and Jesus both can’t hold their self-proclaimed monopoly on the truth, at least one of them have to be wrong. It’s a good point, but he can’t dwell on it because it leads down a road of doubt. What if his interpretation of Jesus is wrong? Or what if Jesus is the wrong religion? Since he’s offered no evidence of anything yet, making this claim is spurious at this point. No worries, because he jingles the keys of cultural relativism once again and the lack of an authority by which we derive our morality. We’re 16 pages in, and there’s yet to be one objective rational or historical piece of evidence offered. Perhaps the rest of chapter one will begin presenting it.

Vote (New Moon Chapter 24)–for real this time

April 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I hope everyone enjoyed the April Fool’s Joke the other day, part of the reason I wrote that is because this chapter is bad. Not just bad in general, but bad for this book. It’s full of concepts that are so bad they are embarrassing to read. I should say that the writing is coherent. It’s just that it doesn’t make sense, any of it.

Bella wants to put the issue of her turning into a vampire to a vote. So after somehow getting to the ground she hops on Edward’s back and he begins running. This is problem number one and I’m not even at the bottom of the first page of the chapter: “Even after all this time, it felt very routine. Easy. Evidently this was something you never forgot, like riding a bicycle.

This requires us to forget that the two times she did ride his back she felt nauseous and dizzy afterward. It was never easy for her. There is another problem as well, where did Edward go and who is this whipped tool carrying her? Pre-breakup Edward was a sociopathic control freak, post-breakup Edward is one of those doormat types apparently. If he’s so against her becoming a vampire then why is he aiding her? Why not just, I don’t know, do nothing and tell the rest of the Cullens no to entertain this absurdity?

Two problems one page: let’s not keep track because it gets worse.

Does this mean you’ve decided you’re awake?” At this point they’re beating a dead horse that’s long decayed into oil. It wasn’t funny or clever the second time they did this, nor was it handled well the first time in Italy. It’s also getting fairly annoying, everyone knows that she’s awake, the reader, Edward, even Bella. If they were playing this off as a joke it would be one thing (dumb but at least understandable), but they’re not. It’s dead serious…and that’s dumb but also insulting.

We are let in on a couple of secrets. First off, that Edward still loves her…which we already knew from last chapter. Also that he never really intended to leave her entirely. All the stuff they had: the cds, the pictures, the notes, etc. that Edward took when they broke up? It was under her floor boards the whole time. Bella guesses that she knew this the whole time, although that doesn’t fit at all with the story. Unless she mulled over that possibility in the four months of blank pages we were treated to in the beginning of the book. What’s worse is that there’s a better story here as well, what if, they didn’t get back together and fifty years down the line Bella was an old spinster or something and in the process of remodeling the house she discovers the hidden stash? That causes Alice to come back for a legitimate reason this time, and then the Cullens have to deal with a sixty year old Bella who is infuriated at their abandoning her to the cold ravages of time. That seems like a better book right there.

Anyway, as they are running along the road Bella lets the voice thing slip. Apparently she never told Alice about it, and Alice never saw it because we are retroactively making Bella immune to the vampiric powers. She goes through the possibilities that the voices present: 1: she’s crazy 2: wish fulfillment 3: Edward still loved her and they have some psychic bond.

The first two can’t work within the confines of the story. This is because of what I said awhile back regarding those voices: they gave her new information regarding the werewolves. The third can’t work because her mind is shielded from Edward. The only logical explanation for the voices is that we are supposed to forget the werewolf incident and just remember that it happened with a rose colored glasses. This way it looks romantic, but a person with any kind of decent memory can’t swallow this. Screw this I’m reading the Hunger Games, it can’t be this bad. Can’t it?

Finally at the Cullens house they have the discussion about whether or not Bella needs to get vampired. The family is presented with two options: one is to turn her the other is a bit more complicated and stupid so of course it comes from Edward. Apparently Edward was thinking ahead the whole time he was in Italy that’s why he refused to shake Aro’s hand. His plan is that when the Volturri send Demetri to find Bella, Alice will know and they will just hide Bella! It’s so simple, it’s plain stupid.

Edward thinks that he can fight off Demetri, which we know he can’t from everything they’ve said about the Volturri. The shining light of this chapter comes from Alice after Emmett and Edward fist bump (seriously) over this plan, “Idiots.”

I’m sure in their history no one has ever thought of hiding from them. It’s like trying to return a cell phone you clumsily (re: drunkenly) dropped in the toilet, “I just stopped working I don’t know what happened.” That’s why they have that sticker, and I’m sure that a society of three thousand years old have dealt with someone in their history who just decided to not do what they say. Then again, if the Cullens are the smart vampires…maybe they haven’t.

So it’s voting time, in which a bunch of strangers get to decide Bella’s fate. Sure, why not, Bella basically ditched her dad on her birthday to be with these people so why not let them make the decision for her. Everyone but Rosalie and Edward vote yes. Rosalie’s reason doesn’t make sense but it’s telling of how real vampires work. She didn’t have a choice in the matter. Bella is asking so it doesn’t make sense that Rosalie’s reasoning is based around her own experience being supernaturally violated.

Carlisle votes yes but for the reason that if Edward wants to be with her it’s the only proper course of reasoning. I wish someone would bring up the fact that curing the blood lust is going to be an issue, but no one does because this book isn’t that thought out.

After everyone but two people vote yes, the duty falls to Alice to turn her. Shouldn’t Edward be the one to do it? Alice balks at her new responsibility and it turns into the familiar innuendo between them: “Alice…Where do you want to do this?”

Alice responds, “I don’t think I’m ready for that. I’ll need to prepare…”

Ok, that aside Alice isn’t ready? Ready for what? “I know, but…Seriously, Bella! I don’t have any idea how to not kill you.”

Not kill her? What the hell are you talking about? All James had to do in the last book was bite Bella on the finger. Alice herself explained in the last book that taking in the saliva was all it took. Isn’t that why Bella and Edward haven’t made out yet? What exactly is the process that she is avoiding? We are really supposed to forget everything we’ve been told up until now.

They then settle on turning Bella after she moves out of Charlie’s house. Someone finally remembered that he existed. First though, Edward decides to propose to Bella. Seriously this happens, but they’re going to wait two years for this to happen.

There’s an abrupt argument with Charlie back at his house where Bella explains that her and Edward are going to be together and that if he doesn’t like it she will leave. What a nice girl we have here. I seriously can’t explain how much I loathe this character right now. Charlie ought to explain things to her and she ought to listen, but somehow being a brat who basically thinks everyone owes her something is supposed to be laudable. What does anyone see in her?

Redemption (The New Moon Walkthrough Ch. 24)

April 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Late again, as usual. What’s not so usual is the why this time. I know I’ve blamed being late on everything from losing the book, to school work, to some kind of vacation, but this time is truly different. This time someone sacrificed a goat to the Muses because in once chapter everything kind of worked itself out. The first thing we have to do is pay attention to the date and time. Because it’s not day still.

Edward has done his not so creepy at all, stare at Bella while she sleeps and then they had a fight. A real fight, wherein Bella leaves the room saying that she is going to put it to a vote whether or not she gets turned into a vampire. Who is going to vote? Apparently the Cullens. That’s where the previous chapter ended.

Here’s where it gets weird: as absurd as that situation is, it somehow transitions into this chapter that actually is some decent writing. And no, it’s not decent writing for this book, it’s decent writing for any book. It’s almost like the person who discovered Meyer was only given this chapter and then green lit the whole series…actually that would make a lot of sense. It would explain a hell of a lot that has been wrong with the previous story thus far. I’m sure she (I’m not looking her name up) just said to herself, “I’m sure if this is an example of the writing I don’t even need to do my job, Ka Ching, im gonna be Oprah rich.”

Bella sneaks out of the window of the house, apparently not giving much forethought to how she’s going to actually get to the Cullens’ place, and not really being clear on where they are staying (unless they’ve decided to kick out the meth addicts that for sure moved into their mansion). Edward follows her, and what’s weird is that we’re actually presented with Edward as not being described as being some sort of god-like epitome of beauty. He’s just a guy, as far as the description is concerned.

He grabs her by the wrist, “Bella wait, I don’t want you to do this.”

He goes on for a long monologue here, strangely enough–it’s good, but too long to quote. The whole thing is almost like our author became self aware of the numerous problems in the story and the relationship. Edward explains that Bella needs to wait (I admit that I did roll my eyes at the obvious sexual metaphor being presented) because she doesn’t really understand what she wants. His explanation is exactly what I had been saying almost point for point: that Bella doesn’t really grasp the blood lust, that the Cullens are unique and that those monsters she saw in Italy are the norm, that she’ll miss dreaming and sleep. Finally and most surprisingly he even brings up the notion of death, and, “Think about it Bella, everything you know will all pass away. The forest may win or the forest may fail but if you get attached to any of it your life will be full of sadness. Think about what those Italian vampires have seen, the rise and fall of Rome, the rise and fall of the Vikings, the Arab conquests, WWI, WWII. Their lives are full of death, they will live until the age of Chthulu’s return, their lives are full of death, as is mine. For selfish reasons, I can’t doom you to this.

The last sentence is a little clunky but if I understand it right, he’s saying that he can’t turn her simply because he’ll miss her. Huh!? That’s actually…sweet. It’s true as well, she doesn’t get it–but I didn’t think he did either. All of the talk used to center on souls and other metaphysically un-proven principles. Alright, I know what you are thinking, and it probably centers around some broken clock analogy. But then it gets weirder: “You’re right.”

Bella, gets it? Miss too cool for school, gets it. You may be thinking, well she’s just listening to Edward like a good little subservient, but that’s not it, and this time it’s worth quoting in full, “You’re absolutely right,’ I paused and looked at him for once seeing not some marble statue but a person. Someone that I cared about…or did I? Before him, my life was bleak I hadn’t any real friends or much of a social life. But ever since I got here it was almost like I was seeking the same thing. Maybe it was the familiarity with being an outsider that led me to seek something that I thought was too good for me. But now I didn’t need that. Perhaps it was the near death experience that pierced the veil of ignorance that I had been living underneath, but now I didn’t think I needed him, I was sure that I didn’t even want him anymore. He had broken up with me to protect me!? It didn’t make sense anymore, nothing about him made sense. I didn’t love him, that’s the true verdict–it was just infatuation.
-“I’m going back. Don’t follow me, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Did she just dump him? I mean, I get why, it makes sense almost too much sense for this character. I can’t wait for the next chapter.

hee hee hee

Exodus (The New Moon Walkthrough Ch. 22)

March 7, 2012 Leave a comment

We’re back…unfortunately.

Recapping from last week’s summary: Bella, Alice, and Edward are walking out of the castle de vampire in the town of Volterra. Well not really, they’re walking out of the inner sanctum and back in to the real world where the building they were in transforms from the gray rock of a dungeon and into an ornate Renaissance mansion (or bank, or church, it’s never really explained what kind of building this is supposed to be). No matter what it is they have to wait in the lobby until the sun goes down. The receptionist is there which elicits some awkwardness for some reason. It’s kind of strange to me that there isn’t a special room that they can wait in, but given the fact that reflected light seems to have no effect on the sparkling I guess it really doesn’t matter. I don’t know, but after a few hours it just seems like they would have been better off in the dungeon, for reasons that will be clear in a few pages.

How is Bella? We’ll she’s hysterical. Although it’s unclear why she is so. One might say that she’s freaking out for having escaped so close her own death, but…that doesn’t work given her history in this novel and the last. Sure she was freaked out when she thought the wolves were going to eat her in the woods, but one good night sleep (that she had no trouble getting) and it was all in the past. She also approached the existence of werewolves with the stoic demeanor of the average person finding a five dollar bill in a jacket. Now, she’s hysterical? Bella, please. Nope, the only reason she’s like this is so that Edward can hold and comfort her. Is there a term for a condition wherein a person gets weaker around another?

How bad is she? Well she keeps hearing a rumbling noise that she can’t pinpoint, “The ripping sound was the sobs coming from my chest.”

Unless a small insect-like creature is going to burst through her rib cage I don’t see how this is realistic. I have a three year old daughter and even at her utmost hysterics (because we won’t play Mario Kart) she has never made a “ripping sound” when sobbing. I get that Myer wants us to believe how dangerous the situation was, but I just can’t buy it. It’s utterly inconsistent with her character thus far, but more importantly it’s utterly inconsistent with the very idea of the character even though that idea is never communicated through the writing. I mean, it is but it isn’t. We now how Bella perceives herself, but that perception is not reflective of the reality of her.

After being calmed down with some chaste kisses on the forehead Bella notices the human receptionist. The existence of the woman confuses her because apparently humans hanging around with vampires is wrong despite the fact that she is literally doing the same thing right now in the lobby. Bella wants to know if the receptionist is aware of what was going on downstairs, Edward answers that she does, but she’s hoping that after a couple of years of working for them she will be turned. Pretty obvious if you ask me. Bella doesn’t think so:

How can she want that?’ I whispered more to myself than really looking for an answer.”

Really Bella!? Because every time the subject comes up you are practically on your knees asking for it. What should be holding her back? She knows their entire world, which, comparatively is more than you know. All Bella knows is the vampire life a bunch of vegan hipsters live in Washington. This receptionist though knows the entire hierarchy, all of the laws, who is in charge, and more importantly how they eat. Bella is rattled about the dining, but she forgets what Gianna, the receptionist, knows; the one’s downstairs eating up a group of sex crazed tourists: they’re the normal vampires.

Alice said it herself last book, the vampires are over evolved predators. They have specific bodily functions designed to capture and kill their prey–the attractiveness, the teeth, the speed, the strength, etc. If we buy into the myriad extra powers they have they are purposely designed to capture and kill humans. The Cullens are just the vegans of the vampire world–strange, annoying, pretentious, smug–the reason human beings have canine teeth is to rip meat. Now if the vegan wants to deny their nature and not eat meat, that’s their choice–but they have to recognize that it isn’t the normal choice. Just like a vampire who won’t eat humans.

Bella still being worried about the future looks to Alice for guidance, Alice replies that she will see Jasper in 24 hours. Bella is relieved, “Lucky Alice, she could trust her future.”

Actually no she can’t considering that she’s been wrong on important occasions. More importantly is that this is one of those lines that sounds clever when first read but upon repeated readings gets worse and worse, like “it is what it is.” Yeah that sounded good when I first heard it back in 1995 in “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” but now when someone says it to me it takes all the self restraint in the world for me not scream back, “OF COURSE IT IS! WHAT ELSE THE FUCK COULD IT BE!?*”

Gianna tells them that sun has set and they can leave now. For this Alice shoots her a dark look (get it?), but I don’t understand why. It would be like yelling at the jail guard who is checking you out of prison having your death sentence commuted. Sure you may not like the person but what happened to civility?

Then there is the escape from Volterra. I say escape, as the chapter is titled “Flight,” but it’s misnamed. Getting to Volterra was a matter of urgency, getting from…is not. For instance, Alice steals a car. Why? Can’t she just rent one? Or can they take a bus, or anything other than drawing attention to themselves. Why didn’t the Volturri give them a vehicle? They travel from Volterra to Florence, and then hop a plane from Florence to Rome, and then from Rome back to the states.

There’s an extra step in there: why didn’t they just fly out from Florence to the US? Sure, neither airport in Firenze is an international but since they flew in from the US and landed in Florence we’ve already decided that geography isn’t that important. How did they get tickets? They were in such a hurry that they had to steal the car, but they couldn’t have stolen a plane. My favorite part is that in order to make the international flight, they have to go through customs, but they arrive at the airport in a stolen car? I hope, just hope, they paid in cash as well.

The transition from Italy to the US, is over. The Cullen family is waiting for them at the airport and Rosalie has to apologize to Bella. Why? Who cares. She’s not an important character thus far, and the only reason we have for not liking her is that again, we’ve been told to not like her because she doesn’t like Bella. I’m over it.

There’s a weird conversation between Edward and Esme, in which Edward refers to her as “mom.” I bring it up because I wonder if we are supposed to forget that Esme really isn’t Edward’s mom, but rather the girl Carlisle tried to set Edward up with but it didn’t work out so Carlisle got her as a consolation prize. It was a nice touch in the last book that made Esme not Edward’s actual mother, but we must have consistency. They are just pretending to be a standard family but they aren’t that really.

Edward brings Bella home to Charlie, where he is not greeted with handcuffs or a hail of gunfire. Remember as far as Charlie knows his daughter just up and disappeared. She never called, she didn’t leave a note. She asked Jake to do so but he took off before Alice and Bella did, so that didn’t work out. Charlie is entirely justified in being angry, the only fault he has is that he’s not angry enough. he should be tossing Edward on the ground restraining himself only with thoughts of his pledge to uphold the law. Still, if my daughter was kidnapped and dragged to Italy (this would be a legitimate thought in his head) to meet her exboyfriend and a week later they returned with her unconscious, he’d find out what the barrel of my Glock tasted like. The better move would have been to have Carlisle drop her off and explain things, not the incendiary move they decide upon. These vampires never really think things through.

___________________________
*Although being a Philosophy Grad Student, phrases like that actually come up in class (Metaphysics mostly) that don’t mean the same platitude. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish.