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Need

June 18, 2018 Leave a comment

So I got a bit of facebook scolding the other day, and it wasn’t about politics or anything like that. It also wasn’t from some fundamentalist religious person telling me I was going to Hell. It was in reference to this article here.

My take on the article was that no, none of this is right, and we shouldn’t be advocating the belief in long discredited pseudo-sciences just because we want to fill in the hole that not having a religion offers. Now I conceded one point in a response comment that said, basically, what bothers me is not the person who lays down on a mat with a crystal on their head to relax. My problem are the people that push it for healing purposes. I say the same thing to my skepticism class, if you go to acupuncture because it gives you a half hour in which no one bothers you–just make sure the person is wearing gloves and everything is sanitized–but if you’re going to get a cure for anything other than being stressed see a fucking doctor.

However, on further reflection I began to wonder why the author of the opinion piece felt the need to write it at all. The author admits that these kinds of practices have been around for a long time, however she conflates terms: “New Age” hasn’t been around for that long, but astrology is older than any civilization that currently stands. However, that’s my pedantry talking what really got me thinking was the following observation, “The meteoric rise of New Age practices may be trendy, but it’s one way millennials are acknowledging that the current system isn’t working. We’re trying out new things that are actually old things; we’re seeing what else could make life a little more meaningful, a little more bearable.

I’m not a millennial–I missed that boat by only a few years. However the thought that current system isn’t working is something I understand completely. The concept of religion being the only source of any kind of spiritual life is disappearing at a rate much faster than anyone could have anticipated. However, I the need for something like that is where I get confused. I have been told my entire life that religion provides three things that you can’t get anywhere else: structure, morals, and a greater connection to the spiritual. The first one I never understood, what structure? If it’s the going to a service once a week, you can get that from a myriad of other sources. The second one, I’ve burned a lot of pixels and lectures arguing against that false promise. The third one though is harder to argue against, but not for the reason that it’s true–rather because the need isn’t real.

My biggest problem with the claim is that I don’t know what the crave is, and not because I’m some ultra-rationalist that needs a logical proof of everything before I’m willing to even accept the existence of the concept. Rather, I don’t know what it is that people think they are missing. When people tell me that they feel sorry for me because I don’t believe in ghosts, I don’t get it (this is separate, but not necessarily so, from the same that pity me because of my atheism) because the usual justification is that I don’t feel that there’s anything more here than the physical realm.

But, why does there need to be? The Cosmos is a pretty interesting place, much more interesting than most people give it credit for. I get the appeal of physical crystals, they’re solid but you can see through them and their color is actually a bug not a feature. That’s pretty amazing in itself, and it doesn’t take an advanced degree in physics or chemistry to just grasp that concept.

I think this is a subtle insidious desire that religion has implanted in us. It’s worse than all of the others because we don’t actually know it’s there. We can look at religion and disabuse ourselves of the notion that we need it for morality, we know we don’t need it for information on the natural world, we can get a sense of community from other sources. However, the implanted notion that there needs to be something more comes from the underpinning of all religion: that life in the physical world is somehow deficient or that we are flawed for the mere fact that we are alive.

Where else could the need come from? We all have the desire to make some kind of lasting impact in the world and to be important to the people around us, but this need for a ‘spiritual connection’ goes beyond the physical. If it weren’t for the indoctrination that there is something “more” than this physical world, would we naturally come up with this desire that the columnist wants to fill with Mercury in retrograde or jade chakra eggs?

I stand by my immediate comment though: whatever works for the individual person is fine, I’m not going to criticize only inquire. If sitting in a lotus position while contemplating “mu” makes you happy, hell, you don’t need the permission of an anonymous blogger. What bothers me is that people think their lives are unfulfilled because they aren’t delving into the quasi-religious pseudo-scientific world to fill a hole that religion used to have the monopoly on filling. As corny as it will sound, meaning in life is what we make of it. The thought that there needs to be something more is usually accompanied by someone who is trying to sell that thing or, at the very least, trying to justify the thing they bought to fill it.

Contrary to what the columnist closes her article with, we do actually know a lot about a lot. While there’s a great deal that we know nothing of, we should at least rest assured that we can make ourselves apart of a greater thing without having to check our signs.

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Categories: Uncategorized

By A Preponderance…who cares we still aren’t done.

June 4, 2018 Leave a comment

It’s been a few months since I’ve tackled this book, and the reasoning is varied. First, a couple of things happened on the days I’ve designated for doing this. Nothing serious but literally any excuse to not have to read this thing. Secondly, school ended and I had a lot of grading to get done, that pays me money and reading this book somehow feels like it costs money even though it doesn’t. We left off with his argument against naturalism which wasn’t well written but he almost gets naturalism right which is a high point for accuracy. Now, we enter the chapter titled: “The Bible: Truth of Fiction.”

A chapter on the literal truth of the bible, great this ought to be terrible. I’ve read the Bible, the whole thing, and its brutal. In every way that description can be applied. The second paragraph of this chapter is worth probably an entire series of its own, so we’re going to have a short section to pull from but let us power through.

“It was a book written over the span of 1100bc to approximately 100AD by about 40 different authors.”–I could quibble here on times and authors, but I’ll save that for later.

“Somehow, throughout all that, it maintains a unity of themes and a consistency of purpose.” No it does not. I’ll take one theme in that book, any theme and it will be loudly contradicted by the rest of it. Even the most generic theme of “god cares about us” is contradicted by the book of Ecclesiastes. “God is love” is contradicted by the first five books, “Jesus cares about all of us” is contradicted by the conditions that are put on that. The purpose of the book? I guess you could say that this is consistent, if you could tell me what the purpose of the book is. If the purpose is to communicate the beliefs of a particular religion, well that’s straight up question begging isn’t it. It would be like saying that the manual that came with Civilization V is remarkably consistent in its ability to tell me how to play the game. Otherwise, again, I ask: what’s the purpose of the book?

With a sharp left turn our author then describes that the historians and archaeologists have not been able to contradict the people and places in the bible, that scientific inquiries have not done so either. To this I ask, is there a stronger word than “lie?” Literally none of these claims are remotely true. Historians have failed to find any solid evidence for King David, all of it is disputed. We know that the massacre of babies by Herod “the Great” didn’t happen either as no other historian records the event, and importantly not even in the other three gospels is it recorded. The census given by Augustus, did happen, but it did not require the lengths that Joseph and family had to go to in order to fulfill it. Archaeologically the bible is even worse, because no one, in conflict with our author, has been able to ascertain the existence of Sodom. Archaeologists have also failed to find any evidence of the mass exodus of Moses and company. To be clear, none of this evidence states that the events or people did not exist only that the claim that they are proven by academics is false.

I’m going to skip the part about the Bible’s accuracy on the functioning of the natural world, because that’s as wrong as the Bible is about the natural world.

“The Bible has that record of fulfilled prophecy on which to stand.”

Claims like this are how you know that the person speaking has never done anything more than a superficial glance at the Bible. Sure they might have covered all the pages but they haven’t read it. Here’s the problem: first off the prophecy argument is circular. The Harry Potter series is prophetic in that the author makes certain predictions that come true at the end of the book: that’s the first problem. The second is that the prophecies in the Bible are non-specific to the extreme. When they are specific, the context reading of the prophecy will exclude the final event from actually being a fulfillment. Then there are the prophecies that are completely wrong.

For vague, we need only look at the entire book of Revelations. This book is so full of metaphor that hundreds of interpretations exist today which are trying to shoehorn the meanings of the non-sensical fever dream of John. For example, during the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, some viewed that as the star “Wormwood” which falls to the sea in Rev 8:10-11. I mean, sure whatever, but the end of the world didn’t happen. The vagueness also applies to what I mentioned last week with the phrase “King of Kings” referring to Cyrus of Persia and not some future messiah as Cyrus did free people from Babylon while Jesus failed to free the Jews from Rome.

Context: Isaiah 7: 14 is THE prophecy which is alleged to foretell the coming of Jesus. That only makes sense if you don’t read the rest of the Isaiah 7. The story here is that there’s this war between some asshole named Ahaz and the kingdom of Jerusalem. It’s a civil war kind of thing, and all very confusing and super boring. However the point is that Isaiah tells the king to ask god for a sign. The king refuses saying that he won’t tempt the Lord, but then Isaiah says, well fine, if there’s a virgin who conceives you’ll acknowledge the rightful owner of the land…then, boom, does the acknowledgement because they found one. (Isaiah 7: 1-25) There’s the linguistic point of “virgin” being a mistranslation of “young woman” so even the miracle here is doubtful.

Incorrect: Sticking with Isaiah, and not going along the list of incorrect prophecies because they far out number the other two problems, God predicts that Babylon will never be occupied again (Isaiah 13:19-20), that’s not even true for Isaiah’s time.

Again, I could go on for a long time picking apart these prophecies but that’s not the point. The point is that by the author’s own rules the Bible is inaccurate. It contradicts itself on history, science, and prophecy if one just reads the book and takes notes. The devastating problem is that the author isn’t looking at the book trying to prove anything, he’s already made his conclusion and then figures that no one is going to double check the claims. Next month, (I hope, I’m moving but I should be able to find a few hours to write this) well get into some of the more specific examples that he gives.

Categories: Uncategorized

Conflict

May 29, 2018 Leave a comment

This will be, perhaps the last time that I mention the JWs and their weekly visits to my house. The first reason is that I’m moving and I doubt they’ll follow us wherever we may end up (it’s further complicated by the fact that I don’t exactly know where I’ll be living). The second is the situation that I will know describe.

We had some people over last week. During dinner, through the blinds I could see people in our driveway. Now, my street is rather isolated. It’s primarily used to bypass the main boulevard with its high density traffic and frequent traffic lights, so when a person is in the driveway it’s rather noticeable for the scarcity of the event. However I could see who they were and I laughed telling my wife, “Your friends are here.”

She looked at me confused and I explained that it was the older JW couple that were about to ring the doorbell. One of the guests looked confused and then became all panicky. I should note that this was not unexpected, a conversation ensued about the JW church when they had found the astrology pamphlet from a week ago. However the person got up, mouth still full of food, ran to the door and shouted at them something along the line of “we don’t ever want to talk to you.”

The older man, whose name I will never be able to remember, said, “Ok, thank you have a nice evening.”

I want to note an important detail, this was close to 7pm. The JWs, whom I am in the awkward position of defending, were not coming during our normal dinner time. The guest then sat down and asked us if “we could believe they did that.”

I for my part, was aghast. I’m obviously an atheist and I think their religion is a bit more kooky than others, but that’s only in practice not belief. Their beliefs are just as kooky as every other religion. However, there’s a weird PR thing that my mind raced through. Those two JWs and the younger person (apprentice?) that sometimes comes along with them know who I am and they know that I am an atheist. Atheism, has a bad reputation amongst the general religious as well as the more insular groups like the JWs. My problem is that they don’t know who this person is, so they will probably assume in their heads that they were like me because they fit the stereotype of angry-atheist that is predominant based on a few public figures. This was not the case at all. The confronter is a Catholic believer, but is largely non-practicing.

To be fair, it wasn’t a competition thing. The person was just annoyed that a group of people were knocking on the door, but once it was found out, they remarked, “I want to claw their faces off.”

Why? Why does it matter? I’m far enough along in disbelief to take the proselytizations in relative stride. I know that no angry conversation is going to convert them away from being a Witness. I’m also aware that as misguided as it is, they do think they are doing the right thing. Their intentions are not bad, they want to convert people to what they see is the right path toward the thing they regard as a savior. It’s the same with the people who hand out tracts on the sidewalk, and the same with the ones that protest outside of hockey games (though I really don’t understand the choice of venue for that one since I never see them outside other sporting events). Sure, I’ll argue with them if they get in my face about it, but in general I just take their pamphlets–usually for blog topics–and move on.

Let me absolutely clear, I wish they didn’t exist. I wish none of it existed and we could move past these types of superstitions. However, those two are always polite and nice to me despite the fact that we both know how much we fundamentally disagree with other’s world view. I found the cognitive dissonance in their last pamphlet as hilarious as I think they assume that my willful blindness to the truth is bad for my soul. I think the fact that they’ve basically ignored my existence in the last six months and instead are focusing their conversion efforts on my wife to be as creepy as they probably assume that I’m raising two atheists to be immoral.

Nevertheless, the fight against religion isn’t won with facts. If it were, it would be over. I mentioned this last week, it’s really about planting a seed of inquiry. If you’re going to say that ancient prophecy is wrong because it’s ancient ala astrology, then you can’t turn around and use the Bible as an example of prophecy (in either case that’s a reverse argument from antiquity fallacy, ancient prophecies are wrong because they don’t become true not because they are ancient). The second fork to the attack is to get people who have an ingrained stereotype of non-believers to realize that we aren’t monsters. The only confrontations I’ve had with them is when I displayed a wealth of knowledge regarding not only Christianity in general but their religion in particular. That’s why they stopped talking to me about it. With a stranger confronting them angrily they can now retreat back to believing that the stereotype is true but that for some reason I was holding back for the last year or so. That causes more damage than anything else.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Grading Woes

May 15, 2018 Leave a comment

No post last week, as I was up to my eyeballs in grading papers…well figuratively of course, because they are almost all digital submissions. I graded until I realized that I wasn’t reading the papers anymore, then put everything aside until the next day.

Grading is the worst part of my job, until I get a TA in which case it becomes their worst part of my job. Given that I’m an adjunct, it’s unlikely to happen that I will get a TA, so I just had to plow through it. Perhaps I don’t understand the rationale behind the scheduling, but it seems to be a disservice to the students to have the last week of exams end with the date grades are due. In the case of my Conspiracy course, the papers were due on Wednesday with the final grades due by the afternoon on Friday. This means that I have to peruse (look up that word it doesn’t mean browse), 24k words by the time the grades are due in roughly a day and a half.

This however is an atheist blog and not a complain-about-being-an-adjunct blog. So I’ll merge the two and talk about the two toughest papers to grade: the overly religious paper, and the overly atheist paper. I received one of each this time.

Both papers test my objectivity in ways that I don’t want to be tested. Mainly because of the worry that I might fail the test and then overcompensate in the other direction. Which then sends me into a spiral of self-doubt until I need a drink and a day to look at them again. The latter is actually easier to deal with because I don’t feel the lingering guilt for trashing a paper that should be better. Intro to Philosophy atheist papers are almost always bad.* They reek of “rookie atheist,” which I can sympathize with. What that means is that the student latches on to a simple argument, Epicurean dilemma, and then tries to stretch that four sentence paragraph into one argument. Which, ok, you can do it but it’s difficult to do competently. Sure you might be able to trip up uncle Frank at the dinner table during Summer break until he stumbles upon the phrase “free will” but any theist who has read a book other than the bible, is going to have a quick and devastating answer to the mindless parroting. The stereotype of people like me is that I will give a better grade to someone that agrees with me–but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you and I have the same belief, I’m going to know everything about that argument that you don’t. It’s much harder for me to hold back while reminding myself that “this is only intro” before I grade it as such.

The overly religious paper is just as difficult but from the opposite angle. The problem isn’t that I’m overly familiar with those arguments (though I am), it’s that I know where the objections lie and the papers that don’t at least address those are going to have an uphill battle. However, it’s rare that I get an argument for the existence of god final paper. Not sure why this is the case, I have course evaluations where students think that I flaunt my Christianity too much (seriously, I have a friend who is a serious Catholic and was accused of being too atheist as well). This time around I received a paper that wanted to argue the value of libertarian free speech from a Biblical justification.

Now I wanted to fail the paper outright given that the Bible is pretty anti-free speech. Four of the commandments are literally about not being allowed to say something. The paper was all over the place and was a fail. However, the student luckily (well it wasn’t luck she was just doing a good job) turned it in as a draft. Now a draft can be ridiculed, beheaded, and quartered. In fact, it should be, because the student is asking me, “make me a better student.” Again, though the comments I wanted to write were not the ones that I could write.

The problem that I ran into was in crossing out paragraphs in her submission was whether I was doing so because I know she’s wrong, or because my perspective is against hers. In this case I was on solid ground but it’s a difficult line to walk. Eventually, I had to tease out her other argument (another problem with the paper was that it had two at the same time: one being the weird biblical one while the other was a much better, though still flawed, natural law argument) while slashing out the Bible stuff. She was able to preserve a religious based argument, which I still disagree with, but able to formulate the Natural Law position to support free speech which is a much better argument to stand on.

In the end that student earned an A because she thankfully turned in a draft ahead of time. The other student earned a C, which could have been easily fixed with the same behavior. As well as a paper that could have addressed the free will “solution” to the Epicurean paradox, and turned into a much better and as robust as a five page paper in an intro to Phil class would allow. In both cases it’s much harder to grade those simply because my reason becomes subservient to my passion for the subject. Which is ironic because that’s one thing that my students typically commend me for.

 

*By far the worst papers are “legalize weed” papers. They have no argumentation, are terribly written, have bad sources, and are written with what I call “pot logic.” The worst part is that I want to agree with them, but they never make a solid case.

Categories: Uncategorized

This is Why

April 30, 2018 Leave a comment

There’s a quick rebuttal to those that claim that the United States was founded as a Christian country. No, it doesn’t have to do with citing two centuries of court decisions, we don’t have to cite the famous letter of Thomas Jefferson where he explicitly says wall of separation, and no we don’t need to get into the unanimously ratified Treaty of Tripoli where John Adams makes it very clear that the United States is not a Christian country. None of that is necessary to shut down the argument, all you have to do is respond with a simple question: “Which Christianity?”

This will force the arguer to the realization that the idea of a “Christian” defined as someone who believes in Jesus, is a new phenomenon and a very tenuous one at that. For the most part the “Christians” in the United States believe in almost none of the same things. My usual go to example for this type of argument is the candidacy of Mitt Romney for president in 2012. He had to give a speech in which he assured the GOP voters that he would not be a Mormon president but a president that happened to be Mormon. When he gave that speech, I criticized it, because it shouldn’t be an issue. The press called it “Kennedy-like” which was appropriate because forty years prior Kennedy had to make a similar speech in which he had to assure voters that he wouldn’t be taking orders from an Italian guy in a pointy white hat. Now though I have a new example from very recent events.

The House Chaplain, which is a position that is a waste of tax money, was recently forced out by outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Ok, so the problem with writing this story is that we don’t know why he was forced out. The first report was that the Chaplain, Fr. Conroy, had willingly retired. Then the news changed saying that he resigned at the request of Ryan. This raises an interesting question of whether or not you can be fired from the office of House Chaplain. I assume the answer is yes, but what do you have to do?

Today, Ryan said that the reason was over complaints about pastoral services and not politics or prayers. So let’s break it down, it’s not about politics. That remark is only interesting if you believe the commentary that he was fired for criticizing the GOP tax bill in November. Conroy offered a prayer before voting on the bill that pled lawmakers to keep in mind the growing disparity between rich and poor so that the new bill wouldn’t make that worse (it didn’t work). While many, on my side of the fence, think this is the reason I doubt it since there is substantial time between that prayer and his forced resignation. This would also mean that it probably isn’t about prayers since there is only one that comes up as being controversial.

Unless it’s because Conroy invited a Muslim to give an opening prayer back in October (4th, 2017). However, again, there is too much time between the two events for this to seem reasonable. Though it could be asserted that the pressure was building and the two events in conjunction led to a series of complaints that eventually caused Ryan to fire the Jesuit Priest as chaplain. That might be a reasonable claim but again, the time delay makes it a strange series of events.

Ryan said, to quote, “This was not about politics or prayers, it was about pastoral services. And a number of our members felt like the pastoral services were not being adequately  served, or offered.”

His explanation is nonsensical. “Pastoral services” is a term that could mean a great many things, and without context this is just another example of Ryan not explaining anything. Was Fr. Conroy derelict in his duties? We can assume not because if it were the case then there’d be no reason to obfuscate. Was he not saying the right things? Maybe, but what would that even mean? Was it that the last bulwark of support the current GOP government has comes from those people that don’t believe that Catholics are real Christians? I’m thinking maybe.

The most wide ranging conspiracies, the globalist ones, put the Catholic church in the same league as the Illuminati. Conspiracies surrounding them spring up around the same time as the illustrious organization. Author Eugene Sue in the 18th century French novel “The Wandering Jew” has the Jesuits seeking to steal a secret fortune and usurp control over the world (interestingly, he also wrote the book by which “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was plagiarized from).

Evangelical fundamentalists in this country eat this kind of thing up. While it’s rare that I take the defense of the Catholic church up, here academic honesty compels me. None of this is real but, and more importantly, it is thought to be real and is preached by ministers that it is real. Yet, both groups are underneath the umbrella category of “Christian.”

Which brings us back to the original question, “Which Christianity?” While a belief in Divine Jesus, anti-abortion, and putting the “Christ back in Christmas” are shared amongst all of the denominations the other differences are so great that it would make sense not to call them the same religion. For instance the Catholic church is opposed to the death penalty. Baptists aren’t Christians according to Mormons because of a whole host of reasons, while Ken Ham style Christians don’t accept the very nature of physical science (though I’m unclear as to whether or not they are flat earthers), some Protestants consider Catholics polytheists because of their focus on Mary. So which of these “truths” makes one a real true Christian? One could claim that it doesn’t matter since everyone has a right to their own beliefs, to which I respond sure, that’s why we have the first amendment–to guarantee it.

12 Out of 21

April 23, 2018 Leave a comment

GQ is a magazine that I have never purchased, I’m only familiar with it in passing. By that I mean that I literally pass it at the checkout line in the grocery store. I only really notice it when there’s a pretty woman on the cover which is a rare event. It’s a fashion magazine for men in all the ways that Maxim wasn’t, and it’s a magazine that has little appeal to me personally.

Nothing about the magazine is off putting either, I don’t hate it but I have read some interviews and articles from the magazine then guffawed at the amount of money some people will pay for toiletries. Like any magazine these days they need to put out some articles that will make sales, and this month they posted an iconoclastic article titled: “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.” The general thesis of the article is that the literary canon is full of boring, dated, sometimes sexist/racist books that were products of a different time but that the intelligentsia class (I know this is me) has said are the “great books.”

Some of them I have read, and some of them I hated. For instance I’ve never understood either the appeal or the controversy of “Catcher in the Rye.” He’s a whiny douchebag from the upper classes who goes slumming one day because he’s bored, gets a prostitute, doesn’t pay, upsets his sister, then reconciles that he belongs in the prison that he spent the entire book condemning. I guess the book was popular in its day because it used language that was representative of actual teenagers who attended boarding school, but the appeal is just lost on me. The controversy is even more of a mystery but I think that it might be due to a generational thing. The language he uses is not vulgar to me, but back then it was. “Huckleberry Finn” is on there, which sure, it’s been a long time since I’ve read it but I think the author of the submission missed the point: Twain isn’t a racist, he portrayed “Nigger Jim” the way he did to make a point about slavery, racism, and the attitudes of the South. However the entry made a point, that if all you know about Twain is Huckleberry Finn, then you really are missing out.

This brings us to #12 on the list: The Bible. The entry says, “The Holy Bible is rated very highly by the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality haven’t read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts but overall it is certainly not the finest thing man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”

Basically all of that is true but you should still read it. I know very few people who didn’t go to seminary school who can claim that they’ve read the Bible. I’ve read all of it, skipping the genealogy chapters because who cares, I wanted the stories and the morals. I was told to read it in Catholic school, a task to which I willingly assented due to my religiosity at the time. Whenever I hear some pundit talking about the problem in this country is that too few people read the Bible, I agree. More people ought to read it, it does not belong on this list. They ought to sit down and read it from Genesis 1:1 to the very end of Revelations, skipping only the copyright and font page at the end. Read the footnotes if your book has it, read all of it and then come to me and explain why the GQ author was wrong because there’s little doubt in my mind that you will disagree.

Look, the Bible has some good stories…sort of. However, for every one of the good stories in it, there’s ten that are boring, five that are horrible, and then an entire book filled with either genealogy charts or a whole bunch of laws regarding who can and can’t enter the temple on a certain day. The good stories are derivative. The story of Sampson, is the story that a drunk person who overheard the Greek Myth of Hercules tells when they try and retell it (seriously, what’s the point of the fox thing it doesn’t make sense). Moses is probably the best written character in it and he’s kind of a monster. The Jesus character would be better if we didn’t have four books that contradict each other. He’s also very odd, and I don’t mean in that “savior of man-kind so he’s going to be odd” odd, I mean that this is a guy that curses a tree because it isn’t producing figs (and I wonder what time of year it is, should that tree have had figs?). There’s boring letters and the entire book ends with an insane fever dream full of impossible things (stars can’t fall into the ocean) but to its credit is very vivid. If you don’t cherry pick, the book is unreadable which is why you should try and read it, especially if you are a believer.

However, it is even weird for me to put in a review of the book like that because the reason it’s a “great book” is because we’ve been told for centuries of years that it is the “greatest book” by people who initially opposed its mass publication, and opposed its translation into the common tongue. It’s like watching “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Look, that movie is boring, unnecessarily long, and tedious at points. There’s some good parts and without it we wouldn’t have science fiction films the way we have them today. Yet, we’ve all been told that it’s one of the greatest movies ever so we kind of just accept it. The difference between the two is that 2001 is a marvel at filmmaking (just not in storytelling) while the Bible is just not a well written book. It might have something to do with multiple authors who aren’t compatible, telling a historical story centuries after the fact, or the fact that it is a compilation of things that don’t quite fit in (what the hell is Ecclesiastes doing in there anyway?).

As Mark Twain (allegedly) said about the book, the road to atheism is littered with pages of the Bible. So by all means disagree with the article and read it.

Satanist

April 9, 2018 Leave a comment

Friday night I met Lucien Grieves, the founder of the Satanic Temple, at the CFI Headquarters in Buffalo. The Satanic Temple is a non-theistic religious group (meaning they are defined by law as a religious group) that has a couple of goals. The first is helping to maintain the separation of church and state by suing over laws that favor one religion over another or that privilege religion over non-religion. The second was the purpose of the talk on Friday night: to expose an ongoing pseudo-scientific strain that has infected the study of psychology since the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s and 90s.

Their focus has primarily been on the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD). This is a group that focuses on dissociative identity disorder (what we used to call multiple personality disorder) and the relation between that condition and abuse related trauma. On the surface it seems like this is actually science or at least a proto-science that they are seeking to gain credibility with. I’m not a psychologist so I can’t speak of the truth of DID only to say that the general consensus amongst experts is that it is a real condition but it is controversial as to what the condition actually is. The problem lies in whether the alternate personalities (alters in the literature) are socially constructed or a direct result of the trauma itself. In either case, again, I’m not qualified to weigh on this part of the debate.

What I am qualified to speak about is where it comes from or where it doesn’t in actuality. How DID manifests is a difficult issue, but we know one thing: that Satanic mind control, Illuminati training, and witch rituals aren’t the origin. This is what the Grieves spoke about: that this otherwise normally sounding organization, the ISSTD, looks on the surface to be tackling a legitimate subject just below the surface are the panic mongers instilling fear of groups which do not exist who have powers beyond the scope of the normal world.

This is all related to the Satanic Panic. The allegations during the panic where that children could be psychologically abused in such a way that the abuser could force their minds to forget the abuse and to create an alternate personality that would shield their true self from the memory. The members of the ISSTD, medical professionals, all believe that this is true. In 2014 Rachel Thomas presented on patients being abused by lizard aliens, which I suppose is one step above David Icke’s theory since they at least live in this dimension.

The general problem is not whether DID exists, it is not research into childhood trauma, it is in where that trauma originates. Aliens, Lizard Aliens, Satanic Cults, and Witch Covens do not kidnap children for these purposes because these groups do not exist in this fashion. The hysteria over it does, and a culture that believes in these things will treat them as though they are real. ISSTD presenter Neil Brick, claims that he was a programmed psychic assassin by a joint operation of the Illuminati and Freemasons (because why not check all the boxes in my conspiracy bingo card). None of this is happening, it isn’t now and it wasn’t in the 80s.

I remember that the original panic well. I followed it on the news because it was weird and to be honest I can’t honestly say that I was doubtful about it. When people those days said something on television, I didn’t have my skepticism/cynicism that I have today. I do remember the church that I attended taking it much more seriously than they should have. However given the current Pope’s endorsement of the exorcists I guess nothing has really changed. They gave us a work sheet full of Satanic symbols, lectured us on the necessity of being aware of Satanists in our neghborhoods, and then brought a local cop out to inform us about the legal ramifications. I will note that the cop was not buying it but she said we should look out for drug use and vandalism.

The biggest mystery of the panic to me is where it came from and why it took hold. My research has it starting with the book “Michelle Remembers” by Lawrence Pazder and his former patient/future wife Michelle Smith about her experiences of being a sexual abuse victim in a Satanic cult. The book has been thoroughly disproven not only by the incredibleness of the claims but the impossibility of them as well (Events in the book could not be corroborated  by outside sources but also it would require Michelle to have been in two places at the same time given the 61 day ritual described in the book). Fiction is usually the place to look, and with the popularity of The Exorcist a few years prior that seems likely, just as reports of alien abduction immediately followed the success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (similarly fear of nuclear power following the movie The China Syndrome which just preceded the Three Mile Island accident [of which the latter harmed no one]).

The why question is more mysterious though, why did this take hold at the time that it did rather than any other time before or after? The majority of Americans seem to recognize the crazy now. People are getting smarter, but before the 80s this didn’t happen either. A couple of sources I’ve read point to the rise in television evangelism, but that seems to be a symptom rather than the cause. What drove the profitability of television evangelism to the point where they could push a paranoid view of a world where Satanic cults kidnap and murder children? Why was it accepted? These are the important questions as we ponder how this incredible phenomenon still has ripples that affect the world today.