Category Archives: Drunk post

9/11/2012

It’s Patriots’ Day, so I just wanted to say this.

Get all the political slogans out of the way. Get rid of the hot-button issues that push our emotional buttons and keep us from looking at the deeper long-term problems. Get to the core of it all, and I think most Americans agree that we’re in a bad situation and we need to find a way to get out of it. We may disagree about the fundamentals of how to do that, but that doesn’t make the other side evil.

We’re all human beings. We’re all flawed. We’re all often quite wrong, even if we’re too stubborn to admit it. And we all have ideas to bring to the table.

Somehow, compromise has become a dirty word in American politics. Those at either of the extreme ends of the liberal/conservative spectrum have painted the other side as evil, bigoted, hate-filled, know-nothings.

I’m a liberal. My heart is constantly bleeding, and I’m not ashamed of it. But this doesn’t mean that I think everyone who disagrees with me is the scum of the earth. It means that I have a set of values that differs from those of other people. When I discuss important issues with conservatives, I can understand how their positions derive from their values. We may disagree, but I don’t think they’re (necessarily) irrational or small-minded simply for disagreeing with me.

At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I think that this is the sort of attitude that our current political dialogue sorely needs. The polarity of our parties is not only hurting political discourse in our country; it’s pushing people further and further to the ends of the spectrum, and that can only have dire consequences for our future.

If this democratic republic is to long survive, we must return to a place where we can stop trying to prove how liberal or conservative we all are, and instead focus on how each one of us, as Americans, can help us come together to restore our faded greatness to what it once was. For better or for worse, we are the descendants of a nation of rebels who overturned the most powerful empire the world had seen in centuries. Our forefathers foresaw many of the challenges we’ve faced thus far, but they had faith that those who followed them would maintain a healthy body politic with a genuine interest in the affairs of state, and in doing so would keep the principle of freedom alive. We owe it to them, and to all who have fought and died for this ideal, to give our all toward keeping the American political system vital, focused, motivated, and sane.

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Utterly irrelevant (?): Harry Potter fanfiction

(This is what happens when you promise to blog about the next subject someone mentions to you on Twitter…)

Some people take Harry Potter entirely too seriously.

In case you weren’t aware, there’s a ridiculously large number of fan-written Harry Potter stories on the internet. Most of them are innocent; some of them, not so much.

Briefly browsing through them, they remind me of something – namely, that humanity is generally a sucker for a good story about a super-powered, virtuous hero who uses his magical abilities to overcome a seemingly insurmountable evil force.

Too obscure? Fine – I’ll come right out and say it. Harry Potter is Jesus.

Harry Potter, a young man who always knew, deep down, that he was different from everyone else… a young man from lowly beginnings… discovers that he has a grand destiny, and that he’s the only chance the world has to destroy an evil so overwhelming that most people fear to mention it.

Jesus Christ, a young man who always knew, deep down, that he was different from everyone else… a young man from lowly beginnings… discovers that he has a grand destiny, and that he’s the only chance the world has to destroy an evil so overwhelming that most people fear to mention it.

DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND?

Probably not. The idea of a superhuman savior is a ridiculously common fictional trope. So popular, in fact, that once such a character is established, pretty much anybody who knows about him is eager to tell a new story featuring him as the main character.

Officially, Harry Potter only exists in seven books. His life story, in its entirety, is told to us by J. K. Rowling, in her writing. And yet, Rowling’s fans seem almost obligated to write further fictional accounts of Harry’s life, adding to the canon in ways she never thought possible.

This is just about the same way I view the writing of Paul in the New Testament of the Bible. Paul never actually met Jesus, but he was so amazed by the oral traditions surrounding Jesus that he took it upon himself to invent an entire religious system based on Jesus’ teachings.

And somehow, this tradition has expanded around the world, into tens of thousands of denominations. I look at them, and I picture a bunch of people squabbling over things like whether Han shot first.

It’s meaningless, really. Whether you’re a Preterist, a Premillennialist, a Postmillenialist, or an Amillennialist, you’re basically arguing about the finer points of fan fiction. The gospels are the only things containing the words of Jesus, and even those are largely in question. And just like the fact that the seven canonical Books of Rowling don’t prevent the fans from creating works of their own, the four gospels haven’t prevented people throughout the ages from molding Christian doctrine as they saw fit.

Christianity and Contraception: Strange bedfellows?

Christian doctrine has a very strange relationship with contraception.

According to Genesis, the very first order man ever received from God was to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” This is in Genesis 1:28, literally a single verse after mankind came into existence.

Then we have Hell. Hell is a place where “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:47-48) I’ve been told by Christian apologists that there is supposedly an “age of reason”, defined by the Bible, at which point a child can be blamed for its sins, and thus before this point the child is guaranteed a spot in Heaven. It seems to me that the logical conclusion of a belief in a literal Hell of this sort, combine with the idea that life (and thus, soul implantation) begins at conception would be to kill your children at as early a point in their lives as you possibly could!

And yet, we see great resistance from (mostly conservative) Christians on the subject of abortion. The idea is that every fertilized egg is a potential life, and that snuffing it out would be violating that first order from God. Forget that doing so would ensure that the fetus had a place in Heaven. Somehow, it’s more important to allow a child to be born, reach the age of reason, and decide to become a follower of Jesus. It’s apparently more important to allow for the possibility that a soul be damned to suffer in Hell.

All of this is based on a specific definition of “contraception,” of course. Among conservative Christians, there’s little differentiation between “preventing pregnancy” and “terminating pregnancy.” This is why you’ll frequently see “abstinence-only” education promoted; for these folks, abortion and condoms are pretty much the same thing. Any options you choose that would prevent a baby from being born are essentially the same thing.

From a secular perspective, it’s easy to understand why a religion would be so strongly in favor of creating as many children as possible. They’ve got to grow their numbers, and the easiest way to do that is through reproduction. No surprise, then, that Mormon churches tend to be about 50% children…

Regarding the ‘Left Behind’ prequels

For reasons I can’t really explain, I’ve just listened to all three of the ‘Left Behind’ prequels in audiobook form.

These books hold a strange fascination for me. I’ll freely admit that it’s largely because I was reading the original series when I became a born-again Christian. These stories are deeply embedded in my memory. But when I first read them, I was just thinking about how glorious the future was going to be – as if the books were not just fictional descriptions of future events, but actual works of prophecy. The lines between fiction and prophecy were totally blurred for me.

Now, when I listen to them as a nonbeliever, I can’t help but be struck by how trite and silly they seem. The characters are totally unrealistic, the plot lines are predictable and full of pointless delays, and the dialogue is stilted and utterly unlike any kind of dialogue that real people have. Everyone seems to speak the same way, eschewing contractions for the full versions of words (in what seems like an attempt to conform with the formal, Victorian English of the KJV of the Bible).

The whole thing is ridiculous, and it’s packed with straw man versions of the arguments that atheists actually use. It’s amazing that I was ever so drawn into something like this…

And that doesn’t even begin to describe just how stereotypical the non-white characters are in this series. Jenkins and LaHaye actually portray the only explicitly African American characters as being stereotypically ‘sassy’ and obsessed with barbecued ribs. They could really only have been more racist if they’d gotten into a discussion of watermelon and chitlins… I mean, come on! Their straw man black people even started talking about how white people don’t know how to cook ribs! What the fuck?

How do we approach the debate?

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like most atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, etc. approach theological debate as a hobby, while theists approach it as the driving force behind their entire worldview. It’s strange; when I was a believer, everything I did was influenced by what I believed. The debate was the most important thing in my life. Now that I’m not a believer, I approach the discussion as entertainment and an intellectual exercise. I could take it or leave it; it’s just something to pass the time.

Am I alone in this view?

That’s not to minimize the larger issues behind the influence of religion on our society; I’m talking about <span style=”font-weight: bold;”>just</span> the debating here.