Tags: religion

futurama santa I saw that

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations...

My posting of late has still been sporadic as you can see, mostly because I'm still going through those Kim Harrison audiobooks. Rejoice (or tremble) however since I'm on the last book and it probably won't be long until I return to something more normal. There have been a ton of things I've wanted to share on here, if for no other reason than to get my thoughts down, but most of it has gone by the wayside. I just wanted to toss out 2 cents on something that a comment on facebook just reminded me of. I've probably told quite a few of you at one time or another that I really like Mormons as a whole. I've often said that I've never met a mean or grumpy mormon in my life. You'd almost think they're grown in pods the way that every one I run across is a good, friendly, and often impeccably groomed person. I have to allow that there might actually exist evil Mormons out there, sort of like how the Jedi had the Sith, but in my entire life I've never run into one.

It's for that reason that I find Mormon bashing sort of inexplicable. I was reading about some of the blowback where one of Rick Perry's supporters called Mormonism a cult. He actually went a bit further then that and you can find a fuller excerpt and context here.

Jeffress described Romney's Mormon faith as a “cult,” and said evangelicals had only one real option in the 2012 primaries.

“That is a mainstream view, that Mormonism is a cult,” Jeffress told reporters here. “Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.”

Now, I'm in no position to argue the religious points here, much less the intricacies of Christian doctrine. I'll admit the whole book made out of gold thing and visiting Indians seems a bit hokey to me but no more so than the entire idea of someone being the son of God and coming back to life. The only difference is one happened so many years ago and is so ingrained into our collective consciousness that all the rough edges have been worn off. Either is just as likely to be true, given the entire premise is fundamentally unprovable by definition. That said, even if Mormonism were some sort of cult, it seems to be a cult that promotes industriousness, family, sober living, sacrifice, community service, and being friendly. Hell, we should have more fucking cults like this. The world would almost certainly be a better place.

So it seems pretty clear that I really don't understand what some Christians have against Mormons. Hell, as far as I'm concerned, Mormons seem to be a better and purer expression of the very virtues Christianity claims to embrace. If holyness is achieved by being good, then they would seem to have a huge leg up.

I've often said that my little black soul shrivels a little bit every time I think about what some people are willing to do out of faith. I've met some Mormon missionaries in my day and I'm still amazed they're willing to do what they do. How many people you know would have willingly in the prime of their young life, take years out to travel across the country to preach the word of God to people? The entire idea almost seems ludicrous. I can imagine my response at that time in my life and it would have went something like, 'You want me to do what? @#%^ that.' It's not even like you often get sent to some place exotic or abroad where you can view it as a exotic adventure. Yeah, spending up to three years living in Alabama and trying to preach to strangers on the street and door to door sounds like tons of fun. That said, many young Mormons are willing to do that, which is just baffling to me. Forget for a moment that they may or may not be right. Forget for a moment that God might not exist and this may all just be a farce. Even if you told me there was a 100% chance that 100 people would die horrible deaths in Montana unless I spent three years there going door to door, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't do it. Frankly, I just don't care about people that much to save their lives much less something as ephemeral as their souls. That these people are willing to sacrifice their time and effort for their fellow man, whether salvation ends up being true or not, is amazing and also a bit shaming.

So in the end, I just don't get Mormon bashing. Frankly, I love Mormons and only wish I weren't so cynical and jaded by contrast. I don't understand the Christian hangup with them and I think it would be pretty spiffy if Romney won, if only to knock down that particular wall. The doctrinal squabbling just seems petty given the shared values, not to mention the amount of good.
books neverwhere kill omelet

Who would miss you when you're gone

I find it harder and harder to keep up this journal of late. I've been through bouts of disinterest in blogging but this seems a bit more severe than normal. It just seems I don't have much of a connection with people online either here or through facebook. It's just a sea of disinterested strangers for the most part. Add to that the fact that I just don't feel like I have much to say and it's a pretty deadly combination. The only thing that keeps me going is some small sense of habit. I don't think it's hyperbole to say that no one would much care if I just took a half year vacation.

On the otherhand, I do have something sorta interesting to cogitate about. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but my mind always tends to wander to the same topic whenever I see an exorcism movie. I'm never quite sure where I stand on religious matters though I've always felt that there's a core unfairness when it comes to many of the religion-based boogiemen. THink about it...we have demons and devils and there's even been that floated idea that vampires were created due to being cursed by God. Why in the world would God choose to punish these people by inflicting them on the rest of humanity? If God wants to chuck someone out of heaven because they're being a douche, wouldn't a nice inescapable prison be best? It doesn't seem right to just let them roam the world causing havok in the lives of relatively innocent people. I also think about how many people out there might happily run into a case of real demonic possession or something supernatural along those lines. I mean, it must suck ass to bump into the devil but there's also the flip side you have to consider. If there's a devil, then there has to be a God, right? That might be sorta comforting no matter what sort of crazy hell you've been dumped into. Life, afterall, is short and temporary. No matter how filled with pain and horror, who wouldn't trade it for the existence of eternity? It sorta gives me a whole new view of people stuck in horror movies.
discworld divide by cucumber

Rock me sexy Jesus

Seeing as it's Easter, I thought I'd ramble for a bit about religion. Well, not all religion or religion in general but Christianity. It's probably no surprise to most of you who have payed attention, but I'm usually a supporter of religion. Overall, I think it's been a good thing and has had a positive impact upon humanity in general. I'm currently against the fucking pigdog, towel-wearing, camel-fucking religion of Islam, but that's not against the religion itself as much as the large chunk of its asshole preponents. If I hear just one more time from those hypocritical sand fuckers that Islam is a religion of peace I think I'd explode. Maybe if it's a religion of peace you should get your neighbors to practice it as a religion of peace, you twatwaffles.

Anyway, this is not supposed to be a rant about what cousin-fucking pedophile in a turban did or did not to do spawn a religion with a current generation full of fucking terrorists. This is about Jesus. In short, Jesus makes me sort of uncomfortable. I can wrap my mind around God. A super omnipotent being who created the world and universe in which we dwell and for moral reasons now ceases to overtly interfere and instead simply watches over his creation with a benevolent, yet inscrutable gaze. I kinda like the idea, though my belief, or faith if you will, in the concept often wavers. I figure it's probably impossible to know the mind of God, after all, if the omnipotence we attribute to him is true, he is so far beyond us as we are beyond bacteria or one celled organisms. Imagine asking a paramecium in its own terms to explain the concept of a human being. Anyway, all of that cosmic inscrutability is fine with me and I even find it sort of comforting. Where I have a problem with the whole thing is Jesus.

I've always found Jesus to be a bit of a problem. It doesn't help that he looks like a dirty hippie which as far as I'm concerned gives him a strike or two right off the bat. It's also not like I would expect him to have emerged all clean-cut and dressed in a business suit. Still, would suitably groomed just be too much to ask for?

Jesus also raises serious problems with my concept of God. The idea of a generally benevolent but handsoff deity sort of goes out the window when he runs around impregnating earth women and spawning offspring. I mean, WTF? Would you go and impregnate a hamster if you could? I don't even care if it's a sexy-looking hamster with come-hither eyes and seemed to be consenting. It's just one of those lines I'm not sure should be crossed. There's also the fact that it's distinctly possible that Jesus is not the son of God but someone with a really good dose of paranoid schizophrenia. It's not like there was anyone qualified at the time to really diagnose the condition much less find the herbal equivalent of haldol to treat it. He could simply be crazy and really, who would even know?

The disturbing part is many of the lovely dovey parts of the bible is in the new testament and comes directly out of Jesus. As some have said before, the New Testament is where God got religion. He was sort of a douche in the old Testament, neither handsoff nor all that benevolent at times. So what happens to my paltry and wavering faith in God if I want to believe the benevolence that comes out of Jesus but don't like the whole Jesus idea to begin with? Do things automatically default back to a dark, vengeful and pissy God?

I guess in this case it's just one of those situations where I actually hope I'm wrong and all the Jesus believers out there are right. The entire concept of Jesus might give me the willies, but it's certainly possible that everything happened just as Christians believe. Certainly I think most of us would rather face the kindly, benevolent God at the end of our days than the one who played the equivalent of supernatural craps with the lives for men for shits and giggles. So are you out there, Jesus? I could use a sign of some sort. And a chocolate bunny if it's not too much trouble.
review movies

Lets stay in for the movies

It's been a real movie bonanza tonight on network tv. I've watched a bit of mission impossible 2, saw most of mission impossible 3, and just finished watching oceans 11. Since I don't go out to the movies much anymore, all of these were new to me and I was pretty entertained for the most part. Tv movies have gotten much better then they used to be. I still remember as a kid when the only thing on network cable was B-movie crap. Now it seems that everything makes a tv debut if you're just willing to wait long enough for it.

As for the individual films themselves, I guess I should first say that I was surprised I liked MI 3. I'm hardly a Tom Cruise fan and I heard the movie bombed in theaters compared to expectations. A lot of people attributed it at the time to the fact he went insane on Oprah and the whole Scientology thing. I just don't get why people fucking care about whether or not he's a scientologist. You don't see scientologists going around blowing up school buses full of kids nor selling dope on street corners. Fuck, I'd love it if most of the world were scientologists if that sort of pattern held true. Instead, he seems to have gotten a shitload of grief over it and I heard that the German government even declared scientology a cult. They put huge roadblocks in his way for filming that latest film, Valkyrie, just because he's a proponent of the religion. Sometimes, people are just assholes for no good reason IMO. The most annoying part is that those who often jump on this cult idea are often those who normally claim to espouse a live and let live ideology. Fucking hypocrites for the most part.

I seem to have gone a bit far afield there. Back to the point. I liked the movie more than I was expecting to. I never used to be a big fan of those sort of spy vs spy movies but the advent of special effects and technology make them a lot more entertaining. I also enjoyed Oceans 11, which is sort of in the same vein really. It's all about a group of people who use tech and extreme planning skills to reach their goals. It's almost like a techy version of a martial arts flick. You know it would never work out in real life, but it's fun to watch the choreographed ballet.

The only thing that really ticked me off about the film was the whole 160 million thing. They even have one of the characters mention that it would be impossible to just prance in and out of the vault with that much cash. Why in the world did none of the writers consider how much 160 million dollars actually weighs? It was very intuitive that there was no way in hell they would just be able to carry out the damn money in a handful of duffel bags. A quick google search found that any US paper bill weighs about 1 gram. Even if we assume that there were only $100 bills in the vault, this would still mean that less than a dozen people carried out 3500 pounds of money. Frankly, I think it would be asking a lot for each duffel to have more than 50 pounds in it and each man could only take one. It might look a little suspicious if the SWAT team started to resemble a moving company. I don't exactly recall how many of the guys actually went in to retrieve the cash but lets assume it was all eleven of them (minus George Clooney because he had to get back tot he ass kicking room). 10 men, 50 pound bag each would mean that each person could cart off 2.27 million. Not a bad payday for sure, but nowhere near what they supposedly dragged out of there. It's always these little incongruities that tick me off about movies. It's also ridiculous that whatshisface the guy they ripped off didn't know for certain that Clooney had been among the group that ripped him off. Julia Roberts all but says she saw him pick the money over her. The only way she could have seen that is if someone had hacked into the video cameras and the ones who did that were obviously the thieves who had robbed him. THe connection should have been incredibly easy to make. How else could she have seen the exchange up in her room? It's not like there had been time for the rumor mill to circulate, nor was she in the control center for eye in the sky and saw it first hand. He should have pegged Clooney as one of the thieves, taken him to an undisclosed location and beaten the truth out of him. Feh.

Even with the complaints, I did enjoy movie night. God knows I had nothing else interesting to do and since I don't see many first run films anymore, all of it's new to me. I'm trying to decide whether I should go snag Oceans 12 and 13 now that I've seen the first and liked it.
discworld fiery eye

Lets get ready to rumble

I'm watching God vs Satan right now on the history channel and it has me thinking. I'm not a religious person and never have been. I've never so much as stepped into a church when it hasn't been a wedding or funeral or some secular event that happens to take place there. That being said, I'm not sure exactly where I stand on God and the nature of existence. I'd really like to believe that God exists.....I think. If God exists then there is an answer to everything. No matter how complex or inscrutable to each of us now, it would mean that there exists a grand plan and everything happens for a reason. There's something very comforting about that sort of certainty.

The downside of knowing there is a God is the fact that I don't think I'd measure up very well on His yard stick of what makes a good and holy person. Besides the point of not having followed any religion and missing all the various trappings that might be necessary like baptisms or bar mitzvah's or whatever, I'm not sure that I'm all that good of a person in general. If God exists and you don't meet the standard that he is looking for, well, then I can't imagine that you have a lot to look forward to as far as an afterlife goes.

Many religious people nowadays believe that there is a loving and understanding God. That point of view has only become prevalent relatively recently as far as history is concerned. For hundreds, if not thousands, of years before this, God was often viewed as being vengeful or at least, sort of demanding and arbitrary. Why in the world would we believe that our view of God is more likely to be true than those of people closer to the start of history? If an event happened today wouldn't you believe that people 2 years in the future would have a better understanding of what occurred than people 400 years in the future? Why are we in a better position to judge if Jesus existed or the nature of God than those who were closer to the original source? That idea does disturb me a bit when I think about it. If God does exist, he might not be there just to pass out candy and puppies to the people of the world.

So I guess in the end it's a balance of sorts. It would be nice to know that there is a purpose to the universe, even if the purpose might not be a pleasant one. After all, what is there to hold on to if everything is simply a random happenstance? What would be the point of it all?
discworld fiery eye

I am the Lord, thy God. Suck it.

Over the past few days I've been re-reading an old series of books that I last picked up around 10 years ago. It's a trilogy called The Great Game by Dave Duncan. There are certain concepts from the novels that stuck in my head and I thought it might be interesting to give it another look. A couple years ago, I got into a discussion with some people at Charliecon where some ideas presented in the books came up. Here's the skinny....

Basically the idea is that there are multiple words next to each other all accessable through points they touch, much like the idea of parallel dimensions and the like. By singing, dancing, and drumming you can create certain patterns that allow you to fall down the rabbit hole into another world. Everyone has a 'home' dimension where they're born and everywhere else, they're 'strangers'. Strangers have certain abilities that aren't avaliable to the natives, namely that of charisma and an ability to accumilate mana. Mana comes through worship and sarifice and can be used to do all sorts of things from influencing other individuals to casting lightning bolts.

What the books basically provide is an explanation for God, of sorts. In the alternate world of 'Nextdoor', there are more Gods than you can shake a stick at, each having staked out a portfolio over which they rule and derive their power. A God of Knowledge would have his priests stockpile books and information, doling it out in exchange for offerings and whatnot. Each person that believes in the God provides him with mana with which he can influence more minds or cause miracles. It's sort of like a pyramid scheme of sorts. The big Gods will go out and hire on people to play lesser Gods and the lesser Gods will send a portion of the mana they receive up the ladder.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to read the books again is because I always sorta liked this idea of faith providing a real manifestation of power. It's not stated explicitly in the books, but it's not hard to chalk Jesus or Muhammad or Moses up as just another Stranger from a different world that came here and set up shop. I'm not sure if it was Duncan's intent to take God down a notch or two, but I wouldn't put it pass him. He is canadian after all. As for me, I just just it from a more metaphysical point of view. If faith were a measurable quantity and could actually be used to perform miracles or affect the environment, then the possibilities would be endless. Frankly, I think I'd find it to be a mroe comforting way to think about God if it were true. At least then you can sort of understand the equation instead of pondering the unknowables.

Besides, I wouldn't mind treking through a wardrobe and setting myself up with a slice of divinity. I think I'd make a pretty spiffy God overall. I would watch over my people and see that they prosper. Well, until they piss me off at which point I'd probaly smite a whole bunch of them. But they'd deserve it. Who are they to fuck with God anyway?
dance centipedes vagina

Are you there, God? It's me, Henry.

It's sorta funny really. I was just thinking about religion and pondering the fact that all in all, I think it's been a generally positive force in society in the modern age. I suppose that's sort of odd given that I have no religion of my own. Frankly, given my nature it's probably a miracle that I'm not an aethist. God knows that one more cynical, bitter troll would hardly go noticed in that crowd.

Still, I can't help but believe that religion has done a lot of good and each day motivates millions of anonymous little people to be just a little bit better than they might otherwise have been. It must also be incredibly comforting to know in your heart that the universe has a purpose and that there is a creator who loves and cares about your welfare. All of that low-level good across the globe is more than enough to counter the horrors we do see when religion runs amok IMO. I guess it's kinda like the whole school shootings thing. School violence has been going down for decades across the board, but most people would never believe that because we always hear about the large scale and sensationalised FUBARs.

The only thing I'm really ambivalent about nowadays is Islam. I'm not quite sure I can really apply the positive label to it. I wholly believed the 'it's a religion of peace' and 'it's been hijacked by extremists' talking points, or at least I did in years past. After a while, you just see a little too much and you wonder. It dosen't help that every once and a while someone runs over to the middle east to run public opinion polls and ends up finding that bunches of people think it's okay to blow up a bus to make a point.

Ah, well.