Monday, November 30, 2009

Theogenesis

In the beginning man created heaven.

And heaven was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep recesses of our unconscious. And the Mind of Man moved upon the face of the waters.

And man said, Let there be spirits: and there were spirits.

And man imagined the spirits and liked them, and divided them good from bad.

And man called the good, “Gods,” and the bad, “Monsters.” We worshipped the Gods by day and feared the Monsters by night, the first day of superstition.

And man said, Perhaps there is a giant bowl over us, holding back blue waters which leak down as rain.

And man called this bowl the firmament. And the evening’s sacrifices and the nightly fright were the second day of superstition.

And man said, these plants and fruit-bearing trees and the Colonel’s seven secret herbs and spices, are all gifts from the Gods.

And we shall name everything after Gods and their mythology, and man began eating everything until the wee hours of the night, thus ending the third day of superstition.

And man said, Those lights in the sky… after all this herb, I think I see shapes; and man began naming the stars after Gods and used them to give directions, which got really confusing when he told you to head towards the Twins, but if you pass the Scorpion you’ve gone too far.

And man also got around to naming the Sun and the Moon, even though three days have already passed, and you’d think mentioning the sun would be a top priority when talking about days.

And thus ends the fourth day, with the Great Light God’s vessel dipping below the horizon to end the fourth day of superstition.

And man said, Hey, there’s stuff swimming around in the water; and there’s birds flying in the air. I bet the Gods made those for us to eat, for they look tasty.

And man had a fowl and fish cook out, ending the fifth day of superstition.

And man said, There are beasts and cattle all around us; we could have mammoth burgers and mastodon spare ribs, for the Gods have blessed them to be fruitful and multiply, that we may never run out of this gluttonous bounty.

And man said, We’re essentially just animals, so the Gods made us on this day also; and we were made to look like the Gods, which apparently look a lot like apes; and man shall have dominion over all he sees: including woman.

And man saw everything and knew that the Gods had made it especially for him, and it was very good to be a man. And the evening and morning were the sixth day of superstition.

And on the seventh day, man rested, for subjecting the world to superstition is tiring work.

Funny Bible Quote #3

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

~ Matthew 6:5-8, KJV

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Funny Bible Quote #2

If a man lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman,
both of them have committed an abomination:
they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

And if a man take a wife and her mother,
it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire,
both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

And if a man lie with a beast,
he shall surely be put to death:
and ye shall slay the beast.

~ Leviticus 20:13-15, KJV

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Funny Bible Quote #1

He that is wounded in the stones [testicles] or hath his privy member [penis] cut off, shall not enter the congregation of the Lord.

~ Deuteronomy 23:1, KJV with annotations

Thanks For Nothing

The depiction of God in the Bible stands in direct opposition to the very notion science. After all, if God can (and apparently does) suspend natural laws at His whim, what use is it to study natural law? The believer may see the world outside of man as inconceivably complex and certainly beyond comprehension by our flawed and finite understanding and experience. This was the attitude of Medieval Europe.

This attitude seemed to be quashed during the Enlightenment, but what really happened is that Europe just shipped all of the malcontents to the New World. Sure, some great minds found their way over here as well, especially opportunistic fortune seekers who saw limitless potential in a land defended by people who had yet to discover gunpowder.

A few centuries later, and here we are in America. We don’t use the metric system. We don’t believe in evolution. We don’t believe pollution is a problem. We demand all our drinks ice cold, even coffee – no worry of brain freeze, since we lack the necessary organ.

I am in complete awe at the state of things in America. I understand how we got here… if you expose a foreign organism to an environment with no natural defenses, the foreign organism runs rampant and chokes out the native wildlife. Americans are an invasive species.

What’s worse, we found a host for our parasitic existence which was largely untapped of its resources. At a time when Europe had lost nearly all of its forests, the New World had more acres of untapped forest than there was land in Europe. At a time when land ownership was consolidated to only a few people in Europe, America had vast expanses of unoccupied territory (even beyond the land used by the indigenous tribes).

Americans bleed the land dry, and there’s still plenty of untapped veins. Even during this recession, there is still less desperation than in many parts of the world. Americans just have it easy. If you ask most of us, we’ll say it’s our work ethic, or that capitalism prevailed, or some other talking point that is not only irrelevant, but condescending and rude. So the work ethic of children who work 12 hours a day, seven days a week is just not up to snuff with the CEO whose office has a putting green, big screen TV with cable, and a secretary he bangs on the side?

Fuck America. We give blank checks to the wealthiest among us. They call us “serfs” behind our back. You know what? I saw we treat the wealthy of America like royalty. When we have a problem with them, we’ll storm their homes, kill them and their family, then parade their heads through town on a stake. That’s how a monarchy works, and that’s why peaceful democracy is preferential not only for the populace, but for the leaders.

We are a nation with far too much faith. Faith in our God, faith in our country, faith in our leaders, faith in ourselves. We have done nothing but let the world down again and again. “But Ginx, World War II!” Do you know who did most of the work in World War II on the side of the allies, and who ultimately stormed Berlin and found Hitler’s remains? Russia. They lost more troops than all the other allied nations… combined. And how did we repay them? We economically snubbed them under hostile conditions for half a century.

I don’t want to be here anymore. I have nothing to be thankful for. My country has given me nothing; my family is who provides for me and takes care of me. My family is all I can trust in America. Not the government, not banks, not lawyers, not doctors, not auto mechanics, not that crazy guy you ask for directions when lost. It’s a fucking travesty that we are in constant economic and ideological warfare, and I don’t have the energy for it.

I understand why Europe kicked us out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Metallic Faith

My wife asked me a very interesting question the other day, and unfortunately she was not in the mood for the kind of answer that was required. So, I set about writing a post about it… until I realized there was much about the subject that not even I understood.

A major component of Libertarian economics is a return to the gold standard. What this means is that Libertarians feel every dollar in the US should be “backed” by gold (i.e. you can bring a dollar to the bank and redeem it for a dollar’s worth of gold). If there was 8 trillion US dollars (which is slightly lower than is the case, but is a nice round amount), then the US would have to have 8 trillion dollars worth of gold safeguarded in reserves across the country, such as Fort Knox.

My wife’s question: why use gold? What makes gold inherently valuable? Many people realize the dollar bills in their wallet are only symbols, which have no real value beyond the cloth-paper they’re printed on. However, gold seems to carry some sort of mystical intrinsic worth. In order to understand this whole dilemma, one must understand money.

In a barter society which lacks currency, business transactions between individuals can be complex. If I’m a doctor and a farmer gets sick. he may pay me in grain. Suppose the cobbler gets sick, he may pay me with shoes. Suppose the person who makes tampons get sick… well, I don’t need tampons. Does that person go on being sick, because they have no way of paying?

In a barter system, people hold on to surplus goods in order to use them for negotiations. That grain I was paid with might be used to pay for something later if I need something from a healthy person who does not my medical services. I might take tampons from the tampon maker, even though I have no need for them, just in case I could use them to trade later.

In a barter system, the best goods to keep around for trade are those which do not perish and those which retain their value. Gems and precious metals are ideal, because they are easy to transport. The problem with gems is that they cannot be divided while retaining their value. Metals can be cut to any size while retaining their utility. Gold fits the bill, but silver is often just as important in the role of go-between commodity.

If I’m a doctor, I may demand that my clients pay me in silver or gold, because I don’t want to deal with grain, shoes and tampons. Then, it simply becomes an issue of determining how much gold or silver will be exchanged. Coins are nothing but standardized measures for this purpose. Often, coins were cut into halves or fourths in order to make “change,” so to speak.

Paper currency is nothing but a system whereby banks hold the gold and silver themselves while issuing banknotes to people as a sort of “I.O.U.” These pieces of paper entitle the holder of the banknote to a set amount of precious metal from within that bank’s vaults.

But why gold? Honestly, it doesn’t have to be gold. It can be silver, platinum, steel, palladium, copper… really any metal. However, gold has some special properties beyond its legendary status as the mark of wealth.

For one thing, there’s not much gold in the world, and we aren’t mining much. It is estimated that there was about 150,000 tonnes of gold in the world in 2006, with only about 2,500 tonnes of new gold mined each year. That’s a growth of about 1.5% each year, which creates a very stable market. It is a good commodity for investment, because there is rarely ever a surplus dragging down the price. This creates a stable environment, which is why gold is a “safe haven” investment.

On top of all this, gold is very useful. It is utilized in medicine, jewelry, industry, electronics, chemistry, even food and beverage (Goldschläger, anyone?). It’s not that gold is actually “intrinsically” valuable, gold is just an ideal go-between which maintains its utility and has a conservative supply.

Gold is a decent commodity against which to measure value, but it makes a horrible economic pillar. For one thing, there is quite a finite amount of gold in the world. If all of it were melted into a cube, its sides would be about as long as an Olympic sized pool. While that would be a lot of gold, the scarcity of this resource lends itself to manipulation. Silver has already been manipulated in this manner, and putting all our backing in a single resource as arbitrary as a precious metal is only appealing to those seeking simple answers, not correct ones.

Even diversifying to bimetallism by including silver would alleviate some of the problems of switching our monetary system to a gold standard. For one thing, humans have not mined enough gold. In fact, we have roughly $8.3 trillion in circulation and deposits, and there’s only slightly more than half that, $4.8 trillion, worth of gold mined. Switching to a gold standard would devalue our money or inflate the price of gold, probably both. Not to mention the fact that in our government’s mad dash to purchase enough gold to cover our currency, it may become a crime (again) to own gold, as a worldwide shortage hits hard

I don’t know enough to comment further, I’m afraid. I don’t know if it would be a good idea to back our money with precious metals. I know this: it seems to be a policy that favors the haves, with few benefits for the have-nots. It is a policy that seems to protect the value of the dollar against… well… conservative policy.

Our money is essentially backed by the stability of our economy. Conservative economic policies have a tendency to blow giant bubbles, forming a foamy foundation for our markets. All the games that conservatives are playing will result in our dollar being drastically devalued [more than it already is]. If the dollar is backed by metals, you can’t just print money to pay your way out of a recession.

I would support some variation of a gold standard if we did one thing: all our money should henceforth read “In Gold We Trust.”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Top Ten: Favorite Single-Player/Cooperative Games

I could have done just one list, but I couldn’t narrow it down. I noticed that I had trouble picking between games I played alone versus games I played with others. Still, a few on the “multiplayer” list were really not competitive, and therefore didn’t seem within the spirit of the list.

So here they are, my top ten favorite video games that are single-player or allow you to play cooperatively with others.

10. Harvest Moon 64 ~ Who would have believed a farming game would be so fun? I don’t know what it is about virtual chores that make them so much more fun than real chores, maybe because pushing some buttons is much easier than actually milking a cow or plowing a field. Playing this game in while I lived in Indiana was the closest I ever came to being a hick.

9. Captain Goodnight and the Islands of Fear ~ One of the first games I consciously remember playing, it was the best of the five (the others being Oregon Trails, Fuzzy Womp, Ghostbusters, and Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One). I never beat this game, but I played the opening levels countless times throughout my youth.

8. Kingdom Hearts ~ This is the game that keeps me from regretting my purchase of a PS2. This game blends Final Fantasy style, team-based role-playing with Disney. Now I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. This game was released in 2002, when I was 19, and yet I didn’t even purchase it until I was 21. I did not find the game to be childish at all, and actually found it quite refreshing because I found myself actually following the story because the characters were recognizable.

7. Bubble Bobble ~ The only video game I remember ever playing with my mother, I loved this NES classic. Whether single player or with a friend playing along, it was just so much fun blowing bubbles and bouncing your Technicolor lizard character around the screen in a quest to defeat all the enemies before time ran out, while always on the lookout for suspiciously familiar French fries marked with a big M.

6. Donkey Kong Country ~ Possibly the last great side-scrolling game, DKC and its sequels mark the brief period of time when 3D animation was being done in a 2D format. I remember this being one of the first games where the graphics of the actual gameplay, not the just title screen, blew me away.

5. Mario Paint ~ It almost didn’t make the list, but then I decided it deserved more than that. The only true “game” part of Mario Paint was a fly-swatter side-game you could play which utilizes the mouse for the SNES which comes packaged with Mario Paint. Instead, this title was about creating. It allowed drawing, animation (real framed animation, with variable speed), and music composition. YouTube is full of Mario Paint-inspired material, some of it very entertaining.

4. Super Mario Brothers 3 ~ Setting the format for the rest of the Super Mario side-scrollers, this game helped redefine non-linear action games. While “warps” had always been a part of Mario since the beginning, Super Mario 3 allowed multiple paths through each level, not to mention warp whistles which allow you to beat the game in minutes. For those who play through it (99.9% of us), this game offers some serious depth of level design, and also introduces the idea of Mario modifiers beyond the standard fire flower and mushroom. The ability to fly alone changed the way I looked at Mario forever.

3. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars ~ My favorite Mario game of all time, and the one most people have never played. This game actually lets you play with Bowser in your team alongside Mario, and also introduces two weird characters you never see again: Geno and Mallow. Turns out, the rights to those guys are owned by Square-Enix, not Nintendo. I don’t think most people mind. You could spend months playing this, finish, and want nothing more than to start over at from scratch.

2. Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind ~ Morrowind was the ultimate open-world, or “sandbox” RPG. You could do just about anything in this game. You could steal from the guy who helps you out first thing in the game, go on the run from the law, become a werewolf, and be the terror of the world. Or, you could be a normal adventurer, choosing from any of a number races and classes. Even what gender you play affects your stats. This is also a game you never “beat.” It just keeps going and going, until you have had enough… or until you’ve lost your job and you have bills to pay.

1. The Legend of Zelda ~ The original great game. While I chose the original, you could substitute just about any from the series, and on any system. You could tell they knew this game would be amazing because they made the cartridge gold. Couple bits of trivia: you don’t play as Zelda, you play as Link. Zelda is the princess you aim to rescue. Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Zelda and Mario, named her after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. Also, this was the first NES game with a save feature. This cartridge featured an internal battery which kept the data from being wiped when the power was turned off.

Video Games

I never write about it here, but I’m a huge video game fan. I play all kinds… first-person shooters (the ones that make you violent), role-playing games (the ones that act as a prophylactic), real-time strategy games (the ones that let you play god by having economic control over a city and sending people off to die in battle; i.e. the ones that make you Republican)… I have also played across several different platforms, from our family Apple IIe and the original Nintendo to the Playstation 2 and my very cherry computer (well, good for being a Dell).

Perhaps later tonight I’ll compile my top ten favorite video games of all time, but in particular I want to bitch about the state of gaming in general. My wife wants to get a Wii, and I suppose it might be fun, but I really don’t have any urge to get it, let alone a PS3 or Xbox 360.

New console games are awful. I remember playing Super Mario RPG on the Super Nintendo for months. When I downloaded an emulator which lets me play Super Nintendo games, I spent over a month playing through it at an hour or two a day. I got several hundred hours of enjoyment from that game, and it wasn’t even multiplayer.

I play through and finish single-player games today in about a week. What’s worse, the games are so simple that they’re not worth playing through more than once. The odds of you missing something is very small, because games just aren’t very deep in the challenge department.

“Action” video games today are choose-your-own-adventure movies at their best, and tediously sappy stories punctuated by button mashing at their worst. This wasn’t always the case. Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog are classic action games. Most action games today seem like they were made by failed movie producers.

Super Mario Brothers is the quintessential action game, and one which was successful because it relied on simple mechanics, several different levels, and it never gave a shit about the story. Why did a spike-shelled lizard steal a princess, and how did a plumber get charged with rescuing her? Who the fuck cares, get jumping!

Action games today are bogged down by visual eye candy, professionally composed orchestral sound tracks, complex stories, and even more complex mechanics. None of these things can make a game any good.

Every time a new game comes out, it’s the same bullshit comment when it comes to aesthetics: “Look at the water! Wow, they rendered it so realistically!” Every successive game, they seem to get closer and closer to really making you believe you’re looking at water. Never mind that any gamer who wants to see water could pour themselves a fucking glass and set it next to the screen. Mario got it right: water is blue, move on.

When you buy a game, you get an instruction manual, which has four pages or so at the end which lists the credits. I’m glad that’s there, because I can look at it and see how many people they paid to work on the music. Those are all people who should never have had a job. The first thing I do when I load up a game is open the options and turn the music off. It’s not that I dislike any of the music; I’m sure it’s lovely, but in the age of the MP3, I don’t have to listen to what someone else wants me to listen to when I’m sitting at my computer.

[The only exceptions to this tend to be games with actual songs in their soundtrack. The Grand Theft Auto series, the Madden football games, and Fallout 3 come to mind, as their “music” comes through radios that the user controls in game which play classic hits.]

The only thing that is new about action games that can be argued to be an improvement is the multiple-path plotlines. Originally common in the RPG genre, the idea of making choices that affected the outcome – and often the displayed ending – of the game is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it is about the only thing that makes these games worth playing more than once. “Well I beat it as a good guy… I wonder what happens if I act like a jerk…”

The curse of the multiple-ending seeker is horrible mechanics. Games today are often too complex, trying to do too many things at once and forcing the player to seek help. This is no accident, as a small industry of “Guide” publishing has flourished on the esoteric solutions required of many modern titles. Of course, anyone with access to the internet should be able to circumvent the guide scheme.

I still play new games, but I find myself continually dissatisfied lately. I could probably come up with a top ten worst games before a top ten best games. I think this is because video game budgets are allocated more and more towards marketing. Commercials for video games are abundant, and every dollar wasted on getting the word out on TV is a dollar not spent on developing the game itself.

The only games that need advertising are bad games. Anyone who knows anything about video games knows about websites and magazines that review games, and that review site doesn’t care how many commercials are run for the game (only whether the publishing company paid off the reviewer…). Good games sell based on word of mouth and past success by the developers, not flashy promo videos.

I have always preferred multiplayer games. There’s really no fun in beating a program. Competing against another person is where the fun is. Cooperative play can be interesting, but it usually just opens the door to one person being frustrated at the other person’s incompetency, and is really just an extrapolation of the “beating a program” scenario.

With the internet, multiplayer gaming went beyond the kids on my block and spread worldwide. I have never been in a gang, but I’ve been in several guilds, clans, alliances, factions, and tribes (depending on the game, of course). The most fun is playing with people from other countries, since we have a jolly time ripping on the US for how horrible we are to the rest of the world. I often pretend I’m from Canada.

Which reminds me of another odd trait of mine when playing video games. Given the choice, I tend to play female characters. I don’t look at the person on the screen as a digital representation of me, nor are they who I want to be. Instead, I look at it from the perspective that if I’m going to watch my character’s backside as they run around in the game for several hours, I’d rather it be a woman. Plus, there’s nothing sexier than a woman who kicks ass.

After never writing about video games before, I’m sure this novella has turned most of you to the subject. Regardless, I’ll work on a top ten list of my favorite games of all time across all platforms, because I like making lists and my music is still pretty limited after my reformat.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Inadvertent Change of Style

I don’t usually write about my day-to-day life, not because it’s boring… but I have no other way of ending that sentence.

However, today something funny happened. My wife got me a beard trimmer for my birthday a couple weeks back (no late birthday wishes, please). I love it because my beard only had two phases before: shaggy homeless-guy or horrible, patchy trim-job. I just never got the hang of using scissors so near to my jugular vein.

My wife, who has to look at me every day, got me an adjustable beard trimmer with nine length settings and a vacuum to suck up [some of] the hairs. It works great, and it even has a “Turbo” setting… in case the hairs evolve or something and become wily.

So I took the guard attachment off this morning to trim my neck line. When I was done, I clicked the setting to five and started trimming the right side of my beard… when I suddenly had no side burn anymore. I forgot to put the guard back on. I looked down at my dog, and he looked back at me. He wasn’t going to be any help.

I called my wife at work to ask if she’d still love me with only one side burn. She laughed and suggested I shave it into a goatee or something. So here I am, with a goatee. Thanksgiving is in a week, and I look like… well, I don’t want to say what I think I look like, because looking over my Followers list, I shouldn’t say anything bad about goatees.

Until my beard grows back in, it looks like I’m one of “you people.”

[Note: My face is so much colder on dog walks now.]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Are We Good?

On the old “Are people essentially/born good or bad?” question, I avoid the good/bad problem by altering it to ask, “Are people born socially acceptable?” The answer is “No.”

People are not naturally considerate. Worse, they are often not even aware of the consequences of their actions, so even those who are considerate have a tendency to be oblivious douchebags. We need things like parenting, education, love, punishment, ethics, shame, etc. There are even people who received all those things and still transgress – look at Bernie Madoff, a billionaire who steals. I’m almost positive most people would revert to poo-flinging without society.

It’s hard to imagine this to be the case if you live in a developed nation, and we can’t really test it by performing the necessary experiment (which is even given the ominous name, “The Forbidden Experiment”). Suffice to say, one needs only look back through history at the things people do that are socially acceptable (or even expected) at one time, but are considered crude or barbaric now. Slavery, treating women like property, pederasty, genocide, cannibalism… those were our ancestors, some only a few generations removed.

It’s not that we’re bad, we’re just confused. We’re born wet, bloody and crying, full of needs and wants, and all we can do is scream. Independence cannot be expected of an individual until at least around 15, and some people are never able to take care of themselves. All we know is what we see, and the people who want to be seen are often clueless. Ignorance is almost forgivable.

Yet despite all the obstacles, skeptics abound among the young. Of course, once they are busied by work and no longer have time to waste thinking (not to mention all that fancy book learnin’ that gets beer'ed away), they tend to settle down into a comfortable routine of family values and fag hating.

No matter how educated we are now, there will always be an endless stream of new people to laugh at us when we’re old for what we did. It’s always a child who points out that the emperor has no clothes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Environmentalism

Environmentalism is quite a unique cause. It simultaneously affects and bores every person on the planet. I don’t consider myself an environmentalist, but I have a very different perspective than people who listen only to industry.

I really don’t care about animals. I tried, and I like plenty of domesticated animals (especially on my plate), but I just can’t bring myself to give a shit about wildlife. However, my understanding of science won’t allow me to ignore the resources lost whenever a species goes extinct.

I find projects like this one to be vital to the human race. Cataloguing the DNA of animals and plants can allow us to preserve at least some part of these living things which have evolved as little independent biochemical factories for millions of years.

Nearly all of our drugs – both medical and enjoyable – are chemicals we derived from living things. Scientists aren’t mixing up random junk in the lab and injecting them into rats to see what happens. They find chemical processes in nature, isolate the responsible molecule or compound, then inject it into rats to see what happens.

We have such a small understanding of biology that new discoveries are still made daily, even in well-known species. Animals like the Tasmanian Devil face extinction, and humans are not to blame. There is a facial tumor disease which is sweeping through mainland populations, and human efforts to form isolated colonies on other islands may be their only hope.

Even though the devils are not endangered because of us, I would say it is still in our best interest to help them. Saving the animals is not about guilt, it is about preserving knowledge. The problem is, there’s not nearly enough support for these kind of efforts.

Business does not like environmentalism. Business doesn’t like the labor movement, either. Business just doesn’t like having to treat anything with respect or decency. Business is about making money, and clean up is expensive. It’s much cheaper to just manufacture your product and dump the by-product.

But what if your business is the environment? Logging has made great efforts to remain sustainable, with many operating on cycles of tree cutting and planting that gives them an essentially neutral presence. Fishing, however, is another matter. I love fish, but as much as it pains me to say, I shouldn’t eat any.

Besides the chemicals that they bioaccumulate from our disgusting dump habits, fish are disappearing. Not all fish, really, just the delicious ones. Salmon, tuna, sea bass… a lot of these fish only exist at levels hovering around 15% of pre-industrial age populations. That means we ate over 80% of the tasty fish.

If they couldn’t fuck (or more accurately, spawn) fast enough to replace themselves when their numbers were far greater (and humans were far fewer), there’s not much hope for them now. In all likelihood, some fish you commonly see on the menu will go extinct, maybe even this century.

It is a complex problem, but it’s downright brutal for fishermen. They have two options: they can collectively choose to stop fishing (either by significantly lowering their catch quota or stopping entirely until the populations recover), or they can fish until their jobs disappear.

One group has declined to recommend a ban, but they have been criticized for pursuing the short-term profits over the long-term stability of the industry. I wonder how many people making the decision were over 50 and how many were under 25… I can’t imagine those old farts have any vested interest in leaving young people any jobs – or fish.

Sometimes I wonder if the Eskimos had it right by sending their elderly out on ice floes. Maybe that’s why the old, rich bastards who sell us the idea that environmentalism is wrong have a vested interest in melting the caps. If it’s too inefficient to clean up after yourself or to leave things as you found them, maybe it’s too inefficient to care for the old.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Objector Rules

I’m no fan of the US military. I find it to be entirely un-American in its operation. It forces religion down your throat, makes sexual harassment a policy, desensitizes people to extreme violence, and demands obedience. The military is a factory for molding people into Republicans.

The Fort Hood shooting has drawn completely different conclusions from every corner of politics. Those on the right tend to point to all the warning signs that were ignored because of liberal tolerance. Those on the left blame guns and tension over the wars.

I think this was a case of desperation. All desperate animals will lash out when cornered.

It is my understanding that the Army paid for Hasan’s medical education, and that he worked with only minor incident for some time. Sure, there was the annoying proselytizing, but it was only noted because he chose the wrong religion to push. Those who push Christianity are completely above any kind of suspicion or criticism. I’m sure there’s thousands of Muslims in the military who are pushy about their faith who have not, and will not, attack a fellow soldier.

Hasan offered to pay back his medical bills, but the Army is pressed for people at the moment. Hasan may have even requested exemption from deployment as a conscientious objector.

I have long believed the military would be best served if it allowed those who enlisted to decline or “veto” deployment. I think it would go a long way in both increasing the morale of troops who are deployed, and in forcing politicians to carefully consider their wars. Most wars we fight are complete bullshit, and those in the military know this more than most.

Soldiers have no choice after joining, even though it is their lives at risk. There is no justice in saying, “But they signed a piece of paper saying…” There is no paper that can be signed which warrants being sent into harm for a cause you oppose. People join the military because they love their country. They want to chip in and make a difference. They don’t sign up for wars of ideological dick-measuring or economic rape.

Perhaps objector rules could be instituted which allow the military a degree of… *gasp*… democracy. Injecting a little America into our military could end the wars where our politicians have failed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Societal Haircut

I have been poring over economic literature for a few weeks now. I have tried to understand the ins and outs of finance, investment, markets, etc. I have come to the conclusion that the entire field of economics is a sub-field of sociology, and is less a scientific pursuit of knowledge, like chemistry, and more a pursuit of wealth, like alchemy.

Economics is also largely in the business of creating jobs for those who create nothing. Economics is the realm of the middle-man. It’s a study in how to make money by doing as little as possible. Economics has become so efficient, the middle-men rose to the top.

Investment bankers, hedge-fund operators, CEOs, CFOs, COOs, a whole slew of people whose job it is to do nothing but manipulate money or make decisions which are handed to them by advisors and summarily ignored by everyone upon being issued… these people hold all the chips even though they’re not the ones making the bets; they get most of the reward without any of the risk. While the people doing the real work are thrown scraps as they scurry about the machinery of business, those at the top convince themselves that their deified voice of power must be calling all of this wealth and success into being, as though they were the God of Genesis.

If you think rich people need more, what the fuck is wrong with you? What do they need more money for? So they can buy off government employees? So they can funnel their money into tax-free, non-profit havens that function with political agendas?

Fuck privatized tyranny! They aren’t investing their billions in more jobs or more industries or any development; money for that stuff NEVER taken from the CEO’s pay check or bank account. Instead, money for those business-building activities is leached away by the ballooning salaries of these do-nothing douchebags at the top.

If you hate government corruption, support campaign finance reform. Fight for strict limits on contributions from private companies and their owners. Government is indeed corrupt, because private industry keeps sticking its dirty fingers into it. Eliminating government is just childish and stupid, like an eight year old who wants to run away from home because mommy and daddy took his toy gun away. Boo-fucking-hoo, you whiney ass Libertarian diaper-fillers.

It’s not “the State,” with some ominous capital S, that is to blame; it’s us for continuing to elect industry shills. We’re blinded by private industry and their masters of deception down in marketing. The money buys the ads, and the ads buy the votes, and Americans are stupid, shallow, and lazy so we let our media do all the thinking. The government is our voice.

America doesn’t have cancer. America doesn’t need invasive surgery or crippling chemo to fix its economic ills. All we need is a haircut. Trim off the unruly hair that blinds us, and let it fall harmlessly to the floor. America just needs a little off the top.

I’m not even talking about killing or hurting anyone. All we need are progressive taxes. Taxing those who make millions of dollars a year (let alone billions) will do two things: increase tax revenues at a time when years of conservative neglect have left our government crippled, and give incentive for those at the top to self-limit themselves to a sensible couple million per year [fucking turd blossoms] so the rest can be spread around the company.

If you prevent companies from donating to political campaigns and limit individuals to fortunes that don’t allow for the purchase of Senators, I think you’d be surprised how much better off we’d be… all from just a haircut.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gnosticism

All religions are essentially gnostic, which means they center their ideology around knowledge. Christians take this to the extreme, with many believing that accepting the knowledge of Jesus as their savior is sufficient pre-requisite for declaring oneself Christian. Other faiths place more emphasis on ritual, and less on knowledge, but it is still important in every faith to remember certain things.

Every religion boils down to a system for transferring knowledge, like an artificial form of genetics. Religion was most important before written language, when stories and songs would need to be transmitted between generations in order to preserve knowledge. Eventually, religion was written down, and as a result, long forgotten faiths sometimes find their way back into our memory.

Christian Gnosticism was a strong movement in the early days after Jesus. While the whole of the religion is lost to us, we get bits and pieces of it through lost papyri and codices. To make matters worse, it was certainly not a monolithic movement with a standardized belief structure. However, when taken together, the Gnostic world view is strikingly interesting.

In the beginning were the Archons, beings with limitless power, floating in an endless void. The youngest was Sophia, whose name means wisdom.

Sophia decided to create a companion for herself. Being the youngest and not wanting her older siblings to take Her creation away, she went off alone where she could not be seen. She created Yaldabaoth, the demiurge. She lavished it with attention and gave it everything He desired.

Because the apple never falls far from the tree, Yaldabaoth felt compelled one day to create. He didn’t want His mother to see it, so behind His back He created the world, our physical world (the world of mass, as opposed to the spirit world or just the Earth). He populated it with all kinds of animals and even one being that resembled Him and His Mother.

Seeing that His creation was alone, and having not given His creation the power to create, He made his creation a mate. He set up the events of Genesis as a game to amuse Himself. Some Gnostics found traditionally villainous characters like Cain to be heroic, though the circumstances of the Gnostic interpretation are lost to us.

Basically, the Gnostics were maltheists. They saw the Old Testament God, YHWH, as being this evil Demiurge, Yaldabaoth. The “Creator” was only a partial creator, for He made our world, but was Himself naïve to the whole of the existence. His imperfection accounts for the imperfection of our world.

At some point, we don’t know when Gnostics think this was, Sophia found out what Yaldabaoth had done. She saw our world and wept. No, this wasn’t the flood. What do we know is that Gnostics believe she sent Jesus to try to save us.

Gnostics believe Jesus was sent by Sophia with a knowledge that would allow human spirits to escape the prison created for us by Her Son. There is even evidence that Gnostics believed in the transmigration of souls, which is the Western terminology for reincarnation. This all likely comes about from a melding of Jewish and Platonic teachings, as Plato devised a system of reincarnation in which we are prisoners (see Plato’s Cave).

Judas, Thomas, and Mary Magdalene are some of the leading “Gospel” sources on Gnosticism. Their Gospels are classified as Gnostic because of their pronounced dualism and emphasis on knowledge. The Gospel of Judas is remarkable for its claim that Judas was asked by Jesus to initiate the events that led to the crucifixion, also portraying Judas as the most trusted apostle.

It is interesting to note that the Canonical Gospels all portray Judas and Thomas with great negativity; Judas is always called “the betrayer,” while the story of “doubting Thomas” is none too flattering. And calling Mary a prostitute is a play out of every schoolyard bully’s playbook. Smear campaigns have always worked on the ignorant masses.

Now you know more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pamphlets

While walking my dog, I noticed a bunch of religious tracts littered along my block. It seems someone put propaganda on the windshield of the cars in the area.

So, I picked up all of them that I saw and threw them away. I even took the pre-litter I saw still on people’s windshields; I think it’s safe to say the owners of these cars know all they care to about Jesus.

I kept three, the ones least wet. They’re so precious, I feel compelled to share excerpts of them.

My favorite has quite a wonderful message on the cover:

Entertainment, Amusements, Fun
What Does God Say?
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…,lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;” (2 Timothy 3:1,2a,4b)
First of all, I love a nice, short Bible passage taken out of context almost as much as I like using ellipses to redact portions you don’t like. Here’s the full quote from the KJV, verses 1-5:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

One might almost be able to accuse modern Christians of many of these… Anyway, I guess these particular Christians are against fun. Also, I love the implication that we’re living in the “last days.” The pamphlet continues:

One of man’s principal goals in life is happiness. Happiness can be elusive. Many are seeking happiness in pleasures and entertainment [not Christians, who like pain and boredom?]. They seek to satisfy themselves by doing what “feels good.” What feels good may actually be detrimental to one’s character and inner spiritual well-being. [Kind of like how religious people follow their “feeling” on God? And atheists are just supposed to leave believers alone because their faith makes them “feel good?”]

Then there’s a paragraph about how money can’t buy things that make you happy. Then there’s a paragraph about how amusement parks, TV, movies, music, the internet, and even books (at least the “shameful” kind) are ruining society. Then there’s more stuff about how we are driven to earn more and nothing is ever enough.

Then there’s a gem:

As this selfish drive is pursued the following happens: churches languish, welfare programs are left to the governments, and the homeless may be fed but not cared for. Even more tragically, children are not finding the security of a stable home.
So here we have the foundation for conservative thought when it comes to welfare: ending government welfare puts that power in the hands of churches, where they think it belongs. When people have no secular charity to turn to, they get stuck going to a church. There’s no magical reason getting aid from a church is better than getting it from the government.

They use the tactic of juxtaposing a completely unrelated tragic to their claim, in order to draw some sort of connection. How does the “selfish” drive of people to economically succeed cause churches to languish and welfare to be administered by a cold, uncaring government that will apparently spit in poor people’s soup? And how does any of that relate to at-risk children in broken homes?

Religious people love to do that: merely mention a problem in society and then link it to our “lack of” or “disappearing” faith. Forget trying to convince a believer that they’re in the majority. They have so much time on their hands not helping people, they divide themselves up into “true believers” and… frankly I don’t know if they have a name for it, I guess “fake Christians,” or maybe “Catholics.”So even though most of America believes, our problems clearly stem from the fact that most “Christians” are doing it wrong.

Another tract I have here is titled “Why Must I Suffer?” I have never found theodicy to be a particularly compelling argument, but I imagine it’s a popular one among neophyte atheists.

Theodicy is the question of evil; in a world created by a good and loving God, why are there bad things? The simplest formulation of non-theism stems from this dilemma, and is credited to Epicurus:

God is all powerful and good, but evil exists. Therefore:
1. God is good, but does not have the power to prevent evil.
OR
2. God is has the power to prevent evil, but chooses not to.

God either cannot or will not prevent evil, and is therefore unworthy of praise under Epicurus’ model.

However, these are flawed arguments because they overlook a concept central to Christian theology. The make a long discussion short, Christians explain theodicy away using the concept of “free will,” a power possessed by humans which is outside the influence of God and allows sin into the world.

This view is never explicitly stated in the Bible, but theologians point out that it does explain why God is always asking, or commanding, people to do stuff – rather than just making them do it like a puppet. You have characters like Mary and Abraham asked to do things, which they willingly choose to do (or almost do). Then you have characters like Jonah who deny the request and experience God’s wrath until they agree to obey.

Of course, none of this explains natural disasters, but I don’t even want to imagine the rhetorical gymnastics required to explain that. The whole pamphlet I have in front of me focuses instead on the suffering we inflict on each other, which I concede is greater at this point in history than the toll taken by nature. I will therefore overlook the injustice of nature’s wrath for the purposes of this discussion.

Besides blaming people for most of the ills of the world, this pamphlet exhibits the most annoying (and damaging) response to suffering: the old “well you think you have it bad…” routine.

People who are suffering don’t want to hear about someone who has it worse. If I sprain my ankle, I don’t want a friend to diminish my pain by telling me about they’re brother’s hair dresser’s cousin-in-law whose leg was blown off by a land mine while picking linden berries.

This pamphlet mentions Joseph from Genesis, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. Yeah, I guess being unemployed isn’t as bad as that… and yet I don’t feel any better. By the way… why isn’t slavery a sin? God really dropped the ethical ball on that one.

The third and final pamphlet I kept to look over is titled, “Peace of Mind in a Troubled World.” I should preface this by saying I hate peace of mind; your mind should always be at war. You should never declare an intellectual ceasefire. The minute your mind settles, you become ignorant. You will bar new ideas from challenging the established order to which you cling. Worse, you will likely bend and twist all that you perceive in order to reconcile it with your flawed outlook.

That being said, I can’t say I disagree with this pamphlet. Religion will indeed give you peace of mind. Religion rarely changes. It reiterates itself over and over, relying on repetition over rhetoric. Anything said often enough appears true.

Science, on the other hand, provides no peace of mind. Opinions are always changing. Wasn’t Pluto a planet? What happened to the Brontosaurus? What the hell is quantum entanglement? If you aren’t paying attention, your “scientific knowledge” quickly goes stale. Science has the shelf life of a loaf of bread; religion is more like a Twinkie, with a creamy salvation middle.

Science doesn’t say what we want to hear, either. We aren’t important in science. Science says we are just one of trillions of life forms on a planet circling just one of trillions of stars in the Milky Way, which is one of just trillions of galaxies. Science is the cold hard pursuit of truth, a journey with no final destination; religion is the warm and cozy fireplace back home.

Religion is indeed the gift of peace of mind. Scientists should thank religion for soaking up the ignorant like a sponge. Without religion, the scientific world would be populated with all those mentally-stunted people who would otherwise gravitate towards faith. It would be best if science did not fall prey to the intellectual laziness of religion.

Science has a responsibility to never get comfortable. But that’s science, not atheism. Atheism also carries with it a burden of responsibility. It’s our job to help clean up the mess religion makes, one pamphlet at a time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wipe That Stupid Smile Off Your Face

Score another one for the cynics.

In a study that compared subjects in a positive mood to subjects in a negative mood, the sad people scored better in areas such as critical thinking, awareness, judgment, persuasive argument, and memory.

It turns out that thinking positively makes you more gullible. No shock there, but what is interesting about this study is that people in a bad mood are “less likely to make snap decisions based on racial or religious prejudices.”

Rather than negativity being the cause of intelligence, I would hold that intelligence tends to breed negativity. It’s not like frowning and being negative in and of itself should make someone any smarter, or more tolerant...

However, this study was not done based on the normal mood of the subject. The moods being tested were induced through movie viewing and memory recall. The people who were induced to be sad simply scored better.

I have long felt that good perception skills tend to lead towards negative thoughts, but perhaps it works both ways. However, if you’re always positive or always negative, chances are pretty damn good that you aren’t really paying attention.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Islam: The Billion Member Elephant

Among atheist sites I read, Islam is the elephant in the room. We take free shots at Christianity in all its snowflake forms; unique, though basically all the same. Scientology gets it from all sides, from both believer and non-believer alike. Even Judaism gets a fair amount of shit heaped on it – usually from former followers (anyone else is usually off limits… I’m talking to you, Mr. Gibson).

There was that row over the Mohammed cartoon, but it blew over, and there hasn’t been an incident since. With the recent attacks at Fort Hood, maybe this will change. However, there’s always a pre-emptive, anti-backlash campaign after incidents like this. Don’t get me wrong, no Muslim should be persecuted in any physical way, but it’s time we engage on the intellectual battlefield.

The free transmission of ideas is one right that should never be infringed, no matter the circumstance. I emphasize “transmission of ideas,” because the common retort of yelling “Fire!” in a theatre is not about discussion. To me, even yelling “Jihad” or “Allah akbar” is free speech I defend, up to the point where they pull the trigger or flip the switch and harm people. Still, I appreciate them making their message clear; there’s nothing I hate more than unanswered questions.

Islam is not above criticism. Atheists and Christians spar quite frequently over the implications of fanatical violence, but Islam seems to be paired with Judaism as unmentionable – and even Judaism is often indirectly addressed in discussions about Israel. There seems to be a shortage of discussion about Islam that is critical.

I don’t understand why. Atheists: this is the opportunity to expose religion for what it can do to people. We always bring it back to the Crusades when talking to Christians, and they point out that was a long time ago – by the way, yeah it’s a long time ago, like 400-500 years, but you know what’s 2000 years old? That whole Jesus Christ garbage, so stop with the “That was a long time ago” stuff.

Muslim nations provide an endlessly growing list of oppressive acts in the name of religion. Maybe it’s just easier to criticize what’s close to you. It’s also not easy for us to hear someone say “Islam means peace,” and to look them in the face and say, “You lie. It means ‘submission,’ and I submit to no imaginary god, no matter how violently you disagree with me.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Conservatives Are Insane

The illicit drug market is almost the ideal free market. It works very efficiently and effectively, and it certainly maximizes profits for the vendors, but one can see why regulation is very important for consumables. While drugs are not healthy, the things people “cut” them with are worse.

You see, it’s not enough that dealers sell their product for 25-100% profit, tax-free. Human greed knows no bounds, and dealers are not saints (not all of them, anyway). They cut powder drugs like heroin or cocaine with all manner of substances. Baking powder, baking soda, sugar, artificial sweeteners, salt, crushed pills of all kinds… they often find their way into drugs which users snort and inject.

The government tends to control for those kind of things in a normal market. You don’t open up your Cheerios and find metal nuts and pennies with holes drilled in them (although I wouldn’t put it past the cereal companies… “Now with 200% more of the essential minerals Iron and Copper!”).

I don’t know the definition of “conservative.” I have no clue what it’s really all about. All I know is what I have observed, and I have observed that conservatives are insane.

When markets fail because private companies engage in windfall profit seeking, a conservative will say, “This never would have happened if there were less regulations.” When someone gets shot, they say, “The whole thing would have been averted if everyone had a gun.”

Look… let’s say you and your friends used heroin. If one of your friends OD’d, would the solution be to use more heroin? Of course not, but you’d probably do it anyway. Why? We build up mythological existences for ourselves. When the light of reality creeps in, we shrink deeper into the shadows.

I don’t think drugs should be illegal. I don’t think all guns should be illegal. I don’t think market economics is wrong. But when things get fucked up, I don’t recommend doing drugs, buying a gun, or granting predatory companies who screwed us over the freedom to do it again.

You cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Violent Eruptions

Guns aren’t to blame for America’s violence. The kinds of guns we have often make the numbers go up, but no one [in their right mind] blames guns for violence. Most people should be able to acquire a gun of some kind if they choose to, but I urge casual gun purchasers to really think about why they want a gun.

Don’t buy a gun because you think it will make you safe or because it’s patriotic. Buy a gun because you like guns and plan to use it, perhaps hunting or target shooting. And please, if you’re going to kill yourself, just do it and don’t take other people with you – even if you have a list of reasons as thick as a phone book to blame everything on others.

That being said, it has become routine in America for “tragic” shootings to grip media attention for a day, then be forgotten. I emphasize “tragic,” because these are always shootings where white people die. If you care about anyone who would get asked for proof of membership at a country club, you have to watch local news.

Apparently violence occurs in minority communities so often that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Violent crime often occurs due to external pressures. Rarely does someone kill because a wire got crossed and they just go nuts. People don’t do drugs and suddenly have the urge to kill. Even a verbal altercation leading up to a murder is rarely the root cause of the murderer’s actions.

Stress builds in each of us every day, and for some people it’s too much. When a society is stressed, more crime occurs. Worse, when our myths become exposed and we are left desperate, all kinds of horrible things become commonplace.

Americans are presented with many appealing fallacies, which we often cling to for comfort. Every time you hear about someone shooting up his former workplace, killing his family, or going to a public place to take pot shots… know that they are someone who had their comfort taken from them. Exposure to a harsh existence does strange things to even the best of us.

I believe we’re all like popcorn. Those at the bottom get exposed to more heat initially, so they pop first. The rest of us follow suit. It is a lonely few kernels at the end who keep their integrity under pressure.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gun Magic Goes Dud

If only the world were filled with guns, and everyone had one, neigh, a dozen. Then we’d all be safe, because no one would try anything. And even if they did, surely they would be stopped before they did any real damage, right?

This ridiculous myth is perpetuated among many conservatives, from Republicans to Libertarians to Democrats who don’t know any fucking better. It’s a load of bullshit, and today’s “rampage” at Fort Hood proves it.

In a crowd of men trained for combat, where it can be assumed several people, if not everyone, was armed… a dozen people are dead after an incident involving one officer and possibly two others (one shooter was killed and two people were taken into custody, details are too early to tell if they are in any way actually linked).

The whole situation is disheartening, because the shooter is suspected of being an officer who was about to be deployed to Iraq. I think we should chalk these up as deaths resulting from the wars we have no business still being in. I see no need to blame the guns, but I do appreciate that reality continues to support my argument that guns cannot make you safer.

Why I Am Thankful For Government

What’s the difference between a banker and a mugger? Answer: a mugger will only take what you have on you. A banker will take your savings, your car, your house, your kids’ education fund, your credit rating, etc.

I find white-collar crime to be worse than violent street crime. Not only does white-collar crime impact the victim more severely, each act usually affects many people. So when I read stories about insider traders getting hauled off to jail, I smile.

These pricks had it all, and it was not enough. String them up by their ties.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Top Ten: Other Gods

I haven’t been posting much because things are hectic for me lately. There’s been plenty of stuff for me to post about, and I have started about a dozen posts, but something always comes up before I can finish and I end up leaving it half done. Story of my life.

I also had some major computer problems a couple of weeks back. I backed up the important stuff and reformatted my hard drive. After getting the drivers all updated and everything transferred back, my computer is running great.

The problem is, I lost all of my music. The 33,000 or so mp3’s I had won’t be replaced overnight. I just didn’t have any practical way of backing up that much stuff. I made a playlist file of all my music, so I can open that and literally see every song I used to have, but I can’t search through it the way I could before.

Instead of Top Ten lists of songs, I figured I would branch out and do some other top ten lists. Since I haven’t being doing much about religion lately, I figure why not come up with a top ten list of gods who are better than YHWH (which is the name of the Judeo-Christian God, for the sake of all those Christians who have asked me in the past).

Also, I figured I would explain a little about each pick, rather than just list them and leave it up to you to figure out who the Hel these gods are.

10. Hel – Hel is the Norse goddess who oversees a location also called Hel. Hel is where people who die of sickness and old age go. It’s not the burning Hell of Christianity, it’s more a gloomy, boring place. It’s not as glamorous as Valhalla, which is where warriors who die in battle go to fight to the death all day, until they rise again to eat dinner and drink themselves into a stupor while recalling the battle. Hel is more like waiting at the DMV, and the number on the ticker always stays the same. Still, chances are good you’ll die of sickness or old age, so Hel is someone you might want to get to know.

9. Kronos/Saturn – An often forgotten god, his Roman name still lends itself to Saturday, the planet, and a line of cars. He dispatched his father by castrating him, so this god might be a great pick for those who fight dirty. He also ate his children, for fear they would overtake him. Maybe he should be the god of Republicans, as well.

8. Mithra – The only even quasi-Eastern god on my list, Mithra was an interesting god. The word “mithra” means “binding,” and Mithra was the god of truth and oaths. It is likely with this early god pre-dating the Greek pantheon that the practice of formerly swearing oaths to a god was popularized among early Indo-Europeans, a practice still common even in secular Western nations. Mithra was popular in Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism.

7. Odin – Just in case you are in the military, Odin is your guy. If you die in battle, his Valkyries way grab you up and swoop you off to the unending bliss of Valhalla. Odin is the god for whom Wednesday is named (Odin being an Icelandic derivative of Woden). Odin is also the prototype for Santa Claus. Norse children used to put sugar cubes in their socks at night for Odin’s horse to eat. In return, his eight-legged horse Sleipnir (the prototype of Santa’s 8 reindeer) would crap out confections and leave them in the sock. Children who were bad and forgot would be left bloody bones (the Norse were pretty dark).

6. Aphrodite/Venus– Often thought of as the goddess of love, Aphrodite is more accurately the goddess of beauty. She was born from the semen hitting the ocean waves after Kronos castrated his father and threw the testicles into the waves. Hard to believe the result of such an act would be Aphrodite, but myth doesn’t lie!

5. Hades/Pluto – Interestingly, Hades also oversaw a land which shared his name, much like Hel. The difference, however, was that Hades got everyone who wasn’t turned into a god. His Roman counterpart Pluto was further associated with wealth, for he controlled the underworld, the home of gold and gems. Words like Plutocracy (rule by the rich) originate from his name. He would be quite popular in America.

4. Hermes/Mercury – Another popular choice for Americans would be Hermes/Mercury. He is the originator of letters, the fastest of the gods, and is simultaneously the god of both merchants and thieves. Hmm… coincidence? The very name Mercury is the basis for words like merchant, mercenary, and mercurial. Mercury has a planet, line of cars, and an element on the periodic table. YHWH/Jesus has none of those.

3. Apollo/Helios/Sol – Sun worship is one of the only religions to me that makes sense. George Carlin had a great bit about it; you can see the sun, it’s real, it influences you and makes you happy when it’s around. I did a blog post about Heliolatry. There’s plenty of reasons to worship the sun, and Apollo or Helios are good choices, but Sol is another option; she is the Norse Goddess of the sun, and is the namesake of our Solar System.

2. Gaia/Terra/Urd – The earth is an excellent choice when it comes to worship. Environmentalists are already halfway there. Many cults to the Earth Mother are very popular, not only in antiquity, but also today. Gaia is often the most recognizable incarnation, while the Romanized Terra is used in words derived from Latin which pertain to the earth, like terraform. Urd or Urth is the Norse equivalent, and this is the origin of the English word Earth.

1. Eros/Cupid/Love – According to Hesiod, Eros was the first God, before even Uranus. Eros is love, the union between two people. Eros is where we get the word erotic. He is Romanized as Cupid, the winged helper of Venus. Cupid still makes appearances on Valentine’s Day. I have talked to many atheists, but few deny the existence of Love. Yet Love is no more real than any god on this list. Sure, we feel the effects of love, but everyone who has prayed to, or even cursed, a god has felt the influence of that deity. I may not see love the way I see the sun or the Earth, but I feel it, which is what religion is supposedly all about.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dialogue from the Garden

EVE: Oh, Adam?

ADAM: What is it, my wonderful wife?

EVE: You will never believe what I tasted today!

ADAM: Was it cow?

EVE: No!

ADAM: Oh, because cow is delicious…

EVE: Guess again.

ADAM: It’s not another vegetable, is it?

EVE: Nope, it’s a fruit.

ADAM: Is it sweet?

EVE: Well… it’s sort of bittersweet.

ADAM: No clue, I give up.

EVE: I ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil!

ADAM: The F from the TOKOGAE?

EVE: I hate your acronyms. And why would you include letters for the little words—

ADAM: I figure maybe it will have enough vowels to make it a word.

EVE: Then you say “from the” at the start, after you use f from fruit?

ADAM: Wait, this is horrible.

EVE: It wasn’t that bad, actually. In fact, you—

ADAM: No, I mean… you are going to die.

EVE: What?!

ADAM: I forgot to mention, God told me if you eat from that tree, you will die before the sun sets. I have it all right here in this book I’m writing. Chapter 2, paragraph 17, “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

EVE: Wow, your writing is kind of… hokey.

ADAM: It’s a majestic, royal language. It is the parlance of kings.

EVE: It’s the parlance of putting me to sleep.

ADAM: Eve… you are going to die before the sun sets. [sigh] First Lilith, now this...

EVE: Wait, wait, wait, Lilith?

ADAM: She’s this other woman—

EVE: Other woman?

ADAM: She’s gone, God banished her to some island far away.

EVE: So I’m not your first?

ADAM: Well, technically, no—

EVE: Great. What else aren’t you telling me?

ADAM: Look, we’ll talk about this later… if there is a later.

EVE: Okay, okay… so, what do I do? Sacrifice a goat or something?

ADAM: I don’t know. I wouldn’t even know who to ask.

EVE: Well, we can’t ask God. That’ll blow our cover.

ADAM: Yeah, I guess not. Wait, our cover?

EVE: Yeah. Remember that gazpacho I made earlier?

ADAM: You didn’t…

EVE: Well look, I made a whole batch of it, I didn’t just make one serving for myself. What do you want me to have done, just throw it away afterwards?

ADAM: Wow…

EVE: What, am I supposed to do? Have Forbidden Fruit gazpacho every meal for like two and a half days in a row? It’s a chilled soup, Adam, you think that stays well in this tropical jungle climate?

ADAM: Which reminds me, how’d you get it chilled?

EVE: I trained the monkeys to go up to the mountains to get snow for me.

ADAM: You have apes schlepping snow for you?

EVE: Monkeys. The apes refuse to be trained. Lemurs, too. I’ve had some success with horses.

ADAM: Okay… let’s think of what to do…

(They sit in silence for a while.)

EVE: I think you should call seahorses something else. They don’t look anything like a horse.

ADAM: You should focus on figuring out how we’re going to live to see tonight.

EVE: You know, the male seahorse carries the baby during gestation.

ADAM: That’s great. What are we going to do?

EVE: No clue, but I know that worrying about it won’t help things.

ADAM: We might think of a solution—

EVE: We can just as easily think of a solution if we’re calm. Besides, this may be the last day of our lives. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

ADAM: I should erase those cave drawings of… you.

(Eve drags Adam to the ground and they make love for hours. The sun sets and they don’t even notice, laying in each others arms in the grass. The first stars become visible.)

ADAM: We’re still here.

EVE: Yep.

ADAM: Maybe everything will be okay.

EVE: Maybe.

ADAM: I wonder why God would lie to me.

EVE: Maybe He didn’t want us to be as powerful as Him.

ADAM: Yeah but… I don’t feel any more powerful.

EVE: Well, what makes God so powerful?

ADAM: I don’t know. He was here before I showed up. I just assumed—

EVE: I know! He talked stuff into existence. Try that.

ADAM: I don’t know what He said. I think that’s part of it.

EVE: You didn’t hear what He said when He made me?

ADAM: I was asleep.

EVE: Speaking of sleep, I’m exhausted.

ADAM: I don’t get it. I trusted God. Why would He tell me eating the fruit would kill me?

EVE: (snore)

ADAM: (gets up and walks away down a path in the garden) What if… God is not all powerful and all knowing? What if not everything I do is seen… what if I could get away with doing whatever I wanted?

STEVE: Hey hey hey!

ADAM: Oh, hi Steve.

STEVE: How are you doing on this fabulous evening?

ADAM: I’m alright I guess.

STEVE: You can’t fool me, you grumpy gus! Come on, tell Stevesy what’s eating at ya.

ADAM: That’s just it, eating. I ate from the Tree of Knowledge of—

STEVE: Oh honey, that’s the tree that gives you tons of erections. (looks down)

ADAM: Hmm… um, what are you looking at?

STEVE: Your package.

ADAM: My… (looks down) Oh. I was going to call it a penis.

STEVE: Whatever. Dick, cock, johnson, junk, crotch rocket, pork and beans, fireman, and my personal favorite, divining rod.

ADAM: I see. I’m beginning to see why God wears a robe…

STEVE: Don’t be a prude, Adam. Flaunt it while you got it. You aren’t going to be 90 forever. Someday, you’ll be a 900 and look back on these days and wonder why you didn’t take advantage. Use it before you lose it.

ADAM: Look, I don’t know what God told you, but He told me I am supposed to be with Eve.

STEVE: Well, sure, but you could have some Steve on the side. You’ve heard of Sodomy? Well, I’ll show you how to Gomorrah someone.

ADAM: Okay, I think I hear my wife snoring. I’ll see you later, Steve.

STEVE: Mmm, mmm, mmm, even better on the way out.

(Adam fashions a skirt of fig leaves, lays down next to his wife, and falls asleep)

EVE: Adam, get up, I hear God coming!

ADAM: Huh, what?

EVE: Wake up. What happened after I went to sleep, did you get caught in some branches?

ADAM: I saw Steve again.

EVE: Oh, I love Steve!

ADAM: What?

EVE: Oh, not like that. He’s just hilarious, I feel like I can be myself around him.

ADAM: Okay. Well, it turns out the fruit makes men… ready… ready for… sex.

EVE: When aren’t men ready for sex?

ADAM: No, I mean… (lifts his skirt)

EVE: Whoa. Is it supposed to be that swollen?

ADAM: I have no idea. Maybe you’re not supposed to make a soup from it!

EVE: Sorry!

ADAM: So, I’m wearing this to cover the evidence.

EVE: Brilliant.

ADAM: You’re wearing one, too.

EVE: What? Why? It’s not like I have a raging boner.

ADAM: If it’s just me, it will look suspicious. If you do it too, maybe He won’t think anything is up.

EVE: Whatever.

(Eve fashions a skirt while Adam makes a top)

EVE: Whoa, what’s with the top?

ADAM: It will throw God off. You’ll have twice the coverage, so you’ll look the most suspicious. If God checks either of us for evidence, it will be you.

EVE: But… ohh, and He can’t tell with me.

ADAM: Exactly. Quick, I think I hear Him coming.

GOD: Adam? Eve? Is that you?

ADAM: Yes God, it’s us. So, I think I named pretty much everything.

GOD: I doubt it. There’s 1.3 million species of insects alone.

ADAM: Well… I guess I better get back out there…

GOD: Poor Noah… that ark will be crawling with… wait, Adam?

ADAM: Yes?

GOD: Why are you wearing clothing?

EVE: Steve thought they would look nice.

GOD: No. Adam, lift up your clothes.

ADAM: What about Eve? She has two pieces of clothing on!

GOD: Adam, I’m not going to ask you again.

ADAM: I don’t want to.

GOD: (sigh) I told you not to eat that fruit.

ADAM: Eve gave it to me!

EVE: Thanks for throwing me under the dinosaur, Adam.

ADAM: Oh please! You’re the whole reason we’re in this mess.

EVE: So it’s my fault you never told me eating that fruit would get us killed? And it didn’t, by the way.

ADAM: Yeah. God, why did You lie to me about—

GOD: Enough. Eve, child birth is a painful experience because your damn brains are so big. You’re both too smart for your own good. You have the most dangerous of knowledge: partial information. You don’t know enough to solve your own problems, but you know enough to get yourself into trouble.

ADAM: I don’t see what that has to do with anything.

GOD: Get out of the garden. I banish you forever. No longer will you receive the fruits of my labors.

EVE: Great.

ADAM: So, does this mean we’re out of the will?

GOD: Go!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...