Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

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Christianity vs. Paganism: Which is Better?

March 5, 2009

I want to state up front that I am an atheist of the kind that feels comfortable affirmatively stating that there is no god. I do not believe in spirits, souls, angels, demons, or any of that crap. Same deal with magic and “magick,” which contrary to popular opinion in some circles is not made more potent or impressive by the addition of a “k” at the end. Any sentence relating to the healing powers of crystals makes me skip right over the article.

But if I had to choose a religion, and we’re talking gun-t0-the-head pressure here,  my two real options would be Christianity or Paganism. The first is a viable option because Christianity has been drilled into my head since I was an infant, so it’s a more comfortable set of meaningless superstitions for me to adhere to than say, Judaism or Hindu. And the second is an option because, as religious symbols go, it doesn’t get much more bitchin’ than a pentagram. 

Christianity, as best I understand it, can be generally summarized as:

There is a god. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent. He created the Universe and everything in it, for a purpose that he refuses to explain. Perhaps doing so would spoil the surprise. This god, in his omnibenevolence, decided to create a race of people who rape and murder each other on a regular basis. He does not tell us why he allows this to continue, but assures us that it is all part of his plan and he loves all of us. Even the murderous rapists. Or something.  This god sent his son, who was also himself, but not really, down to earth to become a political dissident and get executed by the Roman Empire, and this somehow sets the stage for our redemption. This redemption is needed, because any failure to request it through the proper channel (accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior) is grounds for being sentenced to an eternity of torment by the omnibonevolent and infinitely forgiving god who rules over us.  A desire to stand and be judged on our own merits and our own faults, without the thumb of Jesus on the scale is, depending on who in the faith you ask, misguided, foolhardy, arrogant, brave, or exactly what is required. In some denominations, people born before Jesus’ arrival are SOL, as are people born in parts of the world where Christianity does not have enough freedom of operation to explain the contract to everyone involved. In other denominations, it doesn’t really matter one way or the other, because Heaven’s guest list is already finalized and we’re all living out a meaningless farce. And common among many, many denominations is the implicit understanding that Thou Shalt Not Kill does not apply to your behavior if your government issues you a waiver. 

Paganism, as best I understand it, can be generally summarized as:

Nature is a powerful force that shapes our world. Sometimes nature is friendly, sometimes nature is cruel. We need nature, but nature does not need us. For these reasons and more, we must respect nature, and afford it a place of honor and worship. It is acceptable and encouraged to value our own lives and joy, but we must never assign a human life an infinitely higher value than any other life, as all living things are holy. There are many variations and subbranches of modern paganism, but in general, they tend to agree with the above statements.

 

Maybe I’m mistaken about the positions of these two religions, and if I am, feel free to correct me. But as far as I can tell, Pagans beat the snot out of Christians as far as internal consistency and correlation to observable reality is concerned. So victory: Pagans! It’s not even close.

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Spoiler Alert!

February 27, 2008

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

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Paper #3 for my Theory of Authorship class

February 26, 2008

In Foucault’s “What is an Author?”, he summarizes his theory of what he calls the authorship function as having four distinct characteristics. The very first of these is that “the author function is linked to the juridical and institutional system that encompasses, determines, and articulates the universe of discourses.” He more fully explains this passage as the “penal appropriation,” and argues that authorial ownership is first appropriated on behalf of the writer by the relevant local judicial authorities- whether the writer wants it or not. The story that is related in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Something Borrowed” is a good case study for the practical implications of Foucault’s penal appropriation.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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8 Most Bizarre Religions and Cults

February 20, 2008

This site is a great list, except it somehow managed to miss mentioning the death cult that launched three major holy wars against a neighboring revelation cult, which in turn currently trains thousands of its followers in suicide-centric warfare.

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Invisible Friends

January 17, 2008

I’m reading about the Crusades in one of my classes, and it has sparked some internal monologuing on the subject of religious wars. It seems to me that religious strife comes from a deep seated insecurity about the nature of one’s own beliefs. If it was a simple disagreement, I don’t see why differing religious theories would so regularly lead to violence. Controversies in science and art sometimes become bitter and personal, but they rarely lead to bloodshed. In fact I cannot think of a single time that an artistic or scientific disagreement even got near the mere threat of force, unless it was a disagreement between the scientists/artists on one side, and some very religious people on the other.

But religious disputes are different from art and science. On some unconscious level, people recognize the irrationality and inconsistencies of a belief in the divine, and in response they come up with ways to justify that belief. But when they encounter other people doing the same thing but in a different manner- and this might be particularly true for different denominations of the same faith- it can be terribly upsetting. The question that arises is: if the Word of God is so true and profound and universal, how come so many other people get it wrong? How is it that they arrive at these silly excuses they tell themselves to paper over the flaws in their beliefs, and how is it that they can believe so fervently in them?

How dare you claim your invisible friend is the one true invisible friend when it is so clearly obvious that my invisible friend is the one true invisible friend! Furthermore, I hate you for believing so fervently in your invisible friend, because your ability to rationalize your clearly delusional beliefs about him unsettles the strength of my belief in my own invisible friend; I recognize in your face the same incredulity I wear when I look at your church and your god and it tempts me to wonder if perhaps the points I make about you may apply equally to me. And for the sake of all the years and effort I have invested in my belief, I cannot allow that to happen.

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Quick! Somebody Coin This Term!

September 24, 2007

Every so often during my eternal slog across the Internet, I come across a delightful sort of post or article which brings into perfect focus for me a concept which up until that moment I did not even recognize as a force in my life, despite being vaguely aware that something was going on. Often this takes the form of explaining the idea behind a concept whose effects I had been struggling to understand and quantify.

And this is one such gem.

I think there’s an idea here without a clear term to point to it: ideologies that require or encourage a kind of willful ignorance. Those can be cured, but only by breaking with the ideology.

Frex, a lot of economic determinists (Marxists and neoclassical economists) seem to have the idea that they don’t need to know much about the world to understand it, because their economic models give them the fundamental insights.

It’s just like feeling the cool water of clarity poured onto your brain, isn’t it?

Now all we (by which I mean you) need to do is come up with a name for this kind of ideology, so that I can steal it and take credit for it.

The first one that comes to my mind is a combination of the ancient Greek terms for enemy or adversary with the words for knowledge or detail, but I don’t speak ancient Greek so I can’t do that one.

Maybe “detailaphobic”?

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A School of Distinction

September 11, 2007

David Horowitz was on Hannity & Colmes to plug the paperback release of his book about those evil liberal professors who can’t get to sleep at night without saying a prayer to Marx, and while there he took the opportunity to call my school the very worst university in the United States. Well, not the science parts, just the icky, completely voluntary politically aware parts that teach students how to apply their knowledge to their communities in hope of improving society. Amazingly, Colmes remembered to put on his fightin’ underpants and got in Horowitz’s face about the whole thing. He didn’t make much of a substantive argument past pointing out that the classes are voluntary but the fact that he actually stuck to it was surprising. Maybe someday, if he works real hard and eats all his vegetables, he can manage to ask two pointed questions during an interview.

Until that happy day, it’s up to the rest of us to take up the slack. Did Horowitz actually speak to any UC Santa Cruz professors? Did he sit in on any of these classes as they were being taught? Does he think that it is wrong for Universities to teach their students how to apply their knowledge to the world around them? Does he understand the difference between learning about liberal philosophy and being indoctrinated? Does he have any evidence that students who write essays critical of their reading material are marked down for doing so? Does he think that there is anything wrong with students who are studying community activism to get hands on experience with the subject? If not, would he also agree that physics majors should stay out of the lab? Is there something particularly radical about being concerned that large and powerful economic interests may use their influence in a manner that is not healthy for the community? Is there anything wrong with students being exposed to ideas that are outside the American political mainstream?

Now I will be the first to repeat just how much I hated my Commie Lit class. It was at 8 AM, we had a pair of fucking phone books we had to read, my TA was an asshole who didn’t understand the material, and the essay topics were boring. But it wasn’t indoctrination. The prof said up front he didn’t expect to convert us, and that he wasn’t trying. He was just going to explain Communist doctrine to us and do some deep reading. We didn’t have to believe the stuff, we just had to understand it. That class was about the most radical thing I’ve taken so far at UCSC, and I haven’t heard any other students speak of anything worse.

But that doesn’t matter; the witch hunt has been started. If we’re lucky it will peter out before anyone gets burned at the stake.