Walking in Times Square today, I encountered a group of traditionalist Catholics who were handing out fliers and waving signs that urged us all to reject the "heresies" of Vatican II. When I declined a flier, one of the missionaries happily chirped, "That's okay! Prepare for hell!"
Perhaps they're looking for a cause that is almost a substitute for religion [...] Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying
psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no
guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be
benign. In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain
attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a
reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Belief in a benign God would, I guess, have a steadying psychological effect. Too bad there isn't a faith in the world that presents us with one. Offering a sacrifice to a capricious god is an act of fear - but so is slavish devotion to a dogma - making a sacrifice of your ability to reason - because you fear the eternal damnation of your soul. At their base, there really is no difference between the two actions. I fear the effects of global warming, but Cardinal Pell's followers fear the flames of hell. We're both scared. Why his fear is better than my fear is beyond me. (Curiously, Pell agrees with Nietzsche of all people when he states that the pagan religions arose from a need to understand and cope with the caprices of the natural world. Nietzsche, however, considered Christianity to be an extension of this tradition rather than a refutation of it.)
I've never understood how the major faiths of the world expect positive action to come from fear, the most negative of emotions. Christianity, at least in its current form, is supposed to be about forgiveness and peace (For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting (John 3:16)). But if you don't toe the line, you'll be spending that life everlasting with cackling demons who harvest your flesh on a daily basis for their little Ed Gein edition of Project Runway. It's a paradox inherent to the faith that I've never been able to work out, and Christianity is hardly alone in using fear as motivational tool - even Buddhism uses the fear of reincarnation to a lower state as an incentive to lead people to compassionate action.
I realize that I'm painting in pretty broad strokes here, and that there are mystical traditions in all faiths that work on a deeper level than the terror management theory I'm describing above, but I also realize that most adherents to any faith dedicate maybe an hour a week to the serious contemplation of that faith. That means the priest, mullah, lama or rabbi has to make the most of that hour and make their case in the most basic manner possible. And frankly, scaring the hell out of someone is an excellent way to get their attention. It's why the proselytizer in the street today made his case to me the way he did: he had to get my attention, and fast.
Long term, though, it doesn't work. Fear is the most selfish of emotions and there's no way sustained charitable action can come from it. My knowledge of psychology could fill a Ziploc bag, but I'm pretty sure this is why just about every faith on Earth has at some point been corrupted by extremism and mob rule. That someone as learned as Pell assumably is doesn't see this is astonishing to me. Or maybe he does. Maybe he's counting on it.
I think this is why I'm attracted to Taoism, since there is no reward or punishment inherent or implied in its teachings, and even if there were a true Taoist wouldn't be so presumptuous as to assume he could truly recognize a reward or a punishment. I'm even trying to banish fear from my concerns about global warming, trying to focus on presenting a livable world to my children rather than trying to stave off a disaster most Americans can't see coming. It doesn't help me sleep any better at night, but it keeps me from pouring sugar in the gas tank of the Hummer parked down the street from my apartment. ("I thought it was ethanol, officer - honest!") And, if nothing else, it helps me ignore reactionaries like Pell, since safeguarding the world for my children and grandchildren can hardly be considered a sign of spiritual emptiness.
I've decided that anytime I read a news article that begins with the words "The Pentagon says..." I'm going to add the words "in bed" to the end of the lede. You know, like they do with fortune cookies: "Every exit is an entrance to a new experience (in bed)."
It helps make the story more believeable.
I’ve written in the past – disparagingly, I admit – about the “full quiver” movement, those who believe it is our patriotic duty to have large families in order to ensure the future defense of our nation. Looking back, it seems I might have been a bit hard on those folks, so in the interest of fairness I’m kicking off this inaugural installment of Blog Named Sue Book Chat with an interview I did with socio-historical critical theorist John Denze, author of Larders for Liberty: How America’s Declining Birthrate Leaves Us Vulnerable to the Coming Zombie Apocalypse.
dan mcenroe: John, thanks for coming by.
John Denze: Thanks for having me.
dm: Your book has a fairly provocative thesis; please explain why you feel declining birth rates in America actually leave us vulnerable to an attack by zombies.
JD: Well, as a socio-historical critical theorist who frequently appears on cable news programs, I think I have better grasp of the macro-picture than others might. Now, zombies, as just about everyone knows, are re-animated corpses that roam the Earth to feast on the flesh of the living. Now, in order to have a re-animated corpse, you first need a corpse. It’s obvious to anyone with two eyes and a brain that people die often, pretty much every day really, and, frankly, with America’s birth rate on the decline I think we may soon find ourselves in a situation where the dead outnumber the living. That should give us pause.
dm: You know, I have to confess that I don’t worry all that much about a zombie attack.
JD: That’s a very “fashionable” attitude these days.
dm: You think people don’t take the threat of a zombie attack seriously?
dm: But isn’t virulence one of the defining characteristics of zombie-ism? By having more people around, don’t we run the risk of simply creating more zombies?
JD: Well, yes. But what you’re saying actually emphasizes my point about the necessity of having a large family.
dm: I don’t follow. How are your kids going to protect you from a zombie attack? They’re just kids.
JD: Indeed. But one of the advantages of having a lot of kids around is that should you become a zombie yourself, you can eat your own children.
dm: …eat…your own…children…?
JD: Of course! Look, who would you rather see eat your daughter? Some swarthy foreign zombie?
JD: Look, if anyone’s going to eat my daughter, it’s going to be me. And if having more kids means creating more zombies, then I’m OK with that – because at least they’ll be American zombies. Honest, hardworking zombies. That might not be the most PC attitude these days, but that’s how I see the situation.
dm: OK, we have to leave it there. John Denze, thanks for stopping by.
The dinner, and a six-course lunch, at the summit of leading
industrialised nations on the island of Hokkaido, included delicacies
such as caviar, milkfed lamb, sea urchin and tuna, with champagne and
wines flown in from Europe and the U.S.
Nom nom nom.
(Hat tip to RMJ. Good luck with your roof. Found pic here.)
Obama repeatedly referenced his religious faith in terms that would be
familiar to white evangelicals as well as his black audience.
As I've written on many occasions before, it's been a hell of a long time since anyone could, with a straight face, consider me a Christian. But I was a Christian long enough to know that Jesus doesn't give a damn one way or the other about your skin color. And if I were still a Christian (with or without a rocket launcher) I'd be very, very concerned about what how this country's interpretation of Jesus' message has become so warped that it can be interpreted one way by people whose parents happened to be black and another way be people whose parents happened to be white.
Actual stupid-ass headline from today's stupid-ass edition of US-stupid-ass-A Today:
I've got to hand it to USA Today - other news organizations, you know, like Fox, tried to spin the Colombia hostage rescue into some sort of PR coup for John McCain - but at least they had the common decency fellate the presumptive Republican nominee in their sidebar "analyses" of the story, where impressionable young minds were less likely to see it. USA Today? Right in the headline baby!