Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Funeral

Don't take this the wrong way, but I've planned out my funeral/wake.

I figured I should probably create a record of what I want to happen in the event that I die. I know I'm not going to be there, and so I won't actually care what goes on, but I'd at least like to know now that I have some list of my requests. Assurance for the future, call it.

To start of with, I want to be cremated and have my ashes scattered. I don't really care where. The ocean sounds nice.

I don't want a traditional funeral. I want more of a wake. Have it in some church or something if you must, but I want a large percentage of the budget going towards alcohol. If you have to cry over me being dead (and I don't see why you would, really), then do it on your own time. I always hated going to funerals which were all about the death of a person. Seriously. Let's have a decent remembrance of when I was alive, and then a fucking huge party. That's probably about the most apt way of celebrating my "life."

Moving on to more specific requests. There are three songs that must be played at my funeral:

Opening: "Life Without You," by Stevie Ray Vaughn
Middle: "Little Wing," by Stevie Ray Vaughn, covering Jimi Hendrix
Closing: "Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Parts 1-5," by Pink Floyd.

The only official "reading" that I want I my funeral is this:

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here." - Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow.

Joe, Arto, and Mary are fully allowed to heckle me at my funeral, and Joe had better have a pretty good eulogy, delivered in a mean-old-cuss-cowboy way. Just saying.

Keep the heaven and god talk to a minimum, if at all possible. The funeral's really for the folks left behind, and I would rather it be more a celebration of life for them than endlessly droning on about some afterlife or "better place" or other such nonsense. This world is more full of wonder than people give it credit for, and it is enough for me.

That's all I have so far. Maybe more later.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

The World is Just Awesome

These have been around for a little while. However, I feel that I need to write an incredibly quick post on it.

Watch this:

I love this idea. There should have been commercials like this on Discovery and every other channel years ago. We need a huge public outreach campaign for science.

I love the world. And I love science.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Demons in your Ouija Board

Let's talk about pamphlets.

Living in Chicago, there are a lot of people walking around on the streets trying to hand out things or get you to sign up for stuff. Some of it's okay, some of it's stupid, and some of it's just plain scary.

Now, we ahve a lot of church groups around here, and sometimes they walk around and hand out brochures and stuff. As far as I know, not many go door to door, but as that I live in an apartment with key-protected access, I might have a bit of a biased view on this.

Today I want to share with you a particular brochure that I got from some Jehovah's Witnesses. It's entitled "Who Really Rules the World?", copyright 1992 by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Printed in Canada, if that matters.

Anyway. Let's break this thing down. I'll write out parts of the tract (in italics) and respond with my own commentary (in regular print), all of it after the fold. Before the jump, I'd just like to say that it is pretty full of terrible logic and spiral of crazy. Let's get to it!

Who really rules the world? Many people would answer the above question with a single word - God. But significantly, nowhere does the Bible say that either Jesus Christ or his Father are the real rulers of this world. On the contrary, Jesus said: "The ruler of this world will be cast out." And he added: "The ruler of the world is coming. And he has no hold on me." - John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11. So, the ruler of this world is in opposition to Jesus. Who could this be?

Who could this be indeed? I have an idea where they're going with this, but let's talk about this sort paragraph for just a moment. I'm going to ignore for this post the central problem with all of this: Why should we believe the Bible to be true? Why am I ignoring that? Because you really don't need to go any farther than that to completely disregard the entire pamphlet. You get into the Creationist/Fanatical loop of "How do we know the Bible is true?" Because it is the word of God, "How do we know that God exists?" Because the Bible says so. See what they did there? Keep tracing around that circle for a while.

In some rather rare cases, that's a bit of a straw man and you have people who claim that they have "evidence" of God's existence or "work in the world." Long story short, I'll deal with those individually as people want to suggest them, but for the general responses, I'm going to link you to Answers in Genesis - BUSTED! and Talk Origins.

Now, as to that paragraph, it's quite interesting that the Jehovah's Witnesses deny that God has control over this world. Not entirely surprising, as I feel that any sort of climatic-apocalyptic group needs to believe that God doesn't really control this world and instead it is ruled over by something "evil" that will have to be disposed of. It makes it that much easier to condemn anything that happens in this world, or to ignore any effort to improve the situation of people in this world. On that point alone, I would condemn this sort of idea. It is absolutely antithetical to helping humanity and improving our lot in life. It's just another "suffer until God comes back and then things will be great for us." It's reprehensible and utterly self-centered. I can't really talk about the logic of this because...well...yeah, there is none. It's an inferential argument from a particular interpretation of a particular book that is considered by some to be sacred. I find it amazing that so many groups can read the same book and come up with so many different interpretations...really makes you think that...well, maybe there's more of humanity in these religions than they're willing to admit. By which, yes, I do mean it's made up and simply reflecting human psychology and cultures.

Let's go on, shall we?

A Clue From World Conditions - Despite the efforts of well-meaning humans, the world has suffered terribly throughout history. This causes thinking persons to wonder, as did the late editorial writer David Lawrence: "'Peace on earth - nearly everybody wants it. 'Good will toward men' - almost all peoples of the world feel it toward one another. Then what's wrong? Why is war threatened despite the innate desires of peoples?"

It seems a paradox, doesn't it? When the natural desire of people is to live at peace, they commonly hate and kill one another - and with such viciousness. Consider the cold-blooded excesses in monstrous cruelty. Humans have used gas chambers, concentration camps, flamethrowers, napalm bombs, and other heinous methods to torture and slaughter one another mercilessly.

Okay. Yes, we have suffered throughout history, despite the efforts of well-meaning persons. However, things have, by nearly every measure, gotten better as time progresses, and we are still trying and still trying to deal with some quite parochial and violent groups out there. This is not a reason to stop trying! It's goddamned hard to get people to give up their stereotypes and insular/isolationist/xenophobic tendencies. But it's pretty goddamned hard to eradicate diseases too, and we don't stop just because it's tough.

Well...some of us don't. Some of us just say it's too hard and assume that there are insurmountable external forces that will completely ruin whatever effort we put into improving things. Screw that attitude, I say.

On another point, isn't it odd that it's typically the very religious groups who don't want peace on earth, or see violence and war as inevitable, simply because they really want an apocalyptic future? And good will toward men? Let's be honest. For all of human history, and continuing into the present, we want peace and good will within our own group, but we don't give a damn about outsiders, and typically feel reservations, fear, or hatred towards them. This is a simple understanding of coalitional psychology. I think, in fact, it is the great advantage of various humanisms and evolutionary theory that we realize we are all part of a single human family. It is religious and ideologies that tend to separate us into "us-and-them," feeding upon and exacerbating our human fears of outsiders. And as for their list of monstrous cruelties, all were committed by BOTH religious and secular people. No evidence towards either side being more moral or pleasant.

Do you believe that humans, who long for peace and happiness, are capable, in themselves, of such gross wickedness against others?

Why, yes. Yes, I do. It seems that Jehovah's Witnesses underestimate humanity on both ends of the spectrum. We're neither good enough, nor evil enough, in their eyes. Just completely in the range of mediocre. Well, sucks to be us, I guess.

What forces drive men to such loathsome deeds or maneuver them into situations where they feel compelled to commit atrocities? Have you ever wondered whether some wicked, invisible power is influencing people to commit such acts of violence?

Probably basic human psychology? I mean, honestly. This isn't all that complicated. We don't need to posit supernatural explanations to explain things like humans killing one another. Really, we don't. When will people get this through their heads? We are quite naturally violent towards members of the human species who we don't accept, understand, or like, and we can have a tangible effect on these things if we WORK for it, and don't give in to supernaturalism and fatalism in the face of "God's Plan."

There is no need to guess at the matter, for the Bible clearly shows that an intelligent, unseen person has been controlling both men and nations.

Well, glad you could completely clear that up by referencing the ole' Bible and completely divorcing humans of responsibility.

It says: "The whole world is lying the power of the wicked one." And the Bible identifies him, saying: "The one called Devil and Satan...is misleading the entire inhabited earth." - 1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9.

Oh! Wow! Satan, I was wondering when he'd come into all this. Good job! Now that we're all on Crazy Train together, let's keep going.

On an occasion when Jesus was "tempted by the Devil," Jesus did not question Satan's role as the ruler of this world. The Bible explains what happened: "The Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him: 'All of these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.' Then Jesus said to him: 'Go away, Satan!'" - Matthew 4:1; 8-10.

Think about this. Satan tempted Jesus by offering him "all the kingdoms of the world." Yet, would Satan's offer have been a real temptation if Satan was not actually the ruler of these kingdoms? No, it would not. And note, Jesus did not deny that all these worldly governments were Satan's which he would have done if Satan did not have power over them. So, then, Satan the Devil really is the unseen ruler of the world! The Bible, in fact, calls him "the god of this system of things." (2 Corinthians 4:4) Yet, how did suck a wicked person ever come into this powerful position?

See what they did there? That's it, right there. It's entirely a linguistic point. Let's ignore for a moment that here, also, is clear evidence that if you're a literalist about Biblical interpretation, you have to believe in a flat earth (a short aside, Witnesses admit that parts of the Bible are not literal. At this I say only "inconsistent." How do they decide, and how do they know they're right?. A great question. One that's largely unanswered.) That'd be the whole "high-mountain, see all the kingdoms of the world thing..." if the earth is curved...um...sorry...impossible, no matter how high the mountain is, because you're still attached to the earth and are rotating. You'd have to be in orbit, watching the earth rotate underneath you. But, note, Jesus doesn't mention that either, so it couldn't have been that.

Now, let's note very quickly that there are plenty of unstated major premises in this "argument." To note only a few:

* At least one God exists
* This God is the God of the Jehovah's Witnesses
* Satan exists
* Jesus really existed
* The Bible is inspired by God
* The Bible is true
* The Bible faithfully and literally records these series of events
* These records have been passed down faithfully
* The actual word that we translate as "temptation" is the same in both languages, in all possible ways.

As I said, these are only a few, and you will notice, they are all non-sequitors of each other. Even if you can prove one, that gives you not the slightest stepping stone to any of the others. Even if we just "accept" all these premises, then I still couldn't go along with the argument for a few reasons:

1) I don't think it's accurate to say that because someone was tempted, the object of temptation necessarily has to exist. This reminds me of Anselm's ontological argument. I think it's quite easy to be tempted by things which are not true. I'm quite tempted by free energy/perpetual motion machines. However, these do not exist. Obviously.

2) Satan could simply have been...lying? You know, whole Father of Lies and Deceit thing? Now, you might say that Jesus really knows everything, and would have known if he were lying...well, that brings us to

3) If you're going to argue that, you have some additional problems. Jesus apparently doesn't know that the earth is round. Secondly, if Jesus has this supernatural power, why not attribute all the others to him anyway? And if ultimately God is really going to own the world (and maybe Jesus does too) then how, how I ask, can you be tempted by the temporary lender of something that you own anyway? Now, of course, Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in the Trinity, so Jesus is not identified with God. Still, we have the question...God IS seen as the ultimate sovereign of the whole universe...except...here. So, again, We're left with the same question. Satan is given temporary lease of the earth - does this qualify him to offer anything as a real temptation? So...full...of stupid...

Anyway, the brochure goes on to talk about the "origins" of Satan as an angel, how he was the snake in the garden, and that Satan's job is to try to turn all of Adam and Eve's yet unborn offspring away from God. Note, this is sanctioned by God, supposedly supported by Job 1:6-12; 2:1-10. So, it's really just a bet between God and Satan, and we either get heaven for getting lucky and not getting personally tempted by Satan (or by resisting a supernatural being with infinitely more powers than mere humans) or, we fail and get hell for falling for a supernatural being with infinitely more powers than us mere humans....hmmm...seems really like a short shift to me. They also claim that Satan tempted other angels away from God and now they're all rulers of the world and tempters of humanity....huh....I love how we keep multiplying supernatural beings. Now, to be fair, Jehovah's witnesses don't believe in Hell. Nor do they believe in survival after death. Of course, if you're "righteous" you get to be resurrected bodily and live in paradise forever. But, worst comes to worst, you just go to the big sleep. Which sort of makes me wonder about Jehovah's Witnesses. You know...no hellfire, just unconscious death. They're so close to being secular! But they really can't give up on the whole paradise and supernatural thing...unfortunate.

Anyway, to go along with this whole disbelief in Hell (suck it evangelicals) and in survival after death and intervention (suck it Christians, especially Catholics), they go into a whole new spiel about resisting wicked spirits:

These unseen, wicked world rulers are determined to mislead all mankind, turning them away from the worship of God. One way wicked spirits do this is by promoting the idea of survival after death, even though God's Word clearly shows that the dead are not conscious. (Genesis 2:17; 3:19; Ezekiel 18:4l; Psalm 146:3, 4; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10) Thus, a wicked spirit, imitating the voice of one who has died, may talk with that one's living relatives or friends, either through a spirit medium or by a "voice" from the invisible realm. The "voice" pretends to be the departed one, yet it is actually a demon!

I love it when one pseudoscience/religious/ridiculous belief system endorses another with reality! It makes my job so much easier...anyway, it's nice to know that we DON'T survive after death unless we are bodily resurrected on earth by God (good job, other Christians for getting that one wrong for so long...Good going, Jews?), and that demons are really working through psychics and stuff. See...it's kind of like saying..."Psychics aren't real! But demons are! Psychics are just channeling demons!" See what we did there? Just substitute one supernatural explanation for another? Good job.

So if you ever hear such a "voice," do not be deceived. Reject whatever it says, and echo Jesus' words: "Go away, Satan!" Do not allow curiosity about the spirit realm to cause you to become involved with wicked spirits. Such involvement is called spiritism, and God warns his worshipers against it in all its forms. The Bible condemns "anyone who employs divination...or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead."

Right..so...that whole praying thing you do...you know, to Jesus? Right. I love how these square up. Also, this raises the interesting question of how do you know that you're hearing Jesus when you're praying? Couldn't it just be a demon? Or your brain misfiring? Or you just talking to yourself? I mean, c'mon. Please, what's your criteria? If the voice tends to agree with your previous conceptions of what it should say? Unlikely to be right, buddy. Thanks, anyway, and please come back to play again.

Since spiritism brings a person under the influence of the demons, resist all its practices regardless of how much fun, or how exciting, they may seem to be. THese practices include crystal-ball gazing, use of Ouija boards, ESP, examining the lines of one's hand (palmistry), and astrology. Demons have also caused noises and other physical phenomena in houses that they make their territory.


In addition, wicked spirits capitalize on the sinful bent of humans by promoting literature, movies, and television programs that feature immoral and unnatural sexual behavior. The demons know that wrong thoughts if not expelled from the mind will cause indelible impressiona dn lead humans to behave immorally. Like the demons themselves.

It always comes back to sex! Christians just can't get enough of legislating sexual behavior in a homophobic, patriarchal way. Don't you just love it? *vomit*

True, many may scoff at the idea that this world is ruled by wicked spirits. But their disbelief is not surprising, since the Bible says: "Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14) His most clever deception has been in blinding many to the fact that he and his demons really exist. But do not be deceived! The Devil and his demons are real, and you need to resist them continually. - 1 Peter 5:8, 9.

This reminds me of every conspiracy theory out there. "What? There's a total lack of evidence...well of course! It's a conspiracy! That just proves that it's true!" You see? You can't be wrong. If things go badly, then obviously it's demons. If things are okay and there's no reason to believe in demons, then obviously it's demons who are trying to deceive you. Right. And 9/11 was in inside job, Kennedy was shot from the grassy knoll, vaccines cause autism, and Jesus really had children, all of which was covered up by reptilian alien Freemasons in the Catholic Church. Man...I just LOVE conspiracy theories.

So, there you have it, some utterly ridiculous nonsense which tries to convince you that demons actually exist and are in control of the world, and thus, you should do nothing about the state of affairs in the world and just sit on the sidelines until God does something about it.

Verdict? Reprehensible for its complete shifting of blame and responsibility, as well as denying that we have the power to do anything in this world. Also, completely illogical and promoting ignorance. Jehovah's Witnesses...full of FAIL.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When Two Worlds Collide

I think my love of metal outweighs my distaste for religion. Also, this guy "does not play to draw people...to religion." I like this guy: