October 2, 2011 - September 25, 2011
. Right up front: I didn't mention abortion because I took it as understood we're all on the same page. It's bad. Unborn babies shouldn't be stabbed in the brain. This is me officially making that explicit. OK?
Since this is, as has recently been stressed, his blog, my responses to Robert's comments get their own post.
There's a Snake River-wide gulf between not having babies and letting babies die. I'd like the Followers of Christ membership to dwindle to zero as much as anyone, but passive infanticide is not an acceptable means to that end.
I'm reminded of George Will's speech to last year's CPAC. "The liberal/conservative argument in our country is alive and well. It turns on the two polar values of western political thought: Freedom and Equality. Both important, always in tension, always being adjusted." I'd argue the two polar values are, properly understood, freedom and justice (liberals got their portion wrong because that's what they do). That tension is complex enough to merit its own post. Or its own thousand posts. That's why I didn't address it in my entry on murder-by-faith-healing, a much smaller issue.
Which is why I didn't try. Hence the "agnost" part of "agnostic." And that's why your and urthshu's objections to my Holocaust example are moot (not to say I have any problem with their substance). The Holocaust proves God can't be relied on to preseve life on earth. It proves it. And it's not the only proof. I explicitly declined to make a claim one way or the other what that says about God. I'm more interested in what God's unreliability means for us, here.
Pascal (and Will Ashbless, via his 21st century updating of the Wager) got it backwards. God cannot, in justice, punish sincere disbelief. All he'd have to do to dispel legitimate doubt is make Himself manifest unambiguously to every individual-- small potatoes for the omnipotent. The fact sincere disbelief in Him can exist at all is His fault, no matter how good his reasons or extenuating his circumstances. And He understands this.
If He does punish honest nonbelievers, He's unjust. What can I do against tyrannical omnipotence, except hope for the chance to spit in despot God's eye before he sends me off to the eternal punishment of the upright? Maybe some great thinker will one day devise a contingency plan for a thing like that. Personally, that's not a battle I pick.
I don't deny there may be a veil. I don't deny the veil is worth trying to pierce. I do deny I have any pressing imperative to pierce the veil. I do deny I ought to live according to any merely potential obligation to an unproven Creator.
Since there may not be a God, and we only potentially owe anything to a God who refuses to prove He exists beyond reasonable doubt, it makes sense to me to err on the side of atheism. Which means acting as though there's no safety net of life after death or of (infrequent at best) divine justice here in mortal life.
So in that sense, in Will's words, "there are no agnostic actions." In another sense, behaving as if this life is the one shot we've got is the action of a rational agnosticism.
I won't pretend I'm not biased one way or the other. I would prefer a Godless universe, with room to explore and build. I don't want God or anyone or thing else having dibs on the whole of existence. But my want alone doesn't affect reality. God might be real as hell. He may have done most or all of the building and exploring there is to do. When I die, I may have to just come to terms with that. I trust (hope) any God who does exist would be a paragon of goodness, and won't condemn me for not going against my honest judgement.
One last thing. Commenter ErisGuy made a remark I can't let lie.
Wrong. The state derives it's power from the consent of each individual governed. The individual, not the family, is the fundamental unit of society (don't feel bad; the Mormons make the same mistake). A free society respects the sanctity of self-determination. The family's most sacrosanct responsibility is to make sure its children develop a self that can determine its... self. A child can't very well determine himself before he has a self to determine.
(9/29) MORE CLARIFICATIONS. From the comments:
But why is [abortion] bad? Don't get me wrong... I'm glad that you think so. But you haven't explained what your basis is for such a judgment.
Happy to oblige. Abortion is bad because life is the standard of value. Life-- not God or anything else-- is the purpose of morality. I'll explain.
It's that there's no objective moral law. The little detail that always gets left out.
But that's wrong, sir. The standard of life is the most objective morality there is.
When I read "there is no resurrection without Christianity" instead of "there is no Christianity without resurrection," I committed what psychologists call a Freudian fuck-up. Robert thought Christianity justified the resurrection. I thought the resurrection justified Christianity. Robert was operating from the primacy of God. I was operating from the primacy of life.
Put another way: Is God subordinate to good, or is good subordinate to God?
Imagine this. Somewhere in the universe, God has created a planet with human beings like us. The difference between Earth and Planet Q is, He's sending everyone on Planet Q to hell. Without exception. Regardless of merit. From serial rapists and Stalinesque tyrants to miscarried babies and sweet, gentle retards and five-year-old girls without a mean bone in their little bodies. Their brief, often frustrated lives were the closest to happiness they'll ever get. God created them to send them to hell. No salvation. No recourse. Just endless, eternal punishment. Forever.
Are you OK with that? Does no part of you object to that? Is your response "Whatever God wants is good"? Really?
Are you sure?
IF it's not OK for God to create conscious human beings for the sole purpose of torturing them without end, then God is subordinate to good. Then morality is transtheistic.
You want something even more objective than the preservation of life? Sorry. Even God can't help you with that one. Any more than He explains the creation of existence? If God created everything, who created God? If God doesn't need a creator, why does existence? Similar problem with the morality question. Is an evil act good when God does it? If not, why not?
So God is accountable to you? Pitiful.
Straw fiat. God is accountable to morality. I've done my best to determine what morality consists of. Care to explain how I'm accountable God who keeps His existence ambiguous? Or how anyone is?
God is good if he serves life (same goes for the family, ErisGuy). I'd like to hear an argument to the contrary. Honest, I would.
STILL MORE. It isn't my, or maybe anyone's, responsibility to prove the existence of God to you.
Which is why I haven't asked you to.
And it lies within the realm of possibility that God may not view individuals as all that important, and He certainly doesn't seem to view death as an Evil, so maybe you shouldn't either.
The Holocaust wasn't evil, since God let it happen? Thanks for clearing that up. Your way is so much easier.
Guess what I'm saying is if you're going Agnostic, go all the way and stop building expectations of behavior towards a being you admit to knowing no definite information of.
Muhfugga, how many different ways do I have to repeat this? I'm not saying God should do a damn thing differently. I'd like Him to do more real-world saving, yes, but I'm not pining for it. When I was younger, I wanted to be saved by God or the lottery or the vaginas of my various crushes. But I'm putting away childish things. Believe it or not-- and I doubt you will, because I'm not sure you can begin to conceive of this-- I don't want to be saved anymore. I want freedom. Real freedom. Where both risk and reward are all mine. Where I get to take credit for what I make of my own life.
God can be what He wants. As it stands, He's chosen to save life on earth from horror and tragedy so infrequently that He effectively doesn't exist. Maybe His reasons for this are genuinely good. I'll repeat that in boldface, so you can't pretend you didn't see it: Maybe His reasons for this are genuinely good. That's literally fine. I'm interested in how we ought to conduct ourselves in light of His absenteeism.
. Since I've determined not to withdraw from the site
I've had a change in perspective, prompted in large part by a couple of
recent posts and exchanges with our younger hotshots. I realized I may
have been making a mistake I was making when I began The Boomer Bible
and had to learn not to make in completing it. I'm not trying to be
pompous and superior here, just reportorial. My first outline and
drafts were allusive and brief, depending on a base of shared cultural
and historical knowledge I thought was our common heritage. Rather than
the book of Ziggie,
I had a book of Minoans, designed to lampoon
Freudian concepts without ever mentioning Freud, for example. I thought
everyone knew a little something about Freud. Then life intervened, as
it does, and I had to put away the manuscript for a number of years,
during which I learned that what I thought people knew they didn't
know. Why The Boomer Bible turned out to be the monster it ultimately
became and why I was afraid to resume the writing of it for so long.
The more I learned about what people didn't know, the bigger the
unwritten book got.
Now I realize I'm possibly repeating an error no man should make twice. I'm dazzled by the brilliance of multiple youngsters who have contributed to InstaPunk in recent years. They know plenty about plenty of things. But they also have a habit of wrenching themselves into absurd postures that make absolutely no sense to me. They display a kind of cynicism, and naivete, I can't comprehend. And, yes, I frequently use a cynical voice because that is an integral part of my role as a satirist -- to be scathing, denunciatory, and dismissive . But the very purpose of satire is to hold the world up to a moral standard the satirist really does believe in. By definition, he cannot be a cynic. Or he would not write. He does write because he desires to provoke thought, not to be God himself sitting in judgment.
I'm sympathetic to the spirit of youthful rebellion, because I was a rebel too. But I'm beginning to suspect that something is missing in even our brightest youngsters that I never doubted for a moment of my youth -- a ferocious admiration of the incredible beauty of life and the ineffable courage, creativity, and genius of the human race.
It's not my intent to point fingers. Examine recent posts and comment threads here, and you will find what I'm talking about. The education system in our country has failed them utterly. They're having to do it all for themselves, and maybe I've been remiss in repeatedly returning to the easiest of cultural touchstones -- popular music, TV, the movies, and the politics of the moment. My failure. Why I've been losing my temper so often. Failure will do that. Politics isn't about ideology, as written by this or that recent seer. Politics is about life, about preserving and promoting what is best in life, what makes life worth living, which can never be reduced to "jobs" or cold theories or individual chunks of legislation or monolithic villains of various stripes. To think intelligently about politics, we must all have a very deep context of the whole that includes not only what we most revere but also what we do not revere and yet need to know about.
What is context for a human being living in America in the early 21st century? It begins with a timeline of important historical events beginning all the way back in ancient Sumeria when writing first made history possible. But it doesn't end there. Dates aren't history and they aren't life. They're just the alphabet we need to learn before we can learn how to read. There is also geography, which is the landscape of history that begins to make sense of how people, ideas, conflicts, and illumination spread from one culture and one time to the next.
Permit me to take time out for a simple test. Can you fill in all the names of the states on this map without looking anything up in a book or on the Internet?
Winnie the Pooh 37.11%
Yosemite Sam 15.43%
Daffy Duck 10.88%
Britt and A.B. and Bill and Juan were all inclined to agree that
nobody was really voting for Winnie the Pooh. They were sending a
message. Pooh was offering a simple honeypot called
compared to sterling
capitalist and technologist Goofy's 59-point (!) jobs plan. Which
complicated for Florida Hoverounders
(Free! Count me
out) and besides
Pooh has a "Winn-ing" personality, compared to Goofy's "what the hell
is he, really?" identity. (I mean, if Pluto's a dog, what is Goofy?")
They all seemed concerned about the Mormon thing, and the
conservative-liberal flip-flop thing, and what the hell is a
front-runner if he's always losing in the polls?
They did concede that Pooh had completely outclassed incorruptible
immigration hardliner Yosemite Sam
in the last debate, but they seemed to agree that wasn't because Pooh
is smart or a legitimate candidate (I mean, really? Pooh? Pooh.) but that Sam
has developed a tendency to fire off all his ammunition in the first
ten minutes, then drop into a siesta for the next hour and a half.
Correctable? They didn't know.
They soberly reminded
viewers that at this same stage of the 2008 campaign, the polls had
Elmer Fudd and
TV star Foghorn
Leghorn way out in front of Wile
E. Coyote, who
was then dead in the water with no more credit at Acme and no prospects, yet went on
to gloriously win the nomination and fall off his customary cliff,
screaming all the way down...
...although, paradoxically, nobody seemed interested in discussing Daffy, Eeyore, Pluto, or the two-faced Droopy,
who sits on a couch with Cruella De Vil
talking about saving the environment and then insists he's committed to
defeating the (NSFW) Road
Runner. They prefer to write them
all off as also-rans without wasting much of their dazzlingly IQ-heavy
analysis on remote possibilities. (Me? I'm liking Daffy Duck. Always did.).
Nobody could have seen it coming....
Somebody, maybe Bill Kristol, did point out that Droopy wins,
almost invariably (via the unfair advantage of being 3 times smarter
than the rest of them), the
points he feels like contesting, but he's still Droopy and more than a few kibble
bowls overweight, so who cares?
Because Sam and Goofy are so far ahead in -- what? -- the current
[Frankly, I'm curious that
nobody else was curious how Eeyore's followers failed to stuff this
particular ballot box the way they have stuffed every other straw poll
ballot box at every conservative conference and gathering for the past
four years, but it's an idle curiosity when all
is said and done, and I guess I can't blame them for not wasting time
on a trivial mystery. Eeyore will never be president. If you've lost
your tail, it seems like an especially egregious form of carelessness.]
Led (inevitably) by Chris Wallace, the panel was prepared to spend some time
writing the political epitaph of the flake Minnie Mouse,
who came in dead last
despite her polka-dot bows and startlingly yellow shoes. Something about
her being a tea party cartoon too scripted and polka-dotted to take
seriously. (The term mental retardation was mentioned.) Like all women, we're to infer,
except the acceptably unappetizing A.B. on the Fox News Sunday panel, whose sole implementation of yellow is the hair dye that starts an inch above her black roots. Of course, this
might have been a warning shot across the bow of Betty
continues to lurk above the fray without pointing her hypnotic boops in any
particular direction. All of them are afraid she could
her way into a catastrophic Republican snafu.
The appalling, unthinkable, Republican nightmare.
(The impatient can skip to 1:10 in,, right to the vile.
disgusting, rightwing whoring Sullivan hates in her.)
Well, Juan Williams wouldn't mind. But his private and mostly
smile of satisfaction could not compete with Bill Kristol's Cheshire
cat grin. He's convinced that the Winnie the Pooh vote is a clarion
call to the one
personage who really could save
the day for Republicans and the Republic.
So. What's up, Doc? Well, we'll see. Won't we?
Raise your hands if you knew he was from New Jersey.