Last book of 2010 and Happy New Year

I finished reading How To Live: Or a Biography of Montaigne this afternoon. I see why it has a devoted following and good reviews.

Next, biographies of Raymond Carver and Alfred Tarski.

Why am I reading so many biographies lately?  I’ve done Newton and Einstein recently too.

Anyway, Happy New Year, you pretty butt motherfuckers. I love you.

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Published in: on December 31, 2010 at 9:04 pm  Comments (1)  

King James Bible: yeh-ah!

OK, I’ll admit it, I am a sucker for the King James Bible even though I am a pagan.  (I haven’t been happy since the Christians and such like destroyed the ancient Greek temples.)  Here’s an oldie but a goody.

How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow  down my spittle?

Job 7:19

And there’s more where that came from.  (Note for file: quote the King James Bible each and every day.)

Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 8:28 am  Leave a Comment  

King Solomon: that was great, see you in another four years

While browsing the King James Bible this morning, I read this about King Solomon (I Kings 11:3): “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”

Now, I know why they called him The King and why they didn’t have divorce and alimony back in those days.

Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 7:43 am  Comments (1)  

Queer Evangelists, Palin, and other disturbing elements

I read Max Blumenthal’s Republican Gomorrah, an in depth and well organized exploration of the excesses of the Fundamentalist and Evangelist Christian movement and how they shattered the Republican Party.  Whether you are on the Left or Right, it might make you queasy as you read it.  However, this isn’t a book review.  You can Google book reviews until your heart is content without my help.

James Dobson, the wannabe kingmaker of the Republican Party  (or queenmaker anyone?) is at the heart of the story.  But what fascinated me most is to discover the depth and amount of homosexuality and sexual deviancy of many of these Evangelist Christian leaders.  I’m talking about people who have spent their lives trying to squelch gay rights and consign gay  souls to the depths of Hell according to their religious view of the universe.  The central thesis of the book is that the movement is one of crisis.  For those fallen in the flock, all they have to do is repent to the father leader and all will be forgiven if they resume their onslaught against gay rights, women’s rights, and others who don’t support their version of the Conservative agenda.  The argument is well made that this movement is a party and religion of enablement similar to other forms of addiction and fear of acting freely.

The book concludes with several chapters about Sarah Palin and how her nomination and campaign assured the Republicans loss last year.  Those chapters alone are worth reading just to get a sense of what a wacko she is when it comes to her fundamental beliefs.   I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil the ending.

If Republicans think Palin can withstand any reasoned scrutiny for President of the United States, they might be in for a surprise.

 

Published in: on November 22, 2009 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rust stain

A few years ago, a rust stain appeared on one of the walls supporting an highway overpass on the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. Some people thought the rust stain looked like a picture of Jesus Christ. The power of suggestion being what it is, if somebody told you that it looked like Jesus and you used a lot of imagination, you might believe it. Art, no matter what creates it, is often in the eye of the beholder.

However, some people actually drove to the overpass and prayed to a rust stain they believed was an image of Jesus. There is a lot of talk these days about respecting others’ faith. Well, we should tolerate others’ faith within decent limits, but I will never respect the religious belief of anyone who worships to a rust stain.

Published in: on August 25, 2008 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  

The fall of paganism

As the objects of religion were gradually reduced to the standard of the imagination, the rites and ceremonies were introduced that seemed most powerfully to affect the senses of the vulgar. If, in the beginning of the fifth century, Tertullian, or Lactantius, had been suddenly raised from the dead, to assist at the festival of some popular saint, or martyr, they would have gazed with astonishment, and indignation, on the profane spectacle, which had succeeded to the pure and spiritual worship of a Christian congregation. As soon as the doors of the church were thrown open, they must have been offended by the smoke of incense, the perfume of flowers, and the glare of lamps and tapers, which diffused, at noonday, a gaudy, superfluous, and, in their opinion, a sacrilegious light. If they approached the balustrade of the altar, they made their way through the prostrate crowd, consisting, for the most part, of strangers and pilgrims, who resorted to the city on the vigil of the feast; and who already felt the strong intoxication of fanaticism, and, perhaps, of wine. Their devout kisses were imprinted on the walls and pavement of the sacred edifice; and their fervent prayers were directed, whatever might be the language of their church, to the bones, the blood, or the ashes of the saint, which were usually concealed, by a linen or silken veil, from the eyes of the vulgar. The Christians frequented the tombs of the martyrs, in the hope of obtaining, from their powerful intercession, every sort of spiritual, but more especially of temporal, blessings. They implored the preservation of their health, or the cure of their infirmities; the fruitfulness of their barren wives, or the safety and happiness of their children. Whenever they undertook any distant or dangerous journey, they requested, that the holy martyrs would be their guides and protectors on the road; and if they returned without having experienced any misfortune, they again hastened to the tombs of the martyrs, to celebrate, with grateful thanksgivings, their obligations to the memory and relics of those heavenly patrons. The walls were hung round with symbols of the favors which they had received; eyes, and hands, and feet, of gold and silver: and edifying pictures, which could not long escape the abuse of indiscreet or idolatrous devotion, represented the image, the attributes, and the miracles of the tutelar saint. The same uniform original spirit of superstition might suggest, in the most distant ages and countries, the same methods of deceiving the credulity, and of affecting the senses of mankind: but it must ingenuously be confessed, that the ministers of the Catholic church imitated the profane model, which they were impatient to destroy. The most respectable bishops had persuaded themselves that the ignorant rustics would more cheerfully renounce the superstitions of Paganism, if they found some resemblance, some compensation, in the bosom of Christianity. The religion of Constantine achieved, in less than a century, the final conquest of the Roman empire: but the victors themselves were insensibly subdued by the arts of their vanquished rivals.

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XXVIII, curtesy of Project Gutenburg

Gibbon writes the best about religion. (Take chapter XXVIII in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire where he writes of the demise of paganism for instance.) Nobody makes better sport of the credulous nature of the Christian from earlier times than he. Nobody speaks more truly of the Christian believer than Gibbon documenting the words, beliefs, and deeds of the fanatical devout. The belief in the miracles and prodigies of the glorified saints and martyrs would seem to knit all of the religious in one piece of cloth, yet unfortunately, people of differing faiths hate each other unto death.

I’ll admit it. Watching the acts of the various ranks of the holy is amusing sport to watch. That is until the next bomb explodes in the service of god.

Published in: on August 25, 2008 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Church

I am spending the weekend in the suburbs with V.  I forget how quiet the suburbs are.  I am about to go to Easter services with V at the Lutheran church a few blocks away.  This ought to be interesting.

Published in: on March 22, 2008 at 4:57 pm  Comments (2)  

Too corrupt and sectarian for survival

Suppose an independent report stated that the Chicago police force was infected with corruption and sectarianism. So much so that it needed to be disbanded and started anew. Chicago residents would rightly be much disturbed and ill at ease with the prospect. All other pronouncements about progress in taming and containing violence would ring hollow. Yet when the same is said about the Iraqi police forces, it comes as just another sound that does not quite register in perception or imagination.

One grasps for a life jacket when the boat is sinking. Finding a life jacket does indeed seem like progress. The real problem persists: the boat is sinking. In fact, it is the passengers and sailors who have cracked the hull.

Is the analogy between Chicago and Baghdad apt? If the goal is impressing a U.S. style democracy and economic system on Iraq, then it is entirely apt. If the U.S. is to bear the burden and brunt of security for Iraq, twice the number of troops need to be there for an indeterminate time. How long does it take for sectarian violence to burn itself out? More than a few months or years.

However, the burden lies on Iraqis to provide for their own security. Iraqis despise the occupiers yet call for soldiers to stay and die trying to protect them from sectarian violence. The demand does not reconcile with the hatred.

The hope is always that murderous religious fundamentalism will mutate into a benign strain of belief. The hope is not warranted. Violent religious wars exhaust themselves. The will to kill and die remains after the body tires and can no longer do it. A decade or two from now, when the body is exhausted and impotent, there will be peace. Until that time people will be the victims of their most cherished religious beliefs.

For the religious skeptic that is just not good enough.

Published in: on September 7, 2007 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment