Confession

April 30, 2008

My personality has two sides — a spiritual side and a rational side. They are often in creative conflict: they represent the yin and yang of my soul.

In discourse and conversation, my rational side usually dominates. But when I wish to be creative, or when I contemplate the absurdities of existence, it is my spiritual side from which I draw inspiration and hope.

Some may consider me Christian, although I don’t believe in the core tenets of the Christian faith, namely, that Jesus is the means by which we come to know God. Some may consider me an atheist, because my rationality and my Socratic dialectic compel me to seek proof and evidence.

I cannot assent to the claim “God exists;” but neither can I assent to its negation “There is no God.” Because I am a finite primate, a Homo sapien who will die — I believe in no afterlife — I consider it the height of hubris to make any claims about the existence or non-existence of a transcendent reality.

I believe that God is an idea: one that lives and breathes in the realm of the mind. But this idea animates me, inspires me, and teaches me.

Can an atheist be inspired by God?

So what am I? First and foremost I am a critical thinker who regards inquiry and analysis as the best means to discover and learn about the cosmos. But my longing for transcendence and mystery has led me to embrace Taoism, a non-theistic spiritual philosophy.

But if God is only an idea — only? as if ideas are not themselves as unto god! — and if the cosmos is ultimately without meaning or purpose, then I feel it is our duty to fill it with meaning and purpose.

Why?

Maybe because I’m a primate of faith.

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Against exceptionalism

April 29, 2008

America is not an exceptional nation. Nor is America an exceptional civilization. Human civilization has existed for more than 10,000 years. What is two hundred plus years of national history compared to 10,000 years of human civilization?

Civilization is based on irrigation, agriculture, and sanitation. Every viable civilization on this planet has had those technologies. If you believe in the myth of American exceptionalism, you need to read more history. And sincerely ask yourself: What is so exceptional about America?

The Aztecs had irrigation and urban planning. The Egyptians completed massive public works. And Athens had democracy.

What is so special about America? Why do people’s hearts swell with pride when they see a tattered banner flapping in the wind?

All of the presidential candidates buy into the myth of American exceptionalism. But I never believed that America was exceptional — even after thousands of recitations of compulsory indoctrination — worshipping an ugly and inelegant icon — and I no longer believe in the myth of American greatness. And I do not quite understand the point of “electing” a “president” to the greatest military empire that this world has ever seen. (And I distrust the motives of anyone who would be King.)

If you believe that America is exceptional because it is a liberal democracy, you haven’t been reading the news. As Noam Chomsky never tires of pointing out, America is not a functioning democracy because public opinion does not matter. America is not a liberal democracy: it is an oligarchy: Our political class is made up of the rich and rules for the rich. Is that fact in doubt?

While I do admit that America is better than other nations, especially if you’re a sexual minority, it is past time we abandoned the myth that we live in a country that is exceptional; that we live in a land that is blessed by God. What does it mean for God to bless a nation? Does God bless Algeria? Does God bless Morocco? Does God bless Zimbabwe? Do you actually believe that the Creator of the Cosmos is really concerned with geopolitics? (If you answer yes to that question, I assume you’re still stuck in the narrative of the Old Testament.)

I’m tired of the myth of American exceptionalism. I’m tired of the narrative of nationalism. And I’m tired of the belief that patriotism — the Religion of the State, which is a form of prejudice — is a virtue.

I wish people would abandon these tattered security blankets.

And wake up.


I don’t get it : 1 0

April 29, 2008

Socrates: Do you know what hyperbole is?

Pupil: No. I do not.

Socrates: Hyperbole is exaggeration for deliberate, sometimes comic, affect.

Pupil: I don’t get it.

Socrates: Hyperbole is overstatement.

Pupil: I thought it was exaggeration.

Socrates: It is.

Pupil: I don’t get it.

Socrates: Maybe because you are so god damned stupid!

Pupil: Who?

Socrates: YOU!

Pupil: You’re not being very nice to me today.

Socrates: Just shut up and go home.

Pupil: But you still haven’t told me what hyperbole is!

Socrates: You won’t get it today.

Pupil: When?

Socrates: Probably never.

Pupil: You’re not very nice.

Socrates: *Sigh*


I don’t get it : 1

April 28, 2008

Socrates: Do you know what an analogy is?

Pupil: No. I do not.

Socrates: An analogy is like a comparison.

Pupil: A comparison?

Socrates: Yes.

Pupil: Between what and what?

Socrates: Exactly. What is a question.

Pupil: What?

Socrates: A question.

Pupil: What?

Socrates: A question.

Pupil: I don’t get it.

Socrates: Precisely.

Pupil: But what is an analogy?

Socrates: No, an analogy is a comparison.

Pupil: What?

Socrates: Never mind.


On the Cultivation of Eros

April 27, 2008

Although I find clerical celibacy stupid — I would make a horrible ascetic monk — I find that temporary periods of reduced sexual activity enhance my understanding of Eros, the Greek God of erotic love.

I cultivate Eros toward a young man, and dream of one day waking at his side. And if Eros should ever mate Aphrodite, metaphorically speaking, then, on that wondrous day, shall I — in my flesh and in his — see God. (Job 19:26)


Note to the overly literal: I sorely doubt Job had sex on the brain. Ditto Isaiah 40:5.


I don’t get it : 0

April 27, 2008

Socrates: Do you know what a metaphor is?

Pupil: No. I do not.

Socrates: A metaphor is a number. It is the number after three.

Pupil: I don’t get it.

Socrates: Is three a number?

Pupil: Yes.

Socrates: And what is the number after three?

Pupil: Four.

Socrates: Meta . . .

Pupil: Four.

Socrates: Meta . . .

Pupil: Four.

Socrates: Meta . . .

Pupil: Four.

Socrates: See?

Pupil: See what?

Socrates: Never mind.


On The Infinity of Ignorance

April 27, 2008

Homo sapiens are often stupid, slow to learn, and slow to abandon moldy doctrines that are demonstrably false.

Proof?

The following graph shows public acceptance of evolution as scientific fact. The data is across countries.

 

And people wonder why I’m so cynical about America: Only Turkey has a higher percentage of morons in the general population. Maybe I should move to Iceland.

But then again, there are still some who believe the Earth is flat. And that the rapture is imminent. And who don’t know what LEM means.

And who believe that American Idol and Harry Potter constitute culture. And who believe Americans humans are God’s greatest, finest, and final creation. And that Oprah Winfrey is the anti-christ. And
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