Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A Chick Tract In The Mail

Aside from the usual assortment of catalogues that clog up my mailbox, today's haul had two interesting things. The first: a ticket that enables a free IQ and personality test from Scientology. While I appreciate their offer, I know how smart and awesome I am already so I don't need any "test" to tell me that. The second, and slightly more surprising, was a Chick Tract!

The tract was entitled "Men Of Peace?" with some stereotypical Arabs on the front cover. It starts off innocuous enough, describing a spate of terrorist attacks on major cities by a Jihadist group, and an argument between an uppity college-educated girl and her learned Grandfather where he paints the actions as an extension of Muhammad's holy war. Then after proceeding through what I can only assume was an immaculately unbiased account of Muslim history, it turns to the kicker. The uppity college-educated daughter is just like Muhammad in that *gasp* she rejects the divinity of Jesus.

Unfortunately, perhaps lost in the limited space, was the no-doubt nuanced discussion that demonstrated the existence of heaven and hell which ultimately led to the final kicker of the grandpa saying she needed to repent to Jesus as her lord and saviour. But as the tract says, "Even the most hate-filled terrorist can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ." Her pitiful objection that she wasn't a terrorist does little in the eyes of Jesus, because the only way to heaven is to recognise Jesus' divinity. It's complete with biblical citations so you know it's true!

It's one of those interesting things that follow from this line of thought. We all fail to meet God's standard, so we are deserving of an eternity in hell for falling short of that. The only way out, as was given to the would-be terrorists, is to accept Jesus as one's lord and saviour. For all her moral fortitude in her outrage at the terrorist, the uppity college-educated girl failed to realise that doesn't matter when it comes to her afterlife. The only thing that matters is she believes in the right thing, and until she does that she'll remain lost.

The moral of the story: Jesus is great, a college education is no substitute for knowing the bible, and if you reject Jesus then you're making the same decision as that evil zealot Muhammad! Perhaps the nuance of such a view is lost in the mere 42 frames the artist had to work with, but I think the point is made. Believe in Jesus, or else!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Album Of The Day: Week 25

Sunday (17/06): Pale Divine - Painted Windows Black
Monday (18/06): Lord Mantis - Pervertor
Tuesday (19/06): Law Of The Tongue - Law Of The Tongue
Wednesday (20/06): Gigan - Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes
Thursday (21/06): Inverse Phase - Pretty Eight Machine
Friday (22/06): Kansas - Leftoverture
Saturday (23/06): Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania

Thursday, 21 June 2012


"Many people are way too confident in their moral views." - Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ownership: Inventing Mine And Yours

There is no objective ownership. This isn't a controversial statement, nor is it one that people particularly lament. Sure, at times, people will decry that others don't see the value that they do in something particular, but in general I don't think that there's any serious defence of ownership being objective.

Yet, if we reflect on it for even a second, valuation of ownership is integral to our lives. We could not function even in small groups, let alone as a society, without having a set of similar values towards the notion of ownership. Among our friends and family, we may have different ways of treating ownership than we would with a stranger, but we do none the less think that our ownership is beyond the mere subjective and ought to be respected and even protected among the society we live in.

We even go so far as to teach children from a young age about the rights and obligations of ownership, and hold those who don't respect it accountable. We will gladly punish those who violate this notion, even though this valuation is by our own reckoning subjective. We have no problems recognising ownership as something that performs an integral role in our lives even though it has no meaning outside of our personal agency.

So the question is, why is it problematic if we substituted morality into the same argument? Why can't morality be useful without it needing to be true?

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Album Of The Day: Week 24

Sunday (10/06): Dumbsaint - Something That You Feel Will Find Its Own Form
Monday (11/06): 7 Horns 7 Eyes - Throes Of Absolution
Tuesday (12/06): Explosions In The Sky - All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
Wednesday (13/06): Atriarch - Forever The End
Thursday (14/06): Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
Friday (15/06): Mencea - Pyrophoric
Saturday (16/06): Pain Of Salvation - The Perfect Element Part 1

Sunday, 10 June 2012

God Debates

After watching yet another debate, I've come to the conclusion that it's not that I don't know the arguments for God, but that I don't understand the significance of the arguments for the theistic position. I do wonder what's missing so that I can at least appreciate where the theists are coming from. Is there some connection that I'm missing, or is it that perhaps the arguments would make sense if I were a believer? In any case, there's an infuriating futility in that I can't see how to get from the case to the conclusion.

The Problem Of Hell Belief

Hell didn't really come into my thinking much when I became an atheist - most of the scripture teachers I had focused on the role of God on earth and in our lives - but it has come to bother me over the years. I can understand, to an extent, that perhaps a belief in hell follows from certain Christian doctrines, or that perhaps that it might be a good motivator to help people do good. After all, there are similar analogues in other systems of thought, so it's not hard to imagine that the idea of hell is such an implausible notion in itself. But thinking about it, what bothers me is that people aren't horrified by that notion, and that some even relish in the prospect.

To forget all the problems with reconciling a "good" God with hell - the inconsistencies are pseudoproblems in my view - the concern is how such a belief has an effect in the real world. The only reaction that one could adequately have to such a notion is to try to do the utmost they can to save as many people from the fate as possible. If they aren't, then they haven't adequately comprehended just what it would mean. Of all the human analogues to hell, of torture and torment, of forced dehumanisation, these are things that as a species we have decided as being unacceptable to us. If anyone were to defend the likes of Hitler and Stalin for their crimes against humanity, they would be seen as defending the indefensible. Yet if hell is anything like some of the fantastical visions that makes it so undesirable to begin with, then we're facing up to something infinitely worse! To not try to save everyone possible would mean that there's something wrong with the person in question.

Yet it's not just inaction that's the concern, but the rationalisation that those who are in hell are there because they deserve it. From Answers In Genesis: "Even though God loves us, it is because He is completely good and just that He cannot simply overlook or tolerate evil—He hates it!" In other words, not only can you not be in God's presence because of the sins of some fruit-eating ancestor, but it's only good and just that you will spend eternity in tortured agony for that ancestral transgression.

Following on the Answers In Genesis page: "Every person is a sinner by nature and by choice (Romans 5:12-21; Isaiah 53:6), and we cannot do anything to purify ourselves; no amount of “good” works can cover what we have done wrong. In fact, the Bible says that all of our righteousness is like a pile of “filthy rags” before the holy Creator God (Isaiah 64:6)." So we can't help but be horrible and wicked, and even if we appear to be doing good, it's still nothing. As they say: "This is justice. Everyone stands guilty before God, and if He were to condemn all of humanity, that would be just—because we all deserve punishment of eternal death in hell."

That someone could even write those words should be very disheartening. That many people believe it is downright dangerous. What good can come of a view of humanity where all action except belief in the vicarious atonement of the godman is deserving of an eternity of torture? That everything but accepting Jesus' "sacrifice" warrants an eternal punishment that pales in comparison to what the most evil of evil people on this planet has done. What value could there be in human life if human life is irredeemably wicked? I'm reminded of the saint Zarathustra encounters: "Now I love God: men, I do not love. Man is a thing too imperfect for me. Love to man would be fatal to me."

The hope would be that anyone who believes in such a notion doesn't live by it; that pragmatism guides their actions in this life while their belief of the next world remains otherworldly. Words like good and just have no earthly use when framed in such a manner other than to cast others in a dehumanising light. Even some of the causes taken up by hell-fearing fundamentalists doesn't make much sense in light of what counts as good and just. What good is fighting against abortion or homosexuality when neither of them is any more deserving of hell than giving to charity is? It's stroking one's own sense of righteousness in terms of that which is declared to be sinful!

But even if one takes the AiG interpretation of good and just as being wrong, and that hell is not a matter of heresy but one of action, the thought of a punishment amounting to eternal torture is still just as problematic - just that such a punishment sits better with our moral intuitions. It would not be unreasonable to think of Hitler being punished, but even Hitler being tortured cruelly and endlessly should be something that even the most vengeful of us should be horrified by.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Album Of The Day: Week 23

Sunday (03/06): Secrets Of The Moon - Seven Bells
Monday (04/06): Witch - Paralyzed
Tuesday (05/06): Saint Vitus - Lillie: F-65
Wednesday (06/06): Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff
Thursday (07/06): Fear Factory - The Industrialist
Friday (08/06): Melvins Lite - Freak Puke
Saturday (09/06): Meniscus - Absence Of I

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Thus Spake Zarathustra

"Much that passed for good with one people was regarded with scorn and contempt by another [..] Never did the one neighbour understand the other: ever did his soul marvel at his neighbour's delusion and wickedness." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Album Of The Day: Week 22

Sunday (27/05): Damn The Machine - Damn The Machine
Monday (28/05): The Mars Volta - Frances The Mute
Tuesday (29/05): Ouroboros - Glorification Of A Myth
Wednesday (30/05): Cyclopian - Cyclopian
Thursday (31/05): Deerhunter - Turn It Up Faggot
Friday (01/06): Roxy Music - Avalon
Saturday (02/06): Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion