Cellar Door Skeptics returns with a more serious episode. Tanner and Hanna talk about how America has entered the darkest timeline. Society seems to continue to feel like we live in Bizarro World as Trump creates a denaturalization taskforce. This is not as funny as space force was because it is setup to start deporting citizens. To help ease some of the bad news this week, the duo talk about their love of the local art museum,what it was like to see a dragon exhibit, and how even as skeptics we love some of the romanticised ideas of the past. They close the show out by talk about Trump’s new pick and how maybe he is the new Forest Gump of republican politics.
If you are, by all means continue reading, and imagine the following delivered with flecks of spittle and appropriate pulpit-pounding. If you aren’t, by all means find something else to read. I can be diplomatic – even conciliatory – if the occasion demands but I’m not going to be in this case. I cannot un-see what I see, and sometimes I just have to vent. If you find my tone somewhat strident, I can’t say I disagree with you. What you are about to read reflects a very real side of me – one that I have to live with daily. It has largely been shaped by a fundamentalist Christian upbringing that I certainly did not choose to be born into and that I consider a form of child abuse. I hope I’ve been clear. Here goes – let’s see how many metaphors I can mix:
The most urgent task of our time is to kill the hydra-headed monster known as religion. Until we manage to drive a stake once and for all through the heart of the vicious Mesopotamian god who still holds sway over and commands the blind obedience of billions of Christians, Muslims and Jews, all our attempts to wake up an extinction-bound humanity and galvanize them to action will avail nothing. No devout Christian – I’m talking here about True Believers™ who seriously think that God has a perfect plan for this planet and every human on it, is in control of everything that happens and is going to intervene just in the nick of time – is ever going to give a rat’s ass about the looming climate change disaster, or the meltdown of nuclear power plants or the drawdown of ancient aquifers, or the collapse of civilization as the peak of hydrocarbon extraction is passed and our worldwide technological faux-perpetual-motion machine begins to sputter and creak: Jesus is waiting in the wings, ready at his father’s command to ride once again into human affairs, this time on a white horse, vanquishing Satan and setting everything to rights. Continue reading “I Might as Well Get This Off My Chest”
A lottery winner of the standard six ball setup wins against the odds of one in 14,000,000. A last minute decision to play followed by the knowledge that your numbers beat every other ticket in the nation is rather overwhelming.
I would imagine…
More often than not winners thank God. Rightly so? Looking at the above stat it isn’t hard to feel a certain priveledge has been granted. When something out of the ordinary impacts our lives we can’t help but evaluate the incredible odds against us that we seemingly defied.
From moment to moment, our lives can embody any of the multiplicity of purposes that we can identify with. The stories we tell, from socially created myths to benign exaggerations expressed to friends and colleagues, project the particular purpose we want to make front and center. This can be due to a desire to express an idea to another or to make sure we’re on the same track we first set out upon. Whatever that purpose is, the values that come along for the ride, both in the telling and the type of story chosen, do so in the form the story takes. Thankfully stories are more than single-use thought-devices, else we would never be able to reuse them or get something new regardless of repetition. Because of a shared human experience, we are able to remember lessons imparted through literature or voice because they continue to resonate with new situations. Importantly, this allows us to determine whether the form the value took before is how we’d like it to continue. Take the example of a father telling a joke, a form of story, about how he’d scare his daughter’s date with shotgun in hand. The value on hand is paternal care, a value most of us hold in some fashion and have no problem promoting. However, the form it takes in the joke makes that value so prominent that it overshadows any other, for instance respect and personal integrity. As time has gone on the joke is no longer the best form to express paternal care, precisely because the values of respect and integrity have increased in significance in association with that situation. Consider it like a movable hierarchy, where the original story form presented paternal care at the top of the pyramid and respect and integrity being derived and below it. It’s not that respect and integrity didn’t exist, it’s just that rather than being equal, they were subservient to the form of paternal care being presented.
I know of no situation where a person’s values have utterly disappeared, though certainly they will rise and fall in conscious consideration as time and experience go by. I grew up with stories, my father sending me and my siblings to sleep with short made-up stories that imparted humor or whatever lesson he’d considered that day. I am also a voracious reader and, like the bed-time stories the form they take has changed over the years. There came a point when the bedtime stories stopped and simplistic fiction no longer sufficed. I still held the same values of honesty and valor, dedication to an ideal and perseverance in the face of adversity, but the way those values stood in form had become more complicated. For others the original form no longer made any sense. Continue reading “Moving the Values of Myth: A Reflection on Easter”
In this essay I will continue to mine a vein that I have exposed over the past couple of installments in this blog: that of “species memory,” which might also be thought of as “cultural memory.” I believe there are echoes of watershed events in the human saga preserved in ancient texts such as the Bible, often reworked so extensively that it takes some “reading between the lines” to tease them out. It seems to me that in the Genesis myths alone we hear several such echoes. I think it might be useful at this point to spill a little metaphorical ink over the question of how the Bible came to be in the first place, before continuing with the story of the wrathful confusion of languages.
Around 1000 BCE, a bunch of quarreling Palestinian tribes were welded into a bona fide, if short-lived, kingdom by a warlord named David, who had clawed his way to power by toppling another chieftain named Saul. In order to accomplish this political coup and guarantee his hegemony, David used the time-honored means of treachery, brute force and propaganda. The propaganda took the form of stories that were crafted by the priests who supported the Davidic monarchy and profited from their loyalty.
Those priests were members of a tribe known as “Levites,” who had invented quite a few elaborate ceremonies guaranteed to strike awe into the hearts of onlookers and cow them into submission. Priests whose stories told of a miraculous deliverance from Egyptian bondage – an exodus led by a Levite who escorted God’s chosen people to the Promised Land, receiving God’s laws along the way. (It’s no accident that those priests were rewarded handsomely for their efforts: witness the lavish “inheritance” they wrote for themselves into God’s law, as outlined in the books of Numbers and Joshua. Even during hard times, the Levites ate well.) Those stories were filled with dire warnings and cautionary tales. They recounted the conquest of uncooperative Palestinian tribes by the victorious “armies of God,” led by such genocidal luminaries as Joshua. They included tales of David’s own rise to power. Those stories – pure fictions, all – were intended to cobble together previously fractious tribes into a band of brothers presided over by a single monarch. Serendipitously, they also came to form the core of what Christians revere as the Bible: all else is later encrustation.
The priests who concocted these accounts drew on a number of extant legends from the region; they also added a lot of tales from their own (mostly invented) experience. The stories of the Fall, the Flood and the Tower of Babel are all borrowed stories, reworked to fit the narrative that the Levites wished for the tribes of Palestine, thereafter to be known as “David’s kingdom,” to adopt as their sacred history. Continue reading “Reading the Myths Aright, Part III: On the Wrathful Dispersion of People and Tongues”
In Part I of this essay, I left off my reading of Genesis 3 with verse 7. At that point, the Fall was a fait accompli as evidenced by a sudden flush of shame and an ineffectual attempt by our first parents to cover their nakedness; all that remains to tell of this story is the defense, the verdict, the sentencing and the dolorous postscript. As I take up the tale at verse 8, I try to see it through the eyes of a Bronze-Age agriculturalist/pastoralist. It’s useful to ask oneself from time to time, “If I were a Mesopotamian farmer living 4,000 years ago and hearing a tale like this from a recognized religious authority, what would it mean to me?”
(8) They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (9) But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” Continue reading “Reading the Myths Aright, Part II”