Tuesday, December 31, 2013

To My Fish, Who Killed Himself

Its said of fish in many books: 
Their memories are small. 
It's clear without lean cats or hooks
They've got no woes at all. 

My  beta sought to beat those odds
And shed his scaly gown. 
The bowl he flees, the counter trods, 
And in the air did drown. 

He did not seek a found'ring shrink
Nor from his problems hide. 
In my kitchen never did I think
To witness icthycide. 

It's clear from his last desperate lunge
The ironies he'd crave: 
The fish who in the air did plunge
But flushed in wat'ry grave. 

Monday, December 30, 2013


Nostalgia can make the air spongiform. 
Be careful. 
Take  a deep breath before you drown -- 
Or, do that anyway. 
I would enjoy it more if I could get
The ice out of my duodenum. 

Nailed It

First terror -- the ecstasy of the sweaty palm, 
The jittered voice, the caffeine rush of the 
Epileptic knee. Paralysis. Insanity of a kind. 

Then ambrosia, intoxication --
Drink deep the nectar of her perfume. 
Soon, swoon. Kiss her, 
Then fail your breathalyzer. 

Write fast, if you can. 
The world tilts but the pen sits still. 
Don't drink the ink. 

Oh, Edward, were you ever right!
For in me, indeed, 
"The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact."

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Ginsberg dreamt of Whitman inside a country store. 
Alighieri with the mind of Aeneid did converse.
Milton had his Father; de Vere his royal Sun.
Plath, at the last, had a oven. 
Eliot had the Church, and Kerouac a bottle. 
Auden had his students (too much of them). 
Houseman his memories and Owen his trenches. 
Not even to write, to dream, but just to breathe -- 
For your sweet smell I would trade their muses all.

Friday, December 27, 2013

In Which I Answer 10 Questions Designed to Challenge Atheists

Mr. Richard Bushey is a young student of religion, a follower of Christian apologetics, and is for all intents and purposes a very enthusiastic fellow. I had the pleasure of stumbling across one of his recent Twitter posts, posing ten questions he has listed on his website -- questions designed to require atheists to be very clear on their arguments or explanations in relation to the genesis of the universe and The Invisible Sky Wizard (my words, not his, obviously). At first, I must admit a strong reticence to even reading them, based on a familiarity with such ploys by the faithful in the past that result in semantically indecipherable hogwash masquerading as logic -- per contra, Mr. Bushey's intro was so genuine in his search for legitimate discussion, and his questions so distinct in their interpretation, that I felt I could not be a gentleman nor a proper atheist banner-man if I did not take the time and effort to provide him answers to the best of my ability. To Mr. Bushey, and to all, I hope you find them entertaining if not enlightening.  

1 – Could the cause of all nature, space, and time, be natural, spacial, and temporal?
MR. BUSHEY: It is my stance that it should be impossible for nature, space, and time to be intrinsic to the cause of nature, space and time, because that would imply that they existed, prior to their existence. But that is obviously absurd, prior to their existence, nature, space, and time… did not exist, and as such could not stand in causal relations with themselves.
From this it should follow that if nature, space, and time had a cause, it should transcend nature, space and time, which is to say that it would be supernatural, immaterial, and eternal. I suppose the only way around this conclusion would be to say that the universe is eternal, which lead to logical absurdities, (such as Hilbert’s Hotel) and contradicts scientific discovery.
JK: It is both possible for the cause of nature, space, and time to be natural, spacial, and temporal as well as  unnatural, etc. -- at least, it is reasonable to think so without any other information in support of either. We do, however, find ourselves in desperate need of Occam's Razor when asking ourselves a question like this. If the natural causes can't exist before nature (which isn't by your logic or any other conclusively decided), it does not by omission suddenly present that an unnatural solution is present. This is not a semantic argument, though it sounds like one. I mean to say: the natural causes of the origin of the universe may be unfamiliar as they are unknown, as was the idea of the nuclear power of the sun until the awareness of it was made manifest. To we who think of the universe in natural and spacial and temporal dimensions, it may be difficult for us to hypothesize an event in universal history which either bends or warps those perceptions, but it is almost assured that we will discover (if we have not begun to discover already) the variations of natural laws and universal physics that do make such events possible. It is far more likely that an event based in natural law occurred that is either currently undiscovered by man or, with the changing of the universe since the moment of "natural" genesis, so too has the natural laws which made its origination possible also changed. 
This observation is actually the lesser of my two points -- it is here we strop the Razor: everything we know to have happened in the universe within provable or observable reality has occurred within the scope of nature, space, and time. It is therefore more illogical to assume that anything happened outside of these parameters without express evidence to the contrary. As before, the origin of natural law does not necessarily exempt a different kind of natural law previous to allow for the creation of the universe as we now understand it, but what we can deduce is that with natural law as our baseboard of universal understanding, we can sooner hypothesize a logical variant of natural forces acting in assumedly unnatural ways than we can the outright unnatural. We see examples of this every day: if a virgin bears a child, do we assume parthenogenesis occurred or do we more readily think that a Palestinian vixen told a lie? Naturally, I'm well and wide open to be proven wrong, but if we have to mold our hypotheses to logical assumption, we should bear our course to the actions of the universe that we know and understand: natural and not supernatural forces. 
As a side note, I do take slight umbrage with your definition of transcending natural causes. As I hope I have illuminated: it does not mean we jump to supernatural conclusions, but rather variations of natural laws that we have not yet discovered or have changed immutably since the birth of the universe as it now behaves. 
2 – Is there an objective moral difference between the pro-choice stance and the pro-life stance?
MR. BUSHEY: When the term objective morality is applied in this context, it is taken to mean moral values which are valid and binding, independently of whether anybody agrees with them or not. The question, therefore, is whether the pro-choice stance is intrinsically a more moral stance than the pro-life stance. If there is, that implies that there is a transcendent standard of morality that is beyond ourselves. But that is in stark contrast with what most atheists believe, which would be a position of non-objective moral values and duties.
Be careful to note that this is not the claim that atheists cannot be moral or that they make their moral decision arbitrarily. Rather it is the claim that atheists carefully and thoroughly apply reasoning to their moral decisions and do so out of love and empathy. The problem with this is that in the absence of a transcendent standard of moral values and duties, these moral decisions become unjustified, and this is precisely the conundrum that most atheists find themselves in.
As Richard Dawkins wrote, “There is at bottom, no good, no evil, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
JK: No, there is not an objective moral difference between one and the other. In either instance, we are dealing with the civil liberty of a sovereign being. A person, devoid of all exterior or religious influence on their decision, chooses a side solely on which life they think necessitates such liberty the most. The reasons further for such a decision are ultimately fluff because they mirror each other in all things reasonable. Religion intoxicates the argument by providing divine mandate for the choice rather than an objective reason for it, but that can be easily ignored if a follower merely states that they are campaigning on behalf of a defenseless human. 

I can't say I'm properly knowledgable as to why this question might be included in your fine list, except perhaps to require an atheist to define their point of moral compass, or elucidate from whence they received it. I don't want to speculate without your input too far. However, I would be remiss not to point out that the subject of abortion waffles widely on both sides of the cosmological fence and many atheists and believers have differences in opinion within their own factions. No matter the answer, it doesn't establish the subjective morality of either side, nor whether an objective, moral standard on the subject exists. I, myself have conflicting feelings about the practice and none of my at-war thoughts are influenced by my non-belief, as I would have to assume they would be not influenced by my belief should I be of the opposite persuasion. 

3 – If you are a mythicist (a person who believes that Jesus never existed), is it possible that your position is influenced by your opposition to religion?

MR. BUSHEY: I have found that many atheists are very quick to jump on the Jesus never existed bandwagon, and I cannot help but suspect that this is a consequence of their dislike for religion. Due to their claim to respond to evidence, one must assume that they just have not been exposed to any of the scholarly work on this topic. It is the consensus of virtually all secular scholars in the field that the person of Jesus Of Nazareth did, in fact, exist. If we are to ignore the scholarly evidence in favor of some webmaster, then it seems to me that a more likely motivation is not evidence but an opposition to religion.
JK: Sir, it is not the consensus of virtually all secular scholars on the subject that Jesus existed -- I'm surprised you can propose so without blush. But, supposing it was, I would have private reservations outside of the works of such a hypothetical majority about the existence of the anointed: namely that no work exists in his own hand and that a host of historical documentarians of the time recording in and around Jerusalem make no mention of Jesus in their work (a lengthy list is presented in my book), whereas the much-followed accounts of his life are contradicting and composed decades after his death by the hands of people who arguably had never seen him. These mere observations (equally contested in a field you claim is overwhelmingly in agreement), would be enough to give me pause on the question of his life no matter what my other cosmological feelings are. (Note that by this same logic I must concede that Socrates also did not likely exist in the flesh, which is a sad thing for me to admit.)
As to your question, I think that the previous paragraph could serve as a decent answer. But to further clarify my position, my opposition to religion is not dependent on any of its claims being true. Without reiterating my entire argument from its current book form, I could simplify by saying the entire enterprise of religion (including the existence of Christ) would be all the more terrible and insufferable if it were true, and therefore would be at odds with my thoughts on the nonexistence of Christ. 
4 – What would you accept as evidence for the existence of a transcendent Creator of the universe?
MR. BUSHEY: This is a question which I regard as important but never really hear a good answer for. Most atheists and non-believers will think of something absurd, or absolutely unreachable. In fact, one person told me that if the clouds were to randomly form the words, “The Bible is the word of God,” he would not believe it, he would regard it as an unusual cloud formation.
What about you? If the clouds formed this sentence, would this convince you? What would convince you?
JK: We are all compelled and manipulated by our cognitive dissonance, Mr. Bushey: when presented with clear signs of the non-existence of god the believer equally responds with the absurd: "God works in mysterious ways!" or "His manifestation is more complicated that we could have dreamed!" These are logical capitulations that, to the credit of the atheist, don't carry the same degree of possibility (however slight) that clouds bearing such a message either aren't random, or the hallucination of our unhealthy brains, or a complicated and admirable hoax. What can be said about this question is that the requirements for believing in god for the atheist are absurd because the idea is absurd. I don't mean this as a slight -- I mean it to say that the manifestation of god in convincing reality would need to bend the rules of our perception in such a way that we couldn't rationalize it to any other point of possibility however small. His appearance, in other terms, would need to be so dominant that the point of Occam couldn't slice it. 
I could, in all honesty, never be sure that an event I am witnessing that makes me question my non-belief wouldn't be informed by bad logic, a hallucination, or any other material occurrence. (The Razor is mightier than the Word in all previous instances.) I can, however, give you the good answer you are searching for and say that what would change my mind would come in the same material premise. The absurd would only compel me to thoughts of absurdity -- I have no respect of the rabbit-hole. The existence of evidence of god, if it is to be found, would be discovered within the scopes of science and not through revelation. 
5 – If natural determinism is true, then would it be the case that your beliefs and non-beliefs are just a consequence of a previous natural cause; a chemical reaction in the brain, and not necessarily reason?
MR. BUSHEY: As Doctor Sam Harris pointed out, we do not cause our causes, there is no actual free will on natural determinism, but only a very severe illusion of it, even in lower animals, but especially in humans. As such, we are just dancing to our DNA.
But if that is the case, then it seems to me to follow that the decisions we make, whether to believe, or to not believe, would just be a product of our DNA, a chain of chemical reactions in the brain, rather than a product of reason.
JK: Yes. 
I would elaborate, but further thought follows the same premise as my answer to Question #1. If our belief and non-belief is of natural cause, then the believers only score a point if the origin of this natural process was divine. Ergo, see Answer One. 
6 – Is it possible that the cause of genetic similarities would be that there is a common designer?
MR. BUSHEY: The most frequent evidenced cited of common ancestry is the genetic similarity between all organisms, indeed human beings share DNA with mice, lower primates, and vegetables, and this is a point that I happily concede. But I cannot help but think that this is precisely what we would expect if there was a common designer. Often architects and engineers use similar design blueprint and apply similar patterns and structures, so why could not the same be said of the designer of human beings?
Now I am not saying that this proves that there is a designer, but if it is possible, I have trouble seeing why, that when applying as an argument for common ancestry, this would not be a case of what Jared Orme of Conversion Points Radio called evolution-of-the-gaps, which is to say that we appeal to evolution because we do not know the answer.
JK: Again, you half-prove your own point and half-support mine: we do appeal to evolution because a more elegant answer is not yet known to us that resonates in the natural laws of the universe. However, appealing to the reasoning listed earlier (I swear I am not being lazy): the explanation for the similarity in common genetic traits are logically going to be of natural origin and the added variable of an unnatural string-puller is, as Laplace said, unnecessary. If we don't yet know why common traits exist (and I'm not sure that we don't -- I have only a layman reading in the field), we can rest more easily in the idea that it has a natural rather than a divine ignition. In order to go against this, we would need the proffering of evidence of design rather than the absence of natural explanation. Refer again to Answer One. (I must apologize for that, but some of these questions follow very similar logical themes.)
7 – Is it possible that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil and suffering?
MR. BUSHEY: Often when talking about the problem of evil, or the claim that there is so much evil and suffering that a good and omnipotent God could not allow it, this is a point that is often overlooked. What we have to remember is that as an argument against the existence of God, from a logical angle, it bears a burden of proof. It must disprove the claim that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil and suffering.
Therefore my question is whether it is possible that God has morally sufficient reasons, and if not, how do you know?
JK: Mr. Bushey, you betray an unfortunate piece of your moral reasoning with this question. Also, you present an a logically impossible challenge in that you ask us to know the unknowable, to literally divine the will of god (which should be unfathomable even if one doesn't take nonexistence into account), a task which, while many in the past have had the audacity or ambition to attempt (the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Gospel-writers, perhaps), I find myself happily unable to boast of tackling. I with regret must answer the question with a stipulation: if you (or anyone) could provide a moral reason for god's most evil actions (assuming god isn't going to provide one himself) that does not appeal to the mystery of god's plan or any other ambivalent phraseology, I would concede the argument in a heart-beat. Keep in mind that in so doing one is not only attempting the impossibility I have just illuminated, but taking up the position of defense attorney for the being who is quite literally responsible for every bad thing that ever happened in the universe. In all my rumination, discussions, and debates upon this very subject, I've never heard nor conjured an answer that did not unsettle my stomach. 
Is it possible? As with all arguments concerning the hypothetical, of course it is possible. But I've never heard someone profess an answer legitimating god's most inhumane work without, I think, a personal shudder of regret. 
8 – If Christian theology were true, would you become a Christian?
MR. BUSHEY: Be careful to note the conditional, namely, if Christian theology were true, would you become a Christian? If Christian theology were true, that would imply that the atrocities of the Old Testament were not a product of the wicked hearts of men, but of the righteous judgments of God, a God who was taking the lives that he gave in the first place. If Christian theology were true, that would mean that there was a being who was worthy of worship, who was omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and so forth.
If this were the case, would you become a Christian?
JK: Fuck no. 
This is evidence to my previous point that the legitimacy of the claim is no parent to my agreement with it. A similar question in my mind would be: "If you were  German in late the late '30s, would you do the will of your Furher?" If Christianity were as real as Nazism, I would still find myself morally opposed to every one of its basic tenets: a hypocritical dictator, a salvation based in blood sacrifice, an eternity of praise-giving, the possibility of eternal punishment for indulging in the nature with which I was created… the list goes on. Again: the idea of it being real makes it all the more repellant.
9 – Many claim that they know the risen Lord lives because he lives in their heart. Would that be an inadequate way of coming to know truth?
MR. BUSHEY: The most common religious epistemology is the claim that we have had an encounter with the risen Lord through the witness of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me that this is a valid approach to coming to know God, for it is an approach which appeals to the five senses. At what point do we begin to deny that which our five senses is telling us, and moreover, if God really were to reveal himself in this way, how much more tragic would it be for us to deny him?
Something could be said of other religions, other people coming to know different conceptions of God in this way. I would just say that in the absence of an overriding defeater, people are perfectly within their rational rights to follow what their senses tell them. For example if I claimed to have experiences of the Almighty Square Circle, you would quickly point out that this was incoherent. But insofar as God so revealed by Christian theology is concerned, there is nothing incoherent about him, and so, why should it be invalid that we follow our five senses?
Indeed I might even go as far as to argue that it would be foolish to deny what we can see plainly.
JK: The insinuation of slightly offensive, as you seem to claim that all roads lead to Rome. But regardless of that, it bears relation to the corollary: if I believe with all my heart to the existence of leprechauns, are you going to respect the possibility of their existence based on my resignation? Of course not. The circumstance of one does not define an objective reality -- least of all their unsubstantiated thoughts. It's very important for the faithful to realize that when we make these comparisons, it's not in terms of comparison with the ridiculous, but that the substantiation is parallel. Believers make the assertion that god is real -- that's all very well. I think you can easily respect that in order for anyone to be persuaded, replying with such feathery garble as: "the Risen Lord lives in my heart" is not going to do the trick. 
10 – As an atheist, you support the claim that there is no evidence for God’s existence. That, in itself, is a claim which bears a burden of proof. So have you looked at all of the arguments?
MR. BUSHEY: This is to say that to claim that there is no evidence for God presupposes that you have looked at all of the alleged evidence in existence and studied it thoroughly to conclude that there is no evidence of God’s existence. If you have not looked at all of the evidence, perhaps consider more modest claims, such as I have never seen any evidence…
But this basically goes as an implore to take another look at the arguments with an open heart and an open mind, for if there are rebuttals which satisfy your objection, and Christian theology is true, I can conceive of no greater tragedy than missing that truth out of an opposition to religion.
JK: Has anyone read every letter on the argument of god? It would require the study of every religion back to the inception of the divine. It would be physically impossible to read every thought on the subject within one lifetime. It seems to me that you are basically asserting that all those who decide to participate in the discussion should take heed before casting the first stone and keep an open mind. A call to arms, if you will, of continuous study and non-bias. To this, there can be no disagreement. I don't wish to insult you, but this is impressive in its platitudinousness. Everyone comes to a conclusion after 'x' amount of material is presented to them. All we can do is continue evaluating the evidence and change our minds as compelling facts arise. 
It would be unfair of me not to highlight, however, that you have pointed out the very thing which makes atheists the more fair of fighters on this field. Most do claim that they have never seen any evidence to inspire them to concede to the faithful. The only absolutists in this fight are theists, who claim to know not only the answer to the creation of the universe, but indeed the mind of its creator. The atheist mentality is mandated to change, not with the Zeitgeist or the Tenderwende, but with the current of knowable fact. You will find that every study, theory, or hypothesis is by the nature of the scientific method required to be falsifiable. The only assertion I have ever seen stamped with the title of "inerrant" in all human literature is (and I think forever will be) the Bible. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Continued Thoughts on His Holiness

The increasing notoriety and fandom of Twitter-pontiff Jorge Bergoglio is a magnet for theological discussion -- especially as an opening argument in the face of atheism. It would seem to many of the faithful, to those sitting on the agnostic fence, and even to moderate atheists that His Holiness Pope Francis is a new beacon in Catholicism for goodness, humanism, truth, and equality -- staples which many have futilely claimed to belong to the doctrines of Holy Mother Church since its inception. At a passing glance, it is easy to see their point: Francis's views on homosexuality, humility, poverty, and decadence are -- to say the least -- refreshing sentiments to be expressed from the Vicar of Christ. From all sides of the religious spectrum, the new password to the cult of religious passivity is: "Hey, I'm not that religious, but I like this guy."

It's difficult, therefore, not to feel that many of those with a more dedicated atheistic bent (namely, yours truly) are being looked at with arched eyebrows as if to be inquired of: "Well, what do you have to say now?" Naturally, this scrutiny is rare, and many of my close friends who are religious or even fervently Catholic have had the grace not to stick their necks over the hedge. Nonetheless, the question stands -- and it's a beautiful one. I might pose it of myself for the fun of answering it had it not already been placed to me.

The thesis is very simple: nothing that Bergoglio has to say, despite its basis in truth and kindness, is objectively good inasmuch that we should credit him for saying it. Some of what I am about to write has been said before in a blog post examining his remarks on homosexuals -- I apologize in advance if the overlap becomes too severe. The sum of this argument is in several segments. In order to understand the overarching theme, we'll have to originate with the meta-topical and then offer more specific instances later.

To begin with, let's do away with the obvious: the pope is a mammal. He was born of the same process as are we all and he will decompose in the same fashion, albeit likely in one of the most gorgeous palaces built in human reckoning. Bearing the Fisherman's Ring does not a telepathic connection to the divine make, and when he speaks an opinion, he does so with the same relevance and magnanimity as any soul on Earth, with no more or less authority. The stature of moralist is not reserved for those who claim to know the will of god. All superstition, transubstantiation, and Resurrection aside, the pope is as per the old colloquialism: a man in a funny hat. It is astonishing to me, therefore, that the vehicle of his thoughts do not seem to inspire his followers (and others) by merit of their virtue, but by a sense of argumentum ab auctoritate. Merely by the fact that the pope said something, its morality or immorality notwithstanding, there is a weightiness to the sentiment that must be acknowledged in the minds of all those who care about the height of a clerical career. One can easily see the flaw in reason with this train of thought. Despite being a man, despite being a mortal, despite having no further connection with the transcendent than a transient on peyote, the mark of the Holy See makes true that which may not be so.

In order to follow the argument fluidly, let us assume that the above observation does not matter (I will give those in favor of the pope continuous benefit of the doubt as we sojourn forward). Let us pretend that the office of His Holiness does indeed carry with it the authority of truth by virtue of its existence, and that everything the pope says is, a priori, true (or, at the very least, moral). We then must ask ourselves whether or not what he says is done in originality, i.e.: is he professing something we didn't already know, and therefore does the basis of its truth lie in the fact that he professed it or in the existence of the fact already? (One can see a slightly mortalized version of the Euthyphro Paradox, here.) For example, Francis has extolled the virtues and rights of the homosexual (there are many ill-construed facets of this that I won't repeat here, but you can read the earlier blog post I have on this subject if you are curious as to my thoughts on this specific instance): could the morality and merit of homosexuality have been determined through basic humanism, evolutionary psychology, or even sheer fucking empathy without the pontificating (notice the origin of that word), patronizing acceptance of His Holiness? (The answer is undoubtedly yes.) It stands to reason, therefore, that Francis did not illuminate or contribute to the discussion, but rather provide information that was already there. In this as in all other moral issues on which he has cared to comment, the pope has helped as much as anyone without his position or apparent insight to the human condition. Thus, the question: why care what he thinks if anyone else with a decent moral compass could have come to the same conclusion, and indeed had done so long before his time?

Of course, the argument goes further -- for the implied answer to the question above is that: "It's important that his Holiness profess a position of humanist morality because it will help to steer the Church into a more tolerant direction, away from bigotry and malice, and set the example by his leadership." While I would never be the one to suggest that the path to truth lies down apathy's yawning maw, it would be remiss of me not to point out the following:

Despite the obvious morality of Francis's statements, unoriginal and unsupported by a respectable authority as we've just illustrated, there is nothing to suggest that his profession of them will do anything to curb the domineering and discriminatory arm of Holy Mother Church that has arched its shadow over humanity for centuries. The pope has not made a single effort to change dogma, to challenge divine revelation as was written in the Gospels or in the laws of the prophets, to convene ecumenical authorities in order to address the issues on which he has earned the most fame (the acceptance of homosexuals and atheists, the luxury of the clergy, etc.), to issue a single edict by which the authority invested in him by god might legitimately make for the better of his church. Instead, he has merely spoken -- beautiful, true, and moral things, no doubt -- but in the end, they amount to little more than sound bytes for the amusement of those who are shell-shocked by his admission of them. Again, to concede the benefit of the doubt to those across the aisle, it is obvious that the beginning of any true change lies in the exposure of the issue, and it can be easily asserted that the Holy Father is doing this exact thing -- but can we please agree to accept the condition that nothing yet has transformed, nothing has moved, and Francis's words are currently air and not canon law? Leviticus 18:22 and countless other pieces of biblical barbarism still stand as the inerrant word of god, and many of the faithful will hold true to this no matter what plain shoes, robes, crosier, and throne the pope adorns himself with. Or, to explore this even further, it must be reminded of the reader that no mandate of His Holiness is permanent outside of his lifetime -- a conservative pope following the death of Francis could in the mere span of a day undo any artificial changes to dogma that Francis might actually accomplish in the course of his papacy: and it is extraordinarily likely that the product of conclave will be such a man. Furthermore, those whose minds refuse to be changed won't allow themselves to be swayed by the word of a new pontificate, and those who do are clearly invalidated of the moral substance of the assertion to begin with.

Also, it bears to note that the emptiness of these words is made doubly toxic by the mark of his office -- I do not mean this in the same way as I do the merit of his office as mentioned above: it is to say that the pope cannot be considered a serious authority on morality while he heads an organization that for hundreds of years was and is the proliferator of such things as: the complete abjection and subversion of women, the instigator of the Inquisition, the inspiration to the Crusades, the silent supporter of Hitler through the Reichskonkordat and Mussolini via the Lateran Pacts, the fraudulent sale of indulgences, the trial of Galileo, the shameful world-wide communal rape of young parish children and the full-knowledge of the Holy See in the obscuring of those crimes, the persecution and execution of heretics, a replete history of anti-Semitism, the cheerleading of the Ustaše; a church that promulgates the end of the world, who holds the creed that a certain human sacrifice was not only a moral act but one that all living souls should revel in, that beatified pederasts, gangsters, liars, and thieves -- and a litany of other complaints besides! A man who worships this history littered with the blood and tears of innocents, who serves such an organization, who then aspires to lead it in the form own his own person and has the audacity to claim knowledge that we empirically know is impossible for any human to hold: is this a man in for whom we should care what he thinks, even if he happens to be right (and thankfully doesn't hold the authority on the subject to give it substance regardless)? And do not his statements hold even less resolve when made from a pulpit that was wrought out of the agony of all the actions and many more listed above? I hate to be so blasé, but such a conclusion seems obvious. As Dan Savage quipped when asked to comment on a Hawaiian priest who claimed that children are traumatized when brought up by gay parents:

"He’s confusing children with gay parents with children who are raped by Catholic priests ... They don’t have moral high ground when they talk about the welfare and safety of children, they just don’t. They have squandered that on the tips of their dicks.”

None of this is even to comment on the legitimacy of the Church as a constructive entity, whose entire basis of morality is based on a lie. And, were it based on truth, would be even more ghastly in its implications.

Allow me, gentle reader, to lead you only slightly further down the rabbit-hole. Let us for a moment wipe away all I've just said -- I'll even concede it to the other side for a moment as insubstantial and perhaps even untrue, if only for the more fun in the antithetical argument. Let's throw the ball as far into the other yard as possible and entertain the idea that Francis changes the Church for the better -- for the best, even. Through his tireless efforts, the Catholic Church now recognizes in canonical law the salvation and marriage of homosexuals, the humanity of atheists, issues the world's most heart-felt apology for its past and current atrocities -- throw on whatever other what-have-you's while we are at it. Then ponder the outcome of this and ask yourself truthfully: what has changed? As a homosexual, as an atheist, as a woman -- even as a Catholic -- are you more fulfilled, more human, more valuable than the day before the pope and the Holy Roman Church made such a concession? By their feeble acknowledgement of your right to happiness and even existence, are you made more whole? Is anyone else?

Of course not.

If you take away nothing else from this post, gentle reader, then know this: you do not require the acceptance of anyone or anything. There is no god or church on earth that can tear down your individuality, can amputate the essence of your soul or divide you into nothingness -- nor can it equally validate you, compose you, represent you. You are the sum total of your own accomplishments, thoughts, vindications, and proclamations. You are the basis of the human condition defined and perfected. Do not forsake that liberty to hang with false hope on the words of some other great ape in a robe, no matter if he is the head of a clubhouse with 1.5 billion initiates. No more than let him or his antiquated rulebook hover over your own sense of worth should you imagine that it defines that of anyone else.

In summation: fuck what Francis says, even if he happens to be offering the correct conclusion. Even a blind nun finds a rosary, once in a while.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

In Which My Thoughts About Religion And Politics Are Published

Ah, my friends -- the holidays are upon us! The yulelog burns, the wine is being mulled, and Christmas in America is under attack from heathens trying to decimate the Constitution: it is, after all, my favorite time of year. In celebration, I would like to skip my typical long-windedness and instead present you with this article depicting my thoughts on religion in politics. Enjoy, gentle readers!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My List of Life's Blasphemies

Committing a sin against a god is not only a victim-less crime, it is usually hysterical as well. There are crimes against living a life to the fullest that in my experience have proven to be far more detrimental. The rules of internet discourse mandate that I share them with you. Of some I am more guilty than others, as are we all with everything -- but take heart! For these blasphemies, you won't be sentenced to eternity of being buried up to your neck in scorpions.

(I retain the right to change them as I change my mind, as new evidence presents, or after I have been drinking. Ergo, it will likely morph several times. You have been warned, gentle readers!)

1. Cutting words in half for no apparent reason. Obvi.
2. Reading the last line of a book before anything else.
3. Living bereft of a sense of humor or an appreciation of irony.
4. Underestimating the therapeutic value of a good orgasm.
5. Putting too much ice in your Scotch.
6. Cheating. Seriously, fuck that noise.
7. Idolizing conventionality, even indirectly.
8. Wearing a tie.
9. Refusing a date.
10. Giving anyone the impression that Chuck Palahniuk is the only author you read.
11. Being apologetic over your social media for bragging over your social media.
12. Giving other actors direction just before their audition.
13. Promoting a specific gender issue over general humanism.
14. Refusing to change your mind.
15. Allowing anyone to mandate or even influence how you feel about yourself. Be autonomous.
16. Ever, ever using the expression: "Politics has nothing to do with me."
17. Speaking along with the lines of a movie when others in the room have not yet seen it.
18. Using text-speak in real life -- or in texting.
19. Avoiding conflict at the injury of your pride.
20. Speaking in accents when drunk. Extra douche points if you are terrible at the accent.
21. Denying an apology when you're wrong.
22. Supplying an apology when you are right.
23. Not calling your grandparents.
24. Confusing the pretentiousness of others for your own jealousy of their demeanor or success.
25. The Scotch thing, again. It'll ruin your drink, people.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Walt And The Astronomer

My friend, with all the figures and the graphs
With columns neatly out before you laid,
With reason notated, with logic align'd,
And, even sickened, compelled to stare in perfect silence at the stars --
How moved to pity am I at your predicament:
The most poetic of us all most lacking in imagination.
There, before you, were not inscribed cold numbers,
Feelingless fomulae, inept calculations;
But the total sum of man's furthest comprehensions
Dictated in the language of the universe.
How strange and lamentable this seems -- that it should move you to disgust!
-- And leave you to yourself with mystery as your salve.
How very, very lonely that must be.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Children's Blood of Muharram

In various chapters of Oh, Your god!, I state ever and anon that, while self-torture, penance, flagellation, etc., are insane and indicators of an unbalanced psychology, any adult has the right to inflict pain upon themselves, even to the extent of their own death for whatever reason they like. They must, however, be willing to accept two irrefutable factors: that they will be criticized for their behavior and that the right to indulge in this kind of masochism ends the moment they contemplate forcibly involving others. Unfortunately, this happens too often, as the expansionist principle of theism is overwhelming -- and undoubtedly the easiest victims are children. 

(photo source unknown. Retrieved from Reddit post)

The Mourning of Muharram marks the first month of the Islamic Calendar. It is the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala in which the grandson of the Prophet, Imam Hussein, was slain. Shi'a Muslims commemorate this event most fervidly by organizing gatherings called majalis and enacting passion plays to portray the pain of Hussein during his torture at the hands of his captors. While these are typically bloodless, the thought brings to mind a similar event that occurs in the Philippines on Easter, when thousands gather to watch tens of willing volunteers undergo literal crucifixion on a hillside to emulate the suffering of Christ. This kind of snuff theatre, as it should, leaves a cold feeling in the stomach. 

Of all the styles of mourning during Muharram, the act of matam is the most macabre. In it, willing volunteers publicly beat their chests ferociously, giving a vivid physical performance of their lamentations. These are of the kinder variety, however, as it is not uncommon for others to flay themselves with cat-o'-nine-tails made of chains, called zanjir, lacerating open their bodies and bleeding freely in the streets. Knives and other cutting implements are often shared among many people, leaving the possibility of infection wide open. 

All this, while asinine and horrifying, is within the civil liberty of anyone who wishes to experience it. The true crime of Muharram comes not from the wounds that men and women inflict upon themselves, but from those that they force upon their young ones. 

It does not require the explanation of yours truly, gentle reader, to see the evil in this. Child abuse is, in a word, an understatement of the worst possible degree. What traumas may result from undergoing this experience once a year might only be guessed at, but it can be affirmed by anyone with the iron will to watch it occur that this event is as terrifying and painful for the child as it is barbaric to watch. 

This is the insanity that occurs when religion is allowed control of a cultural moral compass -- the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son becomes an honorable act to billions of people; holy texts become flooded with the abuse and death of innocent children: the slaying of the firstborn in Exodus; the death of the suckling infants in Samuel; Jepthath murdering his only daughter by burning her at the stake because the lord told him to in Judges; the killing of the baby of David and Bathsheba as penances for their adultery; the killing of forty-two boys by she-bears after Elisha muttered curse of god on them in II Kings; the death of Job's children at the hand of god (for the contemptible motivation of winning a bet...); and a handful of Proverbs (13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13-14, & 29:15), where god demands the beating of children.

(photo source unknown. Retrieved from Reddit post)

For those with stronger hearts, here are some YouTube videos graphically portraying matam: 

Truth be told, there is a kind of beauty in self-sacrifice: a willingness to put the needs of others or the ideals of principle above one's own life is a kind of dedication of which I can only dream. But, gentle readers, it seems readily apparent to me that an action of this sort is only effective in the name of something tangible and worthwhile. In the visage of credulity and myth, all we witness from the same action is gore, pain, terror, and fanaticism. These actions are trumped in their barbarity by their meaninglessness -- and when children are involved as little more than props for the zeal of adults, in a world where vaginae are sewn shut but foreheads are sliced open, there can be little doubt that 'barbarity' and 'meaninglessness' are far less potent words than what reality requires. 

(photo source unknown. Retrieved from Reddit post)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Enemy's Friend -- The Preface to My (Future) Book on George Galloway

Oh, my friends! What a horribly negligent blogger I have been. While excuses abound as to why I have not touched my favorite virtual platform in nearly a month, I think it would do better to skip the alibis and instead present you with reading material. As an apology, I would like to show you the preface to what I hope becomes a book denouncing the demagogue George Galloway. There is no promise that this work will be completed, only that it is brewing in the back of my head and I felt the need to type out the premise. Galloway is a Goliath that, I think, is well deserving of the right stone. Perhaps, in time, this work will serve. 

Apologies again for my absence. Please enjoy this Preface. Who knows, perhaps it will turn into something more weighty and tome-like in the future?

(photo courtesy of telegraph.co.uk)

The first time I heard George Galloway speak, it was in his remarkably telling tirade masquerading as a debate on YouTube, discussing whether or not the war in Iraq was just. Regardless of the fact that his opponent was the indomitable Christopher Hitchens, Georgie didn’t stand much of a chance—his constant appeals to unimaginative insults and continuous approval-seeking from the audience quickly showed his ineptitude at making a valid point. Despite this, I endeavored very hard to hear what he had to say objectively, to understand the case that he was trying so desperately (and failing) to make. After all, wasn’t he speaking from an empathetic, humanist platform? Was he not appealing to the thousands of lives, needlessly thrown away, belonging both to American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, and civilians on either side? This is a poignantly striking stance—the ultimate banner to which all in the Left flocked on this subject—and, in my mind, deserved to be considered. So it was with gritted teeth that I watched him slosh about in his own puddle of ad hominem excrement, referring to Hitchens as “the first ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug,” (he was unaware, I suppose, that slugs don’t turn into butterflies…) and that he “mention[s] slug purposefully, because the one thing a slug does leave behind it is a trail of slime.” If this was supposed to be a metaphor for an argument of Hitchens’s, it was never elaborated on. In this instance, as in many others, Galloway simply enjoyed hearing himself talk and enjoyed much more the rousing troglodytic howls that greeted him whenever he did this.
            If I hadn’t already made up my mind as to the necessity of the liberation of Iraq from its insane dictator before, Hitchens’s case would have convinced me in this instance. But it was not Hitchens that drew my intense curiosity at the end of the spectacle—it was the mustached Scot whose face would burn red with every failed accusation, and whose hand sawed the air so fervently that I expected the Dane himself to rise from the audience and end the robustious periwig-pated fellow tearing the passion to tatters. Galloway had grasped at astonishing straws to prove his point, such as showcasing the hurt feelings of Casey Sheehan’s mother (the absurdity of this tactic shall be elucidated later), but I quickly realized that whether or not his argument was based in moral foundation, its mouthpiece was not as fortuitous.
            The rap sheet for Mr. Galloway is not like that of Henry Kissinger or Richard Nixon. One does not need to wait for declassified documents from the United States government in order to find the details one needs to draw up a reasonable opinion of him. A quick Google search and any number of interviews, appearances, and articles are freely available on the internet that can show that his public actions are grotesque enough to hide in open spaces—that is to say, there is quite literally nothing to bury. In this way, he is much like Agnes Bojaxhiu or Pat Robertson or Saddam Hussein himself—the evidence exists in plenty to the public, yet there seems to be some strange screen that prevents the intelligent reader from perusing it, and instead contents him- or herself to continue in ignorance. This is a phenomenon I have never understood and always detested. So, it was made immediately apparent to me that Galloway was considered a champion for the Left, with his brash brogue standing proud for the liberties of homosexuals, the rights of countries to live in peace without foreign invasion, and several charitable efforts on an international level. It is very easy to see how a lazy subscriber to political ideologies (especially on the Left, as these causes are so self-evidently moral) could decide that the résumé of George Galloway, when annotated here, is worthy of support and admiration. But the debate alone was enough to show that this was not the case, and further reading was required.
            It was not merely sufficient to know that George Galloway had been expelled from the Labour Party (of which he had been a member since the age of thirteen) for inciting British soldiers to regard their orders while in Iraq as “illegal”; it was not adequate to discover that, in his own words, the biggest catastrophe of his life was the fall of the Soviet Union; it was not enough to read that he believed the indescribable tragedies of September 11th, 2001 in New York City and July 7th, 2005 in London were the results of the foreign policies of the respective countries—an insipid proposal in which, I am incredibly sorry to hear, many others join him. The vomit-inducing commentary comes from his admonitions that Hezbollah is not and never was a terrorist organization, or that it was not responsible for the murder of the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri in 2005; for praising the Saddam Hussein regime and saluting its “courage” directly to the face of the despot himself; for donating personal money to Hamas and publicly raising funds for the same, convincing the American Left that this was a mission worth engaging; for saying without blush that a hypothetical suicide bombing that successfully killed then-Prime Minister Tony Blair without any further casualties would be a moral action—for these contemptible assertions, dealings, and many more of the kind, the true character of George Galloway was revealed to me. I expected the research to be more difficult: the results begged to be seen. Needless to say, I was appalled—not merely at the despicable endeavors of this man in his political career, but at the nonchalance of so many who had free access to witness them. On Amazon at the time of the writing, a search for “George Galloway” in the book section reveals two volumes about him specifically, one of them being his outrageously overpriced autobiography (a work so masturbatory it was everything I could do to get through it without an umbrella), and another that is clearly appreciative of him on the outset. There is nothing of the dialectic or polemic, and while pieces in article form have appeared here and there, and interviews have been recorded expressing well-deserved disdain for the villain, it seems as if this humble work is setting out on something of a maiden literary voyage. The hope is that at least one dissenting voice can be available if ever the Amazon search were repeated.
            More than anything, I felt myself betrayed and pitying the hallmarks of Leftist thinking that had been so blatantly excoriated by Mr. Galloway, who was supposed to be their white knight in the face of (what he and many others feel to be) imperialism. True, Galloway is a kind of Leftist, in that he is a proclaimed socialist, but the economic concerns of the Left are only one facet of its ideological constitution. Some would argue that the more important (or at least more demonstrable) pillars of Leftism are its social obligations—equality of race and nationality and sexual orientation, social responsibility, philosophical and religious harmony. Galloway vividly demonstrates his treachery for most of these virtues as he walked out of a widely anticipated debate that was held in Christ Church College at Oxford University when he discovered that his opponent was Israeli; he holds a personal view that women shouldn’t be allowed the choice for an abortion; and, despite being anti-war, he supported the use of Syrian troops in Lebanon against a potential Israeli invasion rather than find a diplomatic solution. To many who see Galloway as a herald of Leftist virtues, it should be illuminated that such hypocrisy is rarely seen by leading figureheads on either side of the political spectrum. One cannot be against war and totalitarianism and simultaneously shake the hands of fantastically violent warlords who themselves have annexed neighboring countries, contributed to incalculable environmental damage by setting alight the Kuwaiti oil fields, and be himself overly sympathetic to a religion that eradicates the rights of women by every standard we would acknowledge in a civil and secular society. To the Left, Galloway should be seen as exactly what he is: a fraud of Shakespearean proportions. They should be irate to find that they have been so callously misrepresented, and that their hopes and respects were kept in the hands of a man who reveled in greed and contempt for a free market, democracy, and the overthrow of fascism.
            The truth of my deduction is inherent in the title—Galloway’s telling capitulations to Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Tariq Aziz and others are the building blocks by which anyone should erect a judgment of him. Much as the enemy of my enemy is my friend, the friend of my enemy is undoubtedly my enemy, and Galloway has not only filled this position with vibrant enthusiasm, but he has managed to convince too many of the voting public that he has done it expressly (and successfully) for the cause of peace. It is a charade which must be exposed. The masochism he expresses in his hatred for our countries, our cultures, its people and its leaders—while entirely within his rights to do as much as he pleases—must be called by what it is: not a staple or clarion call of the Left, but a selfish ideology that allows him to become lickspittle to those he idolizes. Let us not idolize him for it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

In Which I Explain My Thoughts On Syria

Hello, gentle readers! Let me begin by apologizing for my absence. With the sable days of summer waning and calling me out-of-doors with their siren songs; the vicissitudes of moving and with beginning a new (and hopefully final!) semester of my undergrad; the social obligations of seeing returning friends; and a family reunion  in the literally poisonous hills of Western Utah -- I have had little time to sit and write with any thing resembling attention or vigilance. But now, as the young Florentine says, I am return'd, and that war-thoughts have left their places vacant...

The news of the day is, and as it should be, nothing but Syria. While conspiracy theorists are going apoplectic with insinuations that somehow our government has managed to fabricate yet another war in the Middle East to draw the eye of the American electorate away from our own institutional failures (the NSA, for example), I am of the slightly-less-paranoid bent and, thankfully, Syria presents a moral challenge for our foreign policy that we have seen before -- indeed, a couple of times within my lifetime!

Let me begin bluntly: anyone who says, in voice or in print, that we are "going to war with Syria", is indescribably wrong. This is not a semantic argument -- it is based in the principle of how a country identifies itself: which is, as we can hope, not in the candor of its government nor in the effectiveness of its diplomacy, but rather in the spirit and culture of its people. The people in question, I rush to add, who are fleeing their own borders in the millions to escape the vicious throes of violence from a corrupt, caliphate-determined government on one side, of which most current evidence seems to illuminate is willing to use illegal chemical weaponry upon its own people, and a theomaniacal revolution that began with a humanist, secular intent and quickly was inundated with more fundamentalist radicals whose chosen form of retaliation is in the manner of suicide bombing and other forms of terrorism. "Syria" is the mass of horrified, lost, and seemingly hopeless innocents flooding into Iraq and Jordan (the second largest refugee camp in the world currently, supporting just over 200,000 Syrian refugees, is just eight kilometers south of the Syrian border). It is outright piffle to insinuate that these are the people we are going to war against, that we seek to bomb innocents or further mutilate their infrastructure. 

(Photo courtesy of The Associated Press)

Rather, it is the necessary and welcome policy of the United States to liberate the Syrian people from its oppressive President and the theocratic revolution that he faces, which together put the unarmed people of the country in the middle of a merciless vice. Western foreign policy has very much tried to adopt this stance in recent history -- our signing of the non-proliferation agreement, the Genocide Convention, and the Geneva Convention are all examples of this principle. While critics of this kind of foreign policy have rightfully pointed out that we as a nation have been negligent, unsuccessful, or downright detrimental in implementing these actions in the past, it stands to question why our past failures should be any bar at all to our continued efforts in humanitarianism and liberation now? At the heart of an issue, a people who cannot fend for themselves are watching their homes and families being torn apart by actions that are illegal on an international scale -- who with the slightest trace of a moral compass could not see such an issue and feel that those with the power to help alleviate the problem are obligated to do that very thing? 

On the subject of illegal actions, the general American populace needs to realize that we have much more than a moral requirement to intervene when certain actions are made public on the global scale -- in many instances, we are mandated to by international law. Much as in the case of Iraq, a large piece of our legal obligation to intervene came from the stipulation that all signatories to the Genocide Convention are required to "prevent and to punish" a country that has enacted clear and defined events of genocide within or outside of their own borders. It was legally required for us to invade Iraq under terms of the non-proliferation agreement. It was under the weight of law that we were required to penetrate Iraq when they harbored internationally wanted criminals and gangsters. 

Similarly in Syria, we are faced with a national institution that seems to have used chemical weaponry on its own people, thereby prompting an international response from those states who have been integral in the compilation of The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. While Syria is one of the UN five states that have not yet signed the treaty, their status as a member of the United Nations subjects them to international law in the event that they use chemical weapons within or outside of their own borders. The United States may be the swiftest to act on this precedence as we have the means and our current administration has the passion to do so, but rest assured that the UN and other superpowers will not be far behind in making tangible actions. 

Whether or not one believes that the efficacy of military action is the best way to intervene, it cannot be stated that military action against a wildly violent government and its equally violent coup are equivalent to actions against the people, many of whom are no longer within the conflict zone. I would not be the first to suggest a military response myself, but I would be the most vocal in both declaring that an international response is valid, necessary, and welcomed by the Syrian people, and to say that such an action is an act of "war on Syria" is delusional nonsense. Those who are moved by admirably Leftist passions for non-violence might be going too wide in the foreign policy spectrum to think that a liberation of a people is the same as targeting them militarily, or that those who believe that a military response is warranted and required are people who do not care about the lives of innocent Syrian civilians and the application of a proper peace process. Quite the contrary, in fact. Furthermore, it rather makes those who banner their proud resistance to a "war on Syria" look the more callous, happy to wave their stance of non-violence on the easy, green grass of an non-endangered country, while being unable to present a viable solution to dismantling violent regimes in territories that desperately require it. It is, for all observations, the kindest kind of hypocrisy I can think of -- to preach non-violence and simultaneously allow it to occur with impunity. As Coriolanus remarked:

What would you have, you curs,
That like nor peace nor war? the one affrights you,
The other makes you proud.  Your virtue is
To make him worthy whose offence subdues him
And curse that justice did it.

Nevertheless, it will be amusing to see what other kinds of radical conspiracies leap into the fray to explain our insistence at going to "war on Syria". What international commodity does this small nation hold that our greedy, imperialist country must attain for itself? What future national scandals will evolve that makes the death of thousands of people on the far side of the world a convenient distraction for this administration or any other? I hesitate to think that, while it can be argued that our hearts are in the right place in this event, as they were in Iraq, in Iran, and in Kuwait -- it is a piece of the bitter, jaded necessity of skeptical thought to assume the worst in policy and in action, and to forget that we as a privileged nation have a basic, human obligation to defend our brothers and sisters wherever they are in the world, especially when they cannot do it for themselves, and that pacifistic philosophy amputates those who might otherwise do it for them.