God: The Interview

On the down side, church attendance is falling pretty much everywhere. On the plus side? Who needs a church when you’ve got the internet. A Zoomed church community talking about their faith may not blow a room away like a gospel service turned up to 11, but it’s better than nothing — especially in an age of coronavirus. God will take what he can get when he can get it. It’s just how the world works now.

Also on the plus side — God’s no dummy. He knows he’s selling a product that fewer people want and even fewer need. The challenge: how to sell coal to Newcastle, ice to Inuit and being racist to a Trump voter.

It’s not so much that you can’t sell it as they don’t need it. They’re covered already.

God wanted to meet in person. He said he wasn’t worried about catching the coronavirus because, as he put it repeatedly, “Chrissakes, dude, I invented the goddamned thing! Do you really think I’d be dumb enough to make it something I could catch?”

I do actually. Seemed like the perfect place to begin:

HTLBF: Just to be clear — coronavirus isn’t something you could catch, right? I mean “you personally”?

GOD: How could I catch a human disease if I’m not human?

HTLBF: Well, it’s not strictly a “human disease” and there are people who believe you are a human invention.

GOD: Get outta here! That’s impossible. I’m the be all and end all. The alpha and the omega. The original cause — of everything! It says so — in the book!

HTLBF: In a book you personally commissioned. Indeed – those are all claims you’ve made. But you’ve never proved any of them.

GOD: “Proving things” is for losers and atheists.

HTLBF: Actually, proving things is how we figure out what’s true versus what’s not. You say you created everything?

GOD: Hell, yeah!

HTLBF: Can you prove it?

GOD: Can you prove I didn’t?

HTLBF: It’s kind of hard to prove a negative — especially when it’s completely made up. We can prove that at some point, the universe as we know it, began — that our universe is composed of certain elements and that those elements exploded into being when the Big Bang happened.

GOD: And who do you think made the Big Bang happen? Me — the Big Banger.

HTLBF: Okay… let’s assume for a second that that’s true. You’re the Big Banger and you made the Big Bang happen.

GOD: See how the whole universe suddenly makes sense?

HTLBF: No. What were you doing before the Big Bang?

GOD: What do you mean?

HTLBF: I mean what were you doing? After the Big Bang, you’re “God” suddenly. Before the Big Bang, you’re just Yahweh — hanging out, I assume.

GOD: I wasn’t just “hanging out”.

HTLBF: How did you fool people into changing your name from “Yahweh” to “God”? Yahweh’s your name, “god” is your job description.

GOD: I’m the world’s first proprietary eponym. I was “Kleenex” before there was “Kleenex”, “Frigidaire” before there were Frigidaires. “God” before there were gods.

HTLBF: How do all the other gods feel about you expropriating their job title as your first name?

GOD: I don’t worry about what losers think.

HTLBF: What’s wrong with “Yahweh”?

GOD: Nothing. It’s a perfectly good name.

HTLBF: So why change it? Why have us call you “God” instead of your name?

GOD: Can we move on please? At least can we get to the questions about why everyone should believe in me?

HTLBF: If you weren’t just hanging out prior to becoming “God”, what were you doing?

GOD: What’s it to you?

HTLBF: What made you suddenly decide to create everything? One moment, you’re fine with nothingness, the next, it’s like you can’t go on without there “being” things. What changed?

GOD: I’m not answering that.

HTLBF: Because you can’t?

GOD: Are you trying to make me smite you with lightning cos that’s where I’m headed right now.

HTLBF: What is it with you and killing people?

GOD: Smiting with lightning doesn’t necessarily kill.

HTLBF: It’s not going to make anyone feel better. Aren’t we supposedly made in your image?

GOD: What do you think makes you so good-looking?

HTLBF: So, it’s just your image on the outside then. On the inside, we’re nothing like you.

GOD: The goal was to make you like me on the inside AND the outside–

HTLBF: But, whereas you succeeded on the outside — since we’re as good-looking as you — you failed completely on duplicating you inside us.

GOD: “Failed” is kind of harsh, don’t you think?

HTLBF: Why did you flood the whole planet then? Wasn’t it because you failed with humans?

GOD: Noah wasn’t a failure. I got him right. And his most of his family.

HTLBF: Out of how many humans total? You got, say, five people right out of thousands? And what about all the animals you created? What’d they do to deserve getting drowned? What kind of crappy creator are you?

GOD: Careful there, pal — I could roast you alive just like that.

HTLBF: Actually, I don’t think you can. I don’t think you’re capable of it. You’re not really capable of anything.

GOD: Dude, I’m serious. Do not piss me off.

HTLBF: Funny — I was about to say the same thing to you. If you invented everything — mankind included — prove it right now by obliterating me. Go on — do it. I bet you can’t.

GOD: Screw you, dude. Deities don’t have to prove shit.

HTLBF: Because deities CAN’T prove shit?

(God pulls the wireless mic from his collar, tosses it and walks out)

The bigger they are, the more full of shit they are. It goes double for deities.

Here’s The Problem With Letting Religious People Run Things, Part One

An important moment in every kid’s life — an essential moment, really, that will dictate the course of the rest of their life — is the instant they realize that adults (pretty much all of them) are completely full of shit.

And adults ARE full of shit.

Adults want kids to believe they know everything while they absolutely don’t. Realizing that, some kids surrender immediately. They become cynical (and will stay cynical the rest of their lives). “People lie to you — that’s just how it is” becomes their mantra. That, in time, becomes “Both sides do it”.

Other kids become skeptical. They know not to trust adults. They trust their friends instead even though their friends know as little as they do. The problem: they know they have to trust adults sometimes. The question is when and how much?

A small sliver of kids are skeptical but with a twist. They don’t trust adults but they want to know why adults do what adults do. How did adults go from being kids like them to being “adults” who lie so easily?

The first inkling most of us got that adults weren’t being entirely straight with us was when they began introducing religion to the mix.

I went to Hebrew School for 8 years (ages six to fourteen). I’ve always been grateful to Hebrew School for helping make me the atheist I am today. I bet my experience wasn’t unique.

Being a kid, your mind is still relatively free of wackadoodle adult ideas. You’d ask why things happened and adults would spew an answer that, frankly, was just words to you. That the adult could answer the question — that’s what mattered. That’s what made you feel safe. The people you trusted trusted something — so therefore you trusted it too (regardless of whether you actually should or not).

And listening to adults tell you stories — that was de rigeur. Adults told stories all the time — to entertain you, to put you to sleep. No one said “But, this story? It’s not a story. It’s real and you need to believe every word of it“. That is, they didn’t until they got to THIS story — the one with “God” in it.

One of the great hiding places for “I don’t know” is religion: “I don’t know the answer to that but our religion does” is how it goes.

The problem is your religion doesn’t know the answer. It knows “an” answer and they’ll insist it’s “the” answer but that’s hyperbole not stone cold truth.

The men who wrote the texts we now call the Old Testament were trying to explain how we got here, why we were here and where we were going. They had pretty much their eyes and their ears at their disposal. That was it. No microscopes, no telescopes, no internet. Hell, the guys who wrote the OT and the NT had no idea that continents existed. They didn’t know that germs caused disease. They didn’t know that the earth rotates on its axis around the sun as part of a small solar system on the fringes of a massive constellation — one of potentially billions of constellations.

If the guys who wrote the texts that became the bible had known any of those things, do you think they would have written what they wrote the same way? Of course not. A lot of their questions would have been answered via science. There would have been unanswered questions — as there are now. But, if the scribe who penned “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden” had known a little astrophysics and biochemistry? No way he’d have written what he wrote.

It seems crazy to let someone unclear on how to drive a car chauffeur you around but that’s what we do when allow people unclear on how reality actually works to legislate life and death decisions.

Would anyone really allow someone untrained in surgery but big on bible studies to operate on them? Would you remain seated on a plane if the pilot got on the intercom before they closed the doors and told everyone tonight’s flight will get to wherever it’s going on a literal wing and prayer. If the passengers don’t pray hard enough while the plane’s aloft? It could be over for all of them. Who’s staying put for that flight?

Who in their right mind would want someone else’s magical thinking making real life critical decisions for them?

Someone who believes that things happen because the angry deity in their head makes them happen will make decisions differently from someone who believes things happen for the reasons science says they do. They’ll make decisions about other peoples’ health care and safety and economic situation. If they turn up their nose at data — or what their constituents want — because their imaginary friend has issues with it? That’s a problem.

Here, in America, religious people long resisted climate change. Some still do because their angry god loves wiping out people and species. They’ve even concocted a whole apocalyptic story that they think will literally happen. Ummmmm, doesn’t anyone know what metaphors and allegory are? Don’t they get that the John who supposedly authored the Book Of Revelation that closes the NT (meaning, the early church, in editing what early church texts to include in the canon they were creating and which to exclude) wasn’t written as a literal description of anything.

But, here in America? Some of us take everything in the NT so literally that you can craft horror movies out of the mythology — it’s that nutso, that angry, that violent. Think “The Exorcist” or “The Omen”.

Our habit of letting religious people run things is why America’s the only industrialized country where — when disaster strikes — we’ll offer up “thoughts and prayers” to go along with whatever else we send you. Sometimes, those thoughts n prayers are all you’re gonna get.

Don’t get me wrong — thoughts and prayers are nice and all but — in a disaster? On a bad day even — that’s just you talking to yourself. Thanks anyway.

American Christianity Has Turned Itself Into A Death Cult That Would Have Horrified Jesus

Though I am a hard core (I’d even say devout) atheist, I consider myself a “fan of Jesus”. I don’t know for certain if Jesus actually existed (at present, no one can prove that he did, but, I suspect someone vaguely like him did exist — heavy emphasis on the word “vaguely”) but even a humble atheist like me can appreciate and take to heart the simple teaching “Do Unto Others”. It makes so much sense. Want to be treated with respect by others? Do unto them as you would have them do unto you.

Respect them.

The problem with sacred texts in a modern setting is that the modern setting knows way more than the sacred texts do. Lots of “new information” was available to the modern setting that the writers of the sacred texts had no way to access. If the men who wrote what was assembled into the Old Testament had had access to microscopes and telescopes and the internet, would they have written what they wrote the same way? Of course not. They didn’t KNOW that pathogens cause human disease, not magic or Yahweh (the god character’s actual name — “god” is his job description as in “That Yahweh’s a pretty thin-skinned god, don’tcha think?”). Had they seen photos of distant galaxies taken from the Hubble Telescope, do ya think they’d have invented a mythology to explain everything that still put Earth at the center of all creation when all evidence says the opposite?

Jesus did not invent Christianity. He lived his whole life — and died — a Jew. For all we know, he never was called “Jesus” or the “Christ” at any point during his life. Rather, if he existed, he was referred to like every other Jew of his time and place — by his Jewish name (Joshua Ben Joseph for instance). Jesus may have been somewhat radical in his message but it was still a radically JEWISH message that did not stray one iota from Jewish thinking.

Do Unto Others is a deeply Jewish way of thinking. Of course a lifelong Jew like Jesus would have thought that way. The everlasting genius that was Jesus (whoever, however, whatever he was) comes from his ability to articulate that profound message (in English anyway) in three simple words that anyone can understand. And it’s not hard to do. It’s not hard to figure out “how to do”. You just do it.

Jesus also taught you don’t need a temple or a high priest to talk to Yahweh. Go directly to the father was how Jesus put it. Talk to Yahweh yourself.

That puts priests and the church they’re sitting in into a bind. Jesus says his followers don’t need them to follow him. That makes priests and their churches completely redundant. “Useless,” my construction worker friends used to say (I worked construction briefly during the WGA strike of 1988), “As titties on a bull”.

So where the hell did priests and a church come from if it wasn’t part of Jesus’s “plan”? It came from the same place most of the early church’s mythology came from — Paul, The Apostle. It’s a simple fact. Jesus wrote 0% of the New Testament while Paul wrote about 30% of it, give or take. 27 texts make up the NT. 13 to 14 are attributed to Paul, 7 of them with absolute certainty. Even if the rest attributed to Paul weren’t actually written by him, still they speak from Paul’s point of view; they aspire to tell Paul’s version of events.

The bulk of Paul’s contribution are the letters he wrote to the new, burgeoning Christian communities beginning to form around the eastern Roman world. In them, he describes a Jesus he never met as if he knew him intimately. He speaks for Jesus and begins to lay out the ideas that later writers — the early church fathers — would use to craft an entire mythology out of whole cloth — that springboarded from Jewish culture and custom into the fantastical world of the New Testament.

If you brought Jesus back to life today and explained modern Christianity to him, Jesus would have no idea what you were talking about.

If you did the same thing to Paul, you’d get a completely different reaction. Paul would recognize the story. He’d be taken by all the new additions to what he started (though he’d probably find Mormonism — where Jesus visits North America — a continent Jesus never knew even existed — as especially egregious). Paul started as Saul From Tarsus who “converted” on the road to Damascus after experiencing an epiphany. As Paul, he became determined to spread Jesus’s message even if the message Paul was spreading had nothing to do with Jesus or his actual message.

To that end, Paul aligned Jesus with Jewish tradition (which, being Jewish, Paul was knowledgeable about) and the mythology he created (at first), struggled hard to line up Jesus with the attributes and story precedents required to justify Jesus as the “messiah”. If Jesus was indeed the prophesied messiah, he needed to fit into a certain box with certain attributes. He needed to be related to King David… needed to be born in Bethlehem (regardless of where he was actually born)… needed to be born of a virgin (not sure where that came through but the world Jesus and Paul came from believed deeply in magic and magical powers and Paul’s was not the first version of a new god being born of an old god and a human).

Paul’s genius — the thing that gave his creation (Christianity) legs — was how he employed Jesus — as a kind of mascot — for a pretty radical idea (for then just as for now): “Want to beat Death? Believe in Jesus.”

That’s really what Christianity is all about — eternal life. It was never part of Jesus’s message because he never met Paul — and never heard the wacky ideas that Paul had in his head. As the early church fathers — the men who came after Paul and set out to finish the work that Paul started — settled in to their roles, they expanded upon Paul’s mythology.

Christianity as we know it today has almost nothing to do with Jesus. He really is just a Ronald McDonald-like mascot selling “Do Unto Others” burgers to suckers. Church buildings do more to undermine any congregation’s integrity than all the atheists combined. Buildings are expensive to build, expensive to maintain. Every church has to do that math: what does it take to have a church and what does it take to keep that church operational, the doors open & the lights on? The answer? Lots and lots of money.

Jesus, as far as we can tell from the message that filtered down to us, was deeply into the spiritual side of things. He didn’t teach how to manage a church’s finances so as to keep it in the black. Do Unto Others. That’s it.

Now — picture Jesus actually getting to have that second coming Paul and HIS followers imagined for Jesus. Finally, Jesus gets to rise from the dead for all to see and acknowledge. There’ll be no disputing it this time. Jesus comes back and sees for himself what Paul did and what sprang from what Paul did.

Does Jesus ever stop projectile vomiting?

I think not.

Show Me A Person Who Claims To “Speak For God” & I’ll Show You A Person Who Thinks They ARE “God”

This really should be a no-brainer. Ask ten theists what “God” is & you will get ten distinctly different answers.

Ask 10 ardent theists — evangelicals, say — what “God” is and, if you listen really closely, what you’ll get is a person describing themselves. The absolutes and the moral imperatives heavy with the weight of Ultimate Decision-Making which are so far beyond the understanding of mere mortals don’t perturb the uber-religious. You see, THEIR minds CAN parse the subtleties and nuances of Divine Intent. They understand “the code”. They — unlike you or I — communicate with God on a much higher level than mere words. God thinks a thing and voila — it appears magically inside THEIR head so that THEY can dispense it to us.

That is how most theists think. It’s impossible for anyone to contradict them, of course, because no one else can crawl inside their head — the place where these divine messages were generated AND received. They can’t “prove” they DID receive a message but then, in their world, no one has to prove anything. Your word is your bond no matter how nonsensical your word is.

“God told me to do it” goes right back to Abraham coming within inches of sacrificing Isaac — the thing he loved more than life itself (supposedly). It must be “supposedly” because Abraham loved the voice in his head more than his son. He was willing to satisfy the voice’s need for loyalty over his child’s need for Life. This is the angry, self-centered, vengeful and markedly male god at the center of Abrahamic faith.

Even this deity’s “path to redemption” is boiled in blood. His own “son” has to die a horrible death so mankind can be forgiven for the character Eve biting into an apple. Think about the people who insist that these stories, steeped in metaphor and allegory and all kinds of literary device (being written as they were by creative humans) are literal truth. It’s no wackier than someone insisting the every book in the Dr. Seuss canon is literal truth.

The luxury of selling bullshit is that you never, ever have to back it up. There are no warranties, no service contracts. There’s just the sucker you took — their money in your hand and your bullshit in theirs.

Pick a televangelist — Franklin Graham… Kenneth Copeland… Benny Hinn… Joel OSteen… Listen to them get down to business. Listen to how they speak for the deity in whose service they supposedly work. Then actually THINK about it. What did they study to gain this ability? They studied THE BIBLE. They studied a work of literature whose history (how it came together) they probably don’t even know.

In other words — they studied a book of mostly fiction in order to claim expertise on dealing with reality. If the (mostly) men who wrote the texts that, in time, were assembled into the Pentateuch (the OT) and the NT had had access to the internet, if they had had microscopes at their disposal and telescopes — if they had known about germ theory and understood (having seen hard evidence) that the earth was NOT at the center of the Universe — you can bet they wouldn’t have written their texts the way they wrote them because it wouldn’t have made sense to THEM.

The NT & OT texts reflect a great deal of very real (but honest) ignorance. The people who wrote the OT & NT, by the way, didn’t know that more than one continent existed. Hell, they didn’t even know what continents were. If these texts were so divinely inspired, why didn’t the deity who supposedly created the universe have any insight into how the universe actually works?

Every time there’s a hint of “intelligent design” in the mix, we get a strong whiff of how stupid this “intelligent designer” actually is. This guy couldn’t design “hitting water” after falling out of a boat in the middle of the sea. He’s so inept even his union wants him gone.

There’s nothing wrong with taking “spiritual guidance” from the pages of the NT and OT. Personally, I’d say the spiritual guidance those texts advocate is dubious — but that’s just my opinion. The point is, they’re just “guidance” written by people a long, long time ago. People telling you today that those words were literally written by a magical man in the sky — or inspired by him — are bypassing spiritual guidance for ooga-booga.

Spirituality is you and things much larger than you — cosmically larger. How do you see and define that relationship? That’s your spirituality. Even a stone cold atheist, when gazing up at the cosmos, cannot help feeling awe. We live in an awesome universe. It’s so awesome in fact that we don’t even fully understand it yet.

Religion is someone trying to quantify your spirituality. They’re trying to tell you “how” to “practice” your spirituality. But, is that your spirituality they’re talking about — or “theirs”? Trick question — of course it’s theirs! They don’t give a toss about YOUR spirituality. They’re not selling yours, they’re selling theirs.

And they need you to buy theirs because building and maintaining churches is an expensive proposition. They really are black holes of cash. Most religion is trying to get YOU to help pay off THEIR shitty “time share” investment. That takes money. And getting the money it takes to flow in reliably enough requires bodies — paying members in your congregation. Oh — there’s probably a priest or a rabbi to pay for, too.

When televangelist John Hagee looks out at you and implores you to send him money, it’s not because he wants to feed your soul. He’s got expenses. Hard, hard expenses. A bank load that he cannot default on — or else. Or, maybe he’s REALLY rich and owns his own building outright. Then it’s just the upkeep he’s worried about. And his salary.

Ever see this incredible piece of tape where Kenneth Copland explains why this “spokesman for Jesus” needs a private jet to get from place to place? It’s all you need to know about most modern Christianity, televangelism, Kenneth Copeland and bullshit in general.

Look at Kenneth’s eyes in the clip. It’s a great acting job (well, not “great” so much as just an acting job that he’s committed to in his own embarrassingly over-the-top kinda way). Is that a man working in service of a higher power — or does he have it in his head that the reason he can’t fly with “riff-raff” is because GOD don’t fly with riff-raff — and he (make no mistake) is God?

If we take Jesus at his word (meaning if we look at the dozen or so things the various gospels agree Jesus might have said — keeping in mind that none of the actual gospel-writers ever met Jesus or heard his voice or words — one of his core messages is you don’t need a temple or its priests to communicate with God. Any believer can skip the intermediary and speak directly to “The Father”.

If that’s true, then why would one need a Kenneth Copeland or a Franky Graham or any of those sideshow geeks? One wouldn’t. One doesn’t.

One never did. But then, if everyone understood that, Ken & Frank & Benny would all have to find honest work.

What a sad come-down that would be for a mediocre deity.

The Bible Is What Happens When Books Meant To Answer “One” Question Are Used To Answer Another…

I’ve always said Hebrew School made me the atheist I am today. That’s not entirely true. I have been an atheist since inception. Hebrew School simply closed the deal.

But I don’t regret any of my religious education (which lasted from age 6 to 14). I genuinely learned a lot from it. In particular, I had one truly excellent teacher — Henry Hyman. Mr. Hyman taught this: the bible is a religious text. It isn’t a reliable work of history. But, as a religious text, it is incredibly valuable.

In other words, Mr. Hyman taught “perspective”.

I remember one especially meaningful conversation I had with Mr. Hyman. It was probably when I was 12 or 13. Like I said, I was born an atheist. Skepticism runs in my blood alongside the red and white blood cells. I bumped hard on the Abraham almost sacrifices Isaac story — and I said so.

I’m sure I didn’t articulate well what bothered me then but the same terrible lesson still disturbs me: Jews are meant to revere Abraham (the foundational “First Jew”) because of his absolute fealty to Yahweh. If Yahweh says “kill your son” (“sacrifice” being a kinder-gentler way of saying “murder in cold blood”), we’re supposed to look to Abraham for guidance. Well, we’re meant to think, since Ol’ Abe was down with killing his son, who are we to go a different way?

To Mr. Hyman’s credit, he tried very hard to sell the metaphorical qualities of the story as a whole over the more disturbing, realistic story beats themselves. I wasn’t having it. In the end, Mr. Hyman encouraged me to continue asking questions. Either I was going to find an answer inside the faith that satisfied me or I wasn’t. That he appreciated that fact — that he encouraged a 12 year old to think that way — I am eternally grateful.

Want to have a religious debate? The bible — OT or NT — are excellent resources. Want to know anything about history? Avoid the bible like the plague. Yeah, sure, there’s “background information” — lots of good insight into both Jewish culture and how Jewish culture thinks about itself. But if you want the historical record backing up your “faith”? Prepare to be disappointed.

As Mr. Hymn said: “The bible is not a work of history”. No, it absolutely is not. Fact — it is debatable that Hebrews were ever slaves in Egypt. The Egyptians kept records. Lots of them (they’re called “Hieroglyphics”.) Nowhere in those records do we find Hebrew slaves building pyramids or a Hebrew prince rescued from certain death, raised by an Egyptian princess and slowly remade into a kind of Hebrew Avenging Angel.

Someone made that story up. Or they took a small thing and wrote it larger. Kinda like how Paul did with Jesus. If Saul of Tarsus never has his “come to Jesus” moment on the Road to Damascus, then Christianity never happens.

Jesus — whoever he actually was — did not “invent” Christianity. If you sat him down today and explained to him what “Christianity” was, he’d look at you like you were nuts for suggesting HE was its “founder”. Jesus was born a Jew, lived his whole life as a Jew and died a Jew.

As for creating the Christian church, what we can ascribe to Jesus (at least it’s one of his more consistently reported on teachings) is a very simple (and very Jewish) message — “Do Unto Others”. Also “You don’t need a church in order to have a relationship with god”. Jesus’s message is spiritual perfection — it teaches people how to live a good, happy, successful life and it even teaches them how to do it: be nice to people.

But, of course, not everyone wants to see these religious texts for what they are. We have a whole segment of our population — uber Christians, evangelicals & fundamentalists — who believe that the words of the bible magically appeared on parchment. They say “divine inspiration” motivated the writing.

J. K. Rowling feels exactly the same way. She might not call the inspiration “divine” but her readers do.

Using the bible — old or new testaments — as anything other than a dated “how to live in the past” manual is guaranteed to screw up your life. Ask yourself: if the men who wrote those texts had been aware of germ theory, if they’d had access to microscopes and telescopes and the internet and all the information we now have today about our bodies, the natural world, the cosmos, would they have written the texts they wrote in exactly the same way?

Doubtful. Do televangelists avoid electricity because it would have been unknown to Jesus? Of course not! Modern religionistas use technology when it suits them to accomplish their goals. If any religious work’s author had had access to our modern knowledge base, it would have fundamentally changed what they wrote.

That makes it even more appalling when the faithful try to use their religious texts to answer science questions. They’re compounding the ignorance of the past by continuing to make it part of the present. Wrong information doesn’t suddenly become right.

Bullshit doesn’t suddenly become true.

Magic doesn’t suddenly become real.

The bible doesn’t suddenly become anything other than a story based loosely on reality.

Here’s What Happens When We “Pull Back The Lens” — And We NEED To Pull It Back NOW…

Lack of perspective kills.  A swimmer who sees only the immediate water around them – lovely and turquoise – but not the school of hungry sharks circling that lovely bit of turquoise?  That swimmer is chum. 

Religionistas will insist that their deity wants them to live according to the rules set down by ignorant (by our standards) iron age desert dwellers because everything anyone needed to know was “known” and set down in the texts those iron age desert dwellers produced.  But, what if those iron age desert dwellers, before they sat down to write, had had access to all the information we take for granted today? 

What if those scribes had known that microbes and pathogens cause most human diseases?  What if they knew what RNA and DNA are? What if they had a Hubble Space Telescope and every bit of its remarkable data flow to chew on?  Would they have written texts that killed people with magical plagues or put the earth at the center of everything?

If the men who wrote the OT had read Darwin or Stephen Hawking, if they had taken in a geology text book or a scientific paper on genetics, if they had ever gotten a chance to use the internet – would they have sat down and written the texts they wrote the exact same way?

Doubtful.

The people who wrote, edited and put together the canonical New Testament used significant portions of the old texts as the basis for their new texts.  The mythology Paul created leaned heavily on the Pentateuch.  The whole basis for original sin is Eve and the Garden of Eden.  If the men who wrote the originals never wrote those originals – because they were better informed about how the world really worked – the course of human history would have been radically different.

We may not have been any less self-destructive (homo sapiens are still homo sapiens) but at least we would have been denied that particular flavor of bullshit to use as an excuse. 

So – if the people who wrote the religious texts so many Americans say they rely on as the basis for their lives had been just a teensy bit more educated via access to modern technologies – had they been able to “pull the lens back” even a little — human history would have been spared the chaotic, illogical darkness that certain religions have repeatedly inflicted upon humanity.

By the same token — if our Main Stream News Media were able to find the widest possible lens they can find, they might finally be able to tell the story we’re all living through.  Nearly three years in to this nonsense, there are STILL reporters (like NBC News’ well-meaning but hopelessly feckless Kelly O’Donnell) who repeat back Donald Trump’s words as if he spoke gospel truth.  It never occurs to them to contextualize Trump by saying – before repeating his words – that nothing he says is reliable. 

They don’t.  They position their reporting lens inside Trump’s bubble – where bullshit is true just because Trump says so.  They report from inside the lie with the lie as their only apparent frame of reference.  Either they genuinely believe the lie is true or they lack the perspective to see and report the relationship between lie and truth.  Either way, they render themselves useless to We The People just when we need them most.

At the end of the day, when the smoke can finally clear and we see this story with whatever perspective we can before our generation literally dies off (and real perspective finally has a chance to flower), I bet we’ll post mortem the press this way: they failed on two major counts.  First – Lack Of Perspective. Too often, our press has turned a laser focus on a piece of the larger story.  While their focus was admirable, the fact that they lost perspective while focusing in so intently was not.  For all the detail a guy like NBC’s Steve Kornacki can tell you about how voters vote, he never places them in the context of their times.

We have never lived through what we’re living through now.  We have never had elections stolen by foreign countries before (at least not that we’re aware of).  We have never experienced one party tossing out the Rule Of Law in a desperate grab for permanent minority rule.  When these things happen, it kinda changes things.  It’s like someone shitting in the pool.  Is swimming in it – with turds bobbing around – the same experience?

No, Steve Kornacki, it is not.  Steve epitomizes this sort of “intense focus” journalism.  He can tell you everything you want to know about a particular grain of sand.  Ask him where the grain of sand IS – on a beach?  In the middle of the Sahara?  In some kid’s sand box in a suburb somewhere?

Steve has no idea.  That’s a problem where storytelling is concerned.

Second – Failure Of Imagination.  It’s directly related to the first problem – lack of perspective.  It’s kinda the “ouch” to lack of perspective’s “pinch”.  If you can’t really see what the problem (or the story) is, you can’t possibly solve it (or report it accurately). 

What happens when we pull back the lens on most of our Main Stream News Media is we see that they’re failing us – failing their Constitutionally mandated role as final check on power.  I suggest we keep the lens back here.  Their close up is really, really ugly.

The Problem With Thinking YOU Are Created In A Perfect God’s Image Is — NEITHER OF YOU Is Perfect

First things first: perfection is a myth (unless we’re talking about a perfect baseball game or Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah”). “Perfection” is as pulled from our asses as most every other human idea or invention. We’re making it all up — some of us even as we go along.

The innovation of monotheism took the schizophrenic panoply of gods — with all their personalities and skill sets — and crammed them into one omnipotent, bi-polar crybaby — Yahweh. Strangely, the biblical Yahweh knows he (he’s clearly a “he”) isn’t the only deity out there. If ya think about it, this supposedly ALL POWERFUL “god” — the one-and-only god — the god who created everything in creation — bitches and moans constantly because the Hebrews occasionally flirt with other gods.

Call me nuts but — that’s a really mediocre deity we’re talking about. Good lord, Yahweh, man up (or deity up if that’s what deities do) — put on your “big deity pants” and get on with it! Whose idea of “perfection” is this anyway?

The collected texts we call the Old Testament & the New Testament are all important cultural literature. The pages are filled with interesting ideas and what were new ways of thinking when they were written. When they were written.

We have to remember — when they were written, the knowledge base available to the writers was extremely limited compared to what a writer today would have at her disposal. For instance — the men who composed the biblical texts had no idea that microbes or pathogens or bacteria or viruses existed. They honestly believed that everything in the visible universe revolved around them. They hadn’t a clue that other civilizations existed on continents they’d never know were there (but, of course, were there). The whole notion of Yahweh — the poster deity for monotheism — was crafted by human males who knew virtually nothing (all their good intentions aside).

The deity “we” hold up as “perfection” is the very opposite. Even if we charitably allow for “divine inspiration” — unless the human go-between is perfect — how can the theist really know that the literal word o’ god was translated exactly? While we’re at it, how many angels can headbang on the head of a pin? The biggest “problem” with “the bible” is that although it was written as a religious text, “we” came to think of it as a history book. And that has screwed us up profoundly.

“God” is not perfect. Our genome isn’t perfect either. It’s malleable — so malleable. It screws up routinely because it’s not perfect. It’s evolved into what it is — and will continue to evolve into something else. There are creatures here on earth that have stopped evolving (maybe because they reached a kind of “perfection” eons ago) — sharks… cockroaches.

Humans on the other hand — there’s research that suggests the horrors of the Holocaust caused changes to the DNA of its survivors. Think of it — the cruelty humans were doing to each other was impactful enough that it caused changes in the victim group’s DNA — that was passed on to their children.

This bullshit idea of “perfect” sits at the heart of our cruelty toward those we deem “imperfect”. Gay people, for instance. People born with disabilities. People who acquire disabilities… The whole idea of virginity — as it pertains to a woman’s vagina and who “owns” it…

Maybe the larger problem is that this whole notion of “perfection” sprang from a male mind — and not a female mind.

If the men who wrote the biblical texts had been as informed about science as we are today, I feel pretty sure that knowledge would have been reflected in their writing. The ignorance that has tracked along with Abrahamic religion would never have been born as it were. By the same token — if the writers had been informed — and female — just imagine what we’d think “perfection” was today.

If America’s Going To Heal Itself, FIRST, It Needs To Ditch The “Magical Thinking”

Believing in Magic is fun. It’s the deus ex machina side door out of anything hard and overly challenging. Like Life.

In the theater, it’s “god from machine” — an ending that doesn’t actually add up or make sense but — it was time.

It’s why religion proliferates still — even in the face of cold, hard facts that contradict it. Cold, hard facts aren’t nice. Facts aren’t in the “nice” businesses. They couldn’t give a rat’s ass whether you “like” them or not. Hell — “You” don’t even exist to them.

Facts just are. They’re a-political. They don’t ascribe to any particular faith. To look at them, and interpret them, you don’t need a church. You need a mind. When you refuse to use your mind, a church will quickly step in and do the thinking for you. But churches don’t base THEIR worldview on the world, they base it on their foundational texts — written kajillions of years ago by well-meaning but uninformed men.

If the scribes who wrote what eventually was assembled into the Pentateuch (the Old Testament) — including Genesis — had known that microbes and pathogens exist (therefore explaining sickness and disease) or that earth was NOT at the center of creation (in fact, we’re nowhere near it’s center — if there even is one), they would NOT have written the texts they wrote. Their texts would have been informed by their knowledge. It’s kinda how knowledge is supposed to work.

Instead of the “Book Of Genesis”, perhaps there’d be the “Book Of String Theory” or “The Book of Quantum Physics”.

If that were the case, there’d BE no Magical Thinking.

America has always been extremely friendly to Magical Thinking though. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that a bunch of offshoot, whackadoodle religions were born here. You can think of Protestantism as an offshoot of Catholicism (and Christianity as an offshoot of Judaism), but what the hell is Scientology an offshoot of — other than Chicanery? At least Mormonism pretends to be an offshoot of Christianity (though it takes Christianity to crazy bullshit places even Paul would have called it “over the line” and “beyond anyone’s capacity to believe it”. I’m sorry — Jesus visited North America? Um, no — if he existed, he most certainly did NOT.

The reason nonsense like Mormonism & Scientology (and a host of other to-silly-to-speak-their-names beliefs) finds purchase here is that Americans have always had a “thing” for Magical Thinking. We believed, for instance, that not outlawing slavery in our foundational document — our Constitution — would work out for us. The Civil War and its aftermath says we got that wrong.

Magical Thinking starts early. We force it on every single kid. Some of it — sure, it’s endurable: fairy tales, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny… But the rest of it is just pure ignorant masquerading as something else. It’s what adults tell kids when they (the adults) don’t know the answer: it must be god. It must be ooga-booga. It must be MAGIC.

No — it’s not Magic. It’s NEVER Magic. Magic does not exist.

If a surgeon or pilot stepped out to say hello before getting down to work — and they said they had decided to forgo science today; instead they’ve placed the outcome of YOUR surgery or YOUR airplane journey in the hands of MAGIC (better hope it works!), I don’t think YOU would want them to continue.

There’s a reason.

Quick side note. I differentiate between “religion” and “spirituality”. I don’t equate spirituality with magic — though the relationship between them is fraught. Spirituality is awe. It’s wonder at what we don’t know yet. I also don’t necessarily equate magic with any religion’s core message — so long as the core message isn’t its magic. Take Jesus, for instance. One can laugh at Magical Thinking all while happily Doing Unto Others. You don’t need the magic to take a little good advice.