Previous month:
December 2009
Next month:
February 2010

Hurry, Gwen, They're Killing People!

You don't have to be in the JW camp, with its cautious stance toward 'entertainment overload,' to conclude that 7.5 media entertainment hours a day is a lot.  I mean, what with sleeping and work/school, is there really time for anything else? Yet the Kaiser Family Foundation just released a ten-year study that indicates today's young people do exactly that, be it TV or YouTube or Hulu or Facebook or Twitter or Tooter or God knows what else. And since they multi-task, they manage to wring 10 hours' content out of that 7.5. Kids [from another source, not Kaiser] are developing rickets, of all things. Rickets!....that disappeared 200 years ago. And yes, Kaiser found all the correlations you would expect: lower grades (from an already dismal level in the U.S.) and increased trouble with the law.

Kaiser said the largest block of time percentage-wise was still TV (counting streaming video), so I'll limit my remarks to that. Besides, that's what I know best. It's my generation. With regard to newer technologies, I know enough internet to blog, of course, but I'm hardly cutting edge. And if you ask me WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) I will reply that Jesus would use a phone with a wire attached to the wall - he would never use a cell phone, let alone one with 'apps'! So TV is what I'll write of.

One of the toughest things about working in the group home was that the TV was always on. It was sort of like a shrine in the center of the house, and it wasn't easy to avoid. The volume was always turned up. And...what was it?....it wasn't so much the soft porn, though there was plenty of that. And it wasn't so much the graphic violence, though there was plenty of that, too. It was the breathtaking stupidity of most of it.....a common thread you never got away from.

"Hurry Gwen, they're killing people!" I'd holler when CSI or some like show was coming on. "Oh boy, now we're talking!" she'd respond. "Blood and guts! That's what I want to see!" I'd once said something 'judgmental' about such programs, only to find that she loved them, so I gave it up. You can't change grown people. Besides, she was a good worker, likable, and I got along with her well. Why, as Eccles 7:16 queries, be 'righteous overmuch?' We'd joke about it -we had our lines down pat - what else could one do? "Why'd God make bad people?" I'd ask. "To kill em!" she'd reply. On nights too busy for her to fit in the shows, I'd offer to call the TV station. "Can you cut out the plots tonight?" I'd propose. "We're a little tight on time right now. Just line the folks up, good and bad alike, and kill em! We'll fill in story ourselves."

One day Gwen came to work with an axe and killed three co-workers and.....Oh, all right!...I made that part up, but you never know when she may start! I must have seen hundreds of TV murders that season, and that's without trying. I mean, I didn't glue myself to the set, as some did, but you'd still stumble across several per night.

Actually, those Law and Order type shows are not the ones I have in mind for "breathtaking stupidity." The writing here was generally crisp, even clever, though obsessed with sex and violence. But they were ever apt to become propaganda pieces for contemporary issues. One character would parrot boiler-plate liberal lines for a given topic; another would spit back the conservative line - man, I hate being preached to by TV cops! In my experience, law enforcement people don't do that. Largely apolitical, they go about their work with a gallows humor, ever convinced that, in true SNAFU fashion...Situation Normal - All F**ked Up (**'s mine)...their best efforts will be undone owing to some screw-up at higher levels.

No, the real drivel and tripe was to be found in reality and gossip shows. These I couldn't abide at all (nor could Gwen), though I might be sucked into a 'cops and robbers' program sometimes. TV execs went orgasmic when they discovered, not only will people debase themselves for free, but others will tune in to watch them do it! And celebrities....listen, they're okay if they're singing or acting or whatever they're supposed to be doing, I guess, but get them talking -like in an interview.....well, four times out of five, you just don't want to do that. I mean, as often as not, they don't know anything, yet these are the role models put before kids 7.5 hours a day.

Make no mistake, this 7.5 hours is not the fault of the kids - you don't blame them for it - but of the adults and of a society that cannibalizes its young, exploiting them for money, pitching them product after fad after gadget, hooking them in any way a profit can be made. More specifically, it's my generation at fault - all of those in it really, except me, oh....and others of Jehovah's Witnesses.  Um...and a lot of others too. In fact, most persons are exempt as individuals. But collectively there is much blame. Fueled by self-interest and a colossal misunderstanding of what makes people tick, the world embraced values that almost guaranteed decay - the only question was 'when.' Regarding the Kaiser study, the FCC is said to be studying the findings. Do you think they'll do anything? Not anything of substance, anyway. Maybe they'll invent some ratings, offer some recommendations, coupled with stern warnings that parents ought to do a better job in monitoring what their kids view. Well....who would argue with that?...that's how I ended up at that Weezer concert....wasn't I the only grownup there?...but a healthy society constructs itself so as to not make a parents' job impossible; in the final analysis, you sort of need parents if you think the species ought to survive. And no parent wants to play 'bad cop' 7.5 hours a day, even if, by some miracle, they have the time to do it.

I remember when Paul McCartney was said to have died in a car crash, and the other Beatles covered it up with a look-alike, and campus radio spoke of nothing else for days on end. My roommate urged me (unsuccessfully) to install a reverse gear on my turntable so as to play all Beatle records backwards, looking for hidden clues such as were to be found in Strawberry Fields (I buried Paul) or Revolution #9 (turn me on, dead man). The mainstream media was oblivious to the story, notwithstanding that the Beatles were the most popular rock group to date. They didn't ignore substantive news to break in breathlessly with update after update, as they would today, as they recently did with....say...the Tiger Woods sex escapades. I recall only one grumbling opinion piece, after several days had elapsed, to the effect that the Beatles...those precocious kids... may have fooled us all with their practical joke, but it was a sick laugh they must be having. That's how it was with 'young people' stories. I was upset about it. I wanted more airtime for our g-g-g-generation. Some sensational group would be the rage among the young - I'd want to see them on TV, and all I'd get was a lousy five minutes at the end of the Ed Sullivan show!

No, I didn't like it. But now I see it was a protection, from adults who still felt a collective sense of responsibility toward the younger generation. Or maybe they were just fuddy-duddys out of touch with changing times, but nonetheless, it was a protection. Let kids have their own generation, let them cultivate their own interests, but not to the exclusion of all else. Construct your society so that doesn't happen. Link them with ideas of the past, ideas that have roots, ideas that have endured over time.

Sigh....has not the now-older generation largely given up on their roots...roots that didn't work out too well, anyway, so as to live vicariously through their young? That's why the prurient interest in youngster's 'sexuality.' That's why pedophilia episodes get top ratings. That why the VH1 "news special" The New Virginity, (younger staff watching it eagerly at the group home, convinced they're watching real 'news') whipping up interest in how long this or that young celeb will hold out.

That's why I don't chafe much at the Watchtower's cautions on today's entertainment, even though, just between you and me, they lay it on pretty thick. But they don't lay it on 7.5 hours a day, do they? Take it as a sign of concern. These are decadent times. There is a place for forthright counsel, and one does well to take it to heart.

**********************

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The 1914 Collection

Alan Greenspan ran the U.S. Federal Reserve for 20 years. Now that he's up in his eighties, he's collecting his gleanings from history. We need old people to do that; otherwise the current generation, always at risk to imagine prior generations copies of themselves in all respects, only without ipods, attempt to rewrite history in their own image. But old birds like Alan won't let them. His generation reminds us that morality, values, attitudes have markedly changed over the decades. Of course, values have changed throughout time, but the onslaught of a pop-obsessed media, coupled with ever increasing isolation from stabilizing prior generations, speeds up that change. Values that have endured for generations are trashed overnight.

Mr. Greenspan’s 2007 book is The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. In it, one finds yet another reference to that pivotal year, 1914. Optimism prevailed before and pessimism after. It's an idea that pops up repeatedly in historical writings:
 

Writes Greenspan: "By all contemporaneous accounts, the world prior to 1914 seemed to be moving irreversibly toward higher levels of civility and civilization; human society seemed perfectible. The nineteenth century had brought an end to the wretched slave trade. Dehumanizing violence seemed on the decline...The pace of global invention had advanced throughout the nineteenth century, bringing railroads, the telephone, the electric light, cinema, the motor car, and household conveniences too numerous to mention: medical science, improved nutrition, and the mass distribution of potable water had elevated life expectancy... The sense of the irreversibility of such progress was universal."
 

But...."World War I was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive World War II: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War I years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit. Today our outlook is starkly different from a century ago but perhaps a bit more consonant with reality. Will terror, global warming, or resurgent populism do to the current era of life-advancing globalization what World War I did to the previous one? No one can be confident of the answer."  [quoted in the March 15, 2009 Watchtower]
 

1914 was a pivotal year. Clearly, Mr. Greenspan views it that way.
 

If you like to read, like to think, and are lacking a hobby, collecting 1914 statements is not a bad pastime. Keep your eyes open, and you'll come across a lot. If you want to cheat, you’ll start by raiding the Watchtower’s stash of quotes, for, it is fair to say, they collect them and have, over the years, amassed an impressive hoard. They do so because such statements dovetail so well with their understanding of Bible prophesy.
 

As early as 1876, Jehovah’s Witnesses began pointing to 1914 as a biblically significant year. The August 30, 1914 New York World newspaper, in its magazine section, ran the following story:
 

   “End of All Kingdoms in 1914”
 

“The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy….For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the ‘International Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses], best known as ‘Millennial Dawners,’ have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed [!], have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’”
 

For the most part, Jehovah's Witnesses thought that great war would escalate into the battle of Armageddon - must not Armageddon be concurrent with the "Kingdom of God at hand"? It didn't happen. [A failed end date!!] Yet, I hate to see them derided for it, because, clearly, they were on to something that everyone else missed.
 

Within a few years, they came to appreciate that the following verses had been fulfilled in that year:
 

So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God!…..On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.   Rev 12: 9-12
 

Yes, it was the establishment of the Kingdom (Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ....) but it was not yet time for the end of this system of things. That would come a little later, sort of like the interval between election day and inauguration day. In the meantime...."Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time." You don't think that harmonizes well with Alan Greenspan's 1914 observations? A sense of optimism before, a sense of pessimism after. A tipping point, almost as if the reflection of some greater supernatural event.
Here are a few other quotes (I'll number them) from the 1914 collection, starting with another mentioned in Greenspan's work:
 

1.)   "Those who have an adult's recollection and an adult's understanding of the world which preceded World War I look back upon it with a great nostalgia. There was a sense of security then which has never since existed."  Benjamin J. Anderson (1886-1949), Economics and the Public Welfare
 

2.)  We read "Historic events are often said to have 'changed everything.' In the case of the Great War [1914-1918] this is, for once, true. the war really did change everything: not just borders, not just governments and the fate of nations, but the way people have seen the world and themselves ever since. It became a kind of hole in time, leaving the postwar world permanently disconnected from everything that had come before."    A World Undone, by G J Meyer, (2006)
 

3.)  Everything would get better and better. This was the world I was born in. . . . Suddenly, unexpectedly, one morning in 1914 the whole thing came to an end.—British statesman Harold Macmillan, New York “Times,” November 23, 1980
 

4.)  Civilization entered on a cruel and perhaps terminal illness in 1914.”   Frank Peters, St. Louis “Post-Dispatch    January 27, 1980
 

5.)  In 1914 the world lost a coherence which it has not managed to recapture since. . . . This has been a time of extraordinary disorder and violence, both across national frontiers and within them. The Economist,” London, August 4, 1979
 

6.)   The whole world really blew up about World War I and we still don’t know why. . . . Utopia was in sight. There was peace and prosperity. Then everything blew up. We’ve been in a state of suspended animation ever since.    Dr. Walker Percy, “American Medical News,” November 21, 1977
 

7.)   Thoughts and pictures come to my mind, . . . thoughts from before the year 1914 when there was real peace, quiet and security on this earth—a time when we didn’t know fear. . . . Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914.    German statesman Konrad Adenauer, 1965
 

8.)   In 1914 the world, as it was known and accepted then, came to an end.”   James Cameron (the historian, not the movie-maker) 1959
 

9.)  Ever since 1914, everybody conscious of trends in the world has been deeply troubled by what has seemed like a fated and pre-determined march toward ever greater disaster. Many serious people have come to feel that nothing can be done to avert the plunge towards ruin. They see the human race, like the hero of a Greek tragedy, driven on by angry gods and no longer the master of fate.   Bertrand Russell, New York “Times Magazine,” September 27, 1953
 

10.)   More and more historians look back upon World War I as the great turning point of modern history, the catastrophic collapse which opened the way for others, perhaps the final one. Professor D. F. Fleming, Vanderbilt University:
 

Here is a list of American historians. Go through all their writings and find some more 1914 quotes. And why should you confine your search to American historians? Just because I'm in America doesn't mean you are. For that matter, why confine your search to historians? Are they the only people who think? However, you may have to confine your search to writers who are old, if not deceased. The modern generation produces only essays about i-pods, stock derivatives, and CSI.
 
Too, I don't want to hear any more carrying on about Jehovah's Witnesses being so focused on the end of this system of things, as if they're barking up the wrong tree. What does that verse in 2 Peter say?
 

For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning. (2 Pet 3:3-4)
 

Details here and there have been off, but the Witnesses' broader view of historical trends and the direction in which they are heading have been spot-on, as testified to by all these 1914 quotes. It's the Bible's viewpoint, (as indicated here, and here, and here) after all, and Jehovah's Witnesses are, above all, Bible students.


 ***************************

Tom Irregardless and Me                    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Picking Flowers for Heaven’s Garden

Every married man my age, bar none, has seen the film Steel Magnolias. Not one wanted to see it. They were all dragged along by their wives. When it was my turn, I wisely went along without fuss, so as not to be accused of insensitivity toward womenhood. It wasn't a bad film, mind you; it had its moments; it's just not the type of film a guy would ever choose, at least, not of his own free will.
 
I mention Steel Magnolias because it's the first example that comes to mind of that stupid "God is picking flowers" analogy. One SM character loses a son, and another- a recent convert - comforts her by suggesting God is picking flowers for his beautiful garden in heaven! He doesn't want wilted stuff, of course, he wants only the best! That's why he chose that woman's son, implying she should feel privileged to lose a son for so great a Cause.

She doesn’t.

Who would ever think such an analogy could be comforting? It's monstrous! No wonder people go atheist! Take away the most precious thing a person has simply because you have a vacancy, and expect her to be comforted over that? Yet we hear it all the time, and the younger the deceased, the more likely some sappy preacher will use it: God has a garden. He grows pretty flowers, see - absolutely the best. But he needs one more; there's one spot that's just not right. Ah! The missing ingredient is your flower. He'll pick it. Surely, you'll be happy. What's that? You're not? Tough!
 
The "picking flowers" illustration is nowhere found in the Bible. But, just once, the Bible uses an illustration parallel in all respects except the moral, which is exactly opposite from the PF.  It takes place after King David, drooling over Uriah’s knockout wife, takes her as his own. 2 Samuel 12:1-7 tells us:
 
The LORD sent Nathan [a prophet]  to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,  but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.


"Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."  David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!"
            
Now, this analogy is just. The man is not expected to be comforted that the king stole his wife! So anyone who’s ever recoiled in disgust at the “picking flowers” analogy is reacting exactly as the Bible says they should! It’s the preacher who is suggesting what is obscene! The flower picker is not to be praised. He deserves death!
 
Since the illustration is slanderous toward God and not found in the Bible, why do preachers routinely use it? The answer is, just as in Mean Things God Doesn’t Do, Part 1, church preachers have bought into unscriptural, unreasonable doctrines that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. You make a god-awful mess trying to escape from these corners, just as you would from a real corner.
 
The unscriptural doctrine here is that, when we die, we don’t really die. There is some component of us, usually called the soul, that lives on. It is immortal. Have you been good? Or are you a cuddly child? Then death is your friend. You get promoted to heaven, and how can anyone not be happy to see good people promoted? It’s a win-win!
 
Trouble is, people don’t behave as if it’s a win-win. People mourn at funerals; they don’t rejoice. They take a long time to readjust. Some never readjust to the death of their child; children are not supposed to die before the parent. Death is unnatural. It is not a friend, as most religions would have us believe. It is an enemy, which is what the Bible says. (1 Cor 15:26)
 
Wasn't it Abraham Lincoln who said he wasn't smart enough to lie? Meaning, of course, that once you've told a lie, you never know when you'll have to make up another fiction to uphold that lie – in this case, a fiction like "picking flowers," to uphold the lie that we have immortal souls that survive our deaths. We don't.
 
The Hebrew word from which soul is translated is nephesh. It occurs in the Old Testament 754 times. Only twice in the KJV is soul translated from any other word. Therefore, find the meaning of nephesh, and you've found the meaning of soul.

The first OT instance of nephesh applied to humans (four prior times in Genesis chapter 1 it is applied to animals) is at Genesis 2:7:
 
"And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul. "
 
Now.... a man who comes to be a plumber is a plumber. He doesn't have a plumber. A man who comes to be an architect is an architect. He doesn't have an architect. A man who comes to be an atheist is an atheist. He doesn't have an atheist. And a man who comes to be a soul is a soul. He doesn't have a soul. Soul, therefore, is the individual himself. In some cases, it represents the life an individual enjoys as such. It never stands for some mystical substance that survives our death. That latter notion is common among ancient peoples, but is nowhere found in the Bible. Attempting to infuse those ancient philosophies into the Bible, various theologians seized upon nephesh as the equivalent of that immortal substance, but thorough consideration of the Hebrew word indicates it means something else entirely.
 
The Bible is unique among religious books in that it does not teach an immortal soul.
 
Here the New World Translation does something so intrinsically honest that its translators ought to be lauded for it, rather than accused of slipping in their own doctrinal bias. Every time nephesh occurs in the Hebrew, the NWT translates it soul. Thus, it's rather easy to look at every instance of soul and discern what the word means by its context. Few Bibles do this. They bury the word amidst multiple renderings so you can't tell what it means.
 
For example, the English Revised Version (1881) translates nephesh as soul 472 times, but in the other 282 places renders it by any of forty-four different words or phrases! What determines how these translators render nephesh? Is it not obvious they have a preconceived idea of soul? They translated nephesh as soul when it fits their preconceived idea; they translate it otherwise when it doesn't! To then claim that the Bible teaches immortal soul is dishonest in the extreme. They have doctored their translation to make sure it does so!
 
Genesis 2:7, quoted above, is one verse that usually doesn’t "make the cut" for nephesh being translated soul. Many modern translations like to render nephesh here as living being or creature, such as the New International Version (1978):
 
"...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."
 
also NASB (1971), NKJV (1982), RSV (1952)
 
It’s a recent development. Older Bibles render this instance of nephesh as soul, just as they do in its other 700 places. For instance:
 
and man became a living soul  (ASV  1901)
and Man became a living soul  (Darby  1890)
and man became a living soul.  (Douay-Rheims 1609)
and man became a living soul.  (KJV  1611)
and the man was a liuing soule  (Geneva Bible 1587)
And so was man made a lyuynge soule (Miles Coverdale Bible 1535)
and man was maad in to a lyuynge soule. (Wycliffe  1395)
 
The innovative modern translators will tell you they’ve chosen being or creature to make their Bibles more readable. Well….maybe. The words surely do no harm to readability. But the inconsistent translating also serves to confound anyone trying to investigate soul (nephesh) as described in the Bible. By rendering nephesh any old way they like, those translators are able to leave the impression that nephesh is the equivalent of the immortal soul beliefs held among the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and others. One wonders if that isn’t the real reason for the selective translating of nephesh.
 
In his early days, Charles Darwin toyed with becoming a church minister. Such a ministry was then a respectable choice for a man of letters who couldn’t decide what else he wanted to do with his life. Darwin had a daughter named Annie, who was, by all accounts, his favorite child. At age 10, Annie contracted scarlet fever, and died after six weeks of agony. Also a casualty was Darwin’s faith in a beneficent Creator. The book Evolution: Triumph of an Idea, by Carl Zimmer, tells us that Darwin “lost faith in angels.”
 
Did those sappy preachers tell him that God was picking flowers? that he needed just one more angel to make his garden perfect? I wouldn’t put it past them. Again, you almost have to do it if you want to uphold the ‘immortal soul’ lie. Devastated, Charles Darwin was later to pen the work that would pull the rug of authority out from under all those clergymen. No longer would they be the guardians of Sacred Truth and Wisdom. Instead they'd become the guardians of Childrens' Stories and Nonsense.

One can only wonder how things might have turned out had Darwin been comforted with the Bible’s actual hope of a resurrection (something not possible if one is still living via their ‘immortal soul’). Death is an enemy, not a friend, the Bible realistically tells us. It was never part of God’s plan, it came about only through rebellion early in human history, and it is to be eliminated once God’s purpose reaches fulfillment:
 
That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned—.  (Rom 5:12)
 
Next, the end, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power. For he must rule as king until [God] has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing   (1 Cor 15:24-26)
 
And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.   (Rev 21:4)

 
False religion leaves a vacuum which is quick to be filled with other reasonings. As discussed here, the pull of evolution is as much emotional as it is scientific. One can only wonder…. how different history might have been had Darwin known the truth about death. Not just Darwin, of course, but everyone of his time, as well as before and after. Instead, fed a diet of phony pieties….junk food, if you will…..he and others of inquisitive mind searched elsewhere in an attempt to make sense of life.

*************************

Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Let Reason Prevail

When Richard Dawkins blessed the atheist buses rolling out of London's central depot, the word "probably" didn't faze him at all. "There probably is no God," announced those buses via placards pasted to their sides, "Now get on and enjoy life" He defended the clunky wording here. "If we say 'there's definitely no God'...you can't say that," he waffled. Actually, it's British Truth in Advertising law that wouldn't permit the more straightforward statement, and he, Dawkins, law-abiding to the core, I'm sure, acquiesced.

But I write from America, a land whose people are a curious mix of gunslinger and crybaby. And....let us not mince words here....our atheists are better than their atheists. You're not going to catch our atheists going weak at the knees - sniveling up to us with a namby-pamby "probably." No! When our atheists posted a sign on the Illinois State Capitol grounds, it was to proclaim:

"At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Any wimpy "probably?" Not on your life! British atheists should be ashamed of themselves. A bunch of  wusses - make no mistake!
 
The American atheist sign was smack dab next to a Christmas tree and uncomfortably close to a Nativity Scene - you know, Jesus in a manger and the three wise men bearing gifts. It made local politician William Kelly hopping mad, and he tried to tear down the sign (with the cameras running?), but Capitol police chased him off. Free speech, you know.
 
Now....what is it about this atheist billboard that rankles? It's not a matter of accuracy. Other than its conclusion, which is opinion, not fact, its tenets are more accurate than those of the Nativity scene.

After all, religion certainly can affect people in the way the sign says - it comes in many brands and flavors. Moreover, December 21st is the winter solstice, whereas December 25th is not Christ's birthday. Shepherds are not going to be sleeping outdoors with their flocks that time of year, as the Bible says they were. Moreover, Herod is not going to require his rebellious Jewish subjects to travel to the towns of their birth in the dead of winter. These matters are common knowledge. Jesus may have been born in early autumn, but he certainly was not born Dec 25. It was some slick Roman politician, trying to merge then-apostate Christianity with conventional Roman life who got the bright idea that the birthday of the sun, the Dec 25th Saturnalia, should also be the birthday of the Son! Cool!! Talk about clever marketing!
 
By the time the Nativity Scene's "wise men" (magi) showed up with presents, the child was two, long out of the stable. They were supposed to report Jesus' whereabouts to Herod, who intended to have the child killed, since the last thing he wanted was a newborn "King of the Jews" amidst his surly subjects. But the wise men fled the other way and Herod, furious, had all the 2-year olds in Bethlehem put to death, figuring one of them, surely, would be this toddler king. Jesus parents were a step ahead of him, though....they'd fled into Egypt. *

No, its not the supporting details that rankle about that atheist sign.  What is it? Could it be that, in advancing "reason" as a cure-all, those atheists presume to have a monopoly on it? Partly.
 
Am I wrong in thinking that when people say they want reason to prevail, they really just want everyone to come around to their own opinion - an opinion which to them, invariably, is reason personified? Consider the role "reason" might play in the latest diplomatic spat between Britain and China. The Chinese have just executed a British citizen for drug trafficking in their country, the first such execution since the 1950's. But the Brits had wanted him spared, owing to his diagnosis of bipolar disorder. They'd lobbied hard for that outcome.
 
When they didn't get it, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown cried: "I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms, and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted......I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken." But China would have none of it. "Nobody has the right to speak ill of China's judicial sovereignty," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said. "We express our strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition over the groundless British accusations. We urge the British side to mend its errors and avoid damaging China-British relations."
 
What we are dealing with are different cultural attitudes towards social policy, criminal conduct, mental illness, personal responsibility, individual rights, and drug use. These are values. I defy you to tell me what "reason" dictates with regard to the interplay between them. For the most part, the two citizenries lined up with the viewpoints of their respective governments. Is "reason" only to be found among one or the other population? If so, which one? Actually, it was China that played the "reason" card first. "We hope that the British side can view this matter rationally," Jiang said. Why didn't the Brits think of enshrouding their plea in rationality? Too late now. China beat them to it, and now the Brits are, by default, irrational.

Yet, even that isn't it in its entirety. In fact, I think it is no more than a contributing point. No, that winter solstice sign rankles for other reasons, as well.

Maybe its the crassness of plunking it right next to the Nativity Scene, as if it, too, represented a message of hope. For the Nativity Scene, even if poorly understood, even if misportrayed, even if represented by charletans, still represents hope to countless millions of people that this life, so full of hardship, is not all there is. Now, if there was to be an Atheist Scene, and not just a sign, would it not have to be a fellow in his coffin? You are telling the impoverished and disadvantaged, forever punted about and trod upon by human agencies, that not only is this life rough - it is also all they are ever going to get. Atheism may be attractive and trendy to the young and monied, but it sure is a downer to those poor and hungry and abused. They're to get the warm and fuzzies over "reason prevailing?" I don't think so.
 
Yeah. that's it. That's what rankles most.

Look, if you believe it, you believe it. It's not holding the notion that annoys me. It's heralding it as if were some sort of great news, worthy of the Births column, and not the Obituaries.

[Edit: update...now this is the reason]
 
*In the meanwhile, here's what those Nativity Scenes don't tell you with regard to Jesus and the Wise Men, as found at Matt 2:1-23:  (NIV) 

 

 
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:

" 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel."
 
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

"A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more."
 
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."

So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

***********************

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)