Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On Verifiability and Universality

If Christianity is true, then it should be verifiable outside of itself. the bible should be unnecesary in order to prove the truth of Christianity. If any religion is TRUE, then it has to possess a quality of universal believability. Religion has to be universal, or it cannot be true, because truth is universal. I speak of Truth in the grandiose scheme, not in the everyday scheme. Truth has to be universal, or else it would not be truth, only opinion. If religion is the truth, then it has to universally true, but no religion is universal. Since religion is designed for and by humans alone (all other animals and plants having no need for it) it is up to us to detemine the criteria for religion's truth. Since no one religion can claim universal belief across the board, it stands to reason we have not yet found a religion that is the truth, except for morality. Morality, is universally agreed upon, by those capable of understanding morality. No one believes murder to be the right thing to do (psychopaths are unable to understand that murder is wrong, because of brain abnormalities). Lying is universally agreed to be wrong, even by those who do it constantly to gain the upper hand. Morality is the one area that all of humanity agrees on, and it is the church of humanism that preaches morality as it's "dogma" if you will. If there is a qualifying religion in regards to truth, it would have to be secularism, humanism, non-supernaturalism, whatever you'd like to call it.
There are those who would say their religion is not universal yet, but will soon be, we just haven't waited long enough. Certainly the abrahamic religions all count on this. I would say this: If one particular religion is true and others are false, then it is a colossal waste of time (if you are the deity) to allow the other religions to persist. Why not be universal in your coverage. The very fact that there are so many other religions points all too clearly to each of them being manmade, otherwise there would never have been any religions but one. A monotheistic god would be unsatisfied with partial acceptance of his decrees, commandments, and indeed his very existence. The idea that a monotheistic god wants only those adherents who come to him voluntarily is silly, in that any religion (TRUE) that can only attract a certain portion of the population cannot in good consciousness claim itself to be the one True religion. Since it is the Truth, shouldn't it be unabashedly clear to anyone who ever comes into contact with it, that it is the way to follow? There should never be any question in the minds of us, if there is one true religion. There should be no such things as atheists. We should not be able to turn away from the trueist religion. But of course we can and do. Our very presence is testament to the inadequacies of religion. The very presence of so many contradictory religions is testament to the inadequacies of them all. The only universal thought process we have is secularism. Nature is going nowhere, and there is no other nature to compete with the one we have. There is no avenue of deniability about nature's truth or existence. It is here for all to see and enjoy. If we can't universally agree upon something, it cannot be the truth. Science searches for the grand unifying theory of the four forces of nature, Gravity, electro-magnetism, The Strong Nuclear Force and the Weak Nuclear force. Science does not have a grand unifying theory yet and so it (science in general) does not purport to have found that Einstein's special theory or general theory of relativity is the theory that explains it all. Neither does science say that Quantum theory explains everything. Neither do the two theories agree with each other. Universality of agreement and acceptance is required if something is to claim itself as the Truth. No religion can claim itself to be the Truth, precisely because no religion is universal in its acceptance or agreement. We do not need more watering down of the religions that exist, we need a completely new religion. A religion that is accepted everywhere by everyone. We already have this religion, it is called Life. So go live it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

If it's too good to be true, then it probably is

Every single person that has ever lived or ever will live on the earth is fatally guilty of trespassing the mandates of the eternal god of christianity. We will all die and spend eternity in unending agony for simply being born into the original sin perpetrated by Adam and Eve. There is no repose from this fate; either for those who have lived, are living now or will live at some time in the future; no possibility of escaping the fires of hell. Except for the life of a man named Jesus. Approximately 2000 years ago, this man magically appeared on the earth, claiming no biological father, but only a biological mother and none other than god almighty himself as his father. He lived a life as we all do and died when he was in his 30's (I'll be no more specific as I am unaware of any definitive length of this man's life ever having been recorded), but his death was prearranged, by the man upstairs who oddly enough was also him, to satisfy himself? that all humanity should be given an opportunity to evade the damnation planned for them. By dying, he would represent the death of all of humanity, taking on the original sin that the species procured at birth and satisfying the edict of death as payment for sin, or so we are told by the christian church. Seeing as he was actually god, he only stayed dead for three days, at which point he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps and came back to life, proverbally sealing the deal. The devil was satisfied (or was he), god was satisfied (how obtusely grotesque is that), and of course, all of humanity was satisfied, right?
Wrong. All of humanity was not satisfied, indeed hardly any of humanity even knew of the sacrifice made on their behalf. even to this day there are plenty of people who could give a rip about jesus and his ultimate sacrifice, having never heard of the christian belief system.
Now, we've all heard the phrase "if it's too good to be true, then it probably is".
It is a rule of thumb we all live by on a regular basis, without even thinking about it. Imagine not living by this rule and you'd be in a world where you'd not only open every piece of junk mail you got, advertisements shouting at you about outrageously fantastic deals, but you'd jump at every single one you read, immediately. Unfortunately, a lot of us do this anyway, hence the inherent success and badness of advertising flyers (another blog, another day). In this world, you'd never think twice about taking prescription medication, wondering if there'd be any side-effects. Gamblers live in this world sort-of, if only in the sense that they operate on the assumption that they can buck the odds enough times to make a living at it.
But, if it's too good to be true then it probably is!!!
So, we left off at the point where we were all headed for hell and then jesus showed up as the answer to our (at that point) unvoiced prayers, salvation for us all. What's great news, in fact christians even call it the "good news".
What "good news" could possibly be better than " You're not going to be spending the rest of time in agony, flesh burning continuously. I've paid your debt, you can now come live with me and my invisible father (who's also, curiously, me) in a paradise of your dreams, where everything you could imagine will be there for your pleasure. Just think, rivers of milk that somehow never curdle, even in the open air and warmth of sunlight, and honey that never sours despite the same exposure to the elements. Roads will be paved with gold (although as we all know, abundance causes decline in value) and the whole of limitless heaven will be enclosed(however that's possible) with gates made of pearl (which as I understand it is a substance akin to pretty, hardened, oyster vomit). Doesn't that sound like a deal and a half? How could you say no?"
It does sound like a fantastic offer, doesn't it; one which comes with only one caveat; believe everything that jesus said, no matter how stupid it sounds.
So who is it that offers the incredulous? Who are they that offer something for nothing, or something so great for something so small? Is it our parents? Do they deliberately tell us lies in order to get what they want, with a total disregard for the detriment to us? Do trusted officials such as the supreme court justices ascend to their positions by practicing sleights-of-hand? Do our most closely-held friends and associates regularly deceive us for their own benefit and amusement? For the most part, the answers to these questions is no. We do not count these people (people we trust) as those who would trick us, or who would promise us something they knew they couldn't deliver on. No, it is the used car salesmen, the conmen of this world that we expect such behavior from. It is they who prey on our geatest weaknesses. The sheepishness of some, the trust of others are what play right into the hands of the conmen of the world. Jesus was just such a conman. He played upon the fears and hopes of the people he was around. His familiarity of the jewish traditions (being jewish) was good homework for him, and he did his homework. He duped enough people to ensure his name would be in the headlines for a long time, but a conman is a conman.
OK, enough with the inanity.
IF we were all sinners, guilty of our supposedly common progenetor's disobedience, and IF we were all subject to spend eternity in a hell for this transgression of guilt by association, and IF jesus were sent to save us from this because he was truly the son of god and the only one capable of doing so, then and only then would this be a good deal.
If, however, none of the preceding conditions were true, then the deal was and is irrelevent. So some guy died 2000 years ago. I feel bad for him, as much as I can feel bad for someone who lived that long ago. As crass as it might sound to the ears of some, I simply don't care about him or his "sacrifice". An event that, at best, might have happened over 2000 years ago rightfully has no bearing on my life today. I believe I am a good person. I know my wife is a good person. I know our son is a good person. If every person on the face of the earth would concern themselves with being good people all the time, what need would there be for religion?

On the questions of Why? and How?

I'll admit it, I'm into semantics. I like analyzing what I say and what others say. I like looking at word and phrase choices. I'm nerdy like that, but so what. With that in mind, I'd like to propose that people ask "Why" entirely too much. I believe they should be asking "How" instead. For example, say the following thing to yourself: Why are we here? Good, Now say this: How are we here? It's plain to see the two questions are not asking the same thing. Example A asks an anthropomorphical type of question, by the use of the word "Why", whereas example B asks an empirical sort of question by the use of the word "how".
We all know the six common information-gathering questions we regularly use to communicate with each other. They are "Who", "What", "When", "Where", "Why" and "How". Most of us have been familiar with these questions since childhood and The funny thing is, they are much more complex than any of us think. Let's look at them one by one.

The word "when" shows up if we want to ascertain the place in time a particular event has happened or will happen. It appeals to the concept of time (as defined by us and divvied up by us into seconds, hours, days, years, etc). Time is not an entity. It has no consciousness to speak of. It cannot decide to alter events which take place within it's flow. It is rather like the surface of the ocean, in that it is in constant motion and it carries actions and events along with it, but has no bearing on the manner in which those actions or events will take place. As such, we do not attribute any personification to the words "day" or "nanosecond". Those words are only measurements made of the fourth dimension.

The word "who" shows up in fields of unfamiliarity. We see a fellow human whom we have either never met or have forgotten and we are curious about them, or we remember a particular event involving someone but cannot remember the someone and again we become curious. The word "who" appeals to memory and curiosity, animalistic traits that are within the confines of our organic brains. Unlike the word "when", "who" is inundated with personification. Indeed, it exactly asks about a person(s). However, like the word "when", which appeals to the human notion of time, "who" also appeals to a human idea, in this case memory. We do not appeal to anything outside of our selves (other than our trusted friends or authority figures)) for the answer to our question of "who".

"Where" looks to the commonly agreed upon geographic boundaries for it's answer. Whether GPS satellite locators, or good old-fashioned maps, or even a good sense of direction, the question of "where" makes its appeal to the questioner's acceptance of mutually-defined borders and regions, definitions which were born in the mind of people (or the people's friends). The answer to "where" like "who" and "when", does not lie outside the realm of humanness.

"What" asks for clarification from other people. Unfamiliarity with some object or behavior impels us to look for a source of understanding about the unknown. "What in the heck is that thing hanging from that tree over there?" To answer such a question, we either must observe it more closely (go look at it), we must go ask someone who might know what it is (we think), or we must research it ourselves, without petitioning a factor outside of ourselves for the answer.

This only leaves two questions, "Why" and "How". I think these two questions are grossly misused much more often than any of the others listed above. I think they are often reversed. A person will ask why, when they should be asking how, or vice versa.
The question of "how" is a direct appeal to the empirical process of discovery and understanding. It looks to at least a form of the scientific method. It is a way of finding a path to the destination. It asks what is necessary for the goal to be accomplished. It simultaneously states the need for all essential knowledge and the requested path to attain that basic knowledge. For example, " How is it that I cannot play a high B-flat on my trombone?" This question is the pertinent question. What is required, which I am not doing? Oftentimes, asking the question "How" will lead someone to answer the question (accurately) themselves by simply thinking about the topic of dispute. Now ask the same question a different way "Why can't I play this High B-flat"? Notice the absence of a request. There is no plea for a method for accomplishment. The questioner does not ask for a path to the destination. They only ask for absolvement from personal responsibility. There must be some other reason for my inability to gain this skill. I can't be held responsible, because if it were up to me, I could do it.

Of course, I'm being glib to illustrate the point that, although, most people really don't wallow in self-misery over the question of why, they are not actually asking what they think they are asking! They are looking for an answer, but the question they ask is not designed to elicit one. It is more adequately illustrative of the complaints they have over their confusion or frustration, feelings all of us have in our everyday life experiences. By-the-by, it's interesting that the fact that people will often ask "why" instead of "how" can be indicative in some ways of why competition is so prevalent in civilization. Competition relies heavily on some asking how and some asking why. The Whyers are inevitably going to fall short, while the Howers will get the job done. Competition, however, is not the subject of this blogpost, so I'll save it for another day. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: Are you a Whyer? Do you wonder what the reason is for your successes (and failures)? Do you expect the answer to be divined somehow? If so, perhaps you could try asking yourself "how" next time instead of "why".

The word "why" contains an implication that the author (you) believes there is some outside (of you) force, factor, entity, whatever, which holds power over you to render decisions which effect your life in a tangible and not always positive way. "There must be some reason for what happened. Since I didn't want this to happen, and it happened anyway, there must be a reason I'm not seeing, and that means there is something in charge of what happens to me besides me". All of this is contained in that little question of "why". We ask authority figures "why" all the time. Why did I get a ticket, officer? Why can't I go to the movies, Mom? Why won't this stupid door shut? etc... If you look at the first two questions the plea to an outside force is obvious, but look at the third question and ask yourself what or who is the questioner appealing to? The Door? Certainly not. Their Neighbor? Probably not either. But there is a definite sense of fatalism in the question. "The door won't close, and I don't know why. Will somebody please tell me why this door won't close".
I see asking the question of why as primarily a waste of time. It would be more prudent to ask the same question with "How" instead of why. Here's how it would go.
" How is it that this door will not close?"
Asking the question this way, opens the door to finding an answer that will alleviate the problem. The solution may not be found, but an attempt to actually search for it is embarked upon by simply changing the word we use in the question. Instead of "revelling in our abandon" to borrow a lyric from Tom Petty, we should be after answers by asking real, valuable questions.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What can I do for ya honey

I am a freelance trombonist by title, but a trick-turning whore by practice. The gig I just finished playing has made me feel all dirty and ashamed. Don't get me wrong, I think some gigs are great, but some of them are terrible, and all of them are causing me to live the life of a musical prostitute. Somebody will call me for a gig the week before the gig, offering a pitiful,yet acceptable fee, and what do I do? I book it, shuffling all my other calendar committments around to accomodate the newcomer. You could tell them no, you'd say. And you'd be right, except that by declining the gig, I am ensuring the loss of that pittance of income, and it is those pittances that comprise my laughable salary. I am in no position to say no to a gig, yet. But, I did tell somebody no to a gig tonight, as luck would have it, and because of that, I don't feel quite as used as I could. I hope to leave my chosen world behind soon enough, but until that day, I suppose I'll keep pleasing the jons, who let me play the repertoire I worked so hard to learn in grad school in exchange for walking all over my sad availability.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

On Winnie the Pooh

My son is 3 and a half years old and he thoroughly enjoys our reading the stories of Winnie the Pooh to him at night, before he goes to bed. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true. He really loves reading, yay!!!! He also enjoys watching the dvd we have of those pooh tales. The particular dvd we have showcases a few of the original stories Milne wrote, but, at the end of the dvd, there are two "bonus features" not written by Milne, but, rather, concocted by the Disney Corporation. These are a part of television series that Disney created and they are called "Winnie the Pooh and the Super Sleuths in (insert whatever subtitle you'd like)"or something like that. In these episodes, there are two new (that is non-Milne) characters which just bother the hell out of me; a little girl named Darby and her dog Buster. They are, along with Pooh and Tigger (Tiggr), the main characters. Mind you, all of the other classic characters from the stories are still there, (except for maybe Owl). Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo, Pooh and Tigger are all present and accounted for. Christopher Robin, however, is nowhere to be found, and in place of him, the geniuses at Disney have unleashed upon the world this idiot Darby kid, and the even more useless Buster.
So I ask, who the HELL is Darby?
A.A. Milne wrote the stories included in The World of Pooh and The World of Christopher Robin for his son (who Christopher Robin was named after if I'm not mistaken, or at least based upon). The characters were his son's toys. Watching his son play make-believe with these toys, giving them personalities, is what led Milne to create his wonderful, memorable and timeless characters. He did not write about any girl named Darby, or any dog named Buster, that I know of. What he did write were life-lessons for readers of all ages, which took the form of fictional, children's stories . They may have been written for his son, but the stories transcended the Milne household and have become invaluable to humanity. The lessons of Trust, Friendship, Sharing, Thought, Care and Understanding illustrated in the Pooh stories are some of the most important lessons young children can and should learn if they are to grow to be the good people in this world that we all wish and hope they will. The characters Milne wrote about, and the adventures they embarked upon, never focused on "learning" what a shadow was, the inhabitants of the hundred-acre wood were already smart enough to know that kind of crap. They, instead, learned of the morals listed above, which is where I believe the real value of Milne's works lies, in the teaching of kids in how to live well. The world Milne created is certainly imaginary, but the lessons he wrote of are real. My son's dvd begins with a narrator holding a book, reading aloud, to the viewing audience, the words printed on the 1st page, introducing Winnie the Pooh. He "tells" the story by reading to the viewers. This continues throughout the movie. The narrator periodically interrupts the dialogue to keep the story moving along thus remaining an integral part of the storytelling. Certain scenes are included which show Pooh, or some other character, actually moving from one page in the book to another. This type of cinematography clearly serves to remind the viewers that the stories are, and always were, imaginary, make-believe and not existing in the real world.
This is unlike the new pooh episodes, where the "reality" in which the characters of the show live, is not that of Milne's (father's or son's) imagination. Pooh doesn't "live under the name of Mr. Sanders", and he really doesn't seem all that interested in finding honey or honeypots. Tiggr still likes to bounce but he is now concerned with "solving" mysteries, not unlike The Scooby-doo gang of old. The new characters are transparent and the old ones have become less childlike and more "useful". They exist in the "real" world of Darby and her dog, not the imaginary one of the hundred-acre wood. It is the same world the children who are watching live in. A world of baseball caps, parks, and absolutely NO NOSTALGIA!!!! The imagination, which was required to create the original, is sadly lacking in the new incarnation of Pooh and his friends. The show requires no mind's eye, only bland observation. Kids can't cognitively participate in the new stories in the same way we, as children, could when we would sit down to read the stories or watch the movies. The lessons taught now, aren't as valuable as the original ones. Watching characters discover answers to questions which are, I'm sure, covered in classrooms, is just not as important a way of passing discretionary childhood time, as is watching the life-lessons from Pooh's earlier days. Learning why shadows exist is not the same as learning that you can trust your best friend to always be there for you. I think the creators and producers of this show should be ashamed of themselves for allowing such drivel to be aired on television for children to watch. They've not only dropped the ball, they've lost the ball. Darby should be sent back to her home planet, and maybe she should die in a rocketship explosion, or crash, on the way (oops, Poochy already did that), and that should be the end of her and little dog too. Bring back Christopher Robin and stop "improving" that which needs no improvement. I, for one feel sorry for A.A. Milne (even though he is not actually alive anymore) and all the children who will grow up with these lame excuses for childhood memories.