Monday, July 28, 2014
My wife was talking to...somebody, and I heard her say, "He acts like that all the time now." I understood "that" to mean like James Dean, and all the James Dean movies flashed through my mind. Then I moved on to The Fonz, though I didn't go through all of his actions as much. Then the fact that I'm in deep conversation with my Uncle, via FaceBook, popped into my head as I was waking up. This Uncle has one very important thing in common with me - we're both the youngest of many: five in my case, eight in his. We're also both old, and just starting to think for ourselves. Or, rather, just starting to express our own thoughts that we've always had in powerful ways. I thought of telling my uncle that we should collaborate on a book called Youngest of Many. Perhaps bring in others we know who were in the same boat to write a chapter each. My brother-in-law was the youngest of four, raised in a tiny house, all in one bedroom. He's a year older than I and his oldest brother is a year older than my brother, who was the oldest in our family. My first thoughts on the matter are that...I didn't expect to understand or to be understood by siblings 1 and 2. 3 and 4 were close to my own age and I felt reasonably understood by them. 1 oppressed everybody and 2 bossed everybody around - she even tried to boss 1 around, but that didn't go very well. 3 and 4 are fraternal twins, though, perhaps "sororal" would be a better term, since they were girls. Their difference in age is five minutes and in our earliest years we believed that the bigger one was number 3. I don't know if Mom pulled out the birth certificates or what, but it was a big, hairy deal when we discovered that the smaller one was the older one. Up until that time, 4 had tyrannized 3 and myself. I don't know if 4 ever got over that usurpation. 3 certainly never became a tyrant, and after that I never accepted any tyrannizing from 4, though I was very glad the day I became physically stronger than her. That probably happened earlier than usual for maturing boys and girls, because 4's body was apparently considering becoming triplets - she has a partially doubled kidney which caused her to have a bad kidney infection early on, for which she was hospitalized. And I had an apparently mentally-ill classmate who picked fights with me almost daily, beginning in kindergarten and lasting through third grade. After punching me in the stomach three times in kindergarten, when I didn't want to hit him back because he was my best friend, my father taught me to fight, after which I never lost a fight in elementary school. (There were a few draws, but not with him.) I've read that winning a fight gives a man a boost of testosterone, while losing a fight gives a boost of estrogen. Too bad it doesn't give a boost of oxytocin. I gained some positives from that experience: fighting ability, physical strength and endurance, patience (in some ways - you will never be able to upset me very deeply merely by calling me names, because, even if you are nuts, you're not nuts like he was); but I've also been cursed with some negatives: I wouldn't be surprised if you, dear reader, suddenly turned into a raging dickhead. I expect that of everybody. The best way to avoid that is not to let you into my heart. I think Mom did a tremendous job as a friend, confident, defender and teacher for all of us. The trouble was, there were too many of us. I find it difficult to be the impartial judge between my two daughters, though the need rarely arises because they're 10 and 17. Five kids in four and a half years, even though we seem to have the Nice gene, still makes for a lot of squabbling. Mostly, we had to settle those things for ourselves. And I got my way mostly by being sneaky - I took what I wanted when I got the chance and kept my mouth shut about it.
Posted by Al at 7:29 AM
Monday, July 21, 2014
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Hallelujah It's a beautiful, evocative song. It evoked these thoughts. Just before my 27th birthday, my Grandfather died. I went down to Oklahoma on my vacation to try and do what I could to help. I don't think I was of much use. One time as I was sitting by Grandpa's bed, wishing I could ask him about his life - wanting to learn his experiences - to download him into my mind... But I was overcome by the shyness of a child in the presence of a great mind. Grandpa broke the silence by accusing me of babysitting. In February of 1993, that experience was repeated almost exactly with my father. The deepest pain I carry is that I had no idea what practical thing I could have done for either of these practical men. Big, strong men, both of them. And both of them crushed by cancer. I didn't ask them for what I wanted, because that would have been selfish. I still have no idea. Maybe that's a deeper pain. Dad did ask me to do one thing. I don't know if I'm more ashamed that I refused or of him for asking it of me. He asked me to help him commit suicide. Philosophically, I agreed with him. But I had a wife and children to think about. So I thought about the arrest and the trial. The last words I remember my father saying to me were, "It doesn't seem to be working." That's how he broke the two minute silence after him dropping this bomb on me. I agreed with that. It's possible that the last thing I ever said to him was, "No."
Posted by Al at 11:22 PM
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Thursday, December 12, 2013
De Natura Deorum This bit, from the introduction by H. Rackham, pp. viii-ix, sounds like what I've heard of Gnosticism:
Stoic Theology.—The Stoics, on the contrary, held that the universe is controlled by God, and in the last resort is God. The sole ultimate reality is the divine Mind, which expresses itself in the world-process. But only matter exists, for only matter can act and be acted upon; mind therefore is matter in its subtlest form, Fire or Breath or Aether. The primal fiery Spirit creates out of itself the world that we know, persists in it as its heat or soul or 'tension,' is the cause of all movement and all life, and ultimately by a universal conflagration will reabsorb the world into itself. But there will be no pause: at once the process will begin again, unity will again pluralize itself, and all will repeat the same course as before. Existence goes on for ever in endlessly recurring cycles, following a fixed law or formula (Aoyos – [actually those are supposed to be the greek characters for ‘logos’]); this law is Fate or Providence, ordained by God: the Stoics even said that the 'Logos' is God. And the universe is perfectly good: badness is only apparent, evil only means the necessary imperfection of the parts viewed separately from the whole.
The Stoic system then was determinist: but in it nevertheless they found room for freedom of the will. Man's acts like all other occurrences are the necessary effects of causes; yet man's will is free, for it rests with him either willingly to obey necessity, the divine ordinance, or to submit to it with reluctance. His happiness lies in using his divine intellect to understand the laws of the world, and in submitting his will thereto.
Posted by Al at 9:27 AM
Saturday, November 16, 2013
For those who want to be stronger, faster and higher flying than I ever got to be, I have two helpful hints: 1. Gymnastics/acrobatics and powerlifting don't mix. Not well, anyway. If you're going to switch back and forth, make sure you're sufficiently recovered and mind your form. 2. Make sure your bowels are clear before doing any heavy lifting. No, I never messed myself during any athletic endeavor (though I've heard stories), but a full bowel has - more than a few times - acted like my enemy's buddy getting down on all-fours behind me as hostilities escalated in front. Heavy lifting with a full bowel puts excessive strain on the spine, is what I'm saying.
Posted by Al at 3:03 PM
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Quote from "Heretics and Heresies":
The real Bible is not the work of inspired men, nor prophets, nor apostles, nor evangelists, nor of Christs. Every man who finds a fact, adds, as it were, a word to this great book. It is not attested by prophecy, by miracles or signs. It makes no appeal to faith, to ignorance, to credulity or fear. It has no punishment for unbelief, and no reward for hypocrisy. It appeals to man in the name of demonstration. It has nothing to conceal. It has no fear of being read, of being contradicted, of being investigated and understood. It does not pretend to be holy, or sacred; it simply claims to be true. It challenges the scrutiny of all, and implores every reader to verify every line for himself. It is incapable of being blasphemed. This book appeals to all the surroundings of man. Each thing that exists testifies of its perfection. The earth, with its heart of fire and crowns of snow; with its forests and plains, its rocks and seas; with its every wave and cloud; with its every leaf and bud and flower, confirms its every word and the solemn stars, shining in the infinite abysses, are the eternal witnesses of its truth.
Posted by Al at 8:58 AM
Thursday, August 15, 2013
[Science] found the world at the mercy of disease and famine; men trying to read their fates in the stars, and to tell their fortunes by signs and wonders; generals thinking to conquer their enemies by making the sign of the cross, or by telling a rosary. It found all history full of petty and ridiculous falsehood, and the Almighty was supposed to spend most of his time turning sticks into snakes, drowning boys for swimming on Sunday, and killing little children for the purpose of converting their parents. It found the earth filled with slaves and tyrants, the people in all countries downtrodden, half naked, half starved, without hope, and without reason in the world. Such was the condition of man when the morning of science dawned upon his brain, and before he had heard the sublime declaration that the universe is governed by law. For the change that has taken place we are indebted solely to science--the only lever capable of raising mankind. Abject faith is barbarism; reason is civilization. To obey is slavish; to act from a sense of obligation perceived by the reason, is noble. Ignorance worships mystery; Reason explains it: the one grovels, the other soars.
Posted by Al at 2:55 PM
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
From Why I Became an Atheist... uh, I... Oh, here it is. I had printed out a page from the free pdf on his webpage. It's on page 9-10:
Here he is on Hell and Psychology (p. 33),William Lane Craig explains geographical religious diversity by arguing, in his own words, “it is possible that God has created a world having an optimal balance between saved and lost and that God has so providentially ordered the world that those who fail to hear the gospel and be saved would not have freely responded affirmatively to it even if they had heard it.” Craig argues that if this scenario is even “possible,” “it proves that it is entirely consistent to affirm that God is all-powerful and all-loving and yet that some people never hear the gospel and are lost.”  Notice him retreating to what is merely “possible?” He’s trying to explain the evidence of global religious diversity away. The probability that not one of the billions of people who have not heard the gospel would respond if they did hear the gospel can probably be calculated, if missionaries kept records of their efforts. To claim what he does against the overwhelming evidence of missionary efforts belies the facts. Contrary to Craig, when we look at the billions of people who have never been given a chance to be “saved” because of “when and where they were born,” his scenario seems extremely implausible, to say the least.
Oh, btw, the pdf is an abridged version of the book for sale on Amazon.I read Four Views on Hell, ed. William Crockett, and came away thinking “conditional immortality” was the preferred option (defended by Clark Pinnock). This is an important conclusion when it comes to rethinking my faith—for otherwise my questions would have been hamstrung by a fear of everlasting punishment in hell if I got it wrong. The loss of the fear of an eternal conscious punishment allowed me to pursue my doubts. Another key assumption is that faith has nothing to fear from the truth—so I pursued my questions with intensity. [I have since come to deny the existence of such a hell—conditional or metaphorical. It just doesn’t square with what Freud has taught us about the depths of our subconscious motivations. Because of Freud we now know that people do bad deeds because of faulty thinking patterns and experiences that happened even before the age of accountability—we know this!Prior to Freud actions were judged prima facie as indicative of people’s conscious deliberate attempt to be bad. We also know that once we understand these subconscious motivations and background experiences that we can find a love for people who commit evil deeds. Since God understands all of these hidden motives, past experiences, and faulty thinking patterns, then he completely understands why people do what they do. Hence, in a post-Freudian world, we can no longer talk about a wrathful vengeful God who seeks our destruction because we disobey our parents, shoplift a tool, or tell a lie to escape a confrontation (I use these easy examples here because examples like Jeffrey Dahmer, Hitler, Stalin, are harder for us to comprehend—but only to us, not to God, who understands all, and cannot help but love all, since religious traditions abound in teaching us that God is love.)].
Posted by Al at 10:53 AM
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The PDF, page 473, which the introduction to the chapter "To Voltaire" in the Correspondence section. Tell me this doesn't sound like someone we know.
Turgot corresponded with many of leading thinkers of the Enlightenment, including Voltaire, Condorcet, and Hume, and these letters disclose important aspects of his thought. He strongly condemns the French utilitarian philosopher Helvétius for reducing all human motives to self-interest. To the contrary, human beings display strong sympathy for others. Although morality helps people achieve happiness, it must be based on justice, not a narrow conception of self-interest. Turgot left no doubt about the contents of morality founded on this basis. It requires equal rights for everyone. He warns against confusing this conception with rule by the majority, which can, in his view, lead to a destruction of liberty worse, because less easily changed, than despotism. A prime mistake in thinking about morality is to suppose that nations have interests apart from the individuals who live in them. If one correctly considers the interests of individuals, it is clear that absolute freedom of commerce and avoidance of war are required.
Posted by Al at 11:44 PM
Friday, June 21, 2013
It seems to me that the majority of objections to Universally Preferable Behavior that I've seen, stem from a belief that morality MUST have a crapload of baggage attached. People can't believe that it's really just "Don't hit, don't steal, use your words." Universalized. Force may be used to stop hitting and stealing, and failing to persuade people to help you is, de facto, ostracism.
Defensive force must be proportional, which, I'm afraid, can only be defined by experiment.
Defensive force must be proportional, which, I'm afraid, can only be defined by experiment.
Posted by Al at 3:15 PM
Friday, April 19, 2013
From his autobiographical essay, From Taoist to Infidel,
I could go on at length about the many horrible passages that praise the immoral, the cruel, as the height of righteous goodness. It does no good to try in desperation to make excuses for it. A good and wise man's message would not need excuses. It follows that the Bible was written neither by the wise nor the good. And the New Testament was only marginally better, though it too had its inexcusable features, from commands to hate (Luke 14:26) to arrogantly sexist teachings about women (1 Timothy 2:12), from Jesus saying he "came not to bring peace, but the sword," setting even families against each other (Matthew 10:34-36), to making blasphemy the worst possible crime, even worse than murder or child molesting (Matthew 12:31-32). It, too, supported slavery rather than condemning it (Luke 12:47, 1 Timothy 6:1-2). Worse, its entire message is not "be good and go to heaven," itself a naive and childish concern (the good are good because they care, not because they want a reward), but "believe or be damned" (Mark 16:16, Matthew 10:33), a fundamentally wicked doctrine. The good judge others by their character, not their beliefs, and punish deeds, not thoughts, and punish only to teach, not to torture. But none of this moral truth is in the Bible, and the New Testament had none of the humanistic wisdom of the Tao Te Ching which spoke to all ages, but instead drones on about subjection to kings and acceptance of slavery, while having no knowledge of the needs of a democratic society, of the benefits of science, or the proper uses of technology. It even promotes superstition instead of science, with all its talk about demonic possession and faith healing and speaking in tongues, and assertions that believers will be immune to poison (Mark 16:17-18). It is plagued with a general obscurity and ambiguity, and illogicality, which I had already noted as a child, and though I did understand more and saw it as less confused than I once had, the improvement was minimal and not encouraging. It still taught a morality that is unlivable, and above all contained not a hint of humor or a mature acceptance of sexuality or anything distinctly and naturally human at all.Cool, the links transferred over.
Posted by Al at 2:46 PM