Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Perhaps we should note here that the "historical alternative" to Christianity

"...was not simply one of the mystery religions like Mithraism, but rather, Mithraism plus an ethical system from one of the philosophies (say Stoicism), plus a public ceremonial system (say the cult of Magna Mater). In other words, part of Christianity's winning formula was that it reduced all of these areas to the simple story of Jesus Christ and sold this story through a disciplined marketing hierarchy. The opposition never got its act together."
--Kenneth Humphreys, Jesus Never Existed, p.98 of the paperback.

Jesus Never Existed

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A short explanation of Evolution by Natural Selection

"The amazing realization of evolution by natural selection is that the interaction of environments with traits can all by itself, over millions and millions of years make the changes happen with no intelligent agency at all necessary. And, in fact, many of the ways the “designs” that resulted from these dynamics came out, it is clear that they’re not always perfect or logical. They involve all sorts of inefficiencies and non-ideal designs and superfluous dimensions all because they were the traits and combinations of traits that happened to evolve and fit well enough to the environment that they worked. They don’t bespeak a perfect designer who foresaw what maximum efficiency would require and implemented it. They look exactly as they would if random mutations and random changes in environment were selected by whichever happened to fit the best, though not perfectly."

Read more:

Monday, July 28, 2014

A dream woke me up this morning

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.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I was listening to the song Hallelujah, by John Cole

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."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014