Tuesday, June 25, 2013

They're On To Me

ANOTHER stoopid atheist is insisting that I MUST be a CHRISTIAN. (And CAPITALIZING TOO MUCH, like THIS. Is he on SPEED?!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!) (I'm not saying "LOL!!!!!!!", I'm bitterly mocking him for doing so. Bitterly.) That makes at least 3 of them now.

Oh well, I'm in good company: some similarly feebleminded types insist that R Joseph Hoffmannis insane. (He's quite sensible, actually.) (Maybe some of the very same people gather in virtual groups to denounce the insane Hoffmann and the crypto-Christian Bollinger.)

I see stupid people (All the time. They're everywhere.) who are very defensive and tired of being called stupid all the time (It can't be fun.), and who have banded together and told each other that they are not stupid and that the only reason anyone would call them stupid is because they (the callers) are (Fill in the appropriate designation here: Christian. Atheist. Jealous of good-looking people. What have you.) They've stupidly reduced the human population to two categories: intelligent (atheists, or Christians, or good-looking people or what have you) such as themselves, and those ruled by (superstition, or Satan, or envy or whatever). Someone like me, who claims to be an atheist but is not always impressed by someone else just because that other person is also an atheist, or even disagrees with them about something -- nevermind that the disagreement is over something other than the existence of God -- does not fit into their binary vision of the world, and therefore must be a Christian, claiming not to be a Christian for some nefarious reason. (Maybe he's a mole sent by the Vatican to infiltrate the atheists, yeah that must be it.) (Watch out for people overly hasty to conclude "Yeah that must be it," regardless of the topic. Watch out for the smug. Watch out for people telling you that there are two kinds of people, because there really are two kinds of people: those who believe that there are two kinds of people, and the rest of us, who realize that there are both many kinds of people, and also only one kind.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Did I Play Well Here Or Did My Opponent Blunder?

It's not a rhetorical question, I don't know. I played White:

1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 ♘ge7 4. d4 exd4 5. ♘xd4 ♘e5 6. O-O c6 7. ♗a4 d6 8. ♘f5 g6 9. ♘xd6 check 1-0 {Black resigns}

This was all very familiar to me until Black's 5th move, ...♘e5. 8. ... ♗7 instead of ...g6 could've headed off disaster for Black, at least temporarily, although it gives him a rather cramped position. I assume that after 9. ♘xd6 check Black assumed, correctly, that after 9. ...♔d7 (Black's only move) I intended to play 10. ♘xb7 check and 11. ♘x♕, and reasonably retired rather than play down a Queen for a Knight 11 moves in. Black was rated over 200 points higher than I, and that's what makes me wonder whether 5. ...♘e5 is more than just an uncharacteristic bad idea. So mark it 5. ...♘e5?! for me for now, pending further study.

So You Think You've Got All The Answers?

That was a silly and deliberately provocative question. How many are "all the answers," anyway? I don't think very many people really think they have "all" of "the answers." Someone mentioned people ceasing to look once they felt they had all the answers. Let me try to tweak that proposition a bit and make it more precise: people stop looking once they have all the answers THEY WANT, ON A CERTAIN SUBJECT. Theologians and academics declined to look through Galileo's telescope because Aristotle and Church doctrine had already told them that either they wouldn't see what Galileo said they would see, or that Galileo was a trickster. Some Christian apologists today find it convenient to believe that critics of Christianity are ignorant of history, and so they claim that these critics have erroneously spread tales of Galileo being held for years by Church authorities in horrible dungeons, instead of a much more comfortable house arrest. I myself had never spread any such tales of Galileo confined in any dungeon, had never heard such a thing until very recently when I came across apologists refuting such tales, which they alleged were widespread. Of course, one need not be religious in order to be tempted to find convenient answers and then stop looking: I would be comfortable believing that the apologists are just as ignorant as the critics they denounce, and that those ignorant critics and the tales of Galileo confined in dungeons are figments of the apologists' imaginations. But I do not know for certain that no atheists have spread such tales. (Although I am still waiting for a reference to such an utterance by an atheist.)

If one is more comfortable with propagating the worst possible opinion of the Bible than with understanding it, then one tends to stop investigating things once one hears that the Biblical authors all thought of the Earth as flat, and that the Christian assertion that Jesus' virgin birth fulfilled Old Testament prophecy relies on the misunderstanding of an Old Testament text which refers not to a virgin, but simply a young woman giving birth. One may not want to hear that the passages in the Old and New Testaments which they say describe a flat Earth do not look like descriptions of a flat Earth to every single scholar who's read the bile in Hebrew and Greek; likewise, one may be quite uninterested in the argument that in many languages, one and the same term can mean either "young woman" or "virgin." In English, for example, there's the term "maiden."

I have to constantly remind myself that in such discussions, the overriding concern of very many disputants is actually not history or science or etymology at all, although those subjects may be the ostensible object of debate at a given moment. Rather, very often both the apologists and the atheists are concerned with theology, and not much else.

Well, I'm not concerned with theology, in the sense of wanting to debate theological subjects. As I've said before, I believe that debate was over long ago and the theologians lost. More than a few times some of my fellow atheists have mistaken me for a Bible-thumping Christian because I don't toe the entire party line: I'm not certain that the authors of the Bible believed the Earth was flat, I think that Isaiah probably was prophesying that virgin would give birth to a savior, I'm absolutely certain that very few of the leading Christian scholars from late antiquity to the present believed that the Earth was flat. Such etymological and historical considerations do not shake my atheism in the slightest. I sometimes wonder whether some of those other atheists are quite shaky in their rejection of religious faith. Why else would they insist on bolstering their case for atheism with so many premature conclusions and flat-out mistakes? (Not to mention the very obvious consideration of how much such mistakes can weaken their case in the eyes of anyone who doesn't already agree with them.) They give the impression of being afraid of learning more about the history of religion, of considering information from outside of their (at best) half-educated echo chamber of approved sources.

Come to think of it, they resemble believers in some significant ways to me. Okay -- I hate to admit it, but some atheists really do resemble fundamentalists in the way in which investigate things and process information. I hate to admit it because I really despise most of the people, mush-minded smirks with legs they are, and influential obstacle to learning and common sense, who use phrases like "fundamentalist atheists" most often, and of course because I object to the phrase being applied to me.

Of course, some Christian apologists are going to triumphantly point to my refusal to even debate the existence of God, and say that I am violating my own principal of not ceasing to investigate things once I've found an answer which I find convenient. They may be very impressed with themselves for making this point, but I will not be impressed until they've produced a convincing case that, say, Jesus' resurrection deserves more serious consideration and investigation and debate as a possible historical event than, say, the effect of disputes between Zeus and Hera on the course of the Trojan War, or the metallurgical composition of Thor's hammer. And of course pigs will be flying long before then. Not every silly proposition deserves serious debate.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Founders Of The US, And Religion

As Alcoholics Anonymous has taught us, a basic first step toward handling a problem is acknowledging that that problem exists. As essential part of acknowledging the existence of a problem is recognizing the true nature and dimensions and severity of that problem. A lot of today's atheists are failing to acknowledge that a real church-state divide has not yet existed in many countries, including the US, despite the famous lip service paid to a supposed such divide in the Constitution.

(And please don't even get me started on those dopey smug Brit atheists trying to tell us how secular the UK is, God save their Queen, Dei Gratia Regina.)

Atheists today triumphantly quote antireligious passages from Thomas Jefferson, ignoring -- if they ever realized to begin with -- that 1) those passages come from private letters by Jefferson, and that publicly he was an Anglican vestryman in perfectly good standing who while President led weekly prayer meetings of members of Congress, in the Congress building, and 2) that Jefferson hardly spoke, privately or publicly, for all of the Founders, many of whom were wild-eyed Bible thumpers by any measure.

If Jefferson and other Founders had been anywhere near as boldly critical of religion in their public statements as Jefferson was in his private letters -- and possibly in a deliciously scandalous conversation or two in a Paris salon while he was Ambassador to France, conversation which traveled no more than a block or two during his lifetime -- now that would've been something. (Something which resembled the French Revolution much more closely than the American.)

But alas no, Jefferson and the other Founders were not atheist firebrands who would stand out sharply from the American political climate of today, they were careful not to offend the sensibilities of the pious and in that respect they would fit right in.

In short, the secular Golden Age of the early US, about which so many atheists rhapsodize these days, like many if not all Golden Ages, never really happened. Oh, if only.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How To Diss Mythicists

On pages 5 and 6 of The Jesus Legend,the mythicist G A Wells lists 11 "guidelines for hostile writing" to be used against mythicists such as himself: 1) Question the mythicists' qualifications. 2) Avoid rebutting their arguments, and instead condescendingly describe their positions as already discredited. 3) Affix distasteful labels to them, as the label "Hegelian" was attached to Strauss and Bauer. 4) Lump one writer together with discredited ones, and if he himself has criticized the others, don't mention it. 5) Represent minor slips as indications of total incompetence. 6) Make objections to the mythicists' cases as if they themselves had not addressed them. 7) Falsely claim that the mythicists rely on a priori dogmas. 8) Call a mythicist's failure to mention a certain work a "serious omission." 9) Instead of producing arguments, appeal to authorities; also, accuse the mythicists of appealing to outdated authorities. 10) Misrepresent their work, being careful to avoid lengthy quotations which might tend to give your readers an accurate impression of that which you are misrepresenting, and 11) Discuss propositions irrelevant to their work. Wells describes each of these tactics at greater length than I have here; then he goes on, on pages 6 through 9, to show how they all have been used against him.

All in a book Wells published in 1996. It is downright depressing to see how current Wells' list is, and how accurately it describes the average downright rude dismissal of mythicists by most academically-credentialed biblical scholars and theologians who mention them today. And not for the first time, let me object to the very term "mythicist," even though some writers attach it proudly to themselves. I object to the term because it implies people who are asserting, positively, than Jesus was a myth, not a real person, while it is applied to just about every one who is less than certain that Jesus was a real person, and just about everyone who wants to investigate the question of Jesus' existence as if it were not already closed.

Although not every attack upon mythicists -- although I object to the term, I'm not going to act as if it is not the term being used -- follows all 11 of Wells' guidelines, it is depressingly rare to find a description of them --of us. I would like to investigate the question as if it were not already closed -- by a Biblical scholar or a theologian with a PhD, let alone tenure, which does not follow any of them. The latest depressingly crude and insulting such attack of which I am aware, Joel L Watts' screed published in the Huffington Post yesterday, follows a few of them, and invents the new one of not mentioning one single mythicist by name, as if we were not important enough for Watts to name any of us, and as if we were all the same anyway. Watts' article is a beautiful example of 2) and 9) : there is nothing in it even remotely resembling the suggestion of an argument, neither a mythicist argument to be poo-pooed, nor an historicist argument of any kind whatsoever. Jesus was real and mythicists are as stubbornly irrational as young-earth creationists. That is all ye know, and all ye need know.

Well, there's actually one more thing ye might be interested to know. It's something I already assumed, but I don't assume that all of my readers follow such publishing-industry details as closely as I do. It's the reason that Joel Watts is bothering to publish such crude and egregious insults of us in places like the Huffington Post to begin with: because he has a new book out.It's not just insults and intellectual dishonesty -- it's also advertising.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

It's Time!

Someone just said:

"It is time to start taking the teachings of Jesus seriously."

It's about time someone stood up and said that.

That's sarcasm on my part, of course. Heavy sarcasm. People have been complaining all through the history of Christianity that the teachings of Jesus are not being followed. There's no point even in my mentioning who said that just now. Could've been any one of a great number of people. Of course. Chances are you have heard someone say it, word-for-word or pretty close, 1 to 5 times in the past week, more if you attend church. What it's time to do is to face why that is: because those teachings don't work. A state whose leaders profess to follow Christian teachings is always going to be full of contradictions, because the major function of a state is to enforce behavior deemed to be acceptable, and people following the example of a man who didn't lift a finger to save himself from a horrible death, and the teachings of someone who told his followers to give more to thieves who robbed them and not to resist or even try to evade people who assaulted them, are not going to be able to enforce anything. To claim to follow that example and those teachings is either, in very rare cases, to risk dying a horrible death oneself at an early age, or, the rest of the time, to live in constant self-contradiction and make-believe.

All of this seems so perfectly obvious to me that at first I saw no point in blogging about it. But then I reflected on just how often people say:

"It is time to start taking the teachings of Jesus seriously."

And not just Christians. Atheists too, of the Monty-Python, We-don't-like-Christianity-but-Jesus-was-a-bloody-good-bloke variety. As if the problem all along had been that people just wouldn't follow the program. Not that the program was... flawed, to be overly polite about, cuckoo-bananas, to come right out and say what needs to be said.

It's so obvious once you grasp it. But once again I'm blogging about an insight I didn't arrive at on my own. Once again, Nietzsche pointed it out to me -- in his book Der Antichrist, his last book, which he dashed off in a few furious weeks just before he went completely and permanently cuckoo-bananas. (Once again, I wonder how much his breakdown was due to syphilis, as is so often assumed, how much to the strain of some other very severe long-term physical problems, and how much to the strain of see such things so clearly and being surrounded by people who didn't see them at all, the strain of knowing that it would take the world at large centuries to catch up with him.)

Obvious, once you grasp it, that the teachings of Christianity are extraordinarily divorced from reality, even compared to the teachings of other religions. But would I have grasped that if I had not started to read Nietzsche 17 years ago, urged on by a friend from Austria who was prone to exclaim things like, "Nietzsche vuz right! Ve must protect ze shtronk against ze veak!" Perhaps the grasping of it was so long ago for me that I'd begun to forget how profound it is, and how I hadn't gotten there without help. And that the blokes in Monty Python, and others who swim along in the strong, strong currents of our culture and don't question the background assumption about how fine a teacher and role model Jesus is, be he historical or mythical, aren't dumb by any stretch of the use of the term. Perhaps it was high time indeed that I published this post.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Worship God Or This Homeless Person Will Starve!

1. An article by a theologian lecturing atheists in HP? How refreshing! It's been literally days since I've seen such a thing!

2. In some countries, there are enough shelters and kitchens to house and feed all the homeless, courtesy of the government, as is universal health care, and it's been that way for decades. I'm just saying, some Amurrkins should look around more.

3. Not all atheists are New Atheists. I'd never heard of the capitalized variety before I started hanging around HP Religion, and by sometime last year I realized I'm not one. (I don't say "bronze age" or give anachronistic and inaccurate depictions of ancient and Medieval history often enough.)

4. Much as I would like to believe that religion is sharply declining, I think many people, both atheists and non-, are making much too much of certain polls alleging a sharp decline in religion, because these polls are not distinguishing between atheists, agnostics, and the allegedly "spiritual but not religious," who of course are religious, but currently somewhat disorganized.

5. Schwartz claims that most of the world's religions are based on the "fight for the oppressed and the impoverished." Actually, they're based on theistic beliefs. That fight has always been optional. Articles like yours are manipulative appeals of the send-money-or-this-puppy-will-die variety: "Worship God or this homeless person will starve!" If the priorities of the billions of the world's Christians and Muslims were as Schwartz claims they are, human homelessness would've been thoroughly eradicated long, long ago.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

More From Inside My Head

In a previous post I noted that 17,153 is the product of two prime numbers, 17 and 1009. This morning I thought about some numbers near 1009, and calculated that 1007 is 19x53, 1003 is 17x59, 1001 is 7x11x13, 997 and 991 are prime numbers and 989 is 23x43. I calculated all this with the help of a pocket calculator I bought around 1992, which was not at all an advanced calculator even by 1992 standards. I got it because it looks cool and I find it very user-friendly. I divided each 4- or 3-digit number by bigger and bigger primes until I got a dividend which was either a whole number or a fraction smaller than the square root of the 4- or 3-digit number. Then I remembered that lists of prime numbers are readily available, and stopped calculating, and wondered, as I had many times previously, what possible purpose such calculations could serve.

Then I put that pocket calculator away and got out the other of the 2 pocket calculators I own. I don't remember exactly when I bought this one. I think it was closer to the present than to 1992. This other calculator is made by the same manufacturer. It doesn't look nearly as cool to me. And it does much more. I don't understand what all of its functions are. I know what things like sine, cosine and tangent are, which the newer calculator features and the older one, the one I like better, which has bigger keys and a bigger screen and folds in half with the keyboard on one half and the screen on the other, does not. But I don't know, for example, what the "modes" are which are described above the keyboard of the newer calculator. Not a clue.

As far as I can remember, the only key I have ever used which the newer calculator has and the older one does not, is the X to the power of Y key. And as far as I can remember I only used that one to see whether I understood how it was to be used. I guessed that if you hit X, then the key, then Y, then =, the screen would display X to the power of Y. For example, if you hit 3, then the key, then 4, then =, the screen would display 81. My guess was correct.

So I'm looking at the newer calculator now, and I'm looking at an instrument whose purposes I am largely ignorant of, and I'm wondering how much less mysterious to me the instrument might be if I had not stopped taking math courses as soon as I was allowed to stop, after geometry in the 10th grade. I'm also wondering whether and to what extent fancy -- I'm sure it's not at all fancy to some people. I remember it wasn't the most expensive pocket calculator in the store -- to what extent fancy calculators like this one might have been rendered redundant because smart phones can do everything they do. My phone is not smart. It has a calculator on it, which I used once, but I found it excruciatingly difficult both to find and to use and I don't plan to use it again soon.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Saying "There Is No Evidence That Jesus Existed" Is A Misuse Of The Term "Evidence"

I'm not convinced that Jesus ever existed.

Now, some people say that, and what they mean is: sure, there was a Jesus who inspired the stories in the New Testament, but I'm not sure that all of those miracles actually happened. That's not what I mean. I don't believe any of the miracles described in the New Testament happened, and I don't feel that that is worth debating, any more than it would make sense to debate the existence of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. What I mean is, I'm not convinced that there even was a completely non-supernatural person named Jesus, or even with another name, who preached in Galilee and Judea and was crucified on Pilate's orders, or even wasn't actually crucified, and inspired the stories in the New Testament. So much of the New Testament was invented, the descent of Jesus from David, the virgin birth, the star of Bethlehem, the slaughter of the innocents, walking on water, water into wine, rising from the dead, etc, etc, etc, that it seems quite reasonable to me to wonder whether Jesus' non-supernatural existence isn't just one more fictive detail.

It also seems to me that many Biblical scholars, including seemingly most of the most prominent ones in the US, react quite unreasonably to any doubts about Jesus' existence. Perhaps the most notable example in the past few years is the normally quite reasonable Bart Ehrman's book Did Jesus Exist? -- a more accurate title for which would've been the last three words in the book, Jesus Certainly Existed, with a couple of rude insults to all who are not certain in the subtitle.

Rude but unfortunately not untypical. Refusing to acknowledge that reasonable people -- lots of them -- have doubts about Jesus' existence does not encourage those reasonable people to study the scholarship of the professionals has driven many of them into the arms of amateur self-appointed experts. (I, of course, am completely different from all the other amateurs. Harrummph. All of them. Yeah, that's the ticket!) With the predictable result that the level of discourse about the historicity of Jesus is pretty abysmal. I (harrummph) am doing what I can to help.

You will often hear the assertion that there is no evidence that Jesus existed. This involves a drastic misunderstanding of the term "evidence." Evidence is not the same as conclusive proof. Evidence can be strong or weak, conclusive or inconclusive, strong or absurd. The New Testament is the primary evidence of the existence of Jesus. If the New Testament by itself doesn't convince me that Jesus existed, that's fine with me, it hasn't convinced me either. But if you discuss Jesus' existence without considering what the New Testament has to say, you're ignoring most of the pertinent information having to do with what you're (allegedly) talking about. Knock it off. If you want to take part in this discussion, study the New Testament in depth. If you don't you're a silly person and you should go away.

While I'm here: in these discussions, you'll often hear the assertion that apart from the New Testament, no 1st-century writers mention Jesus at all. That's almost correct: Josephus mentions Jesus, but just barely, in a passage which is mostly about James, known as the brother of Jesus. (The other passage, in which Josephus praises Jesus at length, is a fake.) The thing is, though, other than the New Testament authors, Josephus and Philo, no one whose work we now possess says anything about Gelilee or Judea during Jesus' alleged lifetime at all. So, no, we do not have reams and reams of descriptions of the time and place in which all mention of Jesus is suspiciously absent.

Are The "Spiritual But Not Religious" Today's Jesus Freaks?

I've already often remarked that the large and remarkably self-important group which calls itself "spiritual but not religious" are Protestants who don't know what Protestantism is because they're ignorant of history. It just occurred to me that the "spiritual but not religious" may also have some characteristics in common with what decades ago were called "Jesus freaks." The term "Jesus freak" may well mean something very different to many or most people than it did in the early 1970's -- and perhaps earlier than that. I'm not sure, in part because I was only 8 years old on 1 January, 1970. But as a child I saw the Jesus-freak movement going on around me. These people were "freaks" in a sense of the term not entirely dissimilar to "hippies": they had very long hair, often wore tie-dyed shirts and went barefoot, and were Skeptical About Society. And they believed in Jesus. (Think Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar.)

And unless I'm very much mistaken, very many of them attended seminaries and took part in shaping today's liberal Christian theology. And so, man, you know, they're like, way too laid back to get all radical if someone decides they're not religious anymore even though they still love Jesus and believe in the Bible, okay man? Because they like realize that the true message of the Bible has been distorted by thousands of years' worth of patriarchy and homophobia.

I'm against patriarchy and homophobia. But I'm also against nonsense -- no, check that. I'm against patriarchy and homophobia because they are nonsense. Same reason I'm against religion, and against the claim that the "spiritual but not religious" aren't actually religious. They may be against some manifestations of organized religion, but 1) disorganized religion is still religion, and 2) as we speak, enterprising individuals are busy organizing these allegedly "spiritual but not religious" people, these religious people with Daddy complexes having theological disputes with others, into flocks and shearing them. The "spiritual but not religious" movement is just sad in the way that Christian rock has always been sad: they want so bad to be cooler than the other Christians and it just makes them dorkier. And like their claim that they're not religious, their claim that patriarchy and homophobia are distortions of Christianity is nonsense. There never was a matriarchal and gay-friendly Christianity until they invented one. Full rights for women and gays are worthy goals, worthy of fighting for. But they're not traditionally christian. And that is so obvious that it makes it obvious that these people are oblivious of the history of the religion they claim to embrace. And discouragingly but hardly surprisingly, trying to point this out to them is like trying to nail a blob of mercury to the wall. Religion, most definitely including the "spiritual but not religious," continues to provide a haven for people who, to paraphrase Jack Gibbs, are tenaciously fighting off the very idea of trying to think.

What You Mean, "Our" Bible, Kimosabe?

That's what I was compelled to ask after Greg Carey mentioned that

"[...]many people ask about the literature that did not make it into our Bible, and [David A] deSilva [in his bookThe Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude: What Early Christianity Learned from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha] shows how wisdom literature like Ben Sira, apocalypses like Enoch, legends like Tobit[...]"

I wasn't really compelled. I realized that Carey was referring to the 39 Old Testament books recognized as canonical by (most) Jews and (most) Protestants.

I think the Catholic Church may only recently have moved Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, Bel and the Dragon (as the final 2 chapters in the Vulgate version of Daniel) and I and II Maccabees from their Old Testament into their Deuterocanonical/Apocrypha section. All of those books are in the Old Testament in the versions of the complete Vulgate I've seen, and in the Deuterocanonical/Apocrypha section of a Catholic "Today's English Version," imprimi potest Bishop Keeler in 1993. All that's in the Apocrypha section of my copy of the Vulgate -- copyright 1994, Deutsche Bibelgesellschafy, no imprimi potest -- only an historical artifact after Vatican II? -- is the Prayer of Manasseh, III and IIII Ezra (begging the question: Dude, where's II Ezra?), the 151st Psalm and Paul's Letter to the Laodiceans. Back in the Old Testament it has 45 books, with Bel and the Dragon not counted as a book of its own but as the last 2 chapters of Daniel, compared to the Jewish and Protestant 39.

My copy of the Sptuagint is copyright 2006 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft has 53 books and answers the question: Dude, where's II Ezra? Turns out that what "we" in the Jewish non-Orthodox-Christian worlds call just plain old Ezra is II Ezra, if you include another book and call it I Ezra, as this copy of the Septuagint does. This volume has no Apocrypha section, but in the table of contents subtitles I Ezra, and no other book, as apocryphal.

So now you know.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

"All I know for sure is there's already more'n a few bad ideas runnin' around loose out there."

-- David Lynch, screenplay for Wild at Heart,based on the novel by Barry Gifford.(Sorry, David, Barry, if that quote isn't exactly accurate to the letter. It was the best I could manage.)

An incorrect assumption is not the same as a bad idea, but it can lead to bad ideas, and just watch or read Wild at Heart for a glimpse at all the scary kinds of shit that bad ideas can lead to.

Several people have urged me to write more in my blog about being autistic. In a sense I think that every post on this blog already is about being autistic in the sense that I've written them all, and that I've tried my best, while writing them, to be just exactly who I am.

I correct people a lot. Maybe one manifestation of my autism is that I haven't noticed how annoying this can be, or I haven't understood how to do it tactfully when it's not best just to STFU. One thing that being autistic means for me is that I've been autistic all my life, but I didn't know I was until I was 46, and for 6 years now I've been making certain adjustments in my behavior based on this new information.

Of course, people are all individuals, and, autistic or neurologically-typical, some are much more receptive to being corrected than others. I try to be receptive to it. (How else would I or anyone else ever learn anything?) What concerns me here today are people who hang on with bitter determination to incorrect assumptions in the face of huge amounts of correction -- stupid people, that is. I blog an awful lot about stupid people, don't I? Is this a typically autistic obsession? I don't know.

I also don't know how many people are determined to hang on to the following incorrect assumptions:

Jesus would've been required to be married -- wrong. Constantine changed the Bible -- wrong. Constantine and the Pope changed the Bible together at the Council of Nicea -- wrong, the Pope wasn't even at the Council of Nicea. There once were hundreds of Gospels -- pure speculation, the ones we've found plus the ones we've only heard of by name all together add up to several dozen. Since I'm saying all this I must be a Christian -- wrong, I'm an atheist and I think Christianity is bad for people, I just think Dan Brown is extremely bad for the study of history. Only Catholics dislike Dan Brown -- wrong. Biblical scholars can't be trusted on factual matters of history or textual criticism because of their religious bias -- usually wrong.

The assumption on the part of some stupid atheist or another that I'm a Christian and a Republican because I disagree with him or her about something is particularly galling. Time and again I go back over these exchanges, and the amount of remarks on my parts which could be construed to be religious, again and again, is nada, zero, squat, the null set. The stupid atheist assumes I'm a Christian only because I disagree with him or her on something which has no resemblance whatsoever to an article of religious belief, but is only a factual mistake current in a big circle-jerk of an atheist game of Telephone.

I wonder, are there really as many people running around loose whose worldviews are so stupid, simplistic, binary, zero/one, on/off, black/white, atheist/Christian, correct/incorrect, as it sometimes seems to me? Or am I subconsciously drawn into conflicts with such people, which gives me an inflated idea of their numbers? (Am I subconsciously drawn to them because I'm autistic?) I hope it's the latter, both the sake of the world at large and the amount of effort needed to confront mass stupidity, and also for my own sake, because if this group of stupid people is actually statistically insignificant, and it's only an unproductive subconscious drive on my part which brings me into contact with them, I can become more conscious of this tendency, overcome it and thus find much more rewarding uses for my time. (If my impression of the numbers of such people is not exaggerated, then my Stoic tendencies won't let me ignore them. Someone has to deal with them, and, to paraphrase what Perry said to Jack, Elizabeth Warren is busy.)

You got that? If I've incorrectly assumed that there actually is an entire movement of people who make all of those incorrect assumptions and more, I want to know. I'd be overjoyed to be proven wrong.