Monday, December 17, 2012

Looking for God...Oh. WTF?

And now, one for the books: idiocy so potent it nearly rendered me speechless. Yes, kids, that's right. Uncle Jeremy nearly lost the ability to talk due to a group of idiots. Oi.

I'd like to take a moment to first off say that I am horrified by the recent events in Connecticut. To call the shooting of innocent children a tragedy is an understatement of vast and grievous proportion. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims, and I will keep them in my prayers.

Now, this isn't a post on the various social issues and flaws, and theories surrounding events. Frankly, I think senseless death is a horrific news hook for sociopolitical armchair meanderings. I may write such a post later this week, but if such a post materializes, it will most likely be a bit subdued. More likely, it will not appear at all. Deal.

So what's the point of this post? Same as always, Brain. I'm here to yell about idiots.

Specifically, I'd like to raise my voice and tip my keyboard to a special brand of vicious psycho, those beings of resolve ever firm and mind ever closed, the extended family that makes up the Westboro Baptist Church. Apologies for that link, but it needs to be seen to be believed. 

These individuals have utterly skipped the classic revivalist view of a God of the Old Testament school of fire and brimstone and gone straight to preaching that God hates both: a) just about everyone that isn't related to Fred Phelps, the WBC's founder and pastor; and b) plans to wipe out said everyone else (with a few exceptions) in a blaze of misery and tribulation.

Proof positive? According to Margie Phelps, Fred Phelps daughter, the shooting was God's response to Carrie Underwood's pro-gay marriage stance.

No, seriously. For those that don't want to click that link, here:

Holy Freaking Crap. Now, I've talked about my religious ideologies here before, but let's take a second to all stare in shock at this master of hate.  Not only does Margie Phelps appear to be claiming that the deaths of innocents are the will of God and His good work and warning to those who would "oppose" him, but she is directly blaming a single individual. 

For those that have had all modern media removed from their lives by aliens or something, Carrie Underwood is a country singer. This is typical of her work:

This woman is one of the most Christian (in the honest to gods, "oh that's what it's supposed to look like" sense) currently anywhere near the lime light today. She writes songs about Jesus and loving people, and giving yourself over to God, and all the warm fuzzy and gritty-but-real stuff the Christian faith is supposed to be about. 

And, according to Margie Phelps, for saying that it's her personal opinion that homosexuals should legally have the right to marry, God decreed that 26 people, the majority of them children, needed to die to prove a point.

Hold the freaking phone. Now, I've drawn a comparison between Cthulhu and the God depicted by Christian Fundamentalists. But seriously? 

Admittedly, these people are nuts without compare. They've declared dead soldiers and hate crimes to be the Good Lord's warning shots, and believe in Elect Jews. (It's a long story. Read this if you really want to know.) They have a mad-on for pretty much every form of faith that isn't theirs, they inflict misery on thousands of people, etc., etc.

Also admittedly, I'm loath to try and base any argument on Christianity itself. We're talking about a religious system with somewhere int the neighborhood of 41,000 flavors, many of which rest on a text that has been translated and interpreted hundreds of times. I've had discussions with the same individuals and heard the exact same lines interpreted differently, sometimes in the same conversation, in support of a point. And that's leaving out the various dogmas, theologies, and articles of faith. 

But I'm pretty sure any god that comes down personally, declares he's editing the agreement between man and god, and that the primary rule of the new contract is "love people?" That's a god who isn't going to resort to mass murder as his primary form of communication.

A point at the end of all this? But of course.

I've said a lot about what I believe religion and faith and spirituality should look like. So I thought I'd take a moment to show you all the natural endpoint of fanaticism, and remind you:

This is what it shouldn't look like. 


Again, my heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of the victims. May the gods grant you strength and give you whatever aid you need.

I don't normally do this, cause I know most of you and y'all broke, but if you can give anything to help these families in their time of need, go here:

Sandy Hook School Support Fund

Or find a reputable organization. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

And Now, For The Viewers At Home

Two blogs in one day. I may crap myself. But this is one I've been meaning to write for a while, and it's not particularly timely, nor is it in keeping with my usual motif. Therefore, I'm just going to throw this out there.

No, this is not a plea for attention, by the by, though at times you may think so. Just saying. Onwards, then!

Mine is not an earth shattering blog of proportions epic and influence boundless. Counting this one, I'll have 25 posts. My little corner of the Internet, in three months, has garnered just under 800 views. Some of my posts have hit over 50 individual views, but most are in the 10-20 range. In short, not the most successful way of transmitting ideas.

However...I have some really weird numbers I would like to bring up now.

First, I have a fan base! There are 13 of you out three that read my blogs like clockwork. One is my husband, one is my sister, six are good friends...and that's what I know.

Whoever the rest of you are, thanks! (But seriously, who are you people?)

Next up there's this sweet little function provided by Google that tracks where views are coming from, what browser is used, what parts of the world I'm being viewed in, etc. Understandably, the lion's share of my hits are in the U.S.

The runners up, however, are (drumroll, please):

Germany, just under 60 views, and Russia, just under 50.

Uhhh...not that I mind. In fact I'm rather tickled. But who are you?! I mean really, there's someone in Germany or Russia that reads an American college student's blog about social issues? I'll freely acknowledge my deific fabulosity (yes, I made up a word. Sue me) but I'd love to find out why my blog interests you!

Finally, a minor little thing: if ya' read it, and ya' like it, would you share it on Facebook or Twitter? Yes, it's shameless plug time!

In all seriousness, though, if you read it, you probably agree with it. I'm not exactly about love and bunnies, people. And when you're as ranty as I am, dialogue is the only way to get a more open view of the world.

So please share Sum Iratus with your friends. Especially the friends that will hate me on first read and seek to force me to stop breathing through the power of debate. Those are the people I want to talk to most, to mutually expand our views of the world.

That, and I just like knowing people read my stuff.

To recap:

1. Woot to mah fans! Drop a line so I can find out who you are, please!

2. Holy crap, German and Russian people! You especially, talk to me! I thirst for the knowledge of why you read my stuff!

3. Share my stuff, please. Cause I'm awesome, yes, but also so we can get some debate going around the issues I discuss.

And thanks to all of you who read this Cogito, Ergo Sum Iratus, for proving that an angry writer with a mad-on for society and humanity in general deserves some loving too.

Made in America. No, Really!

Ladies and gentlemen, it's the rare happy blog. I know, where the hell did this come from? Well, a wonderful lady I know posted this article a few days ago. Very short synopsis: the manufacturing industry has come to the realization that outsourcing wholesale is probably not a good idea. 

Normally, this would be a "point and laugh" moment, around four hundred words that all boil down to "holy gods, you idiots." But in this case, the realization comes not from catastrophe or bankruptcy, or the slow bleed of the economy. It comes because someone had a freaking brilliant epiphany and actually tried doing it the other way.

General Electric, that venerable old house of absolutely everything that can be designed and built (no seriously, they've built just about everything at some point) is the proud owner of this monstrosity:

This is Appliance Park. That's a factory so big it has it's own zipcode. The five manufacturing plants and the warehouse take up 103 acres, or 4.5 million square feet. And that's just the buildings. We're not including the freaking parking lot, which, you may notice, is nearly as big as the buildings. Appliance Park has it's own fire fighting station, for gods' sakes.

It's been pretty much dead or dying since 1973. A great big chunk of wasted space. Between the "death" of the American manufacturing industry, and the outsourcing boom, this massive facility had a whopping 1,863 people working there in 2011.

And then, someone realized the innovative, brilliant designs they'd been sending overseas had two major problems: 

FIrst, once you send something out of sight, it gets a lot easier to steal. I mean, if you designed a brilliant device that enhanced the consumer experience and market, and was worth millions of dollars, would you then promptly ship it off to another country where the only thing between your million dollar idea and a thousand cheap knockoffs was some guy whose only concern is making sure he hits production quota?

Second, there's no way to ensure any of the following: quality of product, design viability in manufacturing, stable shipping costs, and receipt of intact product. In order to get those things, there has to be lots and lots of little checks and balances that add up to a lot of money when there's an ocean between you and your product.

What does this all boil down to? 

GE started bringing their products back state-side. And not just "power up the lines and crank it out." They grabbed people off the line and asked them "what would make this easier to build?"

They had a dishwasher assembly line that went from one end of a building to the other end and back. Remember, these are huge buildings. So they asked the guys building them how to fix this. They then guaranteed to all employees working to streamline production that they wouldn't lose their jobs. 

And when they did, in fact, cut production time by 10 hours, GE asked the guys on the line what piece of the dishwasher they thought would be better off being built in the states. They chose the control panel, and the whole team sat down and figured out an efficient production line for building that

Their new, incredibly efficient water heater? Brought it state side. Assembly dudes took one look at it and went, "Dafuq. Were. You. Thinking?"

It had this weird coil thing that had to be welded perfectly. The whole water heater depended on it being welded perfectly. The tiniest screw up, and that water heater would either not work, or not perform to spec. And it would die faster. 

Assembly dudes sat down with design dudes to try and fix the problem. They ended up redesigning the water heater from the ground up, this time taking manufacturing process into account. It's now 60% more efficient, and 20% cheaper. Not even kidding.

This. Is. Fabulous!

So what is it? 

It's called lean manufacturing. And until GE started in on it, the only stateside companies taking advantage of it were car manufacturers. Why should you care?

Partly because manufacturing and skilled labor jobs could make a comeback. Not enough to turn the economy around by itself, but any jobs are good jobs in an economy as fragile as ours is right now. 

But mostly because it's the best freaking thing I've heard in the news in a long time. One of the oldest and largest companies in the U.S. has just come to the sudden realization that assembly line guys and gals are valuable resources that can make their products better. You know all that crap that falls apart on you every day? 

That could conceivably go away in the next few decades. Products might not only become more innovative, they might actually start to look cool. Manufacturing and assembly might become a viable U.S. industry again. We might go back to being a nation with a real industrial contribution to the world, instead of being an exporter of our crappy pop culture. 

In short, "Made in the U.S." might, some day in the relatively near future, actually mean Made in the U.S.

Not "partially assembled in the U.S. after a dozen or so parts were built elsewhere by people we can't talk to cause we only speak English due to ethnocentrism." 

We might be able to visit a foreign country and see "Made in America" labels on products. We could flip a microwave over and not try to pronounce the place name of some country in Euarasia or South America. 

We…could be proud of the products our fellow citizens built. With their hands. On our soil. In our factories

Holy. Fucking. Shit. We could actually have something to be proud of beyond being one of the richest nations, with the greatest excess, and the best equipped military. 

I could stand here and say, honestly and with a straight face: 

"Damn. Look at that awesome thing. That got built here. I'm so freaking proud to be an American right now."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bread and Circuses

You know…I really hate you all sometimes. Not you, close friends and loved ones. You simply exasperate me occasionally.

No, I'm talking to everyone else in this country. That's right. For the first (and please gods, last) time, I'll be taking a page out of Colbert's playbook and talking directly to America. Specifically (because I'm fairly certain this is in no way the fault of the various soil layers I'm standing on) the American people. 

Read: the incompetent morons. 

Have a look here:

This is a fabulous news aggregator, which you should use because it's awesome. It is also not the point of this exercise. As you can see by the tab in the upper right corner that's highlighted red, this is what the US cares about right at the time this blog started to be written.  

For clarification, the bigger the block, the more hits the story has, the brighter the block, the more recent it is.

Funny aside, ever notice that we never call business mergers and partnerships triumphs, but when sports teams make conferences everyone gets excited? Kinda the same idea there, people. Just saying.


Notice what you don't see, though? Red. Red being the color of world news. 

For comparison, here's every country covered by this aggregator, all interests highlighted:

What the…

Yups. The rest of the world is watching as our politicians play Monopoly with our economy. Again.

Oh, but it's about Obama so it must be the AP or something, right? Nope. That story? That's an Australian story written by the French equivalent of the BBC and circulated in multiple countries

No seriously. Here's the map without the US in it:

Noting chan — oh, no, no, wait…there's fewer sports stories. And the world column got bigger.  

What the bloody hell, people? Is watching men in tights chase an inflatable ovoid back and forth across an artificial grass plain so important to your life that the country you live in can just handle itself? 

These are the idiots that tanked us in the first place. No sides here, I hate them all. And the rest of the world gives more of a damn about what they're doing than you do. 

What's that? You don't even know what this cliff thing is? Well, for starters, it's not a cliff…it's more of a slope. Cliff is a term journalists latched onto because it sounded scary and scary words make people more likely to tune in. 

But basically what's going on: a few months back, there was this whole to-do about the debt ceiling. Some guys wanted to raise it, other guys wanted to keep it low and cut spending. The debt ceiling, to be clear, goes up every year. Like clockwork. So even the president was sitting there looking at the guys who were freaking out and going, "Dudes. The fuck?"

At the last freaking minute before the US would have had to shut off and reboot because there'd be no budget agreed on that would pay for all the debt we owe, there shone forth the light of compromise.

The debt ceiling went up, but Congress had to find a way to get the budget under control or a whole bunch things will happen that will ensure that no-one is happy. Basically, taxes will rise and spending will get slashed over a period of ten years. 

Now, that may not sound bad. Nothing to worry about, just a little trimming around the edges.

That's what happens when a fragile economy takes spending cuts and tax hikes to the face. That will take months to happen here if it happens at all, mind you, but stop and think about how bad the last recession was. Do we really want to risk another one?

Will that happen? Probably not. We'll probably slide into the whole mess sideways like Greece did, through overspending. Because Congress can absolutely vote to just postpone the whole thing so they don't have to deal with it.

That's right. The compromise that they agreed to, that's given them most of a year to come up with a functioning solution, will be ignored now. Because they've basically been grandstanding for the press for most of that time, seeing as how it's an election year.  

So yeah. Now that they've got the important part of their job (getting re-elected) out of the way, they can go home for the holidays, postpone the whole mess, and wait for their constituents to go back to ignoring them —

Oh right. Y'all already doing that, huh.

While the rest of the world gives a crap about whether we're starting the long slide into a depression and potentially dinging their economies on the way down, we're watching football. 

Dear gods, I hate you all so much.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Justice for All. Except ...

Good morning, everyone!  The thanksgiving weekend has come and gone, and hopefully we all survived the tryptophan comas and shopping riots. But as the holiday weekend was a time for family, friends, and reflection on the things that make life worth living, Uncle Jeremy is going to have some fun and talk about something unpopular. 

Fair warning: if at any point, you believe the justice system to be an overall valid application of limiting citizen rights, you should probably go away now.

Where are we headed with this? Sex offender's rights. Oh, yeah. Specifically, the bullshit that is rained on these people for no reason other than "easy target." 

Now, let's get clear: sex offenses, especially those involving minors, are horrific and should be punished at the strongest level warranted by the given crime. But, and this is a big but, once the time is served, that should be the end of it as it is for any other crime. So yes, we're addressing the registry today among other things. 

Why? Because our justice system is supposedly based on justice, on helping people to become or return to being functioning members of society. As with all things, any time a system says "oh, except you. You can just go 'eff yourself, because the system has nothing for you" I have a major problem with that. So yes, an equitable system is always desirable wherever possible. And if you don't like that?

Bite me.

The registry is a horrible practice that seems legit on the surface. If an individual has committed a sex crime and suffers from a paraphilia or sexual disorder that increases their chances of committing a sex crime again, why wouldn't it be a good idea to keep an eye on them?

Well … because it doesn't work that way. Taking it from the top: murderers, thieves, drug dealers, shoplifters, etc. can walk away after time served, no problems. Earlier if they play nice. We don't ban shoplifters from major stores, or track the movements of murderers, or prevent drug dealers from living within x distance of a school.

But we do keep sex offenders out of bars, away from schools, away from churches, away from, away from, away from, etc. And that's often for life. So, to put it another way: the punishment for this type of crime, and this type of crime only, is the effective excommunication of the offender from society. 

If they're lucky, they'll have some help or a plan that they can work with to get back on their feet. If not, a sex offender might end up living somewhere horrible simply because there's nowhere else. They might end up with a shit job that will get them nowhere, because they can't work anywhere else. 

And as for "well they've still got a chance to turn their life around"? Sure, a thief can reform, or a murderer can go on to become a doctor. A sex offender, however, can be stuck with that for the rest of their lives. It's on their ID in some states now, and a lifetime registry can ensure that no one ever forgets or forgives.

Is this a worst case scenario? Actually, nope. Worst case is the poor guys that end up living under bridges because there's no where around them they can live, and they can't get a permit to move to an area that has a place they can live. Of course, living under a bridge restricts employment options severely, but hey. They've got this coming, right?

Well … did you know that consensual sex with an individual over the age of consent but under the voting age can be reported as statutory by guardians? If you've heard the phrase "five'll get you twenty," then yes you did know that. 

That's right. If you meet a cute guy or gal and they lie about their age, their parents can destroy your life forever if they're not cool with that. And no-one will say a damn thing, because you're obviously a pervert for sleeping with a kid. 

If you go on a hot date, and go parking (does anyone actually do this anymore?) and the wrong person sees and takes it all the way, you're done. 

If you step into an alley to take a leak because it's 2:10 a.m. and the bar just closed and you've got a 20 minute drive home and you're not gonna make it … someone sees you and isn't happy about it, that's indecent exposure. Congrats, you're a sex offender.

But the worst case? And believe me, I know at least three good guys that this actually happened to: a guy or gal gets upset at you and levels charges. And even if he or she retracts, there's enough of an interest for the parents or attorney's to pursue. 

If you can't mount a defense, or if you can't do the impossible and prove a negative, guess what? The rest of that life of yours is going to range from difficult to pretty much destroyed. For the rest of your life. Because hey, that's how we roll, right? No mercy.

So what's the solution, here?

Well for starters, let's kindly define the freaking difference between things that need to be investigated as sex crimes and the drunk guy taking a leak in an alley. I mean, seriously. 

Next, let's maybe have a bit more rigorous protocol for looking into sex crimes. Yes, there is a strong gender bias statistically speaking, but could we freaking remember that an accusation is not proof of guilt and that if an accuser recants there's probably no reason to go ahead and destroy someone for the lulz.

Finally, let's kill the stupid registry outright. Parole does the same damn thing anyway, as does probation. And if there's an honest need to track an individual based on fear of recidivism through commission of a sex crime, the hell are we releasing that person for? 

If there's an honest to gods psychiatric concern that someone is going to get hurt, why the fuck are you placing restrictions of someone and then releasing them? Don't you think a person that there is an honest concern about will find a way?

So, to recap: define a freaking sex crime as a freaking sex crime; follow through beyond accusation and initial investigation, including the motives, history, etc. of all parties involved; and get rid of a redundant system that has no purpose beyond branding an individual for life with the sole purpose of "protecting" others around them so they can be let out of jail and ignored by society. Especially given that such protection is afforded by non-life destroying systems already in place.

And that, if anyone is still reading, is my soapbox moment for the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Clarifying Mud Soup

Hey, kids! So, Uncle Jere has been on a major tear here lately. After that last blog, I noticed the enraged spittle that flew from my face during my manly roars of wrath had more than a touch of foam in it. I've had a mad-on about women's rights abuses, and it shows. This is the part where Uncle Jeremy knows he's going to start crossing the moral event horizon soon, and it's time to step back and take a break from this topic.  So, I'm going to clarify a few things, then move on to different things that piss me off.

First, it seems throughout my ranting that I've strayed into muddy territory. So, to be absolutely clear: I'm pro-life, actually. I'm not a fan of abortion at all. Somewhere, someone's brain just crashed to a halt. I know, because I heard the screech of mental tires. Sorry about that.

Seriously, though. I believe we should step up adoption, and open it up to all fit parents. I believe we should institute a national sexual health education program targeted to young teens and at-risk youth to begin lowering teen pregnancy. 

I believe we should stop making young people ashamed to ask about sex and sex health, because that's how we get little Suzy staring through tears at a pregnancy test after just one night in Billy's F-150 out at Lover's Lane. 

I believe we should get off our high horses and acknowledge this country has a problem with STD's. They can happen to anyone, people, and getting tested and wrapping it up are the best ways to fight back. 

I think we should fight to bring more funding and better programs to the national child services system, and instate global reforms throughout the system to stop children from being taken from good parents, keep them from being given to bad ones, and make their stay in the system a thing of worth instead of the kind of horror that movie and TV heroes rise above in their backstories.

I'd like for parents to take mandatory classes on what is and is not sane parenting, but I'm not sure who I'd trust to teach that.

I believe being a GLBT individual or couple is not a good reason to be disallowed from adopting kids. I think parents with children who are caught with minor possession of controlled substances should be evaluated for rehab and community service programs instead of being tossed in lockup because "hey, drugs."

But I do not believe in abortion, morning after pills, etc. I think in the cosmic gamble, that's the equivalent of handing the dealer a few of your cards back without asking for more and hoping to hell you can win with an incomplete hand. I know several people that might not be here today in other circumstances, and a few who nearly weren't. And every one of them is a great person.

However. I have plumbing that does not include a womb. So it's not my decision. 

That's my point. Abortion can be a heart-wrenching, painful, extremely personal decision and that's not the kind of thing politicians need to be mucking with. It's not my job to tell people what they can and cannot do. It is Congress' job, of course; but they're trying to do what makes them feel good, instead of what's needed to ensure the freedoms and personal rights of those they represent. 

I may not believe in abortion. But it's not my choice. I will never be in a position to make that choice. And at any time that someone says "I believe X is wrong, so I'm taking that option away from you" there's a moment where a conflict needs to be examined.

If the person making the decision isn't affected, something's wrong. If the person making the decision is only making it because of a strong personal belief, something's wrong. And if the person making the decision doesn't care about or recognize harm done in the making of that decision, something's very wrong.

I will fight for the right of others to make the decision that's best for them, and that's all I can do. 

Now then. Enough about women's rights for a bit, children. Am I done with the topic? Not a chance in hell. But after re-reading my last few posts, that moral event horizon is mighty close. And I think I'll stay back here from it, ok?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rape: Endorsed by God?!

I'm starting to hate Facebook. I'm trying not to blog every day, mostly because I have a life I have to keep up with, but damnit if I don't sign in and find some horrific thing laying around like dark chocolate laced with arsenic. Just…sitting there, coyly. "Come…enjoy the lethally tasty chocolate…"

What were we talking about? Right, right, Facebook and what I found that's pissing me off today. Welp, there's this Republican Senate candidate named Richard Murdock. On a side note, I'd appreciate it if a Dem would screw up where I can see them, ok? I hate all politicians and I'm feeling the need to scream at the other side. Dems? Get on that. 

Anywho, Richard Mourdock decided within his tiny, tiny brain that making the following statement in a public debate would somehow win him votes:

I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is a gift from god and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that god intended to happen.

So, we open up with a fair opinion ('life begins at conception, ') head for something approaching the sanity horizon (he'd opt to allow abortion in situations where a mother's life was threatened,) and then take a sharp left into "I hope rabid chipmunks devour your body starting with your genitals while Nyarlathotep shreds and gnaws on your living eternal soul" territory.

What the bloody unholy monstrous hell?

Now, to attempt to be somewhat evenhanded, Murdock is using the classic political fallback of "That's not what I meant!" His attempt to clarify, unfortunately, make things worse:

Mourdock said what he meant to say was that god does not intend rape, but is the only one who can create life.
“Anyone who would suggest that is just sick and twisted. No, that's not even close to what I said," Mourdock said.

So … God doesn't mean for anyone to get raped … but he did intend babies. Quick! To the Analogy Cave!

This is the equivalent of saying you didn't mean to break that egg, but the resulting omelette was your goal all along. That's logically inconsistent. If you intend an omelette, then barring the equivalent of divine conception (teleporting the egg shell's contents into a pan, let's say) you kind of have to break the freaking egg. 

In order for a woman to get pregnant, there really kind of has to be man-juice involved somewhere in the process. Biological necessity, you know. So how do you justify claiming that God totally meant for that kid to happen with that woman, but the rape was not in the plan?

Was there somewhere else that man-juice was intended to come from? Does God sit up there on his throne and use some absurd version of Quicken to figure out where all the juice is and where it's going to be? This much makes kids, this much in sperm banks, this much in Kleenex…

So, are we saying that the woman was supposed to meet the man of her dreams and make babies, and this damn rapist came along and hijacked God's plan?!

Well…no, because that would be inconsistent with the fundamentalist description of God as an entity

I am not, nor can I, make the argument that God knows all and should stop bad things from happening. We're free agents, given license to be good or bad as we see fit. Rape happens because we are, by and large, a horrible species and certain portions of our species slip over into the "absolute monster" category. 

What I can say is that there is no sane, human reason to bring rape up as anything other than a horrible act that is antithetical to moral sanity in any belief system. Further, there is no reason to start picking at rape and trying to classify, sanitize, or justify it, or worse to declare that it's aftereffects are anything but traumatic and terrible.

Rape is rape is rape is rape is rape, damnit. It's one of the few words associated with painful trauma in our language that has no publicly acceptable euphemisms. None! Freaking suicide has euphemisms. We can't even conceive of a word or set of words for rape that is, as Merriam-Webster puts it: 

the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.

That's how unfathomably horrible rape is to sane people: we can't think of anyway to make even talking about it less horrific.

And yet, we have individuals bringing it up as a talking point in the course of discussing the application of their religious opinion to legislation. And then they defend each other! Here's Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO):

"Todd Akin is a strong Christian man, with a wonderful family.”

In his statement, King distanced himself from Akin’s statement.

“I have never heard of and categorically reject the so-called medical theory that launched this controversy,” he said. “The people who promote these vicious attacks are paid to create lies and to assassinate the character of elected officials.”

First off, let's take a second to point out that while King's comments might (conceivably) have been misquoted out of context, Akin's were made on the radio. There's not that many ways to misquote a recording of a statement taken directly from a person's own lips. He said it, he meant it, he thought he had documentation to back it up. But King's "character assassination" refers specifically to Akin, not himself.

So that's fairly ridiculous in itself. But then note that he doesn't make the distinction that Akin is a "good" man; he says "strong Christian." I've noted again and again that religious or miraculous thinking used in lieu of critical thinking leads to some fairly horrible places. And here it is again. The gist is that Todd Akin is an ok guy not because he gives two rat farts about the well being of half of his constituents, but because he believes strongly in Christianity.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: if your religious beliefs don't include "live and let the fuck alone" stay the hell out of politics. We are not a theocracy. We have specific constitutional amendments that allow us to live here without practicing your religion for you. And any legislation passed on the grounds that "the Bible says" 

So, again, shut up. Sit down. Take a some night courses at a local college so you can brush up on modern science. And then quit dicking around with human rights while claiming moral imperative. 

There has never been, and will never be, a unified moral imperative. And if you believe it is moral to force suffering on others for no reason other than personal righteousness? 

Then you are as much a monster as, or worse than, any rapist.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

El Shaddai Fhtagn*

Fair warning, darlings. Uncle Jeremy is feeling facetious today. This, naturally, is the worst mood for a vindictive opinionated writer to be in when, say, going off on the faults in religion. Three guesses what we're talking about today, and the first two don't count…

For those that are just tuning in: I like religion and spirituality, I hate the use of religion in place of critical thinking, and I especially hate it when a deity is used to justify bad things done in the name of religion. Got all that? Sweet. Now, let's tuck into this right quick. For the first time, I am unashamedly going to fire all cannons at Christian fanatics. Note that last word, before the lynch mob forms: fanatics.

There are those Christians who have the seeming unshakeable belief that their God is the final end of all things. Nothing done in his name can be wrong, for these people. From them, we get the current assault on women's rights. We get an entire faction of political and social life that revolves around creating a theocracy. We have the suppression of rights for LGBT individuals. We have theological discussion championed as science. I can't turn on my radio or TV without finding some way that Christian fanaticism is hurting the world somewhere, someway, however small.

This is not to say that I dislike Christianity. Let's be very clear on that: I like the ideals espoused by the various branches of Christianity that I'm aware of. It's the extremes that some of the religion's practitioners will and can go to, in the name of the religion, that offend me. 

So far, this is all par for the course for me, right? Like the religion, wish people practiced it, blah-blah-blah. But here's the thing: in pure function the Christian God, as defined by the fanatics closely resembles a Lovecraftian horror.

Oh, yes. I now postulate that if all the various positions on God are true, he's the entire Cthulhu mythos in a box. With ribbons.

How do I get there from pretty paintings by Michelangelo? Well, let's look at this: first up, the power level postulated. 

The Christian god is defined as omnipotent. That means nothing is impossible, there is no force more powerful, that's it, the end. But! An omnipotent being could still be beneficent. After all, the phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely" refers to humans

We flawed creatures, given the power to do absolutely anything at will, would make a massive mess of things. No living being can even imagine having that much power, much less what could be done with it. We'd have to apply that insane amount of juice within our scope of experience. And that would be horrible.

A deity with absolute power, on the other hand, would have a much wider scope of experience, and would technically be born/created with or have always had that sort of power. So it would not necessarily corrupt such a being, and would allow for a sphere of responsibility that could make a decent god.

But then we slide a little closer to H.P.'s ol' fish. The Christian god is also omniscient. On the one hand, this makes for an infinite scope of experience. On the other hand, this being literally knows everything all at once. There's no concept of time because everything is now. There's no concept of individualism beyond what that being chooses to perceive. 

And while yes, this being could know and perhaps understand human emotion, the problem is that this being also knows what it feels like to be a sun. Or a planet. Or a black hole. Or a worm, an ant, a speck of dirt, a dinosaur, a flame, a drop of water, a deluge, a hurricane, the Coriolis spiral in a bathtub drain…

And without a sense of time, if all of existence is one moment of pure knowledge for this being, then it is all those at once. Oh, and it's also all powerful. That's so far beyond human understanding as to be outside the realm of analogy. We quite frankly don't have words to describe this being's existence. But this is still within the realms of the loving being described by Christians. Such a being could, conceivably, use its awesome power and knowledge in ways unknown and unknowable to show love for creatures it created.

But wait. There's more. 

See, this god is also omnipresent. Everywhere, in all places and things, at all times. So, to recap: this god has the power to do anything; it knows all things in existence at all times simultaneously; and it inhabits reality perfectly, permeating it entirely from the moments when all the universe was an infinitely dense point, to the final moments when it will be a frozen wasteland.

It could still be beneficent, however. This is not a total loss. Such a being could have perfect understanding, could love its creations. After all, such a being would know us perfectly, inhabit us totally, and have absolute power in our lives. 

Yeah…problem is, once we get outside pure theory, there's supposedly this one book and an assload of historical precedent for what this being is supposed to be all about. A God-o-pedia, if you will. 

S'called the BIble. Heard of it?

Sweet! So when this absolutely infallible rulebook is interpreted to give the foundations for modern Christianity, it gets ugly.

If the Bible is absolutely correct, if the dogma of the Catholic Church (it's the oldest Christian denomination standing. Bite me.) is true, everything that ever happened, is happening, and could happen is all one eternal moment of existence for this being, right? 

Including, I don't know, the War of Heaven and the Fall of Mankind? 

And there it is. There's the problem right on the nose. If God's word is infallible, if the Bible is a solid source of information about what God wants and the actions taken, if it can be interpreted correctly to allow for man to judge man and to make causing harm in the name of righteousness acceptable…then we have a seriously malicious bastard on our hands.

Think about it: That war kicked off because an angel didn't want mankind put ahead of his kind. Mankind's fall was possible because that angel was deliberately given the explicit power to go on day-trips out of his maximum security prison. A fall that was only possible for that creature to bring about because an omnipotent being told a pair of brand new creatures that they weren't to do something just because.

What? They were warned? No, not really.

Here's the Douay-Rhiems on the subject:

But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.
Genesis 2:17

Anyone that wants to complain about my textual choices: the Douay is the (chronologically and linguistically) closest translation to the original Aramaic without speaking Latin or Greek. So I neither know nor care what you KJV says. This is the closest to the freaking source, so it's what I'm using.

So, quick point then: when did the subject of death come up? I mean, we've got one guy that was brought to life from a pile of dirt, and a chick that was formed from one of his bones. They don't have any knowledge whatsoever of reality beyond the extremely limited perceptions of their existence. Children in all but form.

Children don't understand death. 

That warning was as meaningless as saying: "if you eat that, you'll flibberty-wob." The only way to know why they shouldn't have eaten it in the first place was to eat it. Worse, the idea of consequences wasn't present either. If that tree was the only way in the whole world to learn the distinction between good and evil, that means those two suckers didn't have a concept of "bad." Everything that had ever happened to them was pleasant. Every other being and creature they met was pleasant. How the hell are they supposed to know that something bad can happen if they do something stupid if they have no idea what bad and stupid are?

Ahh, some would nod meaningfully, but it's a test of obedience. And if there's a stick, you can't decide if someone is obeying because they want to or because they're afraid of the stick.

Couple problems: a stick was provided, they just had no way to know it was a stick. Two, you've met one intelligent being. You have no concepts for anything beyond love and pleasant outcomes. Obedience is guaranteed, because if you have no idea what bad is, no concepts of greed or envy, or lust, or power, then there's no reason to do what the nice Deity asked you not to do.

Unless, of course, you meet the second ever intelligent being in your whole existence. And that being actually gives you a somewhat intelligible reason why you should.

Remember the bit where the first poor sap to tell this all powerful being "no" got to go live in a festering hole of a maximum security prison? Remember the bit where he gets day-trips?

Now, also hold in your mind that these people have no reason to distrust a talking snake. They don't know what betrayal is, can't fathom lies, and think of God as an awesome big bro type guy that gives them good things all the time because he can.

For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as  Gods, knowing good and evil.
Genesis 3:5

So…basically, we eat this, and we become like that awesome person that we love so much? And we could maybe, I don't know, give him some great stuff like he gives us?

Yeah. That's pretty much what that looks like. The only being in existence that knows what's going on, knows how to lie, and has the freedom to get to the brand new species that has no concept of anything bad or wrong, "somehow" gets to them and casually mentions they could be like their big brother, and all they have to do is the only thing he asked them not to. Which they don't have a reason for not doing anymore at that point, since they don't know what "betrayal" or "disobedience" mean.

Ah, but sure, this is all free will, right? Stepping back, letting people choose their own path…sure.

In this vein, please feel free to let your toddlers play with lit candles, or out on the highway, because they're free to choose. Why wouldn't we do that? Ohhh, right, because we know that the only way to exercise free will is to know what the choices are. 

So…where does this leave us? Well…basically, God punished an entire race, for doing something they couldn't understand, at the behest of the only evil creature in the universe, who can only leave his prison because God lets him. And who, by the way, rebelled in the first place because of those beings he helped destroy.

That would seem to be a fairly high benchmark for malice. All the horrible things that happen to humans, according to Christians, goes back to there. 

All the times the Bible has been applied absolutely, all the times that a fanatic Christian says, "X is wrong, and should never happen, no matter who gets hurt, because God loves us"? 

Those all stem from the basic principle that the original sin stained us somehow, and therefore inclines us to sin. 

Sounds at this point like I'm taking on the whole religion, no? Here's the catch: Jesus showed up. And spent three years telling everyone he could get to listen to him that the key to life, the universe, and everything was to love everyone, judge no-one, get through life being nice to people and doing the best you can to obey the basic rules. 

And then knowing it was going to happen was betrayed by a close friend to a bunch of royal bastards that tortured him, and then killed him in the most painful means available to them. Which he took on the chin because he was the only sacrifice big enough to appease God for the bullshit scenario that put mankind in the hole in the first place. 

That's it. That's the whole sum total of what it means to be Christ-like. Love, peace, helping others by any means available, and acceptance of everyone, knowing that if anything goes wonky the all powerful deity will catch things up on the backswing.

All this other stuff? Protecting the world from sinners, stamping out sinful things through legislation, protecting your fellow man from even the ability to sin by voting to have his free will curtailed? Choosing to interpret the Bible to say that you can hate gays and hold women to unreasonable ancient laws, but still watch football on Sundays and not be killed if you want to have an affair?

That's where God becomes Cthulhu. Because even if all of this is some strange attempt to just allow a race to determine their own course, none of that crap is in the playbook. None of that applies. We're supposed to follow precepts of love, to live in the image of a God claiming to be loving.

So, the question to take away here is: which is it? 

Is God a malicious eldritch abomination that is essentially toying with beings that are suffering because it amuses it?

Is God a being of love just trying to let his kids grow up, and the entirety of human history is one long "this is why you don't play with matches;" and if that's true, how can you justify hurting and judging others in the name of a being that explicitly told you to do neither?

Is God a chessmaster, playing out the moves all at once to reach an unknowable "perfect" outcome? And again, if so, why choose to interpret what is claimed to be his rulebook to say that you should do things the namesake of your religion told you not to? Wouldn't playing outside the rules sort of invalidate the game?

And finally, the one that most will both agree and disagree with, is God everything he's claimed to be, and you're right in interpreting his word to allow you to simultaneously claim the salvation offered by his Son, while emulating the behavior of the Father in the old testament?

That last? That's the scariest. Because if that's correct, then the statement "made in his image" is absolutely correct in every particular. And this world we've built? This is heaven. After all, if God is just like us, only more powerful in every respect…then there's nothing but more of this on a larger scale waiting when we kick it. 

It would mean that this horrible little world we're trying to make better is heaven in miniature, with fewer special effects and dead people. And frankly, the thought that God is a really big human and "perfection" simply means "encompassing all that it is to be human" is the worst possible outcome to me. 

I'd honestly sleep better at night knowing Cthulhu's more powerful twin was watching me and dreaming of how my soul will taste than knowing that the most powerful force in all reality…

…is just like us in every way.


*Rough translation: God Almighty Dreams