Archive for November, 2011

Christmas and Other Things

Posted in The Narrow Path on November 26, 2011 by RWZero

Today I strolled through the Junction in full Victorian costume with a few other people from the choir, caroling away. These gigs don’t pay anything (for me personally), but they’re a privilege.

Christmas was always one of the most enjoyable things in life for me. Rather than try to find something to replace it with, I’ve decided that I’m just going to be Christian for Christmas. That’s simple enough.

I’ve run out of temperamental things to say, so I think I’m going to start giving some more focused expression to my thoughts again. The original purpose of this blog was to write ~ 100 little essays exploring Christianity. All the topics that Christianity is supposed to address still need to be addressed; I suppose one might just call them “philosophy” if one isn’t committed to a dogmatic stance on the issue. Maybe I’ll do that. Maybe I’ll shut this down and leave it be. I do know that I’ll figure that out within some number of weeks, and before another couple months go by, I will finish revising all the original essays and post a PDF of them.

Maybe I’ll try to get it published by Zondervan. They’ll publish anything.

It’s Happened

Posted in The Narrow Path on November 19, 2011 by RWZero

I’m studying philosophy in the evenings.

Please Stop Abusing these Four Words

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on November 18, 2011 by RWZero

EPIC – Homer’s Iliad is epic. Great symphonies are epic. Youtube videos that titillate you with jokes that aren’t funny are not epic. Please let this word recover from its injuries so that we can use it again.

FAIL – This is insufferable. It arises from a certain pride and enjoyment in the desecration of grammar. It arises from an inherent laziness and unwillingness to articulate one’s ideas or observations. Most importantly, it arises from a desire to make oneself feel good by laughing at the foolishness of others while failing to notice the plank in one’s own eye–a plank which, ironically, is composed precisely of the portrayals of oneself that one flings out into the open air by saying such things as “fail.”

WIN – The first two objections from “FAIL” +  implies the inability to find enjoyment in life through anything other than comparisons, competition and seeking things that derive their value solely from the opinions of the masses.

FACEPALM – Sarcastic expressions of incredulity benefit from dry wit and subtlety, not self-awareness, conformity, and the smell of trying too hard.

I will refrain from commenting on the fact that three of these four words are often used in concatenation.

Please be a part of the solution.

I’m aware that this has nothing to do with religion.

True Colours

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on November 14, 2011 by RWZero

I don’t know how many people heard about this (even this video only has a few thousand views on Youtube), but nonetheless…

There’s something about the fact that he waited until he was out of office to say this. There’s something about the fact that one has to wait until one is out of office to say it.

This reminds me of something that I think is endemic to evangelical Christianity: the willingness to put doctrines before all else. It does not matter what one actually thinks. It does not matter what one actually does. What matters most is what one espouses. Accept the right doctrines and evangelicals will love you.

My apologies; I should qualify that: doctrines sometimes involve more than verbal assent. To hold to the doctrine of “no premarital sex,” for instance, you have to actually follow it. But the point is that correct beliefs are valued so highly that evangelicals will overlook almost everything about you, if you only espouse proper doctrine. Piles of American evangelicals voted for president Bush simply because they believed he believed the right things. I know this because I know that piles of American evangelicals did not vote for Obama because they believed he did not believe the right things (and I know that because some of them simply told me so).

The evangelical mind, en masse, is a simple thing to manipulate. You just have to say the right things (and to a lesser extent, do the right things). And the right things are easy to learn. Nobody will notice your shoddy Biblical Literacy or question your fringe beliefs, because there’s so much fringe belief and poor Biblical Literacy that they’d never be able to screen anyone out like that.

As soon as this interview was over, Bush received a phone call informing him that he’s “just alienated his evangelical base.” But the problem, guys, is that he always thought that. It’s too late to be alienated, evangelicals. He thought those things when you voted for him. Gotcha. How many votes would this interview have cost him? Should it cost him any votes?

I’d like to issue a reminder that I am not left-wing and I’m not anti-Bush (though there may be good reasons to be both those things; I just haven’t gotten around to subscribing). I’m glad he wasn’t a creationist, of course. But this isn’t about politics, but about the way that we apply discernment.

Another example: someone I know has told me that she wouldn’t marry a person who doesn’t have a Christian commitment, because that is the only way she could trust him. It’s the only security. I understand her, because I always felt the same way. The problem is that:

A) It’s questionable whether that’s really what makes the difference, according to the stats

B) Even if you assume that it does make all the difference, this won’t do you any good if you suck at understanding people. How do you know he has that supreme, unshakable Christian commitment? How do you know it’s impregnable? Being unable to discern that is the same as being unable to discern the fate of a chance that you take on someone else, whom you’ve judged based on all the normal qualities.

It doesn’t matter what people espouse. It matters what they really are like. Which mean it matters that you pay attention to what people really are like.

Why we Disagree

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on November 6, 2011 by RWZero

We human beings disagree with each other because of the differences between what we want to be true, and what actually is true.

There are exceptions. But in my experience, major points of contention often boil down to this: those who are on the side of the truth, and those who either have something to lose from accepting the truth, or something to gain by accepting a lie.

Some people have something to gain from the truth. Some issues have no established truth, and attract supporters to whatever side resonates most with their emotions.

When two parties who just want to know what is true enter a dialogue, they often change each other. They never say: “we won’t convince each other.” Their respective goals are not to win the argument, but to agree. Who says “we won’t change each other’s minds,” after all? People who hold false positions say that. The logically-minded person who knows the powerful evidence for his position will always hope, even if naively,  that those compelling facts can change even the most stubborn person’s mind. Only people who do not want to reach the truth–the people who are afraid to change their minds–say “we won’t change each other’s minds.” They say is to convince themselves that they really won’t change their minds. To convince themselves that the opposition is just as biased as they are.

I will point something out, though it is not a truism: when you want to know who’s more likely to be wrong about something, start by looking for the person who has the most at stake. The most to lose. The need to believe what they do.

This may sound simple, but the oftentimes truth is oftentimes simple. Simple as pie.

In the sky.

HOWEVER, I suggest this only as a guide for where one should start looking, and things one ought to notice. I shall not be party to anyone using Bulverism (a term that I have only recently learned), wherein one feels that it is sufficient to expose an opponent’s motives and emotional biases, rather than appealing to the facts.

Bulverism is admittedly one of the most prevalent, and most pernicious, forms of argumentation out there. Lest any Christian reading this feel offended by my saying this (as if this fallacy has been named, and invented, to describe the behaviour of Christian apologists), please be settled:

C.S. Lewis coined that term.


Posted in The Facts and Ideas on November 6, 2011 by RWZero

Have you ever noticed that strongly-entrenched opponents–on any subject–always have rebuttals to even the most damning evidence?

I used to think that if you made a convincing enough argument (and you were in the right), the other side would totally collapse, saying nothing in response. But I’ve come to accept that if people are strongly convinced of something, they will always have a rebuttal. If you’re desperate enough to believe them, it will sound convincing.

You can almost never rely on the other side collapsing and waving the white flag. How often does it ever happen that people produce no response to their opponent’s arguments? They must produce a response in order to continue on with their position. It’s never a question of whether one exists, but whether it’s any good.

I despair at the inability of people to concede false positions. I despair at their inability to accept the truth even when it hurts. If all of us are so good at lying to ourselves, what hope is there?

“Paralyzing Nihilism”

Posted in Uncategorized on November 6, 2011 by RWZero

I’m getting click-throughs on this site from searches like “Paralyzing Nihilism.”

Dear Visitor and fellow sufferer – if that’s what you’re Googling, we should be friends.