Because if you’d die for it…

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Posted by Isaac | Posted in Religion and Philosophy | Posted on 05-04-2010

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Community is very important to a living and thriving religion.  These communities are self-reinforcing, based in large part on some kind of testimony.  I use the word testimony warily, because it has been strongly co-opted by Western-Christian ideology.  However, I think it is still a good word and I’m going to use it here:

1.a. A declaration by a witness under oath, as that given before a court or deliberative body.
1.b. All such declarations, spoken or written, offered in a legal case or deliberative hearing.
2. Evidence in support of a fact or assertion; proof.
3. A public declaration regarding a religious experience.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/testimony

Obviously the first definition deals with legal process.  It is definitions two and three which concern me here.  While I think it is appropriate to have these separated, I think for many believers by giving some kind of public declaration regarding a religious experience, they are intending to give evidence in support of a fact or assertion: the act of making a personal expression of faith is, in and of itself, seen as an authoritative statement of truth.  Simpler said, because I’m willing to say I believe it, it must be true.

Testimony is highly subjective.  Religious truths are universal and objective, yet they are often reinforced by this subjective process.  Testimony is powerful when a group of like-minded (or like-experienced) individuals get together and share their stores.  However, what happens when someone shares a personal testimony of a different religious experience? That person’s personal experience no longer holds authority.  There appears to be an important aspect of conformity in testimony holding authority for a community.

A community where the use and power of testimony is clear and important is The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints.  I’m not singling out the Mormons for any reason other than the fact that testimony is vital to their daily religious experience and often done in a very accessible manner–one of the big reasons they are a strong and growing religion.  They provide strong and convincing evidence of how testimony can be used to express religious truths and to maintain a strong community.

Here is an short (5 minutes) and interesting example of testimony in action:

I find this video incredibly interesting.  Even without the well-done video use of audio and staged visuals for emotional responses, the testimony by the apostle is very powerful and surely convincing within the community.  It is actually testimony about testimony–the witness is saying I know this is true because these other people believed it so much they were willing to die for it. That’s serious and heart-moving business.

It’s also where I need to move from observation to criticism.  People die every day for their beliefs; people often die because of a difference of belief.  While it makes for good drama, it is a logical fallacy to assume that because someone is willing to die for a belief, that belief must be true.  This representation can work in a vacuum–assume only one truth, “our belief if the truth,” and it makes a lot of sense that someone would die for it.  But look at everyone who has died for their religious truth and at best you’ve got a really solid argument for religious pluralism.

This is ultimately the problem with testimony as it is often used today.  Personal experience is the cornerstone of the religious experience, but using personal experience as a singular expression of authority within a community setting can (and appears to usually) create an environment where the community becomes focused on patting itself on the back or defining/defending itself from society at large.

Looking at the big picture, it also makes a pretty good case for the very thing many religions try to fight against–the idea that each individual can believe what they want and it is a valid because it is their own experience.

Unfulfilled Promises

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Posted by Isaac | Posted in Relationships | Posted on 08-06-2009

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this shooter in PA. This guy, whose narrative is horribly tragic, is full of unfulfilled [mythical] promises of fertility/dominance and self-defeat by failing to obtain those promises .  In his murderous act, he finds retribution against a whole class.  Being, as he sees it, rejected again and again has made this a battle with “women,” not a single person.  He finds no accountability in his own failures–this is so dangerous.

He posted his diary online and it’s an amazingly fascinating read.  Being the student of religion I am, the reason I looked at it was because I wanted to see if there was anything religious in it.  On the day of his shooting, I found this:

Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.

But that’s it, that is really the only religious entry.  Reading the entire diary, we find that he’s tried at least once before to do the shooting, but does not do it.  Is the thought of an afterlife and the forgiveness of sins what he needed to push himself to do it?  I don’t really buy it.  He says a couple of times that “religion is shit.”  I think his previous attempts–his online diary existing in the first place–were all cries for help.  He just wanted someone to love him.  Maybe he believed that God would love him, but I think we can make anything into a justification if we want to.

And feeling hurt, lonely, and deprived is the justification he used.  He, a strong, virile, white man, how could he not be without young, hot, vivacious sex action?  I said he just wanted to be loved.  No, he needed to be loved.  What he wanted was to have lots of sex and prove his worth as a man by his sexual conquests. No matter how far we have or seem to have progressed, in America we can’t seem to shake the superiority of men to women, especially sexually. Our myths support it, our rituals support it, and our ideas about love and relationships support it.

How can I say such sweeping generalizations?  Well, first, they are generalizations.  It’s true for everyone and it’s not true all of the time.  But it’s very prevalent and often under the covers, because we don’t want to talk about it.  One of the things that stood out the most for me in his diary, of all the things, is when he says:

Told by at least 100 girls/women over the years I was a “nice guy”. Not kidding.

For those of you who have never had these words spoken at you, this is the death sentence, this is the no hope for romance, this is the end of the line.  “You’re a nice guy” means “I’m not going to sleep with you and, by the way, since you’re so nice, would you mind doing this thing for me?”  This is as opposed to the mythical bad boy, the one who is hard, fast, and daring on the outside, but soft, sensitive, and caring on the inside.  Our knight in shining armor.  Our prince charming and his god damn white horse.

This kind of thinking is where I put on the brakes though.  Is it… really all about sex?  Really?  Is that all we, as progressive, advanced, rational, civilized people have at the core of our relationships with each other?  Yeah, I don’t buy that either.  Well, I believe this is how it is for a LOT of people, but I just don’t think it needs to be.  And this is where the guys like the shooter don’t understand what is going on.

Unless you want single nights of ugly, retarded sex, stay away from the girl who thinks “nice guys” are duds and the guy who think “hot chicks” are all that’s important.  You can get, have, and deserve much better.  He looked at all of these young college girls, all of these gym rats, and said “why can’t I have any of that?”  I ask–why would you want that?

I’m not going to let “society” take the blame for this.  I am pretty upset at the thinking and mythology that perpetuate not only the back-asswards relationships we seem to strive for but the kind of masculine machismo which makes it okay to walk into a place and randomly kill people for some kind of petty, symbolic retribution.  But, folks, it’s the individuals who perpetuate this thinking.  This guy was lonely, and tragic, and a gigantic fucking asshole.  He bought into idiotic cultural myths and let them control his life.  He then took his pain out on others, never accepting accountability for his actions nor, from what I can tell, ever thought of another human being, especially women, as an individual, as a person.

Don’t be this asshole and don’t perpetuate the asshole myths that made him believe he deserved to have lots of sex (and if he didn’t he was worthless).  Take some responsibility.

Moving On…

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Posted by Isaac | Posted in News | Posted on 07-15-2009

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There comes a time to move on.

People move, relationships end, death happens.  Life doesn’t stop and entropy marches blindly onward.

TIME! Is marching on.
And time.. is still marching on.
This day will soon be at an end and now it’s even sooner.
And now it’s even sooner.
And now it’s even sooner.

They Might Be Giants, Older

As we all do, I have seen many of my relationships (family, friends, lovers) end.  When I was growing up, I moved every year or two.  These moves were always dramatic, to different cities and different states.  Rarely was it across town, but even when it was, it was to different schools with different friends.  I got really good at making new friends, but I also got really good at spending time with myself.  I also got really good at letting go.

My father died when I was 25. A good friend of mine died when he was 27–we were the same age.  All of my grand parents and great grand parents are gone, most of them within memory.  (My mom is alive and well–and, since I know you are reading this, you better stay that way!)  Death is not a stranger and in some ways that is comforting.  When I was in high school, I went through the stereotypical depressed years.  I, in fact, almost died in my sophomore year of high school when I had a misdiagnosed case of appendicitis.  I went for a week and a half with a ruptured appendix.  For those of you not paying attention, the typical life expectancy is something like 48 hours.

I went through a very weird period where I personified Death (yeah, capital “D” Death personified-booooy!).  I imagined Death as anthropomorphic figure who rationed, reasoned, and maybe even felt. I imagined what it would be like to die and converse with this person.  You might understand why the first Terry Pratchett books I fell in love with involved Death as a character–and if you don’t, then you simply haven’t read enough Terry Pratchett and I insist you stop reading my drivel this moment and go pick up one of his books.  Ahem, anyways…

When I moved to California, I felt very lost.  Even though I hated Texas, where we had lived before, I had really started to feel at home there.  I was in advanced classes, I had some good friends, I even had girls flirting with me.  I felt like things were starting to come together and I was also working off of the promise my parents made not to move me when once I got to high school.  I can still recall my mother telling me “I had to move my freshman year of high school and I never want to do that to you.”  For reason beyond most mortals control, we did end up moving, and, yes, it was in my freshman year.  I remember on my birthday, one of the girls in my Honors English class gave me a snickers bar wrapped around an old stuffed animal frog for my birthday, shyly, about a month before we were moving.  All I remember is blurting out “I’m moving!” and getting away as fast as I could.

Romantic relationships end.  While I’m open to sharing many things with you, my faceless readers, these are mine.  If you want to hear these stories, I doubt you’ll read them many of them here.  But they do–and those of you who know me, know some of those stories.  Relationships, even ones ending, are important to me.  People are important to me.  I strive to not have messy endings and I think I’ve done a pretty good job.  I’m still friends with many of the people I’ve dated–just because something doesn’t work out doesn’t mean you can’t make something of it after enough time has passed.  Then again, sometimes you can’t and I recognize that too.

This is even more important to me when dealing with romantic relationships within social circles. I don’t tend to date random people–I’ve never been one to pick up on a random woman in the library or coffee shop or whatever.  And I try to be as honest as possible IN my relationships and part of that is working through problems.. and acknowledging when they’re probably unsolvable.  I prefer to break-up mutually and amicably.  This not only allows for, hopefully, no bad feelings, but then there’s not all this awkwardness in the social circles.  You’ve already lost a romantic partner, why lose friends as well?  And there’s a strong likelihood people in your social circle may date people you have, this is part of how social circles work.  If you date someone I have, I won’t begrudge you your shot at happiness, so don’t worry about feeling awkward about me.  I say more power to ya!

Emotions are hard things to wrangle sometimes, so I’m not suggesting that I’ve got good control over those all the time.  But I believe: you do good, you get good; so I try my best to do good, especially in all of my relationships (family, friends, lovers).  And this ties back to the whole death thing.  You never know when someone will leave you.  You never know when you will leave. So why mess around with it?  Get the best out of life.  When it’s worth it, hold on for dear life… and when it’s not, don’t hold on when you don’t need to.

There’s a lot more to life than carrying the past around with you.

Where people go to die

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Posted by Isaac | Posted in News | Posted on 07-12-2009

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It’s late Sunday morning and I’m sitting in my favorite grease-hole diner.  I think you know the type:  where the eggs are runny, the corned-beef hash is burnt on the outside and uncooked in the middle, the coffee is horrid, and the service is rude but reliable.  It really doesn’t get any better than this.

I’m by myself, reading a book.  Fork absently in one hand, book in the other, I am oblivious to everyone around me–that’s one of the reasons to come to a place like this, right?  Occasionally I chuckle from something I read.  I expertly scoop from from my plate into my mouth without much thought, a feat that comes from lots of experiences–and a few stained shirts and books.  Every once in a while I make the mistake of tasting the food, followed quickly by trying to fix this by drinking the coffee, which is of course also a mistake.  The delicate dance continues.

By some miracle, I make it through most of the food in front of me.  My stomach debates complaining, but it’s used to this and, in many ways, it is comforting to be full of greasy breakfast food.  At the end of a chapter, I put the book down and look around for the first time in a while.  I’m in the narrow window between breakfast and lunch rush and it’s quieted down since I first came in, though I know for the severs this is really the calm before the storm–this also means I’m on my own if I want a refill or to get my check.

I first notice the table across the aisle to my right.  It is an older man sitting with what appears to be his two daughters, who are maybe 6 and 9 respectively.  I notice him because he is ordering what I just ate, though he asks for his toast with extra butter.  This is, I assume, a polite way of saying “with any butter,” as the toast only comes in two ways:  traces of what might be the effort to put some butter on the toast but otherwise completely and absolutely dry or so sopping wet with butter that you could probably use a sham-wow before eating it and still have plenty left over to fill your butter snowmen molds.  I drift away for a moment, only to have my attention subtly pulled back.

“Ah, ha ha, what did the world do, uh, before text messaging,” he says, trying to appear clever, which only serves to highlight his discomfort at having what is probably the small time he gets to spend with his daughters taken up by one of them who is, yes, texting on her phone.  I think to myself that he would, perhaps, have better luck if he got a phone himself.  I try not to intrude long on his time with his daughters, but it is clear how uncomfortable he is and I feel bad.  This is highlighted more so when one of the girls says something starting with “my mom.”  I glance at him and you can see the pain he is trying to hide on his face:  “mom” shouldn’t need a “my” in front of it just like “wife” doesn’t need an “ex.”

I turn my attention elsewhere, letting the father have his short time with his girls.  Good luck, my friend.  In the next booth over from them is an older couple, perhaps early sixties, sitting opposite from each other in the bench.  The man is reading a book and wife is slowly chewing her food quietly.  After a few moments, the man chuckles and reads something aloud, which I assume he thinks is poignant but I am too far to hear, and the wife merely nods.  They sit quietly again for another minute or so and then he chuckles and reads something aloud, which I assume he thinks is poignant but I am too far to hear, and the wife merely nods.  This continues.  She is clearly bored and uninterested and he clearly does not care.  I wonder at how this can be, but before I get too far, I hear the ghosts of my own relationships past and being told not to bring the newspaper to the breakfast table (with clever retorts like “what better time to read the news than at breakfast?”), quickly feel guilty, and look away, giving them their privacy and shoving my ghosts and guilt back into the hole they belong in.

My eyes cross the aisle to the table in front of me.  Another couple, sitting across from each other, older than the last–perhaps in their late seventies?  Old enough to be noticeably old but not so frail that they require walkers or oxygen tanks or any of the lovely accoutrement which we earn on our final days before we turn in our return ticket.  They sit quietly, not talking at all.  I sit mesmerized.  Chew, chew, chew.  They do not even look at each other.  In fact, they do not even look up–well, I can only guess about the woman, whose back is to me.

It’s then that I become aware of how much I’ve noticed when couples are sitting across from each other.  It makes sense to sit across from one another, right?  This way you can talk, you can look each other in the eye, maybe a passing caress as you each reach for the salt.  And yet.. there is a time and a place for that, but looking at these two couples, I realize how far apart they are.  The table might as well be a bottomless chasm which engulfs all conversation and emotion.  I feel bad for them and I feel bad for every person I cared about who I did not take the time to saddle up next to on the same side of the table.  I vow to never do this again and secretly vow to try to actually remember.

I feel an abrupt jar as the table on the other side of the divider gets new occupants.  You know this diner table type, right?  There is almost one table that is shared between two booths and when someone pushes down hard on their side, your jumps up accordingly.  Mine does this and I find myself back in the present.  Three teenage boys sit down and begin talking at unnecessarily loud levels before they are even situated in their seats.  It takes a moment to sort out what they are saying, but I quickly understand why they are so loud:  they are having three separate conversations and trying their best to get the other two to listen.  I can’t even figure out what they are each talking about, but I quickly realize that I don’t care.  Not only because I doubt I share the interests of a teenage boy, but I certainly have no interest in what someone who competes so loudly for attention has to say.  Perhaps that makes me a snob, but I’ve come to be okay with that.

The conversation is clearly a contest.  Each boy has no time or attention to listen to what the others are saying.  They calm down a little once they get menus and drinks to where a casual observer might thing there are pauses and dialogue which consists of a statement and a thoughtful retort, but really they fall into the pattern of conversation without the reality of conversation.  I’m sure I see myself better than I am, but I wonder if I was ever like this.  I try to take my time to listen, but do I always?  Can I do it better?  I try, I really do, to not feel better than these kids, but I do not succeed.  I know I can have a good conversation and I know I can listen.  The question I ask myself (and I am unable to answer) is: do I use this knowledge as a crutch and assume because I can be a good listener I assume I always am?

Like many times before, I decided then and there that I never want to pretend that I am happy.  I never want to have a relationship–friend, lover, whatever–where the act of being together becomes more important than actually having a relationship.  And, here, I try not make any more assumptions for any of these people.  Maybe there is nothing left to say, maybe they are happy not talking, or maybe just having someone around to compete with is enough; but that is not always the case and perhaps I have too much a idealized or romantic streak, but I believe we can have more, I believe we can do more with our lives and with our relationships.

I think I’ve lived this principle well, but it’s always hard to see at the time.  My life is full of mistakes, but I try my best to learn from them.  I feel like, sitting there along with my book, at least I am being honest with myself.  I may be sitting alone but I’m trying to do it honestly and with dignity.

What kind of dignity is that?  I’m not really sure.  But it’s the best I’ve got and that is good enough for me.

Gymiquette

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Posted by Isaac | Posted in Life | Posted on 07-07-2009

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I have two places I work out.  One is for the University I work for–a big, nice gym built for all of the students.  Lots of machines, lots of space, and, often, lots of people–but it never feels small and rarely feels crowded.  I also have a very small workout room at my apartment complex, which consists of two treadmills, and elliptical, two stationary bikes, three weight machines that cover the basic spectrum of muscles, and a set of dumbbells.  The room is smaller than my living room and kitchen–cozy.  I use the workout room in my complex often because it’s super convenient and it’s rarely used, especially at the times I go.  Rare, but not unheard of.

Working out is often a very personal thing.  Trust me, I understand this.  Getting myself to a place where I can workout on a regular basis has been a very long, uphill battle.  Not only was I incredibly socially awkward in middle and high school, but I (gladly, at the time) was able to get out of taking P.E.  I have cocked ankles and “pes planus” (flat feet).  At the time it made a lot of sense–I could have seriously hurt myself.  Knowing what I know now, though, and spending a lot of time doing things like hiking, running, playing racquetball, and foot hockey, I realize what a disservice not getting to do P.E. was.  Who knows, maybe not doing it then allowed me to do it now?

Whatever good or bad decision it was, one consequence is I never learned how to work out.  This is not just an issue about discipline, but even knowing how to lift weights, run right, hydrate, all of those things.  When I first started working with upper body weights, I hurt myself easy and often because my back and shoulder muscles had zero support–and not just core, but a lot of the muscles were just never used in things like marathon reading.

So when I say working out is a personal thing, I mean for many it takes incredible concentration.  Ironically, though, it took having people to go with to motivate me.  I know it is this way for others, but for me it had to do a lot with things like not knowing or understanding even how gyms or locker rooms worked out.  My last experiences in early public school with working out before I stopped doing P.E. were humiliating because I was so clumsy and so weak that I could hardly participate in events… and young boys are hardly understanding.

Thankfully, all of that is in the past and I’m much more fit and I’ve found a real passion for getting physical.  Which allows me to be observant as I work out now.  I have noticed that people behave differently at the two facilities.  Maybe because at the big gym there are a lot of students, but it is clearly more social there.  But even I’m this way when I go with my friends to work out.  Is it the space?  Is it the setting?  People are still focused, but it just feels more loose.

The rare time I run into someone in my complex, there always seems to be some kind of tension.  Maybe there is some sort of small workout etiquette I am just not aware of.  Maybe a lot of people who like the workout room like it because it is private–I can totally get that.  I just find it weird that two people can be in a room and hardly even say hello.  But I guess that is how it goes.  So many people don’t even say hello to their neighbors–funny how the closer the dwellings are, the less likely it seems people try to form community.  Especially in a pseudo-urban “young working professional” type place like where I live.

Really, though, I find the gym to be a nice tool.  It helps me get in shape and get the workout I need, but I try to spend my time doing other physical things as much as I can, especially if they are social.  If you can get community + fitness together, that’s an even bigger win to me.

Personal Narrative

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Posted by Isaac | Posted in Education, Life, Relationships | Posted on 06-29-2009

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I have been thinking a lot about the stories we tell ourselves.

The tumultuous economy has affected many.  For a while I thought I might be untouched, but things are looking a lot more shaky than they were.  This affects me in very interesting ways.  Most of the problem is not actually my personal situation, though it is scary.  Mostly, people are just a lot more grumpy and cynical.  It wears.

Where I have been most affected is my plan to finally finish my Master’s degree in Religious Studies.  I finally got myself ramped back up to get it finished and now with pay cuts and bleak times ahead, I just can’t justify taking on the loans I now need to take on to get it finished.  I’ve paid for my school as I’ve gone along and taking on debt is just not appealing right now.

A good friend told me that I didn’t need an advanced degree to be legitimate.  While I’m not trying to get my Master’s in Religious Studies to legitimize anything–I’m doing it because I want the knowledge and the experience–it got the meat juices flowing.  Unless there is specific knowledge you are trying to get, degrees are mostly part of myth–a right of passage myth.  By going through the steps and the process, you prove you can participate in the process of advancing in society.  Note that I am not saying the degree process is false or wrong, but there is a mythical element to it.  While our educations provide foundations, it is our experience and our ability to learn from that experience that generates the bulk of our knowledge.

How many people define themselves by the degrees they have?  Or, more to what I’ve been thinking about, how many people look down at themselves because they don’t have degree X.  Or aren’t doing Y and so failure is the only thing in sight.

We all have an idea of who we are and who we want to be.  There is going to be a natural difference between who we think we are and who we are (in sum of our experiences).  It’s often too easy to overlook a bad deed or a poorly worded retort.  Let’s face it, it can be awful hard to admit “Wow, I really screwed that up and was not very nice.”  Most of us seem to learn to apologize, but I’m too aware of how many people seem to not understand there is a difference between just saying the words and meaning them.

I’m curious what happens when we let these ideas of who are or who we want to be get to mythical proportions.  It seems like it would be too easy to swing into grossly arrogant or pitifully depressed.

I know this happens to me, for example, when I think about past relationships or where I think I should be right now in my life with romance.  I always assumed that I would get married (once) and have a rich and happy partnership.  I feel like I have a lot to offer.  People around me like to be supportive and tell me what a great husband/father/potato I would make–I want to scream at them to stop saying that, because it just makes me feel worse about it all.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to be a good partner through the failed relationships I’ve had a long the way–and that’s also not sailing they are all failures just because they ended… but I’ve definitely had some failures.  But a lesson I am coming to see is how I struggle with myself because of the dichotomy of how I see myself versus how I really am.

But it’s not just pining about relationships.  Romance is just an easy go-to.  I think this happens with all kinds of things:  education, careers, personal achievement goals, whatever.  It’s important to have something to strive for.. and it’s incredibly important to hope.  But it’s also important to remember what those things are and not get so caught up that we forget either who we are or what we are doing.  Sometimes it’s good to just be yourself.  Sometimes it’s good to just enjoy the journey.

Ah, but the truth is, it’s always good to dream.

If God doesn’t matter to him, do you?

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Posted by Isaac | Posted in Religion and Philosophy | Posted on 06-01-2009

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So I first saw this amazingly offensive campaign in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miULdI-qocg

Then these billboards apparently started popping up.

I only bring this up in light of Dr. George Tiller’s murder. While I’m not going to touch either side of the abortion argument, I have a strong sense of hypocrisy when I look at the contradictions in messages.

Murder in the name of God is not something unknown.  In fact, not only does it happen, but it appears to be quite condoned in (“Western”) religious texts.

For example, in a form of genocide, as recounted in the “Old Testament”:

16 But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:

17 But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:

Deutoronomy 20:16-17

Or perhaps this individual encouter, as recounted in The Book of Mormon, in which Nephi murders Laban:

10 And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.

11 And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.

1 Nephi 4:10-13, 18

The point here is that, going by religious texts, murder and killing is not something outside of the realm of (“Western”) God’s will.

So what kind of hypocrisy is it so show images and make statements which imply that someone who doesn’t believe in God will kill?  I’m much more concerned by someone who feels a moral obligation to kill.  Take, for example, the writings of another famous abortion doctor killer, the Reverend Paul Hill:

The scriptures teach that when the government requires sin of its people that they “… must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29b). No human government can remove the individual’s duty to keep each of the Ten Commandments: these duties are inalienable. When the government, thus, will not defend the people’s children—as required by the Sixth Commandment—this duty necessarily reverts to the people. You don’t need the government’s permission before defending your own or your neighbor’s child. If the people’s children will not be defended by the government, they must be defended by the people, or they will not be defended at all.

And if you want your fellow citizens, and the government, to recognize this duty, you must assert it.  The outrage is not that some people use the means necessary to defend the unborn, but that since most people deny that this duty exists the government will not perform it on the people’s behalf.

If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage you to take a moment and read his article on why, how, and the aftermath of shooting and killing Dr. John Britton and his escort, James Barrett: http://www.armyofgod.com/PHill_ShortShot.html

But, here, let’s look at the truth of it.  Being Christian, for example, doesn’t make anyone more or less likely to kill any more than being an atheist or agnostic does.  Individual people make individual decisions and justify them by whatever means they want.

I think we should put more emphasis, as individuals, on our own value on life than on defeating our enemies.

OS X: Invalid Record Count

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Posted by Isaac | Posted in Technology | Posted on 07-19-2008

Tags: , ,

Warning:  Geek Ahead

I recenty had a problem with my Apple HD and I didn’t find anything good online, so I am going to post what I did here so anyone else trolling the search engines might get some help.

Scenario:

I don’t reboot my laptop often, but I noticed that it’s running a little sluggish, so I decided maybe it’s time to give it a good restart.  I am, of course, looking over some of my notes for the two presentations I am giving in a couple of days as it does this.  As the computer starts back up, I turn away.  When I look back, it is turned off.  Odd, but my laptop has some quirks, so I give it a go again.  This time I watch.  Yup, it starts to boot and then just turns off.  Weeeeeird.

I get my handy boot/install disk and check the system log, where I see messsages like this..

kernel[0]: HFS: Runtime corruption detected on HD, fsck will be forced on next mount.
kernel[0]: hfs_swap_BTNode: invalid forward link (0xb6baad6e >= 0x0000a280)
kernel[0]: node=33456 fileID=4 volume=HD device=/dev/disk0s2

Bad juju, but hopefully not a big deal.  I pull up Disk Utility and I get this lovely message.

Invalid record count
Volume check failed
Error: The underlying task reported failure on exit

1 HFS volume checked
1 volume could not be validated or repaired because of an error.

Blah.

So I play the “I’ll look away and then it will do it” game for a while, but I can’t make it work.  I go back to the command line and use the checking tool myself.

fsck_hfs -d /dev/disk0s2

Same result. Thanks.  I, of course, run this a couple more times, ’cause, yeah, you never know.  Hah.

I do some research online and find very little.  I’m looking at some of the fancier tools and then realize I haven’t tried all of the options with fsck_hsf.  I notice it always fails at the catalog check

fsck_hfs -dr /dev/disk0s2

Ahha!  -r rebuilds the catalog.  It runs through about four checks over about 10-15 minutes, but comes out saying it’s clean.  I run one more check just to be safe, but it doesn’t detect any problems.  Cross my fingers and reboot and, viola, it works.

This probably means my disk is toast or going to be toast soon, but I’ve been monitoring the log and so far no errors, so we’ll just have to see.  I have my system backed up, so it wouldn’t/won’t be tragic to replace the drive, but it’s work I don’t really want to do if I don’t need to.

I hope this helps someone–fun with disk problems!

Of History, Resurrection, and the Number Three

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Posted by Isaac | Posted in Religion and Philosophy | Posted on 07-08-2008

Tags: , , ,

An image of what someone from the time and place of Christ may have looked like...One of the cornerstones of almost every Christian denomination is the resurrection of body or spirit.  This is almost always based in resurrection of Jesus Christ after three days.  This story is particular powerful because it is a demonstration of God’s power over death and is a complete, amazing, and satisfying answer to question of mortality–one of the most powerful questions which draw people to religion.

I have to admit that I am not a master in the theory or theology of the resurrection, so I write this post with a little trepidation and the disclaimer to do your own research if this gets you thinking.

This post is inspired by the recent discovery of a tablet which talks about the resurrection of a messiah after three days which has, I am to understand, been reasonably dated to before the time of the birth of Christ.  This tablet has apparently created an amazing about of debate and sparked some pretty hefty arguments.

What’s the big deal you might ask?  Much to my surprise, there are Christian apologists who apparently have an argument which suggests that one of the things which makes the resurrection of Christ story so compelling is that there are no other stories about a three day resurrection–that is to say, it is unique.  In scholarship, this is an extremely important point and, even though I was unaware people were making this argument, it is a very good argument to make–if there is no tradition to build on, why three days?  This seems like a rather strange thing for someone to make up, so it makes a lot of academic sense (with the appropriate level of pontification and long-winded arguments) that it likely had to happen.

Except that I do not think it is true.  I think there are a lot of examples in prior traditions.  It is no secret that the resurrection story itself is not unique.  The most obvious–and hotly contested–which comes to mind is Mithra.  I am not going to go into all of the (supposed) parallels of Mithra and Christ, but one of the important ones is that Mithra died and resurrected.  Some even claim that he rose three days later, but I do not have any support for this (anyone?).  I do also feel obliged to say that I think these two figures/traditions are so intermingled, it may be hard to ever understand how each influenced the other.

Anyways, the point at hand is that the resurrection story is not unique.  Mythical heroes have been getting resurrected in some way since there were myths to be told.  But what about the three days?  This is just not true.  There are resurrection stories in Egyptian mythology and the most prominent to the point is the story of Horus, who died and was resurrected three days later.  Another story is that of Attis, a story from Greek mythology, who was raised to life three days after being driven mad by a goddess who loved him and killing himself.  I am not making the broad comparison with these stories that others would–I am not saying that they are Christ-like stories or that Christianity stole them.  What I am doing, however, is pointing out that there is already evidence for other three-day resurrection stories.

A point I am even less knowledgeable in, but think should at least be brought up, is the potential significance of the number three.  In my limited knowledge, I have heard the number three used to suggest small numbers or a short time.  Keep in mind that in antiquity numbers were not always used as definite in story and myth.  For example, it has been suggested that the number of 144,000 people who will be saved was not meant to be taken literally, but it is such a big number that it is supposed to represent infinity.  That and something about the importance of twelve.  So the theory is that three days is not a literal three days, but simply “a short time.”  But, again, this is not really an area I know much about, however I wanted to bring it up because it might be relevant, but I admit it is pure conjecture on my part.

I guess I am rather dismayed over the hoopla around this tablet.  I think it is a very neat discovery and the more things we find like this, the better we can understand the people of that time–so it is not the discovery or the tablet itsel which I am bothered by, but it is the big deal around the three day resurrection of Christ being unique.  Sure, it makes a great academic argument, but I think it is simply a wrong argument.  The tablet is interesting and unique in that it potentially demonstrates the idea of a three day resurrection in Jewish thinking at the time (do not forget that apocalyptic stories were a dime a dozen back then and the coming of the Messiah was highly anticipated, especially under the heavy persecution over hundreds of years–for example, some thought the Persian king Cryus was the Messiah because he ended the Babylonian Diaspora), but I do not think this discovery changes anything–unless, of course, one has put faith only in the story of three day resurrection being historically unique.

My date with Orrin Hatch

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Posted by Isaac | Posted in Politics | Posted on 07-02-2008

Tags: ,

I know you are oozing with jealousy, but that blur just to the left of the blur that is my face is the senior senator from Utah.  This snapshot was taken at a taping of The Music and The Spoken Word where somehow I ended up about six seats and a small aisle away from the senator.  This, I have to say, is the extent of my physical exposure.

However, there is slightly more to the story.  As we drove into Salt Lake City last weekend, something sparked a chain of thoughts that ended with “You know, I hate Orrin Hatch.”

The response: “Why?”

The witty return: “Uhh.. I.. uh.. I.. don’t know.  I.. uh.. think he did something I didn’t like.”

I sat for a few moments and I couldn’t think of one single reason.  This smacked of ill-formed, ignorant opinions and generic biased thinking, so I started to do some research.  To be honest, I have not put a big amount of research into the senator, but I did a little research to try to understand who he is a little better.

So I found what he did that made me feel some kind of dislike for him:  his staunch view on copyright laws.  Now, for the record, I am not a zealot about copyright law.  I do think the system is broken, but I don’t really know why–and, really, I have not put a lot of time to study it.  But what I know is that I believe people should be paid for their work–and really, it is up to the individual artist to decide this.  If they want to give it away, great.  If they want to charge you ten cents for every second the music is played, great.  I won’t spend money on the latter and the artist probably won’t make any money.

Orrin Hatch aggitated a lot of people (let’s call them The Internet) because he sided strongly with big music and movie companies in the debate surrounding filesharing, which of course still rages strong today.  I couldn’t tell you what they are anymore, but the things I read about what he was doing certainly made me angry.  But, uhm, I don’t remember what they were.  Should I still be angry?  Hey!  It turns out I’m not angry anymore, just biased, thought I find myself using such a strong word like hate.  I don’t really approve of that, it turns out.

And, lo and behold, the man is a musician in his own right and has several music copyrights and has actually made some money from the business.  I remember people clammoring about how he was in the pocket of the RIAA/etc and that may even be true, but I think it’s not a small detail that he has a personal interest in the process.  Now, many people would stand up and shout about conflict of interest and such, but I think I’d have to disagree.  We need people with passion and vested interest to be in government service.  That’s part of what this country is built on:  it’s supposed to be regular people in government.  Now that’s totally not how it works and I’m not even trying to suggest that someone like Orrin Hatch is a “regular person”… clearly he’s spent his life in government and he plays the game, but I can’t support an argument which would tie his personal interests and pursuits to a conflict of interest with his legislative aims.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I agree anymore with his strong stance.

Okay, so now I feel sheepish for really uncovering my own failing and I find myself feeling much more neutral about the senator.  What is there to learn?  He sponsered the “Hatch-Waxman” act.  What’s this?  From the unverisal fountain of truth that is wikipedia, it is apparently the law which made our modern system of generic drugs.  Now, again, our drug and health care system is completely out of whack–that is to say almost broken beyond repair–but I don’t know anyone who does not appreciate generic drugs.  And, in fact, I find it pretty amazingly how quickly generic drugs can make it to the market and so I find this in potential conflict with the efforts he has made with copyright reform.  But, then again, I hardly know anything about the generics and pharmaceuticals, so I could be totally and completely wrong.

It also turns out that, and I did some research on this one after reading it wikipedia, he’s a supporter of stem cell research!  That’s pretty awesome.  He is pro-life, yet pro-stem cell research.  That’s refreshing.  For the record:  I am 100% in favor of stem cell research.

So what did I learn about Orrin Hatch?  Not much, really.  I learned there are some things I like and some things I dislike.  That’s really true with most people.  If I looked closer at the issues and his positions, I’m sure I’d feel much stronger about my view of him as a legislator, but the truth be told, this wasn’t about Orrin Hatch.  It was about myself and my own biases.  I learned more about the fact that I took a few headlines and turned them into disdain for someone which I never even bothered to research.  That’s not cool.  It’s that kind of attitude which makes bickering, fighting, and war.  People don’t taken enough to learn about the people they are dealing with or the reasons those people do what they do–and that ignorance is used as a foundation to build hate and further misunderstanding.