Soon: Chapter 15: Christianese

In order to answer questions in comments, I will be grabbing Jenkins’ writing book this weekend to discover the DEFINITIVE ANSWER to the Left Behind vs. Soon timeline question.

Oh, and in answer to another question in comments that I kept forgetting to answer: Jae’s mother’s name is Margaret.

Sorry for delay.  *blushes*

In the meantime, now that Paul has accepted Jesus into his heart, he takes every word of the Bible literally.  Just like Rayford Steele and Michael Murphy and every other Good Christian should.

He muses for a mere moment about how everything in his life, “including his marriage,” will have to change.  But that is small cucumbers compared to trying out his newly-recognized fluency in Christian-talk.

Another hurdle to Paul’s intellect was the assertion that Jesus had lived a perfect life, without sin, so He could become God’s sacrificial lamb for all the sins of the world.  That made Christianity unique among religions, at least the ones Paul had studied.  What other religion based salvation on a gift, something someone else had done?  What other religion featured a hero who not only rose from the dead but also supposedly still lived?  Most religions seemed focused on man’s attempts to reach God, but Jesus was clearly God’s attempt to reach man.

(Emphasis mine)

Gee, I’ve never heard that one before…Google gives me 20 million results.  It’s one step removed from “Christianity is not religion…it’s the TRUTH!”

Like most of his “atheist” characters in Left Behind, Paul accepts the existence of God immediately and without question, but stumbles on the Jesus issue.  Note to anyone trying to convert atheists: generally, it is the question of an all-powerful superbeing creating the entire universe that we doubt.  We don’t secretly believe it but just “don’t want to” try to follow Jesus’ teachings.

Also: the sin thing.  Sin is something that is wrong because God says so.  I’m more concerned with what I and other humans think is right or wrong.  What God thinks is irrelevant until you go to the last paragraph and show me that God exists and then that I should care about his take on morality.

But Paul quickly gets past his musings on morality to get to the really important issue:

Then there was the promise that Jesus would come back to earth someday.  He had told His disciples that He was going to heaven to prepare a place for them and that He would return to receive them to Himself.  And He added, “If it were not so, I would have told you.”

Okaaaaay, but again, we’re really skating past a big hurdle for atheists: why should we take seriously what Jesus was promising?  Why is he an authority on anything?

Oh, and the above is just as it appears in the book.  So apparently, in Christianese, you capitalize “He,” but not “heaven” or “earth.”

Ah well, Paul is so very new at all this Christian stuff.  It’s miraculous enough that he has internalized the language of a culture in which he has never lived.

But that’s okay, because it’s time to confront Straight, and for Paul to get himself a mentor!

You see, Paul has used all of his investigative skills to figure out that there is a chance that Straight might be a secret believer.  Good thing Paul got that Ph.D., right?

Yeah, figuring ou Straight was a Christian took some powerful thinking, it did.  That forgetful fish in Finding Nemo could figure out Straight was a Christian.  Hell, rocks could figure out Straight was a Christian.

“You remember in the car, when you quoted me that passage about the two blind men?  ‘”According to your faith, let it be to you” And their eyes were opened.'”

Straight seemed to stiffen.  “Yeah?”

“I’ve been thinking about this, and I know I never told you that story.”

“Huh.”

“So how did you know it?”

Straight leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head.  “You think you’re the only person who reads?”

“The Bible is contraband, Straight.  Forbidden.  I have access to it because of my job.”

You know, there is a very simple response to this that Straight doesn’t use: Straight is 23 years older than Paul.  He was born in the late 1980’s–he grew up in a world in which Christianity was the dominant religion. 

ONCE AGAIN, and I hate having to harp on this (Oh, who am I kidding?  I love harping on this!), it is all but impossible to grow up in the United States without a working knowledge of Christianity, including Bible stories.  Which is a fact that Paul might possibly have been privy to in his religion Ph.D. classes!

Paul, you are such a dumbass.

But Straight knows how to get his own back:

“Are we friends, Paul?  You don’t seem to have any friends but me.”

OH.  Oh, Straight, you magnificent bastard, I cannot believe you even went there, man.  That was cold!  He’s crying, Straight.  You made him cry

Okay, I am making a spur-of-the-moment executive decision.  That one line has now earned this section an Actually Not That Bad.  How will Paul respond???

“We’re friends.”

…Paul said, blinking away tears.

And Straight confesses.

A shiver ran through Paul.  I knew it!

Dead people knew it, Paul.  Mycroft Holmes, you are not.

Remember a little while back, when I mentioned what I see as Paul’s biggest lie in this book?  Here it is.  Straight leads him into it:

“You know, Saul asked the Lord who He was.  Remember the answer?” [Straight asked]

“It works on me every day,” Paul said.  “He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’  For a long time, I resisted that.  I said that even if I was persecuting underground Christians, I wasn’t really persecuting Jesus.”

“But there’s a bond between us and Him, Paul.  Persecute us, persecute him.”

“That’s exactly what I came to.”

This is such a lie.  Paul never thought about whether he was persecuting Christians vs. persecuting Jesus, largely because he didn’t think he was persecuting anybody.  And even if he did think he was persecuting people, he never thought, “Hey, this would be different if I was persecuting Jesus, but I’m not, so it’s fine!”

Hell, I went back and double-checked.  In San Francisso, Paul thinks of all Bible teachings, including those about Jesus, as “poison. ”

Interestingly, he does think about the implications of attacking these believers vs attacking The Dork or his father.  That causes him a moment’s pause and would be a good point to bring up now.  But that is a far cry from thinking that he’s attacking Christians, but not Jesus himself.

Paul doesn’t think about Jesus-the-person in TEXAS, either.  In fact, he uses phrases from his father’s letter to trap St. Stephen.  And in the hospital, when Paul actually starts listening to the New Testament, he focuses on the mysterious “Biblical code” that he is sure exists, and on references to blindness, because he is incapable of thinking about anybody’s pain but his own.

But he never, not even once, compares treatment of believers with treatment of Jesus.

Way to go almost a whole week as a Christian before bearing false witness, Paul Apostle.

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Posted on June 11, 2011, in Actually Not That Bad, Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. And Straight confesses.

    “Paul, do you like movies about gladiators?”

  2. Most religions seemed focused on man’s attempts to reach God, but Jesus was clearly God’s attempt to reach man.

    I think along with the “disheveled & sweaty = honest” and “sincere speaker = truth” equations of RTC-dom, when someone makes a statement that includes the word “clearly”, it becomes undisputed truth, even if it’s complete gibberish.

    “Most religions seemed to be about man’s attempt to understand God, but clearly potato waffle spatula rhino doornob!”

    “Armed religious fanatics are a danger to any society, but clearly Christian stretchnoodle dinglehouse bookworm!”

  3. Most religions seemed focused on man’s attempts to reach God, but Jesus was clearly God’s attempt to reach man.

    Is it wrong that my first thought when I read that was, “well. Zeus for instance is said to have made some fairly frequent attempts to reach woman”?

    • Yeah, and although he may not technically be a god, Prometheus deserves some props too.

      Paul’s argument is silly because EVERY religion is unique in some way. Oh, Christianity is the only religion where salvation is based on a gift? So what? The Aztecs had the only religion to have a booze goddess with 400 rabbit children, what’s your point? It’s another example of Paul automatically absorbing the full Christianese mindset, dividing the world into two parts, Christianity and an ill-defined “everything else”. All other belief systems are interchangeable to Paul: they all deny Christ, therefore they are identical in every way that matters to him.

      The salvation stuff is also very Christian-centric. If Christianity is one of the few faiths that offers a way to be forgiven by God, it’s because it’s one of the few faiths where such forgiveness is even necessary. Not every religion holds it as axiomatic that the relationship between humans and the divine is “broken” and needs to be fixed. The ancient Greeks got along fine without the need for salvation, at least as Christians understand the concept; same for many Eastern religions today.

      • I’m not Jewish, so I could be completely wrong, but isn’t this something that’s pretty clearly foreign even there – the religion that as any RTC will tell you is clearly just Christianity minus Jesus?

      • “. If Christianity is one of the few faiths that offers a way to be forgiven by God, it’s because it’s one of the few faiths where such forgiveness is even necessary.”

        This. The, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” bit irks me. If I met a judge who judged billions of people and judged all guilty, this would make my raise my eyebrow. If I heard that this judge is the same guy who made the laws he’s judging people guilty by, I’d be suspicious. But when we go past that metaphor, and find that the judge not only made the laws but actually made the people what they are, I would conclude he dropped the ball badly. Whether it was when creating the people or creating the standards doesn’t really matter. And no, free will doesn’t account for it in my book, because if it was just a matter of humans freely choosing the be not good enough there should logically be at least a few that do make the cut. And for the literalists RTCs, God put the tree of knowledge there, knew what would happen, knew Lucifer was tempting them (I don’t see how you could do anything behind the back of an omniscient God), and still treated it as a capital offense for not just those involved but all their descendants. That is the kind of screw up I expect a better apology for than “I will send my sort of son to die for your sins (although I’m the only one making a problem of those sins, so why I need the killing part instead of just willing it fixed with my omnipotence is kinda vague) but then resurrect him, which makes the killing more pointless, and if you then worship me and my son and constantly acknowledge how piss-poor you are compared to me and my boy, I’ll not make too much of a problem of your inferiority”

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy

    ONCE AGAIN, and I hate having to harp on this (Oh, who am I kidding? I love harping on this!), it is all but impossible to grow up in the United States without a working knowledge of Christianity, including Bible stories. Which is a fact that Paul might possibly have been privy to in his religion Ph.D. classes!

    What gets me is that these Heathen (TM) characters all somehow grew up in the US without ANY knowledge of Christianity (let alone “a working knowledge”) but they all speak and even think in fluent Christianese. Born Again Bible Believing Evangelical Christianese.

    • hidden_urchin

      Maybe as soon as you pray the magic words you are given the complete ability to speak and understand this esoteric dialect. Do we have a volunteer to test this hypothesis? 🙂

      • The really weird thing is that Paul’s ability to speak Christianese is never presented as a function of his education. Prior to his conversion, he is able to “pass” as a Christian because of parroting his father’s letter, not because he studied religion for years. By the book’s own admission, reading a page of boilerplate come-to-Jesus allows you to fake it as a believer.

        I suppose this could be a sly commentary on the worthlessness of higher education, but it reads more to me as an oversight.

        • By the book’s own admission, reading a page of boilerplate come-to-Jesus allows you to fake it as a believer.

          Sadly, this is another thing the secret police haven’t realised. Where are their infiltrators and spies? It’s not all kicking down doors at three in the morning… I don’t know, kids these days…

    • Suspicion: Jenkins, like LaHaye, thinks mental language comes in ONLY one flavor: Born Again Bible Believing Evangelical Christianese. Reason? That’s the only flavor ANYTHING can come in; BABBEC and reality are the exact same thing. The withering sakura? Dying in accord with the dictates of BABBEC (the C in this case being Christianity rather than Christianese, obviously). The Manhattan speculators and investors turning to psychics and astrologers rather than God in order to figure out what to invest in (yes, you read that correctly; worldwide atheism somehow doesn’t imply a similar discrediting of astrology, especially since astrology’s reasoning was that stellar motions were DIVINE script)? BABBEC interdicting the possibility of unalloyed reasoning. Paul, in his heart of hearts, striking out at seeming Christian berserkers not because he wanted to protect Atheistopia, but to spite the Christ? BABBEC explains it as saying that even our reflexes react to our understanding of Jesus in some fashion.

      (And now, considering that the Lesser Key of Solomon lists demons with names like Volac, Barbatos, and Bathin, I can’t help but wonder if there was a medieval demon NAMED Babbec who’s playing false cognate…)

      I will own that I fear I’m Flanderizing the whole scenario, but BABBEC seems determined to prevent any possibility of underestimating Jesus’s glory and authority by making every last bit of reality, conscious and unconscious, obsessed in one way or another with him. The Glorified in “Glorious Appearing” said that Rayford would find that Jesus is all that matters then; it would seem that Jenkins decided Jesus is the only thing that’s CAPABLE of mattering, in any circumstance.

      Given that the Tanakh isn’t nearly as concerned with the Mashiakh as it is about keeping to God’s ideals (i.e. the Law, which is immediately present, rather than in the future), I have to wonder how RTC got here.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I will own that I fear I’m Flanderizing the whole scenario, but BABBEC seems determined to prevent any possibility of underestimating Jesus’s glory and authority by making every last bit of reality, conscious and unconscious, obsessed in one way or another with him.

        And in doing so it turns Jesus into some sort of Cosmic Dear Leader Comrade Kim Jong-Il. Or a Cosmic Baba Saddam, whose courtiers (the RTCs) are constantly out-flattering each other to stay alive.

        It’s really saying something when the first approachable, benevolent (and playful) god-figure who comes to mind is Princess Celestia from My Little Pony. Somebody on the RTC end has dropped the ball, BAD.

        I’m very skeptical of Private Revelations (i.e. “God Hath Revealed Unto Me” personal claims), but comparing and contrasting Princess Celestia with RTC Jesus, I keep thinking of one I heard mentioned in a blog comment thread a year or two ago: That God was withdrawing his mantle from Christianese media (written, movie, TV, etc) and putting it on the “secular” media; henceforth, now mainstream artists and creators would be saying what God wanted said.

        • I think this is a very fine point: we look at the RTC flattery/fear and map it to our other experiences in this world, and it simply looks silly. To me one of the principal virtues of an interesting God is that it must better than humans – so it should not need to be told constantly how wonderful it is, indeed should be encouraging its worshippers to go and do something more useful with their limited time.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy

            …indeed should be encouraging its worshippers to go and do something more useful with their limited time.

            Which according to several online essays by Rabbit Boteach, is exactly what Judaism’s emphasis is. There, God is effectively saying, “Keep My Commandments, but Live Your Life! L’Chaim!”

  5. Straight’s nickname is increasingly reminding me of some bit John Stewart did about opposite nicknames – calling big guys “Tiny”, bald guys “Curly”, etc. Although Straight seems to belong to the subset of Christianity that wouldn’t allow him to get the joke if people started sarcastically going “Straight, everyone, the straightest man in the world!”

  6. Most religions seemed focused on man’s attempts to reach God, but Jesus was clearly God’s attempt to reach man.

    So, where does that leave the Orthodox Christians? They could easily be classified as “man’s attempts to reach God.” And that’s just the most obvious example: Catholic sacraments could also be construed as “man’s attempts to reach God” from a different direction. Or any branch of Christianity’s teachings, really. If your religion has any effect on your life at all, then how does this effect not represent “man’s attempts to reach God” (barring, of course, a misotheistic faith where God is not seen as an ideal being)?

    And, what, does an angel appearing to Mohammed in the desert not count as “God’s attempt to reach man”? Or, to go with an example Jenkins wouldn’t dismiss as “just a lie anyway” right off the bat: How is God carving a pair of stone tablets with instructions on how to live, then saying “Now build me the Ark of the Covenant to contain my presence, and I will lead you to victory” not count as–Oh, you get the idea.

  7. “But there’s a bond between us and Him, Paul. Persecute us, persecute him.”

    So remember, all my faithfull RTC readers, that gay man that says he doesn’t want to be discriminated against is not just persecuting us but Jesus. Jesus! He hates Jesus! How very convenient.

    The becomming-fluent-in-Christianese is really a running theme in L&J’s work.One possibility is that it’s a case of trying to justify their particular sub-culture by saying that it isn’t just some silly vocabulary or customs that they do because they say so. No, when you receive Jesus in your heart, you instantly know that everything L&J do and say is how it’s supposed to be. Because L&J only do everything they do because it’s exactly what Jesus wants them to do.

    Another possibility is that it’s lazyness. It takes them so much effort to write the thoughts of a non-RTC, even though they completely strawman every single one, that once their characters convert they sigh in relief that the hard part is over, and they can now start writing them like they would write themselves.

    Oh, and thanks a lot for your work on the timeline Ruby. I’m honored 🙂

  8. it is all but impossible to grow up in the United States without a working knowledge of Christianity, including Bible stories.

    No kidding. You can be raised by atheists in the US and still know about the bible and Jesus, because it’s freaking everywhere.

    When you add in the fact that you have people, like Straight who were born and raised in the current Christian filled US, how in the world did atheistopia ever blot out knowledge of Christianity. (And why, having done so, do people study it in college…and do so somehow without reading the bible.) I want to know how they even got rid of all the bibles. Hell, I think I’ve got one floating around somewhere. I’m pretty sure my parents have my dad’s old bible. And my family isn’t religious.

    And, you know what, if atheists took over, declared the bible contraband and demanded that everyone turn theirs in for a big ol’ bible burn, I wouldn’t do it. Not on religious grounds, but on anti-book-burning grounds. Any group that would try to destroy knowledge of another group’s existence, particularly a group that they conquered does not get my support. And it isn’t as though they could go through every single person’s house to look for bibles – the time that would take would be absurd. So they could only get rid of bibles with the cooperation of everyone who owned them. Which doesn’t make sense.

    • depizan, I think one might flip this round a bit. It’s impossible to grow up in the USA without hearing about homosexuality (modulo some compound in the middle of nowhere where they aren’t allowed to know about the outside world), but by applying enough perceptual filters people can manage not to learn anything about it.

      I still think that the only way to make this work is to have some general popular revulsion against religion (say, all the Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders get caught running a really huge scam together).

      What do Atheistopians do about spirituality? How do they fill what one otherwise unimpressive author accidentally called “the God-shaped hole in all of us”? Jenkins of course can’t conceive of such a thing, but we can in theory do better. Obviously it’s not going to look like the One World Faith, but… what do Atheistopians contemplate on long dark nights, or when their loved ones die?

      • The same thing that real life atheists contemplate in the real world, one assumes. That God-shaped hole is NOT in all of us. I imagine Atheistopia would cultivate some form of contentment with the idea that we disappear after we die into painless oblivion.

        The problem would be cultivating it in the wreckage of a world war.

        • {squirm} If anything, oblivion is an even more horrid fate than pain. Pain can be escaped; how do you escape oblivion? (That you’re not feeling anything doesn’t enter into the equation. Principle 1: Existence is strictly superior to non-existence, substance strictly superior to void.) Never mind that I cannot bring myself to believe that it ought to be acceptable that the universe came into being just to dissolve back into entropic mist. That great achievement ought not be consigned to vile futility…If fate/destiny/determinism exists, it deserves nothing but abolition.

          Basically, Nietzche (for at least once) had the right idea. If there is no inborn purpose, then work out one for yourself (preferably one that’s an eternal boon for the rest of existence; I’m not sure if THAT part entered into Nietzche’s thought, what with his concerns about Last Man mentality). God must have determined his purpose by himself, after all. Nothing created HIM, and thus he couldn’t have an externally-imbued purpose. If God doesn’t exist, why can’t/shouldn’t we do the same? (Of course, this is coming from someone who can’t see any meaningful difference between philosophy and spirituality, or mind and soul. In fact, I’d say, from both a materialist monist and a non-materialist position, mind and soul should be regarded as perfect synonyms.)

          • Many atheists I know look upon death the same way I do: it’s not “oblivion” as in “floating around in blackness,” it’s just ceasing to exist. I have no memory of when I did not exist prior to my birth, and I do not expect to be conscious of the fact that I am dead. I don’t want to die any time Soon (har) because I love life, but I’m not afraid of being dead. Mostly because I won’t be around to be afraid of it.

          • How can you truly escape pain? Even if you don’t believe that life itself is pain, life is certainly the possibility of pain. Oblivion’s the only way to truly escape it., just dissolving into the nothingness. Back when I was suicidal it was a pleasant thought, now it’s just one that I accept while not wanting to directly meet before I get my thesis published and maybe marry a nice academic girl.

            Personally I don’t think the world has an inborn purpose and I’m not bothered by that idea. The only things which cause the universe to move along is the things that came before it, and everything turns to dust and vanishes eventually.

            “(That you’re not feeling anything doesn’t enter into the equation. Principle 1: Existence is strictly superior to non-existence, substance strictly superior to void.)”

            Principle 1 of what? And superior why? You can’t just state that and run away, the universe doesn’t take value judgments into account when it does what it does, and its machinations certainly aren’t affected by what you believe. The universe WILL collapse on itself, or explode, or whatever it is physicists think will happen these days. Why worry about it?

          • And yet, can the void know joy or contentment? No, it cannot. That already puts substance above void, I expect. Substance can…well…do more than void. Besides, if the universe turning back into entropic mist is inevitable, it implies that all the objects that have ever existed were a mistake, however unconscious or unperceived by anything (just because nothing notices the error made, doesn’t mean it wasn’t actually an mistake; I’m trying for objective truth and virtue here, with no taint of subjectivity/bias/error…never mind that those three are perfect synonyms), that the universe ought never have changed from the mist. Change implies imperfection; on either side of a change, SOMETHING is lacking, whether the past thing that could be added to, or the future thing that lost something. Given that losing form lessens capacity for joy (or anything else), I’m inclined to regard addition/existence as the correct answer to which of void and substance is the cosmos’s proper form, and I’m NOT about to let any alleged fate or inevitability, whether or not there’s an intent behind it, visit Stockholm Syndrome upon me. I’ll not settle for swearing fealty to an ephemeral, and thus risk right being forcibly transfigured into wrong by the ephemeral’s disappearance. My fealty only goes that which can summon permanence and living stasis that cannot know decay, whatever the summoner may prove to be.

            ({rueful chuckle} Would it surprise you to learn that I fear tranquility may just be a form of sloth and laziness, a form of abandoning the Other even in its time of otherwise hidden need? There’s no such thing as too much responsibility…)

          • Bificommander

            @Skyknight. I guess this is a difference of perspective. To me, the natural law may state that a rock on a high hill will roll down, but this does not in any way tell me that it was a mistake that the rock was on top before. More importantly, I disagree that any form of persistence is better than oblivion (a term I don’t like myself for this, since as Rubytea stated it implies things most atheists don’t believe). L&J for instance, give us a fine example of a persistence involving a lake of fire that I wouldn’t prefer to simply not existing, a state in which I cannot have joy, but neither can I have pain, nor will I be able to miss the absence of joy. Which in turn implies another eternity I wouldn’t like, namely conscious oblivion as you describe, my mind and thoughts still alive and aware but with nothing to do or anything that can be done.

            As for my life now, there are parts that I don’t like and I would actually like that I could make some people forget I ever existed, because I feel I have failed and continue to fail them, and I would like to be able to turn my back on this without bothering them. But while I’m not very happy, I am indeed experiencing joy now too, so I do not prefer oblivion at this time. I honestly believe I will get to that point eventually, and I see no reason to rush to it now. But if I would become ill, wracked with pain, and incapable of doing the things that bring me joy, I would prefer oblivion. Of course, I’d even more prefer eternal paradise, but I do not believe this exists, and if I am wrong and it is available through some form of diety, I doubt He would be convinced by a pascal’s wager.

          • Ugh, my standard nickname keeps shifting between Ivan and Bificommander. Sorry about that.

      • The problem isn’t that a few people in the book, who were alive during the Christian US don’t know about Christianity (that is probably possible, somehow, though I’m really not sure how – it’s far more in your face and everywhere than homosexuality. I didn’t sing homosexual carols in grade school homosexual pageants, for example. Though the idea is rather awesome. Er, back to the actual topic…), it’s that Paul is AMAZED at someone who grew up in the Christian US knowing about Christianity. And, furthermore, that Paul was somehow able to major in Christianity without reading the bible.

        Though I think Headless Unicorn Guy has the right of it… it isn’t supposed to make sense. But, damn it, world building should be supposed to make sense!

        • The implication is that Paul has read parts of the Bible, although it is explicitly stated that he never read Revelation. I’m not sure about the rest of the NT.


          • They really want us to believe that the bible is some kind of magical artifact, don’t they. If you read certain portions of it, you will become Christian. And now I’m viewing the RTC’s version of the bible as something akin to The Book of the Dead in The Mummy.

        • Hmm! I wonder whether when Jenkins talks about Christianity he’s really meaning RTC-ism? (In fact that seems almost inevitable.) It’s true that you can’t avoid the external trappings of Christianity, but it’s easy not to be exposed to the full horror of the Bible-Believing RTC (if you don’t live in the wrong part of the country).

      • “I still think that the only way to make this work is to have some general popular revulsion against religion (say, all the Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders get caught running a really huge scam together).”

        Long ago and far away, back when I was still mostly Christian but not yet fundamentalist/pentecostal*, I was writing an endless ‘epic’ and I had thrown my main (SI, natch) character into a crapsack alternate reality/parallel timeline. I’d resolved that this world had become crapsack by the lack of religious — any religious — influence, and to accomplish this, the Big Bad of the arc had perfectly forged a vault full of documents supposedly written by the founders or major prelates of every major religion in the world, saying in their own words that what they were promulgating was hooey and false and that there was no such thing as the supernatural or the divine. Religion disappeared from Earth almost completely within 20-40 years after this vault was officially discovered.

        Hey, man, don’t look at me like that, I was 16 at the time! But yeah, as reasons go, it was full of logical fallacies and holes that were the size of Saturn. It was, quite frankly, ridiculous, and even if such a ‘Vault of Lies’ of perfect forgeries (even if all major world religions would even go so far as to put such documents in a single place instead of doing the sensible thing and destroying all such documents) was uncovered, there would be plenty of people who would decry it as false, fake, and all sorts of other similar terms, and cling tightly to their faith. (This is also overlooking the fact that a lot of religions are revelatory and just do not work in such a way that any document would make such religions irrelevant!)

        It’s writing like mine at the age of 16 that let Jenkins believe he could convince people that Christianity completely evaporated from the Western consciousness in under a generation.

        And yet, reading this, if I were to come up with such an idea today…. Hmm…. Yeah, a lot more work than just forging a room full of documents. ^_^ Fortunately, the Big Bad was a time traveller, so has a lot more options than just making the Vault of Lies, but it’s not going to be as simple as forging documents.

        * – I got better. I don’t say that flippantly or Pythonesquely — I got better because I stopped living in fear.

      • I think one might flip this round a bit. It’s impossible to grow up in the USA without hearing about homosexuality (modulo some compound in the middle of nowhere where they aren’t allowed to know about the outside world), but by applying enough perceptual filters people can manage not to learn anything about it.

        I don’t live in the USA, but it seems to me that your simile is invalid. It isn’t homosexuality that is being pushed as the Right Way To Live, being contantly shown as the normal bacjdrop in TV, someone deviating from it being worthy of writing a news article about.
        Rather, it would be like growing up and never learning about the existance of heterosexual man + woman+ 2.5 children family life.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      And it isn’t as though they could go through every single person’s house to look for bibles – the time that would take would be absurd. So they could only get rid of bibles with the cooperation of everyone who owned them. Which doesn’t make sense.

      This is Christian (TM) Fiction, Depizan.

      I don’t think it’s supposed to make sense.

      “Don’t think, just BE-LEEEEEVE!”? Al-Ghazali set Islam down that path 800 years ago, after the Mongol Invasions. Look where it got them.


  9. Besides, if the universe turning back into entropic mist is inevitable, it implies that all the objects that have ever existed were a mistake,

    The problem is that you’re anthropomorphizing the universe.

    I get that you’re not an atheist, and you certainly have no obligation to be, but you can’t realistically expect atheists to respond to questions that only make sense from a religious/spiritual perspective. Atheists don’t feel “the God-shaped hole in all of us” and don’t think about “creation” being a “mistake.” You don’t have to understand how anyone can think or feel that way, but you do have to accept it.

  10. Bifi: you’re putting values and morals onto something that has nothing. Nothing in the universe is better than something else, except that we call it better and think better of it. There’s no such thing as perfection because there’s no end goal, no such thing as ‘ought’ when there’s no mind to will it one way or another. If you want to know the cause and affect again, talk to a physicist, I’m just a psychologist who knows our minds are far too fragile to house a soul.

    Though honestly I’m getting lost in the rest of your statement, you’re getting a bit turgid on us.

    • I think you meant me…?

      Although, as I mentioned before, I don’t think the mind would house the soul, so much as it would BE the soul, conscious and unconscious alike. Just what is the difference between mind and soul supposed to be? The mind is already the essence of the life. (Although a mussel’s mind would be EXTREMELY alien to ours…)

      • A soul is supposedly something ephemeral and eternal, housing the self without the use of of a physical structure. Given how easily our personalities can change based on chemicals, experiences, and alterations to our brains, the idea of a fixed eternal self is basically impossible. If we harm the brain we alter the personality, if we destroy the brain we destroy the self entirely and commit that person to oblivion.

    • Oh, and for the record, I’m an apatheist. Basically, God can’t be proven, God can’t be DISproven, and it’s not relevant either way, because between the two scenarios, the definitions of good and evil won’t change by so much as a micron. In the scenario that God exists, his righteousness can only have meaning if good and evil are external to him–a valid philosophy is not invented, but discovered. Otherwise, it is tainted with subjectivity.

      • Sorry, I’m having trouble with the format, I’m used to LJ. I still don’t understand exactly what your point is regarding the universe and purpose and whatever the heck ‘Principle 1’ is. If you’re going for subjectivity, either you’ve missed the point or I’m just completely unable to see your point.

        • Sorry it took this long…

          I’m trying for an ethics/morality that knows nothing of subjectivity, if only because I don’t see how “subjective” can avoid being a subset of “incorrect”. In other words, a way of judging what is right and wrong that doesn’t depend on ANYTHING’S opinion or emotions–a strictly mechanical morality. Otherwise, there’s a risk it will be somehow inapplicable to some part of the cosmos or some part of the past and/or future. Right and wrong ought not shift by so much as a micron in a quintillion years–that would result in wholesale invalidation, and therefore mandatory vilification, of what came before. If anything, Jesus had it backwards. It’s not that the Law exists for humanity. Other way around–humanity, and for that matter God and existence, exist for the sake of the law. Otherwise, I fear we’re cursed to never avoid error, to always let others down, living and insensate alike.

          I will own that I’m a Platonic realist…except that I don’t share Plato’s despair that physical things can never reach the perfection of the ideal. The ideal itself must have started at zero, just as we did, so what’s our excuse?! (No, reification is not a mistake. If anything, NOT reifying is a mistake. Insofar as the phrase “more real” makes sense, the abstract is more real than the concrete…)

          “Principle 1”, at least, was just my idiom for an absolute starting point in trying to determine a completely unchanging, errorless way to determine right and wrong throughout all places and all times, without having to adapt, because it’s already adapted for absolutely everything possible. I can’t start with just what’s good for humanity or Earthly life; such is unconscionable arbitrarity. What right have we to abandon the existence beyond the orbit of Neptune, let alone the ionosphere, just because of familiarity? Morality, to be proper, must not be defiled at all by emotion or self-interest. Perfectionism is a virtue, not a vice; it’s the same as Fortitude…

  11. Choir of Shades

    “disheveled & sweaty = honest”

    Is that why so many clergymen have sex scandals? *ZING*

    Existence is superior to non-existence, the universe is a “great achievement,” unwillingness to accept even the possibility of existence being random chance, a strict insistence on teleology; Your claims to objectivity ring hollow.

    More on-topic, forget that Paul is a Ph.D scholar. That alone could make me think, “Okay, he spent a lot of time focusing on one sentence/passage, and might not have encountered certain other things. Revelations is a stretch, but I’ll suspend my disbelief here.” The complete banning of the Bible and other holy books would require the dismantling of the university system, at least every humanities and social science department in the world.

    Undergraduate work in virtually every one of those disciplines requires at least discussing the theology of various people around the world. Anthropology? Philosophy? Hell, RELIGIOUS STUDIES?! Even when you’re not studying religion in particular, it’s crucial to a complete understanding of the field. (Do you really think a study of “the socio-economic views of Latinos in California,” could avoid mention of how the predominant Catholicism in that group shapes them, or a study of “the development of African American music,” could somehow just avoid discussion of Christian gospel and soul, or that a study of Chinese history could somehow avoid discussion of the principles of Dao?) Because religion has been so interwoven in human culture, it is impossible to study human culture without studying religion without sacrificing a huge portion of understanding.

    With the virtual collapse of every humanities department in the world, how the hell did Paul even get his degree in “Religious Studies?” How did he make it through to the Ph.D. level without taking at least a cursory look at “the psychology of fanaticism,” or getting through a specialty in Christianity without studying miracle traditions. Oh shit.

    THAT’S IT! Paul studied exclusively the Norse religion. Wait…the Norse had Baldr who rose from the dead to reign over paradise. Crap. Egyptian? Osiris… Greek? Hmmm…no GODS that really DIED and came to life that I can think of, but it fails miserably on the “God’s not reaching to man” criteria… Hinduism/Buddhism? They’ve died…and come back to life…and died…and come back to life… …Shinto maybe? Oh wait, the divine lives amongst the living all the damn time. Damn, so much for that bright idea.

    • {whimper} Where’s everyone else’s perfectionism…?

      Are we at least agreed that objectivity is superior to subjectivity, for the same reasons that truth is superior to error (or rather, that objectivity and truth are perfect synonyms, likewise subjectivity and error)?

      • Choir of Shades

        I have a background in philosophy, so let me take a more serious, critical look at what you’re adovcating. If you disagree with any of the premises I advance, by all means tell me.

        First off, the notion that non-existence is somehow “worse off” than existence. If something is to be “worse off” than it was, I think we would both agree that an entity has been harmed in some way (we’ll ignore for now the issue comparative harms and benefits, i.e. in the case of stripping majority privilege in favor of equal protection).

        Let us asign some numeric value H (or possibly an array of values) to each entity. This value (or values) represent the aggregate state of an individual, such that a positive value of H represents an overall “good state,” with larger numbers representing “better” states, and vice versa for negative values. If some event X occurs such that H is 10 higher after the event than it was before the event, then that event has benefited the entity. If H is 10 lower after the event, the event has harmed them. I think this is fairly non-controversial, aside from perhaps the ability to asign a single value to the overall quality of the state.

        So what happens in the case of ceasing to exist? In that case, H ceases to have a value. It doesn’t merely become zero, it ceases to exist; in computer terms, it will return a null pointer exception, or perhaps simply NULL. If we compare H-naught (the initial value of H) with it’s value after the event, we get H-not NULL. Is H-naught greater than, less than, or equal to null? The answer is that it is none of the above, and they simply cannot be compared. It is non-sensical to say that the value has decreased or increased, or even stayed the same. Likewise, it is non-sensical to say that an entity’s overall state has improved, decreased, or remained static by ceasing to exist. Ergo, non-existence is neither better, worse, nor equivalent to existence.

        And as others have noted, this is not the “non-existence” that you describe, of an impotent consciousness, it is nothing, nada, zippo, zilch, etc..

        Since you seem to be pursuing a Cartesian-style foundationalism, we must find that you have failed from the outset.

        While I like that you acknowledge that a morality system must be non-arbitrary and basically impartial to individual groups, you take certain meta-ethical questions for granted. Why should we believe that there IS such a thing as good and evil? The only reason I can garner from your writing is that you believe the universe OUGHT to have some moral order to it. But that is a subjective value judgment and contrary to the nature of your task.

        The ideal itself must have started at zero

        If you think this, you are not Platonic in your meta-physics. The ideals are eternal, in all chronal directions. Discussion of an initial point is like asking someone to point to the tip of the Ourosboros’ tail.

        Also, objectivity is NOT the same thing as truth. Objectivity is the position where if one is presented with overhelming knowedge, you cannot deny it, but ultimately you may never encounter the truth.

        And I keep dozing off. I’ll check later to see if I missed anything.

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