Monthly Archives: August 2012

Time Changer, Part I

I guess I’ll start this critique with a positive note, which is that I like the theme music.  It’s kinda fun and time-travel-y.  So, kudos there.

As we continue with the opening credits…wait a second…

GAVIN MACLEOD???  CAPTAIN STUBING IS IN THIS???

Huh.  Turns out Gavin MacLeod went RTC when no one was looking.  Go figure.

Unusually for a Christian film, we don’t open with a Bible verse plastered on the screen.  Instead, the scene is set as 1890.  A very pristine 1890, when everyone seems perfectly coiffed and has access to excellent dentistry.  And where everyone talks in an “old-timey way”:

“Young man, it is wrong to steal items from other people.”

Two little boys are playing marbles on a blanket spread out on a lawn, which seems a very inefficient way to play marbles.  Young scalawag Roger snatches the marbles, but is stopped in his tracks by Our Hero, justice-minded Bible professor Russell Carlisle, who orders Roger to apologize.  Roger, however, dashes off.

The 1890 Marbles World Championship wasn’t as exciting as you might hope.

Carlisle teaches at Generic Bible Seminary, and is in the process of getting the Unanimous Seal of Approval for his latest book.  Which means that a bunch of rich, old white guys sit around chuckling at each other, including Dean Barney Miller and Professor I Recognize Him From Star Trek.

And they’re having a fine time until Professor Captain Stubing shows up to SPOIL EVERYTHING.

You see, the thrust of Carlisle’s book is that people should be won to the Church based on the teachings of Jesus.  But the Captain objects to some of Carlisle’s ideas:

“And I am quoting from page 67: ‘Even if it is apart from his name, if people are rejecting the authority of Jesus Christ in their lives, we must still teach the ways of Christ for the better interests of society.  The Lord’s teachings are best for all.’”

“What Dr. Carlisle is implying is that we can put forth the standards of Christ apart from his name.  And I think this is deadly.”

I see that the Captain’s own specialty at the Seminary is hyperbole.  Because it’s definitely not in knowing that Jesus was hardly the first or only person to come up with the RADICAL IDEA that stealing is wrong.

“Without the authority of Christ, mankind is merely left to compare ideas, and morality becomes a matter of opinion.  One person says it is wrong to steal, the next person says it is not.”

Ah, sweet, delicious authoritarianism.

BECAUSE HUMANS COULD NEVER BE TRUSTED TO COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT STEALING IS WRONG BY THEMSELVES.

Carlisle defends his premise:

“But we cannot always mention the name of Jesus—it may not be received.  Especially by those already offended by the Church or brought up in another religion.”

Wow.  I…kinda like this guy.  He seems pretty progressive, especially for his time.

Damn shame that he will be forced to learn the error of his ways via time travel.

Team Seventies confers on Carlisle’s book, The Changing Time.  (GET IT???)

“Satan is not against good morals.  He is against Jesus Christ.”

Why is it that whenever I watch Christian movies, I end up liking Satan more and more?

Things go downhill from there, and many, MANY minutes are eaten up as we dance  around the stupid approval issue while I am waiting for the FRAKKING TIME TRAVEL to start.

Blah blah blah office politics which might be interesting if we were going to spend the whole movie with these people, but we AREN’T.  Stubing invites Carlisle to his place (“You must!”), Carlisle refuses, Stubing asks again, and FINALLY Carlisle goes to Professor Stubing’s secret shed, where Stubing keeps his GORRAM TIME MACHINE ALREADY.  Weird thing is, it isn’t even Stubing’s own time machine—it’s Stubing’s father’s machine.

The writers have obviously seen Back to the Future, because Stubing wants to send Carlisle to October 21, 20…something, but Stubing definitely isn’t pulling a Doc Brown here.  He has no mad scientist routine—he and Carlisle just have a snappish back-and-forth.

“Time travel is not possible!”

“IS SO!”

“Russell, you must see where the teaching of good morals alone will lead.  You must see for yourself what happens when we remove the authority of Christ.”

The trip has been set so that Carlisle will be in the future for four days, but only be gone from 1890 for a few minutes.  (This four-day time period seems random until you remember that Marty McFly was in 1955 for four days in Back to the Future.)

But sigh.

Carlisle just BOWS OUT and exits the time travel shed and next we see, he is delivering a supremely stupid lecture about how the Bible is the ultimate authority on science.

THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER

But Captain Stubing is not one to be dissuaded.  He talks Carlisle back to his time travel shed AGAIN, and Carlisle reluctantly steps onto the little platform.

Much like Doc Brown, Stubing gives Carlisle some advice about the future: don’t tell anyone you’re a time-traveler, and don’t look up your own fate.  (Although, as we know, Doc Brown changed his mind on the latter.)

His final piece of advice is to speak with a university librarian named Michelle Baines, whom Stubing met when he was time-traveling.

Who wouldn’t trust this time machine?  It has rotating icing racks and the map from my dad’s study!

Carlisle seems afraid that the time machine is an anal probe in disguise.

Can’t say I blame him.

And so the beams of solar-powered (!) light blast out from the time travel machine and transport Carlisle to the 21st century!

Thus begins the Fish Out of Water portion of our movie, and … I can’t help but feel that the ball was dropped here.  Carlisle is astounded by things which really shouldn’t be that astounding to him, blasé about things that he should be astounded by, and manages to navigate a 21st century city with little to no trouble.

The very first place Carlisle finds is a pawnshop, where he cashes in the 19th-century coins Stubing gave him for walking-around money.  Carlisle has no problem finding this shop or understanding what he should do there, and is utterly unflummoxed by a female patron of the shop who is WEARING PANTS.

Carlisle then uses some of the money to get himself a hotel room.  It looks like he’s staying at the local Fairfield Inn, but despite the fact that he has NO LUGGAGE WHATSOEVER, a porter takes him to his room, shows him the television and the remote, then expects a tip.  Dude, that guy would not get a tip from me under those circumstances, though Carlisle seems completely ignorant of the concept of tipping AT ALL.

Then he wanders around the city, being confused by things that shouldn’t confuse him (decorative fountains, toys) and casually oblivious to things that should astound him (women wearing pants or short skirts, people of different races intermingling like equals).  Oh yeah, also CARS EVERYWHERE.  The only shots that make sense are Carlisle sitting in confusion in a park, surrounded by people carrying on animated conversations on their cell phones, and Carlisle hanging out in a lighting store, turning a simple table lamp on and off again, startled every time.

Let’s see…buildings that are dozens of stories tall, CARS, and that lady there is wearing an extremely immodest skirt.  But what draws Carlisle’s attention?  A toy truck.

I get that Wandering Around would be the first thing many people would do when arriving one hundred years in the future.  But surely the next stop would be a library, to catch up on the last century.  And wouldn’t Carlisle, an academic, want to do this?  Hell, after being released from his lamp, the first impulse of the genie in the Ducktales movie was to start READING THE ENTIRE ENCYCLOPEDIA.

Let’s face it, Carlisle has a lot of catching up to do.  Votes for women, world wars, civil rights, television, airplanes, penicillin…that’s just off the top of my head.

But who cares about all that when there’s shopping to do!  Carlisle buys some new clothes, which don’t look all that different from his old clothes.  (I’m serious—take a look at that suit up there.  Lose the hat, and it looks perfectly normal.)  He then tracks down a laundromat, and this is something that actually does make sense to me, as a laundry service would be something Carlisle probably would understand, though I imagine it would give him pause to learn that in modern laundromats, many people wash their clothes themselves, instead of handing them off to others.

It is here that he meets his first unsaved soon-to-be convert, Eddie, the owner of the laundromat.  Eddie is played by comedian Paul Rodriguez, and is an avid baseball fan.  Carlisle is confused by Eddie’s headset, and equally confused by BASEBALL TERMINOLOGY.

Okay, I get that Carlisle is supposed to be a bit of a fuddy-duddy, but baseball has been KIND OF A BIG DEAL in this country for a long time.  Hell, you’d think that hearing baseball language would make him less confused.

Baltimore Orioles, 1896.  Picture from Wikipedia.

Eddie’s a nice guy, but he “ain’t got no time for no church,” which knocks Carlisle for a much bigger loop than the fact that he is standing in a building lit by electric lights, where large machines wash your clothes for you without aid of washboard or woman.

This whole laundromat thing brings up an interesting point—sure, Carlisle is noticing some of the strange new things in the 21st century, but shouldn’t the prominent issue for everyone be smell?

I’m being serious here.  Carlisle comes from a time when toilets and showers were exciting new technology, and not everyone had them.  Where people had to be instructed to bathe daily, and this usually meant a standing-up sponge bath.  Deodorant had only come on the market in 1888, and this was well before the appearance of body spray, flushable premoistened wipes, and electric toothbrushes.

Honestly, you’d think the typical reaction to Carlisle’s mere presence in our Febreezed world would be for people to take a step or two away from the guy.

(Speaking of Back to the Future, I’m reminded of Part III, where the townsfolk of 1885 are (understandably) astounded by Marty McFly’s perfectly white teeth.)

Anyway, Carlisle asks where he can find a “Bible-believing church” where he can attend services tomorrow (Sunday).  Okay, I know that these days, “Bible-believing” is a fundy dogwhistle, but was it so in 1890?  I find myself doubting that.  Wouldn’t Carlisle be more likely simply to ask for a church in his own denomination?

Well, I guess Carlisle catches on to the yellow pages that Eddie tosses his way, because next thing we know, Carlisle is in a pew, chatting with a guy about all the activities the church offers.  Carlisle seems surprised by the mere fact that there are many groups within the church, and not just that these groups ride in “vans” to see “movies.”  But haven’t church activities been a big deal for quite some time?

THEN THIS FREAKY SCENE HAPPENS

“How do you do?” (Says Carlisle)

“I’m fine.” (Answers the Creepy Guy)

“My name is Russell Carlisle.”

“Nice looking Bible you have there.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Yes, that’s a nice one.”

“Yes.  Yes, it is.  [long uncomfortable pause]  So, how has the Lord been speaking to you through his word this week?”

“Well, have you ever noticed the strength in the pages of these Bibles?  They are so thin, but they’re very difficult to tear.  They really hold up.”

“Yes.  They certainly do.”

image

I…just…

THIS IS A SCENE THAT JUST ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

I can hardly wrap my head around it.  These lines were written into a script, spoken by actors, and the director yelled, “Cut!  Perfect!”

Does Creepy Guy come to church solely to steal Bibles to roll his joints?  Because that’s honestly all I can think of that even comes close to making a remote amount of sense.

Loyal readers, did I miss something?  I never went to Sunday school—is this something I would understand had I been raised Christian?

I guess Carlisle is ultimately okay with the Creepy Guy, because he doesn’t move six pews away after this conversation.  Instead, he sings the opening hymn with gusto, and hears a standard sermon about trusting in the Bible and using it for teaching and stuff.  (Carlisle looks around guiltily at this part, like these 21st-century Christians will realize that he wrote a book about teaching morality without Jesus, and they’ll stone him.)

But he escapes the church unsmited, and retreats to the park for lunch.  He spies a young woman, and despite the fact that she is wearing sunglasses, jeans, sneakers, a trench coat, and a backwards newsies cap, what he is really interested in is…her hot dog.

So he buys one from the nearby vendor, and is flummoxed AGAIN when the guy asks Carlisle if he wants a “soda” to go with it.  I have no idea why he should be confused, since carbonated beverages had been around for quite some time by 1890, but Carlisle asks for tea instead.

When he sits down to enjoy his hot dog and tea, an unchristian little girl takes advantage of Carlisle’s pre-wiener prayer to abscond with his food!

When Carlisle finally catches up with her, they have the following moral colloquy:

“Young lady, you’ve just stolen my hot dog!  Why would you do such a thing?”

“I was just playing around, mister.”

“I would be happy to purchase one for your very own if you are hungry and in need of food.”

“Here, take your dog.”  *gives him the hot dog*

“This is not a proper thing you have done.  It is important that you respect your elders and that we be kind to one another.”

“I said I was just playing around—it was no big deal.”

“But it is a very important matter.  You do understand that stealing is a sin?”

“Says who?”  *runs off*

[long, dramatic pause as it all comes together]  “The Lord says.”

And so we enter Phase Two of the movie, in which Carlisle realizes that Captain Stubing was Right All Along, and that 1890 is waaay better than twenty-whatever, and begins to make this revelation known to all.

Next time.

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Coming Attractions

I have a list in my mind of the Christian films I’m going to critique.  Topping the list for quite some time have been Pamela’s Prayer and Late One Night, both of them Christiano films (the people who brought us The Pretender and Second Glance) that I consider modern classics of the genre.

But then…but then

In my not-infrequent sojourns to used book and media stores, I often find hidden treasures.

SUCH AS A MOVIE ABOUT A TIME-TRAVELING BIBLE PROFESSOR

And then…AND THEN…

I was listening to Christian radio, as I often do, and heard a commercial for a CHRISTIAN VEGGIE TALES LITTLE PRINCESS.

WHAT THE FRAKKING FRAKKING FRAK

You guys DO NOT EVEN KNOW how much I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess when I was kid.  How much I still do.

And now Sara and Becky are going to be played by VEGETABLES??

I’ll be honest—I have never watched a full anything of VeggieTales—I’ve always been a little freaked out by the animation style.  Especially by the fact that none of the characters HAVE ARMS.

But hell, this is A Little Princess we’re talking about!

I’m in.

But since I do like to have my pics with my reviews, looks like time travel is coming up this weekend!

TSoA: Chapter 12: Levi Helps

This chapter, we spend some time with Murphy and his bestest (well, only) pal, Levi Abrams, the former (or IS he???) Mossad agent.

As we learned in Babylon Rising, Murphy and Levi have a somewhat unusual friendship based on near-constant tests of manliness, by which I mean that they take turns punching each other in the gut, and whoever pukes first has to buy lunch.

I guess it’s a guy thing.

Levi catches Murphy after class, and we all know that Tim LaHaye never misses an opportunity to take a shot at those awful people who devote their lives to knowledge and education:

Levi sat down in one of the empty chairs in the lecture hall and watched as a handful of eager students plied Murphy with questions.  He was amazed at the patience of the man.  Most academics regarded the teaching of students as an annoying interruption of their own studies, but Murphy clearly cared about his students as much as he cared about archaeology.

Yep, he cares about them so much that he blows off classes for weeks at a time to go gallivanting off around the world looking for the bronze serpent or Noah’s ark.

They head off to the gym, and Bob Phillips lets us in on Murphy’s workout routine, so pay attention, everyone!

At the gym, Levi and Murphy warmed up with stretching exercises to ensure no pulled muscles.

Okay, I’ll admit I’m no gym rat, but I was a competitive athlete in college, and I was always told not to stretch cold muscles, that it was much more important to stretch after the workout than before.

Then they both dropped into a “horse stance” and held that position while throwing five hundred right and left reverse punches.

Ah yes…the reverse punch.

This is Bob Phillips favorite move.  Reverse punches make no appearance in Babylon Rising, but they are over the other three books in this series.  Murphy uses them, Talon uses them, THEY HAPPEN ALL THE TIME.

I am honestly not sure why a reverse punch is so much more awesome than a regular punch, but I am willing to be enlightened.

Then Levi teaches Murphy “a kata that has twenty-seven moves to it.  It is called Heian Yodan.  It was taught by Gichin Funakoshi, the master at Karate-do.”

Okay, I have no idea what that means, but Murphy seems excited, so they do that for awhile.

Then, having proven they are MEN by getting sweaty and half-naked with each other, Levi decides to talk about feelings:

“I got a call from Bob Wagoner last week.  He was concerned about how you were dealing with the loss of Laura.”

You know, I would say that it’s weird of Pastor Bob to call Levi Abrams to get him to talk to Murphy, especially since Jewish Levi is unlikely to tell Murphy to turn to Jesus for help, but then I realized that it fits Bob’s usual pattern of pawning off his duties on others so he has more time to golf.

Murphy talks about his grief and attempts to move on for exactly twelve seconds (I timed myself reading it), but it all comes back to Talon.  And Levi, because of his super sekrit squirrel connections, knows all about the break-in at the Foundation.

“Don’t worry,” said Levi.  “I believe Talon got what he was looking for.  He won’t be coming back.”

Oh yeah, that makes total sense, Levi.  You know when else everyone probably thought that?  THE LAST TIME TALON BROKE INTO THE FOUNDATION USING BIRDS AND STOLE A SECRET ARTIFACT.

But this all leads to the really REAL reason why Murphy is psyched to see Levi: he wants Levi’s help to organize his expedition to Mount Ararat to find the ark during the school year.  Because Murphy cares about his students so very much.

“We would need you (Levi) to train us for all the kinds of problems we might encounter [on Mount Ararat].”

Yes, because the first call I make before I go mountaineering is always to the Mossad.

Murphy’s next step is to head to CIA headquarters.  He figures they have information about the ark that they’re just waiting to hand over to someone just like him.

“I don’t mind rattling a few cages in the government.”

Oh Murphy, you bad-ass rebel, you!

“If we can find the ark, it would be the greatest blow that could be struck against the theory of evolution.”

I mean EVIL-ution.

Levi lets this go by without comment, because he wants to warn Murphy about another danger he may encounter in his rebellious adventures:

Spooks.

NO, NOT THAT KIND!

TSoA: Chapter 11: Important Things

Last time, I left you with this teaser:

Next up: Murphy’s very sensitive reaction to Isis’s near-death experience.

Turns out that Ivan has this book down:

My money is on that [Murphy] continues his trend from the first book and after Isis tells him she was nearly killed by Talon, he makes it all about him and how he will get Talon for what he did to his wife.

Murphy’s reaction to the news of the near-murder of Isis:

“We know what happened, Isis.  We know who did this—who killed the guards, attacked you.”

“You know, I don’t think I could endure a second loss.”

Ivan wins at The Secret on Ararat forever!

Image

Oh, and I think it is very kind of Murphy not to mention to Isis that had she actually been killed, her soul would be slow-roasted in Hell for all eternity, because she’s not a Christian.

But this chapter has more to it than Michael Murphy being a self-absorbed ass, and Michael Murphy not being quite so much of a self-righteous prick as he might have been.

For example, did you know that Isis McDonald has a sister?

I DIDN’T.

“The police asked me to go to my sister’s in Bridgeport, Connecticut.”

I’m being dead serious when I tell you that when I first heard this on the audiobook, IT BLEW MY MIND.  Babylon Rising has no hint that Isis had any siblings, and the entire tone of our introduction to Isis painted the picture of an only child with a doting single father.

So Isis is calling Murphy from her SISTER’S house in the middle of the night after the attack, and Murphy reacts to Isis’s almost-murder with the sensitivity we have all come to expect from him:

“The fragment of wood—is it still in the lab?”

image

Really, Murphy?

REALLY???

Isis was just nearly murdered BY THE SAME MAN WHO MURDERED YOUR WIFE, and you’re concerned about the piece of wood.

You selfish punk.

Luckily (and shockingly), Isis agrees with me:

Isis laughed through another sob.  “I thought for a moment you were just concerned about me.”

“I am, Isis,” he protested.

“But there are other, more important things to worry about, aren’t there?  Don’t worry, Michael, I understand.  But the answer to your question is no.  The wood is gone.”

Good thing the wood is gone, because at the rate he’s going, Murphy will be getting no action from Isis.  EVER.

Also, I kinda can’t believe that Isis stood up for herself like that.  It’s almost like Greg Dinallo took over the writing for a few seconds.

It doesn’t even particularly matter that the wood was stolen, because the Foundation scientists already ran a bunch of tests on the wood, and found that it had almost no potassium 40 in it.  Murphy figures that this means that there wasn’t much potassium 40 around before the impossible worldwide flood, which is why people lived for hundreds and hundreds of years and potassium 40 comes from the sun I guess but the giant impossible water canopy kept the sun from damaging things to much and I just don’t care and I doubt Isis does either since she was JUST ALMOST STRANGLED A FEW HOURS AGO.

Yeah, like that.  Would you care to shut up now, Murphy?

“I don’t have to tell you how important this all could be, Isis.  But right now none of it matters.  The only important is that you’re alive and safe.  You know, I don’t think I could endure a second loss.”

Nice attempt at backpedaling, Murph, but we’ll have to deduct points for the self-centered whine on the dismount.

Jerk.

Confessions of a Former Conservative

Many of you may be fans, as I am, of Confessions of a Former Conservative.  If you tried to visit the blog today, you saw that it is no longer up.  This is because the Former Conservative has decided to retire as a blogger.

Let me assure you that FC is quite well.  However, some external events in his life are demanding his time and attention.  It is my hope that he will still contribute his fresh perspective and great sense of humor at other blogs.

FC has this message at his blog’s Facebook page:

I think the best thing for me to do at this time is to just live Christianity the way I think it should be practiced as best as I can rather than being a critic of others.

And so, I’d like to give FC a send-off with one of his favorite bits from one of the great television shows in human history: the “Hike Up Your Pants” song from the MST3K episode “Daddy-O.”

TSoA: Chapter 11: Second Verse, Same as the First

Okay, can it, everyone—plot’s back.

-Joel Robinson, Catalina Caper, MST3K

As you might recall, Babylon Rising featured the murder-by-falcon of two security guards at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation, where Isis McDonald works.  It was okay, though, because one was a not-spiritual guy who had a fat, ugly, nagging wife.  The other…well, he made the fatal mistake of trying to stop Talon, who was there to steal a piece of the Brazen Serpent, and whose specialty is death by falcon.  Also death by razor-finger.

You might think, after the brutal, yet mysterious deaths of two of their guards, the Foundation directors might choose to upgrade their security precautions.

You would be wrong.

But first, this very strange opening:

The full moon was making [the guard’s] job as a night watchman a breeze.  From the top of the roof of the Smithsonian, he could see anyone entering the parking lot that flanked the back two sides of the building.  As he moved diagonally across the roof to the other corner, he could see 5th Street, which ran north and south, and Milford Boulevard, which ran east and west.  The traffic was light for a Friday night.

Um.

Two things:

1.  Am I missing something, or is there no Milford Blvd. anywhere around the Smithsonian?

There’s 5th Street, running north to south, but…the east and west streets are letter streets: E, F, G, etc.  Did Bob Phillips just make up a street in Washington?  If so, why?  Why give the Foundation an exact location at all?  Why can’t it just be The Parchments of Freedom Foundation, Washington, D.C.?

2.  AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE PARCHMENTS OF FREEDOM FOUNDATION IS PART OF THE SMITHSONIAN THE HELL???

I mean just WUT??  This was not mentioned in the first book at all.  And now the Foundation is part of the frakking awesome Smithsonian???

MY MIND HAS JUST BEEN BLOWN BY THIS INFORMATION.

*pant pant*

Oh yeah, the deaths of the new guards.

The above paragraph, by the way, comprises the totality of the shiny new security measures of the Foundation.  Two guards were killed by a murderous thief, so the solution is to hire new guards, and place one ON THE ROOF.

Which is a great place to be when the murderous thief, WHO WAS NEVER CAUGHT, uses BIRDS to kill people.

Oh, and also: one of the guards is, in his own words, “an old guy,” and another suspects that he is slowly losing his hearing.  And NO, he hasn’t seen a doctor OR informed his employers of this fear.

Talon once again uses a bird to kill, but it’s different this time.

This time, Talon is wrangling a STARLING.

I have no idea WHY Talon would want to use a starling, but it’s…different.

Here is how he uses it: Talon pulls his car into the parking lot of the SMITHSONIAN, fully intending for the guard to see him.

Suddenly [Talon] raised his hand, held it in midair for a few moments, then snapped it down against his thigh.  Instantly Thielman [the guard] heard an earsplitting shriek behind him and swiveled to see a dark shape arrowing down toward his face.  Fumbling at his belt, he instinctively took a step backward and tripped over a taut monofilament line stretched between two steel air outlets.  Turning awkwardly, he managed to break his fall by gripping the guardrail surrounding the roof.

And then the rail snapped in two like a stale breadstick and he was plummeting through space…

And.  He.  Died.

And it was a stupid starling that was to blame.

Wanted for murder

(Picture from Wikipedia.)

So, instead of just having a falcon rip out someone’s throat like last time, Talon goes to all the trouble of sneaking onto the roof of the Smithisonian, setting up this wire for the guard to trip over, waiting until that night, showing up to catch the guards attention, then setting the starling loose and trusting the guard to fall in exactly the right way so that he will fall to his death.

That seems unnecessarily complicated.

Talon sneaks into the Foundation like he’s a one-man Leverage team or something.  (Which is beyond stupid: he is an assassin for hire, not a cat burglar.

He comes across another guard and simply slashes him with his Razor Finger of Doom.

Talon heads on down to Isis’s office, after the piece of the ark for The Seven.  Isis has fallen asleep at her desk because she is pulling an all-nighter.  But Talon wakes her up and she goes for the gun in her desk.

That’s right: after her “adventure” in the last novel, Isis has taken to keeping “a .32 automatic—as yet unfired—nestled in a drawer amid a clutter of stationery.”

Okay, I am no expert in guns, but shouldn’t she have fired it previously?  I mean, if she wants to use this for self-defense, wouldn’t she have taken a course and done some shooting at a range?  It seems unlike Isis not to have made herself proficient.

Not that it matters, because Talon grabs her before she can grab the gun.  And Isis is about to go the way of Laura Murphy, until the third guard comes upon them.  Proving his versatility once again, Talon dispatches him with a throwing knife to the throat, then has to beat cheeks without killing Isis, because Guard #3 has started the alarm and the cops are coming.

I am sad that Isis could not hold Talon off by herself.

😦

Next up: Murphy’s very sensitive reaction to Isis’s near-death experience.

A Heathen’s Lack-of-Faith Journey

I listen to Christian radio during some long car trips.  It can be hilarious, and it passes the time.  There is much talk of “where you are in your faith journey.”  But I don’t have a faith journey, nor do I want one.  In its place, here is my Heathen Lack-of-Faith Journey:

I have never been a believer in any religion.  I am a life-long atheist.  And, having no de-conversion story, I always assumed my story of being an atheist was a bit boring.  I was raised in a secular home by an atheist mother and a “very, very strong agnostic” father (that is his own current self-description—he does have a de-conversion story).  I was never taught to believe, but never prevented from joining friends at church or youth group events.  My great-grandmother died when I was seven, and I asked my dad what happens to people when they die.  Though at the time, he would probably have identified as Christian, he told me, “We don’t really know.”  I accepted that, and never felt the existential dread I am told nonbelivers must feel.

I grew up in a pretty religious community and was more an object of curiosity than of teasing (at least as far as religion went).  The innocent admission that I didn’t “do” Lent was met with slack-jawed amazement by several middle school classmates.  It wasn’t until a few years later that I had a full-fledged debate with two classmates who assured me I was going to Hell for my lack of belief.

In a way, that debate was a good thing: I had to explain myself, and that is something that nonbelievers have to do quite often.  I told them that I simply didn’t see any evidence for anything supernatural—ghosts, gods, nothing.  Jeffrey Dahmer was in the news at the time, and I was assured that while born-again Christian Dahmer was currently in Heaven, I was destined for Hell unless I saw the error of my ways.

Then, as now, I see no reason to believe.  That is the crux of my atheism, why it is a lack of belief (and not a religion, as some believers claim)—I just don’t see it, there’s no good evidence.  And I still maintain that if Heaven contains people like Dahmer, just because they said the right words and believed in the right god, then I’ll be happier in Hell.

It is an all-to-common assumption that nonbelievers live empty, miserable lives, that we cannot possibly find love and meaning when we don’t believe in God.  The question of how to find meaning in an atheist life strikes me as very odd.  How could I not find meaning in my life?  I have a wonderful family, great friends, things I love to do.  I want to work on my career, find a partner, have children someday.  I don’t see how any of these goals depend on being religious.  My life has whatever meaning I choose to give it.

I feel freedom as an heathen.  Don’t get me wrong: I have plenty of responsibilities—to my family, to my job, to the people who live around me.  But I don’t have to worry about what any supernatural entity thinks of me.  We are all just people.  Not made a certain way by an all-knowing entity, or part of any master plan.  We’re going it alone, all together, on this planet, and we have only ourselves to thank or to blame.

I find that very liberating and exciting.