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January 9, 2006

Ain’t misbehavin’
Posted by Teresa at 04:19 PM *

I’ve been pursuing various strategies for getting more Cylert, which will be duly reported here. In the meantime, I was feeling morose. Lo, Divine Providence sent me Alec Rawls, for a restorative round of foolkilling.

Some of you may recall a post here last September about wingnuts who object to the design for the Flight 93 Memorial on the grounds that it’s a crescent (it isn’t) which points toward Mecca (it doesn’t). You’d have thought they’d have moved on by now, right? They haven’t. Alec Rawls is still preaching and elaborating this bizarre idea, slandering the designer, and bringing distress to the families of the crash victims.

TBogg noted this in his weblog. Discussion followed. About a dozen messages in, Alec Rawls himself showed up, and the fireworks started. The thread, now fizzling out, makes a lively read. One seldom sees such unanimity of opinion in an open forum. It was Alec Rawls contra mundum all the way.

And yeah, I pitched in. It was irresistible. Perked me right up. If anyone’s interested, here are links to my comments there: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Also one further exchange, here.

Comments on Ain't misbehavin':
#1 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 06:34 PM:

I had great fun in that thread. Though I really could not believe the degree of thick-headedness demonstrated by Mr. Rawls. I've seen brick walls with more intelligence and capability for rational thought.

#2 ::: Harry Payne ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 06:44 PM:

And I thought the days of Von Daniken clones pointing out the mystic symbolism of lines drawn using two arbitrary points on a map were gone.

The sad thing is, this "fact" will still be common currency in a decade, no matter how much evidence to the contrary.

#3 ::: Mr. Bill ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 07:05 PM:

Teresa, when I noticed you had joined the Alecsmackdown, I was elated. My kids were concerned I was laughing so much.
We live in a world where factuality is determined by sentiment: Rawls is one of the Rights' voices, and anything else presented will be disregarded by the true believers. It's sad, but I must say I enjoyed the seeing the dude's insane ideas and methods (counting the pixels on the screen in paint? Asserting that the work 'points' to Mecca, and contains a mithrab, when it might just be oriented on Flight 94's flight path) ripped to shreds and mocked. His certainty is pathological..

#4 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 07:10 PM:

I've long believed that people who are absolutely certain are almost always wrong. Not only wrong, but crazy-wrong.

I like the idea one poster presented of building a mosque at Ground Zero. In fact, I think there should be (even quarters) a mosque, a church, a synogogue, and a grove of oak trees at Ground Zero. Except I don't know if synagogues have to face east too.

#5 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 07:18 PM:

Some notes, Teresa:

squamous and rugose Michelle Malkin

While I never actually consider whether she was some form of overgrown specimen of unknown marine radiata, I'm starting to wonder if her head does look a bit star shaped. No sign of membranous wings, however.

And I am surprised that you did not immediately recognize that the design of the memorial had to be a plot by the New Orleans Police Department.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 07:35 PM:

Alec Rawls is the son of John Rawls, one of the most important American political philosophers of the late 20th century. John Rawls revived social contract theory in a new and interesting way. His son, on the other hand, is a dunderhead.

#7 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:07 PM:

Yeah, Patrick pointed us over to Tbogg, and spent much of the weekend looking in over there. Under my nom de flameguerre, I even chipped in a couple times. (Because, you know, I'm usually cautious about provoking lunatics under my real name. But I just couldn't resist. )

It certainly was entertaining, in a sad sort of way.
(It can't be easy, being Alec Rawls.)

One of many aspects of the argument that I never understood: So why does Rawls believe that Bush's National Park Service is part of a crypto-Islamo-fascist conspiracy?

#8 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:11 PM:

Alex is indeed a dunderhead, as well as being socially inept. However, there were a few mis-statements in the comments I'd like to address. (With the proviso that the survivors' families should have final say on the memorial. If they're happy with it, who am I to argue?)

1) The "crescent" isn't a crescent.
From Flight 93 marker design picked
A crescent of maple trees is one aspect of the 2,000 acre "Crescent of Embrace" memorial site.

2) The crescent isn't a symbol of Islam, only of the Ottoman Empire.
This may have been true at one point, however, I believe that all Muslim countries have the Crescent and Star on the flag, regardless of whether they were in the OE or not.

3) Nobody cares whether there's a crescent on the site, and if they do, it's a good thing.
"Co-opting Muslim imagry" is one of the sillier things I've heard recently. Who would accept a swastica at a Holocaust Memorial? Obviously, the families don't have a problem with the crescent, but if they did, the design would never made out of competition.
I think Alex Rawls was wrong, was socially inept in addressing comments, but the comments calling him insane were uncalled-for.

#9 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:22 PM:

jhlipton: There's no crescent in Indonesia's flag, and that's the most populous muslim country in the world.

Crescents are not a symbol of Islam. They just aren't. No matter how much you associate them with Islam.

#10 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:25 PM:

Thanks for the new word.

rugose = Having many wrinkles or creases; ridged or wrinkled.

Somehow I don't think Ms. Malkin will appreciate that if she hears of it.

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:32 PM:

You know, I've seen this sort of mental failure mode often enough since getting on the web that it isn't funny, any more. It's just sad.

There's just a certain fraction of people who get off on being angry and scared, and a another fraction willing to provide excuses. Witness the perennial rumor that Proctor and Gamble supports devil worship.

Ah, well.

Has The Daily Report skewered this batbelfrism yet?

#12 ::: Alex Merz ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:35 PM:

I got me one, too, Theresa! My troll is a creationist and holocaust 'revisionist' who showed up at The Panda's Thumb. The troll, Larry Fafarman, also has, erm, interesting ideas about the causes of meteor showers. One week, two new net.kooks! Truly(,) are we blessed(?).

#13 ::: Simstim ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:36 PM:

Xopher: Are you absolutely certain of that?

#14 ::: Alex Merz ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:39 PM:

Xopher: I've long believed that people who are absolutely certain are almost always wrong. Not only wrong, but crazy-wrong.

Voltaire: Doubt is not pleasant, but certainty is absurd.

Feynman: In Physics the truth is rarely perfectly clear, and that is certainly the case in human affiars. Hence, what is not surrounded by uncertainty cannot be the truth.

#15 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:42 PM:

The whole Rawls Affair has more than a touch of Lovecraft about it: weird, inhumanly-scaled architecture, and strange, unnatural Arab geometries, which combine to reduce the discoverer to gibbering madness, &c.

More seriously, it's dismaying what counts as evidence over there in Right Blogistan. I've stood stick for surveyors, I have a bit of appreciation for what an alignment is - and Rawls hasn't found one.

I'm also an amateur astronomer, and Stonehenge Decoded and its ilk sent me through a stage of geek enthusiasm over the British Megalithic sites. I went over and visited Stonehenge, Woodhenge, Castle Rigg, etc.

And the interesting thing you learn when you study "Ancient Astronomy" is how some genuine alignments can also inspire cart-loads of bollocks.

So it's just fascinating, watching Rawls sit at his computer and single-handedly reinvent so much pseudoscience.
I more than half expect him to announce that the Memorial sits on a major ley line.

#16 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:45 PM:

jhlipton wrote "I believe that all Muslim countries have the Crescent and Star on the flag,"

The following is a list of predominantly Muslim countries without the crescent in their national flags (about 20): Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Takikisatan, UAE, Yemen.

The following is a list of predominantly Muslim nations with a crescent (about 13): Algeria, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Comoros, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

#17 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 08:56 PM:

Xopher says:

I've long believed that people who are absolutely certain are almost always wrong. Not only wrong, but crazy-wrong.

What was that quote? Something like:

Beware he who finds all things simple, for that one will make all things difficult.

I wish I could remember where I heard it, because that? So true.

#18 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 09:00 PM:

Oh, you so get bonus points for the "squamish and rugose Michelle Malkin". Now one just has to work 'batrachian' in somewhere. (It's quite a pity nobody remembered to point out that crescents are merely the opposite shape of the leering and gibbous moon.)

#19 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 09:04 PM:

Well, we could re-enact the entire 400-comment argument over here, but who gets to play Rawls?

I will say that it was brave of Rawls to show up in Tboggs' comments. And it was amusing that the very same argument that won him accolades over in sanity-impaired places like LGF won him nothing but derision at a liberal site. This may have larger implications about the epistemology of the Right.

I think Rawls was genuinely taken aback that his new audience didn't immediately recognize the brilliance of his discovery of the Crypto-Isolamo-Fascist Conspiracy.

On the other hand, Rawls hasn't yet thought through the implications: his alleged conspiracy must have penetrated the highest levels of government, because
Bush's National Park Service must be part of it.

#20 ::: Alex Merz ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 09:06 PM:

Uh-oh.

More sort-of-almost-crescent-shaped imagery. The associated song must be some sort of cryptic French Islamofascist prayer...

...and who would have thought that this cute little guy would be providing detailed plans for the construction of terrorist devices on the Internets (where children - children - can see them, Mandrake!).

#21 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 09:24 PM:

Bob Ohlendorf writes: I will say that it was brave of Rawls to show up in Tboggs' comments.

'Brave' is not the word I would have chosen here.

I'm not sure there are many places where he would be more likely to excite a response that could be detected from extrasolar planetary observatories. It's almost like he was fishing for a rhetorical beatdown of epic proportions. I mean, where else would you go if you were deliberately trying to get flamed by the largest population of highly literate types gathered in one place for the explicit purpose of snarking on right-wing idiots?

And yeah— I was unable to resist the compulsion to flame him too. I was weak. And those plums looked so delicious.

#22 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 09:35 PM:

jhlipton wrote:

2) The crescent isn't a symbol of Islam, only of the Ottoman Empire.
This may have been true at one point, however, I believe that all Muslim countries have the Crescent and Star on the flag, regardless of whether they were in the OE or not.
Tom S. wrote:
The following is a list of predominantly Muslim countries without the crescent in their national flags (about 20): Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Takikisatan, UAE, Yemen.

The following is a list of predominantly Muslim nations with a crescent (about 13): Algeria, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Comoros, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

I understand making a mistake; I make them all the time.

What I can't understand is posting, as fact, a categorical statement like "all Muslim countries have the Crescent and Star on the flag" when it's trivially easy to check. Is Google disabled on jhlipton's computer? Is Wikipedia blocked? Why would anyone do this?

Okay, no doubt I'm asking for economy-sized mockery the next time I confidently assert that Grover Cleveland invented the electromagnet, but really. Jeez.

#23 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 09:43 PM:

TNH asks: Why would anyone do this?

No disrepect meant to anyone here -- we all do this -- but it's simply a truth that people don't check things that they think are true.

#24 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 09:47 PM:

Call me clueless, but I totally fail to see why this memorial, even if it is a crescent facing Mecca blahblahblah, is problematic.

The anti-abortionists who bomb clinics and kill doctors do so, they say, in the name of their Christian God. Yet their actions are hardly in line with true Christianity, the vast majority of Christians denounce the bombers' actions, and those constructing memorials to the bombed clinics or murdered doctors do not eschew Christian symbols such as the cross.

The terrorists who perpetrated 9/11 did so, they said, in the name of Islam. Yet their actions are hardly are hardly in line with true Islam, the vast majority of Muslims denounce the terrorists' actions, GWB himself has assured us that he respects Muslims and their religion.... so why would any Islamic association with this memorial not be acceptable?

#25 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 09:48 PM:

Sorry, PNH

#26 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 09:53 PM:

Patrick, I thought I'd already set you straight on Grover Cleveland and the electromagnet, on two non-consecutive occasions.

Incidentally, Bob, "TNH asks..." Oops! Heh heh.

#27 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 09:58 PM:

Yep, I meant to do that: that "slip" made my comment entirely self-referential.
(Yeah, that's the ticket...)

#28 ::: Eric S. Gratton ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 10:38 PM:

I delurk here for the first time (having written responses to perhaps twenty threads and then deleted said responses out of sheer terror -- Lord, you people are intimidating! -- because the topic of flags has come up, and I am a geek about flags. I'm not the most knowledgeable person in the world (though I do have a fairly large aptitude for useless information), and I admit I like looking at flags because of the pretty colors, but still -- a hobby's a hobby.

Well, said I to myself, perhaps I am wrong, but I seem to recall that some of those nations-with-no-crescent-on-their-national-flag have a crescent on their naval ensigns or suchlike subnational flags. It occurred to me that this might be... well, at least kind of interesting, if you like that sort of thing, but in no way taking away from the point.

(Which is that Alec Rawls is a loony, of course.)

So you know what I did? I hit the World Flag Database on the mighty Internet, and did a little poking around. And it turned out that I was completely wrong about that. Feeling not a little annoyed at myself -- I had been certain that there was at least one country that had a crescent on its ensign and lacked one on its national flag! -- I hit the Flags of the World site as well, hoping that perhaps I was remembering a flag that had been recently changed.

Nothin'. (Well, actually, there was a breakaway theocracy in southern Java from 1948 to '62 that had a crescent, but it's gone now anyway and doesn't even bother to serve my point. Which didn't have all that much in the way of point-content in the first place.)

The moral of this story, of course (to go along with one of Our Hosts' comments above) is that no matter how well you think you remember something, do. The research. First.

Hm. I wonder if I'll manage to post this one. Guess we'll find out, eh?

#29 ::: Eric S. Gratton ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 10:53 PM:

Hm. And while I still have the nerve, I think I shall add a little anecdote, viz:

The study of flags is like the study of people (which makes sense, I suppose, flags usually serving as symbols of a people or a group or a nation or a something) in that there are all kinds of nutty things that happen, and there is no explanation for them, but that's what makes them interesting.

(At least to me. Hopefully, I'm not cluttering up the page by sharing this.)

Once upon a time, Egypt, Libya, and Syria formed the Federation of Arab Republics, which Federation lasted either not quite five years or not quite seven, I'm not sure, and had very similar flags as a result. Thing is, Libya (by dint of the "Green Revolution" of 1977) adopted the flag it currently uses -- which, as Tom S. notes above, is one of the many flags of predominantly Muslim countries which lacks a crescent -- around that time. This flag is a solid green field (if memory serves, like unto the flag of the Prophet).

All of which is really an overlong setup to the fact that, among people who study this sort of thing, the flag of the Socialist Libyan Arab Peoples Jamahiriya (and ain't that a mouthful) is referred to as "a tricolor of green, green, and green."

A tricolor of green, green, and green.

You know what? I think maybe absurdity, not variety, is the spice of life.

#30 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 11:10 PM:

Welcome, Eric. And thanks for the "tricolor of green, green, and green."

#31 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 11:18 PM:

The discussion? um; conversation? nuh uh; stuff on TBogg made me laugh soooo hard... I don't suppose it will make Alec Rawls feel any better to know that. Poor guy. He is so serious! I didn't have the heart to go to his website and read the Whole Shocking Truth About the creeping Islamoterrorist crescent which, when it is built, will presumably devour Pennsylvania and then look for other victims.

#32 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 11:25 PM:

Eric (Gratton): Thanks for the information on flags. "A tricolor of Green, Green, and Green." That is so delicious.

The thread is still taking comments over at TBogg, although isn't quite as much fun without Rawls' comments.

I spent a lot of time this past weekend reading the thread at TBogg and then over here in the open thread. Must say I didn't get my laundry done, but I enjoyed myself. I will admit that it was scary to read how Alec Rawls is so convinced of his crusade, and has used such shoddy reasoning and research tools. And it is sad that the families have to put up with him and his poop.

#33 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2006, 11:48 PM:

As was pointed out in the thread, a truly Islamic design on a flag woule be calligraphic -- the best example is the flag of Saudi Arabia, a green field (tricolor?) with the Shahada at the center and a sword below it. The calligraphic nature of the flag requires some special features. The Shahada on the reverse side is usually an applique to properly orient the lettering, but the sword always points away from the hoist. There is even a special version for vertical hanging.

The recent link on rating flags did not give this one a good score. I think it is one of the best. Of course, I really like green.

#34 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 12:11 AM:

From Teresa's Link #6:

The updated list of conspirators who are far more likely to be responsible for this scheme:
01. The Kingdom of Caid
02. The Portsmouth Football Club and/or its fans
03. Sinister forces at work in San Diego, Cordoba, and Perth
04. Marian Catholics
05. Conspirators from Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul
06. Canada.com (because Doodle Bean insists)
07. The Christian Coalition (ditto)
08. South Carolina
09. The cryptoislamofascist cell to which Alec Rawls belongs
10. Plantagenet legitimists
11. persons nostalgic for the Ottoman Empire
12. Tree-worshipping pagans
13. The United States Post Office
14. My mother
15. The Japanese

Reading Teresa's list has inspired me to don my tin-foil propeller beanie and note a few things:

-- "The Kingdom of Caid" My wife and I have been members of the Kingdom of Atenveldt. Which is RIGHT NEXT TO the Kingdom of Caid!

-- "Canada.com" Just before Hilde and I were married (see below), we took a pre-honeymoon... TO CANADA!

-- "Tree-worshipping pagans" My wife, and most of our friends, ARE pagans!

-- "The United States Post Office" I've WORKED FOR the Postal Service for twenty-eight years!

-- "The United States Post Office" (again) The noted connection refers to the crescent image of the two-cent "Squash-Blossom Necklace" stamp. A piece of jewelry. And lo and behold, my own wife... MAKES AND SELLS JEWELRY!

The conclusion is clear. Obviously, both my wife and myself are deep-cover members of the conspiracy. So deep-cover, in fact, that WE'RE NOT EVEN AWARE OF IT!

Just a couple more facts will also show that the mastermind of this insidious conspiracy has to be... TERESA HERSELF!

(What more clever way to disguise the truth, than to publish the true facts and disparage them yourself? What more?)

-- "Marian Catholics" Way back when, Teresa attended a party... DRESSED AS A NUN! And since she was also wearing a joke-shop Groucho-glasses-and-mustache, clearly it was a Marian nun. (M-A-R-x. M-A-R-ian. Obvious, isn't it?)

-- And to cinch it all together, when Hilde and I were married, one of the witnesses to the ceremony was... TERESA'S MOTHER!

I ask you, ladis and gentlemen, could all of this POSSIBLY be mere coincidence?

I rest my case.

#35 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 12:34 AM:

As I was about to fall asleep, it occured to me that the TBogg thread was as much fun a read as the "Slumming" thread here a few weeks ago and then I thought: imagine Alec Rawls' reaction if he got disemvoweled.

#36 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 01:05 AM:

I'll be posting this on TBogg as well...

According to the site plan for the winning design (PDF) posted at the memorial's official web site, there is no arc facing toward Mecca at all. If you go back and look at Mr. Rawls' site, you'll find that he's getting worked up over a line drawn through points of his choice at, more or less, right angles to the actual arc of the Bowl or Crescent of Embrace. That arc, what I'd call a horseshoe if I were describing it to someone else, is open to the southwest. (If I understand correctly, that's the angle from which Flight 93 approached its crash site.) Someone facing into the arc would be praying in the general direction of Iceland; someone facing out of it through the opening would be praying toward Tijuana.

The Tower of Voices seems to open to the southeast, but it's hard to tell from this diagram, since it looks sometimes to me like the tower opening might be offset from the arcs of hedges to be planted around it. I don't think there's enough info here to get a clear sense of just where someone facing out of the tower opening might be looking, but I will be that it's not Mecca. More likely, I'd think, it's simply rotated 90 degrees from the big Bowl.

In short: when someone gets that worked up about tangential features, it's well going back and checking the original. And what you'll find if you do is that nothing on the memorial site is oriented toward Mecca at all.

#37 ::: Dan Hartung ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 01:15 AM:

We'd better add to the list of Islamist conspirators.

As for the unfortunate Alex's motivation, I think it's clear that he just wanted "proof" that liberals can't think, which is achieved by them not accepting his loony question-begging logic (quite apart from his sloppy research). Note how many times he baited people to agree with his basic premise, by which agreement they were then logically bound to accept the entire argument. His assumption that nobody accepted his conclusions meant that he extrapolated that people who didn't, must not have "investigated" the "facts". So by participating he must have enjoyed himself, proving that liberals are incapable of logical thought or even basic research. Yes, he's that immune. I doubt he's crying in his soup over his trouncing, even though many obviously hoped to achieve that. Like True Believers throughout history, he finds his own conclusions infallible.

Note in his original blog how many times he finds that any inaccuracy or countervailing information -- say, a few degrees orientation off of Mecca -- is deliberate misdirection designed to conceal the purpose of the memorial! This is Bigfoot / Bermuda Triangle / Trilateralist territory here, folks.

Anyway -- a quick FYI to Eric. Ba'athism (yes) wsa a pan-Arab movement that gained ground in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq around 1955-1965. For a time Egypt and Syria somewhat formally "merged" as the United Arab Republic (U.A.R. -- see old maps), but it never gelled in any practical sense. The U.A.R. dissolved, I believe, before the Ba'athists took full control of Iraq. Since then the pan-Arab movement has had little momentum. Libya was never part of this, although they may have had a native Ba'athist movement. Libya and Egypt, in fact, pretty much hate each other.

For what it's worth, not one of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 came from a country with a crescent on its flag.

#38 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 01:22 AM:

Bruce Baugh: my understanding is that Flight 93 came in toward the southeast, along a chord that (pardon the expression) severs the circle (truncating it into the "Crescent"). The crater is now the "Sacred Ground" in the SE corner.

I think the Tower is about half-mile to the northeast.

The "crescent" faces SW; if you face into it, you're looking NE, which is roughly the Great Circle heading for Mecca. (Thus, all the excitement over in Wingnutistan.)

I think actual believers would face Mecca along the rhumb, about 45 degree to the east.

(And here we go, getting sucked into Rawls' World o' Delusions....)

#39 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 01:26 AM:

The sheer power of the man's abstract reasoning seduces me. I am compelled to emulate him.

The alignment passes through Perth, so it's blindingly obvious, as Teresa says, that there are sinister forces at work in Perth. I work in Perth. Therefore, by the simple application of the rigorous rules of classical logic, I am a sinister force!

It's all so clear now. And I thought my occasional disagreements with you mob were the product of mere human variation and random chance (to borrow a phrase). Hah! No such thing. I am actually one of the Secret Masters. Me! And I never suspected! That's the clincher - even I didn't know the secret, which only proves how secret it was.

I wonder when they're going to come and conduct me to my very own singularity?

#40 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:54 AM:

1. What is it with the Right and their obsession with estoteric knowlege? I don't think Rawls is nutty, but he's an extreme example of the Straussian search for hidden meanings.

I'm reading George Packer's The Assassins' Gate, where he describes them:

I ran into [the Strauss cult] as a freshman at Yale in the late seventies. In the classrooms of young Straussian professors, with their awkward social manners and pale cryptic smiles, one had the sense of a secret body of understanding to which only a select few would be admitted. They taught the classics in translations by their own (Bloom's verson of Plato's Republic, for instance) because the correct wording of key ideas revealed hidden meanings--the art of concealment that was the subject of Strauss' 1952 book Persecution and the Art of Writing. The classical thinkers wrote in an esoteric vein, Strauss argued, on different levels--an untrammeled inquiry into truth available to the wisest readers, a more careful and responsible discourse for the broad public--because philosophy is dangerous to authority and, ultimately, to the philosopher himself, as Socrates found out.

I'm not suprised that some people on the Right are trying to find a hidden, dangerous reading of the Flight 93 monument.

I have a scribbled note in my copy of the book: "Straussians are Watchers: bow ties, esoteric knowlege, all male, reject the Enlightenment."

2. At the same time, I get the feeling there's a demand for a coarser form of monumentalism (see http://www.iraqmemory.org/pic/museum/Hands-of-Victory.jpg.)

The Flight 93 monument is about the people on the plane, who, while they couldn't save their own lives, may have saved many on the ground at the plane's intended target.

But that doesn't suit some, who'd rather have the monumental equivalent of OMFG! Islamofascism Bad! Us Good!

Hence we see people such as Rawls trying to find some 'evil' meaning behind a monument that doesn't suit their purposes, to have a monument that promotes the "reading for the broad public."

#41 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 03:15 AM:

Given that European civilization learned most of our mathematics and geometry, including our system of numbers, from the Arab world, it would be surprising if there weren't "Islamic" elements in almost any design.

But Rawls is still a loon.

#42 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 03:45 AM:

Regarding my point number 2, and here is where I differ from Young Mr Rawls: Oops, I screwed up. Should have RTFM (or near enough).

Let me restate: instead of "all Muslim countries have the Crescent and Star on the flag, regardless of whether they were in the OE or not"; I should have said "several Muslim countries have the Crescent and Star on the flag, regardless of whether they were in the OE or not". The Crescent does indicate Islam on some nations never part of the OE.

I don't see a lot of refutation of my arguments; nor of my big, fat, major one: Whatever was acceptable to the family of the survivors should be fine with us. If they had said "We don't want a red crescent on our memorial, whether it comes with rolls or not", this design should have been pinched. Since they did not and have not, Mr Rawls' objections are meaningless.

#43 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 04:17 AM:

Oh, but everyone claiming that the arc doesn't face Mecca have missed one essential detail that I could divine using Paint and a big bottle of mineral water!

In fact, the direction is irrational! And it is, indeed, a wellknown fact apparent from the topological construction of a sphere beginning from a square that a line following an irrational direction will eventually have covered ALL points on the sphere. Thus, it doesn't matter that it doesn't seem to point towards Mecca, because indeed it does!

However, this also means that it simultaneously points towards the vatican, towards Jerusalem, towards the Ise shrine and towards the Dalai Lama!

#44 ::: Tamara ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 04:28 AM:

Modern society is over saturated with images and symbols. It is impossible to come up with a new logo without someone thinking it resembles an existing one (which is why so many companies use text logos, like nokia).
Religious symbols are the oldest logos people know. They are ingrained into society, and are (mostly) simplified geometric forms: two triangles, half a circle, two crossing lines.
This helps burn the image into the followers' minds, as a simple image is easier to remember and recognise (which is why so many companies still try to create a graphic logo - for the consumer recognition value).
Modern architecture went back to the basic shapes of circle, triangle and square for the same reason - the simplicity creates a calm and cleanliness that lets people concentrate on the purpose of a building, rather than a decorative facade.
Architecturally, these shapes don't have any religious meanings. They are geometrical, practical forms. They might correspond to the religious symbols, but only because both need the simplicity.

The memorial's circle is open to allow the flow of visitors, as well as to mark the flight path of the plane.
I could interpret it as a full circle which just happens to be open (after all, completing the circle in one's mind is easy).
The circle has a deep spiritual meaning in Buddhism, symbolising the cycle of life and rebirth, which I think can be an inspiring connotation to the memorial, but I could also say it's an Auroborus - the snake that eats its own tail, and crops up in most European mythologies - a gruesome image I wouldn't want to associate with the memorial.
I can keep on going, finding more and more images that are common (some more, some less so) in our cultural heritage, but for what reason? The memorial was chosen for its beauty and artistic values, not for any image or symbol it might or might not resemble.

#45 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 06:41 AM:

"Some people believe that the truth is absolute and their grasp of it is relative. Others feel that the truth is relative and their grasp of it absolute. The former can understand the latter, but the latter will never understand the former." - Clive James, paraphrased slightly so I don't have to go dig out the book.

And please add the University of California system to Teresa's list. I was serious (for sufficiently small values of serious) about it, even posting as alibi.

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 08:17 AM:

Why is it that this Alec Rawls comes up just when Lou Rawls dies? Coincidence, conspiracy?

#47 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 08:31 AM:

Wait! Both coincidence and conspiracy start with "co" -- which is, of course, short for "cobalt" and "company."

This Means Something™.

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 08:49 AM:

Not only that, Erik, but think about it. Mother Theresa and Princess Diana died within a few days of each other. Another 'coincidence' is that their first names both ended with the letter 'A'.

#49 ::: Teresa Nielsen Haydent ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 09:27 AM:

Out of sheer wickedness, I went and poked around in Alec Rawls' blog last night, to see if he had written anything about the TBogg thread. He had. I left a comment in his thread there, and got a remarkable reply.

My comment:

Said Alec Rawls:
"For anyone who is looking for an update on the Flight 93 memorial, ... What I can offer you now is a highly amusing thread over at TBogg's blog."
It is indeed amusing.
"He dissed my earlier analysis and I joined the comment thread, trying to get ANYONE there to acknowledge that having the central feature of a mosque (a crescent that people face into to face Mecca) as the central feature of the Flight 93 memorial is inappropriate. Nothing, out of what looks from the hit counters to be thousands of viewers. It's awesome."
"Awesome" doesn't begin to cover it. That thread is unprecedented in all my experience of the internet. By Mister Fister's calculation, there've been 486 comments (24 by Alec Rawls), 147 identifiable unique posters, 145 anonymous posts, easily 150-300 posters total, with a wordcount approaching that of a shortish novel, and not one of them has agreed with Alec Rawls.

This simply never happens. Someone always comes along and takes the contrarian position, if only to be polite. Alec Rawls' theories, research, data, procedures, conclusions, and defense of his hypothesis, are so powerfully wrong that they have inspired unanimity of opinion in a long, lively political discussion in an open venue.

I've been hanging out on the 'net for a very long time. I know a miracle when I see one.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Making Light

Alec Rawls' reply:
Theresa is completely typical of this thread (well, except that she writes coherently). She accepts that NO ONE in the entire thread is willing to acknowledge that it might be inappropriate to place a half-mile wide Mecca oriented crescent on the crash site, and she attributes this to ME being off the deep end. What kind of brain does that take?

I understand WHAT these people are doing. They are doing what I call "thinking backwards." Instead of following reason and evidence, they start with what they presume to be correct and look for excuses to dismiss all contrary reason and evidence. What I don't understand is how people can get trapped in that mode. Don't the native faculties of intelligence automatically engage reason and evidence? But something about the fact that they are all doing it allows them to all do it.

The thread is absolutely as awesome as this woman says. But it wasn't quite novel length when I left yesterday. I'll get back for another look. I'm just too busy for the next couple of days.

Those are not normal cognitive processes. I suppose his admirers don't care, as long as he reaches conclusions they find congenial.

Anent which, the comment in the thread which immediately preceded mine was by Alec Rawls. It ended:

How come you leftists are so fixated on being contrary that you cannot vet your own comments for the most obvious error? Your thought processes are so out of whack. Instead of being so agenda oriented, I suggest you just try to make sense.
All I can think of is Albert of Aix's exasperated account (Historia Hierosolymita, 1120) of a group of German peasants at the beginning of the First Crusade who decided that a certain goose was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and made it their guide on the journey to Jerusalem.

#50 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 09:56 AM:

"...that having the central feature of a mosque (a crescent that people face into to face Mecca)..."

What a cool design idea! ...but I can't think of a mosque that actually looks like that.

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 09:58 AM:

Teresa, did you really ever dress up as a nun? Got photos to prove it?

#52 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:06 AM:

TNH writes: Out of sheer wickedness, I went and poked around in Alec Rawls' blog last night

Rawls's blog is well worth poking around in, if merely for entertainment. Several of the memorial-related posts by "anonymous" were so remarkably sarcastic that I doubled up with laughter as I read 'em....

#53 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:07 AM:

What this reminds me of is the discovery in the UFO community that, when you took two UFO sightings (even if they happened years apart) and plotted them on a map, no matter how far apart those sightings were in time or space they could be connected by a straight line.

I'm also reminded of all the Satan Hunters of the Seventies and Eighties, who found Satanic Symbolism in all sorts of places (the Proctor & Gamble logo being only one of them), using reasoning and esoteric knowledge not much different from Mr. Rawls'. Their point, then, was that by exposing children to Satanic imagery (the number 666 cunning disguised as a curly pig's tail in a picture book, for example) those same children would become satanists when they grew up.

There was a lot of nut-jobbery going on, and it would have been mostly harmless, if it hadn't resulted in the prosecutions of people who ran some day care centers.

#54 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:16 AM:

Speaking of Satan Hunters, James... Didn't they go after Mister Ed because, if you played the theme song backward, there was a Satanic message in it?

A hearse is a hearse,
Of curse, of curse,
I am Mister Dead

#55 ::: suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:22 AM:

It's been a rough week for me, but one that has been made infinitely more bearable (if no more productive) by watching you take out some frustration on such a deserving target. Thank you, Teresa, for your unparalleled ability to smite idiots with wit and panache.

#56 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:30 AM:

1. The FDA discontinues pemoline, the drug currently keeping our erudite hostess awake and erudite.
2. Outrage! The fools!
3. The situation looks bad until...
4. The discovery that an effective substitute for pemoline does exist: regular exposure to the online opinions of fools.

Huh.

Not to criticise, but it's not much of a Quest Object, is it? You sure you don't need the tears of the seal women, or the tail hair of a water horse, or the feather of a phoenix or something that might present slightly more of a challenge?

This is like "Lord of the Rings" would have been if Gandalf had said "Yes, we should destroy it. Chuck it in the drawing room fire. That should do the trick."

#57 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:38 AM:

I saw some kerfuffle on the news recently, regarding muslim objections to using the Red Cross on their ambulances, which meant they were using red crescents instead.

My Google fu is foo today, though, so I don't have more to add than that.

#58 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:54 AM:

Xopher: Are you absolutely certain of that?

No, the idea could have been implanted in my mind, with memories of having believed it for a long time, by the aliens who kidnapped me (but who also left no memory of such an event - clever, those aliens).

But I don't believe things just because they could be true, unlike Alec Rawls. Also unlike him, I tend to rethink just about any belief in the face of overwhelming evidence that it isn't true. I also have "weakly held" beliefs, for which I know the evidence is either shaky, or heavily influenced by wishful thinking.

For example, I believe that all people are capable of learning to think rationally. This has more to do with my optimism about the human mind and spirit than with any evidence to that effect, and people like Alec Rawls do shake my faith.

But that's OK, because it's STILL a good operational assumption. It doesn't do to choose your beliefs SOLELY on the basis of directly observed evidence, after all.

#59 ::: twitch124 ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:54 AM:

Renee- The Crescent is one of the standard International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society symbols. The news was about the IRCC voting to accept a red chevron as a neutral, non-religious symbol. This paves the way for MDA, the Red Cross equivalent in Isreal, to join the international society.

#60 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:55 AM:

Renee: on the Red Cross/Red Crescent thing

They're trying to implement a non-sectarian/non-political symbol, the 'Red Crystal', which will look like 'a square on edge' - I think they mean a square standing on one point.

#61 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:56 AM:

Reasons the Flight 93 memorial is a pagan conspiracy:

1) Crescent shape. You know us pagans are all about moon symbolism, right? That's 'cause we're all pussies who want our Mommy. And it's a waxing crescent, too, symbolizing the growing power of the Pagan Conspiracy! Ahahaha, ahahaha, ahahah--*cough*. Where was I?

2) Trees. Likewise, we love trees. Filthy treehugging bunnyworshippers, that's us.

3) The trees are deciduous, highlighting the change of the seasons with the Wheel of the Year.

4) The pointy bit of the crescent (yah, I know crescents don't have pointy bits, bear with me here, you know what I mean) points northwest (at least, I'm assuming the PDF shows the site such that north is at the top, 'cause it's too much trouble to check). Britain is northwest of Pennsylvania, and therefore the crescent is pointing (what did I say about questioning the "pointing" part?) within 30 degrees of Stonehenge, which was a very big thing for druids (Marion Zimmer Bradley says it was, and that's good enough for me!).

5) Dude, it's a big circle. With plants inside. How much clearer do we have to be? We don' need no steenkin' Lord, the Lady'll do just fine. Besides, there are lots of deer in PA, some of 'em'll walk through it occasionally. Also crows, symbolizing the battle that the passengers waged against the Bad Guys.

See? Proof. Though I like the idea that it's Caid's fault better.

#62 ::: John Emerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 11:18 AM:

Not only that, Erik, but think about it. Mother Theresa and Princess Diana died within a few days of each other.

Bad luck comes in threes. Who was the third? President Mobutu of Zaire (Congo).

The crescent is a moon symbol, obviously, and has been used by many different peoples and religions, including the pagan Mongols who destroyed the Caliphate. Nowadays it has a bit of a Muslim tinge though (e.g., the "Red Crescent" ~ "Red Cross'.)

I've never been a great admirer of John Rawls. His son's thinking seems hyper-rational in a way similiar to contemporary philosophy, but even more so -- he works out ideas rigorously without doing reality checks.

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 11:22 AM:

And, in case you forgot, Carrie, as Joe Friday and Pep Striebeck eventually found out, 'pagan' really stands for 'People Against Goodness And Normalcy'.

#64 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 11:28 AM:

"I think they mean a square standing on one point."

aka, a diamond?

Too bad. When I first saw "Red Crystal," what I thought of was an elaborate glass goblet, possibly filled with blood. Now there's an international symbol of assistance that'd get people's attention!

Alex Rawls was everyblog's whipping boy for a few days. Amusing as the various threads commenting on his lunacy were, in the mass they made for an unedifying spectacle: a whole lotta people piling on someone who is clearly a few forks short of a place setting. That made it less funny for me, though I admit the temptation was probably overwhelming.

I have this wierd soft spot for Libya, because it's so obviously a country Dadaists came up with, to see how much absurdity they could get away with. Imagine my utter contentment at hearing Libyans describe their flag as "a tricolor of green, green and green." Honestly, it doesn't get any better than that.

#65 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 11:41 AM:

Carrie S., you left out the most important thing! The "waxing crescent," as you call it, is Diana's Bow. That means, of course, that the memorial was designed by Dianic Separatist Witches. Which (is the homophony of those two words a coincidence? I think not) in turn links it to HRH Diana, proving that the paparazzi are responsible for 9/11!!!!! QED!!!!

#66 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 11:45 AM:

BTW, Eric S. Gratton, welcome! Your post was thoughtful and informative, and you did your homework. Thanks!

And you know what? If you screw up and post something wrong, gentle correction is the likeliest outcome. I've done that...more times than I care to admit. Long as you're polite, which from your first too posts isn't something you have to worry about at. all.

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 11:51 AM:

Diana's Bow... 'Diana' as in Princess Diana? Then it all fits.

#68 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 12:14 PM:

I have this weird soft spot for Libya, because it's so obviously a country Dadaists came up with, to see how much absurdity they could get away with. Imagine my utter contentment at hearing Libyans describe their flag as "a tricolor of green, green and green."

Fantastic. It's like that Woody Allen mythical beast that "has the head of a lion, and the body of a lion, but not the same lion."

I think that Idi's Uganda beats Libya, just. Libya has no Revolutionary Women's Mechanised Suicide Regiment.

#69 ::: Lauren ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 12:38 PM:

Sadly, despite the fact that it's ridulously easy to verify a "feeling" with google or a dozen other search engines to see if it qualifies as a "fact" many people seem unable to get up the will do to so. It's a malady that I don't understand.

By the way, a crescent is also a pagan symbol - does that mean that the godless pagans are in on it too? And now I'm worried, my white cherry tree has leaves that turn red in the fall, was the landscaper part of this conspiracy? The front of my house faces east too, I'm so worried now.

#70 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 12:57 PM:

CaseyL: The thing is, Rawls is no longer one of the sea of random kooks. His work is being credulous national attention from people who command substantial followings. It's apparently being used with some current success in a campaign to derail the memorial. The cretins of the right made this man relevant, for the moment.

Also...let me think how to phrase this.

I don't think that being crazy absolves you of all responsibility.

Now, maybe there are kind of impairment in which you never had lucid moments - I don't claim to be an expert on the whole range of possibilities. But in the sorts of mental illness I've dealt with, there are lucid stretches where it's possible to realize "What's going on in my head doesn't match what's going on in the world." It's also possible to hear that message from others, and to realize that it's true even though it doesn't feel true.

This is particularly so in the case of someone with Mr. Rawls' advantages of race and class. He has access to quality health care, and is part of a social system with lots of opportunity for informed feedback. He has some responsibility to recognize that he's engaging in behavior characteristic of well-known mental disorders and do something about it. (Those exploiting him have even greater responsibility, of course.) I'm not an absolutist about this, again based on my own experience, but there is a point at which most ill people can and should recognize their illness.

*pause for reflection*

I'll spare some very harsh words for the callous bastards so clearly making sport of a sick man. It's one thing to expose and rebut, and another to troll in ways that only provoke further outrage. I think of what Teresa's doing as informative, and not cruel. But there some cruel jerks out there, and they don't have the excuse that Mr. Rawls does. If I were inclined to believe in Hell, I'd want to see exploiters of others' misery for their own comedy in it.

#71 ::: suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 01:13 PM:

Going back in the comments a bit to Eric Gratton's "tricolor of green, green, and green", I feel a need to digress wildly and mention that there's apparently a Japanese game show called Smile Big Smack Hamster, in which the show's host calls out three colors in rapid succession at a beat (which could very well be green, green, and green), and the contestant (dressed in a silly hamster costume) has to answer with three things that are those colors respectively to the same beat, otherwise he gets propelled into a giant cat-mouth, the tongue of which is slathered with hot pepper sauce.

Alas, they fail to have any video clips of this on the above-mentioned site, but there are pictures and apparently some audio.

#72 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 01:27 PM:

Bruce, what makes you think Alec Rawls is mentally ill? He's been articulate and lucid in his various posts, and while the ability to write well is not (I assume) necessarily an indicator of sanity, an alternative, more charitable read is that he's suffering instead from the hubris that comes--too frequently?--with youth and privilege. It's certainly possible, as well, that Rawls has other, unstated motives for his posts.

But that said, geez, he's really got himself out on an extremely thin limb. One does wonder as to how and why....

#73 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 01:34 PM:

Richard, he's showing a kind of obsession that has always been correlated with schizophrenia or some other disorder in the cases of people I know and care about. There's a tang to neurochemically driven compulsion just as there is to bigotry fueled by self-loathing, or so I've found it.

He could be a basically sane kook, but I really doubt it.

#74 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 01:42 PM:

Carrie S., not just deer either. Bears too, I wouldn't doubt, in rural Somerset County! Not to mention many smaller critters like raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, possums ...

#75 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Of course, on-line research as a way of verifying one's feeling about something being true is only as good as the people who put up the site.

Witness the websitethat began the only flamewar I ever got involved in.

Now, take my degrees away, but I just don't recall Shakespeare ever saying anything remotely like that first quotation.

#76 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:09 PM:

Bruce Baugh, I'll disagree a little bit with:
Richard, he's showing a kind of obsession that has always been correlated with schizophrenia or some other disorder in the cases of people I know and care about. There's a tang to neurochemically driven compulsion just as there is to bigotry fueled by self-loathing, or so I've found it.

All us humans have irrationally sad thoughts from time to time without being depressed, or irrationally anxious thoughts without being neurotic, and, yes, even compulsions to think about ordinary things in odd ways without being schizophrenic.

This is the internet after all- the distinction between an odd thought pursued in one's study for an afternoon and the same odd thought shared with the world is one of very trivial action.

I am naturally introverted, so I am disinclined to share some of my odd thoughts (except as fiction). Merely being a bit extroverted may be enough to make the spark jump the gap from private pondering to public declamation. And, of couse, the whole machinery of social rewards comes into play once it's out there: praise from friends, villification from enemies. (It restores one's faith in one's view of the world.)

I have not read his writing closely enough, but it is quite possible that he is "merely wrong," unlucky, slightly extroverted, and not the kind of person who can back down from an asserted point of view. In other words, he's probably just being human.

-r.

*well, you'd only share it initially with friends who you thought would _agree_ with you, right?

#77 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:11 PM:

Lois: Oh, yeah, but we don't care about any animals that aren't symbols of the God or the Goddess--deer are all manly and stuff. Raccoons are just silly looking! But the deer will provide the necessary masculine element to ensure that people can't say it's only a shrine to the Goddess.

(How come no one ever has a chipmunk totem? Smallest thing you usually get is a cat, and they only sneak in because they're all sleek and cool looking. Similarly, you get lots of eagles and ravens, but not much in the way of, say, robins.)

#78 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:27 PM:

People, isn't it obvious? Alec Rawls is laying the groundwork for an insanity defense. Clever bastard! And he's hit the jackpot...

#79 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:28 PM:

Carrie S.: And the moon will shine down on all of it at night and those days when the moon shows up in the day! And sometimes that moon will be a crescent! And the sun will shine on it, too! Moon! Sun! You know what those are all about!

And that airplane? It was silver. Quid pro quo, et al, semper ubi sub ubi.

#80 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:32 PM:

Mrs. Hayden, I agree most whole-heartedly with this note of yours concerning Mr. Rawls: Those are not normal cognitive processes. I suppose his admirers don't care, as long as he reaches conclusions they find congenial.

What I found most interesting about Mr. Rawls’ "rebuttals" is his phrasing. He insists (very strongly) that anyone who opposes him simply will not open their eyes; they are incredibly lazy; they won’t touch his facts with a ten-foot-pole; and they are not rational human beings who look at facts.

Seems to me that the repeated theme of this language points right to his problem: a sort of paranoid schizophrenia, revolving around ideas he has taken into his head to help himself with the fact that he can’t get no understanding.

Thank you Mr. Oldendorf, who said, (about the original thread):
It certainly was entertaining, in a sad sort of way.
(It can't be easy, being Alec Rawls.)

I agree. But I also imagine the crazy helps with that.

And thank you for this note, Mrs. Hayden (I’ve heard of this story before but now I have facts to go with it! I love this blog!): All I can think of is Albert of Aix's exasperated account (Historia Hierosolymita, 1120) of a group of German peasants at the beginning of the First Crusade who decided that a certain goose was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and made it their guide on the journey to Jerusalem.

Very much like Mr. Rawls, I bet the goose got a good deal out of it, for a little while.

#81 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Yup, Sarah S., don't sound like no Shakespeare to me. If they can't give me a source so I can look it up myself I don't trust it, saith an editor who hath been madly checking Shakespeare quotations for the past several months.

#82 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:37 PM:

Carrie S: Re: totems:

I've heard of hummingbird totems, but given that hummingbirds are super-cool fast, they may be an outlier to the rule.

RA MacAvoy dealt with this in her book THE THIRD EAGLE. Her main character gets a totem of an 'elf darter', which I gather is the smallest of the flying reptiloids on his world. His nose was out of joint; he was hoping for something more impressive. The subtext was that his ego needed and deserved the beatdown.

On the other hand, most folks I know who declaim their totems need their egos bolstered. That may be the real reason for 'mostly big, mostly carnivorous, and mostly impressive' totems.

#83 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:42 PM:

I've heard of hummingbird totems, but given that hummingbirds are super-cool fast, they may be an outlier to the rule.

Renee: they're also super-aggressive. They don't seem to take relative size into account either - hummingbirds will go after hawks and crows (I see it as "you can't catch me!").

#84 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:56 PM:

Janet Croft said
Yup, Sarah S., don't sound like no Shakespeare to me. If they can't give me a source so I can look it up myself I don't trust it, saith an editor who hath been madly checking Shakespeare quotations for the past several months.
You know if you want to try fast easy (timeconsuming, frustrating) method of checking quotations, you could download .txt files of Shakespeare from Gutenberg, and use a search tool (Google Desktop search, grep) on them.

Alternatively, you could use google to search gutenberg directly:
shakespeare "to be or not to be" site:gutenberg.org

#85 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 02:59 PM:

Ajay said:

1. The FDA discontinues pemoline, the drug currently keeping our erudite hostess awake and erudite.
2. Outrage! The fools!
3. The situation looks bad until...
4. The discovery that an effective substitute for pemoline does exist: regular exposure to the online opinions of fools.

Huh.

Not to criticise, but it's not much of a Quest Object, is it?

But what you haven't included is that right as we made this discovery an attempt was made to outlaw internet trolls. That can only be a conspiracy. The government is directly targeting Teresa.

#86 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 03:09 PM:

From upthread by FranW:
The anti-abortionists who bomb clinics and kill doctors do so, they say, in the name of their Christian God. Yet their actions are hardly in line with true Christianity, the vast majority of Christians denounce the bombers' actions, and those constructing memorials to the bombed clinics or murdered doctors do not eschew Christian symbols such as the cross.

If the clinic had been staffed primarily by Jews, a memorial of crosses would be offensive. The crosses symbolize the murdered, not the killer(s).

Further evidence that the crescent is the recognized symbol of Islam:
Authorized Emblems of Arlington National Cemetary

Even if Alec is a total loon, if someone had asked me if a red crescent should stand memorial for where 4 Muslims killed 40 others (of unknown religion), I wouldn't have blathered about rolls, bows, or moons, but said "Hell, no!". But no-one asked me, and that is the crux of my argument against Alec.

(Had Alec stayed with this: The memorial is definately a crescent, and a crescent is a symbol of Islam, but all that fades to nothingness against the wishes of the families, would he have had any agreemnent?)

#87 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 03:44 PM:

Rebecca, fyi, Teresa and Patrick are both Nielsen Haydens. A short explanation is here

#88 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 03:45 PM:

Not from me, because an arc is not a crescent. It's got fixed width throughout the span of trees, and it's got walkways. These don't add up to a crescent. Or at least, if they do, so does every amphitheater and half the stadiums in the country.

I do take note, by the way, of the use of Great Circle routes in plotting the direction of Mecca. Thank you, everyone who set me straight about that! I still think that the obvious fact of the plane's route covers the issue, but I se that I had more to learn, and am glad to have learned it.

#89 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 03:57 PM:

Sarah S: Wow--for something that Shakespeare didn't write, that quote sure is widespread. I wonder where it did come from--doesn't seem to be an easy answer. This ought to be up on snopes.com.

Perhaps it was really Grover Cleveland who said it, around the time he was inventing the electromagnet.

#90 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 04:06 PM:

Bruce:
According to the plan site you posted (site plan -- pdf), the group of red trees is called the "Crescent Walkway". Silly archetects; can't they tell an arc from a crescent? [smirk]

#91 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 04:23 PM:

I'm aware that they call it that - I posted the name in my original post on the subject, if you look back up for it. I'm just saying that the thing isn't a crescent. If I were to be convinced that some significant number of the survivors' families cared, I'd support a renaming. I very emphatically do not support a renaming, let alone a change to the design, based on warblogger and related media frenzy.

#92 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 04:23 PM:

And now I'll stop answering Ser Lipton, as I hate to reward smirking.

#93 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 04:37 PM:

The Red Crescent, it turns out, isn't for Islam, it's (again) for the Ottoman Empire.

As the Red Cross/Red Crescent society says:

Other connotations soon became evident. In the war between Russia and Turkey in 1876-78 the Ottoman Empire, although it had acceded to the Geneva Convention of 1864 without any reservation, declared that it would use the red crescent to mark its own ambulances while respecting the red cross sign protecting enemy ambulances. This use of the red crescent became the practice for the Ottoman Empire.
#94 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 05:09 PM:

Ms. Julia, thank you very much. Mr. Patrick and Mrs. Teresa Nielsen Hayden from now on (and often being in bookstores, I'll definitely remember that last suggestion.)

#95 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 05:12 PM:

I must say a red cross on a white field would be offensive to any historically-aware Arab. It was what the Crusaders wore (though it was a Roman cross, not an equal-armed one). That's not reversible; a red crescent on a white field has never been worn by murderous rapacious invaders in America.

No, they wore hats with buckles, and various other things, but not Argent, a Crescent Gules.

#96 ::: LeeAnn ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 05:19 PM:

Sarah S. - Twelfth Night, 3.1.156. That is the source if I saw the correct quote - Love sought.... I just finished two papers on Twelfth Night, so I recognized it right away. I must now initiate brain dump to prepare for the semester that starts tomorrow.

#97 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 05:53 PM:

Bill Humphries: There are female Straussians, I've run into one or two. To be fair to the Straussians (who give political theorists a geekier reputation than is deserved), they have been at the forefront of widening the canon of political thought by considering Islamic, Chinese, and Indian thought. Given that they assume that *every* political thinker is being forced to disguise his true opinions, this can get tiresome.

#98 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 05:58 PM:

Carrie S.: Well, bears in ancient Greece seem to be associated with Artemis, also a goddess of the Moon (which brings us back around to crescents!).

Then there was an article in today's Post-Gazette about the Pittsburgh Zoo buying land in Somerset County to raise elephants. It's not terribly close to the crash site, but if it weren't for the 10-foot electrical fence they're going to have, we might have Ganesha honoring the site, too!

Then there are owls, sacred to my favorite goddess, Athena.

#99 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 06:05 PM:

Re: the Libyan tricolour of green, green, and green -- is it a vertical tricolour like France or a horizontal one like Russia?

#100 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 06:10 PM:

Bruce:
If I were to be convinced that some significant number of the survivors' families cared, I'd support a renaming.

No smirking on this one. That's my major contention, too, although I generalize it: If I were to be convinced that some significant number of the survivors' families cared, pretty much anything would be acceptable.

#101 ::: Emily ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 06:18 PM:

Bruce, to bring in another kind of crackpot nuttery that has recently been in the public eye, what if Mr. Rawls is a co-religionist to Tom Cruise, and doesn't believe in mental disorders?

That would really make life interesting for people who have to deal with him directly, wouldn't it?

#102 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 06:47 PM:

The quote in question, if I understand, is

"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow." Attributed to Wm. Shakespeare, on this link:

http://en.thinkexist.com/quotation/a_friend_is_one_that_knows_you_as_you_are/146657.html

For one thing, that's not iambic pentameter. For another, I believe that would have been cheesy even 400 years ago.

#103 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 06:57 PM:

Libya? Believe it's per fess.

#104 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 06:57 PM:

Not all of Shakespeare's writings are in iambic pentameter. But that's still not Shakespeare.

--Mary Aileen

#105 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 07:08 PM:

Richard Anderson asks:

Bruce, what makes you think Alec Rawls is mentally ill? He's been articulate and lucid in his various posts, and while the ability to write well is not (I assume) necessarily an indicator of sanity, an alternative, more charitable read is that he's suffering instead from the hubris that comes--too frequently?--with youth and privilege.

The question was to Bruce, but I'll take a stab at it.

Rawls made an interesting observation - hey, the proposed memorial has points of resemblance to Moslem iconography! Which IS interesting. A closer look at the details of the memorial may be in order.

A rational person evaluates the evidence, and decides accordingly. A nutbar conspiracy theorist, on the other hand, holds to his idee fixe long after it's been discredited, AND then goes on to accuse the designer of being a crypto-Isamo-fascist whose cunning plan to secretly build a giant open air mosque (in a sick perversion of its stated purpose) must be stopped.

Either the Memorial's 'Islamist' elements are coincidental to the design; or the designer, the selection jury, the Flight 93 Memorial Committee, and the Bush administration's National Park Service are ALL in the service of a secret Islamo-fascist conspiracy.

Rawls is not just asserting the resemblance to a giant open-air mosque: he's claiming that the simplest explanation for the resemblance is the massive conspiracy he's uncovered.

Which is what walks his argument from 'unconvincing' straight over to 'batshit crazy'. THAT'S why some have accused him of being mentally ill. As Freud said somewhere, "sometimes a circular walkway on the northeast of a crash scene is just a circular walkway."
Rawls won't discuss the refutations of his points - he clings tighter and tighter to them. And Rawls won't speculate as to WHY Murdoch (the designer) et al. would want to carry out such a dastardly plan. To Rawls, 'I've discovered it, it's there, and it doesn't matter if no part of it makes any sense.' It's crossed over into delusion.

And this behavior is distinctly not explained as 'youthful hubris': the man is 50 years old, for heaven's sake.

#106 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 07:25 PM:

From reading a sample of Alex Rawls' writing as displayed on his blog, I would say he's batshit crazy. He's a really good example of what thinking-by-non-sequiter is all about.

#107 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 07:53 PM:

Sarah is, as she well knows, absolutely correct when she says:

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

Is not Shakespeare. It's obviously late twentieth century, not only because of the sentiment, but because of the word choice and syntax. The "understands where you have been" is a dead give away.

But just to be absolutely sure, I checked--the complete corpus, including "suspected works."

Nope. Not.

#108 ::: LeeAnn ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 08:04 PM:

When I went to the website with the spurious Shakespeare quote, I think I must have scrolled or something. I missed the actual first quote. It sounds more like a bad greeting card- there is no way that is Shakespeare! My apologies.

#109 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 08:04 PM:

Lisa:
"allows you to grow" is another dead give-away. Hard to say what Shakes or one of his contemporaries would have thought of that. "An we would, how should we stop yon Dunston from growing? Shall we lop his feet from his legs? Or perchance leech him to contain his girth? Nay, will he, nill he, he shall grow."

#110 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 08:19 PM:

"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

This sounds like a New Age version of the much pithier "A friend is someone who knows all about you and likes you anyway" which has been around forever.

#111 ::: Vanessa ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 08:20 PM:

Delurking to share some particularly unsavory quotes posted by Alec Rawls on Taken In Hand, which seems to be a dominance/submission website.

In a post entitled Feminism was ALWAYS a lie he writes:

"As an innately dominant male, I find the feminist view of sex repulsive. When I watch the idiot-box, where advance to intimacy is always initiated by the female, I think: "You dumb slut. Any real man would just push you aside and not look back." She's not feminine. She's not ATTRACTIVE. Then the boy lies on his back and the girl climbs on top and I think "the girly-men who write this crap don't even know what sex is." It's the man who opens the present, not vice versa."

You make an excellent point there, Mr. Rawls. No more present opening for me from now on. :(

This post seems to have a vaguely "Honest, I have to shake them of with a stick!!!" tone to it. Apparently Mr. Rawls has so many women wanting to "open presents" with him, he can reject the most forward, unfeminine ones.

And I am sure all women who have worked their way into traditionally male dominated fields will agree that:

As soon as women wanted to enter any field, they were able to do it. With very few exceptions, there never were any barriers. Look at the women pioneers in any field. They did not fight resistance. They were helped by numerous men, every step of the way. The prima facie evidence is the astounding rapidity with which women moved into every field. As soon as women started wanting to enter careers at near the same rate as men, they did, everywhere.

This explains why 50% of college professors, Congresspersons, lawyers, doctors, CEOs, Economics PhD students, etc. are female. Any shortage of women in these professions must be due to the fact that women simply do not want to enter these careers.

#112 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 08:31 PM:

As an innately dominant male, I find the feminist view of sex repulsive.... Any real man would just push you aside and not look back.

I can't even begin to tell you how much time and aggravation this reaction saves one, actually.

Yay for sex with "fake" men. They're invariably SO much better at it...

#113 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 08:42 PM:

Wow. Just wow.

Vanessa, you just won the thread. That's quite a find.

#114 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 08:47 PM:

Teresa wrote (elsewhere):
The updated list of conspirators who are far more likely to be responsible for this scheme:
01. The Kingdom of Caid

Corroboration: one of the badges for the Kingdom of Caid is... four crescents on a green background. The symbol of Islam, not just once but four times, with the Color of the Prophet as the background. How much clearer could it be? (No matter that it's the badge for the Caidan College of Heralds; that's just to mislead.)

I should know: I did the paperwork to register that badge, lo those many years ago.

#115 ::: Vanessa ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 09:15 PM:

Thanks, Bob.

That makes going through 20 pages of Google results worthwhile.

Most of the hits had to do with:

Islamo-Fascist Crescent Memorial
Black people (and the danger they pose)
his more famous father
legalizing guns
anti-feminism

repeat ad infinitum


Thankfully, most of the sites were criticisms of his opinions. There was even one en espanol.

#116 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 09:36 PM:

Well, here's my best Google-harvest: Rawls was a contibutor to a recent Wingnut Central book, in company with Dobson, Schlafly, and Bennett:

"Thank You, President Bush: Reflections on the War on Terror, Defense of the Family, and Revival of the Economy"

Introduction by Gov. Jeb Bush
Edited by Aman Verjee and Rod D. Martin
0-9746701-1-1
© World Ahead Publishing Inc.

He's not listed on the cover, but on the table-of-c, he's listed as contributing an anti-Kyoto essay.

#117 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:05 PM:

Vanessa: So that's why my engineering, chemistry, physics and computer science classes were dominated by females. Not! (It was so much fun looking at shoulder blades and ribcages. And trying to read a meter-long buret on top of a three-foot-high bench, when you're five-foot-mumble, is really interesting.)

#118 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 10:53 PM:

I'm wondering, was the Soviet Union secretly Islamic, or is Islam communist? It's got to be one or the other, given the sickle/crescent, but I can't tell which is it.

#119 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 11:27 PM:

Good lord, he's fifty?

I guess he's been too busy fending off women who wanted to open his present to parlay being born on third base into walking home.

Think of it. Martin Amis without the body of work, your highest achievement better than two thirds of the way through your three score and ten an approving mention in Michelle Malkin's husband's blog (the one with the airbrushed woman who kept her maiden name on the sidebar sucking her teeth into a wind machine)

Anybody else see Quiz Show?

#120 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2006, 11:50 PM:

The graphical version of the aforementioned list of gravestone emblems is interesting; it lists the Muslim "Islamic 5 Pointed Star" but doesn't show it "because of copyright".

Me, I like the way that the Atheist symbol makes you look like they expect you to rise as a radioactive zombie or something.

(Also, the no-longer-used Red Lion and Sun, from the Red Cross/Crescent/Crystal discussion. No simple geometric forms for them.)

#121 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:13 AM:

Not Shakespeare. But here might be Shakespeare's comment upon Alec Rawls:
"This is not Fortune's work..., but Nature's, who, perceiving our natural wits too dull..., hath sent this natural for our whetstone; for always the dullness of the fool is the whetstone of the wits. How now, wit! whither wander you?" (As You Like It, Act I, Scene II.)

As to whether Rawls is clinically batshit, deponent knoweth not.

#122 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:28 AM:

"Per fess", indeed! Now you're just showing off, Teresa*.

*Mrs Nielsen-Hayden opines that the flag of Libya consists of three horizontal stripes, all green. If I were to get unbearably and outrageously picky, I would also take her to mean that the middle one is probably slightly narrower than the upper or lower, for that is the usual practice of the actual art, but let that pass**.

**Actually, I'd give it a 6, tops.

#123 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:32 AM:

As a nitpick, I mean. It's not a terrific nitpick.

#124 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:42 AM:

Are you sure the stripes aren't actually concentric nested borders? Coz that sort of layout continue to be the first thing that comes to mind when I see invocations of the so-called "ORLY" meme.

#125 ::: Jennifer ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:43 AM:

*emerges from lurkdom*
I agree with Eric Gratton, seeing all of these people posting is a bit intimidating, but that just means we have to get up the courage to post. ^_^

*somewhat on topic*
From what I've been reading about the winning memorial design, it looks to be well thought-out, and I'm sure it'll be beautiful when it's finished. ^_^ As for the shape of the memorial being an Islamo-Fascist conspiracy, I disagree with Rawls. If there'd been any complaint about the design, it wouldn't have been chosen as the winner. Besides, why would anyone visiting it worry about the shape and where it points at? It could point to the Moon for all I care, and maybe it does in some mysterious way. o_O

If I travelled to the States and visited the finished memorial, I'd be too interested in how well everything turned out and paying my respects to the people it honours to consider where it points at. ^_^
*goes back to lurkdom*

#126 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 01:10 AM:

One of the many things that Rawls has missed is that visitors won't be seeing the site from the air: from the ground, you'll walk up to the Sacred Ground, and across the open space, you'll see a line of trees.

And he keeps counting pixels and shouting "Look at the evidence!"

#127 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 01:12 AM:

I would just like to mention my undying appreciation for any situation that results in TNH saying "Neener-neener!"

It's a beautiful thing.

#128 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 02:25 AM:

Christopher Davis:
The graphical version of the aforementioned list of gravestone emblems is interesting; it lists the Muslim "Islamic 5 Pointed Star" but doesn't show it "because of copyright".

There are two emblems for Muslims -- a crescent and star (#17) and a five-pointed (copyrighted?!) star (#98). I guess Arlington is Islamo-Fascist, too!

#129 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 02:34 AM:

BTW, I still contend the following:

1) The "crescent" is, to certain degree, a crescent. It is so labelled on the plan and on the web-site Teresa linked to describing the Memorial, and is halfway between an arc and a crescent.

2) The crescent is, to an extent, a symbol of Islam. It is on the flag of nations never belonging to the Ottoman Empire, is one of the symbols used for Muslims at Arlington, and is associated, to some degree, rightly or wrongly, with Islam.

3) Having one or more symbols that are definitely Muslim (a recognizable mosque, a crescent and star pattern, whatever) would not have been right, and would have been rejected out of hand -- we'd never be discussing it.

I'm also thinking of having a go at Alito's Vanguard decision -- that he did the right thing, and persuing it is a bad idea, but I don't want to lose all my liberal credentials in one go.

#130 ::: tom p ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 03:04 AM:

My friends and I would occasionally go on Ale Crawls at university. Often, when we were finsihed, we would display roughly Alec Rawls' capacity for logical thought.

I find this suggestive, possibly of a Conspiracy of Some Sort.

#131 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 03:29 AM:

The crescent is, to an extent, a symbol of Islam.

No, it is not. There is no symbol of Islam, at least not for muslims. Crescents may be a symbol to you and other westerners of something you think of as Islam, but that doesn't make it anything like, say, a Christian cross or a Star of David. Or the scripted verse about submitting to Allah.

Flags are basically about nationalism rather than religion, and considering that most muslim nations do not have a crescent on their flag, and most of those that do were at least partially Ottoman, I'm disinclined to see that as some sort of secret muslim symbolism that somehow I was never made aware of. Besides, the crescent has significance in other tribes/cultures that are (now) predominately muslim but were never Ottoman, and that significance is unrelated to Islam. It's a flipping moon, after all. We all see it on a regular basis and lots of us built mythologies around it.

As graphical standards of Arlington Cemetary: I don't see how a western/Christian concept of religious symbolism superimposed on a religion that is explicitly anti-symbol can possibly have any significance.

The only symbols I can think of that are definitively muslim are holy texts in Arabic script.

#132 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 05:43 AM:

"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow."

I believe this is a misremembered quote from The Friend of Fortune which is often apocryphally attributed to Shakespeare.
.....

from the third act:

Dickie: Whether Fortunato's friend I know not, I calculate you more Fortune's friend.

Meschershmidt Hogan: I say I am friend to both, a friend is one who knows you as you are. I know Fortunato is poor, and fortune is to be rich. To be poor is bad and to be rich is good. I therefore prefer my friend fortune to my friend Fortunato, as surely he would also, if we but asked. To know requires that one understands.

Dickie: I have not understood a woman singular, but known the many plural.

Meschershmidt Hogan: Friend Dickie, I am expanding on my wit, please decrease your folly. To know requires that one understands. Therefore in knowing that Fortunato is poor I understand that he was once rich, and that fortune still is what Fortunato once was. I was a friend to Fortunato in his glory, glorious fortune am I still in favor of.

Dickie: You are steadfast.

Mescherschmidt Hogan: I accept what Fortunato now is, poor, just as I accept fortune as fortune is.

Dickie: You are fortunate.


Mescherschmidt Hogan: I have been favored. But tell me, is Fortunato not a tall man?

Dickie: he is.

Mescherschmidt Hogan: And do you expect him to grow.

Dickie: Not a jot.

Mescherschmidt Hogan: Neither do I, that is his tragedy. A fortune is remunerary, expansionary, and not at all airy. Fortunato is not, not, and too much of late. I say this as a friend of both.


#133 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 08:03 AM:

Vanessa: Apparently Mr. Rawls has so many women wanting to "open presents" with him, he can reject the most forward, unfeminine ones.

Some guys have trouble with the distinction between "going out on a date" and "ordering a video".

Sorta like "CAD" and "MSPaint".

#134 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 08:42 AM:

"which is often apocryphally attributed to Shakespeare."
I forgot to add "on blogs"

#135 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 08:49 AM:

The crescent is shaped like a womb, hence the term fertile crescent. A womb is similar in spelling to a bomb. A bomb blows up. A pirate gets blown down. Piracy is bad. DRM is in place to prevent piracy. musicians get blown.

The conclusion: Musicians are osama bin laden.

#136 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 09:33 AM:

pericat, do you mind if I put that one in with my collection of zingers? I want to use it on my son, the one whose first question when I bring a video DVD home is, "Does it have boobies in it?"

Yeah, yeah, he only does it to annoy, but I'd like to annoy him right back.

#137 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 09:33 AM:

Serge --

Teresa, indeed, was once dressed as a nun.

We pulled into a drive through at a Jack in the Box; she was driving. The reaction from the Clown was something to see.

#138 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 09:55 AM:

Only marginally relevant, but I loved a recent "Bizarro" cartoon of the Agnostics' Graveyard, where all the fancy marble tombstones were topped with question marks rather than crosses or whatever. (Sorry I didn't save it as a jpeg so can't provide an image or link.)

#139 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 10:08 AM:

Thanks, Tim. But are there web-accessible photos of our Hostess dressed as a nun?

If a few of us banded together and dressed up in religious garb at a worldcon, we could have a masquerade entry for the crimefighting Force of Habit, whose sworn enemies are the Creatures of Habit. I want to be the flame-wielding Friar. Who could play the Frying Nun, and her sidekick the Singeing Nun? There is also Nun-plus, who has great strength and who can instantly clone herself into many bodies, the drawback being that her IQ is evenly divided among her bodies, thus making her quite dumb.

#140 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 10:11 AM:

Dave, it's yours. Or you could just rent a nature vid featuring blue-footed boobies. They're almost as cute as plushie toys.

#141 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 10:14 AM:

My immediate reaction to the 'crescent' in the design was "Oh, cool, look at how they used the shape of the terrain to make the walk down the ADA-compatible route attractive."

The odds are very good that someone put in the arc because it gave them their less-than-4% grade and a good viewing arrangement in one design element, and the name 'crescent' and any symbolism claimed were tacked on later, because you have to have symbolism in a memorial. This design strikes me as one that grew out of the site topography, not any predetermined symbolism or message; I would probably have wound the path about in a similar manner.

#142 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 10:20 AM:

"Not all of Shakespeare's writings are in iambic pentameter"

True. But given all the sonnets and most of the parts of his plays are... it cuts out probably 90% of his words, right there. I actually had something about that written, but I edited myself into overbrevity.

I know there's non-I.P Shakespeare in the songs and such, in the plays [the witches' recipe, for one thing] but don't know any other non-I.P. bits of Shakespeare; however, my ignorance of Shakespeare is great and my knowledge small.

#143 ::: dave heasman ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 10:38 AM:

This "Alec Rawls" sure gets a lot of attention. But what he says isn't interesting or valuable. Is it out of sympathy for poor old Lou?

#144 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 10:57 AM:

Bob Oldendorf wrote: "And this behavior is distinctly not explained as 'youthful hubris': the man is 50 years old, for heaven's sake."

Fifty years old -- well, I'm shocked. Rawls's image on the TBogg site has him looking as if he's a grad student TA. Scratch my hypothesis of youthful hubris. He's setting a darn crummy example for the rest of us 1955ers.

Hey Alec: Tonight, mix a martini and put something nostalgic on the turntable. Exile on Main Street, maybe, or Peter Frampton Comes Alive. Crank it up. It's time to rejoin the party. We miss you, man....


#145 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 11:12 AM:

Dave Luckett: actually 'per fess' is a division of the field horizontally into exactly two parts. But the Libyan flag has THREE stripes, all green.

After looking at this site, I conclude that she actually meant that the flag is "Vert, a fess vert," which is not legal in medieval heraldry (color on color, tsk), but a good description of the flag. Myself I think the Libyan flag is "Gyronny, vert and vert, a rondel counterchanged."

#146 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 11:13 AM:

On a more serious note: it's actually completely clear what the crescent is depicting.

It's the crater. Hello.

#147 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 11:17 AM:

No, no, you're all out. The Libyan flag is properly blazoned "Vert, a small football vert."

#148 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 11:31 AM:

Here I thought that flag was chequy vert and vert, with a bordure engrailed vert. Just goes to show you can't always tell.

#149 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 11:34 AM:

'vert'? Everything sounds so much classier when one uses the French word even though there's a perfectly fine equivalent in English. What are you guys? Some kind of godless America-hating commies?

#150 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 11:49 AM:

...the Agnostics' Graveyard, where all the fancy marble tombstones were topped with question marks rather than crosses or whatever...

Sounds like a good idea, Faren. As for myself, I'm thinking of donating to science all my spare parts it can use, have the rest cremated, and the ashes scattered somewhere, maybe near Mount Lassen's hot springs, or maybe near the lava tubes close by Mount Shasta.

Of course I try not to dwell on my death too often. When I do so though, I don't think of a light at the end of a tunnel, or the flames of Hell, or the lower-setting ones of Purgatory. I think of drowning in a pool of liquid Night.

It's not comforting, being an atheist.

#151 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 11:59 AM:

Xopher:
I, for one, have never said otherwise. All I've been doing is taking Rwals' arguements and translating them into "sane" (not necessarily my first language, either, ya know).

#152 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:07 PM:

I could have sworn there were a pair of vert hippopotomi rampant in there somewhere. I know I can see the field of cabbages.

#153 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:19 PM:

Serge - Atheist comfort: all your brain function will cease. That means no pain, no anxiety, no regret (also no pleasure, no comfort, no joy, but so what?). The process of dying will be a release from pain (and everything else). When you complete it, there will be nothing of you left to be aware of anything; therefore you will not suffer either. No "drowning" in anything, just - not.

Actually that doesn't sound too bad...good thing I'm not an atheist myself or I might check it out.

jhlipton - you keep insisting on the crescent as a symbol of Islam, despite the fact that many have told you it is not. In fact, you are being disrespectful to the religion of Islam, which is against all such symbols. This is divisive and unhelpful.

You've also stated that you think a red crescent would be inappropriate at a 9/11 memorial. I disagree. I think it's one of the symbols of one of the most benevolent organizations in the entire world, and one of the few specifically chartered in the Geneva Convention. It's usually called the ICRC because 'C' can stand for either 'Cross' or 'Crescent' - or the upcoming 'Chevron'. That's all one organization. Did you know that?

And if Moslems (other than the hijackers) died on that flight, I would think that some overtly Moslem content would be appropriate - to exactly the extent that overtly Christian content is. I'm happy to say that the current design avoids that whole issue. (Of course it contains PAGAN symbols, but you can't hardly spit for hitting one of those, even in the city!)

#154 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:21 PM:

Janet Croft: reminds me of the device on a certain tile of a certain game that I'll never admit to playing: Argent, a dragon devouring rice while caught in a snowstorm all argent.

#155 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:24 PM:

"Don't spit on the pagan symbols!" sounds like something your mom would say.

Err, "one's mom."

#156 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:32 PM:

Atheist comfort: all your brain function will cease. That means no pain, no anxiety, no regret...No "drowning" in anything, just - not.

Oh, I know that, Xopher. I remember about 10 years ago. I had hurt one finger so I sat down to wait for the pain to pass. There I am, then next thing I know, I'm in total darkness, my wife is screaming at me so I open my eyes. Turns out I had had a pseudo-epileptic seizure caused by yours truly being a skinny guy who fainted while in an upright position. That was an interesting experience because there was no pain at all, no nothing.

#157 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Serge asked:
What are you guys? Some kind of godless America-hating commies?

How could you tell?

Heraldry is inherently un-American: of the countries which officially support it, not one of them is America. And consider: the SCA, possbly America's largest user of heraldry, has been declared "potentially subversive". Furthermore, the website for the American College of Heraldry appears to have been shut down. Telling evidence!

#158 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:45 PM:

(cont'd from my response to Xopher)

...But, if I am in a position where I will have the time to see death coming, I will have the time to think that this is the end of everything, the pain, the uncertainties, yes, but the joy too, and I know I'll never see my loved ones again.

Well... One embraces life while one is around.

#159 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 12:49 PM:

Yeah, good correction, because MY mom would just glare at me, teeth clenched, and in a voice suffused with menace say "ONE." I would then instantly stop whatever I was doing and be The Perfect Child until I got distracted again...two minutes later.

#160 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 01:37 PM:

What I learned today: a "rhumb line" is a line of constant bearing. Thank-you, Bob Oldendorf.

(I have also learned a bunch of crap about setting up app configuration files in .NET, but I aim to forget that as soon as practicable.)

#161 ::: Captain Slack ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 01:57 PM:

Roundup!

j h woodyatt: And those plums looked so delicious.

So sweet and so cold.

Xopher: I believe that all people are capable of learning to think rationally. This has more to do with my optimism about the human mind and spirit than with any evidence to that effect, and people like Alec Rawls do shake my faith.

The fact that he doesn't think rationally isn't a fortiori evidence that he's not capable of learning to do so.

ajay: It's like that Woody Allen mythical beast that "has the head of a lion, and the body of a lion, but not the same lion."

The Roe.

julia: Martin Amis without the body of work

OH SNAPS.

Serge: the crimefighting Force of Habit, whose sworn enemies are the Creatures of Habit.

If anyone else here plays City of Heroes, we must start building these characters about half past Right Gorram Now.

#162 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 02:07 PM:

Janet Croft, I bow to your Discworld geekery. My only question is how they got the hippos to stand upright for such a long period of time while they did the painting.

#163 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 02:16 PM:

I believe this is discussed in detail in Feet of Clay, where we see various animals hard at work posing at the Ankh-Morpork College of Heraldry...

#164 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 03:01 PM:

Captain Slack: What server?

#165 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 03:20 PM:

. .. not Infinity, I'm nearly full on Infinity.

Scratch that, I've got an alt-habit I don't have time for. I don't get a vote. I keep trying to limit myself to four active characters. Aggrovac is just there because everyone I know's playing Defenders these days and I always gotta bring the damage. Actually, that's also true for Ruby Burns.

Augh, geek outburst.

#166 ::: Ignatz ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 03:20 PM:

de-lurking, because it is de-lurking week:

Dear Ms. Theresa,

Thank you for a most enjoyable afternoon, both here and at TBogg. Of the many "snort soda out of my nose" moments i had, my favorite was ajay's comment from Jan 10...

"This is like "Lord of the Rings" would have been if Gandalf had said "Yes, we should destroy it. Chuck it in the drawing room fire. That should do the trick."

That alone was worth the price of admission.

#167 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 07:51 PM:

I have a new entry for the list of possible conspirators -- The New York Science Fiction Society (aka The Lunarians). Their logo is Little Loony sitting on a Crescent Moon.

#168 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 08:07 PM:

Richard Anderson:

Bob Oldendorf wrote: "And this behavior is distinctly not explained as 'youthful hubris': the man is 50 years old, for heaven's sake."

Fifty years old -- well, I'm shocked. Rawls's image on the TBogg site has him looking as if he's a grad student TA. Scratch my hypothesis of youthful hubris. He's setting a darn crummy example for the rest of us 1955ers.

Hey Alec: Tonight, mix a martini and put something nostalgic on the turntable. Exile on Main Street, maybe, or Peter Frampton Comes Alive. Crank it up. It's time to rejoin the party. We miss you, man....

Yeah, that’s sort of how I feel: I can’t fathom how somebody starting from where Rawls started ended up where he is today. (Politically, I mean. Anybody can have bad neurochemicals leading them to down obsessive pathways.)

And, in light of Vanessa’s little discovery, you really have to wonder: “Hey, how’s that whole ‘anti-feminist’ line working for you, bro?”

colin roald: What I learned today: a "rhumb line" is a line of constant bearing. Thank-you, Bob Oldendorf.

Oh, you’re welcome. If I got nothing out of this whole little train wreck, “The direction of Mecca” is an interesting problem. IANAMoslem, so I genuinely don’t know which way believers face. But thinking about the question certainly scratches my itch for theological disputation, as I can see the reasoning for either heading. (And religious wars have been launched over finer points.) The Koran says “pray in the direction of Mecca”, which today we understand to be along a Great Circle; but in the Prophet’s day, the direction of Mecca would have been determined with an astrolabe, and would have been the rhumb line.

In places like Vancouver, or Alaska or Hawaii, facing Mecca along the Great Circle has the believer facing due NORTH. It’s counterintuitive that a devout Alaskan would face north to pray toward Mecca. Arabia is just not thought of as lying north of Anchorage, is it? For that matter, then, is Mecca northeast or southeast of Pennsylvania? I simply don’t know.

But Rawls is utterly certain of his answer, and anyone who disputes Rawls’ discovery is denying the “facts”.
Given how readily they seem to be eating this stuff up over in Right Blogistan, I also wonder if Rawls is providing us with some sort of insight into how wingnuts 'reason'.


#169 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 09:03 PM:

Right again, dammit. A field per fess has one horizontal line across it.

It must be the coffee. Yeah, that's it.

#170 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 10:20 PM:

If a few of us banded together and dressed up in religious garb at a worldcon, we could have a masquerade entry for the crimefighting Force of Habit,

I'm in!! I'm IN!! I can be one of the Creatures of Habit, in a trashed outfit as "Bad Habit."

#171 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2006, 10:53 PM:

Speaking of quasi-Islamic monumental imagery, this morning's local paper reprinted an article from the NYT (orig. date 5 Jan 2006) which had a passing mention of The Grand Museum of Egypt to be constructed near the plateau of the Giza pyramids. The illo of the winning design made me go "Oooooooo" for a good long time at its sheer gorgeousness-- although the fine details can be hard to see on the official site, the translucent facade seems to be made of Sierpinski gaskets.

#172 ::: Leslie in CA ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 01:17 AM:

TNH quotes Mr. Rawls:

I understand WHAT these people are doing. They are doing what I call "thinking backwards." Instead of following reason and evidence, they start with what they presume to be correct and look for excuses to dismiss all contrary reason and evidence.

It's quite striking, really, this ability to project one's own thought processes, rhetorical strategies, etc. onto one's perceived adversaries. Not the first time I've seen it from folk of Mr. Rawls' ideological persuasion. To me, playing amateur psychologist, it suggests that such persons are aware of, or at least suspect, the wrongness (or the shallowness, inconsistency, vacuity, what have you) of their thinking, but feel an overwhelming need to protect themselves from such awareness--which in turn suggests to me a profound intolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, about either oneself or one's worldview.

Which makes me wonder: does such an intolerance correlate to mental illness to any diagnosable degree, or only to what we might call immaturity? Or both? Since it seems to be symptomatic of a significant percentage of the population, I'd like to have some greater insight into it.

#173 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 01:57 AM:
I'm in!! I'm IN!! I can be one of the Creatures of Habit, in a trashed outfit as "Bad Habit."
OMG. My brain just went and opened up The Phantom Tollbooth, flipped it open to the Journey Through The Mountains Of Ignorance chapter, and said, "I totally want to cosplay as the Senses Taker!"
#174 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 04:19 AM:

"To me, playing amateur psychologist, it suggests that..."
followed by a suggestion that I find all to generous. It would seem to me that if someone suggests you are doing what they are actually doing in an argument, and that this thing is a bad thing, then:

1. They are aware that they are doing it.
2. They know it is a bad thing.
3. They know that they lose the argument by doing this therefore they must confuse the issue.
4. Currently mediated communication is such that the first person to make an accusation of foul stands in a marginally better position.


Now is there anything about the above list that might remind one of the general media strategy of the Republican party?

#175 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 04:37 AM:

jhlipton, I may have missed your explaining this further up, so I'll just ask - are you seriously making any of these arguments or are you attempting a bit of post-modern prankster-type devil's advocate action here? Because

2) The crescent is, to an extent, a symbol of Islam. It is on the flag of nations never belonging to the Ottoman Empire, is one of the symbols used for Muslims at Arlington, and is associated, to some degree, rightly or wrongly, with Islam.

is, if it was intended to be, quite funny. It's only kinda funny if it wasn't.

#176 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 09:13 AM:

Add to the master list of possible organizations behind this sinister plot:

The Shriners.

The Masons in general have a long history of backing sinister secret plots. The truth revealed at last!

#177 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 09:47 AM:

The Shriners? Too true, too true. The tiny little cars, the circus, the custom motorcycles, the newspaper sales, the crippled children--all a front, a dreadful front designed to mislead America into believing that their intentions were good and charitable instead of something more dire and sinister...

What that something is, of course, I have no clue. But I'm sure that somewhere out there is someone only too willing to tell us all about it.

#178 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 10:39 AM:

And then there's New Orleans, AKA the Crescent City (not to be confused with that one in California). Hate to think what Rawls might have to say about its recent travails, if he turned his twisted mind to it.

#179 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 10:45 AM:

Crescent City in CA has had its travails also (it's subject to tsunamis).

#180 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 10:50 AM:

The fact that he doesn't think rationally isn't a fortiori evidence that he's not capable of learning to do so.

SHAKE my faith, not destroy it.

#181 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 11:08 AM:

But given all the sonnets and most of the parts of his plays are [in iambic pentameter]...

It's the prevailing meter of all the sonnets. But the last line of 94 is

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
That's close enough to Dactyl for ordinary use.

'vert'? Everything sounds so much classier when one uses the French word even though there's a perfectly fine equivalent in English.

If you heart the word pronounced, you would know that it's not French at all, despite being derived from the French word. It's English, but specialized. It rhymes with 'yurt'. We say 'argent' "ARE-junt" too. There are a few stuffshirts who insist on "are-ZHAH(n)" but they're idiots. They say "SAY-bul" (sable) like the rest of us, not "SAHB(le)."

And 'green' isn't a heraldic color. The case is more obvious with argent, which can be anything from plain white to steel-gray (especially if it's really steel).

#182 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 11:28 AM:

"The case is more obvious with argent, which can be anything from plain white to steel-gray (especially if it's really steel). "
I thought the standard for "argent" was duct tape, but IANA real SCAdian.

#183 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 01:35 PM:

And 'green' isn't a heraldic color. The case is more obvious with argent, which can be anything from plain white to steel-gray (especially if it's really steel).

[epic geek] But steel was green in the Middle Ages...at least, it was perceived to be so, proven by the myriad references in French chansons de geste* to green helmets, green swords, etc.** [/epic geek]

*You thought I was using "epic" in its figurative sense before, didn't you?
**Bibliographic information*** available on request.
***Heh. I knew my dissertation would be useful someday.

#184 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 01:43 PM:

PurpleGirl- the Lunarians would meet, of course, down in Coney Island, at the site where Luna Park used to be!

#185 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 01:59 PM:

TexAnne, did they use 'vert' to describe it? That is, did they use the same word for heraldic green as for steel green?

And in any case, I was speaking de dicto - the word 'green' is not a heraldic color name, I perhaps should have said - and therefore confine my claims to English. Now you don't say that English-speaking people didn't also consider steel green, but the French chansons alone do not provide evidence that they did, since different cultures, even different languages,* call the same thing different colors; what's green in one language is blue in another.

*Even different genders. I have seen a group of men argue about the color of a shirt, the wearer claiming it was orange, his friends derisively calling it pink. Any woman would have called it peach, and thus given the victory to the pink side. ("Peach, my ass. I know pink when I see it!")

#186 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 02:16 PM:

A friend of mine once worked on a project in Bangladesh that involved being on a barge at the mouth of a river. The barge was anchored, and the river was flowing, in such a way that the barge was slowly spinning round and round as the water flowed past it. At prayer time, a worker unrolled his prayer mat, checked the barge's compass, and settled down to pray. A minute later, another guy did the same, and another, and another. Problem was, each time they checked the compass, east was pointing in a different direction respective to the barge's frame of reference. They ended up facing their prayer mats in all different directions. Amusement was had by all.

#187 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 02:19 PM:

Vanessa: I've read that essay of Rawls'. "As an innately dominant male"? GMFB. I could make him scream like a girlie in ninety seconds flat, and I'm a peaceable old lady. Mostly.

#188 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 02:22 PM:

Whatever will they do when Moslems go to Mars? Face toward Earth? Won't that be a direction the constantly have to recalculate? And won't it be straight up (or down) sometimes?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Actually, of course, I know what will happen. Scholars will confer, and a fatwa will be issued. Then those who follow that fatwa will pray happily, while others denounce them.

Why, they're almost as silly as C/h/r/i/s/t/i/a/n/s Pagans!

#189 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 02:24 PM:

I could make him scream like a girlie in ninety seconds flat

I'd pay to watch that. If I lend you my riding crop, can I get in for free?

#190 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 02:29 PM:

Does "I am an innately dominant male" mean "I can't get it up around assertive females"?

#191 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 03:07 PM:

Aconite: Got it in one.

#192 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 03:57 PM:

Ninety seconds seems like a long time. I suppose it depends on whether he has a running start or not.

#193 ::: bonniers ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 03:58 PM:

delurking -- hi.

Those symbols for the National Cemetery were interesting. I am stunned to learn that there is a Lutheran cross.

Imagine that. All those years and I thought we got to use the same crosses as everybody else in the Christian tribe.

#194 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 04:35 PM:

"I thought we got to use the same crosses as everybody else in the Christian tribe."

All God's chillun got crosses.

#195 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 04:53 PM:

I'd never seen the Presbyterian cross either, even when visiting dead Presbyterian relatives.

#196 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 04:58 PM:

Xopher: In the early 20th century a sort of 'Muslims on Mars' problem did develop. When indentured labourers from Java were taken to Surinam, they continued their practice of facing *west* towards Mecca. A generation later, some educated Surinamese Javanese began to pray facing *east* (i.e., the shorter distance towards Mecca). The issue split families, caused friends to come to blows and thoroughly divided the community for a generation.

#197 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 05:14 PM:

Marketing opportunity: software for your GPS handheld. Displays an arrow which points the shortest distance to Mecca. Essential equipment for the modern Moslem.

#198 ::: Annie G. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 05:29 PM:

TexAnne, I'll bite...what are your sources? Was the steel really green, as in the color that occurs when you mix blue and yellow, or was that just something that they called it? I was always curious about the Green Knight, though that may be more due to a scene in a Teresa Edgarton novel than any innate heraldic curiosity I may have.

(I'm quasi-delurking: I have dipped my toe in the Making Light waters once or twice before, but like Eric Gratton have always been afraid to call too much attention to myself.)

#199 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 05:31 PM:

Xopher, I'm sure Muslims have them, just like I'm sure someone's come up with a Book of Hours for the Palm Pilot.

#200 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 05:33 PM:

afraid to call too much attention to myself...

Annie G, I hope you're not afraid that we'll all turn on you like Donald Sutherland did to Brooke Adams at the end of 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

#201 ::: Annie G. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 05:42 PM:

Serge, yes, that's exactly it-- I have determined that Making Light is really a conspiracy run from the Flatiron Building, with the Shambling Minions of Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden spreading out over the globe to infect the rest of us with their brand of godless Islamofasciterroism. Our only hope has been to lurk, keeping an eye on their creeping spread without letting anybody know that they were being watched. But my curiousity about green steel was finally too much for me, and I delurked...and now I have been infected and will become a Shambling Minion. Oh, what a cruel fate!

#202 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 05:45 PM:

Annie G., let me just say "bwahhahhah" to that.

#203 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 05:49 PM:

*shambles. . .subtly.*

#204 ::: Annie G. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 05:56 PM:

Xopher, glad you enjoyed it. I'll spare you all the theory about how I can tell because Tor is part of the von Holtzbrinck publishing empire, which is German, and there is both a crescent and a star in the Tor Colophon and the convergence of these two signs clearly indicates that the enemies of our foreparents' generations have joined with our enemies...it was a touch far-fetched.

#205 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 05:56 PM:

Quoth Xopher: Whatever will they do when Moslems go to Mars? Face toward Earth? Won't that be a direction they constantly have to recalculate? And won't it be straight up (or down) sometimes?

IIRC there've already been discussions (and conclusions!) on that subject, having to do with a Saudi prince or two hitching a ride aboard the space shuttle/station, possibly even during Ramadan. Unfortunately, now I can't find any of them again, though I do recall that at least there are sensible solutions for what to do if you're stuck near a polar region when Ramadan falls close to either solstice.

Re green steel sleeping furiously, presumably that's what Death's horse was made of in Revelations. There's also a nifty theory of physical explanations for the orthogonal blue/green vs. grue/dark axes (or axises, as one prefers) in different languages' color terms. The possible tetrachromacy of women who are heterozygous for sex-linked color blindness may not be strictly relevant, but is imho still fun.

#206 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:01 PM:

TNH: ...and I'm a peaceable old lady. Mostly.

For those of you just joining us, "Mostly" should be read as "With a deep fondness for explosives and automatic weaponry."

#207 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:04 PM:

Andrew Willett: I was reading it as "Mostly harmless."

#208 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:07 PM:

another delurker with a couple of questions:

why are atheistists at Arlington helium?

is there definitive guidance on praying towards Mecca on a rhumb line vs. a great circle route?

#209 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:12 PM:

Julie L., a muslim has to pray facing Mecca five times a day every day, not just during Ramadan.

#210 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:14 PM:

Xopher: Marketing opportunity: software for your GPS handheld. Displays an arrow which points the shortest distance to Mecca. Essential equipment for the modern Moslem.

Someone's already made an electric prayer rug with built-in compass.

#211 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:27 PM:

Julie L.: Never mind that. I just figured out you'd changed the subject from praying to fasting.

That's what comes of spending an hour working with a vibrating piece of equipment. For hours later, my brains are all jiggled up.

#212 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:31 PM:

Ayse: Julie L., a muslim has to pray facing Mecca five times a day every day, not just during Ramadan.

Oops, I guess I was being excessively gnomic; I'd meant to indicate that in addition to the routine tracking of qibla from orbit, the Ramadan aspect would've added the further question of how to determine the proper time/duration of fasting. Come to think of it, the person with whom I'd been discussing such things was Shi'a and therefore may have had certain disagreements with the House of Saud's probable Wahhabi consultants, though she was the one who pointed me toward the formal discussion of "Qibla in Spaaaaaace!".

#213 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:47 PM:

So, Annie G, that's what's really going with this site? Earlier this week, I referred to Teresa & Patrick as Our Hosts, but, now that the Truth is out, the appelation takes on a sinister tinge. This might explain why my skin has been feeling squamous lately.

(Oh, and I'm disappointed that nobody caught the error in my earlier post. It's not Brooke Adams that Sutherland turned against but Veronica Cartwright.)

#214 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:47 PM:

Of course there are handheld units to point to Mecca, and of course Cory Doctorow and Bruce Sterling were on this years ago.

#215 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:51 PM:

I do recall that at least there are sensible solutions for what to do if you're stuck near a polar region when Ramadan falls close to either solstice.

Article from the Antarctic Sun.

Relevant bit:

Ramadan has been strange for El Dakrouri, too, since eating is forbidden between sunrise and sunset. In a land with 24-hour daylight, that doesn't quite work.

He knew he would have to deal with this, and asked religious leaders in Egypt what to do. They told him he could use the time of sunrise and sunset in the nearest country, so El Dakrouri is using New Zealand.

In Canada, it goes by city instead.

IIRC, the Canadian Muslim consensus is that if it's only a few days, do not fast. Make-up days are permitted for travel and other necessities.

If you are actually LIVING there, you should use the sunrise/sunset times of the city with the nearest mosque, or the city from which the bulk of your food is shipped.

#216 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 06:53 PM:

Whups, I remember now: In space, use the time in the city of launch.

Rules suitable for trips long enough that that doesn't work will doubtless be derived as events warrant.

#217 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 07:08 PM:

Appologies for the long post (and repetition of points made elsewhere).

Xopher:
Serge - Atheist comfort: all your brain function will cease. That means no pain, no anxiety, no regret (also no pleasure, no comfort, no joy, but so what?). The process of dying will be a release from pain (and everything else). When you complete it, there will be nothing of you left to be aware of anything; therefore you will not suffer either. No "drowning" in anything, just - not.

According to Shaw (Man and Superman; Don Juan in Hell), the most comforting words known to man are writ large over the Gates of Hell: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” If there’s nothing to hope for, inner peace is easily at hand.

----------------------------------

jhlipton - you keep insisting on the crescent as a symbol of Islam, despite the fact that many have told you it is not. In fact, you are being disrespectful to the religion of Islam, which is against all such symbols. This is divisive and unhelpful.

I have stated instances where Muslims have chosen the crescent as their symbol. Is Malaysia being disrespectful? Is Arlington? I have modified my statements to fit the facts. I suggest that those who appear to feel that the crescent is never a symbol is Islam do the same. That is how this discourse differs from that on Tboggs.

You've also stated that you think a red crescent would be inappropriate at a 9/11 memorial.
And if Moslems (other than the hijackers) died on that flight, I would think that some overtly Moslem content would be appropriate - to exactly the extent that overtly Christian content is.

I said that I personally would find overtly Islamic symbology (I specifically referred to an obvious mosque) offensive. I have also said, from the start, and at frequent intervals, that would I feel is moot, compared to the families of the victims. If they had felt that the crescent (which I think you are conceding is, to at least some extent, is a crescent; as I concede to a certain extent it is not) was offensive, we would even not have opportunity to gainsay them, as no plan including offensive material would have made it past the first phases.

julia:
jhlipton, I may have missed your explaining this further up, so I'll just ask - are you seriously making any of these arguments or are you attempting a bit of post-modern prankster-type devil's advocate action here?

I am, to a major extent, playing devil’s adovacte, in that the opinion of Mr Rawls, the many posters at Tboggs or the illustrious contributers to this site matter not a whit. The plan is chosen, with the blessing of the families of the victims, and that, to me, ends the discussion of whether the plan is appropriate.

I do feel that Mr Rawls raised 3 interesting (to me) points, which I find worthy of rational discussion (one that this site is uniquely qualified for).

These are:
Is there a crescent in the plan? The answer to this is ambiguous. The red thingee (to use the technical term) is halfway between an arc and a crescent, but is described as a crescent on the plan and in press descriptions.


Is the crescent is, to any extent, a symbol of Islam? It is on the flag of nations never belonging to the Ottoman Empire, is one of the symbols used for Muslims at Arlington, and is associated, to some degree, rightly or wrongly, with Islam.

Some Muslims may be offended by the association of the crescent with their religion, and I mean no disrespect. But I contend that there is an association, whether right or wrong. I have no control over your reaction to that association.

Is overtly Islamic symbology appropriate? This is the trickiest, as what is “overtly Islamic symbology” is not necessarily well-defined, and what is or is not appropriate is deeply personal. I’ve stated my own view, and that it is, to all intents and purposes, meaningless. (I think that I am the only one to do so…)

---------------------------------

Sandy B.:
Ninety seconds seems like a long time.

Bull riders think 8 seconds is a very long time. It all depends on your frame of reference.

#218 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 07:24 PM:

Marna:
IIRC, the Canadian Muslim consensus is that if it's only a few days, do not fast. Make-up days are permitted for travel and other necessities.

The fast of Ramadan is in September through November, right? That would mean that at either pole, you'ld never have 24 hours of day or night -- that would occur at least a month later.

I could be mistaken here, and am (as always) willing to be corrected.

A fast (for any reason) during mid-June or mid-December would be problematic, though. I can see developing special rules for "daylight" under those circumstances.

#219 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 07:35 PM:

Some Muslims may be offended by the association of the crescent with their religion, and I mean no disrespect. But I contend that there is an association, whether right or wrong. I have no control over your reaction to that association.

The association is in the same category as "Darwinism is anti-religion." Which is to say, it is ignorant and WRONG, no matter how many people believe it in the United States. Or, for that matter, in the flag-designing department in Malaysia.

#220 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 07:38 PM:

Ramadan ends up floating around the year at random, because it is on a different calendar.

#221 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 07:44 PM:

The fast of Ramadan is in September through November, right?

Islam keeps a lunar calendar (with a year several days shorter than our solar calendar) , so the month of Ramadan drifts against "the" calendar, but I don't know if it drifts right around the year. (Does their calendar get reset, so the months stay in a given season? No idea.)

One thing this entire l'affaire Flight 93 Memorial has shown me is how little I know about Islam.

#222 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 07:57 PM:

I can't speak for Islamic holidays, but Judaism uses a lunar calendar with a built-in solar correction. Otherwise, Hannukah would eventually be in March.

#223 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 07:57 PM:

It's been a while since I actually looked any of this stuff up, but iirc my Shi'a correspondent considered this site the authority of choice in such matters. Due to a fandom dispute, she broke off contact with me a few years ago, so I have only just realized that this is the same chap who has been in the news a lot since then. Possibly his rulings may be considered invalid by some Shi'a and rather a lot of Sunni, but it does seem like a fairly comprehensive place to start.

#224 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 08:00 PM:

Ramadan does indeed drift right around the Gregorian year (or any other solar calendar). Or, from the other viewpoint, Gregorian-calendar holidays drift around the Islamic calendar.

#225 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 08:12 PM:
Whatever will they do when Moslems go to Mars? Face toward Earth?

I fear for Moslems on a future space station, one with centrifugal force supplying artifical gravity, like the one in 2001. Constantly recalculating the position of Mecca whilst at one's devotions could be quite dizzying. Perhaps Moslem astronauts will be exclusively dervish.

#226 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 08:15 PM:

The key distinction, IIRC, between the Jewish calendar and the Islamic one is that the Jewish calndar is an agricultural one -- the dates are associated with harvest festivals and sowing times. There is therefore a required correction (by intercalation of a month) when Nisan falls too early. The Islamic calendar is derived from a desert calendar, where the fixed relationship to a solar cycle isn't required.

#227 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 08:25 PM:

I've just read the whole thread and I'm surprised no-one has commented on this bit yet.[*]

She accepts that NO ONE in the entire thread is willing to acknowledge that it might be inappropriate to place a half-mile wide Mecca oriented crescent on the crash site, and she attributes this to ME being off the deep end. What kind of brain does that take?

I love the generalisable argument: if everyone in the world disagrees with me, it is because they are all stupid. You don't have to believe in a relativist definition of truth to suspect that there may be an alternative explanation.

On the other hand, I don't think he is likely to be mentally ill in any clinical sense. It's just a case of overweening egotism.

[*] I know it's been implicitly referred to. If I missed the bit where someone said this, then ignore me.

#228 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 08:28 PM:

The Muslim calendar doesn't make solar corrections, so Ramadan drifts throughout the year. It was an issue in planning school activities many of the years I was growing up, given substantial Muslim and Nation of Islam populations in our student body.

#229 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 08:57 PM:

Unless the pertinent bit of theology's been rewritten since my day, Mormons on Mars are going to have even weirder problems. You see, if you die a very good Mormon, all i's dotted and t's crossed, in the next life you get to be God and have your own planet. I've never heard that you get more than one. I believe this means that when you get to Mars, you're in a different jurisdiction and you're dealing with a different God.

#230 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 09:09 PM:

Candle:

Rawls made variations of that argument several times. It's too tedious to go back to Tbogg to find, but Rawls was getting rather plaintive, expressing exasperation that every single person there was suffering from some weird group think, and wondering when a sane person would show up to agree with him.

That's when I began to worry about his health.

It seems that his discovery of the monstrous crypto-Islamo-fascist conspiracy was taken quite seriously and treated with respect over in places like LGF. Rawls was baffled that nobody at Tboggs saw the danger.

#231 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 09:34 PM:

Xopher opined:

And 'green' isn't a heraldic color.

Green is indeed a heraldic color. Not much used in medieval times, for reasons I've never seen explained, but heraldic nonetheless. (The best theory I've seen is that heraldry is supposed to be easily visible, and green backgrounds probably had a tendency to blend in with all the green shrubberies in the vicinity.)

The case is more obvious with argent, which can be anything from plain white to steel-gray (especially if it's really steel).

You lost me. The case for what? All this seems to demonstrate is that the heraldic term "argent" and the English word "white" aren't synonyms. which doesn't seem particularly significant. All the heraldic colors are variable, according to artistic whim. You could, if you chose, use anything from blood red to pink for "gules", which nominally means just "red".


And in any case, I was speaking de dicto - the word 'green' is not a heraldic color name , I perhaps should have said

Well, yes, but heraldic names for colors (and for many other things) form a technical vocabulary (if not an outright jargon). A heraldic standard and an engineering standard are very different things. Indeed, "color" isn't even the heraldic name for "color". (Heralds speak of "tinctures". "Color" refers to a subset of the tinctures. "Argent" and "or" are regarded as "metals", not "colors".) So I don't understand why the one term "vert" has been singled out.

When a heraldic design is blazoned (the heraldic word for "described"), the technical terms are used. In informal discussion (as is taking place here), "green" is perfectly acceptable, even among heralds. Thus, you'd blazon the flag, "Vert, a fess vert", but talk about the green fess not having enough contrast with the green field.

(Caveat: this is all based on my stint as a Caidan herald. YHMV.)

#232 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 09:40 PM:

After reading several web-pages on the subject, I can see that the question of whether the crescent is (or should be) a symbol of Islam is a very hot-button issue. To say that all Muslims feel one way or the other (or that those who disagree are "ignorant and wrong") would seem to me the same as posting a simular opinion on any contested religious topic. (altmuslim.com, which hosts the Brass Crescent Awards for best blogs, might, for instance, take the other side on this issue.)

There are those who believe (vehemently) that the crescent should never be associated with Islam. I respectfully submit that there those who make an informed decision to do so.

---------------------

There is a tendency to dig in one's heels, especially in a discussion such as this. I'm noticing that not one person has conceded any of my points, even though I have amended as I have become aware of facts. Not a "gee, you have a point there [grump]" although such would be nice*.

This is not to excuse Mr Rawls, who never amended any of his points, even when faced with mountains of information.

* I realize this sounds a little self-serving, but I am swimming against the tide on this and a leeeetle validation would be nice. (On the other hand, posters are still talking to me and I haven't been disenvowelled, so I must be doing something right. [grin])

#233 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 09:44 PM:

Glen:
green fess not having enough contrast with the green field

Shouldn't that be "green stripe not having enough contrast with the green field" or more accurately "green top not having enough contrast with the green bottom"

(Emphasis mine in both cases)

#234 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 10:10 PM:

See this article, which appears to be a reprint from London Sunday Telegraph, talking about rabbis debating how to observe Sabbath in low-earth orbit. I remember reading the original when it was first published.

#235 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 10:11 PM:

Ack. Insert the LINK, you stupid primate. He says to himself.

#236 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 10:19 PM:

As to Ramadan moving around the calendar. There is a woman in my office who is Muslim and I know I've spokent to her at different times about keeping the fast. As she says, it's easier to keep when it falls in the winter months and the days are shorter.

#237 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 10:38 PM:

You got me. Not only are there stars in one of the Tor logos, but I personally put them there.

#238 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 10:56 PM:

In regard to heraldry and How To Describe things: try looking here:
Cyndi's List, under Heraldry. If you can't find it there, you probably can't find it. No guarantees the links will be working, of course. (Also useful if you're looking for information on how to cite sources for papers, and other things.)

#239 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2006, 11:12 PM:

"The red thingee (to use the technical term)"

I've been using "Thingie" all my life; thank you for the correction.

As for frame of reference: Exactly. I mean, there are all sorts of issues [head start, available equipment, etc.] but still. Ninety seconds is a long time to be VERY AWARE of your body.

Heraldry: I'm trying to remember the technical Latin terms for the coat of arms a friend of mine tried to get in the SCA. . . all I remember is "Two squids, combatant."

#240 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 12:16 AM:

Only slightly random responses:

1. It's tierced per fess all vert. Sheesh.

1.5 Badge (Aureaux): The moon in her detriment, increscence engrailed, sable, fimbriated argent.

2. Nun. Yes. I did. Benedictine, plus a Groucho nose-and-glasses, which adds up to a surprisingly effective disguise. I stood next to Patrick Hayden for a good twenty minutes and he never once suspected it was me. However, I should not have been driving while wearing it -- a wimple and veil takes out your peripheral vision.

3. Of course it's not Shakespeare. Did someone actually argue otherwise? 'Cause if they did, they've got no ear at all.

4. Bryan turning up with The Friend of Fortune was an admirable piece of showing-off. He should Feel Encouraged.

5. I try to save the use of "n**n*r-n**n*r" for special occasions. It's a Word of Power.

6. Serge, I only want to participate in a group costume if I get to wear a bazooka. And a Thompson submachine gun. And lots of other stuff. (Anent nothing at all, I've always thought Jane Yolen should be photographed in a Mother Goose costume, with a Thompson in her hands, and one foot up on the running board of a hot 1920s car.)

7. Of course heraldry sounds swankier in Norman French. It makes you sound like a member of the oppressor class.

8. A sense of overwhelming helplessness is one of the hazards of narcolepsy; I'm sure you can see why. Drop-kicking idiots is like a double latte for the soul. It's no substitute for Pemoline, but it does cheer me up.

9. The fact someone doesn't think rationally isn't a fortiori evidence that they're not capable of learning to do it. You have to want to do it, like you have to want to take on the burden of having a conscience. Consider Ann Coulter: no one could say she thinks rationally, yet I'm sure she could. She'd just have less fun, and no job, if she did.

10. The early French thought steel was green? I didn't know that, but it doesn't surprise me. It's been my impression that you don't start getting finely distinguished terms for different colors until you're capable of doing something about them.

11. I thought ninety seconds was generous.

12. Rawls is neurochemically crocked, but that doesn't mean he's excused from normal human responsibilities. I know a lot of people who are a bit addled. Some are kind, helpful, benevolent, and occasionally very funny. They tend to maintain awareness that they have processing glitches, and try to work around them. Others, neither more nor less addled, are vindictive, self-indulgent, practice small cruelties for fun, and make no attempt to monitor their condition or rein themselves in. They all make choices. Having imperfect judgement doesn't mean you have no moral agency.

13. There are lots of hapless fruitbats out there. I have no great desire to chomp on them. Rawls being taken seriously and treated with respect by the likes of the LGF crowd is the reason he got a target painted on him.

14. jhlipton, thank you for saying you feel the need for validation. That's very sensible of you. The local discourse isn't big on saying "You may be right" for any reason other than thinking you may be right; but "That's an interesting point" is worth a lot of points, whether it's implicit or explicit. So is having other people play with the toys you brought. Cheer up. No way are you the goat in this conversation.

#241 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 12:20 AM:

Anyone else keep reading LGF as "Lesbians, Gays, and Fruitbats?"

. . .how bout NOW?

#242 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 12:23 AM:

By the way, it's not true that "EVERYONE" disagrees with him. You [the "Can't be bothered to scroll up" collective, you] keep bringing up that, in other contexts, he's been told he's a bright young thing.

So he has a choice about who to believe. One person who agrees with you is worth ten who do not.

#243 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 12:25 AM:

Squids, so far as I know, are not found on any heraldic bearing. Woodward doesn't mention them, anyway. Scallop-shells are very heraldic, and so are conches, crabs, periwinkles, and oysters (usually open, displaying a pearl), shrimps, lobsters, prawns and crayfish. I believe the octopus is not unknown, though Woodward doesn't mention it. This, of course, is not a reason for not having them, though I think "respecting" is probably a better description if they were facing, or "entwined" if they were actually grappling, and you'd have to add in what plane they were - for example, in fess or in pale or in bend.

I suppose the SCA organisation soi-disant a "college" refused to recognise the design?

#244 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 12:26 AM:

Glen Fisher, you silly person! We were talking about green things (flags, steel, etc.). I was saying that the word 'green' is not used in describing tinctures (quite right, not 'colors'); instead, the word 'vert' is used. And there's no blazon word to distinguish between one shade of green and another.

That's why I brought up argent, which isn't really white, because it can also be really metallic silver (I've seen leaf used in County scrolls, frex), or, as someone pointed out, duck tape.

Plus we were talking about the armor being green in French, and I was asking whether it was also called green in English...and whether that was considered the same as the heraldic tincture vert. I don't see what you're being all...confused? about.

jhlipton: I'm not going to engage you any further on the crescent issue. I know dug-in heels when I see them.

I think heralds would probably still call it a fess, since there are all kinda stripes, of which a fess is only one. It's a thing and everybody knows what it is. But the top and bottom thing in your post...you're confusing 'per fess' (that is, according to the orientation of a fess) with 'a fess' (meaning the actual object, a horizontal stripe across the middle of the field, is present). So three equal stripes, all green, would be "Vert, a fess vert" (green field with a green fess across its middle) whereas TWO stripes, both green, would be "Per fess, vert and vert" (field divided in two horizontally, the top one green and the bottom green).

This is all silliness, of course. The Libyans will never submit their flag to the SCA College of Heralds. Damn terrorists!

#245 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 12:34 AM:

Sandy, please don't associate Lesbians and Gays (or even fruitbats, harmless creatures that they are) with the batshit-wacko shitheads at "ellipsoidal spheroids, vert."

They suck; we don't.

Wait. Well...

Oh, you know what I mean!!!!

#246 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 01:34 AM:

To say that all Muslims feel one way or the other (or that those who disagree are "ignorant and wrong") would seem to me the same as posting a simular opinion on any contested religious topic.

You have completely misunderstood my statement. I never said all muslims feel one way or another. I simply said that a crescent is not a symbol for Islam the way a cross is a symbol for Christianity precisely because not all muslim people feel that that is the case, and many of them take the anti-symbology of the religion very seriously. I don't, offhand, know of any Christian sects that reject the cross as a symbol of how Christ died for your sins, but maybe you can enlighten me.

If a sizable number of muslims feel that the crescent does not mean Islam, then, well golly, the crescent cannot be the same sort of universal symbol of Islam as the cross is the symbol of Christianity, because it's not very universal. Which makes it kind of useless for generalizing from, including making monuments that are secretly dedicated to Islam. Some Americans may not understand the fact that the crescent is not the same as a cross, because they are used to a religion with a symbol of faith and can't conceive of one without. And some muslims may have adopted the crescent because it's convenient to have a logo, and as it happens the crescent is associated with a great muslim empire. But that doesn't change the fact that while a crescent is used -- more as a logo than as a symbol of faith -- by some muslim people, most of whom have some reasonable connection to the Ottoman Empire, it's not a symbol of Islam.

The indubitable authority of Arlington National Cemetary on the subject notwithstanding.

And I was trying not to do this, but I will pull out my authority baton: look at my name. Yes, it's my real name, though people think it's a nom de guerre because of the implications. If you have even a passing familiarity with the history of Islam, you ought to recognize it, or a variant. I think I know whereof I speak on the subject of Islam and symbols.

#247 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 01:56 AM:

Oooh.

Ayse wins.

Despite an inability to formulate a reference to She Who Must Be Obeyed that doesn't sound sarcastic, esp. in this specific context, I am finding the metareference obligatory anyway. I'll definitely have to read up on the original, though, since (as might be expected) my former Shi'a netfriend rather preferred Fatima's side of the story.

#248 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 02:02 AM:

By the way, it's not true that "EVERYONE" disagrees with him.

Point taken. (Although, to be honest, I was trying to block out the fact that we are dealing with more than a single person here. And since I refuse to go and read it at source, I am going to cling on to my unjustified belief that *nobody* could possibly take this stuff seriously.) But I would like to think that if I spoke up in *any* forum and everyone there disagreed with me, I would at least begin to question the validity of my own arguments before assuming them to be insane.

On that note: jhlipton, you make some interesting points. I don't think we can dispute that the memorial somewhat resembles a crescent, although it probably isn't what you would draw if you were asked to draw one.

Meanwhile, the crescent is surely associated with Islam, if not by all (or even most) Muslims then at least by a lot of Americans. The question of whether the crescent is really a Muslim symbol is strictly speaking irrelevant. The point is whether the (sinister, American) designers of the memorial might plausibly have thought it was. If you asked the average architect for a symbol of Islam, they might well come up with a crescent.

But: the problem with Rawls' argument is that he assumes that his highly tendentious interpretations are the most plausible and the intended ones. It can't be disproved (although the specific contentions can); it's just bad historical thinking. The fact that virtually anything else you can name would be more plausible is something he will not accept. This is the logic which has persuaded some intelligent people (I know a few) that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays.

Meanwhile, I think you are conceding too much in arguing that everything is irrelevant but the wishes of the families. That is important, but the memorial is surely being raised by "society" (or is it the state?) on behalf of the victims: this isn't a private matter, and the victims' families don't get the final say. They are free to build their own memorials if they like.

The memorial looks a bit like a crescent, which is not a feature of any mosque of which I'm aware, and which in any case does not point to Mecca even insofar as a crescent can point to anything. Some people associate crescents with Islam, not entirely without justification, although personally I tend to associate them with shady English streets. Is this evidence - and this is *all* the evidence - enough to imply the existence of a vast Islamic conspiracy to corrupt American public life? Er, no. Me, I'm far more worried by the fascist symbols in Washington Square Park.

#249 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 02:06 AM:

And now I find I've just restated everything Teresa wrote in the original post. Sorry.

#250 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 02:24 AM:

Candle: Your point on historical thinking is well-taken. There's something seductive about the idea that one has figured out something that was artfully hidden. There's also that pesky human ability to see patterns where there are no patterns.

That's Baconism for you. And Riccardism, if that's a word. And conspiracy theories of all kinds, which range in plausibility from the, well, maybe, out to the severely and disablingly demented, like this one.

#251 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 02:56 AM:

This one, like many conspiracy theories, has an extra sin attached: "I know this, therefore I am important."

#252 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 04:22 AM:

Ayse:
You have completely misunderstood my statement. I never said all muslims feel one way or another. I simply said that a crescent is not a symbol for Islam the way a cross is a symbol for Christianity precisely because not all muslim people feel that that is the case, and many of them take the anti-symbology of the religion very seriously.

Well put. I understand, and concede your point.

candle:
the problem with Rawls' argument is that he assumes that his highly tendentious interpretations are the most plausible and the intended ones.

That was his initial problem. His further (and in many ways worse) problem was not conceding when faced with facts.

I think you are conceding too much in arguing that everything is irrelevant but the wishes of the families.

Perhaps, but certainly their wishes outweigh those of random fans of extrordinary ephemera. Were there a national outcry (and Bill O Liely doesn't count) against the plan, that would need to be considered. But as far as I know, there's been much more controversy over the WTC plans, and that has absolutely no religious symbolism that anyone can find (that I know of).

The memorial looks a bit like a crescent, which is not a feature of any mosque of which I'm aware.

It is a feature of Ottoman minarets (how about that!) such as one in Aswan, Egypt: Photo of a minaret. I knew I'd seen one like this, and went poking until I found a page of different minaret types

This site is forcing me to document my opinions and that's a good thing!

#253 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 05:47 AM:

I fear for Moslems on a future space station, one with centrifugal force supplying artifical gravity, like the one in 2001. Constantly recalculating the position of Mecca whilst at one's devotions could be quite dizzying. Perhaps Moslem astronauts will be exclusively dervish.

Aha! Not so! If you had a spinning station (as in 2001, or Babylon 5, or whatever) I reckon the spin axis would point at the centre of the Earth. Because a) you'd put communications equipment on the hub, so it would keep pointing in roughly the same direction, and you'd want your communications equipment pointing at Earth, and b) if the station's top-shaped - i.e. circle on a stick - tidal forces would act to keep the axis pointing 'vertically'.
So our Muslim astronauts have two options. If on the rim, simply face to spinward, turn 90 degrees, and you will be looking down at the Earth. If you are at the hub, just float there pointing in the right direction. I suspect that requirements for prostration and touching forehead to the ground mean that free-fall Muslim prayers could be tricky; but Velcro would help, if the station has a non-rotating hub section whose walls you could anchor to. Otherwise you will need attitude jets.

If, for some reason, you are on a station which is otherwise oriented, you will need to go to the hub, ensure you are at rest with respect to the Earth, and then pray in free fall as above.

Next question: how modest do women's spacesuits have to be? If I am in cryogenic sleep during Ramadan, will I have to make up the fast when I am revived, or does it still count even though I was incapable of eating (and didn't need to anyway)? Is my replicator-made food halal?

#254 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 05:49 AM:

Meanwhile, apparently there will be an earth-shattering kaboom over Crescent City CA this weekend. Or at least that's where the re-entry path is supposed to cross the border; I guess the actual audibility of the kaboom won't kick in until Nevada.

#255 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 05:50 AM:

There is in fact at least one Christian sect that rejects the symbol of the cross: the Jehovah's Witnesses. They argue that the Greek word usually translated "cross" actually means "stake" and that the cross is a pagan symbol. See for instance item #6 in this article.

#256 ::: Adrian Bedford ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 06:40 AM:

I've been mentally ill my whole life now (42 years and counting), but diagnosed and treated since I was 16. When folks start talking about mental illness, often it's fairly ill-informed stuff. Not so here on Making Light, where both hosts and posters know their stuff, and that is one of the things that makes this such a neat place.

The discussion of whether or not Alec Rawls has some kind of mental illness, which might account for his bizarre/delusional notions (that thread at TBogg was quite a startling thing to read), first made me go, "no, he's just fanatically wrong and overly paranoid".

Then I stopped and thought about it. Thought about my life *before* diagnosis and treatment, ie, The High School Years. Two of the big symptoms of bipolar illness are paranoia, and delusional feelings of grandeur. I remember both of these very well--and how, at the time, they felt like reasonable reactions to things I saw and noticed around me. Bipolar is a psychotic illness, and the thing that's always struck me as fascinating about psychosis is the degree to which it completely distorts your own perception of reality, such that you, staring out at the world, have no idea this distortion is going on, and think all is just fine and normal, and *everyone else is wrong* about whatever it is. I remember conversations where my continued insistence that I was feeling perfectly fine was taken as convincing evidence that I really wasn't fine; that I was very ill, and needed to take my meds.

So, yes, I remember the paranoia, and I remember the feeling that I knew more than anybody else, that I was important because I could see things nobody else could, and that this knowledge was dangerous, and someone would try to hurt me because I knew it. It's a *great* feeling, it really is. You feel so alive, because you alone have privileged knowledge. It's seductive.

And, of course, it's a sickness. The very fact you're enjoying it so much is the proof. I don't know for sure if Alec Rawls is paranoid/delusional, but his continued fanatical insistence that he is right and hundreds of reasonable opponents are wrong and "just not seeing the FACTS", raise for me troubling questions, not least of which is the fact that great numbers of people at places like LGF think Rawls is really onto something.

#257 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 07:56 AM:

You see, if you die a very good Mormon, all i's dotted and t's crossed, in the next life you get to be God and have your own planet.

*blink* You can do that now with Sim City.

(I'd make a lousy Mormon.)

#258 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 09:05 AM:

I don't, offhand, know of any Christian sects that reject the cross as a symbol of how Christ died for your sins, but maybe you can enlighten me.

The Mormons ("Latter Day Saints" on the building) don't use the cross.

#259 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 09:58 AM:

OK, here's the green steel reference:

Plouzeau, May. "Vert heaume: approches d'un syntagme." Les Couleurs au Moyen Age (Senefiance 32, 1992), 589-650. Aix-en-Provence: Editions CUERMA, 1992.

The money quote is at the very very end: "Il semble bien qu'il faille se ranger à l'opinion de Schultz-Gora: l'acier 'als grün aufgefasst wurde.'" (629) Which means "It does seem that it is necessary to agree with the opinion of Schultz-Gora: steel 'was perceived to be green.'"

I've seen this myself--I once chopped an onion with an Old Hickory knife, and both the onion and the knife turned a very odd greenish-black.

Glen: We were kidding. Didn't you notice my "Vert, several small footballs vert"?

#260 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 10:19 AM:

Do the Mormons just not display the cross, or do they actively reject it as the Jehovah's Witnesses do?

#261 ::: Annie G. ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 10:21 AM:

TexAnne-- Thanks! Very interesting!

#262 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 10:28 AM:

Reading this thread, I have been thinking: the Prophet Muhammad was never nailed to a crescent.

#263 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 10:37 AM:

I have to say that I have heard some fairly (theologically) liberal Christians dispute whether Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons were really Christian at all. And I've heard a Mormon - albeit a teenager, and I was one too, so this is a while ago - contrast himself with Christians, and it was in the context of saying why he wouldn't wear a cross around his neck. (I did ask him about the "Jesus Christ" in the name of the church, and he just got confused. I don't know what was going on there.)

Still, even if you count both as Christian, the cross was a pretty universal symbol for 1800 years, and is still held as a symbol of Christianity by the vast majority of Christians. Even the JW and LDS will recognize it as such, even if they don't approve or just don't use it themselves.

The crescent, as Ayse has clearly explained, has neither ancient provenance nor broad recognition as a symbol of Islam. If the walkways were laid out in such a way as to write the name of Allah in Arabic, Rawls might have a case. As it is, he better respell his first name Alek, because right now he has a crescent in it, and if it ever points East he'll be forced to join Al Qaeda.

#264 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 12:26 PM:

Mormons don't reject the cross, but don't use it as they believe in a resurrected Christ, not a hanging-on-the-cross Christ. I checked with my mother.

#265 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 12:46 PM:

Lin, that's the difference between an empty cross (after resurrection) and a crucifix (which has Person on it). And even with a crucifix, I've heard there are different versions. You probably won't see a crucifix in a Methodist or Presbyterian church, just the empty cross. (YMMV, for other churches.)

#266 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 12:51 PM:

P J Evans, it's my understanding that that's because of the Protestant rejection of icons as idolatrous. That's why you'll see the crucifix in churches that aren't true Protestant (like Anglican/Episcopal churches).

#267 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Xopher: the iconoclasts were such early Catholics they were simply called "Christians." Protestants reject neither icons nor images; go look at St. John the Divine sometime. (Icons are an Orthodox thing anyway.) Anglican/Episcopal churches ARE TOO true Protestants--among other things, we reject the Pope and transubstantiation, in favor of the Archbishop of Canterbury (primus inter pares) and consubstantiation.

But you knew that, didn't you?

#268 ::: hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 01:52 PM:

It's been a while, but when the plans were first made public, I read an interview with the memorial's designer in which he responded to the shrieking from the LGFers that "crescent" was used here in an architectural context, that they refer to any open curve shape as a "crescent," where most laymen would use the term "arc." I mean, it really isn't a crescent-moon crescent.

bonniers: The Lutheran cross is a cross with the middle part of the Luther Rose plonked on. I don't think it's an official church thing. (Note: I'm not Missouri Synod, but they have a better page on this than ELCA does.)

#269 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 02:08 PM:

All right, perhaps I had too narrow a view of Protestantism. All you Christians look alike to me (kidding). But St. John the Unfinished is an Episcopal cathedral, so it falls under the "not really Protestant" class I was delineating before, which I now need to call something else.

Theological Protestants, maybe? The C of E has theological differences with the C of R, but they weren't antecedent to the political reasons for the separation IIRC. I dunno. My history is weak.

#270 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 02:24 PM:

As a thoroughgoing Anglo-Catholic, I take exception to the "ARE TOO true Protestants": we accept transubstantiation, and the pope as primus inter pares and Patriarch of the West (but not as having universal immediate personal jurisdiction). Plus, to be more on-topic, statues of the Blessed Virgin and the saints. (Consubstantiation is a pretty definitively Lutheran thing, but it wouldn't surprise me to discover that it's believed in by some Anglicans. Anglicans are all over the map on the Eucharistic presence, but I'd guess that more Low and Broad Church types take a Calvinist line ("real spiritual presence") than a Lutheran one.)

Most Protestant churches use empty crosses instead of crucifixes -- usually on the basis of representing the risen Christ rather than the dying Christ -- but they're not against images per se: pictures of Jesus as the Good Shepherd or just looking calm and numinous are very popular in Protestant circles. They don't accept images or statues of the saints.

Crucifixes are common in Anglican churches with any High Church character and in the Lutheran tradition, as well as in Catholicism/Orthodoxy (Orthodoxy, of course, uses ikons rather than three-dimensional statues).

#271 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 02:36 PM:

Ah, now Anglo-Catholics are a-whole-nother thing, about which I know very little. I'm an American Episcopalian, which is not the same as an Anglican, nor yet the same as an Anglo-Catholic. My own parish does accept images of the saints--above our altar, we have a stained-glass window depicting Christ holding a lamb, flanked by Sts Peter and Paul. All of them look very numinous and pre-Raphaelite, except for the lamb, which looks catlike and smug.

This will probably be my last post to this discussion--I'll be netless over the weekend, and by then I'll have to pretend there's a plugin called "mark all read."

#272 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 02:44 PM:

"Anglo-Catholic" is a party label within all Anglican churches, including the American Episcopal one. Examples of AC Parishes in the US would include: St. Paul's, K Street in Washington; St. Agnes and Ascension, also in Washington; Grace and St. Peter's in Baltimore; St. Mary the Virgin in New York; St. Ignatius, also in New York; Church of the Advent, Boston; St. Clement's, Philadelphia ...

My guess is that a parish with images in stained glass windows but not otherwise would be Broad Church or possibly Lowish (but not extremely Low). In many cases the divisions have become much blurrier over the past several of decades, except for the parishes with strong attachment to one end of the spectrum or another.

#273 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 02:51 PM:

Perhaps, but certainly their wishes outweigh those of random fans of extrordinary ephemera.

Hmm. I'll concede that for form's sake, but I'm still not totally convinced. I'm not sure tragedy outbids democracy (one person, one opinion...).

It is a feature of Ottoman minarets...

Fair enough: I was thinking in terms of a structural feature, which would surely be the right comparandum for this memorial - but I should have remembered that minaret design. I wonder what proportion of minarets are Ottoman minarets. I also wonder what proportion of English churches feature weathervanes, and whether they are therefore a Christian symbol. But I don't mean to disagree with the point you were making: I was wrong, and crescent moons are sometimes features of mosques.

Two of the big symptoms of bipolar illness are paranoia, and delusional feelings of grandeur.

That was a really interesting post - thanks. I had in fact been planning to say "AR is not mentally ill, just paranoid". And then I started worrying about my definitions...

the cross was a pretty universal symbol for 1800 years

Just pedantry, here, but it is difficult to find the cross as a Christian symbol before the fourth century AD, and it doesn't become prominent (AFAIR) for a few centuries after that. The fish and the chi-rho symbol have a longer history.

In fact, the only cross I can think of before the fourth century is in an anti-Christian graffito, and it may be that early Christians (before they became the dominant religion in Europe) weren't too keen to advertise their association with a crucified criminal. But perhaps I'm wrong there.

As it is, he better respell his first name Alek, because right now he has a crescent in it...

Now that is the argument I was looking for! Thank you Xopher!

#274 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 03:18 PM:

Annie G said:

I have determined that Making Light is really a conspiracy run from the Flatiron Building, with the Shambling Minions...

You forgot to work Infernokrusher in there. After all, Teresa is involved, and she's the model of sophisticated urban Infernokrusher.

#275 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 03:22 PM:

I'll plunge into this Catholic/Protestant debate, although I'll probably regret it. I was raised Protestant (weakly) and converted to Catholicism in grad school. To me, the big difference--the only thing I considered significant--was in the doctrine regarding works vs. faith as a means to salvation. The Catholic church now teaches (and this is a change from what they taught for many centuries) that you don't have to be a Catholic or even a Christian to be saved. If you live by your conscience, you can be saved by the Grace of Christ. Whereas in the Protestant church, you are saved by the Grace of Christ if you believe in Christ as Savior. According to protestant doctrine as I was taught it, salvation is instantaneous once you believe in Christ, and permanent because Christ "will never desert you". Salvation is neither instantaneous nor permanent in Catholicism; it's a lifelong pursuit.

#276 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 03:30 PM:

Teresa, I think a nun with a tommy gun and Groucho Marx mustache-and-glasses is a wonderful costume, especially if she's one of the Forces of Habit! (But, yes, the veil and wimple are Not For Use While Driving. I have trouble with a simple jacket hood getting in the way.)

#277 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 03:31 PM:

I forgot the main point: so where do the "Anglo-Catholics" come down on this?

#278 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 03:34 PM:

"AC Parishes in the US would include: St. Paul's, K Street in Washington"

One wonders what the leader of that particular congregation thinks of the K Street Project. "We were here first?"

#279 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 03:59 PM:

mary:

AC doctrine, here as in most places, is basically equivalent to the Roman one -- i.e. there is a belief in imparted rather than imputed grace, and the mechanisms of salvation are basically the same. Works are accepted as part of the process of sanctification after baptism (and the modern Roman view regarding the possibility of salvation outside the visible bounds of the Church would be generally accepted).

Note that where Rome has a single centre of magisterial teaching, AC's don't -- the Anglican churches generally aren't confessional churches, and Anglo-Catholicism is a party within the churches with a somewhat blurry border -- so there's always some spread (it's possible to find AC's who are more Eastern in flavour and are more likely to talk about theosis, for example).

#280 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Ayse Sercan: Quakers (as well as the aforementioned Jehovah's Witnesses mentioned above) don't use the cross. The nature of the doctrine (though they agrue they have none) is actually against that sort of focus on the suffering.

One could argue they aren't really Christian (certainly one need not be a Christian to attend a Meeting, and I know a couple of Jews who are also Members of a Meeting) but they are still thought of as such by most, and would, if pressed, probably self describe (at least as a group) as Christian.

#281 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 04:32 PM:

James, thank you.

#282 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 05:11 PM:

candle: Oops, you're right, of course. I forgot about that. 1400 years, then.

And you're welcome...am I really first to point that out? Seems unlikely, somehow...

mary: that's fascinating! About Catholic doctrine of salvation for non-Christians, I mean. I've heard that preached in the Episcopal church where I sing in the choir; in fact the rector there has told me that as far as he's concerned the Holy Spirit could be working through me, and I wouldn't necessarily even know it; but good on me if it does. (This is different from the Pagan belief that a god do good through a person who is TRYING to do evil; the person so used gets no credit for it, believe me!) He also believes that repentance is a good thing, but not a prerequisite for salvation.

Now I know a fair amount about Christianity; I would venture to say I know more than most Christians at this point. Certainly I know more than most Christians know about Paganism. But that startled me quite a bit. Your information is also eye-opening.

I've often thought that if I had encountered Christians like these back when I was a seeker (instead of the "accept Jesus as your Savior and turn your life over to Him, that is to say us, forever or you'll burn in everlasting torment" types I did encounter, my spiritual journey might have ended up in a very different place.

But then I wouldn't have had a really kick-ass coven for 21 years. Which would be too bad.

#283 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 05:18 PM:

One other thing that catholicism has is Purgatory. Which I understand isn't a concept that was there at the beginning.

#284 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Xopher --wow, I just realized that Xopher is to Christopher as Xmas is to Christmas-- you said: "if I had encountered Christians like these..." I don't know whether you were refering to me or not, but my conversion to Catholicism was many years ago, and just one step on a long road to agnosticism.

#285 ::: bonniers ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 06:02 PM:

The Lutheran cross is a cross with the middle part of the Luther Rose plonked on. I don't think it's an official church thing. (Note: I'm not Missouri Synod, but they have a better page on this than ELCA does.)

Oh, that thing! That's not a cross, it's a seal or a sigil or something. I mean, it's got a cross in it, but to call the whole thing a "Lutheran cross" is...geez.

One big difference between Catholic belief and Lutheran is the number of sacraments. Lutherans have only two: baptism and communion.

I'm a bit rusty on the other parts, having more or less parted company with organized religion several years ago, mainly over the issue of why if homosexuals aren't evil, they aren't allowed to have a life...

#286 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 07:04 PM:

hamletta - Thanks for your link to the 'Luther Rose'. I think the Missouri Synod added that that since I’ve set foot in a Lutheran Church. Ours had a very small "INRI" plaque, which, as a boy, I naturally assumed was a microphone. (Well, the pastor turns and addresses it with his prayers... it seemed a reasonable assumption at the time....)

In looking up the various styles, I stumbled across this nice page with recognition silhouettes for
FORTY different styles of Christian crosses
.

#287 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 07:15 PM:

Adrian Bedford - (btw, thank you for sharing your experience.) You had said of Rawls that you first thought "no, he's just fanatically wrong and overly paranoid". Which is what I thought, at first - that it was possible to interpret Rawls as someone simply being pigheadedly obstinate. That was possible: until somebody found this little gem, and brought it over to the comment thread at Tboggs:

Rawls: "He (Paul Murdoch, the winning designer) might have gotten away with it. But we cannot let him get away with it now. Paul Murdoch's Flight 93 memorial, both originally and in its barely modified incarnation, is not just a bit of P.C. openness to Islamic symbolism. It is an explicit and thorough-going shrine to the terrorists. Murdoch is an Islamo-fascist. He is one of the enemy, trying to plant an Islamo-fascist memorial on the graves of our murdered heroes. No other explanation is possible. Please help stop this evil."

And Rawls added this comment to the Tbogg thread: As for whether rotating the whole structure 90 degrees would make it acceptable, not at this point. Once the terrorist-memorial is discovered, obviously no remnant of it can be allowed to remain, because that is a remnant of a terrorist memorial.

Which altered my perception of what we’re dealing with. And made me cautious about flaming Rawls too much.

I think Teresa nailed it: this little adventure - demented as it is - has been the biggest thing that’s ever happened to Rawls, and he simply cannot climb down.

#288 ::: J Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 08:08 PM:

Hi Bob,

The Missouri Synod has always used the Luther Rose / Luther Seal, and it's even found in the original 1847 seal of the synod when the LCMS was originally formed. Both of those are also on the link you gave.

Of course, the Luther Rose / Luther Seal is used by all Lutheran church bodies, including the LCMS, WELS, ELS, ELCA (which is officially Episcopal / Anglican now instead of Lutheran), and bunches more of smaller Lutheran church bodies that I can't recall offhand.

Also, thanks for linking to my church's website! If anyone knows of more resources I should dig up and put on the page, please let me know. :) I'm trying to find more crosses to add.

#289 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 08:15 PM:

James: As a lapsed Anglican (broad church), I had operated under the assumption that the C of E and the Episcopal Church in America were in full communion, with the Episcopalians as the Anglican Communion in America. I was struck dumb one day, when I noticed a church in Atlanta with a sign proclaiming it to be Anglican. Could you explain?

#290 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 10:13 PM:

Fragano:

The church in Atlanta was almost certainly either a church in one of the various groups (suach as ACNA) which broke away from the Episcopal Church in the 1980's over the issue of women's orders (which tend overwhelmingly to be High/Anglo-Catholic in orientation) or (more likely) to be one of the newer congregations which are in the process of breaking away and putting themselves under the authority of various African bishops over the Gene Robinson / same-sex blessings issue (which tend overwhelmingly to be Low/Evangelical in orientation). We haven't had as much in the way of fission up here in Canada, at either time.

The former set of schismatic churches really were focussed on the single issue. The latter set are, by my reading, reacting to a whole set of issues in the general trend in the Episcopal Church (and other Anglican churches) towards more Catholic practice and theology as well as more "liberal" theology, and really want the whole Anglican Communion to be like them, as regards at least biblical hermeneutics and the theology of grace, and (usually) with regard to a more BCP-ish liturgy.

For more background than you want to the current troubles, you can google "Windsor Report".

#291 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 11:27 PM:

TNH writes: "I'm a peaceable old lady."

I will violently disagree with one third of that, and strongly debate another third. The remaining third is a toss-up, depending on the day of the week.

#292 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2006, 11:34 PM:

J Hansen: Where do you get the idea that ELCA is now Episcopal and not Lutheran. [...ELCA (which is officially Episcopal/Anglican now instead of Lutheran),...] I'm just surprised by your statement.

At the Christmas service I attended this year at St. Peter's Lutheran the pastor mentioned being in "full communion" with the Episcopal Church. According an ELCA website, they are in full communion with the Episcopal Church since 1999/2000; but I didn't get the feeling that they meant they were merging. (I haven't been an active Lutheran in many years but I was around during the Seminex crisis and the breaking away from the Missouri Synod of many churches before the "liberal" branches merged to form ELCA.) See the following page for information on communion with Episcopal churchs.

http://www.elca.org/ecumenical/fullcommunion/episcopal/

(Thank you T & P Nielsen Hayden for hosting a place were we get the chance to explore some intriguing tangents.)

#293 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 12:47 AM:

Me, I'm far more worried by the fascist symbols in Washington Square Park.

Fascist symbols?

I mean, I'm not a little squicked by teenagers playing ultimate frisbee on a slave graveyard, but I never caught the fascist symbols.

The nazi eagles on the flagpoles at Flushing Meadow Park are pretty damn disturbing, jmo.

#294 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 01:17 AM:

Teresa wrote:
"2. Nun. Yes. I did. Benedictine, plus a Groucho nose-and-glasses, which adds up to a surprisingly effective disguise. I stood next to Patrick Hayden for a good twenty minutes and he never once suspected it was me."

Hilde does not remember, at all, the first time she met me, even thugh we spent the better part of an hour in the same room. I do: 1972, and I was visiting Terry Ballard on my first leave home from the Army, and Hilde showed up to meet Terry for the first time. (Terry was the "old man" of Phoenix fandom at the time, and frequently was the point person for people getting into fandom.)

I remember thinking to myself, as I left Terry's, "What a strange woman."

And I was right. (She married me, after all.)

#295 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 01:31 AM:

Regarding Quakers and their non-use of the cross: One could argue they [Quakers] aren't really Christian (certainly one need not be a Christian to attend a Meeting, and I know a couple of Jews who are also Members of a Meeting) but they are still thought of as such by most, and would, if pressed, probably self describe (at least as a group) as Christian.

Interesting. I know very little about Christian sects other than Catholicism (my mother's religion). I married an atheist Quaker, and all the other Quakers I know are either atheist or at the most agnostic, so I sort of assumed they were pretty atheistic (and thus non-Christian, of course) in general, but actually the subject has never come up in conversation before now. He tells me you are right: Quakers are generally Christian.

And all I knew about Jehovah's Witnesses before this thread was to be sure to live outside the parking radius of a kingdom hall if you like to spend your Saturdays digging in the front garden. I don't know if they have a canvassing meeting or a service or just a set time for distributing reading materials on Saturday afternoons, but those people leave church all fired up with the holy spirit and a hundred million pamphlets of some sort, and if they can let some of it out before they get to the car, all the better (holy spirit or pamphlets). I didn't know they didn't use the cross; the ladies who come round here are always wearing one, but maybe that's just a fashion statement or something.

I find all the Protestants/Presbyterians/Anglicans/etc. endlessly confusing, especially when you get to things like Free Methodists and the various Baptists and conferences of 1824 and so forth. I really don't know how people can keep all that in their heads. Maybe it's hard for me because I really just don't care who other people worship or the minute details of how.

#296 ::: J Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 01:53 AM:

Hi Purple,
The ELCA no longer fully accepts Lutheran doctrine anymore, which makes it difficult to regard it as fully Lutheran. Worse is that the ELCA's stance is that the Holy Bible is not the infallible Word of God, and is open to criticism and certain adjustments of possible "errors" in it. Of course, each congregation and pastor are different, and not all in the ELCA share those views.

#297 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 02:13 AM:

Fascist symbols?

I was waiting for someone to take me up on that. It's a long time since I was in Washington Square Park, so I hope I've got the location right, but I think one of the statues or memorials displays the fasces (from which Italian fascism took its name). I'm being wholly unfair, since the US got there first, but the connections are all explained here. Including the surprising information that the fasces appear on the official flag of Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, I'm suspicious about the idea that the Catholic church allows non-Catholics to be saved. Certainly the current Pope reiterated pretty recently that non-Catholic religions are "gravely deficient" when it comes to salvation. Which I think means that salvation is extremely difficult outside the church, and probably in the full sense impossible. If people outside the church can be saved, then there isn't really much need for a church.

I'm also surprised that Protestant churches teach that salvation is guaranteed for anyone who believes (although I know born-again Christians tend to think that). I thought the whole point of salvation by grace was that you didn't know for sure whether or not you would be saved, since God had to be left with something to do. Otherwise mankind can happily go around saving themselves and God becomes entirely unnecessary.

(I know Augustine was troubled by this, but my knowledge of Christian doctrine pretty much ends at the Reformation. I was once a Catholic catechist, but it was a long time ago.)


#298 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 03:04 AM:

From the Episcopalian perspective, one of the important thing about being in "full communion" with ELCA is that Lutheran ministers and bishops are now beginning to be ordained and consecrated by bishops who are in the apostolic succession (in other words, were ordained by someone who was ordained by someone...going all the way back to the 12 apostles, at least theoretically). This is one of the things that has traditionally distinguished the Anglican/Episcopal church from the Protestant denominations (those whose inspiration was drawn from Martin Luther).

#299 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 04:02 AM:

Atheist Quakers? Now I'm really confused.

I know that there is no creed for Quakers, from which it follows that there is no general statement of what they believe. I know that perfectly well, but I must admit that I hadn't extrapolated it to its logical conclusion: that they don't have to believe in God at all. Or anything else either?

#300 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 09:17 AM:

James: Thanks. Since I first saw that church seven years ago, I expect its congregation objected to the ordination of women.

Candle: Doesn't the statue of Garibaldi in Washington Square Park counter the fascist imagery?

#301 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 09:21 AM:

[i]Fascist symbols?
[/i]

I just assumed it was one of the many buildings in NYC built before the 30's which have swastikas on them- Native American symbology, at the time.

My bad.

Someone did a whole superhero short story around that, once. . .

#302 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 09:25 AM:

And here's a couple of links on that:

http://www.observer.com/therealestate/2005/08/red-hook-where-time-really-stands.html

http://www.curbed.com/archives/2005/07/27/the_amity_st_horror.php

A Love Of Monsters, where I first saw the swastikas on buildings, has unfortunately ceased operations. (photo tour of gargoyles in NYC- was around since 1996 or so.)

#303 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 09:34 AM:

Doesn't the statue of Garibaldi in Washington Square Park counter the fascist imagery?

What does the head of Babylon 5's security dept have to do with...? Oh, THAT Garibaldi. Not the one whose bedroom proudly displays a painting of Daffy Duck.

#304 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Sandy B... You might be thinking of Dwight Decker's "Origin Story" in Varley's anthology "Superheroes". There's this very old German who used to turn into a Sun-inspired superhero by uttering a magic word. When he tried to pass on his power to a younger man, the latter decided to skip it after the first try. He didn't think a big swastika on his chest would be a good idea.

#305 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 10:30 AM:

And on a completely different track, since the subject was mentioned above by our esteemed & gracious Hostess (blessings be upon her search for healing), there is going to be a chance of public participation in the Stardust project, if all goes well with retrieving the aerogel this weekend.
(I thought about adding this to the Open Thread, but came here since the kaboom was over here.)

#306 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 10:49 AM:

Looking over all these comments on Christian schismatics, splinter groups, etc. (AKA the One True Religion to believers), I'm struck by the way that even the most "monolithic" religions tend to splinter over time -- probably through a combination of human orneriness, political upheavals, and cultural changes like the Enlightenment, feminism, etc. etc.

Obviously the same thing applies to many religions (or they wouldn't be warring quite the same way in Iraq these days). The middle eastern Big Three all derived from the same OT source -- or so I gather, not being sure where Mohammed branched off.

This is just a random musing on the way faiths and institutions that are millennia-old can also mutate, evolve, and (all too often) have at each other's throats in ways that seem closer to Hobbs than Darwin. Rawls is an extreme example, probably due to his brain chemistry, but any religions that consign their opponents to hell seem (IMHO) to reflect humanity at its worst.

#307 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 11:09 AM:

Faren - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all claim descent from Abraham. The first two claim descent from the near-sacrifice of Isaac; the third from the near-sacrifice of Ishmael, who they point out was the older brother.

#308 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 11:16 AM:

Do living polytheistic religions have any problem co-existing with other religions? I could ask one of my co-workers, who is an actual brahmin, but I'm not sure he'd be offended so I stay away from that subject.

#309 ::: J Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 11:55 AM:

"I'm also surprised that Protestant churches teach that salvation is guaranteed for anyone who believes (although I know born-again Christians tend to think that). I thought the whole point of salvation by grace was that you didn't know for sure whether or not you would be saved, since God had to be left with something to do. Otherwise mankind can happily go around saving themselves and God becomes entirely unnecessary."

It's called FAITH:

Ephesians 2:8-9 -
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
Romans 5:1-3 -
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
John 3:14-18b -
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned.

By grace, the Holy Spirit works through God's Word (Scripture) to give us this faith. Nothing we do gives us this faith, as it's a free gift from God. We do not work for it, we do not make a decision to come to faith, we do not save ourselves or anyone else - thinking otherwise goes against God's Word. Salvation is a free gift from God, and the result here on earth is faith in knowing that Salvation.

Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura...
Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone...

#310 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 12:07 PM:

Meanwhile, I'm suspicious about the idea that the Catholic church allows non-Catholics to be saved.

Candle, I am curently a catechist in my local parish, and let me assure you that yes, the Church teaches that both non-Catholics and non-Christians can be saved. We now assert that God's covenant with the Jews was not "superceded" by Christ, and we no longer pray for the Jews to be converted (as a Jew and a convert, I find this immensely satisfying.) We teach that salvation comes through the Church by virtue of its being Christ's Body; that is, salvation comes through Christ. If He chooses to find ways to save non-Christians, that's basically none of our business -- and we believe emphatically, as St. Paul says, that Christ came for all.

From the Catechism: "those who do not not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart...and try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience -- those too may achieve eternal salvation."

#311 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 12:21 PM:

My fellow Americans (sorry): if you're concerned about fascist symbols, reach into your pocket, take out a dime, and look at the reverse.

#312 ::: J Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 01:03 PM:

I seemed to have not typed out all of John 3:18 in my previous post -

John 3:18 -
Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

John 3:35-36 -
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.

John 14:6 -
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

Acts 4:10-12 -
Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

That catechism is actually anti-Catholic...

#313 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 01:16 PM:

Serge: That might be something to campaign for, a statue of the B5 Garibaldi that is.

#314 ::: Laurel ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 01:24 PM:

Adding to the list of Christians who don't use crosses, the churches of Christ, Scientist (at least the ones in which I was raised) used a small cross and crown on hymnals and textbooks, but no symbols or decoration whatsoever in the sanctuary, except for verses from the Bible or Science and Health in large letters on the walls. It has just occurred to me that policy resembles strongly what I am reading about Islamic places of worship; I wonder if it was instituted for similar reasons?

#315 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 02:05 PM:

"I'm also surprised that Protestant churches teach that salvation is guaranteed for anyone who believes (although I know born-again Christians tend to think that). I thought the whole point of salvation by grace was that you didn't know for sure whether or not you would be saved, since God had to be left with something to do. Otherwise mankind can happily go around saving themselves and God becomes entirely unnecessary."

It seems to be a fuzzy point, really.

On the one hand, J Hansen is right and those I've looked at seem to like playing on the scriptures where faith is what you need to rise.

Also, I've heard it iterated and reiterated that an infinitely merciful God would indeed "save" all who believe in Him, and often remark that same mercy would have him also embrace unbelievers, too, and be infinitely sad that they *choose* not to come back to him. My particular church seems to be one of those full of people who'd rewrite the last line as "Would also embrace those who have taken different paths back to him." However, that isn't even our official church line on the issue of other religions.

On the other hand, at ground level, many people in my church definitely seem to think they have to do things *besides* believe to qualify for Heaven. And the others seem to feel true faith is only expressed by *doing* good works. Very few seem to think just saying "I believe" without other contributions to the betterment of this world, etc., is enough. (From what I understand, that is the line of some churches, most Baptist in particular, though the one Baptist church I can think of here in Winnipeg is also the place with the most impressive record in neighbourhood rehabilitation.)

#316 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 02:20 PM:

Laurel, we're not making a list of religions that don't use the cross in their churches, but religions that specifically reject the cross as a symbol of Christianity. I think there's a difference in there, but maybe it's only obvious to me.

As for catechism and scripture being inter- and intra-contradictory, that's nothing new. They were all written by humans, and then edited heavily but not consistently. I've always figured you had to go for the overall sense of the thing, rather than bog yourself down in things like the laundry tips (clothes made from linen and wool are a bitch to wash) or guidelines for good works (none of the writers seem to be able to decide between having you do them to be saved versus not do them because that is showing off how good you are).

#317 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 02:43 PM:

A good friend of mine has made the rebound from the Catholic church to the United Methodist church and back. Part of his re-conversion was probably due to his attending an ultra-conservative (I think wacko/fascist) Catholic law school on a scholarship. OK - he was the token liberal, one of their best students, and now a bit of a pariah to the school, despite his loyalty, but his re-embrace of the Church of Rome is fierce.

He's now atwitter about the fate of my soul. Since I was baptized as a Catholic, he insists that my only road to salvation is through the Catholic church and no other. He maintains that once you know the true church and the grace of God through it, it becomes the only route to salvation.

So, is this the case in the eyes of the Church? It does seem very Catholic, so I have little reason to doubt his assertions. FWIW, I'm not losing any sleep over it, but my friend's distress does bother me and I'd like to be able to at least put forward a coherent counter-argument that he'd be able to process, if not accept.

#318 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 02:54 PM:

Oh, and peripherally, one of my favorite photographers on flickr has been doing a series on devotional lawn ornaments in Brooklyn. This one features the Virgin Mary observing herself in a Nativity scene. It's a really charming image.

(I'd probably not have even mentioned this if this conversation hadn't gone all iconic...)

#319 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 02:59 PM:

The catechism reflects the Vatican II declaration on the Church pretty directly: "Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life." (see Lumen Gentium for the full text). It can hardly thus be accused of being anti-Catholic: the authority of an Oecumenical Council is about as high as you can go as a statement of Catholic doctrine.

In my experience, throwing around individual proof-texts is close to pointless, since there are loads of texts on the other side of any such argument. (Consider, for a moment, pretty well the entire Epistle of James as a counterpoint to sola fide.) The biggest divide between Catholic and Protestant comes at a prior level -- that of general hermeneutics: from a Catholic perspective, the Church is the source of the scriptures, having established the Canon rather later than, for instance, the sacraments, not vice-versa, and the interpretation of the scriptures is properly guided by the magisterium of the Church (the Eastern Orthodox would say instead, by the Holy Tradition of the Church: it comes to much the same general thing from a very high level: the organs of expression being somewhat different). From that perspective, taking everything into consideration, faith and works are both necesssary (and both the fruits of grace, but that's another matter) and there is no certainty, but only hope, this side of the particular judgement.

However, both Protestants and Catholics would generally agree that "I thought the whole point of salvation by grace was that you didn't know for sure whether or not you would be saved, since God had to be left with something to do" puts the cart before the horse -- grace is necessary, but its action (as "prevenient grace") occurs prior to and as the cause of human response, not as something "left over". Both would also treat the idea that "mankind can happily go around saving themselves" as Pelagian and heretical.

On the Episcopal/Lutheran matter: one of the results of the communion between ELCA and ECUSA (and the equivalent agreement between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Lutheran Church here) is that in areas where there are limited resources on one side or the other there may be joint congregations, or congregations of two types in one location sharing the resources of a single priest. This would be the exception, but it does involve a little bit of merging along the edges.

#320 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Larry:

Your friend is technically correct (although the issue has to do not with baptism per se but with baptism and knowledge of the teachings of the Church). It's one thing not to know or to fully understand the teachings of the Church, or the importance of learning and knowing them (in which case, in the old days, they would have said that you could be saved through "invincible ignorance": the terminology is different these days, but it comes to the same thing); it's another thing to know and understand them and to have rejected them.

Thus a great deal would turn on when you lapsed, under what circumstances, and with what understanding of the Church's teaching. Similarly, from the Roman point of view I'm at considerable risk, since I know and understand (and accept the majority of) the Roman claims quite well but stand outside explicit communion with the See of Peter as an Anglican.

#321 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 04:18 PM:

Dear Larry: tell your anxious friend to relax, for his sake, your sake, and God's sake. God is a whole lot bigger than anything we (including the Magisterium, the Pope, Tradition, the Church Fathers, all of them together) say about him, and any time human beings claim ANYTHING that appears to limit God's love and infinite compassion for us -- it's our limited human perceptions at work, not God. Again from the Catechism, "God transcends all creatures. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God...concerning God, we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not..." Remember what Joan of Arc said when the inquisitors asked her if she was in a state of grace? She said (only in French): If I am not, may God put me there, and if I am, may God keep me there.

As any parish priest would tell you, Catholics leave the church all the time -- I was gone for over 30 years -- and rarely is it under circumstances in which one says, "I believe this to be right and true and I reject it anyway." People leave for what seem to them at the time to be good reasons, and God, as far as we can tell, gives us the freedom to follow the good, as long as our "intentions" (lovely Catholic word!) are genuine and honest, and not wholly self-serving and malicious. C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, explains it thusly: "He [God] often makes prizes of humans who have given their lives for causes he thinks bad on the...grounds that the humans thought them good and were following the best they knew."

Julian of Norwich: All will be well, and all will be, and all manner of things will be well, from the purification of the motive in the ground of our beseeching.

And you might tell your friend to read Ratzinger -- Benedict XVI, our present Pope. In an interview in Salt of the Earth (Ignatius Press, 1997, Page 32) he was asked by Peter Seewald, How many ways are there to God? His response was: As many as there are people. He didn't say, nor does he mean, as many as there are Catholics.

Good enough for me.

#322 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 05:50 PM:

There are evidently people here who know a lot more about contemporary Catholicism (and the New Testament) than I do, so I'm not about to quarrel with any of them. Thanks for giving me some stuff to work with (especially to J Hansen, Lizzy L, and James). And thanks for being polite in the face of my general puzzlement.

My understanding, anyway - and really it is only a gloss on the things that have been quoted and said - is that the Catholic church at least tends to follow Augustine in being very careful not to guarantee salvation (or damnation) to anyone in advance. No-one, not even the Pope, is sure to be saved; and no-one is sure not to be. This was Augustine's doctrine of grace, as I understand it. The standard text for this is here. It may be relevant here that Ratzinger is an Augustine scholar, among other things.

What I meant about there being no point in having a God is that you can't have a God and then decide in advance who is saved and who isn't. Once you start holding God to a contract you start limiting his freedom, which is obviously not legitimate. So (Augustine would say): nobody is saved by works, or by faith, or by belonging to a particular church. Everyone who is saved is saved by God deciding to save them.

Of course, most churches tend to argue that there are things you can do which will encourage God to be nice to you. Very strict Calvinists might disagree, though: they presumably think that this and everything else is decided in advance and that free will is irrelevant to salvation. This I think is to misunderstand Augustine, who thinks people have free will except when it comes to being saved or not. So the good news is, you cannot reject God. The bad news is that nobody is safe.

Did I mention that I am an atheist, by the way?

#323 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 06:53 PM:

Hi candle--you've said a couple of things I'd like to respond to, although James obviously is very much more informed than I am about all this, so if he says I'm wrong, I'm wrong. :)

You said: Certainly the current Pope reiterated pretty recently that non-Catholic religions are "gravely deficient" when it comes to salvation.

Don't expect the pope to get up in front of the great unwashed masses and say "Not to worry." Especially this pope.

And you also said: Once you start holding God to a contract you start limiting his freedom, which is obviously not legitimate.

It's my impression that this is a key point: in Catholic doctrine, God's hands are not tied. In contrast, my introduction to Protestant doctrine (as a child I was occasionally taken to Protestant churches, but I doodled on the programs during the services) was a brief membership in Campus Crusade for Christ when I was nineteen. Their doctrine borders on fundamentalism. We were taught, among other things, that God was "Bound by His Promise" to answer our prayers if we prayed in Jesus' name. They taught us that God absolutely answered all prayers if we asked in Jesus name. They quoted scripture (which is always quoted out of context): "Whatsoever ye ask..." We just had to pray, and then "trust God" to answer the prayer. Except that even among our small group, there were constant examples of unanswered prayer: a lost scholarship, a rejection letter, blah blah blah. The rationalization was always the same: it wasn't part of God's Plan. So, God was bound by His Promise to answer our prayers, except not.

That wasn't all: we were also warned about the "pride of the intellect" and told that Satan planted doubt in our minds. We were supposed to be trusting children of Jesus and not ask questions.

I lasted less than six months. I turned vehemently against Protestantism, and began taking instruction in Catholicism.

#324 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 06:55 PM:

Candle, you did mention you were an atheist. And I think you have parsed Augustine very well.

The good news, I think, is that God rejects no one :-)

My own inclination is toward universalism; God finds a way to save everyone. I rather think that's what Purgatory is for. And no, that's not what the catechism says...

#325 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 07:13 PM:

We just had to pray, and then "trust God" to answer the prayer.

I 'throw it in God's lap'. I get an answer of a sort, but there is no guarantee that it's the answer I wanted.

But yes, the more fundamentalist/evangelical groups do take a lot of stuff out of context. (It isn't really a Protestant thing, generally: the more mainline a church is, the less it's likely to do this.)

#326 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 07:15 PM:

Lizzy: I was under the impression that universalism has been considered heretical by the Catholic church for the past 900 years or so (though, if my memory of Helen Waddell's The Wandering Scholars has not failed, it was actual Catholic doctrine for a couple of centuries).

#327 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 07:38 PM:

Fragano, the Church certainly believes in hell, and it also asserts that human beings have the freedom to make choices "for ever, with no turning back." However, "although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God." I have great faith in God's mercy. How He chooses to exercise it I would not presume to state. As I understand sin, constant, repeated, chosen, deliberate human sin warps the inner life of a human being to the point where he or she is simply incapable of entering into a relationship with the divine. But we do know that God forgives and forgives and forgives, eternally, and "Nothing is impossible with God."

Mary, I don't know much about Protestant doctrine, but don't some Protestants teach that God's answer to our prayers is (sometimes) silence, and that the "failure" to get what you want IS an answer? Just askin'.

#329 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 07:52 PM:

Oh, and I ducked your comment/question about whether the church considers universalism to be heresy because, obviously, I don't know, I'd have to look it up, and it didn't seem relevant to what I actually meant. (Am I making any sense here?)

#330 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 08:06 PM:

Lizzy: You are making sense. Universalism became Catholic doctrine for a couple of centuries because in the 9th century a monk named Gottschalk came up with predestination to damnation as well as to grace; to refute this, the Church called in the only serious philosopher in western Europe, John Scotus Eriugena. In refuting Gottschalk, Eriugena, if I recall Waddell's words correctly 'also refuted sin and hell'. That is to say, he took the position that divine grace was so generous, and God so loving, that all would come to salvation. Waddell points out that it took the Church two centuries to realize what the implications of Eriugena's thesis were.

#331 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 08:35 PM:

Lizzy: yes, I know now that the teachings of Campus Crusade in re prayer are *not* the teachings of all protestant churches, by a long shot.

#332 ::: bonniers ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 08:53 PM:

re: the Episcopal/Lutheran thing and full communion

The issue with Lutherans and anybody else is that Lutherans practice "close communion." They believe that it is possible to partake of Holy Communion in a way that would cause you to be damned for your action (there's a verse in Paul that refers to "eating and drinking to your own damnation," or some such wording), so they don't allow just anybody to receive it. If you're a guest at a Lutheran church, you need to talk to the pastor or an elder ahead of time to establish that you know what you're doing.

Being in "full communion" with another church means that the synod that issues that declaration feels comfortable that the other church takes adequate precautions to guarantee nobody falls into accidental damnation. It sometimes involves other doctrinal issues as well. It would mean that the churches could share pastors, facilities, etc. though that wouldn't be the main point.

I'm not familiar with the particulars of the ECSA/Episcopalian agreement to know if there are further agreements between them. The close communion issue is almost always the big one.

#333 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 09:49 PM:

You know, this is the only place I know where "topic drift" takes the tone of the conversttion UP.

This conversation started out a couple of days ago discussing some bizarre piece of wingnuttery.

Thanks again to our hosts.

#334 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 10:02 PM:

candle:

The Catholic Church in the West is semi-Augustinian on matters regarding predestination, following the Council of Orange: by that it is meant that the implications of predestination to damnation wghich can be found in Augustine and expanded (as they were by Calvin) are rejected, with the emphasis being placed on God's prevenient grace being available, in principle. for all. But by and large, the Augustinianism you have sketched out would be orthodox belief in the West. (The East, of course, is not particularly Augustinian at all: At present the interest of the current Pope and his predecessor in reuinion of West and East has meant a good deal more openness to Eastern modes of expressing the mechanisms and constraints on salvation/theosis. The Augustinian tradition is still the normative one at Rome, though.)

Re universalism: the variant of universalism which insists that everyone will be saved is heretical (it was one of the views for which Origen, for instance, was held suspect). The variant which holds that it is possible that all may be saved is orthodox: "God requires that we allow for the existence of hell, but forbids us to assert the presence of any particular human in it".

"As I understand sin, constant, repeated, chosen, deliberate human sin warps the inner life of a human being to the point where he or she is simply incapable of entering into a relationship with the divine." Yes: mortal sin. I believe it was Catherine of Siena who said that the flames of Hell, the purifying fires of Purgatory, and the light of Heaven are the same thing -- the unmediated presence of God -- but perceived according to the capacity and/or need of those who experience it; and the damned ultimately reject any Other than themselves.

The distrust of the intellect mentioned in association with the Campus Crusade is characteristic of a wide swathe of Calvinist or Calvinist-descended groups (consider Karl Barth, for example): it stems from a belief that all human capacities have been so affected by original sin that they are utterly untrustworthy and have no health at all in them. The Catholic position, of nature as wounded but retaining some of its original goodness, allows for natural theology, as well as the possibility of such things as Tolkienian sub-creation as a good.

#335 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 10:33 PM:

James, thank you! I have never quite understood the Calvinist position on original sin that you so lucidly explained.

And, yes, of course, in my very-own-personal-non-canonical description of sin, I should have said, mortal sin, that is, a sin entered into with "full knowledge" that this is an act of grave wrongdoing, and with "full consent" of the will of the doer.

My own particular form of universalism does not insist that everyone WILL be saved -- I only hope.

I wonder what Alec Rawls would make of this conversation. I must confess, I have not had the gumption to look at his website, and have instead depended on the comments of others to describe his obsession, though I did read the TBogg thread even as it was generating, with both astonishment and hilarity. I incline to agree with Teresa: he's not clinically wacko, he just doesn't know how to let go of the topic, and all this attention, even the negative stuff, is kind of empowering in a weird way...

#336 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 11:31 PM:

I think I'd better duck out of this conversation, especially as I've started repeating myself. Let me just add that the repeated references to being an atheist weren't meant as boasting, but as a way of making clear that I'm not fully engaged with any of these beliefs, and so (a) may be getting them wrong and (b) am not going to take offence if people disagree with me. Or, as with James, demonstrate that they know exactly what I am talking about and in much greater depth and detail. Thanks, I'm learning a lot.

mary: Yes, my understanding of Christianity pretty much begins and ends with the Catholic church. I don't like the idea that God can be compelled to do anything, but I do like the way people have been presenting versions of the belief here. What it does, of course, is make me believe in people.

The same goes for Lizzy and others. I'm delighted to be able to have a conversation about religion in which everyone comes off as reasonable. One of the perks of my job is that I get to do this at conferences, but it's always a risk on the internet. Another great thing about Making Light. (Thanks TNH and PNH.)

James: You've seen, of course, that I know very little indeed about the Eastern Orthodox churches. And I very much like this: "God requires that we allow for the existence of hell, but forbids us to assert the presence of any particular human in it".

Yes, I dread to think what Alec Rawls would make of a thread like this. Seeing as nobody appears to be claiming absolute knowledge and possession of the truth, can we be sure he would even understand it?

#337 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2006, 11:33 PM:

"God requires that we allow for the existence of hell, but forbids us to assert the presence of any particular human in it".
In my time in training to be a Marist Brother in Sydney in the 1970s, our lecturer in Catechetics used almost exactly those words. Where he differed was to say "but the Church does not require me to believe that any human is in it." This one sentence goes a long way to explaining my abiding affection for Catholicism, atheist though I now am.

#338 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 01:17 AM:

What a lot of fundies miss is that God does answer prayers. They seem to miss the point that "yes" is not the only answer.

#339 ::: J Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 01:54 AM:

What I meant about there being no point in having a God is that you can't have a God and then decide in advance who is saved and who isn't. Once you start holding God to a contract you start limiting his freedom, which is obviously not legitimate.

The Christian holds God to His Word, the Bible. God does not break His Word, nor does He go against what He has said. Believing otherwise calls God a liar, and is blasphemy. God is capable of all things, but He never breaks a promise. This is reassuring, as God has promised eternal life to all who believes in what He has done through Christ Jesus to atone for our sins.

God has planned everything out in advance. This is part of His omniscient quality. Can we put a limit on God's knowledge, including knowledge of the future? He knew exactly who would be saved, even before the world was created. He doesn't conform to our concept of time - He actually created that, too. He knows all. Even all of our good works (which don't save us, but are fruits we all bear after coming to faith through His grace) have been all planned out for us before the beginning of time, as Ephesians 2:10 clearly states.

Thank you to our host for this wonderful discussion! I'm valuing everyone's participation!

#340 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 02:51 AM:

J Hansen: The Christian holds God to His Word, the Bible. God does not break His Word, nor does He go against what He has said. And... God has planned everything out in advance... He knew exactly who would be saved...

I cannot imagine a God that I could hold to anything, because I cannot believe that I could fathom his word. The history of the Bible is the history of men, tweaking meaning and losing things in translation. I also cannot reconcile omniscience with free will. If all was pre-determined, why bother except out of some need to enjoy the show - surely something that would be above God.

I'm an agnostic bordering on atheist, but I guess I'm still enough of a Catholic to believe in free will, good works and the impenetrability of the divine (if it exists). The whole Calvinist thing leaves me at a loss except as a means to explain a lot of our culture's tendency to blame people for their own circumstances, which they are often not at all responsible for.

#341 ::: J Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 03:42 AM:

If all things are not predetermined by God, is God not powerful enough to know what will happen? Is He not powerful enough to control what He has created? Has he lost control of His creation?

None of us can truly fathom God's Word. God lets us know what we need to know, which is His grace and plan of Salvation.

Is the Bible man's word? 2 Timothy chapter 3 tells us otherwise. We have the entire New Testament in its purity, as it has been checked against the Greek manuscripts and scrolls. Nothing has been lost or tweaked. We have Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the Old Testament from a couple hundred years B.C. (except the book of Esther) that were preserved by the unique climate of the Middle East, and those have been checked against the Bible to show that nothing has been lost or tweaked during the past 2200 years or so. Granted, there are a couple of the Old Testament books that are difficult to translate due to the writing style used, Job being one of them, but that book certainly couldn't be dismissed or thrown out.

I did actually use a poor choice of wording, which I apologize for. Who are we to hold God to anything? It's God alone that holds Himself to His Word - He never breaks a covenant He has made. This point is made so many times in the Bible that it's one thing that all Christians can agree on.

#342 ::: J Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 04:08 AM:

The whole Calvinist thing leaves me at a loss except as a means to explain a lot of our culture's tendency to blame people for their own circumstances, which they are often not at all responsible for.

I'm not a fan of some of the Calvinist stuff. I'm actually Lutheran, but I know that the Book of Concord isn't the Divinely-inspired, infallible Word of God that the Bible is. The Book of Concord does explain things quite well, using Scripture supporting Scripture, and does not take Scripture out of context in trying to make a point.

If anyone would like a Lutheran perspective of why bad things happen in the world, how they can be blessings, and why we need not blame people for our circumstances, feel free to read the article "Why Do We Suffer?" It's loaded with Scripture, and should be comforting to people. It was written by a three-time cancer survivor who found solace, purpose, and blessing through affliction.

#343 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 04:22 AM:

"Has he lost control of His creation?"
My impression in respect of this is that quite a few people's ideas are, with free will 'n' all such, that God* doesn't "control" creation like a puppeteer.

Of course, I realise that there is quite a lot of disagreement in this area, and pretend to far less knowledge than many others here in the religio-theological area.

*Granting for the sake of this argument such a being's existence, & in one of the standard Christian forms.

#344 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 06:20 AM:

candle, being a fellow atheist, would you be interested in knowing that Fox, of all places, has a show whose main character is such a person? Check Hugh Laurie (yes, THAT Hugh Laurie) in House. I was shocked when they actually had him outright say that this is the only life there is, that it is not a test on the way to something else - or words to that effect. Of course his character isn't shown as being particularly happy.

#345 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 07:14 AM:

Larry:
Oh, and peripherally, one of my favorite photographers on flickr has been doing a series on devotional lawn ornaments in Brooklyn. This one features the Virgin Mary observing herself in a Nativity scene. It's a really charming image.

It appears to me that the VM in the bushes is stalking the other VM*, rather than observing...

* Wouldn't "The Other Virgin Mary" be a cool name for a band?

#346 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 07:26 AM:

Anybody been watching new TV show "the book of Daniel"? It's pretty much run-of-the-mill except that, every time Aidan Quinn's character of an Episcopalian priest takes those painkillers he's addicted to (especially after dealing with the mob over the money his own bro stole from Quinn's Church), Jesus pops in and gently takes him to task.

#347 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 07:33 AM:

I realise that there's no point in this, but it's impossible to let a statement like: "We have the entire New Testament in its purity, as it has been checked against the Greek manuscripts and scrolls. Nothing has been lost or tweaked" pass unchallenged.

On the contrary: there is excellent evidence that practically everything in the New Testament has been "tweaked", and that also applies to every other source that early Christians could reach. There is hardly a single sentence in the whole New Testament for which multiple variant readings do not exist in the oldest witnesses available, and this ignores the perplexing problems of translation, once a selection of the readings has been made. We have a reasonable consensus as to what most of it means, but no more, and there is nothing like the certainty that J Hansen thinks.

#348 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 09:51 AM:

Is the Bible man's word? 2 Timothy chapter 3 tells us otherwise. We have the entire New Testament in its purity, as it has been checked against the Greek manuscripts and scrolls. Nothing has been lost or tweaked.

The New Testament was "tweaked" continuously during the centuries when it was copied by hand. During the earliest centuries it was copied by literate congregants, later by scribes. Scribes both added and subtracted. (One example: the "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone" story was added by a scribe; it does not appear in the earliest texts.) When we buy a book today we expect it to be an exact duplicate of all other copies, but when books were hand-copied this standard just did not hold.

I recommend two books:
Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard E. Friedman, a Harvard-educated Biblical scholar who teaches at UC San Diego. This book covers the Old Testament only. Please, just read the first few pages and you'll realize this man, who does all his own translations from the oldest extant texts, knows his stuff.

Then read Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart Ehrman, chair of the Religious Studies dept at UNC (I think).

I've read the book by Friedman; I couldn't put it down. I'd recommend reading it first. I confess I haven't read the book by Ehrman, but I heard him interviewed and have ordered the book. These men have both devoted their lives to the study of the Bible; they're not trying to shoot it down. They revere it. Ehrman started life as an Episcopalian, was a fundamentalist Christian for a while, and is now an agnostic. I don't know about Friedman's own beliefs, somewhere on the Jewish spectrum, I'd guess.

I recommend these to anyone, no matter what your beliefs. I'm warning you though, these books are likely to make an agnostic out of you. If you don't think so, take the challenge.

#349 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 11:07 AM:

"Follow the gourd of Brian."
"No! Follow the sandal of Brian!"

#350 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 12:28 PM:

Mary - I'd also recommend Karen Armstrong's A History of God and The Battle For God. (I also recommend her Buddha in the Penguin Lives series, but that's OT here.)

When I was finishing my undergrad degree at Fordham (a Jesuit university), there was a theology requirement, so I took a class called Reading Sacred Texts, whose main theme was interpreting and deconstructing the texts for meaning, with a large focus on their historical origins.

Imagine my surprise when the professor (a United Methodist minister with a scary resemblence to the Frugal Gourmet) applied the same historical rigor to the New Testament as he did to, say, the Bhagavad Gita.

This was enough to make me run out and buy an Oxford Annotated Bible which explicitly calls out most of the points of contention over translation and origin. Imagine, a whole edition of the bible dedicated to pointing out controversies and inconsistency. Wow.

#351 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 01:23 PM:

Hi Larry--

I envy your having had a theology requirement in college; I wish I had. My son is majoring in Religious Studies at UVA [actually he's a double major, also majoring in Mandarin. Sorry--can't help it--Proud Mom syndrome.] What little he's imparted to me has made me realize how little my own reading has taught me. Oh yes! They study the Bible just as they study the Bhagavad Gita: without prejudice either for or against. You should hear me trying to explain to people that my son is a Religious Studies major and it's made an atheist out of him.

#352 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 01:38 PM:

I loved A History of God. I heard an interview with Erhman which interested me very much and I will probably read his book. I didn't know about the Friedman book, thank you for the recommendation.

Catholics generally (obviously, I can't speak for everyone) are not biblical literalists. The Church believes that the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, but written by human beings, and therefore sometimes difficult to understand, poetic rather than historical, and even obscure. Again from the Catechism: "In order to discover the sacred authors' intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current." The Church also believes that it is important to distinguish between the literal and the "spiritual sense" of scripture, which may be further subdivided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses. Having the benefit of nearly 2000 years of study, the Church looks at the Bible through the lens, as it were, of Church Tradition: and the very variety and richness of that tradition tends to counter the literalist point of view. The Church also believes that the Holy Spirit continues to speak to and through the Church, and sometimes, in listening to the Holy Spirit, the Church reformulates its way of looking at Scripture so as to cause a veritable doctrinal revolution.

To give one modern example: the thirty year olds next to me in the pew have no memory of what was once an ever-present mutter of contempt and distrust of Jews. [And my parish is not in some liberal enclave. It's a multi-ethnic, blue collar, working-class, California small town parish.] They hear, over and over,from the pulpit, "Jesus was a Jew." They don't even know how big a change this is. My church has many flaws -- we are a struggling, sinful, pilgrim people -- but one of its strengths, believe it or not, is that it can change, and does. [Slowly, oh so slowly, like an ocean liner turning...] It could not change, I think, if it were locked into a tradition in which all the stories of the Bible had to be taken literally, and the meaning, once explained, was fixed.

#353 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 03:32 PM:

Oh, I can't leave this alone. Sorry. And thanks for the recommendation, Serge: I've been meaning to watch House but never find the time. On the other hand, being English I've never had much trouble finding positive portrayals of atheism. But I've never really worried about it: it just makes sense to me.

It's God alone that holds Himself to His Word - He never breaks a covenant He has made.

That's true enough - and I hadn't thought of it that way. But it does rather fall foul of None of us can truly fathom God's Word. I know the promise of eternal life is made consistently throughout the New Testament, but it isn't always made as clear as later churches and theologians would like. And of course, as we've found, we then get into the thorny issue of biblical interpretation.

As for the "purity" of the New Testament, I just don't know what that would mean. The contents of the Old and New Testaments varied enormously in the first few centuries after Christ - and I've pointed people to the Nag Hammadi codices before - and the current line-up is the result of a lot of arguing within what became the Catholic church. Relying on the Bible as a unique entity is implicitly to rely on the decisions of the early Church Fathers. That may not be a bad thing, but I can't see that the collection itself has an innate authority.

Incidentally, I think it has been translated pretty well (especially by the King James Bible); and the texts we have pretty much correspond to the texts we had in the second century AD. But of course, texts need interpretation.

Anyway, to add to the list of books, James Barr in (I think) Fundamentalism provides a very interesting reading of the passage of II Timothy which J Hansen brought up. I recommend it: Barr writes very well, is a sensitive reader, and is very well informed indeed.

Meanwhile, the difficulty I have with Calvinism is simply the words *in advance*. The idea that God knows what you *will do* is usually taken to be a denial of free will. But of course, since (as J Hansen said) He doesn't conform to our concept of time, this is the same as saying that God knows everything you *have done*. And that leaves plenty of space for free will. It only shows how misleading words can be.

these books are likely to make an agnostic out of you

I hope that isn't true. I'd have hoped that reasonable discussion leads to reasonable belief - and I don't think that's an oxymoron. But as I say, this is a very low-stakes game for me.

#354 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 04:51 PM:

I wrote: these books are likely to make an agnostic out of you

Candle responded: I hope that isn't true. I'd have hoped that reasonable discussion leads to reasonable belief -

I don't see agnosticism as a negative thing--I just see it as an aknowledgment that we can't claim to know "The Truth".

Lizzy-- when you wrote My church has many flaws -- we are a struggling, sinful, pilgrim people -- but one of its strengths, believe it or not, is that it can change, and does. [Slowly, oh so slowly, like an ocean liner turning...] It could not change, I think, if it were locked into a tradition in which all the stories of the Bible had to be taken literally, and the meaning, once explained, was fixed.

you expressed my feelings toward the church perfectly. This is why, even though I'm agnostic, I still consider the Catholic church to be "my" church. It's why I raised my son Catholic, too.

#355 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 06:05 PM:

I have to come down somewhere in the middle on biblical variations: there are a great many variants in both Old and New Testaments, but very few if any of them have a definitve effect on doctrine. Also the degree of scribal variation in any one stage of transmission is much less than in the transmission of most non-biblical texts. Anyone not interested in detail can skip the next few paragraphs.

There are a few blocks which are variable as blocks: the major ones are the I John 5: 7-8, whera a subordinate clause with explicit Trinitarian content is late (but was not a basis for the developed Trinitarian doctrine, rather vice versa); the story of the woman taken in adultery (omitted in many of the early witnesses, and floating as to position in some others: in one case this appears in Luke(!): this would seem to be an early pericope in content, like a few parts of the Agrapha, but it has been inserted into a text which did not originally contain it); the ending of Mark after phobounto gar (the original ending may have been lost or there may have been no earlier continuation: opinions vary; this is basically a compression of Resurrection narratives from the other gospels). However, most variation is minor and grammatical.

I'll take a sample at random: the well-known Lukan passage regarding the shepherds and the nativity (this is a story found only in Luke, which simplifies the comparison because there's no cross-contamination between gospels at the textual level, which accounts for a good chunk of NT variation). The first three variants are typical: a) a different way of providing an "and" connection (de for kai, found in one major codex and the Italian MS tradition); b) a replacement of tei autei "the same" with tautei, "that", also in on Codex and the Italian tradition;; c) replacement of kyriou "lord" by theou "god" in two Latin Codices and part of the Syriac tradition.

For the OT, the issues are somewhat different: the Masoretic text shows relatively minor variation, but there seems to have been rather more variation in the earlier period, witnessed to in many cases by the Septuagint and by some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It's impossible to use Lachmannian textual criticism to establish a single O text for any NT book with full stemmatics (the textual critic's ideal): the most that can be done is to establish the major wtnesses of a limited number of families. For the OT, it may be possible to determine the Masoretic text with a fair degree of confidence, but that begs the question of earlier variation (much as the ability to determine the Alexandrine "edition" of Homer is mute on earlier variation there). This is not, however, an unusual case for older authors: it is equally difficult to reconstruct Virgil's original text of the Aeneid. For purposes of theological discussion, the text can be taken as well-enough established to make it stable: i.e. we have a very good confidence that we're discussing the substance of what was written in the First Century rather than, say, the Fourth (pace, Dan Brown).

Other texts such as the Nag Hammadi gnostic "gospels" or orthodox texts such as the Protevangelium of James are all very detectably later and written in very different contexts. There are a few non-canonical texts which may be as old and which show early acceptance by the Church as a whole (e.g. the Didache, which may antedate in part many books in the New Testament).

There are many books dedicated to dealing with variation or arguments over the biblical texts: I've just been drawing on Aland's Synopsis Quattuor Evangelium, an excellent source on textual variation with all relevant witnesses to the Four Gospels, but unless you read Greek, it's not much help. For an overview of the synoptics and different (modern) schools of interpretation I can recommend Sanders and Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels. The Western Catholic position of the reception and interpretation of the biblical text is set out in the Vatican II Constitution Dei Verbum.

#356 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 06:13 PM:

Oh, and on "these books are likely to make an agnostic out of you": not necessarily, and certainly not if you read enough to get a sense of how much is agreed-on, how much is disputed, and how much is driven by frames that the writers bring to bear beforehand. I suspect an agnostic can easily walk away a (better-informed) agnostic; a Christian can certainly also walk away a better-informed Christian.

But this is one area where Pope's generalized warning applies doubled, redoubled, and in Spades: "A little learning is a dangerous thing:/ Drink deep, or not at all, from the Pierian spring." If you're interested in the matter at all, read several treatments, and ensure that they aren't from the same narrow corner of the field.

#357 ::: J Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 06:59 PM:

To quote Catholic doctrine: The Bible is God's "pure, infallible, and unalterable Word"

To quote the Catechism: Every word in the Bible is God's Word, and therefore the Bible is without error.
It backs that point up with John 17:17, 2 Tim. 3:16, and John 10:35.


The Calvinist free will thing is a bit odd. I did some digging, and found this explanation, taken from the Augsburg Confession:
Of Free Will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2, 14; but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word. These things are said in as many words by Augustine in his Hypognosticon, Book III: We grant that all men have a free will, free, inasmuch as it has the judgment of reason; not that it is thereby capable, without God, either to begin, or, at least, to complete aught in things pertaining to God, but only in works of this life, whether good or evil. "Good" I call those works which spring from the good in nature, such as, willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn divers useful arts, or whatsoever good pertains to this life. For all of these things are not without dependence on the providence of God; yea, of Him and through Him they are and have their being. "Evil" I call such works as willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, etc. They condemn the Pelagians and others, who teach that without the Holy Ghost, by the power of nature alone, we are able to love God above all things; also to do the commandments of God as touching "the substance of the act." For, although nature is able in a manner to do the outward work, (for it is able to keep the hands from theft and murder,) yet it cannot produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, etc.

I did find another bit on free will, but it's even more "wordy" (thorough) than that article.

I agree with Candle that we truly cannot fathom all of God's Word, nor can we even come close to fully understanding God. The book of Job, around chapter 37, makes that perfectly clear. God does let us know what we need to know in His Word. John 20:31 comforts us on this point. It is quite amazing that one can read the Bible and learn so much from it, then read it again and learn even more.

#358 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 07:54 PM:

J Hansen:

The quotation from the cathechism is true as far as it goes. (It follows, by the way, that no source-critical, textual, form-critical, or redaction-critical studies can affect the authority of any part of scripture: if the judgement of the Church led it to be judged part of scripture, it shares in that authority.)

There are qualifications in detail, though. For example, it's the Vulgate text, not the Greek one, which is considered determinative as regards doctrine. Also, interpretation should be according to the nature of the text (see Dei Verbum, from Vatican II: "However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words. To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to 'literary forms.' For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture.") Among other things, this means that if some part of the Bible is not intended to be "history" then it should not be read as history, but rather as its appropriate genre; and that "history" should be read according to the standards of the genre at the time (as shown by e.g. Josephus and Tacitus in interpreting Luke).

#359 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 08:34 PM:

Apropos of nothing much: I was raised in the Episcopal church, and got an A.B. in religion. My first 2 years were at a Baptist liberal arts university, at a time when the Southern Baptist Convention wanted ALL professors at Baptist schools (even, for example, the chemistry and math professors) to sign a statement of belief in the Fundamentals (about as un-Baptist an act as it's possible to imagine).

Joke I learned from one of my religion professors:

Q: What do you call a Baptist who's been to graduate school?
A: An Episcopalian.

#360 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 10:05 PM:

That Catherine of Siena thing was something that came to me independently a little while ago. (Indeed, I'd been thinking about posting it to this thread until I was beaten to it.) I figured somebody else had to have thought of it first.

#361 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 10:33 PM:

Nice post, James. Thank you.

Lila wrote: the Southern Baptist Convention wanted ALL professors at Baptist schools (even, for example, the chemistry and math professors) to sign a statement of belief in the Fundamentals (about as un-Baptist an act as it's possible to imagine).

I'm very ignorant about Baptists and would appreciate being enlightened -- why is signing a statement of belief an "unBaptist" act?

#362 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 11:26 PM:

Baptists, feel free to correct me where I err; this is a backslid Episcopalian talking!

"Liberty of conscience" is a very important concept in Baptist history. American Baptists are, broadly speaking, the descendants of British dissenters who were often ridiculed, fined, imprisoned and so forth for preaching without a license and similar offenses. Baptist congregations are autonomous, and while each individual church may have a statement of belief, these are more analogous to an organization's mission statement than to something like the Athanasian or Nicene Creed. It's not the theology of the creeds that's the problem; it's the notion of being required to subscribe to a human document (this would NOT include the Bible).

Baptists being an independent and therefore diverse lot, there's a diversity of opinion on this point (as exemplified by the struggle mentioned in my earlier post, the upshot of which was that the university told the SBC they could keep their money, thanks, and the SBC backed down). Here's a recent essay on the issue from the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University, which by a strange coincidence (I found it by Googling) happens to be the very university I attended back in the day.

#363 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2006, 11:30 PM:

Thank you, Lila. Very informative.

#364 ::: Dean Gahlon ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2006, 02:33 AM:

re: Lutherans and "closed communion"

I'm a mostly-lapsed Lutheran, but it's been my impression (backed up by conversations with some of my cousins who are Lutheran ministers, as well as attending random church services at churches belonging to a variety of synods over the past several years) that closed communion isn't a constant over all Lutheran churches.

#365 ::: J Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2006, 05:41 AM:

The Lutheran bodies that remain faithful to the Lutheran confessions still practice closed (or close) Communion. The major Lutheran bodies include the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. (The ELS and WELS are in fellowship, by the way.)

Here's information regarding this practice, if anyone is curious:
LCMS

I dug around on the ELS and WELS websites, but couldn't locate any additional statements along these lines.

#366 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2006, 01:16 PM:

I suspect an agnostic can easily walk away a (better-informed) agnostic; a Christian can certainly also walk away a better-informed Christian.

James, you're right, of course. People believe what they believe. Unless someone has begun to question their faith, they can't be talked out of it, and unless someone has begun to search for something to believe, they can't be talked into it. One need only read some of the online reviews of the books such as A History of God (thanks again to Larry for that link--I've ordered the book) to see this. The author is being attacked by Christians. As is Bart Ehrman, a humble and learned man who--I'll say it again--has devoted his life to study of the Bible, and has held in his hand the oldest existing scrap of Biblical text.

Because the Bible has been around in one form or another for close to two thousand years, it has a mystique that, rightly or not, bolsters the claim of Divine provenance. Perhaps it would be easier to illustrate the futility of arguing for or against such a provenance by taking as an example a book more of us might agree on: the Book of Mormon.

My next door neighbor, Sister Price, has entertained the local Mormon bishop in her home, and young Mormons come to my door by twos, adamant in their belief that the B of M stands side-by-side with the Bible as sacred text. No argument dissuades them. Just because no archeological evidence in support of the B of M has ever been found (although they argue otherwise) doesn't mean it won't ever be found. Arguing with Mormons puts one in the impossible position of trying to prove a negative.

Besides, why try? Who am I to try to talk these young people out of their faith? If you want to believe that the Bible is authoritative because it says so in the Bible, who am I to argue logic? Whatever gives you comfort--whatever helps you deal with the fact that life is a crap shoot. Peace.

#367 ::: bonniers ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2006, 06:39 PM:

Officially I believe that's "close" communion, as in the circle of believers "close to you," not as in "closed circle." Though you do see both forms.

It's a rather weird doctrine. I was raised Missouri Synod Lutheran and was rather intense about it for a time, but never did quite get that one figured out.

#368 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2006, 09:08 PM:
To quote the Catechism: Every word in the Bible is God's Word, and therefore the Bible is without error.
It backs that point up with John 17:17, 2 Tim. 3:16, and John 10:35.

I've never quite understood that one. "I know this man speaks true: he told me so himself."

#369 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2006, 10:26 PM:

Yep. I know the truth is messier, less comforting, more complex and more difficult to understand than the lie, but the truth has one almighty advantage: it explains what the lie cannot.

The Bible is a collection of writings. Some is myth, some is history, some is hagiography, some is poetry, some is aphorism, some is propaganda (mostly racist), some is law, some is theology or morality or ethics, with many other categories and a miscellaneous unclassifiable. Some is sublime, some is abysmal, some is profound and everlasting truth, some is arrant bunkum or worse.

This is not surprising because it's all by different hands, nearly all of them unknown except from internal evidence, produced by processes that are usually obscure and various, and selected by other processes, nearly always also obscure, from among unreliable copies of source documents that are themselves invariably lost. Even the location and duration of all these processes are usually no more than informed guesses, and often less than that.

It is, in short, the work of human beings, and once you say this you explain all. The Bible's variety, beauty and savagery, sublimity, cant, unreason and wisdom, shabby racism and misogyny, its towering nobility and inspiration, its earthy practicality, its profound mysticism, its host of contradictions and inconsistencies: all are explained. It is human. It is us.

#370 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2006, 10:58 PM:

Dave Luckett: Your latest comment is so true and well articulated. And the exact reason why considering the Bible as the inerrant and literal word of God creates such problems.

#371 ::: J Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 02:02 AM:

Here are a few resources for the other side of the scale:
Clarifying Christianity
All About Truth
God and Science
All About God

the truth has one almighty advantage: it explains what the lie cannot
I agree completely...
The truth definitely is more complex and difficult to understand than the lie, which makes it so easy for our limited minds to simply dismiss the Bible as the word of man alone.

#372 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 03:53 AM:

I can only encourage others here to go to those sites and see for themselves what evidence is asserted for claims of divine and inerrant truth in the Bible.

#373 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 04:08 AM:

So I clicked on one of those links, for curiosity's sake, and it mentioned (among other things) how Biblical references to dragons show that men (sic) and dinosaurs did in fact exist contemporaneously.

...you're going to have to do better than that, Mr. Hansen. Much better.

#374 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 05:53 AM:

"how Biblical references to dragons show that men (sic) and dinosaurs did in fact exist contemporaneously."

Actually the old cave painting porn of men sodomizing dinosaurs also go someways towards confirming the point.

#375 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 08:00 AM:

"To quote the Catechism: Every word in the Bible is God's Word, and therefore the Bible is without error. It backs that point up with John 17:17, 2 Tim. 3:16, and John 10:35."

If you concede that these parts of the bible are not outright lies then I assume they are taken to function sort of like a digital signature authenticating the issuing authority of the document is in fact God. I am however not exactly sure what encryption standard allows us to ascertain that these parts are not outright lies, or that the standard itself has not been cracked by Satan.

I suppose that this argument is meant to counter not complaints of untruthfulness but complaints of human error.

#376 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 10:03 AM:

I'm not sure that I'd identify any website as a good place for detailed discussion on biblical authority and source discussion. The books I know that are reliable are fairly technical and under copyright.

In re authentication: the texts quoted (e.g. John "Thy Word is Truth") are meaningful only inside a discourse which already accepts the general authority of the text for other reasons, in part because they are not straightforwardly self-referential.

In the First Century CE even the Old Testament did not have a definitively fixed canon (in particular, the books later identified as "deuterocanonical" were in a grey area). There was no New Testament. There was not even a collection of non-canonical documents which was a candidate for the NT. Quotations attributed to Jesus in John, assuming them to be accurate, go back to a period, by definition, before any NT documents were written.

The identification of books considered to be authoritative occurred within a Church which still used a consensus of oral tradition to make the judgements, and the "precipitation" of the Canon as definitive was triggered by a non-standard canon established by Marcion (no OT, and selective parts of Paul and Luke). The authority of the Church was and is prior to the encapsulation of its teaching in the NT. Once identified and thus given authority, the nature of that authority was worked out within the tradition. The nature of that authority within the Catholic tradition has already been alluded to in previous postings; the nature of that authority within the Eastern tradition is less easy to sum up, but can be derived from the manner in which the eastern Fathers used the biblical texts in their arguments; that use is similar to that classically made in the west. One thing to note is that in both East and West "allegorical" readings are very common and for a long time were standard ways of reading the text -- based on the assumption that the "truth" might need to be drawn out by rather more than a simple literal meaning, again guided by the hermeneutical context provided by the Church and by previous interpretations of other texts. (This is one reason that young-earth creationism and the like don't go over well in modern Catholicism: the reflex of reading all texts as literal history just is not established.) References to texts setting out the authority of the "Word" (in John) or of "all Scripture" (in Paul), are not meant within this context to be self authenticating but rather as explicatory where authentication has already been provided by other mechanisms.

Protestantism as a general rule discarded much of that prior context, and you do tend to get the "self-authenticating" loop because the authority of the Church as an interpretative community (yes, I did study under Stanley Fish, why do you ask?) has been replaced by interpretative activity in the individual. In practice, there are specific frames which various schools of Protestantism bring to constrain their readings of the biblical texts; if you don't share those frames, their arguments tend to be unconvincing at best. The claims can easily be reduced to "this is specially and uniquely authoritative and we prove it by appealing to what it says".

In my experience very few people believe because they were convinced by general claims as such. A few people, but probably by far the minority, do believe on the basis of detailed historical critical study of the sort represented by N.T. Wright's work (The New Testament and the People of God and following volumes). Most people believe as a result of other factors and accept the testimony of the bible as a result, not a cause, of their belief. (On the other side, it's also true that very few people believe on the basis of natural theology (e.g. Aquinas' Five Arguments form the Summa Contra Gentiles)).

Discussion between different sides tends to be difficult because people have a hard time stepping outside of their own frames to appreciate the different frames of their interlocutors.

The websites linked to are a grab-bag of arguments which strike me as, um, unlikely to be convincing as apologetics and which tend to blur over things which are inconvenient. They also take things out of context (e.g. I have read A.N. Sherwin-White, including the work from which a quotation is taken: his claims regarding the nature of the reliability of the NT record, although to my mind both well-grounded and helpful are both less far-reaching and more targeted than the claims in the website which quotes him -- he's mainly looking at judicial procedure in Luke-Acts and the other Gospels, and he's assuming the same sort of evaluative process he would apply to Roman historians of the period, not literalist interpretations). Sherwin-White's book is good, by the way, and I'd recommend it, but it's really part of a conversation between New Testament scholars and not an apologetic work.

The websites' use of biblical prophecies as proof of the truth of the Bible gets the use made of them in the early Church and the Catholic tradition almost backward. To begin with, there's heavy selection of prophecies to match events (many prophecies are skipped over and applied either to the last times or simply ignored as far as the new dispensation is concerned). That's on a conservative approach which also argues that events weren't made up to match prophecies, as a rule. Many texts also obviously have at least a double application in the Christian context -- a literal one applicable to their own period and a typical one applied to the NT; a different approach can assume that their meaning is exhausted by the literal meaning. Most importantly, the early Church already assumed the authority of the Tanakh: they used the texts of the Tanakh which could be applied either literally of typically to the Gospel events to help determine the context and meaning of those events, not to establish the validity of the prophecies. In early apologetics, the prophecies are used to establish the identity of Jesus and the meaning of his life and death, not to prove their own reliability. The validation which the early Church claimed was that of the Resurrection. I would recommend the more general work of CH Dodd as an introduction to the overall treatment of proof-texts and prophecies within the NT, although some of his work is dated and would now need to be qualified.

I am, obviously, myself convinced of the reliability of the Bible when appropriately interpreted. I do not expect that view to be shared or easily communicated (or more than hinted at, in a forum such as this). I do consider that attempts as apologetics as represented by the websites linked to above hinder rather than help in any attempt at apologetics, and that they further greatly distort and oversimplify a moderately complex situation.

#377 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 10:36 AM:

Now, that is an example of genuine scholarship, and I have no word to say against it. It is beyond me, and allows me to say, in my doubt, that I could be wrong, which is, oddly enough, deeply comforting to me. I have been wrong about so many things. I hope, I hope against all doubt, that I am.

#378 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 10:50 AM:

And here's a post-Christian thing. Or is it?

I went down to the shopping centre today. A young man, obviously down on his luck, stood outside. I noticed, and all but did the Pharisee. But he asked me: "Can you give me a couple of dollars towards a tin of formula for my baby?"

Scam alert! Scam alert!

"Where's your baby?" I asked, all big-city cynic, me.

"At home - just there." He nodded towards a nearby house.

Uh-huh. "Infant formula? That's what you need the money for?"

"Yes."

Uh-huh. "Tell you what I'll do. I'll walk into the pharmacy with you, and I'll buy the formula for you."

"It's a lot of money. I don't like to..."

Sure, sure. "C'mon, let's go."

Well, turns out he was right. Infant formula, people, is expensive. $23.00 (Aussie) per kilo tin. But I bought it for him, and he took it, and he left, heading in the direction he said he lived. I didn't see him again.

And there was this argument I was having, the whole time. Maybe there's a baby I helped to get a feed. Maybe he didn't have the formula because he spent his money on...(you name it). Maybe.

And I take indignant umbrage at the idea that he was less than me, because he wasn't.

But what made me hand over the $23? And tell him where I knew there was a job available?

It was because I heard the Voice in my ear, and it was saying to me, "Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these my brethren..."

I still don't know. No knowledge. But I know this. If I had never heard those words, maybe - maybe - that kid would have gone hungry. Or maybe not. I don't know, you see.

#379 ::: bonniers ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 12:27 PM:

Dave Luckert:

*applause* for both a well-written post and a fine action.

I've done things like that in the past -- never quite that generous, I'm afraid -- but still, you never know how it's going to turn out. Maybe the five bucks I gave the homeless dude in NYC ten years ago was the little thing that kept him from going out and killing himself. Or maybe he drank himself to sleep and froze that night. I don't know.

But I don't need to know. I did what I could at that time. That's all.

And so did you. The rest is out of our hands.

#380 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 06:55 PM:

A couple of points, one a little old.

First: The Islamic calendar is based on the calendar in use in Northern Arabia (and probably elsewhere) at the time of the Prophet, with the single enormous exception that the insertion of an intercalary month -- still present in the Jewish calendar -- was suspended, and never restored. Otherwise the two calendars would be more easily recognized as variants on a common theme.

The Jewish calendar was subjected to some "fine tuning" for religious -- mostly festival-related -- reasons, but is otherwise recognizably a Hellenistic refinement of the Neo-Babylonian system. Indeed, until well into the Middle Ages Jews tended to use it with a modification of the Seleucid Era year-count (known to them as the "Era of Documents"), eventually replacing it with a "Year of Creation" count now in use.

Second (and unrelated): I suspect that some of the confusion over whether the Anglican / Episcopal Church should be called Protestant reflects, after a fashion, a very old argument that only the Calvinist Churches were really entitled to called themselves Reformed, not just Protesting.

(It should be easy to guess who took this position.... Not the Lutherans, and not most Anglicans!)

Constant use of expressions like "Protestant Reformation" (specified against, I suppose, the Counter-Reformation) would have contributed to blurring the attempt at a distinction, putting both terms on the same side of the equation.

Or at least this seems to me to make some sense out of an argument that otherwise assumes that the Protestant Episcopal Church is either suffering a very-long-term identity crisis or is guilty of false labelling.

#381 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2006, 07:42 PM:

Dave, what if he waited until you left and then returned the formula for cash?

I tend to give people money because folks rarely ask for it unless they need it. The folks who don't need it are too hard to figure out, so they get money, too.

#382 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 11:16 AM:

Just to go back to that wingnut Mr Rawls for a moment, I'm stunned to discover that he disapproves of woman-on-top sex. I have read about people who disapprove of that, generally in the context of Lilith and so on, but I didn't know it was actually still a living belief, that there are people walking around and breathing and finding their mouths with spoons who still have an issue with fairly standard heterosexual sexual positions. In 2006.

I suppose the Haldane quote about queerer than one can imagine is in order.

#383 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 11:31 AM:

Sometime in the 19th century, a German gymnast published a book detailing 500 heterosexual positions, with none of them being merely mirror images.

Roughly half have the woman on top (for some values of "on top").

Alas, poor Mr. Rawls, never to know Cowgirl, Reverse Cowgirl, the Brighton Mail Coach, or the Lithuanian Typewriter...among hundreds of others. (I'm not exactly sure how to classify the Flying Philadelphia F*ck in terms of "on top" or "underneath.")

I think it's true: The major problem the Right has with the Left is that the Right suspects that the Left is having better sex.

#384 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 11:44 AM:

"Though it is all a cheat; the seventy-sixth turns out to be exactly the same as the seventy-fifth, except with the fingers crossed."
- Flashman

The Lithuanian Typewriter? You're making it up.

#385 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 11:48 AM:

For further details of the Lithuanian Typewriter, the curious may consult Edward Gorey's "The Curious Sofa".

#386 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 11:49 AM:

I'd say "Please tell us you're making it up."

While the act of typing can be sexy, mostly depending on the person typing and the content of the text typed, I can think of nothing less sexy than a 19C typewriter. OK, Alec There's-a-crescent-in-my-name Rawls. But other than that.

#387 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 11:58 AM:

I'm not sure I really want to know the details of the 'Brighton Mail Coach' either.

500 positions?

#388 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 12:23 PM:

Or find a copy of the QWERTY Sutra.

#389 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 01:04 PM:

I suspect I know what the 'Brighton Mail Coach' is. It's described in an Edwardian porn novel, the title of which escapes me, as 'Phil's Fuck' and is adapted for taximeter cabriolet.

#390 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 01:11 PM:

I'm not sure that I'd identify any website as a good place for detailed discussion on biblical authority and source discussion. The books I know that are reliable are fairly technical and under copyright.

Whyever would a website not be a good place for detailed discussion on biblical authority and sources? It's a medium for communication, mostly written communication, that allows for the same standards of documentation as a book—one can footnote or use parenthetical references, just as one might in a book. One can also hyperlink to some sources, freeing readers from the necessity of a visit to the library. Granted the comments section of Making Light might not be your preferred platform for such a discussion, but that doesn't make it a bad place for such a discussion.

Indeed, I can think of very few better places. Here you have a group of mostly astoundingly well read, well studied, open minded commenters who can apply sound critical reasoning to many arguments, who read carefully, and who are mostly respectful in their discourse.

Or is is that a detailed discussion is valid only if it's printed on paper and bound?

Martin Luther didn't think so. What you have here is the electronic equivalent of the doors of the church. Post your theses, and let the crowd gather.

And what does a book's being under copyright have to do with its reliability? Lots of outright and not-so-outright fiction is under copyright.

#391 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 01:50 PM:

Maybe I should have phrased it as no existing website of which I'm aware. There are, in fact, some weblogs which are maintained by good biblical critics of one stripe or another. The problem is that they presuppose an awful lot of background already known by the reader, or (like the actually very reasonable Synoptic Problem Home Page) rapidly point a reader in search of information mainly back off the web to other, printed, resources.

The issue with being under copyright is that it inhibits the (ethical) mounting of the data on the web by anyone other than the copyright holder. So good works under copyright are unlikely to be posted to the web. A few "classics" of the area are out of copyright and are generally available, but (like Streeter's The Four Gospels, originally published in 1924) they are old enough to need serious supplementation to be taken in current context.

#392 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 01:53 PM:

Xopher:
That's not a crescent in Alec's name -- it's an arc (for most values of "c")!

[g, d & r]

#393 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 01:59 PM:

James, your Biblical scholarship is far beyond mine, and it is lovely to read your posts. Thank you.

Dave -- good on you! I don't think that we get to know if the person asking for money is using it for a baby's formula, for food, for cigarettes, for drugs, for renting pornographic videos... I loathe the words "deserving poor," for the assumption in it that some people don't and some people do deserve poverty and we can tell those people apart.

We are not told to give to those who "deserve" our largesse; we are told to treat all men and women as our brothers and sisters, and to give to those who ASK for it. I keep a supply of $1 bills in my car to hand out the window to the guys who panhandle at the freeway exits. [Is it enough? No. Could I give more? No.] Are they really "Vietnam vets/hungry/disabled/looking for work" as their signs claim? I can't know and I don't care. Jesus said "Give" and he said "Don't condemn." Works for me.

#394 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 04:03 PM:

I keep a supply of $1 bills in my car to hand out the window to the guys who panhandle at the freeway exits.

I do something similar, as I find that the world is a much friendlier place when I act with generosity and compassion.

What I hate, though, is getting approached by someone with the "my car broke down and I need BART fare" story. I suppose it could be true, but after getting hit up by the same person in the same parking lot on two separate days, I started feeling exceedingly skeptical about people who use this particular approach.

Maybe my big-city cynicism is too pronounced, but I think I'm more likely to give a dollar to someone holding a sign that says "why lie -- I need a beer" than to someone I feel is trying to scam me.

#395 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 04:22 PM:

getting approached by someone with the "my car broke down and I need BART fare" story

I was approached twice in one day, in Pasadena, by a couple using the 'my car broke down in A and I need bus fare to get to B' story. It might have worked better (but still not successfully; they'd been doing it for several weeks) if (1) they hadn't hit me twice with (2) two different versions of where it broke down and where they were going. Especially since before their second try I saw them getting off a bus.

#396 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 05:56 PM:

I know, I know -- and I don't mean that I give to every single person who hits me up in the Albertson's lot with the "my car broke down" story -- I surely don't. But only giving to charities, with a check, or even to my church, in the collection envelope, feels very remote, and since I'm not working at a soup kitchen or sorting clothes at St. V de P, or some other active down-in-the-trenches-helping-people work, I figure it's important for me to give money to the actual breathing people who need it. I've been very lucky; I've never lived on the street, though there have been times in my life when food stamps kept me able to buy food, and other times when I slept on a mattress stuffed behind the sofa in a friend's living room.

But I also try to use common sense.

On the other hand...there was a time, about fifteen years ago, in another town, when I kind of developed a relationship with one of the guys who panhandled on my street. He would hit me up for money occasionally and I would give him some, and come afternoons, especially in the summer, he would wander by to talk. I knew he was a heroin addict, and whether he used the money for his next fix or food was not my business, though I surely hoped for food. Althiough I never asked him for anything, he warned the local thugs to stay away from my stoop and from my parked car, and every once in a while he would pay me back a dollar, or even five dollars as if I had simply loaned him funds, a loan between friends... When he OD'ed, three different street people came by the house to let me know he was dead, which was very kind of them.

It wasn't very sensible of me.

#397 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2006, 09:28 PM:

Sometime in the 19th century, a German gymnast published a book detailing 500 heterosexual positions, with none of them being merely mirror images.

Was this 500 positions for two people only or for two or more people?

#398 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2006, 12:07 AM:

Surely once you add a third person it stops being strictly heterosexual? Or are they being added in non interactive pairs?

#399 ::: miraidebbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2006, 01:07 AM:

I ran across the earlier post on cylert while searching for something completely different (thanks, google). I was curious so I checked at work (I'm a pharmacy tech) and we've got plenty of pemoline, at least way more than we would ever use since we don't have anyone on it anymore, I haven't seen a script for it in probably 8 months as the only people I know we had on it switched to provigil. So there are sure to be other pharmacies out there with remaining stock.

So I guess if you feel like having a script called into my store, paid by credit card, and mailed out to you (we mail stuff free of charge), we've got 1 full bottle and a couple partial bottles of pemoline 75mg here in Madison, WI. I wouldn't doubt that other stores in the area have some since I've never heard any of our other stores close by call us asking for it. So I guess if you want my store's phone number or if you want me to get an exact count on pills send me an email. Good luck~

#400 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2006, 03:54 AM:

"Surely once you add a third person it stops being strictly heterosexual"
Well, a friend who had the failing of bragging about every sexual adventure the day after once told me about a threesome he and another mutual acquaintence had with a young lady the night before where, to paraphrase "it was totally cool, I didn't look at his shit and he didn't look at mine."

I'm supposing that shit in this context was a synonym for body parts as opposed to descriptive of bodily waste.

#401 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2006, 09:10 AM:

bryan, that's not what is normally called a threesome. But it's also a "homosexual bridge," an impression confirmed by his stressing of the fact that they didn't "look" at each other.

#402 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2006, 02:31 PM:

Xopher:
I'm not sure what you mean about threesomes being a "homosexual bridge". Once you reply, I'll know whether my experience matches your's (although the description makes me think not).

#403 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2006, 04:39 PM:

"that's not what is normally called a threesome"

three people having sex simultaneously != threesome?

yes, the homoerotic aspect was not lost on me, considering his communication of the chasteness of their eyes. then again it seems to me that this concept you're espousing is a very literary one, based on our understanding of ironic communication. They communicate that they did not feel this attraction, but if not, then why communicate it!? Thus they did feel it. I have always found this as very problematic since such a viewpoint slippery slope-like leads to the current level of public discourse where to deny is to admit, or even to the conundrums of freud.

So while, when told the anecdote, I naturally reflected on the difficulty of not seeing what the other was packing in such a situation as well as noting how in a story such a statement would be used to dramatically foreshadow the fact that he had issues, I figured that life being the complicated thing it was I would just shrug and say "really?"

#404 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2006, 05:51 AM:

A "homosexual bridge," as I understand it, is what Ben Affleck proposed to Jason Lee in Chasing Amy. The two guys should just go sleep together, but because they're too defensively straight to even consider it, they have to have a woman as an, um, intermediary.

Amusingly, this is the second time I've mentioned that film in a week. The first was about the panel on skin color in science fiction that opens the film, in relation to the article on Earthsea.

#405 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2006, 06:00 AM:

Also, in a Rawsian move, I'm going to expand my previous hypothesis and cite some additional evidence.

I think that the Right hates the UC system, and that Rawls is attacking the memorial because it's designed by a man with ties to that system. For additional evidence, I'd cite the Bruin Alumni Association, as described in this article.

Paranoid enough?

#406 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2006, 11:32 AM:

Homosexual bridge: two men have sex with the same woman, because they really want to have sex with one another but are too homophobic, closeted, or otherwise hung up to do so. This can be one-sided; a guy can chase the ex-girlfriend of a guy whose pole he secretly wants to smoke.

Threesome: OK, this is a purist definition. In a true threesome, all three people are having sex all together. Thus A with B and B with C and C with A, and for some activities A, B, and C all at once. Two people just taking turns with one third person is not a threesome, but a minimal case of a train.

#407 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2006, 04:24 PM:

Dave: re Quakers, and doctrine.

They say they have none. They are militant about it.

They are, of course, wrong. It may be a very loose doctrine, but without it they wouldn't be able to keep community (and that there are programmed, and unprogrammed Quakers [most people think of unprogrammed when they think of Quakers, for those as care, Nixon was a programmed Quaker).

The fundamental doctrine of modern, unprogrammed Quakerism (as one who is close to, but outside the religion) is seeing "The Light of God" in everyone.

From this stems social activism, pacifism and all the rest.

They also have a need to testify to their faith. In the 18th and 19th centuries this was about the nature of the church. Some were killed in Massachussetts for their preaching.

But (and this is the interesting part) part of the need to testify is to be, "speaking Truth to Power" which requires that the testimony be attacked (which is why Rhode Island had lots of Quakers, but no activism. They rather went to Massachussetts). This is no small part of why they are active in social causes which are seen as out of the mainstream (though we here would call it progressive).

For more detail find a copy of, "Faith and Practice."

#408 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2006, 05:24 PM:

Actually, it wasn't their preaching that got the Quakers killed. (I'm quoting from my notes here):
"(B)etween 1659-1661, four Quakers were executed in Boston when in protest for the strip searches they had received, they stripped their clothes and entered a Congregational church."

They were strip searched because the Puritans were searching for signs of witchcraft, but they were being searched because they were zealous missionaries and seemed to go out of their way to annoy the Massachusetts Puritans.

Possibly because the Puritans were, according to my professor, rather boring.

#409 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2006, 05:30 PM:

There was Mary Dyer, who was executed because she persisted in going in (from RI) and preaching after being told to stay out. There were Baptists who were whipped and imprisoned also: look up Obadiah Holmes, also of RI. (Have to give them points for stubbornness.)

#410 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2006, 10:52 PM:

Xopher:
Threesome: OK, this is a purist definition. In a true threesome, all three people are having sex all together. Thus A with B and B with C and C with A, and for some activities A, B, and C all at once. Two people just taking turns with one third person is not a threesome, but a minimal case of a train.

You seem to me to be rather dogmatic (I knew bestiality would come in at some point!) about this. Threesomes come in many flavors and varieties. Some may be "homosexual bridges", others are "trains", still others are A and B enjoying C simutaneously. Tonight, I'm going to a party where I'm sure all three and then some.

By your token, in a foursome, A, B, C and D must all have sex . If A and B have sex while C and D do; then A and C switch, that's not a "pure" foursome.

#411 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2006, 11:18 PM:

Jeff; yes, that's so. True foursomes are quite rare. What you describe is a "swap," not a foursome.

Have fun at your party.

#412 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2006, 03:18 AM:

Michelle: There is one (and I forget her name) who was prosecuted for preaching (and IIRC, walking naked, as a form of protest [this was not an uncommon form). She had her tongue pierced with an awl, and was ejected from the colony.

She was told that if she returned she would be hanged.

She returned, she was hanged.

There were a couple of other case of similar nature.

The details may be found in either Blasphemy by Nicholas Walter ISBN 0301900019

Or (as I seem to recall, but as the book is in storage, and I've not read it in at least a decade, I can't be sure)

Blasphemy : Verbal Offense Against the Sacred, from Moses to Salman Rushdie (Hardcover)
by Leonard Levy ISBN 0679402365

They went out of their way to annoy the Puritans because they were the local folks who got annoyed.

They were not charged with blasphemy because the Puritans (for all their dogamtism) knew their scriptures, and so couldn't charge them with it (it being a very specific offense, the cursing of God, in the Name of God).

TK

#413 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2006, 06:39 PM:

Xopher wrote: Threesome: OK, this is a purist definition. In a true threesome, all three people are having sex all together...

Oh my. I go away for a few days and look what happens to an erudite discussion of religion.

James wrote: The authority of the Church was and is prior to the encapsulation of its teaching in the NT. Once identified and thus given authority, the nature of that authority was worked out within the tradition.

Once identified and given authority? Don't you mean "once self-identified, and claiming authority?" And not without many contentious disputes. These men didn't have halos floating over their heads as they sat with hands folded prayerfully, debating doctrine. Fights broke out. There were disputes over the true nature of Christ, whether he'd had a real physical body, whether he'd been "born in the usual way" (shocking!) etc., etc.

Doctrine had to be acceptable to men who held certain prevalent opinions, such as that women and childbirth were both "unclean". For this reason, I don't share your confidence that the Bible can be assumed to be reliable. For example, I share the belief that Mary Magdalene was the Beloved Disciple (*groooooan*...I can hear you...) and that the 4th gospel was edited to conceal this relationship. And not because I read The Da Vinci Code...I blogged about this here, before I read the book.

#414 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2006, 08:45 PM:

I should have been more explicit about the grammatical antecedents.

"Once the constituent books of the NT were identified and the canon was identified as such, the nature of that authority was worked out within the tradition."

Doctrine had to be acceptable to men who held certain prevalent opinions, such as that women and childbirth were both "unclean".

Childbirth, yes, in common with much to most of the ancient world, a discussion of which could range far afield into ritual uncleanness. The Judaic position on this, of course, is why Mary went up to the Temple at Jerusalem with Jesus (in Luke's telling) for the Presentation/Purification. As for women ... it's a pretty extensive distortion of the tradition as a whole to identify women as "unclean" within it. Oh, one can (and did, as in the Wife of Bath's Tale) draw up collections of particularly misogynistic sayngs from some of the fathers, such as Jerome. But it would be going beyond streching the point to claim that women as such were considered to be unclean (as opposed to, say, weak) by the main tradition of the Church; had they been, there would have been no nunneries or anchoresses. For that matter it would exclude even the female martyrs and teachers in the aposolic generation in the unchallenged tradition of the Church. (Even Athos, later, was barred to women at least as much to protect the weakness of the men as on account of any inherent miasma in the women).

For this reason, I don't share your confidence that the Bible can be assumed to be reliable.

Theologically or historically? Given the premises, an argument for "theologically" could be made (but alternative arguments regarding "appropriate modes of reading" could also be made). Historically ... that is, as Lessing says, a metabasis eis allo genos and the argument would seem to have fallen into a miniature version of Lessing's ditch set between the historical and the metaphysical, in reverse.

For example, I share the belief that Mary Magdalene was the Beloved Disciple (*groooooan*...I can hear you...) and that the 4th gospel was edited to conceal this relationship. And not because I read The Da Vinci Code...I blogged about this here, before I read the book.

From where I sit, with the textual and other evidence, this is getting into the barking zone. Just a minor example of why it does not make sense: the Johannine witness is explicitly set out as a witness in an almost juridical sense ("Tauta de gegraptai hina pisteuete oti Iesous estin..."/"These things have been written so that you may believe/trust that Jesus is..."; the same thrust is even more evident in the Johannine epistles, very likely to almost certainly by the same author or claimed to be by the same author and originating from the same tight circle); and as plays a role in the synoptic resurrection accounts, women were not considered/counted as witnesses in Judaic (or, for that matter, in Roman/Hellenistic) society. There is no evidence for it, and considerable evidence which would have to be argued away against it. The gnostic texts which can be drawn in in favour are, um, very poor evidence for anything other than gnosticism, and certainly not for the first century.

#415 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2006, 11:04 PM:

Though from my memory of Nativity stories in the Gospels, at their end they say something along the lines of 'Mary kept all these things in her heart' and I had always assumed that was their way of saying they got the stories from her.

#416 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 01:08 AM:

James: There is no evidence for it, and considerable evidence which would have to be argued away against it. The gnostic texts which can be drawn in in favour are, um, very poor evidence for anything other than gnosticism, and certainly not for the first century.

The same is what is being said about the authority of the Gospels.

As for the claim about childbirth, The semitic/middle eastern cultures had that view. The Greeks, not so much. Same for the Romans. In the New World there doesn't seem to have been this taboo (though given the evidence in Peru, as I digress, the newness of it is pretty much culturally referent, and we can use the claims of the Europeans about the lack of inhabitants as proof the natives were savages, after since none had been seen [though the early reports, from everywhere First Contact was made {and the same is true even to the relative present with the Central Valley of New Zealand... but there I go, digressing again} they must not have had any real civilisation, which can be seen in the writing of "x", "y," and, "z.", in a parallel of the argument of self-reference in the NT as proof of its validity).

#417 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 02:58 AM:

Terry, can you have a go at that last sentence again? You lost me around about the middle of the second parenthesis, but I think there's a verb missing.

#418 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 03:46 AM:

"Oh my. I go away for a few days and look what
happens to an erudite discussion of religion."

There were some...misconceptions about the doctrine of the trinity.

#419 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 05:51 AM:

I read this blog for a multitude of reasons; politics and religion aren't among them. I typically skip both post and comments when I catch a waft of doctrine. Not because I'm apathetic to these topics (I'm an ardent atheist (couldn't resist that triple alliteration ;P) (does "an" count as part of an alliteration?) and I do have a number of political opinions too--I hide them in my shoe-closet and only bring them out to scare kids), but because I think that discussing these things, and on the internet of all places, is invariably a waste of time better left to those who get paid for it. For some reason, I still scanned the whacko part of this thread (OMG TEH MUZLMS!!) (the internet is stupid even when it doesn't betray that fact by means of orthography), and I'm so glad I did. Quoth Teresa:

All I can think of is Albert of Aix's exasperated account (Historia Hierosolymita, 1120) of a group of German peasants at the beginning of the First Crusade who decided that a certain goose was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and made it their guide on the journey to Jerusalem.

Those little tidbits of awesomeness need to be in the spotlight! Granted, it's a little funnier still in this context than it would have been on its own, but I still think it should have been somewhere where I could have found it without digging through the evidence of many very clever people wasting lots of time discussing with very confused people. That factoid is exactly the sort of historical information that makes me very, very happy. It's the stuff you wished you'd made up.

Stranger than fiction indeed.

#420 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 09:08 AM:

Xopher:
A happy time was had by all, thanks.

As to definitions, I think that "train", "swap", "bridge", etc are forms of nsomes (where n > 2). After all, a foursome at golf could be 2 pairs or all against every. Do you have a source for your definitions?

(Here's a source: American Heritage Dictionary: "Foursome"
1. A group of four persons or things, especially two couples.
2.
a. A game, especially a golf match, played by four persons, usually competing in pairs.
b. The players in such a game.

Not a sexual definition, as such, but one that I think is closer to the one I use.)

#421 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 09:16 AM:

Terry,

I'll have to look into that book. What we were told in my American Religious History class was that the Quakers went to Massachusetts to preach/convert and were harassed by the locals, and in response to this harassment (they were stripped to look for signs of witchcraft), four of them (at the same time? I don't know) entered Puritan church(es) naked, and so were killed for that.

But I think the awl story was mentioned in my book as well.

I'm always amazed at the amount of pure, unadulterated, nastiness that religion can bring out.

#422 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 09:25 AM:

Several misconceptions about the ELCA above:

Regarding close communion:

The ELC and WELS are not major Lutheran bodies. They are both very small, and tend to tilt more toward evangelical (and Biblically fundamentailst) than Lutherans worldwide.

The Missouri Synod is significantly larger than either. However, you have to remember Seminex. (This was an internal purge in which everyone to the left of Attila the Hun left the clergy roster and leadership, in the mistaken belief that this would cause the laity to rise up in revolt.) Most MS congregations are significantly more liberal than the official party line. Close communion may be written on the website, but I've never seen it in practice.

The ELCA is larger than the other three groups you mention, combined. It does not practice close communion. There is usually a notice in the bulletin to the effect that anyone who believes in the real presence is welcome to commune, and it is left to each individual conscience to decide. (The pastor has leave to refuse communion to someone obviously drunk, for example, but that isn't quite what you seem to be talking about.)


Regarding the ELCA having become Episcopalian and ordination within the apostolic succession:

Called to Common Mission, which is the name of the agreement with the ECUSA, was a mistake. The intention was to allow Episcopal and Lutheran churches to share clergy in areas where both are short on clergy, and to work together on mission. It sparked a huge revolt among ELCA clergy (google Word Alone) and has yet to be shown to have had any positive results. (I've heard rumors that Episcopal clergy are similarly scathing about "bastard priests" - ELCA clergy already ordained who were just grafted into the apostolic succession by fiat - but I don't know that first hand.) ELCA ordinands have the option to refuse to have the laying on of hands, and many of them do, for theological reasons.

#423 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 12:25 PM:

Dave: Sure.

I was tired (no excuse, but as good an explantion as any) and tried to overcompress a number of points as my mind rambled.

Part 1: Using internal references as proof of outside validity is, at best suspect.

Saying the gnostic texts are no good in refutation of the NT because they refer to themselves is begging the question (The Gospel of John is true because Timothy tells me so, but the Gnostic Texts aren't because they tell they are, but Timothy doesn't agree with them to grossly simplify the issue.

Part 2: The New World is another example of this. Lots of arguments are made that Europeans had every right to come in and exploit them, because the locals weren't doing much with them. The proof offered was the low density of population and, apparent, lack of complex culture.

That this might have been a recent development was discarded; even in the face of consistent testimony (from every first contact event) to the contrary. The arguments are still being made today (see high vs. low counters in the question of pre-columbian population, and the arguments which follow from where the numbers are set).

Part 3: I don't think the blanket assertion that childbirt was seen as uncklean being common with much to most of the ancient world. The texts by which much of the view of the Ancient World is presented to most people are (again) a limited set, with a specific world view. The Greeks didn't see it as unclean, nor the Romans. The Celts don't seem to have, nor yet the Germanic tribes, nor the Scanadanavians.

What we see is the spread of traits of a Semitic religion being projected back, as the cultural baggage that came with it was adopted by new peoples.

Michelle: The extreme members of the reformation (and when they started the Quakers were extreme. Given their small numbers {Friends General Conference puts them at something like 250,000 total, in the world} and large impact it may be thtat, in thier quiet way they still are) did lots of strange things.

Going through the streets naked was not unheard of, and had been practiced in England, going back to Elizabeth I. My brain is failing me, and I can't recall the sects which practised it, save I recall that much of it was centered in the area around Northumbria (and I wonder if this might not have been because Northumbria was a hotbed of Catholic recusancy).

The argument was that the Truth is naked, and by shedding garments they were metaphorically showing all the trappings the Church (be it Roman, Anglican or Purist) needed to divest itself of. In some ways it wa harkening back the Waldensians, but with more fervor.

The congregationalists in Mass. were certainly of a stripe which irked the Quakers in Rhode Island, and as such they felt the need to go and testify to them.

They were met with the usual response of entrnched religious power (esp. in the west) to vocal heretics.

#424 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Michelle K: I'm always amazed at the amount of pure, unadulterated, nastiness that religion can bring out.

“With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” - Steven Weinberg

#425 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 12:43 PM:

bryan: is this harkening back to the old kids-say-the-darndest-things tale of "Mary and Joseph were poor, so Jesus got wrapped in straddling clothes...and there was no room at the inn, so he got laid in a manger"?

Jeff Lipton: I am a primary source. And if your foursomes are competing (in pairs or any other way) you're discussing a realm of kink into which I do not venture. But seriously, perhaps this is one of those words (like the verb 'fuck') which is simply used differently in the gay and straight communities. (A line in the song "Threesome" by Tom Wilson includes the line '...while running your fingers through--whose hands are these?!?')

#426 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 12:51 PM:

Bob Oldendorf - I like the quote, but the Puritans executing Quakers isn't such a case. It's just another example of "evil people doing evil things." The Puritans were rotten, genocidal, oppressive scum without which the world would have been a better place. Their foul influence is felt in America today. The worship of Mammon has taken over from the former worship of God-minus-the-compassion that the original Puritans practiced, but it's recognizably the same tradition.

But then I believe that people who do evil and really believe that what they're doing is right are, ipso facto, evil. So good people who habitually do evil would be an empty set, in my view.

#427 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 01:04 PM:

Bryan: There were some...misconceptions about the doctrine of the trinity.

LOL.

James: Theologically or historically?

Theologically.

As for whether the theory that Mary Magdalene was the Beloved Disciple is "getting into the barking zone", why does this suggestion produce such a vehement response? Read this passage again (John chapter 13, verses 23-25):
23. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
24. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.
25. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?

So you're insisting that the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was "leaning on Jesus' bosom", who was "lying on Jesus' breast", was a man? Does that work for you? Isn't this better:

23. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
24. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to her, that she should ask who it should be of whom he spake.
25. She then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?

I guess that's all I'll say on this topic; you can have the last word. I try not to get drawn into discussions of religion. It's pointless. People believe what they believe.

#428 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 01:11 PM:

Quote Xopher: But then I believe that people who do evil and really believe that what they're doing is right are, ipso facto, evil. So good people who habitually do evil would be an empty set, in my view.

But then how do you know if you're evil except on other people's say-so?

And what about in the course of current events, when there are rampant cases of "Okay, since we are Good People, normally we wouldn't do stuff like this, but it's okay here because we're doing it to Evil People"? Finer-grained explanations would be that the Good Intentions' excellent pavement is only there to detour away from Really Bad Potential Evil, and so on.

#429 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 01:31 PM:

Xopher,

You're the first person (other than my husband) who has made me want to quote "Batman Begins"

"it's not who you are underneath, it's what you do that defines you."

I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

#430 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 01:32 PM:

Xopher: For all their faults, I must disagree with you on the Puritans themselves. How they shaped, indirectly, the people we became is not the same as they themselves, and (for all their faults) they have been much misunderstood.

Which isn't to say I would like to be one.

TK

#431 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 01:33 PM:

Terry,

I didn't know about the whole "bare truth" thing. Thanks! It's very interesting, although I don't ever plan on being that truthful.

#432 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 02:08 PM:

Julie L. - reference to an objective standard, like but not only "does this cause harm" and "does this prevent or repair harm" would help. But no, there's no objective standard, because there's no objectivity to be had in the human world.

And as for current events, doing evil that you know is evil is at least as evil as doing it thinking you're doing good. Doing it to evil people is a lame excuse, not a real justification; the evil remains.

Michelle K. - I was unaware that that sound principle was referred to in Batman Begins. Thanks. That is, in fact, what I believe. I'd go further: if your actions are better than your inner self, you don't have to worry, because your inner self will change if you keep up the better actions long enough. If your inner self is better than your actions, it's your moral duty to change your actions to bring them into harmony.

This is not easy, but it can be done. The Christian notion that "thinking about it is as bad as doing it" is a great detriment to moral behavior; it's a lot easier to control your actions if that's all you're trying to do, and if you're going to be punished just for thinking about it, why not get the tangible benefit of doing whatever-it-is?

#433 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 02:10 PM:

Terry - they massacred the Pequots, and they did it for money. A definition of evil that didn't include that would be curious indeed.

#434 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 02:18 PM:

The Christian notion that "thinking about it is as bad as doing it" is a great detriment to moral behavior...

You mean, that notion is also a tenet of Christianity outside of catholicism?

#435 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 02:34 PM:

For a moment there, I thought Michelle K was quoting from Batman Begins with reference to Xopher's definitions of threesomes etc, rather than his comments on good and evil.

#436 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 02:37 PM:

The Christian notion that "thinking about it is as bad as doing it" is a great detriment to moral behavior...

You mean, that notion is also a tenet of Christianity outside of catholicism?

Oh, yes, it runs rampant among Southern Baptists. (Remember Carter's "adultery in my heart"?) It was years before the counter-argument occurred to me:

If any fleeting thought of doing evil is as evil as the act itself, then how can one be tempted? The devil wins automatically.

#437 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 02:48 PM:

Ah, yes, OG... Jimmy Carter's lust in his heart...

#438 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 03:00 PM:

Lust in your heart is harmless as long as it stays in your heart. It's also useless. For lust to do you any good, you have to either act on it, if appropriate, or channel it.

I've been channeling mine for far too long. Time to act!

#439 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 03:08 PM:

Saying the gnostic texts are no good in refutation of the NT because they refer to themselves is begging the question (The Gospel of John is true because Timothy tells me so, but the Gnostic Texts aren't because they tell they are, but Timothy doesn't agree with them to grossly simplify the issue.

Has anybody in this discussion done this?

One post has attempted to use John and Timothy in a self-validating manner, but I haven't seen that poster post on gnostic texts. I've posted with regard to gnostic texts, but I haven't tried to argue in favour of self-validation for the NT or about it at all in the case of the gnostic texts.

Mary:

I am not an expert on the subject at all, but from everything I know about Judaic eating practices, and Chaburah or Pesach meal practices, in the period, I think the standard biblical version is more believable.

As a more general rule, I would tend to be wary of approaches which take something (either really or merely apparently) "wrong" in a text and correcting it by emendation rather than by assuming the text itself to be misinformed. The "classic" example of this is Bentley's emendation of Horace (a reference to a fox eating grain; since foxes don't eat grain, Bentley emeded the text rather than work on the assumption that Horace was mistaked or simply didn't care about the natural history). If I considered the (normal) Johannine passage to be problematic in terms of the reality of what it showed, my working assumption would be that it was not trustworthy as regards that level of detail, rather than assuming that minor textual emendations would restore the text "properly". A real Christian Origins example is provided by the Protevangelium of James, one of the earliest "infancy narratives". Its depiction of the Jewish Temple is disconnected from the reality by any metric we can apply. The obvious approach to take is that whether or not there is any reliability at all in the other aspects of what it recounts, the pseudonymous author simply made up the details of the temple part of the story, rather than trying to make aload of adjustments to that part of the story to save as much as possible.

#440 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 03:10 PM:

Xopher,

"Batman Begins" was my favorite movie that came out last year--even over "Serenity".

And I also believe that works are more important than what you believe, however, I was raised Catholic, so the whole "works" thing was a requirement. Least in my family they were.

#441 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 03:13 PM:

I think that admonition is meant to work as yet another reminder about judging others, along with the verdict on the adulterous woman ("Let he who is without sin among ye cast the first stone") and other reported sayings of Jesus, all aimed at the hypocrites of his time, and telling them not to give themselves airs, simply because they didn't go ahead and do what they thought about. When one reviews his remarks in toto, it appears that Jesus had major issues over that whole spiritual pride thing, and letting it shape how you behaved towards other people. I think if you take that part of the equation out, you end up with the situation Xopher and OG discuss.

Your conduct may be morally better, but it doesn't mean you can brag about the condition of your soul.

I also find it interesting to see how often organized religion has directed so much of this self-examination towards sex, a fairly low item on Jesus' agenda most of the time, rather than the general question he seems to have found more important: How do you treat other people? It would probably be wrong of me to suggest that this is because for those in power, it's easy to set yourself up as a paragon of chastity--and if you get caught, claim that it happened because you were tempted by a Bad Person--even if said temptation was a result of the other party's mere existence, and not because of any conscious act, word, or thought on their part.

#442 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 03:44 PM:

If any fleeting thought of doing evil is as evil as the act itself, then how can one be tempted? The devil wins automatically.

There has to be some participation by the will to constitute a sin. A truly involuntary lascivious thought with no conscious "consent" to entertaining the thought wouldn't count at all.

I also find it interesting to see how often organized religion has directed so much of this self-examination towards sex, a fairly low item on Jesus' agenda most of the time, rather than the general question he seems to have found more important: How do you treat other people?

You might find it interesting to look at the usual self-examination lists used to prepare for confession. The sins of the flesh actually make up a small part of the enumerated sins for which to examine. There are printed versions in many lay handbooks and books of hours (an Anglo-Catholic example of the genre is St. Augustine's Prayer Book).

#443 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 03:53 PM:

I missed the threesome in Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and . . . ???

#444 ::: Janet B. Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 03:56 PM:

Michelle K: Or as Hamlet puts it (III.iv, The Queen's Closet),

Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,
Of habits devil, is angel yet in this,
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery,
That aptly is put on. Refrain to-night,
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence: the next more easy;
For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
And either [ ] the devil, or throw him out
With wondrous potency.

Also somewhat ambiguous...

#445 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 04:25 PM:

"Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and..."

Batman.

#446 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 04:37 PM:

James, that not the way it was taught in my childhood church, nor in many others. That such a thought occurred at all is a sign of moral degeneracy.

Note that I'm not saying they are correct. ("Correctness" in Christian theology is an academic exercise AFAIAC.) But the "how else can you be tempted" question has served well as both a counter to the brainwashing and a logical trap that ties the pompous would-be judges up long enough for me to escape.

#447 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 04:40 PM:

bryan said:

Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and Batman.

I can't get that to add up to three, somehow.

#448 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 04:52 PM:

If foxes eat grain, it's really going to screw up that old you have to get a fox, a hen and some grain across a river but can only carry one at a time problem.

Anyway, I too am unconvinced about the idea that Mary[*] Magdalene was the beloved disciple, in part because it seems to assume a kind of universal sexual and romantic morality which is already being undermined elsewhere in the thread. I mean this kind of thing: So you're insisting that the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was "leaning on Jesus' bosom", who was "lying on Jesus' breast", was a man? Does that work for you? Isn't this better... After all, who said Jesus (or John) was heterosexual? And yes, I tend to read it anyway as a claim that the author "John" was a better source than the other disciples because of this close relationship. That is, "my gospel is better than yours".

But the real problem I have is that the gospels - whether gnostic or canonical or neither - aren't really very good evidence for anything historical at all. They were all written at least 70 years after the event; they seem to depend on sources we no longer possess; and they were then selected from by an outside body which chose the ones they preferred. The choice of John over Mary might tell us valuable things about the attitude towards women of second century church leaders, but it doesn't tell us much about Christ.

It is very difficult to read the gospels as history - hell, it's pretty difficult to read ancient history as being related to any real world, and I'm equally sceptical about details there. The search for the historical Christ is as valuable as the search for the historical Alexander, and in both cases I don't think that's especially valuable.

Of course, ultimately it depends on faith, about which I am not really in a position to speak.

[*] I wrote "Marty Magdalene" by accident, which goes to show the trouble emendation can get you into.

#449 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 05:58 PM:
If foxes eat grain, it's really going to screw up that old you have to get a fox, a hen and some grain across a river but can only carry one at a time problem.

I believe I've seen a particular sfwriter cum naturalist make reference to watching a grey fox eat corn kernels which had been put out as part of a "multi-grain" seed-spread for wild birds and other wildlife. Of course, I daresay that Mediterranean foxes of classical antiquity were not presented with variants of maize as possible options at the local buffet:-)

#450 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 06:09 PM:

Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and Dick Grayson. It was later that they got into the costumed Dom/Sub thing with Batman (Dom), Robin (Sub) and Alfred (Switch).

All those scenes ended up on the cutting-room floor, of course...they didn't want an NC-17 rating.

#451 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 06:19 PM:

Meanwhile, in Italy...

(um, yep, the headline has problems)

#452 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 07:40 PM:

The non-religious musings upthread prompt me to ask if there are any readily accessible Robin-as-Dom stories worth reading. (Note that I do not ask simply if there are any stories -- there will be. If not now, soon. :-)

#453 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 09:08 PM:

James, that not the way it was taught in my childhood church, nor in many others. That such a thought occurred at all is a sign of moral degeneracy.

It is a sign of original sin; but original sin is not actual sin. To a Calvinist, I suppose that "original sin" and moral degeneracy might be very close, but not in a more catholic context: "Temptation is made up of three successive phases...The first phase is suggestion or awareness ...This is succeeded by the second phase, which is delight. This is the more or less instinctive response of the soul to the suggestion. ... It should be noted that there is no sin in either of these phases, for the will has not yet declared itself.".(The Elements of the Spiritual Life, F.P. Harton, Dean of Wells).

#454 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2006, 11:18 PM:

Adding my two bits, though James hardly needs support: in my understanding of sin, the sinful act (which may, under some conditions, be a thought) must be understood to be a transgression, consented to, welcomed, and willed. Given the number of awful stories I've heard about how the concept of sin was taught to children who are now adults in their thirties-forties-fifties by various Christian denominations, I am sometimes (though not always) grateful that I am not a cradle Catholic. Indeed, I heard a story today from a woman in her fifties(?) of having been told by the nuns in her high school that going to McDonald's was a sin. (We tried to figure out why and decided that the problem with McDonald's was that she would meet non-Catholic boys...) No way can I defend any of that, but I can say that American Catholic children, at any rate, are no longer subjected to that kind of nonsense.

#455 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 01:20 AM:

As an ex-Calvinist, I'd say that a sin is a sin is a sin. I mean, for Calvinists, god save them from themselves.

From the Children's Catechism:

Q. What is sin?

A. Sin is any transgression of or want of conformity unto the law of God.

(Oddly, that's the only Catechism question I can remember.)

Original sin is every bit as much a sin as the ones you choose, plan, and execute. Predestination makes that pretty much ineviatable.

#456 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 03:56 AM:

I was curious so I went and checked the original Greek for John 13:23-25, and it does in fact use masculine forms throughout for the "beloved disciple".

#457 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 04:43 AM:

Er, Terry, can I second Dave's query about that rather involuted, digressive, & self-referential sentence/paragraph?

Adding, with respect to any Enzedders around, that I know of no place in New Zealand usually known as Central Valley. Are you thinking perhaps of the Highland Valleys of Papua New Guinea, which only came in contact with us in the 1930s? OTOH, there are some places called 'Central Valley' in the Himalayas and South America - I'm not sure if that is the English translation of the autochthonous name, or what the 'explorers' called it.

On a further hand -- is this now a hand-threesome? -- it may simply have been part of a verbal squid-ink effect ...

#458 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 06:56 AM:

James:

First, what Lydia said. I was taught that the only difference between a sin that arises from our "natural predisposition to listen to Satan's whispers" and a willful sin is the severity of the punishment in Hell. (Original Sin, being a Catholic lie and all, never figured into it.)

Second, a quick search suggests that the book you cite was written by an Anglican priest; I'm not particularly familiar with the Church of England's various offices. To the people I'm talking about, that would make him a crypto-Catholic, and therefore an agent of Satan.

Third, I'm also speaking of a tradition that includes historical figures who spent years mired in the state of "conviction of sin", all the while passionately praying for grace.

None of this really has anything to do with theology at all. (In fact, theology is another of Satan's tools to divert people from God.) It's control by guilt. My mother still worries herself into anxiety attacks over random images in her dreams. She has no energy left for revolt. The question of how to distinguish between a sinful thought and Satan's whisper of temptation gives them pause in a way that theological discussions of free will does not because deep down, they don't really believe in anything you or I would recognize as free will.

I'm not getting into a debate over the correctness of any theological stance. I'm quite universalist in that regard; if you honestly seek, you will eventually find the path for you, and it may or may not resemble anyone else's path. I'm just sharing my observations of and conclusions about the world I grew up in, a world which has recently reached out and affected everyone in the US and beyond by finally realizing many of its political ambitions.

#459 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 09:10 AM:

I didn't quote, but did note to myself while checking the Harton quote, a passage close by regarding pastoral concern for those who worried themselves unnecessarily regarding the sinfulness of the early stages of temptation.

I deliberately quoted Harton rather than a Roman source partly because he's readable and clear, but he's very much an Anglo-Catholic: terminology and moral theology reflecting the traditional Catholic understanding.

Original sin is, of course, "sin" in the Catholic as much as in the Calvinist scheme of things. The important difference between original sin and actual sin is that original sin is a subsisting state of alienation from God, of which the stain is taken away by grace in baptism (although effects such as liability to temptation and lack of complete mastery over the self remain). Calvinists would typically see those effects as being more far-reaching than Catholics would.

Calvinism also has the (from my point of view) trap of holding that "godly assurance" is part of the state of being predestined to salvation, so the believer spends his or her time in self-examination to ensure that they have that assurance. From a Catholic point of view, you don't worry about that sort of certainty, but rely on the sacraments, trust in God, and get on with your life. (Not that there weren't Catholic saints who didn't spend long periods in spiritual anguish as well, but it's not considered normative for the ordinary believer.)

However, I certainly claim no particular knowledge of the views of many of the strands of Christianity that make up American society, where I believe that baptist/anabaptist strains are dominant, and I'll happily defer to others with better inforation about what they actually teach.

#460 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 10:48 AM:

Julia Jones said:

The non-religious musings upthread prompt me to ask if there are any readily accessible Robin-as-Dom stories worth reading. (Note that I do not ask simply if there are any stories -- there will be. If not now, soon. :-)

and James quoted:

"Temptation is made up of three successive phases...The first phase is suggestion or awareness ...This is succeeded by the second phase, which is delight. This is the more or less instinctive response of the soul to the suggestion. ... It should be noted that there is no sin in either of these phases, for the will has not yet declared itself."

Julia has obviously progressed from awareness, to a declaration of the will to sin. (One assumes that delight is in there too, although it was not specified.)

Actually, I think the idea that it's okay to delight in something, as long as you're not doing it on purpose (i.e., you haven't admitted to yourself that that's what you're doing, or you haven't deliberately sought out the source of delight) is rather disgusting. But it does explain a lot.

#461 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 10:51 AM:

The problem with using true Calvinism as a jumping-off point for understanding the fundamentalist movement in America is that you end up crediting them with too much rationality.

Predestination was definitely not a part of our beliefs, though there was much energy expended on explaining the difference between predestination and divine foreknowledge. Grace was available to all who were properly penitent, assuming they didn't wait too long to avail themselves of it. God would eventually take the offer off the table.

That bit about being "properly penitent" is where they run into trouble. If the penitent didn't receive that assurance you speak of, the failing was within him. Thus, the diaries and testimonials from the early 1800s through modern times that recount years of desperate prayer, the church members who constantly go forward during the "call to salvation" at the end of the Sunday service for reassurance. And the extension of that to all prayer, the idea that if God answers "no", it's because the petitioner wasn't righteous enough when he made the request.

#462 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 11:20 AM:

Laura picked up my comment about slash and tied it into the religious side of thread - quite approriately, because my interest in Robin-as-Dom stories stems from my interest in the psychology of powerful people going for subbing in their private lives as a way to deal with guilt. That does seem to be tied in with religious guilt in some cases, and from there we leap lightly to the notion of scourging as a means of cleansing sin, and whether it is as cleansing as some claim.

#463 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 12:48 PM:

David Goldfarb - I think the point was that no one has access to the original Greek. If it was altered, the Greek text would have been altered. Unless you think that what you checked was the original manuscript of the fourth gospel, alterations could have taken place.

That's what I understood, at any rate. Perhaps I misunderstood.

Julia Jones - scourging aside, I think the powerful-subs effect comes from the fact that while the dom is superficially in control, s/he is actually serving the needs of the sub; any good dom does more of what excites the sub and less of what annoys (or worse, bores) hir. This is what leads to the saying "the sub controls the scenario," which is false at one level and true at another. So the powerful people might sub as a way of having their needs served (including their need to be punished) without having to make any decisions! Virtually no one pays to dominate; people pay to be dominated all the time.

Or so I'm told. :-)

#464 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 01:07 PM:

David Goldfarb wrote: I was curious so I went and checked the original Greek for John 13:23-25, and it does in fact use masculine forms throughout for the "beloved disciple".

The original version of this passage no longer exists. The oldest surviving fragment of the gospel is the Rylands papyrus, dated around 125 A.D., which contains John 18:31-33 and John 18:37-38. No fragment of text dating from before the 4th century contains this portion of chapter 13.

#465 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 01:47 PM:

Virtually no one pays to dominate; people pay to be dominated all the time.

It seems to me that anybody can satisfy their wish to dominate others without paying a cent. If that's what you're into, all you have to do is acquire some children, or a significant other, or join the military, or get a job where you supervise others.

My take on the powerful-subs thing is that people who spend a lot of time "in control," making decisions, giving orders, etc. might enjoy giving it all up for a while, just as a change.

#466 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 01:49 PM:

Late once again, but I have to quote John Crowley on Biblical inerrancy. Pierce in Daemonomania says, "The book can't certify its own primacy ... That's saying the book existed before it came into existence. That it came into existence so that it could assert its own prior existence." Unfortunately the character he's talking to, Rose, then says, "Didn't get that."

#467 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 02:15 PM:

All this talk about Religion reminds me of the only good piece of advice ever given to me by a priest. It was at a time when I was very harsh on myself.

"Only God is perfect."

Good advice to live by even when, like me, you've since become an atheist. Strive for your best, but don't expect of yourself the perfection of an all-powerful God.

#468 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 02:54 PM:

Candle wrote: I mean this kind of thing: So you're insisting that the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was "leaning on Jesus' bosom", who was "lying on Jesus' breast", was a man? Does that work for you? Isn't this better... After all, who said Jesus (or John) was heterosexual? And yes, I tend to read it anyway as a claim that the author "John" was a better source than the other disciples because of this close relationship. That is, "my gospel is better than yours".

Ack, I've revealed my gut reaction to the idea of Jesus being gay, without realizing that was what I was doing.

The belief that MM was the BD goes hand-in-hand with the belief that she was the true author of the 4th gospel, so yes, the idea is that she was a better source than the other disciples because of her close relationship with Jesus.

Because my own knowledge of Biblical scholarship is very limited, I'll quote my son here (not that he's an authority, but he's taken classes on it; I've just read on my own):The four gospels that made it into the Bible paint very distinct pictures of Jesus. While they all tell virtually the same story, they are very different in exactly how they show Jesus' teachings and actions. John’s description of Jesus makes him seem like an altogether different person from the three synoptic gospels. Early Christian theologians tried to explain these differences by arguing that the differences were not as large as they seemed, and that John was always intended to be more of a “spiritual” gospel, than a synoptic one.

It makes sense to me that a woman writing about Jesus would have written a very different description than the three men.

Anyway, it'll be a cold day in hell before the Catholic church would admit to the idea that one of the 4 gospels was written by a woman, or that Jesus would have had a relationship with a woman. I mean, hello? Celibate clergy?

#469 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 03:43 PM:

This has absolutely no effect on whether the author of the fourth gospel was a man or a woman. It does, however, have everything to do with the nature of the relationship between Jesus and that disciple.

Classical and Hellenistic-period Greek has several different terms for love, depending on the type of love relationship under discussion. There are words for sexual/romantic love, love between friends, and generalized love of people. All of these will be translated in English by one word: love. This can become confusing.

The term used for beloved/loved by Jesus in the original Greek of the fourth gospel is a form of agape, which is not a word with very strong sexual overtones. It can, in some contexts, be used of love between married people, but even then it suggests a relationship of loving support rather than an erotic relationship.

Also, please do not get carried away by the fact that we don't have a lot of intact New Testament texts prior to X date. The library find from Pompeii notwithstanding, there aren't very many Greek or Roman texts, religious or other wise, on either parchment or papyrus, that have survived from before the 3rd or 4th century CE. This is because they don't hold up well, outside of the dry conditions found in the Middle East, and not because of conspiracies bent on denying us all these treasures. Of course, there were conspiracies; the library at Alexandria was regularly pruned by people who were afraid that reading Euripides might imperil people's souls. But conspiracies weren't the only problem.

#470 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 04:22 PM:

MSS need to be copied and recopied regularly in a manuscript culture for them to have a likelihood of survival over any significant length of time. Most classical-period works which haven't survived have perished not because of deliberate destruction or suppression, but because nobody thought it the best use of their time to recopy them before they fell apart or were lost to decay (setting aside large-scale deliberate destruction episodes such as the burning of the Library at Alexandria).

The unusual thing about biblical sources (along with, basically, Virgil in the West and Homer in the East, plua a few other cores of the primary educational curriculum) is that we actually have a significant number of old MSS -- that is, older than about 1000AD. (Papyri recovered from garbage dumps are, of course, another thing, but they are normally, Menander aside, very fragmentary and very random.) We have them because a lot of different people, in very different contexts and independently of each other, thought that it was a good thing to copy and recopy those texts, for religious and didactic reasons, and other people occasionally put particularly good copies into libraries where they could be relatively undisturbed for long periods of time.

#471 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 04:34 PM:

It makes sense to me that a woman writing about Jesus would have written a very different description than the three men.

Fair enough: I think I misunderstood the point you were trying to make. And I apologise for what now seems to me like a cheap shot about Christ's sexuality. Sorry.

I'm perfectly happy with the idea that the fourth gospel wasn't written by anyone called John; and I don't see why it shouldn't have been written by a woman. Although seeing as the author is clearly claiming to be the "beloved disciple", you need to have an actual conspiracy which changes both the pronouns *and* the attribution (or at least the pronouns *first*, which seems less likely to happen without a full intention in mind. And I don't like believing in conspiracies. Especially when my impression is that they would just have outlawed the gospel entirely and replaced it with a more suitable one. Gospels weren't exactly thin on the ground in this period.

And then there's fidelio's point about agape.

But I didn't mean to seem dismissive. I was tired. Sorry.

#472 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 05:16 PM:

fidelio wrote: Also, please do not get carried away by the fact that we don't have a lot of intact New Testament texts prior to X date

I wasn't getting carried away by it; I was just saying that we can't know what the original text said because it no longer survives. I wasn't suggesting that it had been deliberately destroyed.

Although it might have been. The theory I've read suggests that the "conspiracy" regarding the 4th gospel wasn't a conspiracy among the early church fathers who put together the canon. Nor was it a conspiracy to conceal the relationship between Jesus and MM because it was sexual. (Not to say that it wasn't, just that the motivation for the "conspiracy" was more innocent than that.) Rather, MM led one group of Christians during the very early years after the death of Jesus. They wanted "their" gospel to be included in the canon and predicted that it would be rejected if it were presented as having been written by a woman. So they changed the attribution, and a few pronouns here and there.

#473 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 08:49 PM:

They wanted "their" gospel to be included in the canon and predicted that it would be rejected if it were presented as having been written by a woman.

The problem with this is that the idea of a canon of the NT wasn't really in existence until Marcion, in the 130's to 140's; but John was in circulation and was being used by Ignatius of Antioch earlier (c. 115) and is represented by a very early Papyrus in Egypt (i.e. reflecting wider circulation still) before the time of the formation of the Canon..

#474 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 08:54 PM:

Mary,

I'm a grad student in your son's department, and I've taught the NT intro classes. He clearly got it. I'm thrilled, because there were quite a few days when, grading exams, I thought no one did.

#475 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 11:16 PM:

Virtually no one pays to dominate; people pay to be dominated all the time.

That's not the impression I got from the stickers on London phone booths. Admittedly this is an imperfect sample, but there certainly were many people who thought that subbing paid.

#476 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 08:56 AM:

mary, that wasn't aimed specifically at you, but at anyone who was inclined to believe that a fragmentary document, or one not found before X date, was proof of dirty work at the crossroads--it's an attitude that comes up a lot in discussions about all sorts of things where Great Conspiracies might have done something or other to Keep the Truth From Us, and I like for people to remember that sometimes something besides intent to supress is at work. Religion is one area fertile with these sorts of things, but there are plenty of others out there.

Sometimes the fact that documents don't exist at all is Proof for some people as well. I remember a heated discussion with someone who was determined the believe that there was Dangerous Sekrit Knowledge contained in Emperor Claudius' writings about the Etruscans, which is why they haven't survived, rather than someone saying "Do we really need this book in a gazillion volumes on a language no one speaks any more, plus all this stuff about examining sheep's livers and all like that, plus all this business about people named things like Porsena and Tarquinius--didn't Livy do that already?"

#477 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 09:58 AM:

Juli-- wow. Parents live for moments like this. Thank you. :)

#478 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 10:13 AM:

fidelio--point taken. I introduced this theory clumsily when I said that the text may have been edited to "conceal the relationship." It was more to conceal the authorship of the gospel. Since the gospel was written by the Beloved Disciple, it follows that the BD was a woman, and concealing that fact goes hand-in-hand with concealing the authorship.

Female authorship was probably often concealed centuries ago, not in an attempt to Hide The Truth, but in an attempt to gain acceptance of documents by a mysoginistic (that spelling looks wrong, but MSWord thinks it's okay) community.

The dates James mentioned neither prove nor disprove the theory. MM couldn't have lived until 115AD. The group of Christians who possessed her gospel could have concealed the authorship following her death, or even before.

Suggesting that MM was the BD doesn't necessarily imply that the relationship was a sexual one. According to the gospel of Luke (I think), Jesus cast demons out of MM. I have no idea what that means. She was nuts, he made her sane. Would she have been devoted to him? Absolutely. Might he, a compassionate person, have loved her in return? Of course. Might his love for her have differed in some way from whatever he felt for his male followers?

#479 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 10:48 AM:

mary, when you wrote:

So you're insisting that the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was "leaning on Jesus' bosom", who was "lying on Jesus' breast", was a man? Does that work for you? Isn't this better:
and followed with the feminized version of the passage from John, you brought the modern tendency to see all such gestures of physical affection as sexualized into my mind. I realize that was probably not what you were after there, but into my mind it came anyway, because I have a terribly wayward mind, and it tends to go in several directions at once.

Like the missing documents = conspiracy tendency among a lot of popular writers, there are an awful lot of people who interpret gestures of physical affection between two non-related people as evidence of a sexual relationship. I suspect that's a cultural thingy, and like a lot of other things, I keep tying to remind myself that Everywhere/when else is not like Here/Now all the time. Checking the original langguage on the word used for love seemed like a good idea, because if the word used had been something other than a form of agape or phile- we'd have some hot stuff on our hands for sure.

I don't doubt that Mary Magdalene was extremely devoted to Jesus, whether she was the woman who had demons cast out of her, or was one of the other unnamed women who is recorded in the gospels as interacting with Jesus. I'm unclear as to current views as to exactly which one she's supposed to be, but I realize the one you mention is a leading candidate. As to the exact authorship of the fourth gospel, and whether or not it was altered to concel an incovenient author, I dunno. The best I can come up with is possible but not proven so as to convince me.

Also, my paper pocket dictionary thinks it's misogyny/misogynist/misogynistic. I don't know whether this trumps a Microsoft product or not, but in case you think that spelling looks better, it's available; I have to say none of them look quite right, but it may be that I need the prescription updated on my glasses.

#480 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 11:50 AM:

The pocket dictionary is correct.

I keep track of that one by remembering that misogyny and gynecologist come from the same root.

#481 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 12:16 PM:

I pretty much assume that superheros have fairly vanilla sex lives. I mean, if you have urges to dress up in costumes and do secret acts, and you spend six or seven nights a week DOING that. . .well, when you get to the bedroom, you've hardly got an unfulfilled urge any more.

Also consider the case where, last time you put the costume on, you got lit on fire and thrown off a roof. Gets ME in the mood.

#482 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2006, 05:00 AM:

"last time you put the costume on, you got lit on fire and thrown off a roof. Gets ME in the mood."

You're a flameophile too!?!

#483 ::: David Harmon sees sporty spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 07:47 AM:

Smite smite smite!

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