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August 1, 2010

Between the Wave and the Particle, a Benediction
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:01 PM *

There was no doubt about it: the well-tanned gentleman outside of the Somes Bar General Store had looked upon the leaf when it was green. He introduced himself to me in a most friendly and enthusiastic fashion, but I confess that I have mislaid his name. We engaged in a brief discussion about the availability of further supplies of local produce*, a matter regarding which I professed myself wholly ignorant. He pressed; I demurred with, I flatter myself, such a civil yet convincing demeanor that he found himself unable to pursue the matter further.

Yet he was not an unpleasant conversationalist, combining as he did a general warmth toward his fellow creatures with an unfailing optimism and delight for the wonders of the world around him. And though our intercourse might have grown tiresome had it been further protracted, I had a fast car, a juvenile audience, and an impatient driver. With escape so readily to hand, I was not minded to dampen his mood with anything less than the friendliest of partings.

“Hey, have a fantastic day,” I told him, climbing into the passenger seat of the Jeep and strapping myself in.

“F— the day,” he replied (his enthusiasm did tend to overwhelm any awareness of the standards of discourse appropriate in the presence of children, but mine are too well-educated to find his vocabulary startling, and too well-mannered to react in any case). “Have a fantastic m—f—ing life!”

“That’s the idea,” I replied with a smile. “One fantastic day at a time.” My mother gunned the engine, and we were off.


* A conversation that reminded me irresistibly of one a year ago with an inebriated gentleman in a kilt who, despite staying in the heart of De Wallen, somehow reckoned that I was his best bet for getting laid that evening. People baffle me.
Comments on Between the Wave and the Particle, a Benediction:
#1 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 01:19 PM:

Aw. That's actually rather sweet, in a demented sort of way. Now I'm off to make the most of the rest of this mummerporking day (even though it includes vacuuming).

#2 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 02:18 PM:

Mummerporking? Roman Moroni would be proud!

#3 ::: patgreene ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 03:11 PM:

What a lovely story. And I love your reply to him.

#4 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 03:28 PM:

I have read that first paragraph four of five times now, and I am now fairly sure I understand what you're referring to. Obviously I am insufficiently practiced at the obliquity with which that subject is typically approached.

#5 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 03:37 PM:

Strange, as are people. And, as are people, pretty wonderful.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 04:08 PM:

Janet Brennan Croft #1: I am, perhaps, innocent of the art of porking mmummers. I would like to inquire as to whether it involves scrapple?

#7 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 04:11 PM:

#4: Well, I'm not sure what the hell "looked upon the leaf when it was green" means. I googled it and everything. The only reference was back to this post.

I have some ideas. He's old? He's stoned? He's an optimist? He's a plantsim?

#8 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 04:12 PM:

abi: Is this an example of the abiveld as applied to humans?

#9 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 04:17 PM:

Lucy @7

I would try comparing and contrasting that phrase with "looked upon the wine when it was red".

#10 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 04:40 PM:

Earl Cooley III @2, just as long as you don't try to hang me on a hook. My mother hung me on a hook. Once.

Fragano Ledgister @6, probably lebanon too.

#11 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 04:48 PM:

Some fans of the Ph*l*d*lph** Mummers P*r*d* may be disturbed by google hits bringing them to this page, poor souls. Or not. It's gotta be the most cross-dressing event in modern American culture.

#12 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 05:06 PM:

I never heard the one about the wine either! But that is about what I thought it meant, maybe.

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 05:22 PM:

I hadn't realized that the fellow in the kilt started out trying to hit on you. I thought he was initially lost, identified you as a friendly soul who spoke English and could give him directions, and thereafter didn't have enough sustained concentration to remember that you were the respectable female who was telling him how to get back to his hotel.

I loved your summary of his cluelessness: "This is a man who has been unable to get laid in spite of the fact that he has money, is staying at a hotel in Amsterdam's red light district, and is wearing a kilt."

#15 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 05:35 PM:

Teresa #14: At the cost of leveling Abi's obliquity, I think it was the prior, remembered, fellow, who was trying to hit on her (in the middle of a red light district). This fellow was apparently trying to score some weed. From a mother in front of her family....

#16 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 06:05 PM:

Joel, I'm sure I learned the phrase from Lord Peter--and given the learned nature of his piffle, he was quoting somebody else.

#17 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 06:26 PM:

[reaches for the indispensable Lord Peter Wimsey Companion]

Proverbs 23: 31:  Look not thou upon the wine when it is red ...  At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.  Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.

(your translation may vary)

#18 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 06:27 PM:

Proverbs 23:31 "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red,* when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright."

*Or, in some translations, yellow.

#19 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 06:28 PM:

The way I read it... it's a conversation by the roadside in California... the fellow was obviously stoned and was looking for more bud, from an unlikely source.

The footnote hinting at the ease of obtaining such goods in said locale.

#20 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 06:40 PM:

"look upon the leaf when it was green" turns up nothing in Google.
"looked upon the wine when it was red" is Proverbs 23:31

#21 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 06:47 PM:

Yeah, I wouldn't have gotten it except for the hint about location, combined with the footnote comparing it to sex in a red-light district. Amsterdam:Sex::NoCal:???

#22 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 06:48 PM:

Abi, I am puzzled by the title of the post.

Who is a particle, who is a wave?

#23 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 07:11 PM:

Mummers, of course, are people who perform in the folk plays called "mummer's plays", often done near the Winter Solstice. Standard characters include a Doctor, a Hero (St. George, in many cases), a Villain, a Scene-Setter (Room, Little Johnny Jack), a Man-Woman and others. If one were to "pork" them, clearly one would be giving them extra meat from the ham that was served as the winter feast dinner as their emolument for their performance. Having been a mummer at various times, I'd also suggest giving alcoholic beverages (ale, cider, or wine, usually).

I can't think of any other use of "pork" that the refined members of our august group might mention in polite company -- politics would be inappropriate, after all.

#24 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 07:15 PM:

Between the wave and the particle is an indeterminate probability state where the thing is both at the same time.

Schroedinger's Stash?

#25 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 07:22 PM:

Erik Nelson #22: Well, Abi's link indicates that the "General Store" is located at the confluence of two rivers, which could provide some waves. I dunno about the particles, though. (Teresa's section of sidebar doesn't seem to have anything relevant. :-) )

#26 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 07:25 PM:

the guy was an individual, yet also a "type" who was representative of the many?

the uncertainty principle applies to the presence of green stuff?

#27 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 07:29 PM:

John, 17: ...I was happy in my ignorance! Now I will not be able to rest until I have a copy.

David, 25: Rivers carry silt; silt is made up of particles. Ta-da!

#28 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 08:12 PM:

I assumed the fantastic life was a wave and the days particles.

#29 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 08:25 PM:

Fans of my mother☂ may be amused to know that Abi is currently in her close vicinity, as my mother resides in the town that is the non-Arcata endpoint of the big kinetic-sculpture race they hold up there each Memorial Day Weekend.

It is a quaint little town, full of Victorian houses, aging hippies, artistic craftspeople, cows,☀ and the aforementioned leaves that are green.

In fact, for those of you amused at reading between the lines of real-estate listings,★ the local secret-but-widely-understood code includes two idiosyncracies: "Fifty flat acres" means "It floods every spring," and "five-car heated garage with power", especially on a tiny one-bedroom, one-bathroom house, means "you can generate an alternative revenue stream through hydroponic farming."


☂ Or, at least, of the anecdotes about her I tell on this blog ... the two may well not map, as I may be a highly unreliable narrator. "There is chess, and there is a GAME of chess," to quote the immortal Stephen Fry.
☀ Mostly OUTside of town, actually, but some in fenced fields inside as well.
★ Two examples common in Chicago: "ripe for updating" means "avocado and harvest gold tile in the bathrooms, or worse." "Cozy" means "really low ceilings." I'm certain there are more universal ones I'm not mentioning, as well as local idiom like those Humboldt County examples above.

#30 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 10:51 PM:

#13 ::: Joel Polowin

Lucy @ 12: "Oh, my child, should you look on the wine when 'tis red / Be prepared for a fate worse than death!"

Gee, thanks, Joel, now I've got Lou Gottlieb crooning in my skull. Nor can I remember the term for what the verbs do in that song, sequentially applying to very different phrases ("as he put out the cat, the wine, his cigar ...and the lamp")

#31 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 11:16 PM:

Carol: We talked about that here, a few years ago... it's a zeugma

#32 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 11:17 PM:

29
The previous owners were practicing 'agriculture' in that 5-car garage, I take it.

#33 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 11:30 PM:

To be specific, the example you gave (from F&S) is a prozeugma, because the verb is at the front.

#34 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 01:42 AM:

TNH @14:

The puir wee lad in the kilt didn't start out trying to pick me up, but he clearly began to hope, in very short order, that our conversation over my iPhone could lead to something beautiful. (What he thought his friend who was being sick over the railings was going to do in the meantime, or you guys, I don't know.)

Elliott Mason @29:

I was there, staying just outside of Weitchpec. But the cabin doesn't benefit from luxuries like internet connections, phones, electricity, running water, or even a road directly to the door, so this is posted in retrospect. I'm back in the Netherlands now.

generally:

The very stoned gentleman is a wave; he describes a continuity. I am a particle; I talk in itty bitty pieces. We're both correct.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 06:57 AM:

Can a particle be a man and an honorary woman?

#36 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 09:52 AM:

I guess you can be an honorary woman if you're wearing a kilt.

#37 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 10:09 AM:

Thanks, Terry - the word I was thinking of is
syllepsis - but I would never have (re)found it without your comment.

#38 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 10:25 AM:

Am I the only one who finds it remarkable that one of the proprietors of Somes Bar General Store is named Chris Hatton?

#39 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 10:38 AM:

Your Hegemon is ubiquitous.

#40 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 11:47 AM:

Carol: Following the link, it seems syllepsis is a type of zuegma. I'll file it away with other rhetorical devices I wish I was better able to use at whim, rather than looking back on to say, "Damn, that was clever of me."

#41 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 11:49 AM:

Now I have Flanders and Swann running through my head. Which is not bad for a Monday morning.

A lovely vignette (and yes, your response was perfect).

#42 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 12:31 PM:

Flanders and Swann have a lot to answer for.  Ever since “At the Drop of Another Hat” I’ve been unable to listen to the rondo from Mozart’s Horn Concerto no. 4 (“Köchel rating 495”) without hearing Flanders’ words;  and the word “forebear” instantly brings up his quick-fire tour of European countries including, of course, Flanders “where my forebears came from – well, three of them anyway (who’s been sleeping in my porridge?) ...”

#43 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 12:50 PM:

Terry re: syllepsis/zuegma

I remembered the first, running across it, the latter had dropped completely off my radar. I have a great, hefty book (not to hand at the moment) that is crammed with these terms. Not a book to sit and read.

When I get home, I'll dig it out and park it in the bathroom.

Not that these terms will generate burrs and stick around, but like you, a little lagniappe riding along when something clever gets written - to know that someone documented it.

Now, will someone rescue me from the Limeliters?

Recall that. They're not so bad.


#44 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 01:05 PM:

John Stanning @ 42: You too (Horn Concerto)? I'm glad I'm not the only one. "I once had a horn and I started to play it, in spite of the neighbours who begged me to stop."

#45 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 01:17 PM:

Thanks to F&S I keep expecting to see a presentation of "The Mikado" by a group of Sixth Form girls in full kit. If they'd have recorded it rather than have performed it where someone could write down the lyrics then I'm sure it would be on YouTube by now.

#46 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 01:27 PM:

To play my horn, I had to develop my embouchure...

#47 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 01:46 PM:

dcb@44: Actually,

I once had a whim
And I had to obey it
To buy a French horn
In a second-hand shop.

I polished it up
And I started to play it,
In spite of the neighbors
Who begged me to stop.

(At least out of my memory; you're blending the two verses.)

#48 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 02:24 PM:

ddb @ 47: Thanks! It's a while since I listed to the Flanders & Swann and I was thinking (after posting, natch) there was something wrong with my version...

#49 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 02:37 PM:

dcb@48: It's sometimes a bit strange when an F&S song comes up on the big shuffle-play list -- but usually strange in a pleasant way, and I can always click "next" if really necessary (not in the mood that moment). So I hear them now and then, without specifically going looking for them.

#50 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 02:46 PM:

The only problem with the F&S collection I have is that the introduction to the songs is on the previous track. I still have to fix this on my ripped copy.

John Stanning @ 42:

I'm glad I'm not the only one with that problem.

#51 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 02:53 PM:

Keith S.@50: Yes, I have that same collection, sounds like; ripped from my CDs. Yes, it's very annoying. I'm assuming the LPs had the breaks there, but I've never had LPs of F&S.

#52 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 03:08 PM:

An anecdote from The Frank Muir Book (rekeyed from Google Books so sorry for any slips). Most anthologies of anecdotes and funny quotes aren't worth the bother. The Frank Muir Book is one of the exceptions.

“The Bible sternly warned Catholics against the dangers of drinking white wine:

Look not upon the wine when it is yellow, when the colour thereof shineth in the glass. It goeth in pleasantly: But in the end, it will bite like a snake, and will spread abroad poison like a basilisk.
The Douai Version, With Bishop Challoner's Notes, 1914

Whilst, at the same time, warning Protestants against the other colour:

Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
Proverbs xxiii:31–32
The Authorised Version, 1604

The Knox translation of 1950 struck a happy medium and warned us not to look upon wine when it is tawny.”

#53 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 03:33 PM:

According to biblegateway.com, the Westminster Leningrad Codex version of this passage is

אַל־תֵּ֥רֶא יַיִן֮ כִּ֪י יִתְאַ֫דָּ֥ם כִּֽי־יִתֵּ֣ן עֵינֹ֑ו יִ֝תְהַלֵּ֗ךְ בְּמֵישָׁרִֽים׃

—I'd have to be very far gone in red/yellow/tawny wine to try to bluff any knowledge of biblical Hebrew, but perhaps someone reading this can tell us what colour of wine should be avoided.

#54 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 03:36 PM:

Douai notwithstanding, my friends who are Catholic priests tell me they prefer white wine because it doesn't stain vestments or altar cloths.

#55 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 03:45 PM:

KeithS @ 50, ddb @ 51: I must organise myself an mp3 version of F & S songs. I have "At the Drop of a Hat" and "At the Drop of Another Hat" on tape, copied from LPs a long time ago. Maybe it's time to get that tape-to-mp3 device.

Interestingly, when I heard one of the collections on somebody else's CD a while back, some of the anecdotes were different, and even some songs varied slightly. Obviously from different original reordings.

#56 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 03:53 PM:

abi, because of course white wine looks JUST LIKE the human blood it's supposed to represent. I'm a Pagan, but I think using white wine for communion is just plain silly.

#57 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 03:59 PM:

Abi@54 — I thought they used red so that transubstantiation would be more plausible.

#58 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:00 PM:

Well, but no form of bread that I'm acquainted with looks all that much like human flesh.

Besides, the wine doesn't, in Catholic doctrine, represent blood. It becomes blood, regardless of its accidents (its physical appearance). Given the magnitude of the Transubstantiation in theological terms, the color of the source liquid is relatively unimportant.

#59 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:01 PM:

I guess I'm really on Xopher's wavelength today.

#60 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:04 PM:

That's why I mentioned being Pagan. Yes, it's theologically unimportant, but it's ritually crucial quite important. Something needs to be evoked in your mind when you look at it (from my perspective). Ignoring the art of ritual always disturbs me.

And...you've never been in a group that tore apart a bread sculpture of a human being? Hmm, I guess you haven't...neither have I, technically, since humans don't typically have antlers.

#61 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:05 PM:

Dan @57:

The transubstantiation of wine into blood is wildly implausible. Choosing the color of the wine in question can't really address that.

Now, there are people who are fonder of red wine because it reminds them of the color of blood. And there's a place in religious ceremony for theater and symbolism.

But white wine is also entirely acceptable and, as I said, often gets chosen because it doesn't stain all that white fabric.

#62 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:06 PM:

Steve @53: ubiquity translates this as "Al - Batra wine that Itadm that - will give his eye would walk directly:"

Make of that what you can.

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:10 PM:

I think it means "don't get wine in your eye, 'cause that'll, like, hurt."

#64 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:10 PM:

Xopher, I mention the theology as a form of argument to authority. In other words, it's not just me saying that the color of the wine doesn't matter if it's going to be transubstantiated into blood anyway. I have a lot of people who know a lot more about Catholicism who say it too.

As far as I understand, the distinction you make between theology and ritual doesn't really exist in the Catholic Mass. Theology is an attempt to describe what the ritual does.

And it doesn't matter whether the audience believes that the miracle happens. It happens anyway, if you follow Catholic theology; it doesn't happen at all if you don't.

#65 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:12 PM:

I had been under the impression that Catholic sacramental wine could only be red, but indeed I'm (not for the first time in my life) totally wrong: the only proviso seems to be The wine must be natural from the fruit of the vine and not spoiled. (“Fruit of the vine and work of human hands”). For lay people to receive communion in two kinds still strikes me as exotic—when I was growing up (until the late 80s?) in our diocese it was bread only.

#66 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:15 PM:

I never developed a taste for red wine at all; I was spoiled by Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling.

#67 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:17 PM:

No, I understood that it doesn't matter to the theology of what happens. By 'the art of ritual' I mean something akin to the theatre of the thing. It may be good theology, but it's poor ritual design.

Of course, I'm a Pagan, so I place a higher value on ritual/theatre/poetry than the Roman Catholic Church does, and a much lower value on theology (or even thealogy, as some Pagans call Goddess-oriented theology).

#68 ::: Cecy ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:32 PM:

Abi @58 Oddly enough, my mother just sent me a very appropriate link. Definitely flesh-like, but I wouldn't want to see them in use for Communion:

Thailand's Goriest Baker

#69 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:38 PM:

Xopher: I think that one can argue that it is good ritual design because it is bad ritual design. It makes, ritually, the point that appearances don't matter, because this is not just a symbol.

#70 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:46 PM:

Abi@61 — Yes, I should have realized that the wine/blood thing was more complicated than I was thinking. Especially since I realized there was a problem with the apparent nonfleshiness of the wafers. At least I learned a new meaning for accident, by accident.

As Wyclif said (according to the OED), "No man durste seye til nou þat accident is goddis body, for þis newe word may haue no ground."

#71 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 04:58 PM:

Can’t do Hebrew, but the Latin (Vulgate) says:  Ne intuearis vinum quando flavescit, cum splenduerit in vitro color ejus...

“Don’t gaze on [the] wine when flavescit, when its color glistens in the glass...”

flavescit is the difficult word, meaning “it becomes golden-yellow/gold-colored/reddish-yellow/flaxen-colored/flame-colored”, hence the variations in translation.  Maybe someone more poetical than me can produce a good phrase:  “Look not on the wine when it burns in the glass” makes me think of some flambé dish in a restaurant, which isn’t the idea at all!

But “Look not on the wine when it is red” seems a sensible warning anyway!

#72 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 05:01 PM:

Dan, 70: The wafers are unleavened because the Last Supper was a seder.

#73 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 05:03 PM:

Thanks, John. If it's flaming sambucas that are banned, that's fine by me.

#74 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 05:11 PM:

This moose is irresistibly reminded of the question from the Theological Physics exam:

(10 pts) 25 grams of wafers and 20 ml of cheap wine undergo transubstantiation and become the flesh and blood of our Lord.
How many Joules of heat are released by the transformation?

That and Tom Lehrer's Vatican Rag, of course.

#75 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 05:34 PM:

It's the fuzzy blue-green wine that's bad for you.

#76 ::: Brother Guy ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 06:10 PM:

The running joke among many priests is that the wine used in the Mass also has to taste awful... a result of the preference for the variety of wines that can be stored for long times at room temperature after being opened.

The Jesuits traditionally started vineyards to produce wine for the Mass; the old novitiate in Los Gatos, California is now a very tony winery (where Jesuits are allow to do wine tasting for free!) Later this week I will be heading to Sevenhill, Australia, a winery still run by Jesuits. My work there will be astronomical observations, thus limiting my sampling of the local product, alas.

#77 ::: LizardBreath ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 06:25 PM:

I would assume that upon transubstantiation, white wine becomes the lymph of Christ.

#78 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 06:47 PM:

A couple of the wineries where I grew up survived Prohibition by making sacramental wine. (Of course, they don't know how much of it actually was used that way.) One of them was founded for that purpose, back in the 1880s. [insert jokes about Irish winemakers here]

#79 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 06:54 PM:

Xopher: As a lifelong Roman Catholic (and onetime altar boy, who later considered taking orders), you are right, and wrong. The ritual is there, and the color of the wine is immaterial to its effect. We used white wine at altar (Steve with a book, that was in 1980).
The majesty of the mass does the trick. I think the loss of ringing the angelus is a greater diminishment of the ritual than the color of wine (because that set of bells signified the moments of the miracles.
I am not sure I am willing to credit the higher value of ritual. I think the ways in which the ritual is invoked is different, but there is a huge amount of ritual, which the various aspects of the Church (not just the mass) depend on; and a great deal of it is personal. Walking the stations of the cross, lighting a taper, counting a rosary, making a novena, are all things one does individually.

The fasts and vigils vary. Being an altar boy is a bit of both. It's where I learned to open bottles, and perhaps where my attention to the details of dress (from the 13 fasteners on the cassock, to arranging the lie of the lacework on the surplice, when I was preparing my seld, mind, body and soul, to go out and perform my roles in the service).

Taken fully, the rituals of the thing (i.e. the church), suffuse one's entire life. At which point, the color of the wine, in the central mystery of regular practice, seems small beer.

#80 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 06:56 PM:

I might take a stab at the meaning of the verse as,


"Beware the wine when it sparkles/gleams/glistens in the cup"

and read it as a warning against the false temptations of it, for all the pleasantries it has, like gold, or other precious things, to chase after it too much is to invite disaster.

#81 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 08:29 PM:

Several Protestant churches with which I've been involved have done it the other way around -- red wine for Communion and white grape juice for those abstaining from alcohol, and the different colors so that we could tell the cups apart. Goodness knows it was hard to tell by color or taste, except maybe for the alcohol burn.

#82 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 09:11 PM:

Regarding the role of belief in ritual, I recall a remark attributed to the great Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr. A visitor to his office noted a horseshoe hanging on the wall, and asked him, "Surely you don't believe that horseshoe will bring you good luck, Professor Bohr?"

To which he replied, "Of course not, but I understand it brings you good luck whether you believe in it or not."

#83 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 03:40 AM:

The church I was active in, when I was growing up, communion was always red wine and real bread. I thought that was as it should be, even though it took extra care to not leave any crumbs of the body of Christ. When I was a bit older I was invited to a vestry meeting where they were getting rid of the consecrated wine. This was at a very small church so there was most of a bottle left over. When it was gone, the priest blessed another one.

#84 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 09:04 AM:

Oh. I thought he was asking you about actual local produce, and as a non-local, you didn't know where the farmer's market was.

Sigh.

#85 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 10:03 AM:

Michael (84): That was my immediate thought, as well. Even though I guessed what "looked upon the leaf when it was green" meant.

#86 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 10:06 AM:

Terry #79 : is the ringing of little bells during Mass also called the angelus?  I always associate that word with tower bells ringing at morning and evening, and people out in the fields stopping work and reciting Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae et concepit de Spiritu Sancto and so on (though never an RC, I’m fond of ecclesiastical Latin) as in that painting by – who was it? {googles} – Jean-François Millet.

#87 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 10:53 AM:

John, 86: I think the mid-Mass bells are the Sanctus bells. Their use might depend on the formality of the service--there were smells and bells at the last RC Ash Wednesday I went to, but not at the ordinary Sunday one.

(oh, "smells and bells" is a way to denote very High Church Anglicanism, meaning they like everything about Rome but the Pope.)

#88 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 11:29 AM:

@86:

As I understand it (the custom doesn't seem to be common in the U.S.), the Angelus bell is rung at 6 am, noon, and 6 pm.

I think Terry intended to write "Sanctus" bell -- a small one (or set of three) sounded (once or thrice) at the Consecration of the Host, and of the wine, and again at each of the three Elevations. (There seem to be major local/regional differences in the practice of its use -- which is intended to draw the congregation's attention to some particularly important segement of the Rite.)

#89 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 12:04 PM:

Yes, I did mean to say Sanctus. Ours were a set of four, with three small clappers in each.

Learning how to ring them (and the timing) was one of the more stressful parts of the job.

I am listening to someone ringing Nones right now, softly through the window of a heavy, slightly grey day in Ottawa.

#90 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 12:26 PM:

TexAnne @ 87: otherwise known as "more Catholic than the Catholics".

#91 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 09:16 AM:

@42

John, I have the same problem with regard to Mozart's fourth horn concerto - to the point where I have turned it into a trick for getting myself to sleep. What I do is to simultaneously run in my head the F&S version as well as a more traditional rendition of the piece. For some reason, this works to get my brain slowed down enough to nod off.

I also have the sort of brain which cross-references *everything*, which means I wind up being distracted in the middle of lectures by odd bits of Flanders & Swann, Weird Al Yankovic, the Muppets, Tom Lehrer, PDQ Bach, the Cambridge Buskers, and Arlo Guthrie which just happen to have connected themselves to a phrase the lecturer hath spake in all seriousness. The resulting giggles can be rather disconcerting to my classmates. Of course, then the blasted tune will tend to stick around as an earworm for the rest of the day (or week in extreme cases) until something else comes along to dislodge it. It's a hard life, I tell ye, a hard life.

#92 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 10:27 AM:

Xopher @ #56, obviously ritual is one thing we can agree on. I had a jolt of "that's just WRONG!" at the mention of using white wine for communion. (Though a priest friend of mine once used Coca-Cola and Oreo cookies in an emergency, and by emergency, I mean someone was dying in the wee small hours in a hospital and that was the best the vending machine could come up with.)

From my perspective, plausibility don't enter into it. Red wine represents blood better than white wine does. (But then, I'm Episcopalian, not Roman Catholic. But we did ring the Sanctus bells at the appropriate moment.)

Mattathias, but it only works if you hang the horseshoe open-end-up; otherwise the luck drains out.

#93 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 11:04 AM:

Meg, I love it! Sort of ADD Warner Bros, or something.

#94 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 02:30 PM:

Having let the red/white wine thing stew in the back of my mind for several days, I've now come to an insight: I think magically. And when you want to transform something in magic, you start out with something similar to begin with—not just because it's easier, but because the link will be stronger.

Also, a great deal* of magic works primarily in the mind. I can imagine drinking red wine and having my mind say "blood!" but not white wine.

Rituals, to me, have to be both good magic and good art to be good ritual. While Roman Catholic ritual has magical moments (tell me that the elevation of the host isn't a focusing of power, just tell me that and I'll smile quietly to myself) the primary focus is on scripture, not magic.

But I'm only speculating on why the white wine doesn't seem wrong to Catholics (and, of course, trusting abi on it). I'm only speaking with authority on why it does bother me.
____
*in my view, virtually all

#95 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 04:29 PM:

Xopher, I agree that we've come to a fundamental parting of the ways on the wine thing. (Not in the sense that we're on the outs, just in the sense that here our traditions differ.)

Andrew M @69 points out one reason that bad ritual design actually has a value: to emphasize that the ritual is not the point. I'd like to dig a little deeper in that area.

[For the remainder of this comment, we are assuming a worldview in which Catholic theology is true. I know that not everyone agrees that this worldview maps to the universe we live in. I just don't want to add "according to Catholic theology" to every statement, nor risk annoying someone who doesn't share it by seeming to assert a reality with which they do not agree.]

The faith of the congregation is irrelevant to the success of the ritual, the occurrence of the miracle. That's useful, because one of the key points of Christian belief is that humans don't have the power to control God. We have the power to control ourselves, but (for instance) PZ Myers can't stop the Transubstantiation by standing up and shouting, "NON CREO".*

The beliefs of the congregation do not affect the performance of the miracle. Come to that, the beliefs of the priest don't either; that's the whole doctrine of ex opere operato. It's why a priest can be a screwup, personally, and still be capable of saying Mass.

I think, from what you've said, that this is substantially different in its inmost nature from the rituals that you're thinking of.

-----
* There's an argument that we are controlling God when we make Him perform this miracle on demand, just because we've gone through these particular motions. But that's because of a covenant, a promise made and kept by the only actor with power in the situation. He said He'd do it. In some ways, Mass is a way of asking, "Do You still love us?", waiting for the "Yes" in return.

#96 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 04:41 PM:

For Protestants, with the possible exception of Lutherans, this stuff is very definitely symbolism, not pretending-it's-not-magic, and white wine just doesn't symbolize blood to me, plus it's not typically what you'd have been drinking at a Passover seder in those days. My background was Methodist and various more evangelical groups, and the issue there was wine vs. nonalcoholic grape juice, because of the moral concerns about drunkenness. And once you're doing unfermented grape juice, you get into the question of whether it's real Welch's (or Manischewitz) as opposed to purple-colored grapey drink-like stuff.

The bread was usually leavened bread, though sometimes we'd use matzoh. Those little pressed wafer things were more high-church. Maybe it's because I grew up with it, but good bread torn off a loaf speaks more to me, though it really would have been matzoh.

#97 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 04:41 PM:

abi @95: If we postulate Catholic theology as true, then Transubstantiation irrespective of belief would be no more suprising than the poured wine landing in the goblet instead of on the ceiling, even if the priest didn't believe in gravity, no? (Honest question; I'm a lapsed Pagan, personally.)

Xopher: Have I mentioned that I find your sexual orientation inconvenient? she says, gnawing absently on her little finger.

#98 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 04:52 PM:

Jacque @97:
Transubstantiation irrespective of belief would be no more suprising than the poured wine landing in the goblet instead of on the ceiling, even if the priest didn't believe in gravity

Yes, zackly, if my understanding is correct. Within that frame of reference, it's consistent with the fundamental nature of the universe, which no human can change.

I could be wrong, in which case I trust that someone more knowledgeable will set us both straight*.

-----
* Can I just wave at the inevitable comment about you hoping someone might set Xopher straight and let it go? No? Then consider it made.

And Xopher's a treasure, really and truly.

#99 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 05:06 PM:

96
I'm not sure what the grape juice at our Methodist church was, but as I seem to remember it, it wasn't Welch's: more red and somewhat sour.

#100 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 08:00 PM:

abi, it seems to me that at some point transubstantiation becomes problematic. I mean, what you have described is essentially the priest elevating the host saying "OK God, we still cool, right?" and expecting God to say yes. Now, if the priest can still say Mass and elevate the host if he's personally a screwup, then God is saying, "yeah, we cool" not to the priest, but to the congregation. Is the congregation cool as a body? Are they predominately cool? Do we have Lot bargaining for Sodom - as long as there's one cool dude, we're good?

This sounds flippant, but when I hear about religious organizations protesting each other in New York and elsewhere, I get to wondering.

#101 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 08:15 PM:

Abi @ 98... hoping someone might set Xopher straight

I will not make the obvious joke. For once.

#102 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 08:17 PM:

If something is described as both red and yellow, it's probably orange. I foresee no trouble avoiding looking on the wine when it is orange.

#103 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 08:29 PM:

Jo @ #102, "I foresee no trouble avoiding looking on the wine when it is orange."

How do you feel about Curacao?

#104 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 09:53 PM:

I quite enjoy looking on the mimosa when it is orange, provided they didn't put good champagne in it.

#105 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 10:35 PM:

And then there's that "wine-dark sea" from (IIRC) Homer, which had some overly-literal folks wondering if the Greeks had blue wine.... (Much more likely, the text simply refers to shade, while ignoring hue.)

#106 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 10:42 PM:

Jacque 97: Have I mentioned that I find your sexual orientation inconvenient?

I apologize for inconveniencing you. I find your gender inconvenient.

abi 98: Can I just wave at the inevitable comment about you hoping someone might set Xopher straight and let it go? No? Then consider it made.

Well, it's not as if no one's ever tried, by means including but not limited to physical violence. These days I tend to be quite hostile to anyone who tries.

And Xopher's a treasure, really and truly.

The porcelain calling the enamel white, or something. Actually this whole white==good, black==bad thing is kinda nasty. The emerald calling the malachite green, how about that?

TexAnne 104: I quite enjoy looking on the mimosa when it is orange, provided they didn't put good champagne in it.

I was once at an intentionally tacky polyester-doubleknit party where the mimosas were made of Tang™ and Cold Duck™.

IIRC I brought lime Jell-O™ with mandarin oranges embedded in it.

#107 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 10:43 PM:

PS to my #105: On the flip side, I keep getting surprised by stories of folks mistaking beet juice, stains, or "residue" for blood -- to me, that purple tinge is distinctive, even in the toilet.

#108 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 10:46 PM:

David 105: Or as I wrote once in a song,

She led him inside to a beautiful room,
Where the flames in their sconces burned low;
And the wine that she poured was as dark as the Moon,
Between the Sickle and Bow.

#109 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 04:38 AM:

Mark @100:

I mean, what you have described is essentially the priest elevating the host saying "OK God, we still cool, right?" and expecting God to say yes. Now, if the priest can still say Mass and elevate the host if he's personally a screwup, then God is saying, "yeah, we cool" not to the priest, but to the congregation. Is the congregation cool as a body? Are they predominately cool? Do we have Lot bargaining for Sodom - as long as there's one cool dude, we're good?

I didn't mean to make a connection between any test of worthiness and the matter of God's love. Flat out, there isn't one in Catholic (or, as I agree with it, Christian) belief. That says that God loves us, with no exceptions, no preconditions, no fine print*. Even if we're screwups (and I certainly am one). Being a screwup really doesn't matter for the miracle.

And there was this one cool dude, even if God kinda put His finger on the scale in the matter. So yeah, we're good, twice over.

But we ask for the pleasure of hearing the answer we already know. We ask because we don't always feel lovable, even so. We ask because some of us are just made in a way that makes us ask. Indeed, a fair few Catholics probably wouldn't agree that we are asking, because they don't work in that fashion. I do, though, which is why I see it that way.

-----
* Westboro Baptist can bite me. But God loves even them, which is how you know He's omnipotent and I'm not.

#110 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 05:37 AM:

Xopher @106:

One of the things I really enjoy about our mutual admiration society is the cleverness and thoughtfulness of the compliments.

#111 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 07:20 PM:

Abi wrote:

One of the things I really enjoy about our mutual admiration society is the cleverness and thoughtfulness of the compliments.

Is it possible to have friendship-lust?

I hope, someday, to have a friendship that inspires this level of creative complements, except that I don't think I'm creative enough to sustain my half of the complement-exchange.

#112 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 07:33 PM:

Ursula, don't be too envious. The staircase effect applies to compliments too. For example, I now realize I should have said "That's a case of the diamond calling the cut glass precious."

And apropos of absolutely nothing, a rave review of The Expendables that will make you NOT want to see it. Unless you're eight.

#113 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 08:25 PM:

Bill Stewart #96:Those little pressed wafer things were more high-church. Maybe it's because I grew up with it, but good bread torn off a loaf speaks more to me, though it really would have been matzoh.

Even in Catholic practice there is a preference for one big pressed wafer thing that is broken into pieces. The General Instruction to the Roman Missal says The meaning of the sign demands that the material for the Eucharistic celebration truly have the appearance of food and that it should be made in such a way that the priest at Mass with a congregation is able in practice to break it into parts for distribution to at least some of the faithful.


At this point I can't resist the old joke about the Anglican's objection to transubstantiation "I can believe it becomes the body of Christ, I just can't believe it started off as bread".


#114 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2010, 09:54 PM:

Thomas @ 113 -- Now you've got me random-associating with several old TV commercials ranging from a series of Parkay margarine ads ("Butter!") to Folgers coffee ("We swapped Mr. Dithers' coffee with new Folgers. Let's see if he notices...")

#115 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2010, 01:52 AM:

Xopher @ 106, 112,

One problem with your proposed alternatives to the pot and kettle; the properties you are citing are innate, whereas the pot and kettle become black through use. This matters, not least because soot can catch fire. So a pot or kettle being black is potentially a bad thing for very practical reasons that have nothing to do with prejudices.

J Homes.

#116 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2010, 06:47 PM:

J Homes @ 115: "So a pot or kettle being black is potentially a bad thing for very practical reasons that have nothing to do with prejudices."

While I am less than entirely certain that the etymology you put forth is the correct one, I am rather sure that your reasoning doesn't speak to the general objection Xopher might have to the phrase,* or the objection he might have to using it in this particular circumstance.**

* To wit, the widespread linguistic tendency towards equating darkness with badness in our culture and the prejudice that it might engender or reinforce.

** That it, being a saying about the bad being criticized by the worse, might not be appropriate in this case of the awesome being praised by the awesomer.†

† Not that I am taking a stand on the relative awesomeness of abi and Xopher, both of whom shine in the heavens on alternating week days--I merely echo Xopher's usage.

#117 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2010, 06:56 PM:

both of whom shine in the heavens on alternating week days

With heresiarch covering the week-ends, obviously.

#118 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2010, 07:37 PM:

The heavens, being delightfully and characteristically vast, often have room for the three of them to shine at once.

Having read slowly and carefully, I've usually been able to understand what the firmament.

#119 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2010, 10:17 PM:

It was more that to reverse pot and kettle's blackness I said "white" rather than shiny, which is what they would be with the soot cleaned off (unless they're enameled, in which case they could be any color). A white pot could be very clean, but it could also be encrusted with salt, which would also not be good.

I don't like to see things in black and white anyway.

#120 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2010, 10:46 PM:

What's this about Cliff Potts calling Karen Black and Ma' Kettle?

#121 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 12:54 AM:

I would not for a moment hold that the awesomeness of either abi or Xopher is but relative.

I note the other points. Not that I altogether agree, but fair to raise them.

J Homes.

#122 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 05:18 AM:

One is reluctant in this August gathering...  Oh dear.  Start again.

I’m reluctant in this gathering to state the very obvious, especially in Xopher’s direction (#106, #119), but the association of light with good, and darkness with evil – and by extension, of white (representing light) with good and black (representing darkness) with evil – long, long predates any possible racial connotation.  It’s no accident that sun and fire, bringers of light, were worshipped from earliest times;  that one of the most precious possessions of the Greek gods was fire, which Prometheus stole and gave to mortals;  that the first thing God did in the biblical creation story was to say “Let there be light.”

There’s no “widespread linguistic tendency towards equating darkness with badness in our culture” (heresiarch, #116) – that equation has probably been there ever since we had language to express the concept.  No surprise, of course, that our prehistoric ancestors feared the dark, when they heard strange noises that they couldn’t identify, when they couldn’t see the sabre-toothed tiger about to jump on them (cats being famously good at seeing in the dark) and easily associated darkness with evil things, so associated light with good.

To state the very obvious again:  black, absence of colour, #000000, is the reverse of white, all colours, #ffffff.  Seeing things in “black and white” is simply either a way of expressing complete opposites, or of expressing clarity due to black being so distinct from white (you’re probably seeing this text in black and white).

Of course the words ‘black’ and ‘white’ have acquired, since only a few hundred years, racial meanings and associations in addition to their non-racial ones, and we have to be sensitive to that, but surely, while being sensitive, we have to let those meanings co-exist.  We can’t restrict the use of the word ‘black’ only to the very narrow context of Western racial politics.

#123 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 08:07 AM:

In a couple or three of his novels, Theodore Sturgeon said that the mass was originally a shared meal. Is this a well-founded idea?

#124 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 08:16 AM:

And then there's that "wine-dark sea" from (IIRC) Homer, which had some overly-literal folks wondering if the Greeks had blue wine..

Stranger than that: they didn't see colours in the same way we did. To Homer, the sky was bronze-coloured and the sea wine-coloured. Blood and storm clouds and leather were all "kelainos", black; ships and fresh-turned earth were "melas", another word for black. Honey was "chloros", the bright green of young plants and tree sap - and, to Euripides, the colour of tears. Hektor's hair falling about his head as he fought was "kyanos", used elsewhere to describe the colour of lapis lazuli.

Basically, to the ancient Greeks, colour was all about intensity: hue was secondary. And if the noon sky had the almost painful brightness of a polished bronze mirror in the sun, then it was bronze-coloured.

#125 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 08:18 AM:

ObSF: "Chromatic Aberration" by John M. Ford.

#126 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 09:25 AM:

Nancy #123 : yes.  It’s clear from the three Gospels that mention the sharing of bread and wine* at the Last Supper that it took place in the context of a shared meal.  Jesus broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, then passed the wine round, saying “Do this in remembrance of me”.  St Paul – who wasn’t there, but knew people who were – adds that when Jesus shared the wine he said “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  Also, there’s an episode in St Luke’s gospel, after the crucifixion and resurrection, when two of Jesus’ disciples walk to a village called Emmaus.  On the way they meet a man and ask him to supper with them.  At supper he breaks the bread – and only then do they realise that it’s Jesus.

I’m not a theologian, and I’m sure many that are have commented on this topic, but to me the whole story sounds, not like the initiation of a special rite, but like Jesus simply telling his disciples – and us – to remember him every time we eat and drink together.  So this business of a special building in which we hold ‘services’, and put a big ritual around the eating and drinking, isn’t really at all what Jesus told us to do:  that all grew up later.  Simply, every time we eat and drink (drinking is definitely part of it, whatever the pure-unfermented-grape-juice fanatics say), we should remember Jesus and what he taught us.

Having said that, one has to take things as they are:  I go to church and attend services, even though what I’ve said above does remain in the back of my mind.

__________
* St John doesn’t mention the sharing of bread and wine – he talks about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.  But he has his own agenda.

#127 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 09:51 AM:

John Stanning@122: Good luck with that argument. We live in a society where we are not allowed to try to educate people to know that "niggardly" is not in any way a racial slur.

#128 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 09:53 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @123: I read an account which suggested that the early Church, after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, became the de facto 'soup kitchen' of the Roman poor. And that the ritual of a little wine and a little bread was an adaptation to get out from under the obligation to actually feed the congregation.

#129 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 09:59 AM:

126: thus providing biblical sanction to the ancient Christian custom of the Potluck Supper.

It would be a very different church if Communion were still treated as a proper meal rather than a ritual. Probably a more popular one. Definitely a more worthwhile one.

#130 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 10:08 AM:

John Stanning at 122:

black, absence of colour, #000000

Black is the color where none is the number.

#131 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 10:24 AM:

ajay @ 124

When I was very little and out with my mother I once pointed at a shiny black car and shouted “Pink!” Obviously at that time I thought “pink” meant “polished and shiny”, but what pink shiny object had led to my confusion I cannot tell.

Now it would be the top of my head!

Re pots and kettles: the expression in Tykeland is “Pot callin’ t’ kettle ‘grimy-arse’”.

#132 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 03:15 PM:

TexAnne @ 117: "With heresiarch covering the week-ends, obviously."

Clearly you have an excess of kindness. So perhaps you could cover for me on Saturdays?

J Homes @ 121: "I note the other points. Not that I altogether agree, but fair to raise them."

Then I am content.

John Stanning @ 122: "No surprise, of course, that our prehistoric ancestors feared the dark, when they heard strange noises that they couldn’t identify, when they couldn’t see the sabre-toothed tiger about to jump on them (cats being famously good at seeing in the dark) and easily associated darkness with evil things, so associated light with good."

This, like most evo-psych claims built on an imagined prehistory, holds up for about as long as it takes to look at the world. Then you see oh! A culture where white is the color of death. Ooh! A religion that places primacy on balancing light and dark, but acknowledges darkness as the superior.

Black can be terror of unknowing, the rich fertility of the earth, the silence of death, or the freedom of being unobserved. Symbols are things in our minds. That is the only place they are, and there they can mean anything.

#133 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 04:42 PM:

tykewriter @131:

Pink. With a color saturation of 0.

#134 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 05:03 PM:

heresiarch #132 : fair enough.  That idea of the origin of the concept was my own fancy.  But do you disagree with the rest of what I said?

A culture where white is the color of death.
Yes, I know – more than one.  I’ve wondered what are the origins of that.  Do you understand the reason for it?

A religion that places primacy on balancing light and dark, but acknowledges darkness as the superior.
That’s interesting.  Balancing light and dark, certainly – Taoism, for example (or Daoism if you prefer), though I gather that the concept of yin and yang is far more complex than simply a balance of light and dark.  But I admit ignorance of a religion that explicitly acknowledges darkness as superior, unless you refer to Wicca, about which I know very little.  Which one do you mean?

#135 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 05:13 PM:

An excellent book about relation to the night is At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, by A. Roger Ekirch.

At Day's Close

Bottom line: darkness was feared for most of our history.

#136 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 05:26 PM:

John Stanning @134:

A culture where white is the color of death. Yes, I know – more than one. I’ve wondered what are the origins of that. Do you understand the reason for it?

I don't have any research to support this, but I'm going to guess that it has something to do with textile-oriented cultures -- undyed clothing with an ostentatious lack of color could be an easy way to symbolize grief. I'm a big fan of the book Cut My Cote, which makes some interesting conjectures about whether an early culture primarily depended on textiles or animal skins for garments, based on the shapes of the oldest traditional garments. Textile cultures favored garment shapes that used full widths of fabric and very little cutting. The kimono is very much along those lines.

"Undyed" might be a similar rejection of worldly beauty as the Biblical "sackcloth."

#137 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 05:45 PM:

"But I admit ignorance of a religion that explicitly acknowledges darkness as superior,"

I am referring to Taoism. Superior might not be the best word--preeminent might be better.

The way that becomes a way
is not the Immortal Way
the name that becomes a name
is not the Immortal Name
the maiden of Heaven and Earth has no name
the mother of all things has a name
thus in innocence we see the beginning
in passion we see the end
two different names
for one and the same
the one we call dark
the dark beyond the dark
the door to all beginnings

(translation: Red Pine)

#138 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 06:09 PM:

Rikibeth@136: Brainstorming on possible reasons, it occurs to me that bones are basically white, especially from an old burial. Perhaps that is how some cultures came to associate white with death?

#139 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 06:11 PM:

WRT White and death -- how about spreading lime in a grave?

#140 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 07:19 PM:

abi @98-*: Ahem!

Serge @101: I will not make the obvious joke. For once.

Don't hold back on my account...

Xopher @106: Have I mentioned that I find your sexual orientation inconvenient?

I apologize for inconveniencing you. I find your gender inconvenient.

Oh. Oh! Well! <fluff> <puff!> Ahem. Well, then!

(It should be pointed out that, at times, I do too.)

Well, it's not as if no one's ever tried, by means including but not limited to physical violence.

:( :( :( :( :(

These days I tend to be quite hostile to anyone who tries.

Well, leaving aside my desire for non-hostile Xophoid processes (sorry, couldn't resist), I will simply say that I would find a het Xopher to be Bad Art. Hence my willingness to cheerfully endure the frustration occassioned by the inconvenience.

I do trust that, should we ever meet in the, er, flesh, you will forgive me when I swoon dramatically into your arms and sigh with heaving bosom? Whether or not you drop me on the floor is up to you. It could be gratifyingly comedic either way.

Or, perhaps, we could satisfy ourselves with a simple, warm hug? Mmmmmm.....

abi @109: But we ask for the pleasure of hearing the answer we already know. We ask because we don't always feel lovable, even so. We ask because some of us are just made in a way that makes us ask.

This passage made my throat go tight.

So how freakin' cool is this that, tangential to an entirely congenial conversation about religion between Pagans, Christians, and others, participants can express understanding and appreciation of our respective genders and orientation differences.

JEEzus, but I love the Fluorosphere!!

abi @110: One of the things I really enjoy about our mutual admiration society is the cleverness and thoughtfulness of the compliments.

Not to mention the lyricism. Poetical, even.

Ursula L @111: Is it possible to have friendship-lust?

Oh yes, most certainly. I practice it as often as I can.

I hope, someday, to have a friendship that inspires this level of creative complements, except that I don't think I'm creative enough to sustain my half of the complement-exchange.

I specifically request to the Universe that you be given opportunity to disabuse this notion. Soon, please. And frequently. :)

And besides which, this is the sort of practice that is a remarkably safe undertaking. How many people are you seriously going to hack off by not being creative enough in your complimenting to them.

Start simple. Practice often. As my mother would say in her less helpful moments: "You'll never learn any younger."

Xopher @112: the diamond calling the cut glass precious

Oh, please, dear. Waterford, at the very least.

J Homes @115: This matters, not least because soot can catch fire. So a pot or kettle being black is potentially a bad thing for very practical reasons that have nothing to do with prejudices.

Dang! Learn something new every day! AKICIML, FTW!

Xopher @119: I don't like to see things in black and white anyway.

Not even zebras and orcas? Not to mention pandas. Penguins...? Citizen Kane? The Day the Earth Stood Still?

tykewriter @131: “Pot callin’ t’ kettle ‘grimy-arse’”.

I be so stealing that!!

#141 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 08:01 PM:

Re: compliments, I see that there's a video of Christine Lavin singing "The Moment Slipped Away" up on YouTube.

#142 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 09:11 PM:

Nancy@123, in particular it's a Passover Seder. So it was always a shared meal, and more than a shared meal.

#143 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 10:40 PM:

Jacque @ 140:
It's an old Yorkshire saying, so tha can have it fer nowt.

(By Tykeland I mean God's own county, not my own private world, in case you thought otherwise.)

#144 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 06:36 AM:

128: "I read an account which suggested that the early Church, after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, became the de facto 'soup kitchen' of the Roman poor."

Unlikely, I'd say. The Roman Empire already supplied its poor with a daily dole of food. (Though this may only have been true in Rome...)

#145 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 10:08 AM:

Mark@100, Abi@109: The trouble I see with this model of asking God if we're okay and getting a response is that there's no detectable response. Which is precisely why the question of the priest's personal status can arise, for example; the various hypotheses about it are untestable. (I know, that's the state of religion in general; it's not science, and these days largely doesn't claim to be science. However, describing the miracle of transubstantiation as an interaction opens the question of how you can tell what the response is.)

#146 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 10:27 AM:

ddb, 145: Well, see, that's why we call it "faith."

#147 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 10:58 AM:

TexAnne@146: And faith is a fine description for it. Until we start describing a ritual as asking God a question and getting his response; that seems to describe a more direct, concrete interaction than "faith" suggests.

#148 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 10:59 AM:

ddb @145 I think of it ("it" as the detection of the presence of God in general, not the miracle of transubstantiation in specific) as a little like detecting the presence of a subatomic particle by its track in a cloud chamber. You don't see it directly; you see the traces it leaves behind.

I realize that the analogy doesn't fully hold; the track in a cloud chamber is objectively observable even if the original particle is not, and it's possible to describe the mechanism that creates it in ways that are objectively testable. There are, on the other hand, endless arguments about what does or does not indicate the presence of God. But I find the comparison helpful nevertheless.

#149 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 11:36 AM:

ddb, 147: Than "faith" suggests to you, maybe. I'm not Catholic, and I don't believe in transubstantiation. But I believe that abi is telling the truth about her experience. I also believe that you're telling the truth about your atheism. I don't--I can't--share that belief, but I believe that you hold it, and I don't try to argue you out of it.

#150 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 11:38 AM:

ddb: What I mean is that, once again, your experience is not the same as mine. That does not mean that I am mistaken.

#151 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 12:03 PM:

TexAnne@149: I'm not arguing with Abi's experience; or anybody's. I didn't understand the description of any experience to include an actual answer from God, and yet the description of the ritual was still in terms of question and answer. It was that conflict that I was probing.

#152 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 12:19 PM:

ddb @ 151... I'd suggest dropping the subject. By the way, I am an atheist.

#153 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 12:58 PM:

In China and Japan, and possibly other Asian countries, the primary association of white is traditionally death - funeral and mourning clothes are always white. FWIW.

#154 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 01:48 PM:

Yes, but why?  What’s the significance of white in those cultures?  Hindus tend to wear white for funerals because it’s the colour of purity.  I'm not sure what white symbolises in Chinese or Japanese cultures, except that it’s probably complex and subtle!  Dress codes vary from place to place:  among some Chinese people, black clothes are worn to funerals as well as white, depending on who you are, and dark-green and dark-blue are also worn, and those colours are associated with death too.

#155 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 02:53 PM:

me @97: Xopher: Have I mentioned that I find your sexual orientation inconvenient?

Xopher @106: Have I mentioned that I find your sexual orientation inconvenient?

I think I have a solution to our conundrum. Xopher, are you equipped to download and listen to audio books? If so, I have a prezzie for you. Let me know.

#156 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 03:09 PM:

When I worked for a Chinese company, one of my supervisors had a death in his family, and for a time he pinned a black piece of cloth to his clothing. No idea if this was a Chinese custom, a nod to Western custom, some combination, or something else entirely. I never bothered to ask him, because it wasn't something I was curious about, unlike a lot of other things I ran across working there. Maybe I should have asked.

#157 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 03:13 PM:

ddb:

Being blunt, you do not have a good recent history in these discussions of treating the people with different views than yours in a way that makes them minded to stay around. The last time we had a thread on matters of religion and faith, your behavior was one of the reasons that Teresa became quite discouraged about Making Light as a whole. There were also several participants in that discussion who mentioned, on-thread or privately, that they were unhappy that they were not able to talk about this matter on a community in which they otherwise felt very safe. You were not the only factor there, but you stood out pretty strongly.

Consider the above, on the subject of religion, a hint as to how much rope you have. It is not an invitation to defend your behavior in that thread. Accept that that's your reputation at the moment and, if you have a problem with that, strive to better it from here on.

Having said that, I do have faith enough in your good will and good character to continue this conversation. One way to repay that faith might be to use the same sort of language I used in comment 95 to frame anything you say from your worldview, and demonstrate in both form and content that you accept and respect that others may differ from you.

I am taking a risk: I, too, found the last discussion of religion and faith hurtful. Do not hurt me again.

Which is a lot of introductory matter before saying that OtterB's analogy works well for me -- in part. I certainly do believe that my participation in religious ritual is an element of the process of becoming a better person, and I find that the Eucharist is an important part of that. So you could say that I use the evidence of what going to Mass does to the rest of my life as evidence of the Real Presence*, which Real Presence Catholic doctrine describes as loving.

I could leave it there. That's risky enough. But I'm not going to, because I trust this community.

So. At some points in my life I have felt, or experienced, what CS Lewis refers to as numen, a feeling of the presence of something powerful and supernatural in the literal sense: outwith nature. It may, as they say, just be the strawberries I ate for lunch, but that's not what it feels like from where I'm sitting. It feels like a genuine religious experience. And it's transformative, the way one hopes that religious experience would be.

And when I join the ritual, eat the bread and drink the wine, I get that experience, pretty reliably.

-----
* Which is not to say that others don't find other vectors, including non-religious ones, in the quest to be good people. This is not intended to be a Statement That Only Religion Can Make You Good. It's just all about meeeee.

#158 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 03:56 PM:

And Deity, whatever you conceive that to be, can and does respond in many different ways --

For this Pagan:

Night Ritual, upon completing the summoning of the East Quarter (Air), an owl hooted in response, from that quarter.

Another night ritual, different campground, when the Circle participants set up a howl at the closing of the rite, the coyotes on the next ridge howled back...

I could go on forever -- the communication goes both ways, and what I have heard/seen/felt confirms it. (And I have witnesses.)

#159 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 04:17 PM:

Lori Coulson @158: <goosebumps> 8-)

ddb: If discussion here gets too fraught, we can decamp to my blog. I've set up an anteroom.

#160 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 04:44 PM:

ajay @124: Stranger than that: [the ancient Greeks] didn't see colours in the same way we did. To Homer, the sky was bronze-coloured and the sea wine-coloured. [...]colour was all about intensity: hue was secondary. And if the noon sky had the almost painful brightness of a polished bronze mirror in the sun, then it was bronze-coloured.

There's also the Berlin-Kay theory of color terminology development; Xopher might be able to provide more linguistic analysis/context.

WRT mourning colors, I had a glancing thought that maybe the black/white split had to do with burial vs. cremation, but that doesn't seem to be the case. And even if that binary split were valid, that would still leave Tibetan sky burials up in the air. So to speak. (The traditional Tibetan mourning color seems to be white, fwiw... though apparently if the vultures leave anything behind, it does get cremated.)

#161 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 04:52 PM:

Abi@157: Since we're being blunt, I too have been hurt quite a lot in the process of discovering that this community, which is filled with open-minded, insightful, intelligent people with a wide range of beliefs and opinions, has not turned out to be a safe place for attempts at sane discussion of religion.

And, in line with that, thank you very much for taking the risk of making a substantive response. And it is exactly what I have been looking for -- a statement of the experience and beliefs that lead to some of your earlier positions.

I really am trying to understand things here, not primarily trying to argue to a conclusion. When I'm arguing, it's trying to resolve apparent inconsistencies and conflicts for the purpose of increasing my understanding; not attempting to convince anybody of anything. (Well, it might be necessary to convince people that an inconsistency is real to get them to consider it seriously; but not attempting to convince them to change a position.)

Jackque@159: Thanks, I'm tracking that so I'll be aware of activity there, and will use it if feel safer that way.

#162 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 04:56 PM:

ddb @145 --

This is not to say I subscribe to the transubstantiation method of soul-cleansing (or analogous assembly rituals, for that matter), but the value of such endeavors may become more apparent when you envisage the physical body (your own, I mean, not the Eucharist) as a metaphor. Once you can accept reality as symbolism, it is no great trick to do the reverse.

#163 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 05:28 PM:

ddb @161: Very nice response, if I may say.

#164 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 06:16 PM:

abi @157: Teresa became quite discouraged about Making Light as a whole.

Oh yeah, and before I forget, in the unhappy event that something like this state occurs again, please put out an emergency call, and I, for one, will make sure that emergency quantities of chocolate be deployed with all due dispatch.

#165 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 07:45 PM:

Chris Quinones @156 said: When I worked for a Chinese company, one of my supervisors had a death in his family, and for a time he pinned a black piece of cloth to his clothing. No idea if this was a Chinese custom, a nod to Western custom, some combination, or something else entirely. I never bothered to ask him, because it wasn't something I was curious about, unlike a lot of other things I ran across working there. Maybe I should have asked.

I don't know who ELSE does it, but I do know for a fact that pinning a (deliberately ragged and torn) piece of black cloth to your clothing for a set period of time is most definitely practiced as a funeral custom by Jews.

In a potentially unrelated point, there are in fact families in China whose hundreds-of-years-ago forebears were Jewish, who preserve a few customs (lighting candles at evening on Friday; not eating pork; etc) and some ancestral artifacts, but who lost their Torah and worship customs sometime during their community's assimilation.

Pearl Buck's novel Peony is set in one such family.

#166 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 09:28 PM:

ddb @161 this community ... has not turned out to be a safe place for attempts at sane discussion of religion.

I do not want to contribute to making this place seem unsafe to you for this topic. I would prefer to continue navigating cautiously toward mutual understanding in rocky waters. That said, the term "sane discussion" rubbed me the wrong way. It came across as "sane discussion" = "discussion that accepts my terms for how the subject ought to be approached." C.S. Lewis talks about a disconnect in discussions between Christian denominations - one party asks, but does such-and-such a point really matter, and the other says, matter, why it's absolutely essential. Differences wider than between flavors of Christianity make it even harder to identify enough common ground for a respectful discussion to take place.

In terms of my religious beliefs, I have become something I would have once at least puzzled at if not scorned. I'm finding it hard to express this in ways that don't sound like I'm telling you "I have seen the light!" or, perhaps worse, "you'll understand when you grow up," and I genuinely don't intend that. I am trying to say that I value the rational, skeptical worldview that I interpret you as espousing. In many ways I share it. But I have found, for me, that it can coexist comfortably with a ... call it a nonrational worldview.

I can't tell you how surprised I was to discover that inside my rational-practical self there ran a streak of mysticism. Moreover, it was possible to have both: accepting the reality of encounters with the numinous did not require me to turn in my credentials as a rational person. It simply required me to accept that not everything that was important happened at the logical level.

For me, the "aha" click came from psychology research showing that we weren't operating as rationally as we thought we were - not Freudian theorizing, but various experimental lines of research. A lot of this is in the popular press now, with books like Blink and Nudge, but it was more obscure then. And the idea that we humans naturally operate simultaneously on both a logical-deductive and an associational-intuitive level altered my perception of the kind of experience that "counted."

Your mileage, of course, may vary.

#167 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2010, 11:22 PM:

@ ddb, I guess the thing is, for abi and others, whether the interaction is falsifiable and scientifically testable has no bearing on the validity of the experience. No, there's no way to prove that any interaction with God happened. But the experience was real for the participants. In my household (composed of one atheist and one sort-of-atheist-agnostic-lapsed-Catholic, see below) we call this sort of thing "big-T True."

OtterB @ 166, I've gone a bit the other direction, but have ended up at what sounds similar to where you are. I was born and raised Catholic, but have arrived at a skeptical, non-supernatural place. Yet I still have a deep need for ritual, even though I generally no longer believe it accomplishes anything supernatural. Rituals serve a lot of secular functions for me: to mark times and seasons, to link the present with memories of the past, to pause and process big emotions, to tell myself "Pay attention -- this is important."

Having been raised Catholic, I also retain a sense that, deep down, it doesn't matter what you intellectually believe -- it's what you do that matters. This understanding of ritual was hammered home in every religious studies class I took, and it was very very hard for a lot of people who had been raised in Protestant traditions, where intellectual understanding, belief as a thought, is primary.

And it's not doctrinally correct for Catholicism, mind you -- what you believe does affect whether you can participate in the sacraments. But even though my intellectual belief is basically nonexistent -- I still feel the power in the ritual of the Eucharist, of the Mass as a whole, of all the sacraments, even as a witness rather than a participant. I feel those most because I grew up with them and understand how they work from the inside. But I also feel the power in non-Catholic, non-Christian rituals.

Again to ddb: I have a degree in physics and a degree in religious studies. One thing I had to do a lot in my religious studies work was try to get into the headspace of someone practicing rituals I don't believe in or practice myself. That helped me understand how the ritual worked for its participants. I wasn't required to deny my own skepticism or my own judgment about whether I found something real or believable -- only to suspend it for a little while, and try to grok. If my goal was to understand that experience as a participant might, this mode of investigation worked well.

It's different from the mode of investigation I learned in physics -- that is, to test a phenomenon under lots of different conditions and see how it behaves and where the behavior breaks down. Challenge every claim, because it is not useful as a description of how things work if it's not testable. Something that can't be proved true is, in this way, the same as something that's proved false.

What I see you doing here is investigating religious experience in that second mode, by challenging the experiences others have described. I think I grok what you're trying to do and that it is not intended as disrespect. (As a scientist, I usually find that mode of investigation full of respect, wonder, even awe -- because the results of the tests are usually much cooler than I could have expected.)

But it's likely to come across as an attempt to invalidate or dismiss the experiences described, by implying that they aren't real. That can hurt.

As a skeptic, I find that the question isn't "Was God objectively, testably, really there?" -- because I already know the answer to that; the existence of God isn't falsifiable and therefore isn't testable, so I can draw no conclusion on the matter. The more interesting questions are "What did you experience? How did you experience it? What happened there? What was it like? What happened before; what happens after?"

I also find that this gets me significantly better understanding.

#168 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 12:23 AM:

ddb: I don't know what you mean when you say, "sane discussion". I do know that it rubbed me the wrong way. I'm sorry that the conversation here hurt you. I am doubly sorry that you feel it's not safe.

I don't know how to react to the sane issue. I know that I come to the table with an attempt to be both honest, and analytical of my beliefs, how I came to them, and how they work for me.

That, it seems to me, is the definition of sane, and rational, discussion on the subject.

Unbendable assertions of what is right/wrong, irrational/rational, etc. is non-sane. From those positions one cannot actually discuss.

Look at abi/myself/Xopher on the ritual aspects of transubstantiation... the views are in strong opposition. For one of us they are almost nonsensical, they don't work at all. For the other two of us they do work. They work so well, at least for me, that the question of the type of wine never came up in my mind as a thing to ponder.

But we could, and did, talk about it; even with some strong feeling and passion. The same has happened here (to touch on more difficult subjects) on things like what do when someone starts shooting up a public place, or torture, or any number of hot-button topics where some of the more rational elements of thought are often subordinated to gut-reactions and passion.

We do our imperfect best, and at our best we are charitable, one to the other.

#169 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 12:36 AM:

For my part, I'm a former Wiccan and erstwhile shamanic practitioner... who now identifies as an atheist. (I left those practices mostly because the groups involved didn't seem to have any answers for my own issues -- it was only later that I discovered I was on the autistic spectrum).

Nevertheless, I had, and have continued to have, experiences that I don't have easy explanations for... and I firmly believe that there are things in our human experience, for which the materialist worldview is not a useful paradigm for dealing with. Just because you're confident (as I am) that the universe has rules to it, doesn't mean that you, or I, understand those rules completely. And it ill-behooves folks who want to understand the universe, to dismiss anything we can't dissect as mere delusion!

#170 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 12:48 AM:

OtterB@166: Sorry my "sane discussion" rubbed you the wrong way. I'm just referring to how public religious discussions so often go so badly off the rails, and expressing a hope that it might work better here. "Sane" has nothing to do with "agrees with me" (of course I consider my own opinions sane; if I didn't I'd change them).

I should point out (since I don't associate your handle with anybody I know in person and have no reason to think you know anything about me) that I'm 55, and come from a family where I have only the most indirect evidence that any immediate relative back to my grandparents ever had a connection to organized religion (and I'm not really sure that it was necessary to claim to be religious to be an officer in the British army pre WWI; it just seems likely). Religion is completely foreign territory, not something I'm a refugee from. However, I'm getting calmed down enough in my late middle age to be willing to at least discuss with people what religion is and does for them, rather than writing it off as complete nonsense and a waste of time.

Modern brain research has worked very well to confirm my general beliefs in this area -- demonstrating what sorts of brain malfunctions produce the various classic "religious experiences" (so we don't have to blame the whole thing on ergot, or whatever, as earlier theories did). (Obviously the fact that a certain malfunction can produce things some people report similarly to some reports of "religious experiences" does not mean they're the same thing; I'm not attempting to trivialize your religious experiences.)

Caroline@167: I guess the thing is, for abi and others, whether the interaction is falsifiable and scientifically testable has no bearing on the validity of the experience.

Nor is that what I'm looking for, either. I'm looking to understand what KIND of sense it makes to people who believe various things (trying to keep track of the range of beliefs and not get confused on which is which). I was probing the question of God answering the question (when discussing that view of the ritual) to find out if people felt they got an immediate personal answer, or got a general community answer, or if it was just ritual with no real feeling of answer, or what -- I didn't think I knew all the alternatives, but at least those occurred to me.

Choosing to describe it in terms of question and answer very strongly raised, in my mind, the issue of what form the answer takes, and I was looking for how Abi or others involved in that ritual activity saw it (this is a question of personal experience ("subjective fact") rather than objective fact, of course). It was clear that there was no obvious physical change, and I was wondering what it was that lead people to describe it in terms of "question and answer" when no answer was visible to me or formally part of the ritual. Abi gave me exactly that -- her view of it -- in her @157, which is why I was so happy with that.

I'm certainly not challenging experiences; that's an obviously futile activity, and bound to get you talked about. Maybe I need to go to more trouble to repeat that over and over again; I don't think of saying it, because it's axiomatic. Of course people's experiences are what they are! Trouble is, I got kind of driven out of the habit of going into great detail to clarify things because that always raises a forest of side-discussions and often a whole new flock of misunderstandings, and often derails the actual discussion.

I asked "how you can tell what the response is". I thought we (in general) were already in agreement that it wasn't a physical change that showed the response; I was asking about people's personal experience that lead them to use the question / answer description.

(Yikes; and I had to add an exception in NOSCRIPT for GET-method posts to spqr.cgi here at making light, because the new NOSCRIPT 2.0.1 was detecting an XSS attack every time I attempted to preview.)

#171 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 02:10 AM:

ddb @170:

I flinched at "sane" too. It's frequently used by atheists in the more heated versions of these conversations to label content. In other words, a "sane discussion" (or a "rational" one) is one where my comment at 157 has no place, except as a demonstration that the religious are nuts, deluded, etc.

Of your courtesy, please consider words like "respectful", "polite", or "courteous".

(I have some twitches about "brain malfunction" too, by the way; I don't trust that everyone describing them in those terms is entirely agenda-free. But then, I identify as an Aspie, and don't think that's a disorder, either, just another neurological profile with a different set of strengths and weaknesses.)

The way I work with both the experience of the supernatural and my great value for the empirical and scientific is by splitting things into "the observable world", which we can describe and define in scientific terms, and "the deeper reality", which is inherently un-falsifiable and unprovable. I have had flashes of what I believe to be perception of the latter thing, enough to make this model a worthwhile description of my understanding of the universe.

Another cut at this topic is in Brother Guy's book, God's Mechanics, which explains his perceptions as both a scientist and a Catholic.

One other thing on the manner of discussion: if you have come from a family with no religious tradition, you may not entirely grasp the degree to which these beliefs can be intensely private and personal. There are details of my sex life that I would share more readily in public than some details of my religious experience. Some of that is the potential for mockery and hurt, but some of it is just that this stuff goes quite deep into who I am, and why I am.

Questions can feel like prying, particularly with the history that most of us come to these discussions with, where such questions are used as a means to gather evidence to prove that we're not sane.

Back to the meat (as it were) of the issue, it's worth noting that not every Catholic (a) thinks of the Mass as a question-and-response, and (b) feels anything when they take the Eucharist. There have been points in my life where I haven't. I'm describing a particular reality, for me specifically, right at the moment.

#172 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 03:10 AM:

Caroline @167, she make teh pretty True-ness.

abi @171: Of your courtesy, please consider words like "respectful", "polite", or "courteous".

Can you quote what ddb said that you are responding to here? I'm failing to parse.

#173 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 08:25 AM:

Jacque@172: I took it to be a request from abi to ddb to use "respectful", "polite" or "courteous" rather than "sane", to describe the tone wiched for in a conversation on religion.

#174 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 09:03 AM:

Jacque @172 : read abi’s post again.  The first paragraph makes perfectly clear what she was responding to.

#175 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 09:14 AM:

This thread needs puns, but the only ones I can think of are so lame I dare not say them.
("Good!")
I heard that.
What naves.

#176 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 09:23 AM:

ddb, okay, "sane" discussion as in "people don't suddenly blow up on you for no apparent reason." I think we're in agreement on wanting that. I can't speak for abi, but I think she's pointing out that the "no apparent reason" happens because your comments sometimes tread hard on very sensitive areas. You're stepping in holes you don't realize are there. I think we're saying, on this topic, expect holes and test the ground in front of you.

And no, I wasn't aware of your background. As far as I know I haven't ever met any of the fluorosphere in meatspace.

abi said, There are details of my sex life that I would share more readily in public than some details of my religious experience. Some of that is the potential for mockery and hurt, but some of it is just that this stuff goes quite deep into who I am, and why I am.

Yes, this. The fact that this stuff goes quite deep is why it has such potential for mockery and hurt. If someone makes fun of my clothes, I won't like it, but it's not a core part of my identity. If they make fun of my car, I'm likely to agree with them. If they denigrate my professional skill, I'll be annoyed and perhaps offended. If I have taken off my skin and exposed my deepest beliefs and those are mocked - or even greeted with incredulity - then that is a real blow.

I think Caroline's comment @167 about the differences between the physics approach and the religious studies approach encapsulates the problem well. "Why do you think that?" and similar questions are, on the face of it, neutral. But they tend to come loaded. They can, of course, be used to understand. But as abi said, they are often used by people gathering evidence. Or by people who assume they have the right to correct your thought processes; it's a very professorial question in some ways. (It's worth pointing out, by the way, that not everyone who is gathering evidence about one's beliefs as ammunition is gathering it for scientific debunking. I have a memory, still painful after some years, of a conversation with an evangelical Christian family member whom I generally love and respect, where it turned out that we weren't sharing our experiences. I was providing evidence that he could use to teach me the error of my ways, since of course Catholics aren't real Christians. Oof. Many people have had similar experiences with friends, relatives, coworkers, or total strangers trying to "save" them.)

To return to ddb's original question of experiencing a response from God, my experience of answers from God does not tend to come in the mass. My experience tracks much more closely with an interchange from George Bernard Shaw's "St. Joan." (paraphrased from memory) Joan: I hear voices in my head, telling me what God wants me to do. Questioner: But that is just your imagination. Joan: Of course it is my imagination. That is how God speaks to us.

I don't actually hear voices. But I do experience thoughts in response to prayer that are not the way I would write the script, if I were writing it. I certainly can't prove that it's God, but as a working hypothesis, that interpretation of the experience serves me well.

And there are no more than a handful of people in my real life at this point, plus a small group of Catholic moms I've been e-mailing with for more than 10 years, that I would discuss this with. And now, apparently, the fluorosphere.

#177 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 09:55 AM:

ddb, the points you gained by defining "sane" as "not off the rails", you immediately lost by labeling religious experience as "brain malfunction."

Carry on, all who care to. I'll go participate in the other threads.

#178 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 10:00 AM:

Jacque@172: It's clear to me that that bit is specifically to the discussion of my use of "sane" to characterize the desirable form of discussion.

Abi@171: Thanks some more. Yes, I do understand that much of the more personal description isn't universal among Christians or Catholics, but is simply your experience at some points in time.

OtterB@176: Thank you for another personal data point. So the particular model of the miracle of transubstantiation as question and answer doesn't especially resonate for you?

I hope you do not come to regret being willing to discuss any of this here.

Generally: I know the rule of thumb is not to discuss religion and politics; though that rule is for public discussions with strangers, I think. One reason online discussions are fraught, I think, is that they usually have a mix of friends, acquaintances, and strangers that is unusual in person, and that one cannot see everybody who is listening (or how they are reacting, until they post).

I probably know a remarkably large amount of various Christian and Jewish religious information for somebody with no history in any of them; from discussions online and in fandom over the years. But probably the information has strange holes as well (strange to people from that tradition, I mean), since I didn't get it in anything like the usual way.

Certainly some of my questions come from a sort of anthropological approach (not something I'm trained in). I'm avoiding suggesting the answer sometimes, for example. Questions can of course be prying. Stephen Maturin (in the novels by Patrick O'Brian) speaks quite strongly on the inappropriateness of question and answer as a form of civil discourse.

(Strange; same NOSCRIPT version as last night, but it's not now finding an XSS attack and needing a hand-coded exception to post to ML.)

#179 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 10:10 AM:

Lila@177: (I know you say you're gone, but this labels the response as being to your message as much as directing it to you personally.)

I did not label religion as a brain malfunction! The strongest thing I said was that some brain malfunctions produced effects similar (and I very carefully said that seeming similar did NOT mean they were the same) as some religious experiences. And then added on top of that that I was not attempting to trivialize religious experience. All the disclaimers were in the original message, and you have chosen to ignore them, or believe I didn't mean them.

And I was responding to OtterB saying how modern psychological research has helped them reach/accept their own current position. (That's a case where the plural-as-indefinite looks ugly to me, but so it goes.) Modern psychological research (different parts, mostly) has also helped me reach my current position.

#180 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 10:21 AM:

ddb, 179: You wrote in 170 "demonstrating what sorts of brain malfunctions produce the various classic "religious experiences" (so we don't have to blame the whole thing on ergot, or whatever, as earlier theories did)."

Lila's right. The bit in parentheses does not make up for the first part.

You have said that people misunderstand you. I think that you skip enough steps that your reasonable conclusions become hideous on the screen. I enjoyed your long, thorough explanation a few posts back--would you mind doing more of that? It's much more like the you I know from our in-person meetings.

#181 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 11:21 AM:

DDB: I'm just referring to how public religious discussions so often go so badly off the rails, and expressing a hope that it might work better here....

Dude, you need to recognize that in several threads so far, it has been your contributions that sent the discussion off the rails. There is an open manhole★ in front of you. You have fallen into it before. You should think about that when composing your comments.

In particular, as you have been told before, someone's discussion of their religious experiences is not an invitation, or even permission, for you to publicly reinterpret ("analyze") their experience in terms of your own strict materialism. Especially not when doing so involves "othering" them from value concepts☛ such as "sanity"/"correct brain function", "reality", or "truth"!

★ Does someone have a link to that piece? I tried Googling, but got drowned in news reports....

☛ Yeah yeah, you think these are all value-neutral descriptions. Sorry, but you tend to using them as value standards, not to mention claiming authority over them.

#182 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 11:37 AM:

I have no idea if my experiences are a useful datapoint, but I think ddb would be interested if no one else, so ...

I grew up Catholic, and longed (in a starving-kid-with-nose-on-restaurant-window level of wrenching longing) for the religious experiences and comfort I saw my teachers and the nuns and so on having in church. But when I did everything they said they did and held my mind open while I prayed ... nothing. So I was convinced for a while I was doing it wrong. Then I was convinced they were deluding themselves.

I became solidly, angrily atheist in grade school☀. Gradually, that opened up to agnostic through high school. I experimented with Wicca in college, and still really wish I'd managed to make that stick in the recesses of my mind that hold what I believe in. But it didn't, unfortunately.

Finally, during a horrific bout of strep throat (and specifically amid a fever dream), I had what I can only describe as a religious epiphany, and now I am a deist. Or, as I like to say in the right company, a recovering agnostic. :->

I bone-deep believe certain things to be true about Deity. One of them is that the we-are-as-ants-to-the-human us-to-God analogy contains a lot of truth, for me. Try to explain to an ant why you do 90% of the things you do -- even the things that directly impact their colony! Umyeah. They'd pretty emphatically Not Get It, for reasons having nothing to do with sinfulness and everything to do with sheer cognitive/understanding gap.

However, I also believe that human life (or, specifically, mine) has a purpose. To put it the most flippantly I can, my job is to carry water uphill -- to fight the natural entropic tendencies of the universe. This includes making things (physical things and noncorporeal) that will last, and also attempting to improve the overall emotional tenor of any group I'm in from fighting/angry/tense towards the more positive, constructive side of the spectrum.

I do not engage in rituals, though I still wish I could get the charge out of them that some do (and I glimpse the feeling of ritual completion sometimes when at someone else's religious ceremony, or in a really good SCA court). There are things I do in my everyday life because I feel they are what I am Meant To Do by my sense of what deity requires of me.

If I just sit and pray, I experience nothing specifically different than the rest of my life. However, the few times I have -- in total extremity -- asked the universe for mercy, it has been granted, sometimes in very physical ways; sometimes in an unexpected change in the behavior of others. It's not magic because I didn't make it happen ... it was a gift of grace from a deity, that cannot be misused because if you don't actually REALLY NEED IT when you ask, it won't happen. Or it won't when I do, anyway. :->

How I choose to populate my garden with plants, how I train my dogs, how I feed my child, how I get to work, and how I do my homework are all religious activities, for me.

I could probably be comfortable in most Unitarian congregations, if my husband were at ALL interested in attending (he explicitly views all religious belief as either self-delusion or being led around by the nose by a manipulative, evil power structure. We avoid talking about it if at all possible, because I find the contempt that religious belief raises in him to be very uncomfortable).

I also find a lot of value for me in some of the things the Secular Humanist Chaplain at Harvard has been reported to say. :->

My father is now a Plague Christian★, of the dominionist/Maranatha end of their morass. He also believes that every passage of the Bible has one and only one 'perfectly obvious' interpretation (the one he holds, obviously), that will be the first to occur to anyone reading the passage with a sufficiently open and receptive-to-God mind. I trust I don't need to tell anyone here how hard my friend with the Master's in Theology and another in Philosophy laughed when I told him that ...

--
☀ ObJoke: How do you tell the militant atheists? They go door to door passing out pamphlets and saying, "I don't believe there's a God and you shouldn't either!!!"
★ Plague Christians, in our idiolect, appear to view their religion as a disease that they must pass on to as many new carriers as possible before they die.

#183 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 11:47 AM:

What do you call a heretic who's only slightly heretical?
A loose canon.

#184 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 12:03 PM:

Elliot Mason@182: Thanks. I am indeed interested in personal histories of this sort.

Sorry this is a point of discord with your husband.

The concept that beliefs (philosophical or religious) should express themselves in lots of actions in your life (populating your garden with plants, etc.) doesn't surprise me. That is what they're claimed to be for. (It's perhaps more common to actually think about this among people who are inclined to thinking about their lives in general.) It seems to me that people who "go to church" but do NOT let it change much else in their lives are one of the things that lots of the non-denominational protestants objected to (evangelicals and fundamentalists and such; I don't have the full taxonomy memorized), and that's one of their positions I'm actually somewhat in accord with. (It seems to me that having ones beliefs guide ones life is "right" in a very deep way, and I feel that way even if I find the beliefs strange, disagree with them, even find them abhorrent.

(Love the designation "Plague Christian"; that does seem to sum it up, plus suggests the idea that one might view them as a plague.)

So far, everybody who has chosen to comment on their own religious experiences has had some; either in the "touching the numinous" sense or in some kind of response to prayer (or at least to "asking the universe"). I had the impression that such experiences were relatively rare among the religious (except possibly for relatively long-term responses to prayer) -- but of course we don't have a large sample here, self-selected, those who choose to speak, that was close to the topic and may have thus attracted comment from people with such experiences. Anyway, obviously that kind of experience (is it wrong of me to associate the two?) is a factor in people's beliefs.

#185 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 12:43 PM:

John Stanning @174: And what I was saying was that it was not perfectly clear to me. Folks have chimed in with clarification, so s'all good now, thanks.

OtterB @176: Joan: I hear voices in my head, telling me what God wants me to do. Questioner: But that is just your imagination. Joan: Of course it is my imagination. That is how God speaks to us.

Ooooohhh!! Thank you for bringing this quote to my attention. I'm going to copy that down for an essay I'm working on. That is just exactly my experience of hearing God.

But I do experience thoughts in response to prayer that are not the way I would write the script, if I were writing it. I certainly can't prove that it's God,

(OTOH, you can't prove that it's not, either. ;> )

Yesyesyesyes!! I'm just now getting the point where this happens to me regularly and reliably. The first couple of times, I actually did hear a voice in my head. It was "my" voice, but it wasn't "me" speaking. Damnedest thing. Spooky as all shit.

More usually, events subsequent to my having prayed turn out (if I'm paying attention—I do occassionally require the well-placed clue-by-four) to supply the answer I asked for. But this does require a certain level of credulity. I have friends with whom I don't talk about this, because they want to go all Michael Shermer on my ass, and that gets old more or less instantaneously.

I note here with emphasis that ddb is not one of those. :)

Lila @177: May I offer that the last half of that very paragraph in ddb's post very specifically addresses and acknowledges your concern?

ddb @179 to Lila @177: All the disclaimers were in the original message, and you have chosen to ignore them, or believe I didn't mean them.

I speculate that when Lila hit the phrase "brain malfunction," hir attention shorted out and the rest of that paragraph simply failed to register. I've had this happen to me in fraught exchanges. Very disconcerting when I go back and read the original message after I've calmed down. (I've even had cases where my initial interpretation was precisely the opposite of the writer's intent. Through painful experience, I've learned to read more carefully, the more riled I'm feeling.)

(I notice I'm trying to peace-keep here, folks. Please let me know if my attempts are unhelpful or unwanted, and I will stop.)

TexAnne @180: Lila's right. The bit in parentheses does not make up for the first part.

Does the second part of that paragraph help any? "(Obviously the fact that a certain malfunction can produce things some people report similarly to some reports of "religious experiences" does not mean they're the same thing; I'm not attempting to trivialize your religious experiences.)"

#186 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 12:44 PM:

ddb@184 said: Anyway, obviously [personal perhaps-mystical religious experience] is a factor in people's beliefs.

I tend to group☂ people I know who have religious beliefs, and have talked to me about them, into two piles: those who came to faith through personal mystical experience or revelation, and those who experience Deity more through formal, externally-organized ritual and doctrine. There are people who are in both groups, though I tend to put people with any Group-1-like experience in that group as their primary categorization in my mind.

You're talking about the former, above; however, I have in fact met people for whom the deep history, the chain of 'these people revered the same holy book and did the same rituals, for thousands of years', is more important than any personal numinous experience.

Some of Group 2 are the most virulent I've ever met about feeling personally threatened by Biblical non-literalism. If I try to point out that the (very detailed) Roman records are not in accord with the Gospel description(s) about the census and the era of Jesus' birth (like getting the kings of Palestine in the wrong order, for example), some people in Group 2 have a spinal-reflex-level counterattack they launch at me.

Because for them, my attempting to view parts of the Bible as moral guidance BUT NOT HISTORICAL TRUTH means that I am telling them that their faith is a delusion perpetrated upon them by liars, and that their whole religious lives to date then become a lie as well. They have also reported to me that they find the writings of, frex, Shelby Spong♥, to be somewhere between dangerously callous and actively malevolent.

I find this mindset baffling. But then, I'm in Group 1. :-> My personal relationship to Jesus is that I find much of what he (is reported to have) said to be valuable and interesting ... but that I find his most rabid groups of fanboys to be somewhere between laughable and actively dangerous.


--
☂ Idiosyncratic generalizations, ho!
♥ That is, works about the history of the Bible as a collection of words translated into various languages; and also about the history of the various slapfights between different groups of Christians about what to include or not and how to interpret same. Personally, I find that entire field of inquiry fascinating, as long as it's not being done to fit the data to the premises.

#187 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 12:53 PM:

Jacque, 186: No, it doesn't. I read parentheses as a sign of "but here is a minor point, not really important, feel free to disregard." I see everything but the first sentence as a throwaway attempt to head off a reader's irritation. Knowing ddb as I do, this is not what he meant at all. But that's how it came across.

#188 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 12:59 PM:

David Harmon @181: Yeah yeah, you think these are all value-neutral descriptions. Sorry, but you tend to using them as value standards, not to mention claiming authority over them.

David, I'm leaping in here because that's not what I'm reading ddb as saying here at all. What I'm hearing him say is "Here's what I understand you to be saying. These are the datapoints I have available. This is my understanding of the phenomenon. My understanding is clearly not the same as your understanding. Please continue describing your understanding/experience and, if I may allow me to continue asking questions to clarify my understanding."

DDB, am I reading you right?

I see two things happening here:

1. People are feeling hypersensitized to DDB's style of inquiry as a result of past contratempts.

2. DDB has the standard, techie tendancy to use clinical, technical, double-negative formulations that, when read through a fraught filter, can easily be misread, and interpreted as dismissal/criticism/argument. I did notice, with the last paragraph I quoted in my post above, I had to read twice the paragraph in order to get all the +/- signs in the right place.

#189 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 01:04 PM:

In re Jacque@185, TexAnne@187: In some conversations, those would be adequate disclaimers.

In conversations touching on extremely emotionally-minefieldy topics, they are inadequate. In EEM topics, the entire post must★ be gone over at least twice to see if there ARE any phrases, any at all, that could zots people in a sensitive area, and then either rewrite those phrases in a still-accurate-but-less-painful way, or put a disclaimer/explanation IMMEDIATELY NEXT to them in a way that makes clear one is of good will and intends no harm or pain towards any participant in the discussion.

Yes, it's hard work, and even exhausting (especially if that's nothing like one's usual conversational habits). However, in EEM topics, it is the minimum entrance fee towards participating. At least in sane venues like the Fluorosphere. Otherwise, the people getting hurt by accidental zotzing will often (and with complete justification, because the topic is EEM) blow up in an angry retaliation or become so hurt they leave entirely.


★ Must, at least, if the poster is to be viewed as an ethical participant, and to be proceeding with good will towards all. IMHO.

#190 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 01:10 PM:

Jacque @188: DDB has the standard, techie tendancy to use clinical, technical, double-negative formulations that, when read through a fraught filter, can easily be misread, and interpreted as dismissal/criticism/argument.

I would add here that it is not the fault of people who feel 'fraught' upon reading ddb's words, any more than it is the fault of a woman in a miniskirt if she is sexually harrassed or assaulted.

To expand upon my immediately-previous post, I believe the topics currently under discussion are so deeply tied, for some people, to identity and emotional hot-buttons that it is, IMHO, the ethical responsibility of those for whom they are NOT to walk extra-carefully and do what they can to help keep the conversation out of 'fraught' territory.

Instead of "You're too sensitive, quit complaining when I whack you in the face. It was an accident!", "Oh, pardon me. I didn't mean to do that, but I agree, it was startling and painful. How can I maneuver my ladder to both accomplish what I wanted to do, and also make absolutely certain not to whack anyone in the face when I'm doing it?"

#191 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 01:16 PM:

Elliott Mason @182: Really lovely post, thank you so much for taking the time to articulate your experience!

#192 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 01:31 PM:

Jacque:

Let ddb do his own explaining, and clean up his own messes. If he doesn't, then let him take his own heat. David Harmon's comment, for instance, is a fair reaction to past matters.

We can only have this difficult and risky conversation if the fears and anxieties of the people who are exposing themselves are not being dismissed, and if the person at risk of stepping on land mines is given fair warning. Softpedaling will not help in this matter.

Let the bothered people be bothered in this context, please.

#193 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 01:37 PM:

Jacque @185 Ooooohhh!! Thank you for bringing this quote to my attention. I'm going to copy that down for an essay I'm working on. That is just exactly my experience of hearing God.

Look it up before you quote it; I was paraphrasing from memory and I'm sure I have the sense of it right but equally sure I don't have the precise words right.

Which actually connects in a way to my comment on

Elliot Mason @186 If I try to point out that the (very detailed) Roman records are not in accord with the Gospel description(s) about the census and the era of Jesus' birth (like getting the kings of Palestine in the wrong order, for example), some people in Group 2 have a spinal-reflex-level counterattack they launch at me.

This was one of the things that used to worry me in my more-rational days, that if the history wasn't right, how could the rest of it be trustworthy? Somewhere - wish I could remember where - I ran across someone describing it like this. Suppose you're talking to family about your mother, who has passed away. Someone says, "Mom was always so welcoming to everyone. Remember that Thanksgiving where the guy knocked on the door asking directions, and she ended up inviting him in and sitting him down at the table with the family for dinner and made sure he had the biggest slice of pumpkin pie? Wasn't that just like her?" And everyone laughs and says, "Yes, that was just like her." Except for one person who says, "Well, it was Christmas and not Thanksgiving, and he wasn't asking directions, he was looking for your cousin Fred, and it wasn't pumpkin pie, it was chocolate cake..." But the thing is, it doesn't matter. The story can have the details wrong and still be "true" if it captured the heart of your mother's welcoming spirit.

#194 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 01:41 PM:

OtterB @193 said: This was one of the things that used to worry me in my more-rational days, that if the history wasn't right, how could the rest of it be trustworthy?

We're also coming back to the difference between Truth and Facts. Facts are falsifiable, rational, and (sometimes) stored in historical records. Truth is not necessarily any of those things, and sometimes is extremely subjective into the bargain.

Religious experiences are very often about Truth, and not so often about Facts.

#195 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 01:46 PM:

Elliott Mason @182: Plague Christian

<giggle> <hack> <cough> <SNORT!> I LOVE that.

One of my current, deep frustrations (of which I've written in other, related threads) is that my best buddy from high school has become, if not one of those, certainly a slightly less virulent variant. We used to have HOURS of conversations along the lines of the cheerful parts of this thread. Now we can't even broach the topic of religion without it gets all tense. Makes me very said.

Serge @183: Did you just come up with that or are you quoting? In either case, it's freakin' brilliant.

me @185: (I notice I'm trying to peace-keep here, folks. Please let me know if my attempts are unhelpful or unwanted, and I will stop.)

It has been brought to my attention that I am, in fact, being unhelpful, so I'm stopping. I am sorry for fanning flames.

#196 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 01:47 PM:

ddb, #170: Good ghod, you're only a year older than me?! I had you pegged for mid-60s at least; that's how you "present" online. (And not just here, either.)

OtterB, #176: One issue I have with the whole "Voice of God in one's head" thing, generally speaking, is this -- what happens when someone who is accustomed to believing such thoughts to be the Voice of God has their internal chemistry go off the rails? I know a lot of people who struggle with the problem of having voices in their head telling them things that they know can't be true, but doing so very persuasively; adding religious trust to that mix is a frightening thought.

Elliott, #182: I like your term "Plague Christian". My partner points out that when he was growing up, that was the generally-accepted definition for "evangelist"; I don't remember that, but I grew up in a much less religious part of the country.

#197 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 01:50 PM:

jacque @ 195... I confess. I made it up.

#198 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 01:58 PM:

Serge: Thou has earned thyself a swoon of admiration.

#199 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 02:00 PM:

OtterB, #193: WRT your analogy... that's all well and good when it's a story about your mother, because you're not asking me to worship her as an incarnation of Deity. When someone is asking me to do that, but they can't even get publicly-accessible details right, it makes me really twitchy. This connects with a lot of our current political discussions; people who believe that the facts don't matter in the context of the Bible tend to believe that they don't matter in current affairs either, with predictable results.

#200 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 02:07 PM:

The first couple of times, I actually did hear a voice in my head. It was "my" voice, but it wasn't "me" speaking. Damnedest thing. Spooky as all shit.

Having had it happen a couple of times - not even in a situation that would be considered 'religious' - I agree completely. And you don't forget the experience quickly, either.

#201 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 02:08 PM:

OtterB @176:

I love that quote, and your description of answers in prayers. I have had much the same experience; I'm glad it's not just me!

Lee @196:
what happens when someone who is accustomed to believing such thoughts to be the Voice of God has their internal chemistry go off the rails?

My rule is that anything I'm getting from these sources is subject to strict information hygiene. If it's inconsistent with the rest of the ruleset, it's probably noise and shouldn't be folded in with the data.

People who are getting a lot of feedback are generally advised to get what's called a spiritual director, who is supposed to be an experienced and well-balanced external evaluator of one's spiritual life.

And religion is best experienced in community for many reasons, including the check on your weirder impulses. Unfortunately, of course, people who go off the beam in that direction tend to follow their impulses and end up in a community that does more harm than good. The best I can say then is that if it wasn't religion, they'd go all weird about something else instead.

#202 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 02:31 PM:

Lee @196 One issue I have with the whole "Voice of God in one's head" thing, generally speaking, is this -- what happens when someone who is accustomed to believing such thoughts to be the Voice of God has their internal chemistry go off the rails? I know a lot of people who struggle with the problem of having voices in their head telling them things that they know can't be true, but doing so very persuasively; adding religious trust to that mix is a frightening thought.

Yeah, it's an issue. It's one of the reasons I tend not to discuss it much; I know what I'd think about someone who said that God was telling them to do such-and-such. For me, at least, it's not that direct and I don't accept uncritically. It's more like new input, something that changes the angle or sheds new light on something I'm considering. There's actually a whole literature on "discernment of spirits" which boils down to "trust, but verify." Major things should be tested against what else one knows about God and perhaps be talked over with a spiritual director.

#203 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 02:39 PM:

Serge @183 What do you call a heretic who's only slightly heretical?
A loose canon.

I am the very model of a modern minor heretic
About church teaching I'm a tiny bit amnesiac
Online I spread confusion with a random here-and-there attack
I am the very model of a modern minor heretic

My 202 crossposting with abi @201 but pretty much in agreement.

Lee @199, I want to come back to that but need to think about it (and, not incidentally, do some of my job). Later.

#204 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 02:54 PM:

Lee@196: Well, if I was, as has sometimes been suggested, born 35, then I'm 90 now, is that better?

I am, of course, about 14 in my head.

#205 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 03:08 PM:

Parentheticals are generally used for side threads, right? To briefly digress, without losing the main thread of discussion?

That seemed the right place for explanations of what the mainline text did and didn't mean. Separating the meta from the direct, I guess.

#206 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 03:29 PM:

ddb @205:

Accept that people were offended or bothered. Don't argue about whether or not they should have been.

Apologizing is the wisest next step, unless you did mean to offend them, or don't care whether or not you did. Neither eventuality will lead to much of a good conversation, however.

#207 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 03:46 PM:

ddb, 205: Yes, as I pointed out, that's what parentheticals are for. Also as I pointed out, that is why I found those particular parentheticals to be useless at softening the "brain malfunction" blow.

#208 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 03:51 PM:

I've been hoping to help a friend communicate with me more effectively. But I feel myself veering toward the tone argument, which is not at all what I want. So I'll try to sit on my hands for a while. I'm sorry if I've caused you distress, DD-B. I know that what I read isn't always what you write.*

*which is the least patronizing thing I can think of, since "your heart is in the right place" and "you mean well" have been hopelessly corrupted.

#209 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 04:30 PM:

Jacque #188: 1. People are feeling hypersensitized to DDB's style of inquiry as a result of past contratempts.

Somewhat guilty, but notice I was careful not to go all categorical on him, or condemn his inquiries themselves. That's because the flip side is, I sympathize with him. I have a deep streak of that intense intellectualism myself, and I've also been known to bug people by over-analyzing things in socially inappropriate contexts. It took me a helluva long time to reconcile that intellectualism with my equally-deep streak of mysticism, and the result isn't something I can easily explain, much less proselytize.

I've had the "voices in my head" thing all my life, but I realized fairly early (partly thanks to the "bicameral mind" concept and its successors) that these were aspects of myself. I suspect they were more troubling for me than for most folks, because the autistic-spectrum thing left my mind less completely integrated than most folks' -- that is, I often need to "manually" gather and referee the diverse impressions and urges presented by the various parts of myself. My sojourn into Wicca and shamanism helped with that -- happily, the folks I was hanging out with were clueful enough to know and teach that "just because a spirit is talking to you, doesn't mean the spirit is right" ... nor that it has the whole picture! Conversely, getting the "right answer", say from divination, doesn't help much if you can't understand, or can't accept, it.

#210 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 04:32 PM:

ddb, #204: Yeah, that'd be about right. Allowing for the difference in intelligence and worldview*, you sound a lot like my father much of the time.

* You are clearly much more intelligent than he was, and have not subscribed to the god of Authority Uber Alles.

#211 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 04:55 PM:

I note in passing that the thread is becoming all about one particular commenter, and all about the conduct, rather than the content, of the conversation.

Neither of these is a particularly productive tendency. And I had rather hoped we could have a successful, productive thread discussing faith, and how different people do and do not deal with it.

I begin, in short, to feel like Teresa did last time.

#212 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 05:15 PM:

Abi: I wouldn't despair just yet... it seems to me that (1) we're actually making progress at de-energizing the sense of conflict that was held over from prior attempts at the topic, and (2) we do in fact have several individual testimonies, an ongoing subthread about the "voices" idea, and a few seedlings that may yet develop into subthreads of their own.

#213 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 05:43 PM:

Elliott Mason @190: I would add here that it is not the fault of people who feel 'fraught' upon reading ddb's words, any more than it is the fault of a woman in a miniskirt if she is sexually harrassed or assaulted.

Yes, you are right. I am slowly cluing (clueing?) in to this. I'm sorry for dismissing your experience. I will try very hard not to do it again. (And request that you point it out to me if I do.)

abi @192: Let ddb do his own explaining, and clean up his own messes. ... Let the bothered people be bothered in this context, please.

Yes, ma'am.

(I just woke up and realized that my behavior in this thread comes out of my own, ancient, family-of-origin dynamic and has been about assuaging my own anxiety. I apologize. I'll stop.)

OtterB @193: Look it up before you quote it.

Roger.

The story can have the details wrong and still be "true" if it captured the heart of your mother's welcoming spirit.

Yes. I perceive this as I slowly learn the art of story-telling.

abi @201: I like your response to Lee @196.

David Harmon @209: Muchly goodness here as well.

abi @211: Will it help any if I go back content and relate the following?

I became a Pagan as a result of reading Mary Stewart's Merlin series, and wishing I had a god like his to guide my ways. So I started pretending that I did, and after a while, I started to notice what I would later come to understand to be called synchronicity.

And then I got prayed over by one of Those Christians we were talking about, and despite beening hacked off at her presumtion, by damn if the prayer didn't work, so, crap, now I have to rethink my position on Prayer.

Then after a while I decided to give it a try, and son of a gun if it didn't work.

At first responses were cryptic and tangential and required a lot of credulity (faith) on my part, but as I've become more accustomed to it, replies have gotten more overt and explicit, to the point where I can nearly carry on real-time conversations now.

Oh, and did I mention that at Denvention 3, my god inhabited flesh and I got to make love to him?

But I have to go now, because I've got a doctor's appointment....

#214 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 06:04 PM:

Thanks to Abi, OtterB, Elliott Mason, P.J. Evans and others who have talked about their experience of religion, either directly to me or generally. This is stuff I don't see people talk about much, so I'm learning a lot.

Thanks to Jacque and TexAnne for trying to help.

Thanks to David Harmon and Lee and others for communicating.

My apologies to the people I have hurt, all accidentally.

I hope that you will continue the discussion!

#215 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 06:34 PM:

Terry 168: Look at abi/myself/Xopher on the ritual aspects of transubstantiation... the views are in strong opposition. For one of us they are almost nonsensical, they don't work at all.

Terry, I don't think that's true. I didn't fully understand how the ritual works for you and abi, but it didn't seem nonsensical to me. The use of white wine threw me, I'll admit, because it so strongly conflicts with how I (and, I think, most Wiccans) view ritual, but abi's explanation made sense to me. Eventually.

None of which is to disagree with your overall point. On the contrary, I think you hit the nail on the head there.

David 169: It may come as a surprise to you that I see no essential conflict between being an atheist and being a Wiccan. I'll elaborate only if you're interested; there's a long discussion of what the phrase 'believe in' means that has to happen at the very beginning of the explanation.

#216 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 06:42 PM:

Jacque, I know what you mean. I'm always trying to stop people from coming to blows, because when they start yelling my childhood-installed programming says hitting is imminent. But many people grew up in homes where yelling was as far as it ever, ever went, so they yell when they're really angry, and get even angrier when I foolishly try to intervene.

But they don't hit me. Because they don't hit. Ever.

I suspect what you're feeling right now may be similar. However...your experience is yours, and not mine; that's why there's two of us. I just feel as if I may be able to relate.

#217 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 07:01 PM:

Xopher #215: Oh, I concur, there's no intrinsic conflict. But by the same token, being a Wiccan is more about what you do than what you believe, and I've pretty much abandoned the practices.

As I've said before, the groups I were hanging out with clearly had no special insight into my social problems (which were my dominant issues at the time), nor were magical practices helping with those either. For that matter, a fair number of the folks I was with weren't doing so well with their own problems (both individual and group) either, and I got some object lessons about how magic could screw with the practitioners' heads....

Between that and various unfortunate life events (leaving me in a serious depression), I never did pick up the threads of practice in NYC. Having escaped from NYC, I'm coming out of the depression, but I suspect that messing around with magic at this juncture would be more distracting than helpful, so I haven't.

#218 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 07:16 PM:

I haven't jumped into this discussion because for me, as for some other commenters, some of my religious experiences are intensely private.

So I'll step back from the personal and share something I've come to understand about variant views on spiritual matters. Often how we say it depends on who we are saying it about. In other words, it's one of those conjugated verbs. To wit:


  • I have favorite Bible verses.
  • You pick and choose what to believe.
  • He or she is a heretic.

My own collection of favorite Bible verses is pretty idiosyncratic, so I am used to having minority views.

#219 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 07:48 PM:

Re Voices in Heads: I was reading Jacque's account and about to say, "Huh. I don't have voices in my head," but then had to pause.

I don't have Joan-like saints giving me advice, certainly. But I do have:

-- a very loud set of tape-recorded refrains, some of them in the voices of various family members of mine. On the order of, "I didn't know we left the television in the fridge", "Sit up straight, it's better for your back", and other things trivial and crucial, positive and negative. I call these tape recordings because I remember people having said them to me explicitly in the past. Sometimes it's my voice: one of the best things therapy did for me was teach me how to record (and in some cases record OVER) messages.

-- When I roleplay or write, characters I've created have a tendency to move along a spectrum of 'aliveness' that can end with them sitting on my shoulder making commentary during a movie I'm watching, or taking over a dream of mine to show me something that 'happened' in their past. And, of course, to argue that of course they wouldn't do THAT, why would I ever try to write the scene like THAT?? The freakiest part was when they started getting their own subconscious minds: I'd be playing out a scene and they'd get 'headstrong' and take the dialogue somewhere I didn't expect, and I didn't even know WHY in retrospect until weeks or months later, when another chunk of their backstory would whap me upside the back of my head or something and THEN it would become clear, with all their preceding behavior perfectly logical and rational in the light of this other information *I hadn't had yet*.

Alive characters used to be rare for me, but now that I've gotten the hang of how I hold my mind, I can entice them faster. The corollary of this is that it's harder for me to MAKE a character, because I've gotten used to being able to turn sideways to them inside my mind, as it were, and just ASK them stuff! So if I have to do the heavy lifting myself, it's harder now.

I have a sneaking suspicion, having read several biographies of exceedingly disturbed people, that if particular parts of my childhood had been just a bit worse in very specific ways, I'd have ended up in a multiple-personality situation, because (a) I dissociate quickly, deeply, and thoroughly as a coping reflex, and (b) you saw up above where I said can create entire new personalities, right?

Hopefully this isn't derailing of the faith subthread. I'm really enjoying that.

#220 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 08:05 PM:

Elliott, ISTM that part of the faith subthread is a discussion of how to tell an internal voice that is yours from an internal voice that is not. Plus, well, this is ML. We like figuring out how people work.

#221 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 08:07 PM:

My neurologist once told me that anything the brain can do, it can do as the result of a migraine, depending on what blood vessels are affected.

I see funny lights when I have a migraine. That doesn't in any way mean that whenever I see light it's because I have a migraine, does it? It certainly doesn't make seeing light a malfunction, even though migraine is.

As for voices, I haz dem. Occasionally. They're generally muttering in languages I don't understand, though. Never had one try to give me advice.

The urge to do certain things doesn't come to me on that sense channel. Usually I just get a feeling in my stomach and have to figure out what I'm supposed to do.

#222 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 08:46 PM:

Elliott, #219: A lot of people have The Voice In The Back Of Their Head to some extent or other. I often refer to it as the Goddamn Tapes, because much of it seems to be the internalization of negative messages I got while growing up, replaying at inopportune moments. Impostor Syndrome also seems to be connected to this. The point is, it's not at all rare, although the amount of credence given to it varies widely. I can generally get mine to STFU with a harsh dose of reality, but for a couple of my friends, that voice has defined their reality for years, in ways that work very much to their detriment; they're trying to work past it, but it's a tremendous struggle.

As to my own religious experiences... I have none. I grew up with the standard-level Christian indoctrination, but it didn't take; rituals of any type, while pretty, have never given me any sort of "numinous experience".* I self-identify as pagan because, having grown up with religion, I find that it gives me emotional comfort to believe in a Deity of some sort; sometimes I think of this as the Goddess, sometimes as The Force (aka the Conscious Universe). However, I am also very much aware that just because I find it emotionally comforting doesn't mean it's true, and at heart I'm a rationalist.

I think a lot of the hostility between the religious and non-religious camps can be explained in terms of a conversation I've had several times with people who were strong believers in religion (not confined to Christianity). They say that prayer works; I say it's never worked for me. They say that was because I didn't believe, and that you have to have faith before it will work. I say that I can't believe in it until I see it working.** And at that point, we're stuck; each of thinks that the other is imposing totally unreasonable conditions on the situation.

* Some of my pagan friends look at me funny because of this; apparently it's very common for people to become pagan precisely because they do sense "magickal forces", and my lack of personal belief in that sort of thing is vaguely disturbing to them. I don't care if they believe in it, but I normally won't participate in rituals (including Christian ones) because I would feel like a fraud.

** By which I mean, at a level beyond what could be accounted for by random chance or coincidence. I don't believe in "miracles" produced by prayer either, because for every such event there are dozens more in which people prayed just as hard and didn't get a miracle.

#223 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 09:29 PM:

Lee #222: oddly, my route to Paganism was the reverse... I was worshipping two pantheons (Greek & Norse, by way of mythology books exposure) even as a kid. Eventually my Mom convinced me "nobody worships those gods anymore"... but then I got to college, and found out differently! I'd had numinous experiences in temple (Jewish), but it was only after I found Paganism that I started seeing more "interesting" stuff.

#224 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 09:31 PM:

Xopher @216: I suspect what you're feeling right now may be similar.

Yes, very similar. Blessedly, hitting wasn't often on the agenda (though not never).

But they don't hit me. Because they don't hit. Ever.

:) :) :)

It's sad and wonderful what a remarkable thing that can be, isn't it?

I'm startled and fascinated at the way this association suddenly came clear into my consciousness today, just *bling!*, during our off-line chat over at the anteroom.

Whatever else might be said of this conversation, I am deeply grateful to everyone here, but in particular, ddb, abi, TexAnne, David Harmon, Lee, Elliott Mason, OtterB, P.J. Evans, (and everyone I've missed), for providing a conversation deep enough and safe enough for this insight to emerge for me. And, of course, to our inestimable hosts for providing the venue. Thanks, [tp]nh!!

Not at all what I was expecting when I opened up my browser today, but well worth the time.

I love the Fluorosphere! And before I move on, I want to offer a very special hug to Xopher. (Email me please at jacquem at panix dot com, if you would please?)

Elliott Mason @219: very loud set of tape-recorded refrains,

One of the things that startled me most was when I woke up, six months or so after going back to work (after having taken five years off working), to realize I no longer heard my mother's voice in my head. In fact, I can only dimly recall what it was like to have heard it. Her voice was such a central (non-positive) factor in my psychic landscape that to wake up one morning and suddenly notice it gone was a lot like suddenly noticing I'd been flying around the neighborhood, and nobody had told me.

The freakiest part was when they started getting their own subconscious minds ... ll their preceding behavior perfectly logical and rational in the light of this other information *I hadn't had yet*.

<Pink Floyd>"There's someone in my head, but it's not me."</Pink Floyd>

I have a character that will occassionally chime in with commentary on my ongoing waking life without my asking. He's usually right, but damn is that weird.

Hopefully this isn't derailing of the faith subthread. I'm really enjoying that.

Nah, it's just a nice little scenic spur off up into the foothills. Fascinating stuff, btw. Thank you for sharing!

Xopher @221: I see funny lights when I have a migraine. That doesn't in any way mean that whenever I see light it's because I have a migraine, does it? It certainly doesn't make seeing light a malfunction, even though migraine is.

Yes, this expresses very clearly my primary complaint with the people who dismiss near-death experiences as malfunctioning of the dying brain.

They're generally muttering in languages I don't understand, though. Never had one try to give me advice.

How would you know, if you don't understand the language? =:o)

The urge to do certain things doesn't come to me on that sense channel. Usually I just get a feeling in my stomach and have to figure out what I'm supposed to do.

Interesting! Similarly with me, although I'm not sure just where my "impulse" is localized.

Lee @222: I say that I can't believe in it until I see it working.

I got lucky. Despite idolizing Spock as a kid, I was never particularly wedded to logic or rationality. Experience of the numinous was something I was attracted to and wanted, even before I had words for the desire. This is why I used the term "credulity" above. I was willing to play "as if." It then later came as a very pleasant, fairly large surprise, when I started to have experiences that seemed to confirm the world-view I found myself wanting to have.

And this was all decades before I encountered the concept of "confirmation bias." By then I had enough confidence in my own perception that I could listen politely to the Skeptics, understand their viewpoint, and move along happily within my own paradigm. Add'ly, I'm less concerned with "what is true" than I am with "what is useful."

It helps a lot that I conceive of this whole business as a matter of multiple, simultaneous realities. What is real for you is true in your Universe. What is real for me is true in my Universe. The extent to which we can share experiences is what's true in Reality. The rest, we just have to take "faith." ;)

#225 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 10:42 PM:

Jacque #224: Despite idolizing Spock as a kid, I was never particularly wedded to logic or rationality.

Well, as the old joke goes, "Spock is only Vulcan from the waist up." (Pon Farr notwithstanding. :-) ) He's not actually "logical", so much as "intellectual".

#226 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 10:50 PM:

Jacque 224: How would you know, if you don't understand the language?

Well, they weren't trying very hard.

#227 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 12:30 AM:

David @225, my take on Spock, and Vulcans in general, is that the Vulcan word that Federation translators have chosen to render as "logic" has strong connotations of Stoicism (in the philosophical sense).

As for the rest of the conversation, well, Chris and I just went through some Large Group Awareness Training workshops (just one for me, two for her), and I'm still assimilating the stuff I learned about myself. No unusual voices in my head, but I did turn my blink reflex off at one point.

#228 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 02:35 AM:

Avram, #227: Diane Duane postulates that a translation error in the early versions of the Universal Translator vocabulary list has given humans a badly-skewed view of Vulcans ever since. The word that an early contact team rendered as "suppression" (for how Vulcans handle their emotions) was actually closer in meaning to "mastery"; Vulcans have emotions, but it's considered bad form to display them.

#229 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 03:08 AM:

re religion, and whom one may discuss it with: As a rule, I discuss it with those I either care nothing about. Those tend to be strangers in public debate, who are; to me, obviously pursuing an agenda, be it declamatory, or conversional (be that to their stripe of faith, or to the idea that my stripe of faith is daft beyond words). Those get my best verbal judo; it's eaiser to use on the religious (esp. the Christian religious) than on the athiests, but really, it's all debate.

For substantive discussion I look for people who treat others with charity. I am far more likely to discuss my sex life, my military career, moral failings, etc., than I am my personal beliefs (practice is different). Why? Because those are things I do/did. This is something I am. It's a core function of how I see myself. It is, at it's heart, not subject to reason. Does God speak to me? Hell if I know. Does my religious practice speak to me? Sort of. It informs me. I would not be who I am without it.

Could I be like myself without it? Perhaps. I can't know. The experiment cannot be repeated.

I note (as I ponder my various comments, made here, about my religious sensibilities) that I have made very few about what/how I believe. It's not that I don't think the general convocation here to be unfriendly, nor even unkind, but that I am that private about it. I have mentioned that I considered taking orders.

It wasn't from a massive desire to be closer to God, nor in response to the "calling" (though a sense of calling was present, or I'd not have so strongly considered it). It was for reasons of belief, and personal integrity, that I abandoned the idea, there are details of the Canon Law which I cannot subscribe to; aspects which I can live with not accepting, as a member of the laity, which I cannot, in good faith, accept, even in obedient dissent; had I taken vows.

And that is irrational. I don't believe that doctrine to be valid. I don't believe God holds anyone to accept it (for those who care, it's Ex cathedra) but I can't pledge to obey, and know that I am reserving that; even though it's wrong.

I know that, were I to accept ordination, I'd have to hold my peace, or be defrocked.

None of which alters my experience of the divine one bit. It merely informs what my options were in expressing it.

The mass brings me into numinous moments. So do lots of other things; a really good ride (motorcycle or horseback), a good day at the range, a walk in the park, watching people enjoy each others company, time with my beloveds (and sometimes time with my relatives). I don't need religious ritual to get that. I don't need the rules of The Church to inform me.

And, from the view of The Church, I am a poor Catholic. My love life is a travesty (and I am not, in the Church's mind, chaste), my religious practice is haphazard (and heterodox, perhaps even heretical).

Which is as nothing to me. I still consider myself a Catholic. I cherish the church universal, in all its constituent parts, and I still feel part of it. The Mass, when I attend, connects me to not only the abstract of the Deity, but also to the whole of humanity.

It tells me I am not an island.

#230 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 09:08 AM:

Lee @199 WRT your analogy... that's all well and good when it's a story about your mother, because you're not asking me to worship her as an incarnation of Deity. When someone is asking me to do that, but they can't even get publicly-accessible details right, it makes me really twitchy.

I said I would come back to this, but I'm not sure I have anything more to say. It was not my intention to demand that anyone else find the analogy persuasive. It was my intention to say that I found it ... not persuasive in and of itself, but enlightening in some ways. You don't, or if you do, it's enlightening in a negative way. (endarkening?) So be it.

This connects with a lot of our current political discussions; people who believe that the facts don't matter in the context of the Bible tend to believe that they don't matter in current affairs either, with predictable results.

Actually, I would have said that people who think that the Bible presents inerrant facts are more likely to think that any other facts don't matter. But the more I think about it, the more I think both of us are talking in generalities that boil down to "I don't like the way Those People think." Unless we're trying to refute or extend the line of a specific argument, I'm not sure that gets us anywhere.

I don't particularly want to continue this subthread, but after saying I would come back to it felt like I should.

#231 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 12:18 PM:

One of the difficulties (as Fred Clark points out) of those who believe in some sort of scriptural inerrancy is that it creates a cognitive disconnect. One is forced to believe several impossible things: all the time.

This, one might suspect, makes it a trifle easier for them to be deluded by people who tell them there are certain "truths", even if those truths seem to be at odds with reality.

If the demagogues can make the "validity" of those "truths" to be a litmus test of one's faith in the religious aspects of things, then the spell is complete. To challenge that received wisdom is to undermine one's faith (which, as we've seen here is a touchy thing, even among people of goodwill, and no desire to keep any of the rest of us, "in line", lest our own religious views be undermined).

So, on that basis, I would say I think the "literalist" more likely to be one who can be tricked into certain types of rigid adherence to another's agenda.

It's not that the facts, "don't matter" it's rather that the specific interpretation of them matters, rather a lot more than it ought.

#232 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 01:18 PM:

Lee @228: "suppression" (for how Vulcans handle their emotions) was actually closer in meaning to "mastery"

That's actually very similar to a model that I had come to. It's not that Vulcans don't have emotions, it's that they somaticise them differently. Things like Pon Farr have the effect they do because there's a breakdown of what, in humans, would be the pre-frontal cortex functions of emotional inhibition. (Like PMS on steroids ;> ) Since this happens on a physiological level and they can't avoid it, they wrap it all about with ritual and custom to protect themselves and their society from the uncontrolled behaviors.

I presume Duane puts this idea forth in her novelizations? Do you have any titles you can recommend?

#233 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 01:50 PM:

232
The details (such as they are) are in Spock's World.

#234 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 01:52 PM:

Huh. Thought I'd posted earlier. Apparently not. If there's a stray message from me in some other thread, sorry about that.

Terry Karney @231, your interpretation of Lee's hypothesis @199 - that the effects of practice in your religion in believing seven impossible things before breakfast plus practice in rigid adherence to authority makes people more likely to operate the same way in the political realm - makes sense to me.

On a meta note, thinking about this makes me realize that in some cases I'm happy with a plausible mechanism that things could work this way without requiring actual proof that things do work this way, while for other things I want actual proof. Partly it depends on the consequences of getting it wrong. Partly it depends on whether or not the thing is susceptible to empirical proof. I am content to have my personal religious beliefs evolve, informed as much as possible by facts but also shaped in other ways. I would not expect my work-in-progress to be persuasive to others. In other things such as court cases, verification or falsification of a scientific theory, or wars in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, I would not be content to operate this way.

Perhaps it's the back-and-forth of intuition and logic that's at issue.

#235 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 02:38 PM:

Terry Karney @229: my religious practice is haphazard (and heterodox, perhaps even heretical).

I love the way you put this.

I have trouble with religious absolutism: I still recognize my Friend, even dressed up in unfamiliar clothes, and I find it puzzling that others cannot do so as well. But I try to be polite when others express One True Way-ism, and reply only if there seems to be a chance of actual communication.

Terry Karney @231: To challenge that received wisdom is to undermine one's faith.

This is the nut of the struggle I have with my friend from high school. To even attempt the conversation is to challenge her faith. Very frustrating, because I'd love to dig into her worldview and learn more about her experience of the divine.

But I then I run smack into the kind of issue DDB has been struggling with in this conversation. My way of comparing and contrasting my experience with hers to gain more insight has the effect of leaving her feeling I have challenged and dismissed her experience.

To be fair, there is some truth in that. I just don't understand how someone can etc.... I keep resolving to try harder to comprehend her worldview, but it's really really hard to take on a viewpoint that is fundamentally opposed to my own, even if only as a thought experiment.

And this inability to even discuss this very important topic is a big, lumpy roadblock to my enjoyment of our friendship.

P J Evans @233: Thanks. I'll have to keep an eye out for that.

OtterB @234: informed as much as possible by facts but also shaped in other ways

And one of the ways I occassionally get myself into trouble with both impiricists and the "rigid adherence to authority" school is that I am somewhat fluid in what I will accept and define as "fact."

#236 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 02:41 PM:

OtterB @234: I meant to acknowledge your "meta note" paragraph. Nothing to add beyond finding it very cogent and lucid.

#237 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 03:30 PM:

I like to think of a miracle as the Universe performing a particularly difficult and elegant quantum computation. That's probably seven different types of heresy, but there you go. heh.

#238 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 03:43 PM:

My own @234 I would not expect my work-in-progress to be persuasive to others.

Amending to say, I would not expect anyone to lead anyone in these matters. Do not want.

To the extent that my discussion resonates with someone and they can say, "yes, I've had that experience too" ... that is an unexpected grace.

Oh, and ddb @179 said And I was responding to OtterB saying how modern psychological research has helped them reach/accept their own current position. (That's a case where the plural-as-indefinite looks ugly to me, but so it goes.)

The OtterPronoun is she, but it's clearly not obvious from the handle.

#239 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 03:49 PM:

Earl #237:

Can I steal that? It provides an, as it were, more elagant way of tying together some stuff in what I'm writing.

Thanks!

#240 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 03:51 PM:

Lee @222:

I think there's a real distinction between the voice/source of feedback I get and the Goddamned Tapes, which I also run.

The things the voice comes up with are useful, productive, interesting, and insightful. It was what got me to quit with my doomed attempt to be a Mystic and accept (and value, and delight in) my vocation as a Russian lit major. An insight like that leaves me joyful and refreshed. I may cry when I talk to God, but I usually end up laughing when He answers.

The Tapes don't do that. Indeed, I kinda get the feeling that God does damn them, and would rather I didn't play them. They distract me from listening to more important things, like Him and the world around me. They prevent me from loving myself, which kinda puts a damper on loving others.

I'm working on it.

#241 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 03:56 PM:

Earl @237:

That's probably seven different types of heresy

I'm sure you can get seven different denominations to declare it heresy, but it sounds pretty good to me.

I also think that God's delight in the universe is mirrored in the feeling programmers get when they watch their code run.

#243 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 04:01 PM:

Serge @242:

*snrk*

Nothing quite that dramatic, I confess.

#244 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 04:22 PM:

OtterB@238: Yes, the handle is perhaps the second otter, or related to what "ought to be", or something, but doesn't trigger any gender-specific associations for me.

Since you've chosen to to provide the information, I shall try to remember it. (I did edit that parenthetical a couple of times to make sure it wasn't asking, because some people actively wish to conceal their gender and I don't want annoy them about that. But there's no reason in the world you shouldn't voluntarily mention it, as you did.)

OtterB@234: Sometimes it's very nice to have an idea how things might work without having to believe they actually do work that way, yes. If an effect is common and the cause isn't known, and people are debating classes of causes, it's nice to know that there is a theory explaining the effect via my preferred cause; if there is NOT such a theory, the effect is to some extent a challenge (not yet a disproof) to my preferred cause.

Having no theory at all about something, a complete mystery, is disturbing (varying amounts for different people, different things). Knowing three different ways something could work (and we haven't been able to find ways to test them yet) is nearly as good for many purposes as having a well-supported single theory.

Whereas for other purposes, you really need a single well-supported theory to be happy. Especially when safety-critical engineering is happening :-) .

#245 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 04:31 PM:

joann #239: Can I steal that? It provides an, as it were, more elagant way of tying together some stuff in what I'm writing.

Hokay, sounds good to me.

abi #241: I also think that God's delight in the universe is mirrored in the feeling programmers get when they watch their code run.

I first had that feeling upon winning a class competition to create the most efficient assembly language prime number generator.

#246 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 04:48 PM:

Jacque #235 ::: II keep resolving to try harder to comprehend her worldview, but it's really really hard to take on a viewpoint that is fundamentally opposed to my own, even if only as a thought experiment.

It doesn't even have to be "opposed" -- just sufficiently different. The world is flexible enough that it's quite practical to deal with it from any of a variety of mindsets, and humanity is flexible enough that various folks have tried most of them.

There's a cartoon, I thought it was from the Far Side, but I haven't been able to locate it: A cow saying "Moo", facing a cat saying "Mew". IIRC, the caption was "same planet, different worlds". I've gotten that one as a birthday card from my Mom... twice!

#247 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 04:51 PM:

I like to say that the laws of physics are the Divine Mind.* Sometimes it's the laws of mathematics.

Note: I don't mean something that has happened in the Divine Mind. I mean they are, in the same sense that Xopher is Christopher Hatton, the Divine Mind.

And Alma Cogan isn't.

____
*Feel free to say "Mind of God" if you like that better.

#248 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:11 PM:

abi @ 241... I also think that God's delight in the universe is mirrored in the feeling programmers get when they watch their code run

I take it that HE didn't subcontract the code crunching.

#249 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:13 PM:

re Voices in Heads, I've noticed (and started coming up with names for) several different kinds.

I like Lee's The Goddamn Tapes for those recurring voices of self-doubt, the ones telling me I'm not good enough, not smart enough, and doggone it, people don't like me.

There's also The Chattering Monkey-Mind, which keeps me from paying attention to what people are saying, and instead runs projections of what I ought to say back, and how that might play out, and by the way, what's on TV later, etc. (I just, towards the end of the workshop, figured out how to shut this one up for a bit.)

There's also My Gut, a surprising source of unexpected wisdom. Since I tote around such a large gut, it's nice to know it does something useful.

#250 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:14 PM:

Serge @248:
I take it that HE didn't subcontract the code crunching.

Despite the temptation to portray Lucifer as a disgruntled contractor trying to assert IP rights over his employer's code, I actually think that being omnipotent means you never have to delegate, subcontract or offshore.

#251 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:15 PM:

Xopher @ 247...

What's that about the Mime of God?
("No, Serge... The Mind of God.")
Oh.
Nevermind.
Then again, Marcel Marceau did pass away 3 years ago.

#252 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:21 PM:

I think for my next religious experiment, I'm going with Surreal Buddhism, headed by the Salvador Dalai Lama.

"....my watch is... melting...melting..."

#253 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:32 PM:

Jacque, #232: Spock's World is the one in which that issue is discussed. It's not a major plot point, but it comes up a few times.

OtterB, #234: I should note that I don't especially care what your personal beliefs are, or anyone else's, as long as they are not being used in ways that damage other people. Several of my pagan friends have aspects of their personal belief that make me roll my eyes -- but they're able to function in the mundane world, and they're not asking ME to sign on with those things, so... "an it harm none".

Also, I have no objection whatsoever to people offering prayers to any Deity on my behalf, so long as those prayers are not malicious or intended as spells of compulsion.* Positive energy, in my belief system, all flows from the same source no matter what Name an individual uses to address it.


* By which latter I mean prayers of the format "that your eyes will be opened to the Real God" or other such rot. That's an attempt to do an end-run around my Free Will, and by Christian standards should be as unthinkable as praying "that you will be broken at the feet of Jesus" -- which was actually said to someone I know a few years ago.

#254 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:45 PM:

Steve, how about South American Surreal Buddhism? Headed by El Salvador Dalai Lama.

#255 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:47 PM:

Central, Xopher, not South.

#256 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:56 PM:

Oh drat. You're right. Meh.

#257 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:56 PM:

Steve, how about South American Surreal Buddhism? Headed by El Salvador Dalai Lama.

Ooh, I could do this all night....

Then we could have Last Son of Krypton South American Surreal Buddhism, led by Kal-El Salvador Dalai Lama.

But General Zod would probably lead a breakaway schism...

#258 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 05:58 PM:

Whoops, missed Abi's correction... :-)

Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism led by Kal-El Salvador Dalai Lama.

#259 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 06:08 PM:

ddb@244 Since you've chosen to to provide the information, I shall try to remember it.

No particular reason why you should. No deliberate intent to veil it, either.

Lee @253 Positive energy, in my belief system, all flows from the same source no matter what Name an individual uses to address it.

There's a point of common ground. :-)

As is a serious distaste for the type of pseudo-prayers you mention.

#260 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 06:08 PM:

For the Pagans and Druids on the list:

In Memoriam: Isaac Bonewitz

#261 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 06:19 PM:

I got an email about that, Lori. I'm going to stick with de mortuis nil nisi bonum. He wrote many good and useful things, and was important and instrumental in the establishment of neo-Paganism as it grew up in this country.

#262 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 06:22 PM:

The reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism, led by Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Lama.

#263 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 06:24 PM:

The pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism, led by J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Lama.

#264 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 06:27 PM:

I respected him for his writings, especially for Real Magic -- it was the author of that I intended to honor; I don't have much knowledge of his personal life.

I guess Donne said it best, "Any man's death diminishes me..."

#265 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 06:29 PM:

Caroline @ 167: "I've gone a bit the other direction, but have ended up at what sounds similar to where you are. I was born and raised Catholic, but have arrived at a skeptical, non-supernatural place. Yet I still have a deep need for ritual, even though I generally no longer believe it accomplishes anything supernatural. Rituals serve a lot of secular functions for me: to mark times and seasons, to link the present with memories of the past, to pause and process big emotions, to tell myself 'Pay attention -- this is important.'"

I'm sort of the opposite. I don't have any particular attachment to ritual, but carving out a place for the numinous in my life has been important for me. I came at it from a different direction, though: I grew up and still am an atheist, despite my much more complex understanding of and appreciation for spirituality. I wonder if that's related?

Lee @ 199: "WRT your analogy... that's all well and good when it's a story about your mother, because you're not asking me to worship her as an incarnation of Deity. When someone is asking me to do that, but they can't even get publicly-accessible details right, it makes me really twitchy."

It seems to me that critiquing religious belief on the grounds of historical accuracy is about as valid an argument against religion as it is an argument for it, and would you be persuaded to believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ if they got the order of Palestinian kings right? Either way, pretty weak.

#266 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 06:34 PM:

The pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme, led by J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck.

#267 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 06:44 PM:

*ducks*

#268 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 06:44 PM:

Lori 264: I don't have much knowledge of his personal life.

I do. De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

#269 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 07:10 PM:

Earl Cooley III @237: I like to think of a miracle as the Universe performing a particularly difficult and elegant quantum computation. That's probably seven different types of heresy, but there you go. heh.

I think I will adopt this into the cannon of the Gospel of Jacque of Xopher Thy Hegemon.

abi @240: I may cry when I talk to God, but I usually end up laughing when He answers.

Sooooo yes! (Have you read Eat, Pray, Love?)

David Harmon @246: same planet, different worlds

Oh, that's a lovely soundbite! Dealing with other worldviews that do not admit of other worldviews—this is my challenge, just now.

Xopher @247: I don't mean something that has happened in the Divine Mind. I mean they are, in the same sense that Xopher is Christopher Hatton, the Divine Mind.

:) :) I remember Benoît Mandelbrot saying he wasn't inventing the Mandelbrot Set so much as discovering it.

And Alma Cogan isn't.

"I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not."

#270 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 07:45 PM:

Lee @253 said: Positive energy, in my belief system, all flows from the same source no matter what Name an individual uses to address it.

I've agreed with this sentiment ever since I read CS Lewis' version about good deeds done in Tash's name, or evil ones done in Aslan's. Kind of like a more metaphysical (and less violent) version of "Kill 'em all, God will know his own."

I neither believe nor disbelieve in an afterlife, personally -- but I strongly believe that if the ruleset currently in use means that acting as I do, in accord with my moral code, means I am damned forever to eternal torment ... then it's a fair cop and I'll take it. Because I believe that how I am living my life now (a) is right, and (b) makes a positive impact upon the world and those around me. I'll let the afterlife sort itself out (or not), and focus on the impacts I'm having now that are measurable.

#271 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 08:03 PM:

The New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme, led by Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck.

#272 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 08:17 PM:

Jacque 269: I remember Benoît Mandelbrot saying he wasn't inventing the Mandelbrot Set so much as discovering it.

Computers are the tool that let us see the Mandelbrot Set, just as microscopes let us see tiny pond life. The beauty was there all along.

#273 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 08:55 PM:

Elliott, 270: I'll be in the next vat of boiling oil over. But I'm confident that the various aspects of the Merciful Deity wouldn't do that to us.

#274 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 08:58 PM:

Having failed my willpower check, I contribute:

The New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game: led by Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose.

#275 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 09:00 PM:

Elliott, 270: I'll be in the next vat of boiling oil over. But I'm confident that the various aspects of the Merciful Deity wouldn't do that to us.

#276 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 09:01 PM:

The CIA New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game: led by Secret Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose.

#277 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 09:01 PM:

TexAnne @273 said in re my 270: I'll be in the next vat of boiling oil over. But I'm confident that the various aspects of the Merciful Deity wouldn't do that to us.

I invoke a variant of Groucho Marx's quote about not wanting to be a member of any club that'd have him -- any God that would condemn me for living up to the particular principles I hold dear, isn't a god I'd ever deem worthy of worship.

Now that I read over that again, I think I need to join the tautology club. Or get some sleep.

Condemn me for FAILING to live up to them? That's a judgement call upon which sane deities of goodwill may disagree. :->

#278 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 09:17 PM:

The popcorn CIA New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game: led by Pop Secret Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose.

#279 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 09:20 PM:

The sugary fizzy drink popcorn CIA New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game:led by Soda Pop Secret Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose.

#280 ::: General Zod ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 09:36 PM:

Steve C @ 257... General Zod would probably lead a breakaway schism

There is no schism.
Mine is the only true value.
Kneel before me!

#281 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 09:45 PM:

General Zod, 280: No, I'm pretty sure that Tru-Value is a franchise, I see them all over the place.

#282 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 10:06 PM:

The sugary fizzy drink popcorn CIA New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game fairy tale:led by Soda Pop Secret Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose laid golden egg.

#283 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 10:10 PM:

The all-purpose baking ingredient sugary fizzy drink popcorn CIA New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game:led by Baking Soda Pop Secret Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose.

#284 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 10:27 PM:

Lori Coulson @260 -- Isaac was an acquaintance through the SCA and his being a customer at Other Change. He seemed a moderately intelligent, very intense man, with a reasonable sense of humor about what he was doing, when I knew him. Never knew him well, and thank you for letting me know of his death.

#285 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 10:30 PM:

The sugary fizzy drink popcorn CIA New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game fairy tale drugstore treat: led by Soda Pop Secret Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose laid golden egg cream.

#286 ::: General Zod ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 10:32 PM:

TexAnne @ 281... And they will rise when my associate Lex Luthor gives the signal. Only then will I grant him Australia as his fiefdom.

#287 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 10:33 PM:

General Zod @ 280 -

Thou art Zod?

#288 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 11:20 PM:

heresiarch, #265: It's largely a question of how much credence I can put in their good faith. I might still not be convinced of the occult aspect if the historical details were correct, but at least I wouldn't be having to approach it from the standpoint of "Okay, so what else are they getting wrong, if they can't get this right?"

#289 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 11:24 PM:

me, #288: Which, I just now realized, is the skeptic's version of the position of the Biblical literalists -- if one detail is called into question, it casts a pall of doubt over the whole.

To me, this doesn't rule out the possibility of analogy, metaphor, and/or parable. But I think to them it does.

#290 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2010, 11:51 PM:

Steve C. #287: Thou art Zod?

Wallop.

(there's a koan hiding in there somewhere)

#291 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 12:03 AM:

The sugary fizzy drink popcorn CIA New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game fairy tale drugstore treat canned soup: led by Soda Pop Secret Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose that laid the golden egg cream of mushroom.

(music cue: SKZB, "Stream of Consciousness Blues", from A Rose for Iconoclastes)

#292 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 01:40 AM:

The all-purpose baking ingredient sugary fizzy drink popcorn CIA New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game fairy tale drugstore treat canned soup of nuclear destruction: led by Baking Soda Pop Secret Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose that laid the golden egg cream of mushroom cloud.

#293 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 04:37 AM:

The all-purpose baking ingredient sugary fizzy drink popcorn CIA New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game rock paper scissors lizard Spock fairy tale drugstore treat canned soup of nuclear destruction: led by Baking Soda Pop Secret Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose that laid the golden egg cream of mushroom cloud..

Lee @289: this doesn't rule out the possibility of analogy, metaphor, and/or parable

—or Telephone Game.

#294 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 07:14 AM:

Lee #288 : I might still not be convinced of the occult aspect if the historical details were correct, but at least I wouldn't be having to approach it from the standpoint of "Okay, so what else are they getting wrong, if they can't get this right?"

Personally, not being a Biblical literalist (and seeing no sense in literalism) I can shrug off the historical inaccuracies, on the grounds that the people who were writing the scriptures about Jesus (for example)
(a) were writing up things that happened a few decades before, that they were told about by people who not only had no paper records but were much more interested in what Jesus said and did than the exact dates;
(b) likely didn't have access to Roman records to remind them who was king when;
(c) likely didn't care about the historical details anyway, the point being the message rather then the administrative accidents.
But YMMV, of course.

#295 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 09:43 AM:

re the historical accuraucy of scripture: Depends on what the faith is trying to do with it. The book of Mormon has some serious problems, in that the things it describes as true, can't be. Since the truth of those things seems to be a tenet of the faith which a lot of Mormons pin a lot of importance on, that's a problem.

Its more a problem for me, if you want me to sign on. I know a lot of Mormons. Some of them are really devout, and will discuss all the interesting archaelogy being done to try and find those lost cities/civilisations. For purposes of how they live their lives, it mostly doesn't affect me.

Were I to contemplate converting, I'd have to find a way to reconcile the vaset difference between what I know to be true, and what the book tells me.

I don't have that problem with the books of the Tanakh/OT, because I've never been told to take them at absolute face value. Noah's Ark... not real. The moral of the story, valid. Sodom and Gomorrah, probably not wiped out in a rain of fire. Moral of the story, still valid. My church admits the books on which it is based are not perfect collections of "facts". It holds them to be divinely inspired teachings about the nature of man.

There are some interesting (and difficult) questions about that nature (and what break I've had with the church is about how those question are to be resolved, no necessarily with the present resolutions), but none of it hinges on Noah getting seven pairs of all the clean animals on the ark.

#296 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 10:12 AM:

John Stanning@294: Yes, it seems near-certain to me that that's essentially why some of the historical details are wrong in the bible. Also the editorial process was mostly long ago, and not directed primarily to historical fact-checking so far as I've read about it.

They always told me in school that people would seize on little errors (spelling, grammar, small facts) and form their opinion of me and my work from them, and I had to get past that before I could really communicate anything. I was seeing this yesterday on Tor.com where Jo Walton and Carlos Yu were both finding the new Heinlein biography suspect because it had several facts that leaped out at them wrong.

If you view the bible as a complex document with a LOT of history which contains much valuable truth, beauty, and good advice, this sort of error doesn't say much about the rest of the content. I believe this is compatible with the views of most of the old-line or "mainstream" denominations of Christianity.

Errors in a document assembled by huge numbers of people over historical time mean a very different thing from errors in a document with one author -- since other parts are by other hands, errors in this bit don't necessarily reflect on the author of the bit over there.

Lots of what I hear in the "public discourse" when the bible is mentioned (in the US) ranges between considering it "inerrant" and "inspired". Clear-cut errors in an "inerrant" bible seem to cast doubt on the whole claim of inerrancy. Even an "inspired" bible is getting more back towards the area where errors in one part reflect more on other parts.

#297 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 10:56 AM:

were writing up things that happened a few decades before, that they were told about by people who not only had no paper records but were much more interested in what Jesus said and did than the exact dates;

Hang on, are we now saying that 1st-century Roman Palestine was a pre-literate society? That won't work.

#298 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 11:04 AM:

ajay: A society can be literate but still have a large number of illiterate members. (See also: 18th-century Europe, among many others.)

#299 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 11:22 AM:

Terry #295: I know a lot of Mormons. Some of them are really devout, and will discuss all the interesting archaelogy being done to try and find those lost cities/civilisations. For purposes of how they live their lives, it mostly doesn't affect me.

Certainly... but my problem with that is, that "archeology" does affect something I care about, which is the overarching structure known as Science. By trying to "prove" things which (1) not only grossly contradict both established knowledge, but (2) aren't even remotely plausible, those folks are essentially attacking the archaeological record, trying to destroy part of a carefully-built structure and replace it with their own purpose-built jury-rig. (Pun intended.)

Sodom and Gomorrah, probably not wiped out in a rain of fire. Moral of the story, still valid.

And which moral is that? A significant section of modern Christianity has committed to claiming the moral of that story as "God Hates Fags". This in spite of the explicit statement in Ezekiel 16:

[49] Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. [50] And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.

#300 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 11:30 AM:

ajay: No, we are saying it wasn't one in which the Christians were able to (nor had much interest in) access the beauracracy.

Look at the folk histories of our age, or that of the 1850s (when, so I understand it, the literacy rate in the US was higher than it is today). We have all sorts of people who believe all sorts of non-quite true things, about events they could easily confirm against records.

I recall the only actual heresy in the film, "The Last Temptation of Christ".

Jesus is walking down the road. He encounters a man (Paul, it turns out), preaching on a stump (my mind tells me it was a convenient piece of ruined marble column). He's preaching all about the death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus protests that he isn't dead; never happened.

Paul looks at him and says, "I don't care. The message is the thing that's important."

If one accepts that mindset, that the message was the important thing; if one accepts that people, not well thought of, are talking amongst themselves, recalling things ("No, Betty Ann, that was after the wedding at Cana, but before the time he put the demons into the pigs") we have to expect that error will creep in.

#301 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 11:55 AM:

Lee @289 said: Which, I just now realized, is the skeptic's version of the position of the Biblical literalists -- if one detail is called into question, it casts a pall of doubt over the whole.

What puzzles me about some of my Group 2 friends is that they seem to take this skeptic's position about their own faith. Anyone pointing out any nitpicky contradiction between two parts of the Bible, for example, is somehow attacking the very roots of their faith, because if it's not all true (by which I mean factually, provably-with-archaeology, historically true) then somehow everything Jesus said is also thrown out with the bathwater.

I can totally see how skeptics could believe that. I really have a hard time seeing how people can think it about *their own faith*. It also makes them have to wilfully not see all the confusing, contradictory, non-historically-provable parts of the Bible ... or explain around them. Constantly.

#302 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 12:17 PM:

The all-purpose baking ingredient sugary fizzy drink popcorn CIA New York alien-chasing pop diva reducing diet Last Son of Krypton Central American Surreal Buddhism internet meme kindergarten game fairy tale drugstore treat canned soup of nuclear destruction inside a box of wires and plastic: led by Baking Soda Pop Secret Agent J-Lo-Kal-El Salvador Dalai Llama duck duck goose that laid the golden egg cream of mushroom cloud computing.

#303 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 12:27 PM:

David: The Mormon archaelogists (at least the ones I know of) are doing science. They have, to date, not found the things they seek. They've not falsified things to make them fit The Book.

It's not as if the biases and desires to support a pet theory only apply to the religious who practice science.

As far as the attack on the moral value of the bible: it goes for all Ur-text. Look at the people who say the Constitution of the US only applies to citizens; never mind that it's got a rather clear distinction between "persons" and "citizens", and so the argument they make it plainly false (and more obviously so than that of those who think the crime of Sodom was wanting to rape angels = homosexuality).

That's not something anything with a moral can avoid. People are perverse, and want to see their prejudices made "right."

One of the things I like (despite its problems) in the Catholic tradition, is that one isn't supposed to just go haring off and interpreting the parent teachings all by oneself. Yes, we are rational creatures, and meant to use that reason, but we are also capable of misreading things, and having others (and a legacy of interpretation) to work with, and to argue points against, greatly slows the introduction of sudden changes, or radically different ideas.

It also makes it easier to cause change (for good, or ill), because the parent organisation has mass.

But it's not the same as (to my understanding) the LDS, were one person (and always male) can issue diktat and it's true.

#304 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 12:33 PM:

David Harmon @299:

It's amazing what people will turn into Another Reason To Be Nasty To Teh Gay. You'd think they were always thinking about gay sex or something.

The most convincing analysis of that story that I've heard is this one by Ken Collins. (He does fall down on the perception of "being gay" in the ancient world, but that's very much to the side of his main argument.)

#305 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 01:25 PM:

OK, I don't know the Mormon archaeologists in question, and you apparently know at least some of them. I like to keep in mind Einstein's quote about quantum mechanics -- "I'm convicted, but not convinced". He was recognizing that even though he couldn't personally accept the implications, he had to admit on a professional level that the science was solid.

As far as the attack on the moral value of the bible: it goes for all Ur-text.

Well yes... but when somebody publicly interprets a religious text, or makes a moral rule in general, they take on moral culpability for doing so, and that goes for organizations as well as individuals. So the Catholic Church may be commended for trying to restrain their loose cannons... but they likewise "own" the real-world effects of their organizational policies, e.g. on contraception.

It also makes it easier to cause change (for good, or ill), because the parent organisation has mass.

??? I would think the reverse... it's that much harder for the CC to back off on their problematic policies, precisely because of their collective momentum.

#306 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 01:53 PM:

Terry Karney@303: It's not as if the biases and desires to support a pet theory only apply to the religious who practice science.

Very true. It's a real risk throughout science (and, happily, recognized as such). And any other human activity where confirmation bias can be a factor (I believe that ends up including all human activities).


#307 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 02:37 PM:

"Oh, him? He's harmless. Part of the free speech movement at Berkeley in the sixties. I think he did a little too much LDS."
- Kirk about Spock to a San Franciscan in The Voyage Home

#308 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 02:58 PM:

Elliott, #301: I left something out of the bit you're quoting. There's quite a lot of the Bible that isn't factual/testable, including pretty much all of the teachings of Jesus. As I said, allegory, metaphor, and parable -- these aren't things that can be researched; effectively, they're matters of opinion. It's quite possible for me to accept that there is wisdom to be found therein, without needing to accept the supernatural origin of Jesus. But factual errors also make it impossible for me to accept the work as a whole as being inerrant.

#309 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 03:05 PM:

abi #304: Hmm, Collins' article is interesting! He does seems to retrofit a bit of Christian thinking onto the story, but that too seems superfluous to his real argument about "original intent of the writers".

#310 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 03:18 PM:

Lee #308: As I said, allegory, metaphor, and parable -- these aren't things that can be researched; effectively, they're matters of opinion.

I'd say rather that they're didactic material -- those parts are actual lessons directed at the listener/reader, as compared to chronicles from which a reader might guess at "what God wants". One can have opinions about whether they're morally correct or how broadly they should be taken... but not about whether they're historical, because they're not meant to be historical.

#311 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 03:25 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 301: Exactly! I've met this as well. And they say you can't pick and choose, it's got to be all or nothing, then get really annoyed if you ask them questions like which version of creation is the correct one - since they contradict each other. And I worry what damage is done to their powers of reasoning, when they constantly have to hold in their minds several mutually-contradictory things at once.

And, following on from you @277, (sort of) any God who deliberately places into the world lots of fossils and other proof of evolution just to test people's faith, isn't a worthwhile deity. Nor is one who would condemn billions to eternal damnation for having the bad luck to be born into the "wrong" religion, therefore not believe in the "only saviour".

#312 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 03:54 PM:

David H @305: So the Catholic Church may be commended for trying to restrain their loose cannons

I'm guessing you didn't want to repeat Serge @183, but it was almost painful to see that potential pun not carried through.

#313 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 04:00 PM:

"Have you seen my EOS-20d?"

"Why? Did you lose a Canon?"

#314 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 04:54 PM:

A friend of mine, a Christian woman, regular churchgoer, daughter of a minister, once said to me "The stories in the Bible are God's parables." Now I know it's rare for Christians to go that far, but I really like it.

#315 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 06:32 PM:

Xopher @ 314 -- A friend of mine who's a minister in the United Church of Canada told me that when she was studying for her M.Div. degree, a significant number of her classmates underwent crises of faith when they got into the verifiable history of events described in their holy texts (the Bible, for most of them), had to deal with the textual contradictions rather than compartmentalizing them, and had to learn about what other faiths and denominations were really about instead of just sticking to their ignorance and prejudices.

#316 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 06:39 PM:

dcb #311: Nor is one who would condemn billions to eternal damnation for having the bad luck to be born into the "wrong" religion, therefore not believe in the "only saviour".

I think that perpetual torture for any reason whatsoever is wrong. Any religion which advocates that kind of punishment has some explaining to do.

#317 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 07:20 PM:

David, #310: Thank you, that's a better expression of what I was trying to say.

#318 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 07:29 PM:

dcb @311: any God who deliberately places into the world lots of fossils and other proof of evolution just to test people's faith, isn't a worthwhile deity.

I was very bemused by a fundamentalist friend of mine who, when asked why it was so important to his church that every verse in Genesis be literally, historically accurate, answered, "Because to believe otherwise would imply that God was lying. No one likes a liar!"

What I don't get is, if that's his rationale, how does he get around the whole "fossils are a test of your faith" thing also implying that God's a liar?

I wish I'd thought to say that at the time; all I had the presence of mind to do was flail in the direction of "If Genesis is 'lies,' who says God wrote it? Conversely, no matter who wrote it, who says its lack of factual accuracy makes the author a liar--maybe it wasn't meant to be taken as fact? Your assumptions, I do not understand them, gahhH!"

I was probably not a very good conversation partner, and he probably came away feeling that I'd stomped all over his faith with elephant feet; i.e. the way I don't like to feel after conversing with certain atheists I know (no one here). Fail. :-(

#319 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2010, 07:58 PM:

Nicole J Leboeuf-Little @ 318... all I had the presence of mind to do was flail in the direction of "If Genesis is 'lies,' ...

Say, didn't Harry Mudd use something like that to make an android blow a fuse?

#320 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2010, 02:00 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 316: Actually, I agree with you. I'm just remembering conversations with my sister, soon after she converted to Christianity, in which she said she was sorry about it and everything, but yes, I was going to go to hell because I didn't believe in Jesus. Didn't matter what I did, whether I spent my whole life doing good deeds, all that mattered was believing, or not believing, in Jesus. And I've had discussions with a number of evangelical Christians along the same lines. A few have gone as far as to say they thought it was a pity that someone like Gandhi, for example, would go to hell, but those were the rules. A friend of mine stirred up quite a fuss at her Christian Union by standing up and stating that she believed Jews could go to heaven.

Please note: I'm not saying all Christians believe this - I know many don't - but unfortunately I've met a fair number, mostly of the evangelical varieties, who do.

#321 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2010, 05:32 PM:

In case my point wasn't clear: if they're trying to convert me (which they were), painting their God in such a light is counterproductive.

#322 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2010, 05:52 PM:

I've often said that I don't want to be in Heaven with a God who sends people to Hell. If that God is the real Creator and sole proprietor of the Universe, then we live in an evil universe indeed, and Hell is where I belong, because I won't worship an evil deity even if He Be Da Boss.

I may change my tune when I'm called before the Throne of Judgement, but by then, thank God fortunately, it will be too late!

Actually I once wrote a whole rant about what I'd say to such a God, assuming I had the guts.

#323 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2010, 06:02 PM:

Nicole J Leboeuf-Little @ 318: Yeah, I know the feeling of thinking up the perfect answer - minutes/hours/days (delete as applicable) after the conversation has ended.

Of course, sometimes one does say exactly what one meant - only to have the other person just ignore/go past or whatever, because it's so far from/much threat to their worldview they can't/don't dare to even hear it. Communication fail again.

#324 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2010, 01:48 AM:

dcb @320:

I suspect your sample of Christians is biased by their willingness to talk about whether you're going to Hell, or their desire to convert you so you don't.

I don't, for instance, believe that all capacity to love resides in my flavor of Christianity, or in Christianity in general, or in theism as a whole. And I believe that that, and the capacity to be loved back, constitute the entry criteria for heaven. (See this comment in the Cordoba thread.) I find Christianity to be a good path for teaching me to love and be loved. I think anyone who, by reasons of character or culture, would find it similarly useful should give it a try.

That's as evangelical as I get, right there; that's the most I've said to try to convert anyone. In my whole life.

And I look forward—if there is a heaven—to finally having enough time to have a really good talk with Xopher there. And I'd get to meet Mike Ford at last.

#325 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2010, 12:11 PM:

abi @ 324: Yes, I realise my sample is biased. It's just that, as I expanded @321, if they're trying to convert me, they're not making their God sound very attractive. And if they're trying to convert me by making me afraid of what will happen if I don't convert - well, that's despicable.

I totally respect your idea of the capacity to love and be loved as being important.

I'd add that it's also what you do with that that's important tend more towards the practical - trying to do good deeds, even if not feeling very charitable at the time. Sort of like the old saying about smiling, even when you don't feel like smiling, helping you to feel happier. Back to Micah 6.8 I suppose: "to do justice and to love goodness". [Hope this comes across okay - I've written and rewitten this several times and can't get it quite right.]

#326 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2010, 01:32 PM:

dcb @325:
Hope this comes across okay - I've written and rewitten this several times and can't get it quite right.

I get you, don't worry. And I agree, so thoroughly that any expansion of it just feels like I'm trying to take over your excellent point.

#327 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2010, 02:04 PM:

... and the final version I posted was totally messed up!

#328 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2010, 04:33 PM:

abi @ 324... if there is a heaven

...my dogs will put in a few good barks for me. Provided those fickle creatures aren't too busy chasing after the truck made of spam that shows up every hour on the hour. My friends hopefully will leave a few favorable words at the Gate.

#329 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 12:42 AM:

abi @324:
And I'd get to meet Mike Ford at last.
And the really cool thing would be that you'd catch all of his allusions and puns. Not necessarily right away, mind you. Where would the fun be in that? But maybe after a bit, when he arched his eyebrows expectantly, or maybe at dinner later when the other shoe drops in an unexpected corner, and you brain goes "Oh...THAT'S what he meant. And then you look up, and see him grinning at you from across the room.

#330 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 01:21 AM:

David Harmon (@ 305... and this is reconstructed, because I thought I'd posted it, and hadn't, so it's lost): The ways in which the church can change things because of the nature of it. To step outside the questions of religion, for a moment, I'll use the USA in 1947 as an example.

Racial Discrimination wasn't just the behavioral norm, it was the law of the land, with a huge institutional inertia against its changing. Any single person could protest it, but they were fighting an uphill battle, and the patterns of thousands of others swamped out their protests.

Harry Truman, by fiat, wrote an executive order and changed the rules for everyone in the armed forces. In an instant the world changed for everyone who was in the service then, and thereafter (though to to be honest, the Navy managed to resist it for another 30 years).

Yes, the hierarchy of the Church (to come back to things) has a lot to answer for (though some of it isn't quite what people think; to take your example on contraception. The ban is not absolute; it is up to each couple to make the decision for themselves [though this isn't obvious, even to many in the church; and there are many who see is as a much more limiting thing than it it. The pope has not invoked Ex cathedra in this matter]. The same is, actually, true of a great many things. They may be sins, but committing them does not move one beyond the body of the church, nor render one excommunicate of the community). The present pope may make it so (though the problems of Ex cathedra make it not likely. To go a bit further afield, that bull [and the attendant confusions stemming from it, is why I didn't take orders. There are any number of things I can stomach, as a member of the laity, which as one bound to a more total obedience, even to public defense, I could not do as one who had taken vows of obedience. One way, or another, I should have had to give up the priesthood] has only been invoked, at most twice [and provably only once], and the problems of forcing things on the Church, entire, with it is so fraught with peril that it's lain fallow; truly useful only to those who wish to use it to demagogue [both inside the church, and out).

Had John Paul I not died so soon, a huge difference in the direction of the church was certain; and because there is so much history of theological analysis, the support for those changes is already laid down. It will just take a pope with vision to make it happen. That could be tomorrow, it could be never. We don't know.

In other traditions, there is no curia to do that. If I have a revelation, and start to preach a new interpretation of the gospel, I can't appeal to an inherited authority. I have to persuade the people, one by one (as a prophet) to my way of seeing things. I can be a David Koresh, or I can be a complete unknown. There is a freedom in that (which is suppressed in the ways of the Catholic Church, one has to be able to live in the rules as they are, and hope/work, to get to the place where one can change them), but there is a different sort of weakness.

#331 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 08:38 AM:

Xopher @#322

A Unitarian Universalist minister I know recently gave a sermon where she talked about a discussion she'd had with John Dominic Crossan, a former monk, about why he had left the monastery and the traditional Catholic Church.

He said something like, "It was the absolute horror of thinking about a God who could allow the Holocaust but could also be expected to help me find my car keys."

So, yeah.

#332 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 09:51 AM:

Sarah S @ 331... a God who (...) could also be expected to help me find my car keys

Isn't that what's called the Problem of Evel?

#333 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 09:55 AM:

Sarah #331 : a God who could allow the Holocaust

Tomes have been written about this – why does God allow evil, or pain, or just bad things, to happen – and I haven’t read them, and I’m no expert, but I offer my personal take on this FWIW.

We don’t know what God is.  We’ve never seen him,¹ and probably cannot see him as he is.  He is beyond our ability to comprehend.  Appearances of God on earth (Moses’ burning bush, or Jesus, or Krishna’s appearance to Arjuna, etc.) are partial – we see what we are able to see, not God in his totality, so all accounts of him are partial.²  God is not human.  It is inconceivable that God could be evil, so he must be good.  But if he created us, he didn’t make us perfect³ (I'm not sure that we even understand what perfection entails);  he didn’t put us on a planet where everything would be wonderful and nothing would ever go wrong;  he didn’t give us bodies that work painlessly or even conveniently;  and he gave us free will, the freedom to be good or bad, to be Hitler or to be Gandhi.  So bad stuff happens, not because God wills it or fails to prevent it, but because we are what we are, and it’s not in the nature of God (whatever that is) to change what we are.  God didn’t allow the Holocaust;  God didn’t “allow the Holocaust”;  the Holocaust happened because it is in us, as imperfect beings, to do even that great evil, and if God had intervened to prevent it, he would be a different God and we would be different humans.

________________
¹ Forgive the pronoun.  God is neither male nor female, but we generally speak of God in male terms, so I do so here in order to avoid tiresome circumlocutions.
² And because all accounts of him are partial, no account of him is complete and no account of him is invalid.  Anyone who thinks their particular revelation is total, is free to disagree.
³ Or if you prefer, we became imperfect through the Fall of Man.

#334 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 09:58 AM:

Serge #332 : the Problem of Evel
He would need God to help him find his motorbike keys.

#335 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 10:41 AM:

Terry Karney@330: The ban is not absolute; it is up to each couple to make the decision for themselves surprises me a lot. I thought it was clearly and officially (though not irreversibly; no Ex cathedra) sinful to use other than approved birth control methods. That, after doing so, you could be redeemed, but that you had to actually repent of doing so.

I have no idea how authoritative they are, but catholic.com seems to agree. (And when served up to me, that page had a "Catholic singles" ad, too.) (I can find sites that appear more scholarly that agree, but the first couple of pages of search doesn't turn up anything more obviously authoritative.)

That's a far cry from a situation that I would describe as being up to each couple to decide for themselves.

#336 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 10:46 AM:

John Stanning@333: That seems like pretty much the classic analysis of the problem of evil, yes.

Basically, it comes down to saying that what would have to be done to prevent even the most grotesque evils like the HOlocaust would in the end be worse, though we humans are not nearly smart enough to understand the details that prove it.

And I am in fact VERY fond of my (illusion of) free will.

#337 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 10:53 AM:

John Stanning @ 333 --

It almost sounds a bit like the translation of the three laws of thermodynamics.

You can't win
You can't even break even
You have to play

#338 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 10:59 AM:

Steve C.@337: Well, both do claim to be explanations of at least one aspect of the rock-bottom basic laws of the universe.

#339 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 11:09 AM:

Serge and John Stanning--

Yes, this is the classic formulation of the problem of evil, but I see it as something else as well. Forgive my feeble formulation of this, but I'm extraordinarily uncomfortable talking about religion at all, and doing so here feels particularly terrifying.

However, I tend to think of the problem Crossan is discussing as being less about understanding the nature of god and more about what our understanding of the nature of god does to us as humans.

For example, a friend of mine recently posted as her Facebook status that she and her family had wanted to go to the movies, but didn't have the money. They checked the show times anyway and then she went to do some laundry. Lo and behold, there was $50 in the washer. She added, "God provides not just for our needs, but for our wants."

God, whatever God may be, isn't a vending machine. You don't insert prayer and receive $50 to go to the movies, or get help with the car key situation. If God actually worked *that* way, the Holocaust would/could never have happened.

#340 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 11:56 AM:

I find I have two ideas of the Universe in general, Omnipotent Universe and Committee Universe. Omnipotent Universe is exactly what it sounds like; Commitee Universe is a harried woman in a skirt running around making things work.

I envision the meetings:
"Crap, her alternator's going."
"She's moving Sunday... any way to make it last?"
"Nope. But it's under warranty still."
"This car thing is ridiculous. Okay, we'll kill it Tuesday, it'll probably fail... Wednesday? You, you're in charge of making it last until she's home from work."
"Um?"
"If you can't get her all the way home, set off warning lights immediately and make sure someone is around to help get her into the driveway. Don't panic, we'll get her through this."
"So the timeframe is Tuesday, put the alternator out of its misery, it fails by Wednesday, ideally getting her home from work but still making it clear that something's going on, she charges overnight and it's replaced Thursday, all on schedule for moving Sunday, yes?"
"Go!"

It's like my mom's mom taking care of her girls-- Mom's brakes went out and she had to drive from one school to another on country roads with nothing, and she got through it.

I think I'm not wired for God, but I can handle little personalities who try to cushion the world. Committee Universe in particular is a comfort because it makes me notice how things went well, instead of worst-case scenario.

#341 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 12:10 PM:

Diatryma, 340: Committee Universe is pretty much how I see Omnipotent Universe performing miracles in the modern world. It's like that joke about the preacher in the flood who ignores the canoe, the motorboat, and the helicopter.

#342 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 12:31 PM:

ddb #335 : I’m not a Roman Catholic, but I’d understood Pope Paul VI’s encyclical De Humanae Vitae (1968) to prohibit artificial contraception but explicitly or implicitly to allow certain ‘natural’ methods of contraception such as the “rhythm method”.  I don’t know whether it was formally an ex cathedra statement of doctrine invoking papal infallibility, but if it wasn’t it came close, and the three subsequent Popes haven’t overturned it despite widespread dissent.

I always thought the R.C. Church were on a hiding to nothing on this issue:  artificial contraception goes against some of their fundamental moral concepts and they had no choice but to ban it, even though they knew perfectly well that it would be widely ignored in developed countries and also that it would cause problems in certain developing countries.

#343 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 12:45 PM:

John Stanning@342: Yes, your first sentence is in accord with my understanding. With regard to the second, it is my impression that Catholic theologians do not regard it as an Ex cathedra statement. (It does seem like an unfortunate oversight, from a gaming rules point of view :-), that they didn't define a specific formula to unambiguously make a statement Ex cathedra.)

It's certainly the current position of the church, but so far as I can see there's no technical bar to their changing their mind (I don't think it's likely any time soon).

#344 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 12:49 PM:

Sarah S. #339 : God isn’t a vending machine.  You don’t insert prayer and receive $50 to go to the movies, or get help with the car key situation.

That’s very well put.  Expecting God simply to help you find car keys seems nonsensical.  And yet... and yet... this is the bit that I find difficult.  We’re told that prayers are answered, and people say “the Lord will provide”.  What if going to the movies was somehow good (in the moral sense) for your friend and her family, or one of them – or avoided something bad?  What if helping someone to find their car keys enabled them to use the car to do something good?  Would God, could God, intervene in this sort of way when he doesn’t intervene in big things like the Holocaust?  I don’t know.

Has anyone read Arundhati Roy’s novel called “The God of Small Things“?

#345 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 12:55 PM:

John Stanning@344: It does seem to me that the God people conceive of is big enough to deal with BOTH large and small issues. I find it socially unpleasant when people attribute small things (especially those involving other people) to God, but I can see no basic philosophical reason to reject the possibility once you've accepted a God in the first place.

I do think there are theological and philosophical and psychological/sociological issues with being especially confident that you know the mind of God, most especially on matters relating to yourself.

#346 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 01:32 PM:

Sarah, #339: God... isn't a vending machine.

I really like that, and am storing it away for use in future discussions.

The example that left a really bad taste in my mouth was post-Ike, when I ran into someone who told me all about her family's personal miracle: their car's gas gauge was on E, but they PRAYED and lo and behold, the car ran for another half hour until they could get to a gas station.

I said, "And don't you think there were other people in the same situation, praying just as hard, who didn't make it to a gas station?"

She said, "Oh, they didn't really BELIEVE, or God would have answered them too."

Unfortunately, the circumstances were such that I couldn't make clear exactly how vicious and contemptible and un-Christian her attitude was. I did say that it was a cop-out to assume that other people are less devout than she is, but it bounced.

#347 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 01:41 PM:

I have a feeling that the God who performs minor favors is sort of a default assumption. The base belief is that everything happens for a reason, and if you can't pin the reason on something else, then God gets the credit -- or, rarely, the blame.

This is probably a comfort to people; random good luck becomes an affirmation of faith instead of just a roll of the dice.

#348 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 01:42 PM:

OtterB @#259:
Lee @253 Positive energy, in my belief system, all flows from the same source no matter what Name an individual uses to address it.

There's a point of common ground. :-)

Literal LOL, with runny eyes! Thanks, I needed that!

(yes, catching up on threads...)

#349 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 02:31 PM:

Lee @346

That's more or less exactly what I meant by saying that my concern is with what believing in that vision of god's nature does to us as humans.

It does that. And it's not pretty.

(And thanks, Lee and John Stanning. This is an impressive group in which to be told something is well put. *s*)

#350 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 02:39 PM:

The more I grow up, the less likely I am to think of prayer as some kind of late-night DJ call-in, where I can ask for this or that thing to go onto the turntable. I consider prayers—at best—as submissions to God's slush pile. Who knows whether they'll meet His publishing needs?

More and more, though, I think of the Alcoholic's Prayer. You know the one? God grant me the strength to change what I can, the patience to endure what I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference. What that gets to is not what happens‡, but how we deal with it.

So I don't pray for Xopher* to get a job; I pray for him to deal with whatever comes with courage and joy. I believe the Quaker term is to "hold people in the Light"; I think of it as commending them to God's attention. It's also a chance to sit around and think about how I care about them.

-----
‡ Because even thinking about messing with free will makes me deeply twitchy.
* I explicitly cleared it with him that I could pray for him within specific boundaries. Unless I know that someone belongs to a religion that allows people to pray for them without permission†, or I've been asked to pray for someone, I only do so after explicit permission. It would be rude to do otherwise.
† I do, and I assume my fellow Christians don't mind unless informed otherwise.

#351 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 02:51 PM:

Sarah S. @339 said: God, whatever God may be, isn't a vending machine. You don't insert prayer and receive $50 to go to the movies, or get help with the car key situation. If God actually worked *that* way, the Holocaust would/could never have happened.

There's a more insidious corollary to the God-as-vending-machine mental model, and it relates also to that recent bestselling book, "The Secret". If God IS a vending machine (or if sending positive modeling thoughts out into the universe really brought prosperity back upon you), then clearly everyone whose life is truly suck-ass just isn't praying enough/moral enough/being positive enough.

It makes it their FAULT that they've failed, and lets people with even a modicum of success in their life feel like they deserve it.

And interacting with people who think that way (consciously or un-) makes me feel nauseous, because I know just how much of everyday success is attributable to either random chance or the dice being loaded by previous circumstances.

Lee @346 said: She said, "Oh, they didn't really BELIEVE, or God would have answered them too."

Exactly.

abi @350 said: More and more, though, I think of the Alcoholic's Prayer. You know the one? God grant me the strength to change what I can, the patience to endure what I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Point of nitpicky order: that's the Serenity Prayer, by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It's been adopted with whole heart and open arms by Alcoholics Anonymous (among others), but it did pre-exist.

The extended version speaks to me, too:

God, grant us the...
Serenity to accept things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference
Patience for the things that take time
Appreciation for all that we have, and
Tolerance for those with different struggles
Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the
Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the
Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.

#352 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 03:14 PM:

Sarah S, I like the God-as-vending-machine (or not) formulation too.

I'm with abi on tending to make my prayers for others more of "holding them in the light." I had heard that phrase before but forgotten it, and it's close to what I try to do. By other people's formulation, I am sending out positive energy in their direction. Even to me it sometimes seems too woo-woo. But I think it's good to do it anyway.

With respect to my own prayer about my own needs, I'm trying to untangle several entwined trains of thought, because I think there are several things going on at once. (Life is like that.)

First, I think it's a good thing to dump everything on God. Not in a vending-machine way, but in the way you might tell a good friend the things that are bugging you even if you know they're trivial. The deeper I get into this prayer thing, the more I believe that it is way more important to be honest before God than it is to be holy, to be appropriate, or to be theologically correct. Places where I'm going wrong can be straightened out, but that's much harder when I don't admit to them.

Second, not all prayer is talking to or talking at God. Much of it should be listening. This requires getting past the Goddamned Tapes to be able to listen to a quieter voice. (Not necessarily an actual voice. I talked in an earlier post a little about how this worked for me.)

Third, I think it's a good thing to express gratitude to God for little things as well as big. I may be grateful for the fact that a health scare was just a scare, for my husband's job after a long stretch of unemployment, for my children, for rainbows and autumn foliage and the glories of the universe as revealed through the Hubble Space Telescope. I'm also grateful that I found my car keys. None of that means that I got those things because I earned them by prayer - that I prayed harder or believed better than other people whose health scares were real, that my husband was more deserving than other unemployed persons, or that I knew the cheat code to the universe. It just means that there are a lot of good things around, and I am grateful for them.

There's something missing here, about the bad stuff instead of the good, but I'm having enough trouble articulating it that I'm going to leave it for now.

Oh, and I think I have the right to try to analyze my own unanswered prayers - was it because there was something better in store, was it because some good I may not see will come out of this, was I asking for the wrong thing - but I really, really don't think anyone has the right, other than by explicit invitation, to do that for someone else's prayers.

#353 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 03:27 PM:

Elliott, #351: It makes it their FAULT that they've failed, and lets people with even a modicum of success in their life feel like they deserve it.

Oh, yes. This puts Divine imprimatur on the loathsome idea that the poor are only poor because they've chosen to be, or because they're too lazy, or because it's easier to live on welfare than to go out and get a job. And because of that, it provides insulation against any of the Christian injunctions to help the poor, and lets believers relax in the smug glow of superiority.

#354 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 03:28 PM:

Elliot Mason @351:
that's the Serenity Prayer, by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

Oooh, neat and shiny! I did not know. I like it.

Thank you.

OtterB @352:
The deeper I get into this prayer thing, the more I believe that it is way more important to be honest before God than it is to be holy, to be appropriate, or to be theologically correct. Places where I'm going wrong can be straightened out, but that's much harder when I don't admit to them.

Oh, yes, very much so. I spent many years away from religion, when it might have been a good thing to be within, because I became so angry at God about miscarrying my first pregnancy. I couldn't find a way to admit that anger, though, because it's not the way good people are supposed to feel about God.

#355 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 03:29 PM:

Abi @ 350... The more I grow up, the less likely I am to think of prayer as some kind of late-night DJ call-in

Great. Now you've got me thinking of WKRP in Cincinnati.

#356 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 03:48 PM:

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

#357 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 03:52 PM:

Dead Sea Scrolls steak knives, wasn't it? And John the Baptist shower curtains?

#358 ::: Bombie ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 03:58 PM:

The Serenity Prayer is wonderful. Those are the things I try to strife for. (Sometimes more consciously then other times). Especially the phrasing of 'Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways' is wonderfully concise and powerfully put. I love it.

Sarah - God-as-vending-machine
abi - God's slush pile
wonderful analogies, both!

A big thanks to all who have added to this thread and been so courageously open, and thanks to all who have helped create an atmosphere in which this is possible. Reading this thread is a wonderfully enriching experience.

#359 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 05:56 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 351: Thanks for the exteded version - I'd not seen the rest of it before.

#360 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 06:46 PM:

While we're noting neat analogies, let me put in a vote for OtterB's "prayer is not a cheat code to the universe."

#361 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 07:34 PM:

dcb @359 said: Elliott Mason @ 351: Thanks for the extended version [of the Serenity Prayer] - I'd not seen the rest of it before.

Thank Wikipedia and Google. :-> I don't know it sufficiently by heart to just quote it like that. The first three (serenity/courage/wisdom), yes, but not the rest.

#362 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 08:37 PM:

My favorite is Mark Twain's War Prayer, but it runs the risk of triggering a Poe's Law incident.

#363 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 09:17 PM:

Going to Catholic high school in New Orleans, I was surrounded by girls wearing crucifixes. My act of rebellion was wearing a necklace with a heart pendant on it. I explained to my mom that I thought the people focusing on the way he died were taking the wrong message from it, when they ignored the way he lived. Of course, I was a burgeoning agnostic at the time, after a childhood of learning all I could about Greek and Roman mythology. Now I just long for mysticism without actually doing much to accomplish it. I used to achieve a nearly meditative state singing in choir, but haven't done that in years.

I'm also an advocate of the idea that any God that would keep people out of heaven based on what they didn't believe when they lived a good life is not a God worth worshiping.

#364 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 10:10 PM:

I thought the Serenity Prayer went

Gorram, grant me the...
Serenity to accept when you've taken my love and my land,
Courage to take me where I cannot stand, and the
Wisdom to know that you can't take the sky from me.

#365 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 11:49 PM:

EClaire, one of the bits I really like about Briggs' Mercy Thompson books is that the main character wears a Lamb of God necklace, not a cross. She can't stand crosses because of a childhood graphic-crucifix incident. The sheep does the job.

#366 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 02:40 AM:

Avram @364:

Very nice one.

#367 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 02:53 AM:

abi@350: There's a thing that I say sometimes: "If I thought saying a prayer or lighting a candle would make a quark's worth of difference, I'd do it." Conversely, if you or Xopher or anybody here ever want to pray or do any other thing on my behalf, please feel free. It won't hurt me, and might help you.

Avram@364: Shiny!

#368 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 12:54 PM:

ddb: There are any number of things which are ongoing problems of sanctity, which the church condemns.

The use of non-rhythm contraception is a sin. Just as failing in charity, or not being properly respectful of one's parents, or any number of things.

One must search one's heart, use one's reason, and suchlike. It's hard to explain.

Speeding is a violation. Everyone who slips 1 unit above the limit is liable to citation and sanction. It doesn't happen, and we don't really condemn them (heck, if a cop is overzealous we condemn the cop).

Any number of reasons can be justified. Example: A woman of my acquaintance had crampy periods. Her physician prescribed, The Pill to reduce that. When she married (still a virgin) her priest told her to continue it, until, and unless, she wanted to become pregnant.

I know of a lot of stories where such a rationale was used, by priests, to justify the use of artificial contraception; with that priest then accepting the communicant to the rail.

I know other cases as well, cases which boil down to the parishioner saying, "My doctor wants to put me on birth control, can I do it" and the priest asking careful questions to avoid getting the wrong reasons, and saying, "Fear not my child, you are not in a state of sin."

So the appearance (esp. from the outside) of the encyclicals, may be that it's completely verboten, but the facts on the ground are different.

Part of the reason, in fact, that it's so contentious an issue (at least in the states) is the scope of interpretation. It's not settled, and so there is argument.

#369 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 02:07 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 362: I've always thought that the War Prayer suggests a particularly perverse solution to the problem of an evil world with an active god--what if, having granted us free will, God chooses to answer all prayers equally rather than only the good and just (because after all wouldn't that be unfairly nudging humanity in one direction?) I like it because it twists responsibility for the state of the world back into our hands, where I think it belongs. I dislike it because it is immensely horrible.

Avram @ 364: "Wisdom to know that you can't take the sky from me."

Is it wrong that the very first time I heard that song and every time since, I think "Yes they can," and remember the Gouffre Martel from The Stars My Destination?

#370 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 02:20 PM:

Terry Karney@368: I think you're describing a church which hangs together because of local autonomy, that also has problems because of it? Similar to many things such as for example the United States in that regard.

Possibly outsiders over-rate the importance of the church hierarchy. I see "apostolic succession" advertised as a key defining characteristic, and the hierarchy and the curia, so I tend to think of those as the defining features of Catholicism (and indeed those are important ways it differs from most Protestant sects). So I see local variation in rules as being more a bug than a feature (if you wanted local variation, why pick the religion with the strongest central authority?). Of course most people in most religions didn't really choose them, most were raised into the one they're in.

#371 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 02:37 PM:

ddb, 370: Another word for "local variation" is "mercy," and it boils down to choosing the spirit of the law instead of the letter. Of course it can be abused, just like everything else humans are involved in, but in the main I'm not in favor of zero-tolerance anything.

#372 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 02:47 PM:

Terry Karney @ 368 "The use of non-rhythm contraception is a sin. Just as failing in charity, or not being properly respectful of one's parents, or any number of things."

The problem from the outside (i.e. to non-Catholics) is that it's highly visible (as it were) and we see it leading to the sort of thing exemplified by a conversation my husband once had with an acquaintance, a young Catholic woman*. She explained that since the Church said that using contraception was a sin, and having an abortion was a sin, it was better for her to not use contraception, and if/when she got pregnant, have an abortion. That way it would only be one sin and need confessing once, rather than being an additional sin every time she had sexual intercourse. As far as she was concerned, the Church had put the same moral value on both acts, so this was the logical way to go.

#373 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 02:58 PM:

heresiarch, #369: I just looked up the War Prayer to make sure I was remembering the right thing. Having done so, what I find most horrifying about it is that I can so easily imagine the second invocation being wholeheartedly prayed and endorsed in many churches all across America, any time in the last 40 years. Only the mental images of the targets would change.

#374 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 03:08 PM:

Addendum to me @372: I know it's not the Catholic church's fault if people can't think logically.

And I know that religions of all stripes, including my own, get used by people to justify doing what they want to do anyway.

But this, along with the "ordinating women is as bad as paedophilia", is what outsiders get to see most visibly.

#375 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 03:19 PM:

TexAnne@371: Would you settle for "local variation can be used for mercy"? I can't accept that "local variation" inherently means the same thing as (you say "another word for") "mercy".

#376 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 02:03 AM:

re american cheese slices: Velveeta is not the same. Veleveeta is a cheese blend, with some stabilisers. The american cheese singles are a different thing altogether, and usually a poor substittute for, "american" cheese. If anyone has ever had, "Government cheese" that's a really good example of what "american" can be.

The rules for what counts as cheese, proccessed cheese, and processed cheese food are pretty exact, and there aren't (to the best of my knowledge) any exemptions for them, just because they've been made into slices and individually wrapped. The difference in names reflects the differing proportions of milk, water and oil they are allowed to have.

abi: I learned to eat ramen and spice pack when backpacking. It was a good snack while moving on the trail. I was about 11 the first time I had it. I still do it. It's the only time, anymore, I use teh flavor packets.

ddb: I think the difference in viewpoint (being non-religious) is a big hurdle. The church holds together not from local autonomy, but rather shared beliefs,and a commonality of interest. The US church may schism, but if it does I expect it to be like the Anglican church is threatening too; the most conservative elements breaking off.

The thing you think a bug, I call a feature; and what you see as local variation I see as a fairly consistent interpretation. The sqeaky wheels are those whom you hear, and those whom the, "there is no acceptable method of birth control, and whatever the pope says is always right [and ignoring the requirements of Ex cathedra]" crowd.

The real problem is (IMO) that the encyclicals can be interpreted too rigidly, and the US church suffers from being in the bosom of a very protestant; and even more a reactionarily so, religious culture. We are, as a society, suffering from a very vocal group, which says to be, "christian" is to be against a slew of things. A lot of Catholics have bought into that, and so there is a fair bit of local priests/communities being far more rigid than the doctrine really calls for.

The value of the heirarchy is that whackjobs have a much harder time taking over the church. This is an arena in which some institutional inertia is a good thing. Too much is, of course, not good; and there are any number (and some of them quite recent) examples of this.

But I'll take those core teachings, and the resistance to thing like, "The Rapture" over too much of every man his own priest.

dcb: She was in error. Not a surprise, because The Church actually draws a distinction between contraception and abortion. Using abortion as birth control is a greater sort of sin, actually, since the church holds that to be murder, and does not so hold contraception. If she were to speak to a priest, or a theologian about it she would know that, but as I said to ddb, the surrounding environment is such that it's understood the way she presented it.

#377 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 02:04 AM:

crud... the cheese part, of course, was meant for the OT. That's what I get for being too lazy to open a new window to edit comments.

#378 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 03:19 AM:

Terry Karney @376: I did wonder about the nature of your opening statement!

Seriously, thank you for your input on this topic, since I'm learning a lot.

One more question on this particular topic, if I may: given what you've said about priets using various rationales to accept the use of something which is contraceptive, when being used for other purposes (e.g. the contraceptive pill against debilitating cramps), why has (as far as us outsiders can see) the Catholic hierachy been so against the use of condoms to save lives by preventing transmission of AIDS? I used to respect Pope John Paul II - I even went to see him when he came to Manchester many years ago - but he totally lost all respect when he came out so strongly against saving lives. And the actual lies saying that the AIDS virus passes through condoms? (e.g. Vatican: condoms don't stop Aids)

#379 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 03:21 AM:

Addendum (again): Apologies for asking you the difficult questions, but I've not had anyone else I could ask!

#380 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 09:55 AM:

Commitee Universe is a harried woman in a skirt running around making things work.

My approach to the Problem of Evil (bearing in mind that I am not a Christian) is what I've recently begun to refer to as the Marvel Universe: With great power comes great responsibility. The gods can do all sorts of stuff, but they can't do things that are outside their natures. Gods have less free will than humans, as part of what makes them gods. Pele might like the folks who live on the island, but sometimes the volcano is going to erupt nonetheless, because she's Pele and that's her job. And it it not the gods' job to stop us being awful to each other, at least not directly.

#381 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 10:08 AM:

I think that Gary Larson's depiction of the Creation of Earth explains a few things.

#382 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 11:29 AM:

dcb #378 : As I understand it, it’s been a fundamental Christian principle from the very earliest times that the natural purpose of sex is procreation;  therefore sex other than in a loving marriage, and other than with the potential of conception, is sinful;  therefore artificial contraception is wrong.  It’s based on the Bible and on statements of some important very early “Fathers of the Church”.  There’s a comprehensive essay at www.catholic.com/library/Contraception_and_Sterilization.asp, which says that the Anglican churches agreed with this position until they changed their minds at the 1930 Lambeth Conference.

Given that fundamental principle, it’s hard to see how the R.C. Church could agree to use of condoms in any circumstances;  though I can imagine that the case for condoms saving lives by preventing transmission of AIDS must have been strong enough to make the decision very difficult.

As for what you say were “actual lies saying that the AIDS virus passes through condoms”, I was interested enough to trace back from the Guardian story you cited to what Cardinal Trujillo (not Pope John Paul II) originally said back in 2003, which is here on the Vatican web site.  As you might expect, there’s a bit more to it than what the Guardian said (hardly an unbiased source, after all).  Trujillo’s assertion that the AIDS virus can pass through condoms wasn’t his own fantasy, but apparently based on scientific research which he cited.  I haven’t followed up his references, and anyway I’m not qualified to evaluate the reliability of the research, and of course Trujillo was hardly unbiased either, but it does seem to me that it may be a little extreme to call what he said “actual lies”.

#383 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 12:16 PM:

Terry Karney@377
crud... the cheese part, of course, was meant for the OT

The Old Testment?

#384 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 12:17 PM:

er, Testament

#385 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 12:29 PM:

But Blessed are the cheesemakers is in the NT, am I right?

#386 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 12:31 PM:

John Stanning @ 382: In Judaism, the preservation of life comes first, before just about anything else.

As a Jew, I challenge that either Genesis 38:9–10, or Deuteronomy 23:1 say anything against contraception or sterilisation. The former speaks against a man refusing to give his brother a posthumous child to carry on his name; the latter talks of someone who has been mutilated (and the second example given wouldn't actually necessarily prevent the man being fertile). Neither is (in my opinion) about contraception or surgical sterilisation.

Re. Pope John Paul II, it was way before 2003 that many people were hoping he would have the courage to accept the use of condoms to reduce the risk of innocent people becoming infected with AIDS. Sorry for the confusion in my writing that apparently conflated two things.

As for HIV passing through condoms - okay, so not all condoms are as well made as they ought to be. They're still a lot more effective than nothing. It's the "Condoms may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV/AIDS" which I find a real problem. Just because they're not 100% effective, doesn't mean they are worse than nothing. A quick search of PubMed shows a huge body of medical literature indicating the general large reduction in risk of HIV transmission when condoms are used properly, versus when they are not used. Yes, abstinence would be more effective, but guess what, many people are going to have sex whether or not condoms are available*, and many people don't have any choice about whether or not they have sex - but might have a say about use of a condom.

* I'll bet the number of people who refrain from sex because of the message about condoms not being effective, and thereby don't get infected with HIV, is far outweighed by the increased number of people getting infected because they're not using a condom, who would have used one if it was "allowed" by the Catholic church.

#387 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 12:33 PM:

I assumed that the cheese reference was just because Terry's a cultured guy.
(Actually, I was briefly puzzled, because I thought I'd just read it, and was I reading a different tab than I thought.... but the pun was just sitting there unused and fermenting.)

#388 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 12:45 PM:

dcb@386, in Genesis 38:9, not only did Onan refuse to give his brother a posthumous child to carry on the name (and support his widow in her old age, which is part of the purpose of that practice), he had sex with his widow Tamar on the pretense that he was going to do so, making his action pretty close to rape. So I agree with you that using that passage as an argument against birth control is inappropriate.

#389 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 01:22 PM:

tykewriter @ 385... Actually, it is not meant to imply only the cheesemakers, but the makers of all dairy products.

#390 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 01:32 PM:

From what I've read, natural-membrane condoms (lambskin and the like) are much less effective at stopping HIV. So unspecified condoms are not necessarily effective -- latex condoms are quite effective. And just about nothing is 100.00000000% effective.

#391 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 01:35 PM:

OtterB @352: it is way more important to be honest before God than it is to be holy, to be appropriate, or to be theologically correct.

Yesyesyesyes!!

Places where I'm going wrong can be straightened out, but that's much harder when I don't admit to them.

...or when I can't see them. Prayer can be a lot like a call to User Support: in the process of articulating one's difficulty, one suddenly can see what's causing the trouble.

The most effective form of prayer I've found is what I might call viewpoint or perspective prayer: "God, help me see what I'm missing that's causing me trouble." Or, "God help me learn what I need to understand to achieve what I'm after."

And, while I laud abi's reticence to pray for someone without their permission, I confess that I will wantonly and unilaterally pray for my friends to experience goodness and joy. The "goodness and joy" of course, being what they would experience as goodness and joy by their lights. I also depend heavily on God as final arbiter. If a friend is going through distress or unhappiness that is appropriate to that friend's Path, or if my prayer is inappropriate for any other reason, then I have full confidence God will hold my prayer for them in abeyance.

My good wishes for you should be shared on a need to know basis. And you may not need to know. :)

#392 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 02:07 PM:

Tom, #390: Even abstinence isn't 100.0000000% effective as long as it's true that other people can override your decision to be abstinent.

#393 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 02:12 PM:

John Stanning @382, I encountered that story about Trujillo and condoms back when it happened, and did some research. It turned out that the ultimate source for the bit about AIDS being smaller than the pores in latex condoms comes from a 1992 letter to the Washington Times by the editor of a magazine on Rubber Chemistry, who had examined latex gloves and applied his findings to condoms, even though gloves were made to looser standards.

#394 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 03:52 PM:

Okay, I just discovered Python on my work machine. I may just be me being too associative, but this seemed to be a nice follow-on to the Serenity Prayer (and applicable in Real Life, too):

The Zen of Python, by Tim Peters

Beautiful is better than ugly.
Explicit is better than implicit.
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Flat is better than nested.
Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.
Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.
Although practicality beats purity.
Errors should never pass silently.
Unless explicitly silenced.
In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.
Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.
Now is better than never.
Although never is often better than *right* now.
If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.
If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

#395 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 04:55 PM:

Jacque@394:

Some of those lines aren't sentences.
Although they all end with periods.
The meaning is rendered ambiguous.

#396 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 06:36 PM:

Dan Hoey @395: I wonder if this has been pointed out to Mr. Peters. Heh.

#397 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2010, 12:07 AM:

At least they're not semicolons.

#398 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 12:24 AM:

ddb: I don't know, but I can guess.

Non marital sex is a sin.

Sin is bad.

The risk of AIDS is bad.

Fear of AIDS might reduce the occasion of sinful sex.

But really, it probably hinges on doctrine being a bit hidebound, and the curia being a bit out of touch with the reality of pastoral life.

That, is something I should very much like to see change.

#399 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 09:34 AM:

Terry, I don’t know either, and you’re probably right, but I think there may be another aspect.  The Roman Catholic Church’s belief in the sanctity of human life seems to be very deep-seated.  They won’t compromise it for the sake of expediency, even if the expedient policy means saving lives (condoms-against-AIDS) or preventing misery (abortion).  Also, if they condone contraception in a particular case, the dam is breached – it’s much more difficult to maintain a ban elsewhere.

I’m inclined to see this more as the Church trying to be true to its faith – sometimes ineptly – than as actual evil intent or as disregard for suffering.

Health warning:  I’m not a Catholic.  My understanding of Catholic doctrine is limited, and I’ve no idea what the Holy Office’s current thinking is on this issue.

#400 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 11:58 AM:

John Stanning: I see it as that, and hidebound. The issue of abortion is one thing (and can be defended as a moral stand; though I think there are logical fallacies on the one hand, and different moral questions on the other).

The use of contraception, however, isn't one which a sanctity of life defense can be used for. That's a different set of moral questions (sex outside of marriage, sex without the possibility of pregnancy, etc.). Weighing those against the spread of fatal disease... I think the Church is wrong, and that distance from the reality of it, as opposed to the intellectual issues in play is the telling factor.

#401 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 01:35 PM:

Terry, #400: My understanding of it (as a non-Catholic) is that the hidebound idea they won't let go of is "Sex is ONLY for the purpose of procreation, period, end of sentence." Which is sort of included in what you said, but IMO needs to be made explicit. Even were I willing to grant them the authority to control women's sexuality* outside of marriage (which I'm not), I think they are WAY out of line to assume that they can control the sexual relationship between a husband and wife.

* Yes, technically they claim control over men's sexuality as well. But in practice it's only enforced on women.

#402 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 02:45 PM:

When I did the course you have to do before getting married in the Catholic church, I recall being told that sex was not just for procreation, but also to rejoice in, build and strengthen the relationship between spouses. The idea was to be open to the possibility that it would also lead to conception.

Might have been that liberal Berkeley hippie Catholicism, of course.

#403 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 03:02 PM:

abi @ 402... I was never asked to take a class before our Catholic wedding. Maybe because I was marrying a Protestant of the easy-going Bay Area kind with about a year of Buddhism thrown in, and some Star Trek fandom too.

#404 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 03:39 PM:

abi @402 I recall being told that sex was not just for procreation, but also to rejoice in, build and strengthen the relationship between spouses. The idea was to be open to the possibility that it would also lead to conception.

That's pretty much what my daughter was taught in theology class in an all-girls Catholic high school within the past couple of years.

We didn't have to take a class before our Catholic wedding, but that was ... umm ... some time ago.

#405 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 04:08 PM:

Oh, my Catholic all-girls high school was much heavier on the scare tactics. We planned our weddings in Theology class (I got marked down for not choosing readings - I didn't even know there were readings at a wedding), and had a speaker come in to talk to us about how you can get pregnant just from foreplay, even if you keep your underwear on. There was not any sense of the joyous. It was rather hard to take seriously, since my mom had taped the Nova birth special for me when I was 8. I was not convinced.

#406 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 05:55 PM:

Oh, they did the wedding plans, too, as part of a larger exercise where they were supposed to identify a job, location to live, how they would pay living expenses, etc. It had much more a sense of "possible futures" than actual realistic planning, but I think it was good practice in thinking about how one's income relates to one's lifestyle. She thought the wedding planning part was a little silly until she encountered the James Bond wedding cake on Cakewrecks, which she thought was the coolest thing ever and swears will be part of her wedding. I suppose a prospective groom who doesn't understand this wouldn't be the right person for her.

#407 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 06:07 PM:

That wedding cake is awesome, OtterB! I fully agree, anyone who wouldn't get the wonder of that probably isn't going into it with the right sense of adventure. My friends that are getting married next month are apparently including something about Jedis in their vows. I can't wait to see it!

#408 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 07:10 PM:

Serge @403: I was marrying a Protestant of the easy-going Bay Area kind with about a year of Buddhism thrown in, and some Star Trek fandom too.

If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him with a bat'leth?

#409 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 08:18 PM:

Lee: What abi said.


It's not that the church doesn't enforce the strictures on men, as well as on women, just that the effects of that enforcement are more obvious in relation to women.

I'd also point out the great problem many people have with the way in which the church most decidedly takes control over the sex lives of men, an abstinent clergy (even in the minor orders, which don't ordain the members

#410 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 11:42 PM:

Julie @ 408... Meanwhile, aboard the Zenterprise...

#411 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2010, 08:57 AM:

Terry Karney @ 398: Was that replying to me or to ddb? You said ddb, but I thought it made more sense as a reply to me @ 378. If it was a reply to me, then thank you for sharing your thoughts; this is being very useful for me.

John Stanning @ 399: "The Roman Catholic Church’s belief in the sanctity of human life seems to be very deep-seated. They won’t compromise it for the sake of expediency, even if the expedient policy means saving lives" I hope you didn't mean what this implies to me, because it makes me shudder. If they won't compromise the "sanctity" of human life in order to save lives, then we're pretty much back to the Inquisition and torturing people/burning them alive etc. to save the sanctity of their souls. I really hope the Catholic church has moved on since then, and that it's more, as Terry Karney says, "doctrine being a bit hidebound, and the curia being a bit out of touch with the reality of pastoral life."

abi @402 I recall being told that sex was not just for procreation, but also to rejoice in, build and strengthen the relationship between spouses. I'm pleased to hear that. Of course, if you're terrified of getting pregnant (say, because you're struggling to feed, clothe and otherwise look after the children you've already got), but abstinence is the only method allowed, then you're having to forsake the strengthening aspect - which is likely to put even more of a strain on the marriage. Back to theory clashing with reality, I suppose.

#412 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2010, 10:48 AM:

dcb: Opps, my mistake.


as to abi's experience (and Serge, my parish had marital counseling, as a requirement, back in the late '70s. I recall clearly having to rush the clean up, after mass a few times, because the priest needed to rush off to make a meeting with some prospective couple at the rectory, but I digress). There is an encyclical which explicitly states that doctrine (that sex is a way of focusing/strengthening/maintaining the marital bond).

Which gives rise to all the questions you mention.

#413 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2010, 11:39 AM:

Terry Karney @ 412... The only time sex came up was when the priest (a Torontonian whose church was across the horseracing track)said he'd bless the marriage of a Catholic with a Protesttant if we promised that any child resulting from our union would be raised as a Catholic. We weren't planning to have kids - and had none - so the promise wasn't hard to make. I'd have kept it though if we had had one.

What was that about your priest having to rush to the rectory?

#414 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2010, 11:53 AM:

He had a conference with a prospective couple. Mass took a bit longer than we expected (for some reason there were a lot of people who had the urge to come to mass of a Weds. night) and the usual slow clean up and chat had to be a bit rushed.

Kill the candles, rinse chalice, remove the vestments and call it a night.

#415 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2010, 12:14 PM:

Terry Karney @ 414... Kill the candles, rinse chalice, remove the vestments and call it a night

The down-to-earth tone of the above reminds that I should add The Vicar of Dibley to our NetFlix queuuuuuuuue.
As soon as I'm done with the first season of The Invaders.

#416 ::: bartkid ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2010, 02:27 PM:

>Joan: I hear voices in my head, telling me what God wants me to do.

I ignore mine.
They always forget to start with "Simon says...".

#417 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2010, 02:36 PM:

bartkid @416:

Tell me, do you honestly think that added to the conversation? Really and truly?

#418 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2010, 07:28 AM:

Bartkid. Simon says "Go forth and multiply". How about that?

#419 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2010, 08:14 PM:

397 Eric: no, but they don't seem properly indented, either.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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