Tag Archives: religion

The Enemy of The Extremist Is The Moderate

Commenter on Metafilter:

“The enemy of the extremist isn’t the opposite extremist, it’s the moderate. This sort of thing is done to provoke an extreme reaction to move the moderates to the extreme. These guys *actively want* war, but they’re not going to get it with “Great Satan” talk. They are banking on an overreaction, which will drive more Islamic moderates towards the extremist position, and more French moderates to the “Islam is Evil Must Destroy” extreme. When everybody’s an extremist, then you can start really fighting. The right answer is to handle this as a police matter. The wrong answer is to handle it as a military matter and create ISIS mark II.”

Full discussion http://www.metafilter.com/145914/French-left-wing-satirical-magazine-Charlie-Hebdo-attacked-by-extremists#5882702

image from http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/01/charlie-hebdos-defiance-paris-attack/384286/

How Christian Monks Saved Beowulf

A PhD student in early medieval Old English sounds off:

“[E]ven a lazy reading of Beowulf will show it’s a thoroughly Christian text; it’s also a text firmly in touch with its “pagan” past, since much of Old English poetic convention relied on a tradition that was far older than Christianization… This wasn’t just metrical or linguistic convention; the poetic tropes of Old English poetry generally derive from the hero/warrior/hall-culture ethos, one which there is every reason to suspect was dead as a doornail, certainly by the time the manuscript copy of Beowulf that we have was written; probably also by the time Beowulf was composed…

This convention was so embedded in the culture it distorted how Christianity was portrayed: Christ.. or the Israelites in Exodus, are not portrayed as possessing Christian humility or passively enduring what befalls them; they are invariably recast in warrior-language, as heroes, as going forth with courage and determination to do the things that they have to do. In fact, it can be downright dissonant … Jesus getting nailed to the cross–possibly a supremely submissive act, depending on your perspective–but in terms which unquestionably render him the active agent in that scene. It’s a fascinating look at how the two different perspectives combine in a form of cultural expression amenable to both–but not, you would think, at the same time.

Beowulf is interesting because it’s only about that pagan Germanic past, and the person who wrote it was obviously aware that the characters in this poem have a problem–they are not Christian, and therefore, they are not saved; that problem, and how the poet resolves it (or tries to deal with it, at least) can and has inspired more than one book on the subject; moreover, there is good indication (some of it archeological) that Beowulf is based on a much, much older story. Upon finding this ancient story, the monks (and they were almost certainly monks, because monks were the vast majority of scribes in early medieval England) did not, as you might have them do, throw away this “pagan” nonsense; they recopied it carefully, and it is thanks to their hard work that we can enjoy that poem today.

And all other secular Anglo-Saxon literature–monk scribes are responsible for nearly all the attested Old English we have today; they are almost certainly responsible for all the extant copies of Old English literature that were not made in the modern era. This includes very non-Christian works: riddles (some very rude), Wulf and Eadwacer (a short, chilling poem, and possibly the best in the whole corpus), The Wife’s Lament, etc., etc. And it was Christians in Iceland, like Snorri Sturluson, who copied down Old Norse mythology so that later generations could have it–almost all of what we have of Old Norse people writing on the Old Norse religion comes from Sturluson–and explicitly so that Christian poets, who weren’t raised up with the old myths, could continue to compose the complex, difficult skaldic verses that required knowing who Loki and Odin and Thor were, or who Andvari was, or the name of the serpent gnawing at the root of the World Tree. It was probably a Christian who gave us the even older Poetic Edda–because it was Christians who preserved the culture, who wrote things down.

Though the Runic alphabet was known to them, it was used, it seems, mostly for inscriptions on artifacts or charms; it was not part of a literary tradition. That was oral; it was only Christianity, with its emphasis on literature (and one book in particular) that imported a true literary tradition to the Germanic North; without Christianity, no Germanic literature would survive to the present day–and maybe precious little ancient literature (since most of what we have today was continuously recopied in monastic scriptoria throughout the Middle Ages–yes, even “pagan” texts which had nothing to do with God or Jesus).

… The real tragedy is the Dissolution of the Monasteries; if you want to be pissed at anyone, blame old Harry, because it was in the dissolution that ancient monastic libraries were sold off or outright destroyed (vellum, used to make manuscripts, was labor-intensive and valuable, so there was incentive to recycle these old books; but there are also accounts of manuscripts taken from libraries simply being burned, used as leather scraps, or as toilet paper). Thus, out of hundreds of years of ancient Old English poetic traditions, we have only four books–just four–which preserve any kind of substantial material (but we’re doing better than Old High German, which only has two poems in the ancient heroic style, one of which are scraps of a longer poem which exists in Old English translation). What literary prose we have is mostly translation. To be sure, manuscripts were often recycled, and very old ones that could not be salvaged torn up to use as binding material; after a certain point, doubtlessly, nobody could read these strange old books that used weird letters anymore. I do not think that without something like the Dissolution, the full treasure trove of Old English would have survived–but the reasons it didn’t have nothing to do with the Conversion, and more to do with time; and except for the Ashburnham House fire, the biggest single catastrophic loss of Old English literature was in the sixteenth century, not the sixth or seventh.”

Full thread in context http://www.reddit.com/r/books/comments/20swv0/tolkiens_translation_and_commentary_of_beowulf_to/cg768dg?context=2

Image from the Wikipedia entry for Beowulf

Fight Club as a Buddhist Metaphor


“Tyler allows his illusion (ego) to control him more and more as the movie progresses until he finds himself the leader of a giant cult who follows his every whim, no matter how insane or unreasonable. Additionally, as Tyler continues to fall deeper in love with Marla, the illusion seems to hate Tyler more and more. This is the central conflict of the film: Tyler’s Ego vs. Marla. Self vs Non-self. Yin vs. Yang.

The end of the film culminates with Tyler claiming that his “eyes are open” and shoots himself in the head, killing the illusion. This is a visceral metaphor for seeing the truth; that the ego does not exist. It seems, for real this time, that Tyler has finally found peace through the non-self. I can hear you asking: wait a second, didn’t Tyler learn that at therapy? He let himself go and found peace, what happened to that?

Tyler thought he found peace through selflessness in the meetings, but it wasn’t really him who found enlightenment. Recall that Tyler would enter the meetings under a false identity to pose as a terminally ill person. People would reveal their deepest fears and bare their true selves to him, all while he was hiding own. Sure, he felt compassion, but it wasn’t really selfless, it was selfish. Tyler’s ego was the one who became enlightened. Once he met Marla; his first real taste of selflessness, the ego materialized into a full blown illusion, distracting Tyler from the one thing that would truly make him happy, the one thing that would truly destroy the ego – love.

Tyler kills his ego which was blinding him to the truth which was right in front of him all along. The truest way to experience selflessness is through compassion which in this case is love. Tyler realizes this as the final shot shows the two holding hands, becoming one. Tyler and Marla have found balance through opposing forces. Yin and yang. Two becomes one. Duality becomes unity. Peace is finally achieved. There’s so much more in the movie that I haven’t touched on but that’s the gist of it.”

Full thread and discussion http://www.reddit.com/r/Buddhism/comments/210yv1/fight_club_and_buddhism_profanity/cg8tcvj

Why Catholicism Is Neither Progressive, Conservative, Liberal or Marxist

From a Reddit thread about the new pope:

You may “not get it” because Catholicism defies modern notions of “progressive” or “conservative.” Pope Francis appears to confound many people by talking peace and love and nonjudgment[1] , preaching against the evils and excesses of capitalism[2] , and then calling abortion “horrific[3] ” and expressing “shock[4] ” at the idea of gay adoption in Malta. Some people have called him a “liberal.” He is not a liberal. Nor is he a conservative, or a progressive, or a Marxist, or any of the rest of it. He’s the Pope. He is an elected monarch, sitting on a throne that was fifteen hundred years old when the continent he was born on was discovered by the people of Europe. He was made a bishop by a bishop who was made a bishop by a bishop… and so on… who was made a bishop by Christ himself[5] .

The Church has clawed its way through two thousand years of history. It survived the horrors[6]   of Roman persecution[7] , the fall of the West[8] , a millennium of dangerous entanglement in European feudal politics[9] , theGreat Schism[10] , the Western Schism[11] , the Reformation[12] , and the modern age[13] . The Papacy has raised its fist and sent thousands to conquer foreign lands[14] , it has led armies on horseback[15] , and has lived as a Prisoner in the Vatican[16] . The Papacy supported hundreds of scientists[17] that helped usher in a modern age of astronomy, physics, chemistry, genetics, and science, and fought like a wounded animal against the rise of democracy in Europe and elsewhere[18] .

It, and Catholicism as a doctrine, does not fit your modern political categories. It towers over you–the standing, living pillar of a dead empire. It will not fit in your box.”

Full thread http://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/1wqszj/til_the_vaticans_chief_astonomer_fr_george_coyne/cf4ragg?context=1

Why The Great Old Ones Make You Lose Your Sanity

One of the biggest influences in modern horror is H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos and stories. Cthulu and the Great Old Ones are elder gods who – unlike deities from ancient religions – don’t give a shit about humanity and simply to gaze upon them makes mortals lose their minds:

The Abominations, as you aptly described them, are to us as we are to that benighted creature. They exist in dimensions beyond our own, whose nature we can hardly guess. When they appear to us, we see only fragments of their bodies – long stretches of writhing flesh, glistening with juices that should not exist outside of a body, which whip through the air and vanish back where they came from in a way that our minds simply refuse to accept. Witnesses have tried to describe these as great tentacles, words failing them in the presence of such incomprehensibility. Those who heard the stories seized on this, and explained them as resembling cephalopods. This is a comforting lie, as there is nothing in the most stygian depths of the darkest sea that is not our beloved brother compared to the horrors of the Abominations.

This is a creature who is incomprehensibly alien, and our only glimpse is a sickening flash of writhing, elongated flesh that slips into our world and back out. Worse than the appearance of the creature, though, is it’s disappearance – your mind knows, on some level, that this creature – this hateful, hungry god of a creature – is not moving it’s body between “here” and “away”, but between being a glimpse of a writhing horror, and a horror that watches unseen.

Imagine our two-dimensional creature again, and imagine yourself to be a cruel child. If you chose to torment the creature, it would be powerless to resist. It cannot perceive you unless you chose to intersect it’s plane – you can watch it’s every move, and it cannot hope to escape your gaze. It would be the simplest thing in the world to push a pin through it, like a butterfly on a card. Take a glass of water and push it into the creature’s plane and it will find itself trapped, drowning, in an inescapable sea. The creature is entirely at your mercy, and always will be.

Same as you. Same as me.

Full thread http://www.reddit.com/r/AskScienceFiction/comments/1zwhxf/what_makes_eldritch_abominations_like_the_old/cfxmqcz

Cthulu illlustration from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cthulhu_by_Alexander_Liptak.png

An Ex-Mormon on Cutting and Self-Abuse

An ex-Mormon on how shame about sex turned him to cutting:

“Masturbation isn’t self abuse, cutting your skin to deal with the feeling of abject depression because you aren’t strong enough to not masturbate is self abuse.

The first years of my marriage were fraught with extreme sexual issues between me and my wife. I wanted sex maybe 2 or 3 times a week, she wanted it maybe 2 times a year. I hated pressuring her into anything so for the first 4 or 5 years of our marriage we had sex maybe, at best really, once a month.

Year two of my sexual desert and I finally caved in and masturbated after a longer than normal absence of intimacy. I was overcome with extreme shame, grief, and stress. I went to church leaders, church counselors, etc, and they all said the same thing:

  1. Pray more
  2. Go to church regularly
  3. Really study your scriptures

If I could do this to the best of my ability I would be blessed and everything would be fine.

I did this for a whole year, to the letter and spirit of the law. Nothing made my situation better. Wife still hated sex, and I still masturbated on a occasion and felt incredibly bad about it. Then, on a midnight drive to calm my nerves I discovered cutting.

I pulled off onto a secluded road and parked my car. I was livid, anguished, deeply depressed. I got out of my car and starting screaming, yelling at god and everything about why I hadn’t been comforted yet. I walked over to a nearby tree and started punching it. The bark was sharp and instantly cut open the knuckles on my right hand. The pain was excruciating, blindingly painful, and made me nauseous. I fell to the ground and grabbed my hand. It was sticky with blood; a lot of blood. The bark of the tree had severely lacerated my skin, almost to the point of needing stitches.

A funny thing happened though, I actually felt good. The pain in my throbbing hand was intense and removed the pain of my mental state. The flowing blood was a testament to me, it meant I could overcome my struggles with pain. It was a realization that would plague me until even now.

After this experience I started cutting my skin with a knife anytime I felt the sexual tension or urge to masturbate. Here are some pictures to show you what I did…”

Full thread: http://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comments/1y00na/about_the_march_2014_issue_of_the_ensign_by_elder/cfgeure

Image from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Schnittwunden.JPG

Stumbling Into the Moonies in Australia

A thread about strange people in the wilds of Australia yields this encounter:

“Nunawading in Eastern Melbourne there is/was a compound and bunkhouse for the Korean Moonies cult.

When I had just moved into a rental around the corner, two of them came knocking at my door. They said that they were language students and as part of their studies they had to practice their English with locals. I was waiting for the power to be connected, bored, and had no idea that they were a sect, so I agreed to help them out. They didn’t want to do this at my doorstep but at their “school”. I agreed to go with them despite my reservations because they were looking pretty desperate.

I got there and they asked me to wear slippers that they supplied, these had a picture of Homer Simpson on it. They took me to an interview room with a two way mirror and recording equipment (oh and a heavy duty door). Then they started reading their interpretation of the bible at me. I became annoyed at their dishonesty and asked what happened to the English practice.
It then got weird and they started to bark commandments at me instead trying to guilt me out of answering anything, I asked them to show me out but they kept going. DON’T WORK ON SATURDAYS! DON’T CALL SUNDAY SUNDAY! DON’T DRINK, DRUGS, OR HAVE PREMARITAL SEX!

I looked down at my feet to see Homer and realized what I had to do. I started singing “na na na na na na na na BATMAAAN! Batman! BATMANNNN!”.

They got really pissed but asked if I wanted to try their kim chi. Apart from not wanting to eat random kim chi, I was worried it was going to be drugged so I declined and made my way out the door. Then four others appeared to block my path and I noticed an open door leading to the observation room from the mirror. I got really angry and hip and shouldered my way out and grabbed my shoes and kicked the slippers into the garden. The really weird thing was that they chased me down the street and tried to give me an umbrella and it wasn’t even raining.

I wondered if it was just cultural and I looked like a rampaging loon, but I read up on Korean church cults and they employ the same tactics.”

Full thread http://www.reddit.com/r/australia/comments/1xfolp/strange_communitiesencounters_in_australia/cfb7r3i?context=3

Image of Sun Myun Moon from Wikipedia

Christian Persecution and Fundamentalist Theology

“There’s a very good historical reason that large numbers of North American Christians feel “persecuted”: persecution is a central feature of fundamentalist theology, and fundamentalism has become extremely influential through its rebellious child named neo-evangelicalism (what most Americans these days just call evangelicalism). Fundamentalism began as a reaction against the mainstream and prides itself on its separation from the mainstream and on its supposed faithfulness to biblical truth over against mainstream “modernist” (liberal) compromise. The feeling of persecution, in fact, becomes in the fundamentalist mind a confirmation that they’re being faithful. Pointing out to them the fact that they live amongst a Christian majority is fruitless, because because it’s not only (or even mainly) non-Christians who are supposedly the ones doing the persecuting. It’s other Christians: “liberals” and Catholics. It’s those who “compromise” the truth of the Gospel who are the real source of trouble in the fundamentalist mind.”

Pinkfish_411 comments on To Christians: Why do you think you’re persecuted?.

On Outing (2)

“Bollocks. It removes the political power they are using to destroy the lives of others. You think that it’s embarrassing for him? I see the surviving partner denied pension rights in a same sex partnership, or indeed the denial of hospital visitation rights before death. I see states that allow for homosexuals to be sacked purely on the basis of their sexuality, and I see families broken up due to the inability to deal with the sexuality of their children (or indeed parents). That is something that this man was actively aiding. It’s not that things got better because the Christians were nicer, it’s down to political pressure and work. If there’s a guy who’s a star and uses that to destroy lives? Yeah, I’m OK with the truth being known. Don’t want people to know you’re a hypocritical hateful fuck? Don’t be a hypocritical hateful fuck.

The Bully Pulpit | MetaFilter.