religion

at least five of two things

I know. I know whose blog wears the pants in this family. I know which of the two of us writes the more popular weblog, which commands a greater blip of the blogosphere. But instead of strategizing to grab more traffic or bitching about it, I've decided to make use of it. Most of you, then, have already read Schutzie's latest entry, a measured reply to a Christian samizdat that came in our mailbox. As angry, funny and cogent as Schmutzie's reaction may be, she neglected to comment on the reverse side of the tract.


It's a binary Christian choose-your-own-adventure! Choose from one of 2 exciting endings. Either that, or its binary logic tree is intended to convert the computerized postal scanners. Attention Equus 3110 CanOBD2 Code Reader! Jesus=1! Satan=0! Spread the logic!

Scanners aside, I doubt that the publishers of this tract are about to save anyone from anything. For example, it would have benefitted them immensely to let people know that the critical content of the paper lay on the reverse side. I will read this or lay it aside? Okay, already reading it. If I read it, I'll believe it or say it is false? Well, I'm not finished reading it yet, so I'll reserve judgement... what? If I believe this, I'll accept Christ and go to Heaven? Awesome! What am I being asked to believe? Is it something reasonable, like the existence of giraffes* or the metric system? This is going to rock! It's gonna totally... oh. The alternative is hell. And it hasn't even told me what I'm supposed to be believing or rejecting, beyond the propositions it offers about the benefits of belief. Talk about begging the question.

Actually, it's really wishy-washy about the infernal fires. It doesn't say you're headed for hell. It just says that you "may reject the only opportunity of being saved". Laying aside the strange flavour of permissiveness in may, this line really has the spongy feeling of the soft sell with the hard little core. It's curious and inviting until you squeeze it and feel the hidden something. Hold it up to the light you can just make out the dark smudge at the centre.

*Accordng to this website, giraffes do not exist (scroll down to the commandments).

Addendum: I googled like a champion, but I could not find the phrase "Ben Mulroney does not exist". It really should. Because whenever I see Ben Mulroney, the Canadian analogue of Ryan Seacrest, I have a sense that the world is a scrim of irreality through which we dimly see a rightly ordered reality, one in which the Ben Mulroneys of the world are completely ignored. Same goes for Seacrest. These people are the human equivalent of cheap air fresheners.

links late at evening

Oh, link like you love, like you live, like love likes links, love slinks, love links. Etcetera.

One things the folks do that I don't is give you the links. This has turned wrong and stayed there.

For all your shooting, animal-killing, God-fearing needs, I give you the Christian Deer Hunters' Association. Remember: when you're out in the woods, enjoying the Lord's creation and slaughtering little deer-shaped portions of it, you need to devote time to firearm safety and sharing the gospel with a bunch of guys carrying rifles.

It's a big page and full of boring crap, so I'll give you my favourite passage right away: Why are many people currently opposed to hunting? The answers to such a question would probably be too numerous to tabulate. But a primary reason for the anti-hunter attitude that exists today can be traced to the increasing influence of Eastern thought on our society. Such religions as Buddhism and Hinduism have made the concept of coming back to life in different forms very popular. This idea which is known as "reincarnation" is presently being propagated through the New Age Movement. Let's face it. Even taking the life of a rat is difficult if there remains the remote possibility it was a relative of which you were previously fond.

Ah yeah. You pinned it, buddy. I don't like killing a roach because I might be squashing old uncle Earl. And does anybody find the phrase "Buddhism and Hinduism have made the concept of coming back to life... very popular" a little peculiar? What strange world outside the cabin do these Christian hunters imagine? Hindu proselytizers on the corners? "Hey kid, you want to bet on Heaven, or back a winning horse? Maybe even come back as a horse?" I'd love to look through the eyes of a fundamentalist Christian and witness a world of archetypes, crossbred from Galilean spores in a bed of noxious '50s imagery. Everything illuminated and linked in phospholuminescent lines, dark foreigners equated in fearful arabesques to the Satanic, the vertex of the cunt siphoning noble masculine will to hell, etcetera. I once interviewed a former state representative and career policeman from South Dakota. At the end of the interview I asked him about politicians he'd met over his life, and he pulled out a photo album, sleeve after sleeve of 8 by 10s, himself posed smiling with Reagan ("a very decent man"), with Thatcher ("an extraordinary woman"), with Colin Powell, with Bushes of all stripes. I couldn't resist asking where his photo of him and Clinton had gotten to. Oh yes, he said, I was invited to a dinner with Clinton, but I was sick that day. Then his words seemed to dry up, and the paternal, preternaturally charming smile was folded up behind his lips. Do you want to know, he asked me, what I think of Bill Clinton? I nodded yes, yes I sure do. Clinton is a whoremonger, he pronounced. And his wife is a whore. He closed the photo album and opened up his grin once more. And then I got the fuck out of there.

I'm pretty sure that I had some other links to share. I got a bit distracted. And I just did a search of my archives and realized that I've written about Mr. Clintoniswhoremonger before. I think I've reached weblog senility, people. Pretty soon I'll be going out and opening twenty last.fm accounts in one day.

Let's see... links... okay, you've all seen the David Hasselhoff video by now. Have you heard William Shatner singing Common People (link goes to audio .mov)? People, it is gold. Joe Jackson sings backup. I'm going to go listen to it right now, because I like my class commentary declaimed, mothafucka.*

*Term 'mothafucka' not to be confused with 'mothrafucka'.

Update: How could I forget this link? With a URL title of http://huuuuuurrnnnnnnnnnnn.blogspot.com,
what else could it be but Chewbacca's blog? It's a one-note joke that only grows funnier the more you read look at it. But why is Chewbacca posting pictures of little dogs in Santa suits?

Bag-el

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This morning a cow-orker sent out a company-wide email with the subject line "Bagels outside accounting". Oh no, thought me, a bag of bagels has left behind man's authority and set out on their own moral venture. What laws will this baker's dozen flout as they build their own alien society, one unrecognizable to humans but a shelter for the inscrutable bagel mind?*

First off, as I know that bagels are nothing if not stubbornly utopian, I'm betting that they will refuse to recognize property, currency and all the striving and getting that burden humanity in a market economy. Instead they will almost certainly opt for a network of agrarian collectives, bartering goods between colonies and maintaining little contact with the outside world. There they will build their gigantic bagel ovens and boiling vats, which day and night shall pour forth more of their kind. Some will willingly put themselves into bags and ship themselves off for consumption in order to garner funds for the collectives' major food source, which is cream cheese. The rest will spend their days at work and leisure, motion and repose, gradually erecting an edifice of bagel art and philosophy to rival our own. Or they'll just rip stuff off from us and insert the word 'bagel' here and there. Whatever happens, they will eventually end up competing with us for the last few cream cheese deposits left on Earth. A hellish future awaits the world as cream cheese extraction peaks and begins its inevitable decline. As supplies drop and the demand continues to ratchet up, you can expect those bagels to put aside their philosophy and pick up weapons** to gain control over their staple.

I couldn't let such a clear threat to humanity go unanswered. I left my desk and found the bag of bagels on the little table next to the accounting office. Only four in the bag (had the rest gone before to make straight the way for some Oneida bagel colony?): two dark pumpernickel and onion, one plain, and another a complex of brown spots and mottles of blood red. Plus some cream cheese on the side.

"What's the red one?" I called out.

"That's chocolate raspberry," someone answered.

Chocolate raspberry. I understood the truth of the matter then. Cleary it was us who had failed the bagels. After such cruelty, what more could they want with human socitey? Let them have their cream cheese. Let them rain down their delicious but deadly missiles on our cities, our towns, and all our works. We obviously deserve it.

*

*And where is the bagel mind? Our scientists have dissected countless bagels in vain, smearing on the exploratory cream cheese, testing the dark oniony bagel mass with teeth and tongue, but no seat of consciousness can be found. Maybe they have some kind of hive mind, with its motive centre resting in some bagel queen slumbering in a kosher bakery, quietly generating the axioms of bageldom. Yeah, that's probably it.

**Never mind the bagel mind, where is the bagel hand? The bagel limb? How do they get so much accomplished in a day?

on listening to sufjan stevens

I cannot cannot stand compulsively humming tunes that praise The Jesus. This is what I get for listening to Seven Swans in the morning. It's great music to walk to work with at eight a.m., dappled dawn alight on pale poplar leaves while cabbage moths jitter and dragonflies in cobalt and gold slice sunbeams, oh sure. Meanwhile Sufjan sings songs about nice dresses and someone who woke him up, but then suddenly you realize he's really talking about Dual Citizen and The Intergalactic Dad, and it's too late - you're stuck singing folksy but elegant melodies inspired by Mr. Upstairs. It taints everything. Signing timsheets. Filling up a styrofoam cup at the Van Hutte machine (that's Dutch for Fucking Awful Coffee). Combing through your inbox for insignificant emails (there are no insignificant emails). Looking through your files for some lost invoice. I just can't let go and enjoy myself when Sufjan's screaming about Ol' Long White Beard* in my head.

*That's it, I'm all out of silly names for God.

nb. There's a bug on the wall next to the computer as I type. It looks a bit like a cross between a mosquito and a caraway seed. If it's a mosquito I'll definitely kill it, but if it's some inoffensive bug that only resembles a mosquito then I don't feel justified swatting it out of existence (I'm what you call a situational Janist). Bugs, I feel, should continue on with their bug lives unmolested. After all, there's not much wildlife to be seen in this city, aside from the occasional rabbit in the park. This is the prairies, where insects and grass are the whole of the ecology (assuming that bisons are a kind of hairy smelly insect). On the other hand, I hate caraway seeds, and the notion of a caraway seed with legs and wings, just looking for a nice slice of rye to ruin, is almost too much to bear.

Never mind, it's gone.

my contribution

It's been a lot of work, if I don't mind saying so, but I finally italicized the entire New Revised Standard Bible, the one that the Devil prefers because it's not a mistranslated hash-up from the 17th century. Don't thank me, no no. I did the whole thing with gravity, toothpicks and sometimes just brute force. It takes guts, muscle and moral bravery to take every letter in Ephisians and tilt it thirty degrees to the right, but I perservered.

I also removed every third word to make the whole thing a titch more readable. Building suspense, confounding unbelievers, all that good stuff.

My sermons are the best now.

apologetics

Even though I'm not a Christian, I understand that they constitute a persecuted minority and need all the help they can get. So the next time some atheist tries to employ Ockham's Razor as a logical tool for denying the existence of God, I'm going to say, "God doesn't shave". And then, when the atheist stands there shocked into silence, all his arguments falling away from him like a silk teddy falls away from a naughty lady, I'll say, "He doesn't shave. God has a long curly white beard that falls down to his belly. Angels brush it out every morning to keep it shiny and manageable. Then God gets into his Tiamat-pulled ziggurat and space-skis around the cosmos. He pulls doughnuts around the Horsehead Nebula. When He shakes His shaggy mane, comets come a' shooting out. And when Winter blows through the celestial court, that is the End of Days". I'll keep talking, of course, but by then the atheist will have been thoroughly converted. Just doing my bit.

distracted gods

Today at one of the many crap restaurants that this city has to offer I found myself so deeply engrossed in a book that I misheard the climactic line in the second verse of "Silent Night" as "Christ our saviour is bored".



It would make a lot of sense if this were the actual line, since not much seems to be happening in the song. Aside from the birth of humanity's saviour, there isn't much to see. The shepherds are freaked at all the glories streaming from Heaven afar, but it's hard to really picture streaming glories, isn't it? It almost sounds like some weird patriotic desert or a cracked interior design idea. As if some well-meaning mother sent her college-age son a copy of a Good Housekeeping 'Spruce Up the Home for Tight Budgets' special. And the next line, with its heavenly hosts singing, only confirms that what those shepherds wandered into was a suburban Christmas party, with non-alcoholic punch at the table and streaming glories hung from the chandelier. Or maybe they're baking up in the oven - I haven't settled on what exactly those streaming (not steaming) glories are. They're either made of crepe or they're crepes. The point is, this is precisely the kind of scenario that would upset a batch of Bronze Age sheperds and bore the alpha and omega off of Christ.



Frankly, I'm more worried about what Christ would do if he were bored. I'm no Christian, but sometimes I get the sense that the existence of this world is dependent on the Lord's good will, and if he grew tired of it then he may snuff out the cosmos between his forefinger and segmented chitinous limb thumb with no more feeling than we apply to a mosquito or an episode of Joey. So the moral is, because I've clearly been building up to a moral here and you've all been very patient, the moral is not to spend your Christmas in a way that might provoke boredom or indifference in The Jesus. Spike the punch, take down the streaming glories, don't sing alleluias to your party guests, and above all remove your pants early on in the evening. It doesn't have to be a sex thing, just do it. It is well in His sight.



The book was Dale Peck's collected critical essays.

anti-darwinians in darwin

Tonight I'm in a Kinko's in downtown Sydney, but I've spent the last five days or so in the exceedingly weird city of Darwin. I spent a lot of my childhood in Bermuda, and so am used to palm trees, scorching pavement and strangely Anglophilic customs, but Darwin is pure tropics, a wet-and-dry season odyssey of heat and humidity, spear grass and mudwasps, ibises, crocodiles that jump from the water (when prompted with buffalo meat), and cockatoos whose call sounds like a high-speed car accident. Darwin is also a tourist trap for Australians who want a bit of the safely exotic. Mostly what they get here is a bit of surfing and long nights of imported beer and overpriced food.



Yesterday morning we drove out of the city along the Stuart Highway (the only road out of Darwin) to see a man who had turned a bare plot of land bordering the Adelaide River into a kind of mangrove sanctuary. He dug out a water hole in the back, which fills up in the wet season and slowly turns to a pit of dust by July. A floating fence along the back keeps dogs out in the dry season and crocodiles out in the wet. His house is built to a set of unorthodox standards for withstanding the cyclones that periodically crawl along the coast of the Northern Territories. Most of the house, which was really one gigantic room with a few half-walls defining bedroom and bathroom, had walls of strong mesh wire and louvered windows. Even when he closed the doors you felt as if you were outside but sheltered, which is a curious but relaxing state. I wanted to sit and drink coffee there until late afternoon, when I could get up and jump into the watering hole out back.



Regrettably, we had to pack up eventually and head to another house nearby, built to an entirely different set of standards by a family of Seventh-Day Adventists, who had survived Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Their neighbour had been decapitated by a flying sheet of corrugated iron, which at the time was the prime building material in Darwin. They were of the opinion that they had been saved by the Lord, but were not sure why their neighbour, who seemed nice, had escaped the watchful eye of God when that big sheet of metal zipped out of the darkness at 200 miles an hour. They gravely informed me that the bad things of this world were attributable to Satan and the good to God. I also found out why good people suffer and die: first they are tested, and then God deems them ready. Or ripe, or something. Sickness and decay must be like fine perfume to that Seventh-Day Lord.



The 7th-Day folk owned what was perhaps the most grotesque dog I had ever seen, a bizarre cousin to a pit bull with a serious snorting problem and what appeared to be gigantic nipples along with the regular set of male dog genitalia. He snorted so loudly that we had to stop the interview whenever he licked his testicles, which was frequently. I refrained from pointing out to a family who didn't believe in evolution that they lived in the city of Darwin and owned a pet that was surely an evolutionary anomaly. It may have actually been a platypus.