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This is one of those things that underlies a lot of my thinking. I'm not posting this because of any particular thing that's going on, but because it's a general concept that is basic to my philosophy and understanding of the world, and I wanted to just put it down here so I can point to it later, and so that people can help me refine it and see if it makes sense.

I believe that one problem that we have in all sorts of political conflicts is that the word "rights" has two different, basically unrelated meanings. You've got "rights" which are things that are intrinsic to beings, and then you have "rights" which are things that societies legally grant to entities for pragmatic reasons.

There are several names for this first category of rights -- "natural rights", "intrinsic rights", "human rights", "God-given rights", "inalienable rights". The second category probably has multiple names, but I only know them as "legal rights." The term "civil rights", in modern usage, is another word in that first group, but, annoyingly, in some pre-modern works, the term is used to mean "legal rights", the OPPOSITE of its current meaning.

Societies, through their governments and legal systems, grant legal rights. They can make up whatever legal rights they feel are useful and pragmatic, for whatever reason they want; they can change them when they feel it's reasonable to do so. Natural rights, however, are NOT granted -- they are intrinsic. Well, if you're theistic, you can think of them as "God-granted"; if you're a Deist, you might say that they are "endowed by their Creator" upon people. But they're NOT granted by governments or by societies. Legal systems merely recognize and protect natural rights -- they don't create them.

It's simple to enumerate legal rights -- they're whatever a society says they are. You list 'em, you write 'em down, there you go. Of course, there are going to be arguments and conflicts about their application, but their basic existence is simple and unambiguous, written down in literal black-and-white.

Natural rights, on the other hand, are confusing. Philosophers and theologians can argue about them endlessly -- but the idea is that they're trying to discover and encapsulate a thing that actually exists independently within the nature of the Universe.

(This is an idea which is easier to conceptualize by people who are in some way theistic, but which some atheists also hold. And, incidentally, the fact that it's easier to fold into a theistic view of the universe than an atheistic view is why some theists assume that atheists must be inherently immoral -- they believe that the belief in the existence of an objective morality MUST include the belief in God, because, for them, they ARE inexorably linked. Nonetheless, the vast majority of atheists I know DO believe in the recognition and protection of natural rights, so I am aware that they ARE separable.)

So, the question that one wants to raise here is, "So, what ARE those natural rights?"

It seems to me that the most fundamental natural right is "the right to self-determination." I think that most other natural rights flow from that center.

"The right to self-determination" includes "the right of control over one's own body," "the right to believe as one chooses," "the right to associate with whom one wishes to," "the right to have the apparatus of the government and society to treat you on your own personal merits rather than assumptions about your category", "the right to express one's opinions as one chooses". Then there are things which MIGHT be part of this, but I'm somewhat less sure of: "the right to own property and to do whatever one chooses to do with it." In my mind, this IS a "right", but "property" is a bit of an undefined term. For instance, I don't believe that "land" is, itself, "property" in a natural rights sense. I believe that "the right to own land" is a legal right that we, as a society, have decided is useful.

Some cultures define "the right to basic health care" to be a part of self-determination -- illness and injury prevent a person from acting as who they are, and therefore society has a responsibility to support people's ability to be who they are, by jointly combating those things. Personally, I don't agree with that -- to me, I think that having help mitigating the actions of an uncaring Universe is a natural right, but I DO think that it OUGHT to be a legal right.

Societies exist for two main reasons, I think: to form groups which have the ability to protect natural rights, and to form legal rights which, indeed, do mitigate the actions of an uncaring Universe. That we have no natural right to be protected from disease, famine, misfortune, and the like, but that a fundamental purpose of having a society in the first place is to provide that protection to one another. And that the establishment of legal rights is an excellent way to ensure that.

Edited to Add a discussion question: Let me paraphrase the question that people who are afraid of atheism ask: as a lot of you don't believe in the existence of an external, objective morality which exists independent of human thought, and yet, you value the same moral and ethical points of human dignity that I do -- for you, how did you come to value those things? You perceive right and wrong at least as strongly as people who believe in objective morality; you act at least as justly. Why?
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A month or two ago, I heard or read SOMETHING, I can't remember where or by who, which pointed out that Garrison Keillor's tagline on his five-minute daily program "Writer's Almanac" was a pretty good summary of how to maintain happiness in life.

At the end of each show, Keillor says, "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®" Yes, it's trademarked. It's also psychologically and philosophically profound.

"Be well.” If you’re sick, in pain, in danger, in dire need, you can’t maintain happiness. The first thing we need for happiness is some level of basic health and safety.

“Do good work.” We need to be active in something that is meaningful. If we’re fortunate, the thing that we do to make money may also be a thing that we find meaningful in a larger sense. If not, then we can use the money that we make to support us, and do our meaningful work outside of those hours.

That work could be raising a family, being a good neighbor, working for social justice, working for government, medicine, creating art -- music, books, jewelry, to name three of the forms of art represented on my friends list, building communities, running science fiction conventions or LARPs, inventing and engineering, working for environmental causes -- anything that you feel is meaningful, because it makes the world a better place, creates enjoyment for people, or is just plain worthwhile in and of itself.

“And keep in touch.” We are social animals. Some of us more so than others -- some of us need a lot of people around us at all times, some of us only need human contact in more limited, controlled doses. Some of us need face-to-face personal contact with people, some of us are happy interacting through telephone, or email, or LJ.

But very few of us need no human contact.

Whatever work we do is within the context of a society. And we need to be recognized, and appreciated, and praised for the work we do. There are some people who are okay with knowing that they’ve done good work without external validation. But most of us need to hear it from other people.

So, in general, if you’re finding yourself unhappy, and not sure why, that might be something to consider: which area is weak: “being well”, “doing good work”, or “keeping in touch”?
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You can have two types of a dream. You can have the thing that you want, but you don't REALLY have any intention of pursuing. Oh, you may make tentative steps toward it, you may take classes in related fields, you may TELL people what you're planning, but, really, you're not going to do anything about it.

And that's fine.

And then there's the other kind: the one that you actually work to make happen.

They're both fine things to have. The first one is something that you have to keep your mind interested, to help your brain play. It's a perfectly good thing to have as a hobby, as a daydream. Nothing wrong with it.

The second type has a lot more risk with it, much more work, and a much, much greater chance of getting hurt.

Incidentally, one of the side-effects of depression, at least for me, was that I was ONLY able to have that first kind of dream, and I wasn't able to have the second kind until I got it treated. Living with Lis also helped with that: she comes from a family which almost EXCLUSIVELY uses that second kind of dream, so, if I'd say something like, "Boy, it'd be cool to fly and become president of the world," she'd start looking up rocket-powered hang-glider designs and work out practical ways to control government leaders.

My dream -- which has swapped from Class 1 to Class 2 for me -- is to create a bar or club or some such, using my bartending skills, to, in effect, make a real-world Callahan's Bar.

Currently, my steps are to try to move into positions of more authority and responsibility in the beverage industry, which would start with getting an actual bar, restaurant, or club job, rather than the current function work (which, don't get me wrong, I really enjoy, but I've learned about what I can from it).

And so I listen to other people's ideas, too.

So, at the moment, I know of two people in my friends circle who want to open up nightclubs. One of them seems to just like the idea and talks about it occasionally. The other has financing, a business plan, and a lease agreement.

I just poked the second person to see if he needs a beverage manager. . .
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The Maharishi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, has died. He was somewhere around 91 years old.

I haven't done TM for over a decade, now, but it was a useful spiritual discipline which I grew up with. I did transcendental meditation from the time I was five, until, basically, I went to college, when I stopped. Yeah, I suppose it's more common to START doing TM when one goes to college, rather than STOP. . .

It was one of the things I was raised with, and was useful to me. And the TM movement has touched my life in, sometimes tangential ways, quite often.

At least one of my friends on my friendslist has been practicing TM since the Sixties. I THINK she's trained as an instructor, and she met several of her friends (such as Andy Kaufman) through it. The first ten years of Lis's employment history were at Lotus, a company founded by another TM instructor, Mitch Kapor.

So, the Maharishi has been a positive influence on my life, and I wish him well in his next incarnation, or as a bodhisattva or whatever it is he becomes next.
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I can lead off by mentioning Lis. Every day I see her and wonder how I managed to be lucky enough to end up with her.

And I am also thankful for all the rest of my friends -- all of you reading this (those of you I know in person, and those of you I know only through LiveJournal, too) -- those of you I've known for years, either online or meatspace, and those of you I've only met, meatspace or online, recently.

I'm thankful for my family. I'm one of a relatively few people I know without any family-conflict issues. Again, I don't know how I lucked out to be born into my family, but I'm thankful for it. That is why our family tends to adopt people into it -- a few of you are my siblings simply because my mother and father adopted you. My parents are like that -- if you have a rocky relationship with your own parents, or if you have a GOOD relationship with your parents, but they're too far away for you to see very often, or if you have a good relationship with your parents and you see them a lot but you want MORE parents, too, my parents will take you in and give you love.

And the rest of my family is similar. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins: everyone in my family is honorable, caring, clever, and decent. I don't know how I lucked out to be born into this family.

And then, Lis's family, too -- I managed to marry one of the only OTHER people I know whose whole family is honorable, caring, clever, and decent. I am as thankful for my in-laws as for the part of the family into which I was born.

I am thankful that we appear to have found a medication which controls my Depression, and is allowing me to restructure my life to be effective and productive. I am thankful that I am now in the process of making that restructuring, and that I feel like I am making some progress toward it.

I am thankful that we have a house, for which we paid a reasonable price, and which allows us to have rental income. I am thankful that we rent to good people who I like having as neighbors -- [livejournal.com profile] marquisedea and her boyfriend Josh upstairs, and [livejournal.com profile] vonbeck downstairs. I am thankful that our house is warm and dry, and comfortable. I am thankful that I have a kitchen in which I can cook, and that we have bookshelves full of books. I am thankful that we have plenty of warm, comfortable, and reasonably-good looking clothing to wear, warm jackets, shoes that keep our feet dry.

I am thankful that we have a washing machine and dryer so we don't have to go to the laundromat -- it makes life a lot easier. I'm thankful that we have a dishwasher. I'm thankful for our standing mixer, our electric kettle, our rice cooker, our Henkel's and Wusthoff knives. I'm thankful for our refrigerator, and our pantry, full of food.
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First, you have The Other -- that which is from the other world, eerie, eldrich, weird.

Then you have people who notice that the time is like that, and use it to let loose their own chaotic side.

Then society notices this time, and finds ways to tame it, and channel it -- to let the channeling of chaos be directed into less-destructive means -- perhaps there is destruction, but it is a lesser level of destruction.

Society keeps working to lessen and lessen that destruction, and it becomes ritualized.

And then it becomes commercialized.

What is Hallow'een? Why are all the costumes nowadays pre-made, and slutty? Why can you not give out homemade goodies for trick-or-treating? Why do you give them out at all? And why, in more and more neighborhoods, are there no trick-or-treaters, and what does "trick-or-treat" mean, anyway?

First, you have the night of the cross-quarter day when the veil between the worlds is thinnest -- a delicate day, a careful day. One where one must be very careful about what one says or does.

Or you have the night of the Winter Solstice -- the darkest night of the year -- a day full of threat, and yet also promise -- a day sacred to the deity in charge of Revenge for the Romans, celebrated with feasts. And celebrated as the birthday of the human manifestation of the Christian God, and celebrated as a birth-and-death day of many other gods, as well. Also a perilous time.

And people notice that day, and respond to it -- but you have a second response: instead of spending the day being careful, you spend the day being as careless as you can.

Somehow, teenage males always seem involved in this step. And alcohol. Alcohol and teenage boys. These days -- and nights -- of peril and danger become days and nights of mischief and revelry.

"Revelry", by the way, is far from a completely pleasant idea. The word "revel" comes from the same root as "rebel". These are nights of danger in the most physical, brick-to-the-back-of-the-skull manner, as much as from the spirits which also form a danger.

And yet -- there is benefit to them, as well. "Rebel" and "revel" come from the same root -- and it may be that having the one inoculates against the other. Besides, entirely quashing these things never works. So you channel it.

Sure, it may be that there is a riot, a rebellion. But what if you formalize that rebellion? Elect a King and Queen of Misrule? Instead of having the drunken mob break into the houses and steal your food and drink, they stand outside and yell for you to bring it out to them. Yell? Perhaps we can do better, and make them SING for their figgy pudding and wassail bowl. Or, perhaps, instead of simply destroying your property, they'll give you a fair chance -- they'll offer you a deal -- if you don't want them to play pranks, such as setting your fields on fire, or putting your wagon on your roof, they'll give you a chance to bribe them. They'll offer you the choice: trick, or treat.

And as they get more formalized, they get less dangerous. Less terrible. They become for younger children -- not the drunken mobs of teenagers, but elementary school children.

We decorate a tree. Because the children enjoy it -- and we tell them stories of a jolly fat man who brings toys. Oh, sure, I guess if he divides people into good and bad, I guess he makes judgments, too, but we don't think about that. EVERYONE must be good, right?

And we've ritualized it to the point that we all know what to expect. It's ritualized to the point of being standardized. And, if it's standardized, then can't it simply be bought, rather than made? It's more efficient that way.

Just as the Fair Folk are a proud and terrible race, not to be named less they notice you and take offense, and yet fairies are little more than butterflies with human faces. How can Titania and Tinkerbell be of the same race? But we control our ideas, shrink them, make them less terrible.

What is an angel? I saw a quote once: some person wrote a book in which they claimed that everyone has a guardian angel, but many times, we overlook them.

And the quote asked, how the HELL is it possible to overlook an angel? An angel is a Messenger of God -- the problem with an angel isn't in OVERLOOKING it -- it's in not having the composition of your soul blasted to nonexistence by the inherent power of the radiant Glory of the angel. Angels can just about tone their existence down to the point where exceptional humans can SURVIVE an encounter with one -- NOTICING them isn't usually an issue.

How do you get from there to the idea of a cherub that you could, y'know, MISS?

We take the frightening, awesome things, ideas, and times of our life. And we make them safe. Christmas is a time for family, and presents, and not a time for overthrowing the social order and slaughtering the right in their beds and stealing their things. New Year's Eve isn't for getting drunk in public -- it's for the wonderful First Night celebration, with artwork, puppet shows, and fireworks. Halloween is for children dressed up like goblins, and not the real ones. And not even dressed up as real goblins, but dressed up as Willem Dafoe dressed up as Norman Osborn dressed up as the Green Goblin. And they trick or treat during daylight hours, since our government has so kindly extended Daylight Saving Time to make sure that they don't even need to experience the night during All Hallows' Night.


There is only so far we can go. And we've gone too far. And that's why this one is bursting at the seams.

All that which we have repressed, pushed back, turned our clocks against -- it's all still there. And these times of year still touch it. We in Boston are fortunate in that we won the World Series and therefore were able to spend October 30th screaming and dancing through the streets, drinking, and watching our heroes dance Irish-influenced jigs through the streets of Boston, to Dropkick Murphys' music. That helped us.

But not the rest of you.

Why are there no non-sexualized costumes for women?

And why are there starting to be sexualized costumes for GIRLS?

What are we repressing, and where is it oozing out through the seams?
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See, I have a general rule. When possible, when arguing on the Internet, I prefer to make my arguments based on facts. I don't like making arguments based on, "Because I said so."

If someone wants to believe me because they know me personally and trust me, that's fine. I don't mind using my "personal ethos", as it were.

(Quick refresher in definitions: Aristotle defined three kinds of arguments used in rhetoric: appeals to emotion ("pathos"), appeals to facts, logic, and scientific method ("logos"), and convincing people of stuff because they trust YOU, personally -- they may not follow the logic themselves, but they trust that you do and aren't leading them wrong ("ethos"))

But I don't like using my "ethos of position". I don't mind when someone else does -- if [livejournal.com profile] enegim or [livejournal.com profile] rivka said something about how the human mind works, I'd believe them, because, well, that's their professional knowledge. But, if I make an argument about religion, I want to convince people based on my arguments, not "because I teach Hebrew school, that's why."

Which isn't to say that I HAVEN'T, in the past, resorted to "because I teach Hebrew school, that's why" -- specifically in that case where some people were saying idiotic things about how religion works, and I was able to point to a half-dozen religions that DON'T work that way, and they decided that, therefore, Buddhism and Judaism, for instance, weren't religions (sorry, if you definition doesn't fit reality, you're supposed to change your DEFINITION, not REALITY) and I eventually said, "Look, people pay me real, actual money to teach this stuff. They don't pay YOU real, actual money to teach this stuff," and, if I didn't CONVINCE them, I at least shut them up.

But, see, I DO sometimes want to pull rank and certification, and say, "No, sugar DOESN'T kill yeast, and most wines that aren't dessert wines really DON'T have any detectable residual sugar. And sulfur is NOT used to kill yeast to stop the fermentation process (it's used to kill mold while the grapes are growing, and to keep certain types of oxidation from happening in the bottle.)" And just to say, "Look, I'm WSET Intermediate certified -- Pass with Merit -- I took sixteen classroom hours in this stuff. I don't know EVERYTHING, and I certainly still can make dumb errors -- but, on the basics, I probably am pretty good. I really DO know this stuff."

But I don't do that. Because, well, first, I shouldn't HAVE to -- I should be able to convince people by just pointing out the facts. Second, why would they be impressed? Who knows from WSET Intermediate Certification? Why would they know, or care, what that is?

And third -- what if I WAS wrong? If I'm wrong based on the facts, okay, fine, I'm wrong, and I can see it, and I can say "oops" and correct myself, and go on from there.

But being wrong after pulling rank? DAMN, that would be embarrassing. It would not only make ME look bad -- it would make whoever gave me the certification look bad.

I'm willing to risk making myself look like an idiot -- I do it often enough. I'm comfortable looking like an idiot, so long as I can learn from it, and not look like an idiot in the same way, again. (One can always move forward and find new and more creative ways of looking like an idiot.)

But I'd rather not make the WSET look like idiots for giving me the certificate. So I don't try to win arguments by pulling out that piece of paper and waving it around.

'Cause the best thing it would do would make me look like an asshole. And the worst it would do would be to make me look like an idiot, AND an asshole.
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The problem is that we have an entire government which is unfamiliar with the principles upon which that government was founded.

Our government exists to protect rights. Said rights are inherent to being human -- they're not given to us by our government; they are inherent to us. The Bill of Rights is intended to be a few examples of the sorts of rights they're talking about; it's not intended to be an exhaustive list (and, in fact, Alexander Hamilton opposed the Bill of Rights because he feared that people WOULD take it as an exhaustive list, and ignore other rights. The rest of the Founding Fathers felt that that was ridiculous, and that NOBODY could be THAT stupid).

It is not the government's responsibility to protect the privacy rights of foreigners. Because the government exists to protect the rights of the people for whom that government is set up.

However, that does not make it okay for the government to breach those rights.

Obviously, rights are not, in a sense, absolute. We have a right to property, but we still have taxation. We have a right to liberty, but we can be jailed. We have a right to privacy, but we can have our houses searched with a warrant.

The thing is, we have specific procedures and oversight for HOW those rights are limited, and in what circumstances.

So, the government can, with proper procedures, take actions which curtail our rights. However, the PRIMARY purpose of the government is to prevent OTHERS from curtailing those rights.

The government isn't responsible for making sure that the rights of people outside the country aren't curtailed. But it IS responsible for making sure that the rights of people INSIDE the country aren't curtailed, citizens or no. And it is not okay for the government to take actions which curtail ANYONE'S rights, citizen or no, inside or outside the United States, without proper procedures, oversight, and transparency.
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Last night, as I was falling asleep, I thought of some predictions I'd make, about the future:
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In the British Isles, "breakfast" is eggs, sausages, bacon, toast, coffee, juice . . .

In Continental Europe, "breakfast" is a croissant or other roll, and coffee.

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So, y'all know the Nietzche Family Circus, right? It takes a Family Circus cartoon, and pairs it with a Nietzche quote.

If you get something good, you can permalink it to share. I kind of like this one I got:

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Someone posted to [livejournal.com profile] weirdjews asking 1) if animals have souls, and 2) how wanting the body to decompose is compatible with a belief in bodily resurrection.

I think I've posted these theories before, but I can't remember. Oh, well -- if I have, that's what cut tags are for.
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So, if you took a world-class neurosurgeon and put him on a battlefield doing battlefield trauma medicine, how would he do?

I bet he'd do fine. Even do pretty well. But he wouldn't do significantly better than a good medic. He probably wouldn't do quite as well. He'd still do well, but not as well as someone who was specifically a battlefield medic.

That's what they did to Joshua Bell. And he did pretty damn well, $32 in 45 minutes.

You put that neurosurgeon in a top-flight hospital with all the other things he'd have around him, he'd be able to do even more amazing things. In a battlefield situation, given the time constraints and the environment, even if he's got his own tools, he's going to be limited in what he can do. He'll be able to do the sorts of things that a battlefield medic can do.

Put a top-flight concert musician in a busking situation, and, at best, he's going to be able to do what a busker can do. And he did it. He really, genuinely succeeded at it.
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People have been talking about that story in which world-class violinist Joshua Bell plays a world-class Stradivarius playing world-class music for forty-five minutes in a Washington Metro station and most people don't notice.

And I've been thinking about it, and it doesn't bother me as much as it bothers some other folks.

It was mentioned in the transcript of an online chat that the author did that similar things have been done with other artists in various locations around the world, with similar results.

To me, this means one major thing. Busking is a skill-set. Buskers don't just have to play good, or even world-class, music -- they need to do something else as well. What exactly that is, I'm not sure -- I've never really successfully busked. But there IS something else there -- virtuosity isn't enough; you need personal charisma, as well.

In a lot of ways, it's an example of this experiment, with the basketballs. You know this one, right? Watch it, and count how many passes the people make. Every time someone throws and catches the basketball, that is one pass. It can be bounced, or thrown, or whatever -- just count the number of passes.

Then, answer the following question, which is ROT-13: Qvq lbh frr gur tbevyyn?

I think it's the same thing. If you're concentrating on one thing, such as getting to work, or counting basketball passes, you miss other things, like violinists and gorillas. It's just how the brain works.

And the part of the brain which allows you to do that is the prefrontal lobes, which are not fully developed in children, which is why THEY notice the violinist.

And then, one final thought hit me. $32 is actually pretty damn good for a busker for 45 minutes. People actually DO recognize and reward quality.
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So, in [livejournal.com profile] anyquestion, someone asked:

What's love? How do you define it?

I'm not trying to be cute, or stupidly cute. I really have no idea of how to define it. I'm specifically curious about romantic love, but anything is better than cluelessness, i guess.

I thought I had a pretty good answer.

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So, over in another blog, Dwindling in Unbelief, the blogger is compiling a list of "How many folks did God kill, vs. how many folks did Satan kill, in the Bible?"

Obviously, Satan only even shows up in Job, so his total is 10. And God's is, of course, somewhere well in excess of two and a quarter million in enumerated deaths alone. Not counting "destroyed cities" and the like.

Far as I'm concerned, from how I understand Jewish theology, this really isn't much of a paradox -- nobody ever said God was nice.

To quote Sondheim:

You're so nice.
You're not good, you're not bad,
You're just nice.
I'm not good, I'm not nice,
I'm just right.

Also, from the way I understand Jewish theology, Job is one of those books, like Jonah and, arguably, Esther, that's really supposed to be a fairy tale more than something that you're supposed to take LITERALLY. So, really, Satan oughtn't get credit for even those ten. Which, again, is fine theology the way I see it -- Satan doesn't have the power to kill. And even in the book of Job, Satan is using God's power, not his own.

And, as can be expected, most of the comments to the thing are fairly moronic. I'm pretty sure that there's an inverse correlation between how fervently you hold your religious belief and how much theology you understand. So most theological arguments end up degenerating into competing camps of people yelling variations of "YOU'RE GOING TO HELL!!!!"

However, there are a couple interesting things there, and I responded to one of them.

Tom said...
That's quite paradoxical. As a human, our entire concept of cause and effect presuppose a time frame in which any given event takes place. Think about it...for you to claim that something 'caused' or 'created' something else, you have to have accepted the premise that the cause came before the effect.
So, in order for your Creator to live up to his name, time must have existed. Humans simply cannot fathom a "beginning of time", because the term 'beginning' implied that there was time BEFORE that event, in which that certain event never took place. Again, causation presupposes both existence and time. Either god is subject to the the constraints of time and therefore is not omnipotent or he does not exist at all.

That was an interesting enough comment that I decided to follow up with this: )
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Once again, I wrote a comment I like well enough to put in my own blog. This was in the group [livejournal.com profile] ask_a_question, and the question asked was "Why are men such arseholes? And why do they never have a decent explanation as to why there were such arseholes???"

Here's what I replied:
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2006 was an awful year for the world, and for many of my friends. Yet this wasn't a bad year for me personally.

As far as the world is concerned: we're still in Iraq, and causing great suffering there. And I personally feel deep, personal guilt about that. I'm an American, and I love my country. And I identify with my country -- being an American is part of my identity; it's part of who I am. And because of that, when my country acts shamefully and wrongly, I personally feel guilt and shame.

This year has given plenty of opportunity for that.

I also suspect that we slid past the point of no return on climate change.

And, in more local situations, our upstairs tenant, [livejournal.com profile] marquisedea's mother, died of the cancer that has been killing her for the past three years. [livejournal.com profile] marquisedea is still living upstairs, and is welcome to remain -- and, now that it's 2007, we need to work up a lease for her to sign. I'll deal with that after the weekend.

Lis's grandmother died over the summer. That's not tragic -- her grandmother had a long life, and had been in great pain for many years -- but it is still quite sad.

My grandmother's Alzheimer's's is getting worse. My other grandmother had a triple-bypass (although, frankly, she's doing amazingly well -- she didn't have everyone over to her house for Christmas this year, because she said she didn't have the energy to host it, but, frankly, I think she could have had she really wanted to. I think she was just using the open-heart surgery as an excuse.) One of my grandfathers caught a cold.

Um. That last thing doesn't sound that serious -- but it's the first time anyone can remember him EVER getting sick. He took a sick day and didn't come into work -- actually, he took TWO sick days. I guess there are a lot of folks in their mid-eighties who don't go to work every day, and so, I guess, looked at that way, the fact that he took two sick days off work doesn't look so bad -- but it's terrifying to me. As far as I know, my grandfathers are immortal towers of strength -- the idea of one of them getting sick is scary.

But . . . for me personally? I've been tending bar again. I'm teaching Hebrew school.

But most important for me: I've finally found an antidepressant that seems to work. And that is the biggest thing that you can possibly imagine.
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Money can't buy happiness -- that's true. However, lack-of-money can sure buy misery.
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Sure, he had all the British English chauvinism that one would expect from a Victorian army officer. And all the, um. . . weirdnesses about bodily functions, and weirdnesses about sex (he deeply loved his wife, and got massive headaches if they slept in the same room) . . .

And he had all the virtues you'd expect of that kind of person -- honor, courage, self-reliance, bearing up under adversity -- and a number that you wouldn't, necessarily, expect.

There are many kinds of religion such as Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mohammedans, and so on, but the main point about them is that they all worship God, although in different ways. They are like an army which serves one king, though it is divided into different branches, such as cavalry, artillery, and infantry, and these wear different uniforms. So when you meet a boy of a different religion from your own, you should not be hostile to him, but recognize that he is like a soldier in your own army, though in a different uniform, and still serving the same king as you.

And, in his very first chapter, where he's explaining the idea of "scouting" as something that every boy can do to help his country, and his world -- explaining about how to live a life with basic decency, citizenship, and even heroism:
And there have been women scouts of the nation, too: such as Grace Darling, who risked her life to save a shipwrecked crew; Florence Nightingale, who nursed sick soldiers in the Crimean War; Miss Kingsley, the African explorer; Lady Lugard, in Africa and Alaska; and many devoted lady missionaries and nurses in all parts of our Empire.

For that matter, throughout his Scouting for Boys, as he's giving examples of how ordinary people have acted heroically and decisively to save lives (sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but always worthy of praise, whether or not they succeed), he makes sure to choose examples of women and girls acting heroically and nobly, as well as men and boys.

September 2017

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