Category: Complaint Department


Don’t Read This

Listen, I felt I needed to write and post this, but I encourage people not to read it. They’re thoughts I needed to get out of my system and put someplace where they could theoretically be seen, but it’s not important to read. It touches on where I am with the religion thing and why I don’t buy into it. It’s long and pedantic, but I needed to write it anyway. Almost all of this is stolen directly from Qualia Soup’s Morality series, I mean word for word in some cases, and I recommend watching it and teasing out my stuff. I needed the structure since my brain was having trouble putting thoughts to paper,  but I was raging.

And since I can’t get the More tag to work, I’ll just leave a lot of space between here and the start. Don’t continue reading. Just let me get my thoughts out.

Since I can’t seem to quantify this into a G+ post and haven’t been clear, I’m going to try and explain what I’ve been saying again.

Before I begin, let me get some things out of the way. I have no problem with people of faith as a rule. I have a huge problem with faith traditions, however, that claim moral authority when they are clearly undeserving of that authority. If you want to believe something, believe it, I won’t stop you or think less of you for it. However, at the root of a faith tradition is belief that it is somehow right, good, and true, and far too often that is not the case.

Second point, I don’t know everything about every religion. I do, however, know a lot about the big ones. In this post I’ll be focusing on the Bible since it’s the most relevant to my experience. 70% of Americans identify as Christian in one respect or another and much of the vileness I see regularly comes from people who supposedly believe in Biblical teachings.

Third point: not all people who believe in Biblical teachings are bad people. Good and bad are complex concepts. Most are generally good people, however I endeavor to point out that when you are a good person and ignore much of what at least this particular religion calls for, you’re no longer following that religion. You’re developing a moral and ethical code and searching for authority within a set of traditions and rites that make you comfortable and happy. If that’s the case, good for you, I’m glad that you’re happy, but it no more makes you a believer in that tradition and if you’re going to decide independently that certain things are right and certain things are wrong than it abandons the fundamental unpinning that that faith it is “true” in any meaningful sense. Much like Jefferson, I would much rather take a razor to the Bible to eliminate those flawed underpinnings and use the passages I leave as an example of positive moral teachings that have no divine consequence but should demand temporal consequence.

Now that I’ve gotten the disclaimers out of the way, let me begin.

Let us take a hypothetical leader who phases in four laws:

  1. Anyone who works on a Friday would face execution. The leader was born on a Friday and wants people to use that day to contemplate his or her greatness.
  2. The leader can kill citizens or order their killing for any reason.
  3. Any citizen forced by the leader to commit crimes by mind altering drugs will be punished.
  4. Parents who commit crimes will have their children killed, and if it isn’t their first offense they will be made to eat their children.

These would be thought to be insane. Law one punishes people for a victimless crime, law two makes the leader blameless for all actions, and laws three and four punish the innocent for crimes. The fourth is particularly abhorrent because it adds an obscene element designed to dehumanize. They also defy any conception of personal responsibility. These are manifestly unjust laws, and we can determine that because we know enough about what constitutes harmful behavior, suffering, and responsibility to make that determination.

But what if this leader had been in charge all of your life and you were brought up to think they were morally perfect? It would create a major cognitive dissonance, leaving us with no option but to attempt to rationalize them. We might say that somebody who had done so much for the society should have the right to make a few entirely arbitrary demands or that their understanding of things is so far ahead of ours that we cannot grasp their purpose (the “mysterious ways” argument). But we’d be wrong.

Clearly the root of the problem is the false premise that the leader is morally perfect. It is a fundamentally corrupting idea because in forcing us to accept unjust laws it leaves us defending the indefensible. Remove this idea and we can see the unjust laws for what they are.

When we accept ideas uncritically or make them sacred so they cannot be questioned, this can distort our moral reasoning. Those who accepted without consideration or interjected the idea that the lawmaker is perfect cannot properly evaluate the law until this distorting idea is removed. Identifying ideas we’ve swallowed whole is often key to solving a lot of the problems in life.

When we consider the Abrahamic God and the traits associated with it, clearly there is no better arbiter for administering justice. We are told it knows our thoughts, knows who is guilty or innocent, and is morally perfect. What better arbiter for justice could one think of? However, those assertions are based on a number of false premises.

The primary problem with this is that this same God permits, commits, and commands others to laws that correlate directly to the ones we just rejected. The Lord demands that those who work on the Sabbath be put to death (Numbers 15:32-36), as well as gay people (Leviticus 20:13), and women who show insufficient evidence of their virginity on their wedding night (Deuteronomy 22:20-21). Yehweh kills 70,000 people when He commands David to take a census (2 Samuel 24:1-15), and kills almost all land animals by flooding for human wickedness (Genesis 6 : 5-7). He hardens the heart of the Pharaoh (Exodus 4 : 21; see also Exodus 7 : 3; 9 : 12; 10 : 1; 10 : 20; 10 : 27; 11 : 10; 14 : 4; 14 : 8), the Egyptians (Exodus 14 : 17), and the King of Heshbon (Deuteronomy 2 : 30) through mind control in order to enable their defeat, it sends a powerful delusion in order to make certain people believe a lie so they can be condemned(2 Thessalonians 2 : 11), and sends false messages to prophets than punishes them for repeating those messages (Ezekiel 14 : 9).

Having stated no children will be killed for the sins of their father, He orders the killing of children for their fathers’ sins (Deuteronomy 24 : 16, Isaiah 14 : 21-22) and orders the death of innocent Amalkite children for their fathers’ sins (I Samuel 15 : 2-3) and the killing of children without pity (Ezekiel 9 : 5-6). At least three books in the Bible see Yehweh demanding familiar cannibalism, one of the most depraved punishments we can imagine (Jeremiah 19 : 9, Deuteronomy 28 : 53, Ezekiel 5 : 10). Some would say that without the Bible anything is permitted, but it seems clear that the opposite is true: all things are permitted by a deity we’ve given absolute authority and deemed morally perfect. Yehweh has specifically endorsed also rape (Zechariah 14 : 2), slavery (Leviticus 25 : 46), and mass murder (Exodus 12 : 29).

But what if we were brought up to believe that this God is morally perfect? How do we deal with the cognitive dissonance that springs up when we consider that these are manifestly unjust acts done by a being that is supposed to be entirely just?

Claim that they *are*just? That doesn’t hold up, since we know that they are unjust.

Concoct elaborate justifications? No. When we indulge any impulse to defend these acts we are already going dangerously astray, and relativistic morality is no morality at all. If we justify these acts, what won’t we justify?

Do we brush them under the carpet of symbolism and claim they weren’t meant to be taken literally? Nothing in the Bible implies that these are purely symbolic, but even if they were the idea of an omnibenevolent baby punisher makes no more sense as a symbol than as a literal being.

Do we claim that these particular passages are beyond our understanding? Not only is that a weak argument when we rightly condemn humans for this sort of behavior, it belies a horrendously irresponsible attitude toward morality and justice. Often this is mislabeled as “humility,” but it simply isn’t. Saying we don’t know everything about the universe is humble. Claiming that we don’t understand the purpose behind the order to eat babies is a critical abdication of rational judgment. However, if one does argue that there is a God who works in mysterious ways, ways clearly in defiance of our moral judgment, than its nature is clearly not the source of our morality.

Responding to these atrocities with examples of mercy doesn’t work either. All it proves is that the Bible has both examples of mercy and atrocity.

Some emphasize the supremacy of the New Testament over the Old, focusing on the comparative kindness of Jesus over Yehweh, and Jesus was comparatively kinder. He also provided a number of good, positive moral values. However, claiming to follow Jesus and his teachings comes with it a whole new set of problems.

Jesus, for example, has a lot to say about why divorce is not permitted under any circumstances, presumably even if the person in question is being beaten or abused (Luke 16:18; Mark 10:2-12) Two of the gospels have the bizarre story of Jesus punishing a fig tree, making it wither because it has no fruit when he’s hungry (Matthew 21:18-22, Mark 11:12-14, 20-24) even though it’s not the season to bear fruit. This is like smashing your TV on Friday because there is no new episode of House, which comes on on Monday. It’s a tantrum. Apologists will claim that he is reinforcing the parable of the barren fig tree, a commentary on people who are barren, but that doesn’t hold up. The tree is not barren, he is causing it to be so. Later verses reveal that this is a demonstration of how the power of faith can move mountains (Matthew 21:21), but all it really seems to be is a demonstration of Jesus’s power over nature. It also re-enforces the idea that if you pray hard enough that anything can happen, but that devolves very easily into victim blaming, an incredibly common problem among the faithful.

In Luke 9:61-62, Jesus informs a man who wants to follow him that he can’t go back to inform his family. The option isn’t even given to go get his family so they all can follow. What sort of family values is that?

This goes to the heart of the problem with the idea of a perfectly moral being. In the face of injustice, we are again struck with the untenable problem of how one can believe the moral arguments of a being that acts manifestly unjustly while still maintaining an accurate moral compass. By eliminating the idea that morality necessarily stems from God in this case, we solve that problem easily. When you claim that a being is perfectly just, loving, and honest, these are highly specific and highly fragile claims, and we can see from the behavior of God that they simply aren’t true.

By holding the Bible as a valid moral text, we see that it spans the moral spectrum from virtuous to vicious, which means that we can just as easily use as a moral guide a hypothetical human who’s actions range from charity work to mass murder. However, if we were to hold that person on trial, no amount of charity work would make up for the murders and render them blameless.

The other problem with the Bible as a moral text is that it is endless contradictory. The making of images of anything from Earth or Heaven is both prohibited (Exodus 20:4) and commanded (Exodus 25:18-20). People are ordered to stone others to death (Deuteronomy 21:21), yet only those without sin are allowed to cast the first stone (John 8:7) and since we’re told nobody is without sin (Romans 3:23) this is an impossible logical puzzle to solve. We’re told good deeds must be shown (Matthew 5:16) and not shown (Matthew 6:1). These contradictions defy rationality.

But much of the Bible’s appeal is its contradictions which allow almost anyone to find something to endorse their particular view. Books that endorse all viewpoints ultimately endorse none.

So, where does this leave us? I know, that was a lot to get through, but bear with me just a little longer.

I stated at the beginning that I believe most religious believers to be good people, and I stand by that. Nobody I know believes anything that I have pointed out above, or if they do, they keep it to themselves. This is an incredibly good thing and I think we should celebrate that, but it begs the question, where then does morality come from? Obviously it’s not from scripture since most people prefer to pick and choose the parts of scripture that fit with their idea of morality. You don’t have reams of people eating their babies or enslaving whole populations in the industrialized world (the third world is a whole other post), so clearly they’re applying their own reason and conscience to their perception of scripture, not drawing any moral guidance from those scriptures. They are doing the very human thing and being subject to confirmation bias, and thankfully they are. Rather than accepting that God wants them to kill their disobedient children, they see this is a terrible idea and subsume that passage as unimportant while focusing on other, more moral passages.

Therein also lies the problem, however. While it’s pretty obvious we shouldn’t rape people even if God commands it in certain cases, many common religious prohibitions are not so cut and dried. What about passages like those about homosexuality? What about the subservience of women? Jesus’s prohibitions against divorce for any reason? How do we deal with those when it’s clear that a significant number of people buy into them whole-heartedly and see no moral disconnect with them? And that’s not even taking interpretation into account by mortal authorities within the religion which leads to a rejection of science in classrooms or comprehensive sexual education due to moral qualms that argue that these things are in conflict with religious doctrine.

That is ultimately my problem. Religious teachings, especially ones from the Abrahamic traditions, promote some really terrible things. People by and large already bring their own moral judgments to the text in order to determine what is and is not worth following, but that moral judgment is far too often distorted by upbringing in traditions that insist that the code they are being taught has been handed to them by a perfect being, so they are discouraged from questioning those and are raised to apply their individual moral code to scripture in such a way as to accept arbitrary moral laws among the reasonable ones. I think we would be better off teaching children to have reasons behind their moral codes that don’t rely on scriptural authority.

For example: there is no reasonable purpose in denying same-sex marriage. You won’t find secular groups opposing that measure because it makes no sense. The closest is NARTH, but they are less than 20% scientists and the rest is religious activists. Opposition to this comes from a purely a religious place with no grounding in modern rational thought. But far too many people oppose this because of religious prohibitions.

I want to stress that religious people are not necessarily bad people, but when you apply modern reason to things a lot of this becomes really, really nonsensical.

This is why reasonable people of faith should be as vocal as the unreasonable ones, and I don’t see that as often. There are very few Fred Clarks and Rachel Held Evans in the world as compared to the followers of Rick Warren and Pat Robertson.

There are many reasons for religion but I believe they can be served secularly. Community, fellowship, friendship, and discussion can be gathered by reasonable people without needing the excuse or, in some cases, obligation to attend worship services. That being said, if it makes you happy, I have no problem with it. What I do have a problem with, though, is the vast amounts of hurt that people cause because of their sincerely held religious beliefs and the concept that these ideas about how the universe works are somehow immune from examination and criticism, on one end being dismissed as “this is just what they believe” and on the other end causing anger for daring to question the moral, ethical, and consistency issues that so many faiths have. Not all believers do this, but far too many do, and they should be called out on it, and part of that calling out requires pointing out that their ideas are bad ideas regardless of whether they believe that they were handed them by God or not.

We already make our own moral choices and apply them to our perception of faith. Let’s take the next step and stop claiming to base our morality on ancient texts written in different historical contexts and those of us who contribute to faiths that do manifestly immoral things with those contributions demand that they stop. Scripture of any sort is not a valid guide to morality, empathy and recognition of shared humanity is, and when we do arbitrary things for the sake of scripture, we are hurting other human beings.

I’m so done

Behind the cut will be a lot of bitching. I hate doing this, but I need to get it out of my system. I suggest not looking behind the cut.

Seriously, nothing but complaints and stupid emo shit behind this cut that will likely get deleted when I grow the fuck up and get over this.

So, I have to get this out of my system before I continue going. There’s a lot I have left to do, and yet I still need a bit of venting.

Today my laptop died on me. I think it has something to do with the power source after consulting an expert. However, I cannot get on it and am using the big computer now, which is a pain in the ass. Between that, having to cancel a dinner I was looking forward to because of lack of time, being stuck inside a box in the middle of a building with no windows and uncomfortable chairs, and various other annoyances today, this has not been a great day for me.

The laptop is what worries me most. I rely on that thing. I have no idea how I’m going to get it fixed, or get to the stuff on it that I need, or anything of the sort. All I know is that this annoys me more than I can possibly articulate, and I know that’s not good. I should be thinking good thoughts. Here are a few:

1. Maybe I’ll actually see snow this weekend. Maybe not, and then I don’t have to be in snow. Win-win.

2. I have great friends, many of whom I miss, many who I enjoy seeing on a regular basis, but all incredible.

3. M’lady loves me and is trying so very hard to make me happy. If more problems weren’t piling up during this, She would be successful (yay, Daily Show/Colbert Report!)

4. Things are going to be great and surprising this weekend.

I think I need to do what I used to do, which was spend an entire day thinking about how something amazing will happen to me that day. Inevitably, something always did.

So, I’m trying to feel good in my adorably naive, Panglossian way. In that vein, I’ll end this with a quote from Benjamin Franklin, “…the World is a pretty good sort of a World; and ’tis our Duty to make the best of it and be thankful.” I’m trying. Really, I am.

Well, I just washed out of the Kaplan program. Basically, if they don’t feel after five weeks of training that you’re capable of running one of their classes, you don’t get fully hired. For me, while I was great at following their program, kept within time, had wonderful board work, was engaging and explained things well, my lack of practical math skills ended me. I could teach the math section, but if it required me to answer questions that we’re laid out for me, I couldn’t translate the information in my head onto the board or into understandable explanations.

I’m trying to put a positive spin on this. For one thing, did I really want to work for a company that couldn’t get me any information I needed for them on time? That couldn’t figure out how to get four people in a room for three weeks? That wasn’t even prepared for the first lesson?

I can also take sollus (somebody spell that for me, my spellchecker isn’t working and I don’t feel like looking it up further) in the idea that everybody in my training class washed out as well. There were four of us to begin with. One made it two of five sessions. Tonight there were only two of us left and neither of us will be getting classes.

At least I made a friend and met a really interesting person out of this that I plan to remain in contact with. And there will be other jobs, new, better jobs that will make me happy that I don’t get to continue with this one. And I have a nice vacation this weekend to take my mind off of it. I’m trying to remain positive. It just always sucks not to succeed.

So, the other day I get a message on my big computer that ntfs.sys is missing or corrupted, and I need to use my Windows CD to repair it. No big deal, right?

Except that my Windows CD doesn’t boot. But this also isn’t a big deal, I just need to get in there and transfer the stuff off my F partition. I don’t care about C since I don’t keep anything on there, so erasing is no issue. I decide to break out my old Knoppix DVD and try that. I get the initial screen where it gives me boot options, but then the screen goes blank and nothing happens.

I figure, at this point, the hell with it. I’ll simply install Linux on this computer. Format the C drive, install Gentoo, everything’s set. Except that the Gentoo install CD does the exact same thing as the Knoppix DVD did. I don’t know why. Anybody have any suggestions on what I can do? At this point either to get Windows working again or, better, to get Gentoo going on there. As long as I can use BitTorrent, network with my laptop, and play videos on my TV, I don’t much care what OS is on there, but I do want one that is reasonably stable and doesn’t pick up spyware like gum on the bottom of my digital shoes.

EDIT: And the Cam site is down so I can’t check on my Legacy app, which really annoys me. I think I need a hug.

EDIT 2: Gonna kill, gonna kill, gonna kill.

Still haven’t found it, but on cellshade‘s advice, I decided to see if any public libraries have it that I might be able to get a copy via ILL.

Well, no such luck. I can’t find a copy of the book ISBN # 0825694205 anywhere. The Library of Congress and the New York Public library have copies of The Andy M. Stewart Songbook (which I’m considering getting anyway), but that’s ISBN # 0951330403. The former is 104 pages and 60 songs, while the latter is only 44 pages and I can’t find a song list anywhere since every search leads inevitably back to the former, which is ironic because I can’t find a physical copy of the former but the latter has popped up in two places.

It’s just a book of sheet music. It shouldn’t be nearly this difficult to find. I even contacted the publisher for advice, though I doubt that’ll go anywhere. Still, I continue to search. Eventually one of these books will show up, and then I’ll be able to have it for my own.

Can we please, for the love of God and all that is holy, get an ARST Mage that knows the system? How about one who understands the most basic concepts of the game?

So, I’ve got my custom Legacy in the system and it’s being held up at High because James Nail doesn’t understand that you can’t use the Death Arcanum in the Shadow. He actually said that he really liked the idea, but the dealbreaker is, “The primary arcanum for this legacy needs to be Death, not Spirit.Shaping and/or manipulating epherma is the purview of Death (note it is listed first in “Otherworldly Instrument”.)”

OK, let’s break down this statement into itty bitty pieces. First, where on Earth did he get the idea that Death is the Arcanum for shaping “epherma”? Ephemera is a catch-all term for otherworldly stuff. I make it clear from context and the fact that it does use the Spirit Arcanum that I’m talking about ephemera from the Shadow. How does he think to use Death in the Shadow? It’s like trying to perform surgery over a webcam with a plastic knife. Not only is it the wrong tool, it’s impossible. And it’s not like it hasn’t been made clear in every damn Mage book that Spirit deals with Spirits and the Shadow, and Death deals with Ghosts and Twilight. There’s no ambiguity about that. The point of Otherworldly Instrument (Tome of the Mysteries p. 18 if you were wondering) is that it makes stuff out of material from either other world that can be used by beings from both. I’m seriously paring the fucking power down by only having it affect one side.

Now, this ludicrous idea that Death is somehow more important in the spell because it’s listed first is really driving me up the wall. “Death” is listed first because in every multi-Arcanum spell in every Mage book that is not specifically listed as an “[Arcanum] rote”, the Arcana are listed in alphabetical order. This is not hard to figure out. We’re not talking about deciphering the Enigma code. He doesn’t need the White Wolf Rosetta Stone to break this semaphore. It’s not like somebody gave him a Vernam cipher and a pencil and said “have at.” It’s really, really obvious. More importantly, we can look at this from the other way and say that there is nothing, not a thing, not one single instance in any of the books, that indicates that anything other than level of mastery makes any Arcanum in any creative thaumaturgy more important than any other. I mean, what are the odds that it’s entirely arbitrary? That maybe they don’t actually expect anyone to be so ridiculously anal as to assume that the order in which the Arcanum are listed in any way affects which is “more important”? That perhaps they had to put one of the two first, so they went with that one considering both required the same level of mastery?

Now, I don’t think James is a bad guy. I don’t think he’s particularly stupid. In fact, he was very polite and encouraging about the whole thing and willing to work with me. But I still shouldn’t have to explain such a basic concept as “Spirit works in the Shadow, Death works in Twilight, and never the twain shall meet” to the ARST Awakening. I admit that I don’t know the details of every Contract, and I have a lot less to work with, but you don’t have to explain to me that the Spring Court isn’t better than the Summer Court because it comes first in the book, or that you can’t shape the real world the same way you can the Hedge. I feel like I should take James aside and give him the same speech I give IC to new Mages, explain the Watchtowers, the Arcana, basic magical theory, etc.

And that’s another thing, ICly that’s just bad magical theory. No part of a spell is more important than another. That’s like me trying to build a swing set and wondering, “So, is this screw or this nut more important? Think I can do without the screw because it’s really the nut that does the attaching?” And, again, it’s not like I’m making a swing set for all the little ghosts and spirits to play together on. I’m making a desk for the little spirits to do their homework on and the little ghosts can find their own goddamn desk. Yes, I’m really stretching that metaphor, but I’m so irritated at the moment.

EDIT:

Further, and this isn’t anyone’s fault, but both Christian and James informed me that national and global won’t approve optional 1st Attainments. Yet, taking a random sample of Attainments on the Wiki I found several with them. Granted, some were shields and sights, but some were just adaptations of the Attainment, which is what mine is. So, why wouldn’t mine get approved when several others already have?

EDIT 2: Cut for your Friends pages

Schedule problem

Damn, I hate the problems with scheduling. The big Changeling game up here, the one that is most perfect for my character, and I can’t make it because it’s on Easter weekend and I’ll be with my family in South Florida. This was really poor timing on the part of…well, Jesus, I suppose. Maybe I can even blame Moses, as Passover had a lot to do with it as well.

Either way. Will be in South Florida from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon. Anything going on that I can possibly participate in if I can get away from my family for a little while, maybe on Saturday.

I don’t often say stuff like this, especially on LJ, but I’m kinda not great at the moment. I had a fabulous night last night until about 11, just before I had to go to bed. Suddenly, I got this horrible feeling like something was wrong, and it depressed me into a state of insomnia so acute that I couldn’t go to sleep. I simply didn’t want to. And I didn’t want to stay up. I didn’t want to do anything that involved changing what I might have been doing at that very moment, which happened to be sit there and stare at nothing. Around 2am I managed to get to bed and sleep.

This morning I started to swing the other way, but the results of last night’s feelings hit me and knocked me back into a state of fugue with an anxiety chaser. I know it’s unfounded, and will only cause more trouble for me in the near future, but I don’t have the energy to listen to the bouncy music that normally makes me happy, and the only things I really have the will to do are write this, click the button looking for work, and occasionally move my left leg that seems to keep falling asleep no matter what position I leave it in.

I’ll get over this, and when I do I’ll post my normal positive, optimistic, up-beat-type update, but I needed to get this out so I’d be doing something.

really. But in a way I suppose I am a little.

I’m sick. Like really sick. And it’s been so long since I’ve been genuinely, amazingly, astoundingly sick that I’ve forgotten how terrible it is. But it’s like every day another symptom comes to the forefront.

The first day it was a rattling cough. No big deal.

Saturday it was chills. Those were miserable, but they passed.

Sunday: body aches. Just all over.

Today, it appears that my stomach wants to be upset. I’m blaming it on the antibiotics. I should be fine soon enough, but it’s helping me understand why doctors used to think that an imbalance of humours caused illness in the body. I could almost swear my body is purposely trying to expel an overproduction of bile.

You know what makes me feel better when I’m sick? Comments on my LJ.

Oh, and little, tiny hearts do too. Click my Widget! And nothing about being sick there, either. Comments about how sexy I am and the like are much more restorative, even if I won’t see them for a couple of days.

Back to convalescing. Watching The Big Blue like I do whenever I’m sick. Gonna get some food as soon as the Pepto kicks in, and get some work done.