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May 22, 2006

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Ooooh, ouch. Juxtapositioning those articles like that. Owie. If I were a member of the Christian Left, I'd be smarting from the arrows.

Not meant that way. I hope the Christian left does make its presence felt.

Oh, I know you didn't mean it that way, HT. Just that if I were unfamiliar with you and your site and also a liberal Christian, I might be rubbing my backside. The article about the sheep has a bit of a fascetious tone about it, so that doesn't help the matter.


Liberal Christians have been doing a lot of ecumenical stuff. Reaching out to Others. Espousing social justice causes. So it's not that farfetched for them to leap (again) into the political arena. I have said here and elsewhere that Democrats had to outgod the Republicans, so, yes, I am very glad to see the liberal Christians more actively involved in politics.

Does it seem ungrateful or dyspeptic to say this is 25 or 30 years too late? Where were these folks during the rise of the religious Right? My experience of religious liberals is that they're nice but the last ones in the room to turn over the moneychanger's tables.

One my biggest gripes against religion is that it creates, for the best, a tribal bond with the worst that prevents them from criticism and action against those who are "of the body," or moderates it to Dick Minim proportions. There's a brake on calling bullshit, on calling malevolence; there's a felt consanguinity with even the worst of those in the Church that always outweighs the connection felt with the minority of seculars. And recent history has shown us the powers and principalities that get to take over as a result.

Blood's thicker than water, and the blood of the Lamb is no different.

Raised Catholic, I wonder if Catholicism, being so broad-based, and so ambitious in the "catholicism" isn't positioned to be a counter-force, as in liberation theology. Of course the official doctrine of the church is more conservative, much. The meek shall inherit the earth, and sometimes it seems they begin by running the high church and the mainstream ones too, leaving religious fanaticism to take its familiar course.

C'mon Tutor is a uniter not a divider. He's just bringing the varied sheep within reasonable proximity that they might ponder each other's scrutable mugs. Once full muttonous insight is brought to bear all manner of wooly coalitions might arise. I'm betting on that aggressive mo-fo over there with the horns. I suspect he could "be quite cunning in terms of getting in and out of things, and coming back and looking as if [he] never went out in the first place." Looks like a born leader, ready to promote face in public life.

Bring on the uncomfortable shirts, brother, I'm in!

I don't know about all of that, but I know Madonna. She would never simulate masturbation. She was actually just scratching her anus (never been a good wiper.) Crude, but not really meant to titillate or offend.

Like A Virgin still stands as the best rock and roll song ever, even without the video. Let ol' Papa twist in the wind, this girl's material rocks!

twist in the wind carry her cross

Madonna, the Madonna. Postmodern chic.

I would self-identify as an existentialist Christian leftist. I attend services at a local Episcopal church that welcomes gay parishoners and has a social service ministry that helps prisoners and the homeless. Nothing revolutionary, but good work nonetheless.

Debbie's and TV's questions are important: Why didn't leaders of the Religious Left -- all those sherry-bibbing liberals -- rise up against the hate-mongering Falwells? My partner thinks it's because people on the Religious Left have a fealty not only to Truth, as they understand it (ecumenical, merciful, progressive), but also to accurate expressions of that Truth. The truth of things is very complicated and not at all media-genic. The Religious Right exploits this fact.

There's a deep longing for certainty, for disambiguation--something that the Religious Right claims to provide. Edmund Morgan wrote about this in Visible Saints (apologies for the Amazon link). But this certainty is something the Religious Left would never be able to claim in good faith. You can't imagine a thoughtful leftist minister going on television and telling you that your mortgage will be paid if you trust in the Lord and support gay marriage.

At the risk of very short sermons, why not explore the golden rule and be done with it? Doesn't that disambiguate?

God is a slogan in the street.

Actually, I'll go a little further ('cause this seems to be the core for me) give 'til it hurts -- if it don't hurt, you ain't giving.
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What exactly do you mean by that, klaus, if you don't mind me asking?

The wingnut prelates offer a material something for next to nothing, with multi-level marketed Jesus. Liberal Christians have been reluctant to forthrightly state that the wingnut prelates are neither Christian nor religious, nor possessed of any redeeming virtues, but are merely power hungry charlatans who take advantage of the tax code, and do an end run around the establishment clause.

I think they don't want to call them on this because the logical, simple and most practical thing to do would be to put some teeth into the establishment clause, and eliminate all tax breaks for religious groups. I'd be in favor of taxing church property at the same rate as residential or commercial property, whichever is highest in any given location, especially the megachurch mall spreads. There's no need for all that building and damage to Creation. The only thing needed for a relationship with God is the desire to have one.

Hi a.mole -

I meant:

1. There's an often misquoted passage in Ulysses:

"Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying: — That is God
Hooray! Ay! Whrrwhee!
— What? Mr Deasy asked.
— A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders."

So I was paraphrasing the misquote.

I buy leftover meat ends at my mega-supermarket. I use them to make soup. Unfortunately sometimes when you get them home and open them they are slimey and decayed. Today they were only moderately slimey. Thus, soup. When it works out, it tastes good.

"Support out Troops -Bring them Home" signs have bloomed in the front yards of the houses in my neighborhood this spring. Sometimes a ratty weed grows on your lawn, and suffused by sunlight streaming through your window, the shadow-halo of the fronds mimics the lines on your palm.

I'm not sure that that clarifies things, but thank you just the same. Joyce is still pretty impenetrable to me, much like a comment from klaus. And yet there is a subtle beauty.

yeah

Works for me, Klaus. I can see a Joycean influence in your free associations, soup, God, slimy meat ends, kidneys in the fry pan, street noise.

I wonder too about the high church. Some things are beneath contempt or discussion, for Dick Minim. Not to talk of the vulgarians should serve them right. To ostracize them should be enough. Of course the ruffians resent it and have for literally centuries, being disdained by the high church in England and now here. And that resentment is what we see today on all sides, resurgent - payback. So Dick Minim is bullied and reviled. And says nothing, acting as if nothing has been said. And in so doing he renders the mob more bold, for he has shown himself to be, well, John Kerry. To sniff at the low-minded, knuckledragging buffoons from the Bible Belt was easier before they took over the white house, Congress and the courts, and until the press was cowed by them, and began to play to them as a market. Now, we have to deal with religious zealotry straight up and we are much too polite.

Read Swift again, the Tale of the Tub. These Zealots, these Aolists were the people he was satirizing way back then, until they got on boats and settled in America.

I have so many Evangelicial friends and colleagues in TX, AL, GA, LA and elsewhere that it is hard for me to be dismissive; they are many of them excellent citizens, parents, and co-workers. But fighting the doctrinaire, authoritarian right will take much more than quiet conversation over sherry.

The "thin, vapid, affected, driveling little doodles" in the clergy have been a source of concern to muscular capitalists for some time. The absence of displays of forthright manliness and their lack of enthusiasm for the obvious solution to capitalism's inherent problems hinder marketing strategies greatly. They dither, when Deciders want to act!

The knuckle dragging buffoons were clever enough to parlay the Scopes Monkey Trail into a major media circus, and tourist boom, once upon a time. There's not much change in that, nor in their prominence in the various chambers of commerce.

I find it hard to take the right wing religionist estasblishment as anything other than an enormous tax shelter, a thing which also enjoys a great deal of worship even in its secular incarnation. They do the bare minimum in social services to retain legitimacy for political purposes and swell their numbers.

Scruggs: "The only thing needed for a relationship with God is the desire to have one."

Kind of like: the only requirement for joining AA is a desire to stop drinking.

Hey wait.

It was irresisitble, T.V., but I'm also on solid Protestant and free market ground with that too. Cut out the middleman! Billions of well-marketed microbrands give the consumer more choice and a better chance of finding the right God.

The consumer could even worship big sky gophers.

You get toilet-trained so early you just know poop is bad, all your life you know that.
And the place it comes from is bad, and pee, and that place too.
You know that deeper than reason.
Morality is like that.
No seems to like it when I say that without religion you wouldn't have morality, and I think it's mostly because people know they have morality the way they know poop is bad - they got it so early and so deep it's beyond reason.
We carried morality in the same bag of tools with religion, back before it got copyrighted out of the public domain.
Without some kind of faith there is no possible objection to the violent and inhuman but physical force and an assertion of being, an assertion that rests solely on being.
"These things are bad because I say so, because I feel them to be bad."
So of course emotion, and aesthetic response, the two areas of human feeling, are completely discounted and trivialized now.
The assertion of rightness by presence and claim is a usurpation of the revelatory command.
Which is what those guys are doing, under the guise of received election and promise in the text.
So words and talking won't mean a thing against them.
Rather than debate the efficacy of religion, take it back.
It's yours. It is not intellectual property, leaving aside the debate about whether or not that even counts anyway.
Religion's as old as science, the same kind of refining activity that gave us watertight baskets and iron hinges, and moral instruction, only it's about what's out there, beyond the tangible - and in there.
Religion is not the intellectual property of anyone. Not in its uncapitalized form.
But it's specious and immature to think that, if the divine exists, a relationship with it will be a simple thing. Anymore than a relationship with another human being is merely a matter of wanting one.
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The news from the outriders of theoretical physics sounds increasingly like the first glimpses of the Spirit Gates.
Witchcraft is technology, and vice-versa; prayer is a self-organizing neural event; what we are is nowhere near as simple as what we think we are.
The same struggles take place everywhere - dominance, submission, survival, maintenance of the corpus, nutrition.
Parasitism isn't limited to the corporeal, neither is collectivity limited to the social lattice.
The greatest scams involve the illusions of void, blank areas, places where nothing is. These are generally fictive and used as misdirection and goad.
Religion is supposed to help with that, so of course the scam artists have spent millenia co-opting and modifying the message(s).
The heart of morality is harmonic with the long cast of our potential - out of the seed we carry of what could be - and that goal aligns most of the vagueness, or it was supposed to.
We're being played, on almost all fronts - suspect the default response.
When it comes too easy it may just be a set-up.
The God of George W. Bush is real.
As is is the God of every other zealot and misguided fool.
Being real and being what someone says you are are two very different things.

I'm sorry, I've done it again and linked to this post from a religion discussion at Onet. On the plus side this really funny sheep related comment can only be assumed to be connected with our sheep theme.

Great comment, Rollo.

Religion is not the intellectual property of anyone. Not in its uncapitalized form. But it's specious and immature to think that, if the divine exists, a relationship with it will be a simple thing. Anymore than a relationship with another human being is merely a matter of wanting one.

I'm wondering which "blank spaces" you are thinking of. Like the "Thar be dragons" warnings at the edges of the known world.

And if W's God is real, W is going to have some 'splaining to do at the Pearly Gates.

Thanks, klaus, you're a mensch. Would a virtual hug embarass you? {{{{{{{I'll risk it}}}}}}} (And the rest o'you mugs, too, that's right, nobody escapes untouched...)

still pretty impenetrable to me...And yet there is a subtle beauty

paradoxical disambiguation, another door in...

But it's specious and immature to think that, if the divine exists, a relationship with it will be a simple thing. Anymore than a relationship with another human being is merely a matter of wanting one.

Indeed it is specious and immature. The first part, anyway. A relationship with something that by its nature is elusive is necessarily highly complex. People have grunted and strained over that for ages, possibly as a result of cruel potty training. Which struggle fine, until they insist that others must join them or hold their it up as model for others to emulate. Fortunately, the decision to have a relationship with the ineffable is a simple thing. You do it or you don't. There still remains the difference between simple and easy.

It's also specious and immature to conflate a relationship with the ineffable with a relationship to an actually existing being -- the nature of the ineffable being whatever the speaker says it is. That nature will never been contested by the ineffable. If you choose to treat another being like shit, you may find they object.

"These things are bad because I say so, because I feel them to be bad."

What if others feel that doing bad things to you is good? Or think, "okay they're bad", but they're being done for a greater good, in service to the ineffable, which is whatever I say it is. The basis of morality is the Golden Rule, which does not rely on religion. Simply, would it be okay for the things you do to me to be done to you? The child and the sophist quickly tire of the game of tit for tat when they receive what they do in equal measure.

The basis of post-Judeo-Christian morality is the Golden Rule. The arogance in that position is there is no other morality possible.
There's lots of other moralities.
The Russian Mafia has a moral code.
The Manson Family had a moral code.
They all track back to causal assertion.
We are. I am. This is.
Some to a divine assertion, others to human. Some to a mix of the two.
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"the nature of the ineffable being whatever the speaker says it is. "
For purposes of academic discussion maybe, but not on the ground and running.
The thing behind the curtain can't be described, but that doesn't mean the description's whatever. Or even that there's something back there.
Tit for tat is just eye for an eye redux and simplified. It is not love your neighbor, nor is it turn the other cheek.
Lex talionis has doomed us all, though saying that is almost a vote for its possibly not-quite-yet reality. Still, that's what it looks like this morning.
Libertarian morality has large gaps wherein many unpleasant surprises lurk.
Disassembling the ineffable clockwork of the seasons by accident escapes the moral hammer of tit for tat and eye for an eye and all the other self-based moral valences.
Snuck it right by the sentries.
No obvious intent to harm, no overt malevolence, and yet the scope and damage are outside the greatest human crimes.
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Morality is goal-based, always.
Whose goal, and what, is another story, for another time.

The Golden Rule predates the Judeo-Christian ethic by millenia and is, in fact, the alleged basis for most religions. Actually existing religion negates the Golden Rule as often as it acknowledges it as a basis for interaction.

One can play at stupid sophistry and claim that the Manson Family and the Russian Mafia have a morality, but that doesn't make it true. It's the same sneaky, reprehensible game as played by Jerry Falwell. Not many people like being hacked to death in the moment it actually happens. Not many people see the justice of their immiseration without an assist from a sophist.

Why would the Golden Rule be limited to radical individualist, libertarian interactions? It applies to communities as well, where some members might wish to hurt others, but are not permitted to do so -- because it's not good for the community.

Eventually, these discussions reach a point where the question of what is the Good arises. The Golden Rule offers an imperfect way of gauging what that might be. The assertion that this is so does not preclude the existence of something that might be better, nor does it make the process easy. One can decide to build a house, This is simple, but not easy.

If there is a better basis, where is it? The resort to the ineffable hasn't done it.

"One can play at stupid sophistry and claim that the Manson Family and the Russian Mafia have a morality, but that doesn't make it true."
Setting aside the bitchy tone and feeble insult of your terms, one insists that au contraire, c'est vrai.
One can do lots of things, when one has the time and inclination, including making outlandish claims about the unseen.
But this is not a claim. It's a fact.
Both of those agencies, and many more that most decent people think of as evil or borderline at best, have or had astonishingly rigid ideas about what's done and what's not done. Moral systems. Right and wrong.
That the moral content doesn't assay in parallel with your own doesn't change anything.
You could cite something to back up your claim about the Golden Rule I suppose. But the idea that that's been the universal basis for religion is bizarre and incomprehensible to me.
Sun worship, Taoism, the animist practices of Papuan tribes - zilch on the Godlen Rule. Not there.
The goal is either the self or something displaced into the future outside the self. Survival of the larger group, or something that takes its essence from that and/or the outcome of it.
Modern morality has constricted its focus down to the consuming self, to the self as auto-divine, as practiced. And as such it's one more scam to get people to give up their power in the pseudo-barter for promised gratification.
You're defining the whole thing as a "resort to the ineffable", and from that the question of what else, what more, what then, dangles.
I'm saying the whole production's been ripped off, repackaged and sold back to its original caretakers; and that the baby's on its way down to the sea with the bathwater.

Rollo, go fuck yourself. You always cry when your misrepresentations get challenged and your sideways, snide insults come back at you more directly than you offered them. Then you retreat into mystical obfuscation and hint at some unseen force controlling our destiny. It's a waste of my time, at this point, to treat your words as anything other than pissant attempts at point scoring.

. . . in their ass-pants and PVC smocks popping out from behind expired-date cans of greenbeans, proud in their rodomontade, like mind-lepers butchering Jesus in the stacks, intent on playing the sadists' game of peekaboo with their barbecue fork harpoons, while their masters slaver over the treason, which you know, oh yes you do, yapping cerebrus would-be, lhasa apso!, even as they clutch well-fed guts, blissfully, disingenuously unaware . . .

Yours is an easy style to emulate. All you have you to do is up the sanctimony, deliberately misunderstand your interlocutor and dispense with any desire to make yourself understood.

Really, go fuck yourself. But dude, unclench first.

Seems there is an object lesson here. Maybe morals and mores, or ethics and custom, can b be distinquished? Mafia have rules of conduct, and mores, manners, and customs. But they also worship in the Catholic church.

The point I took Rollo to be making is that reciprocity based ethics, whether lex taliones or golden rule, leave out the bigger issues that now render us so vulnerable. As we bargain, barter, favor-trade, give prid pro quo and treat others as we want to be treated, in varous permutations of the above, the biosphere is dying. We are putting ourselves out of business as surely as a nuclear holocaust. Yet our morality has no purchase on planet-cide.

Calling earth "Gaia," or mother earth, is an effort to treat our relationship with nature as ethical, but it is also easily and often ridiculed by the Christian right, and conservatives, as "paganism."

(Lowly mammal inserts himself momentarily and then is forced to slip the surface mega-quick in the face of a coordinated assault. He is not mole enough to believe these assaults are aimed at him, but he is not man enough to avoid them altogether. Peace out.)

Explore  the golden rule. Doesn't that make it less simple? Back in jejeune of '86, I asserted that the golden rule was maybe misguided. Wouldn't it be more considerate to treat the other as they  would like to be treated? Probably not so useful a point, easy to whack. Be my guest (if you would like  to be my guest.)

Calling earth "Gaia," or mother earth, is an effort to treat our relationship with nature as ethical, but it is also easily and often ridiculed by the Christian right, and conservatives, as "paganism."

Is it just as easily ridiculed if earth is not personified as mother? "Please brother, the earth is the source of our life, in concert with the sun, call it what you will but call it -- it must be called, and settled, for you, for me, for all."

Mole, there's some confusion between simple and easy. As one explores the Golden Rule, complexity inevitably arises. This is what keeps left wing Christians off the air. They simply cannot say, "your mortagage will paid if keep the faith".

Wouldn't it be more considerate to treat the other as they would like to be treated? Probably not so useful a point, easy to whack.

Whacking that empathy would be cheap sophistry, dishonest and undermine the basis of making the Golden Rule workable.

Tutor, is it stretching the limits to say planetcide is the result of narrowing the Golden Rule? Dumping toxins where my extended affinity group would never have to deal with them might not violate the letter of it, but it is an uncharitable interpretation of the spirit. And now, of course, globalization ensures the toxins will come back no matter how far away they're dumped.

Two assholes fighting, we can say for sure the winner will be - that's right! - an asshole.
For the gifted my manic friend, any style is easily imitated. The CIA's got a small legion of gifted mimics on their payroll. La and di da.
There is the possibility that imitation is subjective, that what's been imitated was only what was perceived not necessarily what was there in its entirety. Could be, eh?
People who hate jokes they don't get will often insist those jokes they don't get aren't funny.
The alternative being a humble recognition of one's limits.
We went from point A to point Zero here somehow, but any close reading I think will show there wasn't much dialog on your end.
You say a thing, I disagree, and say why, and put forward an alternative. You retreat into nastiness and viciously irrational self-defense.
You wrote this:
"The Golden Rule predates the Judeo-Christian ethic by millenia and is, in fact, the alleged basis for most religions."
It's fatuous nonsense, with no basis in earth-reality. Said to win an argument by closing it down.
Then you freak out when that's called.
Your biases are showing, and the same selfishness you try to attack saturates your weapons.
There's no obfuscation, and the original subject was mysticism.
My overall point is these are all moral contests, and the guys who are winning are more honest than most of their opposition. They see the void in abstract moral principles, and they fill it with their own metric.
A morality that says what benefits "us" is good, what doesn't is either inconsequential or bad. When you don't have goals in common with them there's no moral conversation possible.
Unless there's some kind of universal morality.
They like themselves, love their kids, want those rosy future times to come, for themselves. And you oppose that with?
Same thing only with you at the center, or yours.
You may think there's a difference, but you don't articulate one.
It's like arguing with another species, eventually it comes down to an assertion - of being, an insistence on the championing of something.
If all you're championing is the self, your own, you're playing by the same rules as the winners.
Fundamentalists are ridiculed when they deny Darwinian evolution in theory, by people who in the main deny Darwinian evolution in practice.
The Golden Rule is limited by the vision of the participants.
Religion is about augmenting the limits of our vision, or it's supposed to be.
Without some kind of spiritual or metaphysical gravity all we have is carnal flux.
Arguing on moral grounds with something that's trying to eat you is pointless, and weak.

In certain religious traditions, including a major stream of catholicism, the carnal flux's only alternative is some kind of anti-gravity. See Aug., Conf. XIII.

"It's like arguing with another species...that is trying to eat you." A n improvement, maybe, on Wittgenstein's aphorism, "If a lion could talk, we would not understand him."

Let's say we call this tribalism, for want to a better word. And let's say there were those whose work and writings were meant to tighten tribal bonds in part by deepening incomprehension of the other tribes, by fostering animosity, and by fomenting endless war. Such is Strauss's philosophy of the state, created in opposition to the enemy. Propagandists and myth-makers deepen the divides until everyone is the same, except for those so different they must be eliminated. We raise our hands to show we are in the tribe when the tribal leaders passes, on our arms a brand, over our heads a banner.

Against that you can say you have just another tribe. I think, though, that there are those whose "enemy" is the closed mind and the closed tribal world. Poets undermining cliches, dramatists undermining stereoptypes, teachers of socratic reasoning, tricksters, boundary spanners, irrepressible pariahs - their goal may not be to win a tribal war, but to enlighten. Science too, and sometimes commerce have that effect.

Dems versus repubs, blue and red is becoming a tribal war fed by propagandists. Religion is fed into that as just another tribal bonding agent, subordinate, really, to the leaders who ride the carnal flux to power.

Thinking straight, thinking critically, breaking down one's own tribal walls, and intellectual limits, is hard work, and painful. Conversations like this on the margins of the public thoroughfare are the best relief I have found.

Maybe it's just a matter of hammers and chisels and a big block of promising marble. Commerce has commandeered the great majority of tools and those who long to sculpt must hew to them. There are other chisels banging around, other hammers, too, but they are precious, few. Who picks these up and hazards a flying chip? Who has never seen a chisel or a hammer but lives in a land of broken axles and dreams a flying chunk? Who believes they are creating the subject and who believes they are freeing the magic form trapped within? Which of the hammerless will throw themselves against the monolith to press the flesh into relief? Which of the chiselers will spirit away, and with what? Which butterfly alights, and which flits by, teasing unseen fissures, pleasing eyes?

Fall away, now, let the form reveal, fall away. Revealing... wot?

I believe you have a little Linus in you, mole-hole.

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