I fixed dinner tonight and had the GF over (a joy to be around, nicest woman in the world), with several blues CDs in the background (Robert Cray, Willie Edwards, Junior Parker, et al.) as we ate and drank.

Eventually, the talk turned to singing. After decades playing in bar bands, where I let my “fingers do the walking,” (and if you recognize that reference, you’re dating yourself), last winter I decided to try my hand at vocals after our new band’s vocalist ghosted when we had three-and-a-half sets of material down and I was ready to start booking us. (No obvious problems musically or with anybody in the band, no warning — he just disappeared. I’m still slightly pissed at the lack of courtesy, but mostly disappointed and mystified, as we sounded good and were almost ready to go.)

So, we were high and dry. To keep things from crashing, I decided to try my hand at singing, and I sucked. Bad. I’m not quite as bad now, but still not good. I do a decent job on about 10 songs (embarrassingly badly on maybe another 20), but am obviously in the “Our guitar player will sing one for you now” category when we have a better vocalist. (Any good, local (Tucson), left-of-center vocalists reading this, please leave a comment.)

Anyway, the GF has a great sense of rhythm (good dancer) and seems to have an instinctive understanding of the blues (she’s lived a hard enough life for it–which, frankly, is important if you’re gonna get it right), but when I suggested that I haul out the acoustic in a “judgment-free zone” and play a few tunes with her doing vocals, she recoiled in horror, and said she “can’t” even try it — which meant “won’t.”

I’ve run into this over and over, including with myself. I’ve been playing in bands for decades, but it’s only over the last half-year or so that I’ve even tried singing. With the blues band (great players one and all), none of them would even do shouting (no singing, no being on pitch necessary) in call-and-response tunes. I’d go, “C’mon! you don’t even need to sing! Just bounce off me!” And they wouldn’t do it. No way, no how. They were petrified. They’ve all spent thousands of hours playing their instruments, and are all great players, but vocals? No way, no how. The horror! The horror!

This caused me to look at my own previous reluctance to even try singing, and to remember what I was telling my self-sabotaging self when I chickened out:

  • “I sound like shit! I’ll be humiliated!”
  • “I can’t stand it if that’d happen!”
  • “It’d be awful! Absolutely awful!”
  • “I’m such a good player, I shouldn’t need to sing!”

I still sound like shit (mostly–pretty decent on a few tunes), and am still embarrassed by my vocals, but here’s what I tell myself to keep the anxiety under control:

  • If I sound like shit, it ain’t the end of the world;
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan both thought they sounded awful–were they? (In other words my self-criticality isn’t necessarily accurate.)
  • Again, if I make a fool of yourself vocally, what’s the worst that can happen? Will I die? Go bankrupt? Will my honey walk away from me in disgust because of bad vocals? (No)
  • Would I be better off if I sing, even badly? (Yes)
  • Most people are so self-absorbed they’ll barely register whether I’m good, bad, or indifferent. So, why not?
  • The critical jerks are mostly a bunch of insecure, incompetent assholes, too — so why not?
  • What real harm can nasty comments do to me?

And that’s the key: what you tell yourself.

With singing, get over the initial embarrassment and you might have a hell of a lot of fun. Maybe not, but why not try? You have nothing to lose except your embarrassment.

 


We’re about to elect Joe Biden, objectively a horrible choice (Jeffrey Dahmer, if we could resurrect him. would be better — “Dahmer: Waste Not Want Not”). Biden will undoubtedly do whatever he can to forestall major change — change that would benefit the vast majority of people.

But he might get pressured into it. It’d be in line with his entire career-trajectory, where he bends with the wind; but he’s not an idiot.

That said, I fear that the corporate Democrats will make the same horrible (perhaps deliberate) mistake they did back in the ’70s, with busing: How the hell did they think people wouldn’t be pissed about that? Their kids going over an hour on a bus one way to go to a shitty school, where they’d likely be bullied? (Of course this happened with black kids the other way round, but to a better school.) Rather than demand what was obviously needed — equal funding per student regardless of district or school — they tried to put it all in terms of race, to take everything out of the hide of the white working class, rather than out of the hide of the rich, and portray the busing atrocity as racists.

If you want to set racially diverse people against each other, this is it: divide and conquer, set it up as as an artificial-scarcity economy, and set it up in racial rather than economic terms.

The “take it out of the hide of the white working class” mindset stems directly from the father of neo-liberalism, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who came up with it: as regards schooling, portray those who didn’t want their kids busing an hour to shitty schools as “racists.” In no way push for equal funding for schools: just posit it in terms of artificial scarcity, where “privileged” whites are fucking over black kids.

Never mind that all kids are being fucked over under the present economic arrangement.

It worked. A lot of white working class people hate black folks as a result (don’t deny it), and consider them a threat. A lot of them voted for Trump.

Now, I hear a jargon term, lot of crap that doesn’t inform and will alienate white working class folks: “white privilege” — as if being a month from losing your home, losing your job, not having health insurance, and not even having $500 to pay for an emergency is “privilege.”

This is simply grotesque. White upper-middle-class guilt. (And, hey, fuck y’all, you PC assholes!)

What’s coming up next, on the part of the economic elite, is an attempt to install “reparations” — god knows how they’d be calculated or how they’d be taken out of us (guaranteed — Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, white working class, out of our hides).

If you really want to look at “reparations,” paying back for people who’ve been fucked over, the inexorable conclusion is that we all deserve “reparations.” We all created the wealth monopolized by the top 1%. (Tell me that my illiterate granddad, who died from silicosis after working in a foundry for 40 years, was “white privileged,” and I’ll tell you how far up your ass to stick it.)

“Reparations” don’t go nearly far enough. Hundreds of generations created our collective wealth.

We deserve to share it equally.

 

 

 

 


Image  —  Posted: July 4, 2020 in Livin' in the USA, Politics
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MOUNT RUSHMORE, n. An aesthetic disaster in South Dakota. A desecrated mountain bearing the likenesses of four dead politicians chiseled into its flanks–in other words, graffiti tagging taken to its logical extreme. Every year, this unnatural wonder is reverently viewed by hundreds of thousands of camera-toting, polyester-clad Americans, a people who cherish kitsch ugliness as they do the infliction of pain.

(As regards Mr. Tangerine Man’s personality cult, the mass of plague enthusiasts who’ll shortly befoul that formerly beautiful mountain with an orgy of chest-beating and butt-kissing, H.L. Mencken had their number a century ago: “The American people, taking one with another, constitute the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages.”)

* * *

–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the 21st-century successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


An awe-struck professor at ASU looking up at the Sagittarius star cloud rising above the Santa Ritas in June 2020. (Check out “The Teapot” asterism  in the exact center of this image, with Scorpius a middle-right.) This is only 45 miles south of my house in central Tucson, and less than an hour away. We took our eyes, binocs, and an 8″ and a 10″ telescope, and were blown away for several hours. For those who the following has meaning, we looked at double stars (Nu Scorpii, Albireo), open clusters (M6, M7, M11, M 25, Coma Berenices), Galaxies (M51, M65, M66, M95, M96, M101, the Sombrero), globular clusters (M4, M10, M13, M22, Omega Centauri), nebulae (the Lagoon, the Triffid, the Eagle), and planets (Jupiter, Saturn). The Milky Way was so bright when it rose that several people thought it was a cloud. The high point was that at high magnification using averted vision we could see the spiral arms in M51, the nearest spiral galaxy where that’s (barely) possible with a 10″ scope.

There’s still a lot of beauty out there, folks. Enjoy! (Photo by Elaine Jones of elainjonespr.com)

And as the song says, “What’s so funny about peace love and understanding?” And appreciation of the beautiful universe we all share?


Since June 1, over half of our e-books have been on sale at all of the usual e-book vendors (Kobo, Apple, Amazon, etc.). Most are priced at $.99, and none of the sale titles are above $2.99. The sale ends on Tuesday, June 30. So, if you want to get some cheap, worthwhile e-books, now’s the time. The sale titles are as follows. The sale ends at midnight.

Science Fiction

  • Sleep State Interrupt, by T.C. Weber
  • The Wrath of Leviathan, by T.C. Weber
  • Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia, by Zeke Teflon
  • The Watcher, by Nicholas T. Oakley

Classic Fiction

  • The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition, by Upton Sinclair

Anarchism/Politics

  • Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, by Rafael Uzcátegui
  • Venezuelan Anarchism: The History of a Movement, by Rodolfo Montes de Oca
  • The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations, Chaz Bufe, ed.
  • The Best of Social Anarchism, Howard Ehrlich and a.h.s. boy, eds.

Science

  • Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science, by John Grant

Humor

  • The American Heretic’s Dictionary, by Chaz Bufe
  • Bible Tales for Ages 18 and Up, by G. Richard Bozarth

Atheism

  • Disbelief 101: A Young Person’s Guide to Atheism, by S.C. Hitchcock
  • Spiritual Snake Oil: Fads & Fallacies in Pop Culture, by Chris Edwards

Performing Arts

  • Stage Fright: 40 Stars Tell You How They Beat America’s #1 Fear, by Mick Berry and Michael Edelstein
  • An Understandable Guide to Music Theory: The Most Useful Aspects of Theory for Rock, Jazz, and Blues Musicians

It’s hard to believe, but there are a few good things coming out of the Coronavirus, economic, and systemic racism crises. The personal and societal tragedies far outweigh these bright spots, but they’re worth mentioning nonetheless. It’s always good to remind oneself that things aren’t quite as bad as they seem.

Here are some of the silver linings. Let’s take the darkest, foulest of “silver linings” — a “silver lining” akin to that you’d get by dropping a scratched-up, stamped-metal spoon into a septic tank, hauling it out two years later, holding it up to the sun, and regarding its glowing, rusty edge alight with filigreed fecal matter: that glowing, tangerine-colored fecal matter being Donald Trump. Here are the relatively good things about him:

  • Donald Trump is a moron, too stupid to understand his own best interests. Yes, Trump’s incompetence, his complete failure to lead during a deadly pandemic, has already cost well over 100,000 lives, and will likely lead to at least twice that. But when he came into office, Trump had a chance to completely destroy what passes for American democracy — that chance supplied by both the outright racist, authoritarian Republican Party and the screw-the-poor, authoritarian, corporate-servant Democrats, such as the Clintons, Obama, Holder, Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi, who all pursued Republican economic and social policies that resulted in an ever-expanding wealth gap, grossly inadequate and unequal healthcare and education, mass incarceration, and the police as uniformed, above-the-law terrorists.

If the Republicans had placed in power a capable fascist, who handled the Coronavirus pandemic competently, it’d likely be game over: he’d be immensely popular — and he’d have ushered in outright totalitarianism, which Trump obviously yearns for. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Republicans installed Donald Trump, an outright idiot, too stupid to understand even the most basic of his own best interests. (We’re talking about a man so stupid he managed to bankrupt several casinos — otherwise known as licenses to print money — who began receiving a $200,000-a-year allowance at age three, who received over $400 million from his dad, and who was so incompetent he’d be much better off today if he’d just put his money into an index fund.) Trump’s self-sabotaging stupidity has given us vitally necessary breathing room.

  • Trump is a bullying sadist who brags about sexually assaulting women and his anti-LGBT Bigotry. Trump’s boasting about his sexual assaults, with over 20 credible accusers, including three who’ve accused him of rape; his utterly creepy comments about how “hot” his daughter is and how he’d like to date her; his condescending and dismissive attitude toward women; and his assaults on women’s reproductive rights have left him massively unpopular with women, and hence headed for defeat. (I’m a guy, and reading about Trump’s assaults on women leaves me wanting to take a shower; I’m sure the reaction is even more visceral for most women.)

Trump has also been pandering to his theo-fascist evangelical base by attacking gay human rights. This is already backfiring, furthering isolating the Republicans from the American mainstream.

  • Trump is an outright racist. Race-baiting has always been Trump’s stock in trade. Starting with the Obama birth certificate bullshit, and followed up by separating families seeking asylum (literally tearing babies out of their mothers’ arms), locking immigrant kids up in cages, and attempting to deport kids who were brought here without documentation and have spent their entire lives here, Trump has made it very plain that one of the most important Republican playing cards, perhaps the most important, is outright racism. Since the supposedly decent Republicans have seen fit to in no wise oppose Trump’s vicious actions, they’ve made it plain that racism is the Republican calling card — as it’s been since passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the consequent Republican Southern Strategy, replete with race baiting and voter suppression. Now, that Republican racism is out in the open (no more need for dog whistles), the Republicans have to own it, and they’re on a demographic suicide course. Trump has accelerated this day of reckoning.
  • Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. For this, we should thank Trump. Clinton was the ultimate, entitled, neo-liberal Washington insider. During the 2016 primary campaign, she rained down fire on Bernie Sanders’ mild, common-sense reforms within capitalism (reforms which he inexplicably labeled a “revolution” — bad branding if there ever was bad branding). Clinton was the ultimate status quo candidate. Had she won, the underlying, festering problems — a grossly unequal distribution of wealth and income, an ever-expanding surveillance state, grossly inadequate healthcare, stagnating wages, staggering student debt, an accelerating climate-change crisis — would have gone unaddressed (especially wealth and income distribution), or barely addressed, the Republicans could have run against her without having any real solutions to anything (as has become obvious), they could well have kept control of both the Senate and the House, and in 2020 they could have run an intelligent fascist who could have completely destroyed our sad farce of a democracy en route to an environmental apocalypse. Clinton, her husband, Biden, Obama, et al., paved the way for a Republican fascist. Thank god the Republicans chose one who’s uniquely loathsome and utterly incompetent.

Trump, with his bargain-basement Mussolini act, has alerted a great many people to the looming threat of fascism, and has provoked a huge progressive backlash. Where it will lead, no one knows, but the backlash against Trump, racism, economic disparity, and Trump’s callous, deliberately cruel policies provides at least some hope. One of those hopes is that the Republican Party will become a rump party influential in only the most religiously, socially, and culturally vicious and benighted parts of the country.

There’s one more related, relatively bright spot:

  • Joe Biden is an unprincipled opportunist who’s been in thrall to corporate interests his entire career. He’s made a career of catering to corporate interests (e.g., the bankruptcy bill that made it almost impossible to discharge student debt), advocating mass incarceration (his 1994 crime bill), and supporting Obama’s persecution of patriotic whistle blowers such as Ed Snowden. The good news here is that Biden is an unprincipled opportunist — but a smart one, at least smarter than Trump. He knows which way the wind is blowing, and he’ll probably bend accordingly. He might try to institute at least a few of the desperately needed reforms because he’ll think it’s to his political advantage to do so. I certainly hope so.

We’ll shortly deal with the silver linings of the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic collapse. (And, yes, there are some silver linings there, too.)

 

 


Assaulting an OfficerASSAULTING AN OFFICER, phr. The usual legal charge after your face assaults a nightstick.

* * *

also

PERJURY, n. A common leisure-time activity of policemen.

(from The American Heretic’s Dictionary — I wrote these definitions, and my pal J.R. did the illustration, in the wake of the 1992 Rodney King riots, in which I participated. More on this later today or Thursday.)


Over half of our e-books will be on sale starting today, and will be available at all of the usual e-book vendors (Kobo, Apple, Amazon, etc.). Most are priced at $.99, and none of the sale titles are above $2.99. Here are the temporarily reduced e-books:

Science Fiction

  • Sleep State Interrupt, by T.C. Weber
  • The Wrath of Leviathan, by T.C. Weber
  • Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia, by Zeke Teflon
  • The Watcher, by Nicholas T. Oakley

Classic Fiction

  • The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition, by Upton Sinclair

Anarchism/Politics

  • Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, by Rafael Uzcátegui
  • Venezuelan Anarchism: The History of a Movement, by Rodolfo Montes de Oca
  • The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations, Chaz Bufe, ed.
  • The Best of Social Anarchism, Howard Ehrlich and a.h.s. boy, eds.

Science

  • Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science, by John Grant

Humor

  • The American Heretic’s Dictionary, by Chaz Bufe
  • Bible Tales for Ages 18 and Up, by G. Richard Bozarth

Atheism

  • Disbelief 101: A Young Person’s Guide to Atheism, by S.C. Hitchcock
  • Spiritual Snake Oil: Fads & Fallacies in Pop Culture, by Chris Edwards

Performing Arts

  • Stage Fright: 40 Stars Tell You How They Beat America’s #1 Fear, by Mick Berry and Michael Edelstein
  • An Understandable Guide to Music Theory: The Most Useful Aspects of Theory for Rock, Jazz, and Blues Musicians

Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature, Pamela Bedore, PhD, presenter, Great Courses, 2019.

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

This is a mixed bag. There are 24 half-hour episodes covering many of the major utopian and dystopian works of the last half millennium, and Bedore does a good job of analyzing those running through the 1970s, at which point things go off the rails.

Just before that point, she rightly and insightfully devotes an episode to Ursula LeGuin (“The Dispossessed” and “The Left Hand of Darkness”), but then heads into the thicket of postmodernism and feminist/LGBTQ fiction to the exclusion of almost everything else except YA books (“Great Works of Literature”?) over the last 40 years. (Ironically, in an earlier episode dealing with Orwell, she approvingly quotes his famous essay, “Politics and English Language,” which posits that political writing should be as clear as “a pane of glass” — and then approvingly quotes postmodernist obscurantists such as Lyotard and Foucault in later episodes.)

In the latter episodes, Bedore skews things so badly that she devotes three full episodes to Octavia Butler — a quite good writer, but hardly deserving of a plurality of the post-1970s episodes — and completely ignores the deeply reactionary and thoroughly debunked assumption underlying what’s probably Butler’s most famous work, the Xenogenesis trilogy, treating those books as a flawed utopia. In fact, Bedore seems entirely oblivious to the entirely dystopic political and social associations and implications of Butler’s underlying assumption.

That assumption is that humans are basically competitive rather than cooperative, and hence are doomed to destroy themselves and the earth. This is merely the flip side of the Social Darwinist coin, and it’s no more progressive than that rationale for sociopathic behavior. (Butler doesn’t even provide a plausible way out of this artificial problem, leaving it up to more enlightened aliens to genetically alter humans to make them cooperative. To treat the Xenogenesis trilogy as a utopia is grotesque; it’s more akin to the disgusting, discredited “Lord of the Flies.”)

At any rate, Bedore wastes a lot of time on Butler, while ignoring or giving short shrift to more important writers, such as Margaret Atwood, Iain M. Banks, and (arguably) Ken Macleod, Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, Charles Stross, Rudy Rucker, and Kim Stanley Robinson. She devotes only a woefully superficial half-episode to Atwood’s masterful, extremely complex Maddaddam trilogy. And she totally ignores the premier utopian novels of the last four decades, Banks’ “Culture” novels.

As well, Bedore gives very short shrift to the important eco-catastrophe works of the last several decades. She doesn’t even mention the first, and probably best, climate-change-disaster novel, George Turner’s “Drowning Towers” (1987), which is a literary masterpiece, nor Norman Spinrad’s underrated, nearly ignored master work, “He Walked Among Us” (likely his best book but for, perhaps, “The Iron Dream”) and the only such novel she deals with at any length is Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” whose premise is so absurd (all life on earth extinguished except for humans) that the book should be dismissed out of hand. (Of course, McCarthy is an acclaimed “literary” author, so, at least in academic eyes, he deserves to be taken seriously — as should the postmodernist b.s. artists.)

All in all, Bedore does a good job with the pre-1980 period, but after that, not so much. Of course, the farther back you go the easier it is to make accurate critical judgments, but even so she did a poor job with the post-1970s material.

Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature isn’t terrible. But it could have been so much better.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (large pdf sample here). His latest book is the compilation Godless: 150 Years of Disbelief, published by PM Press, and when the insomnia let’s up and he’s relatively coherent, Zeke is working on the sequel to Free Radicals, an unrelated sci-fi novel, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, and an anarchist compilation for PM.

Free Radicals front cover


@GeorgeTakei
“I didn’t spend my childhood in barbed wire enclosed internment camps so I could listen to grown adults today cry oppression because they have to wear a mask at Costco.”

With the Coronavirus death toll already passing 70,000, and with Trump having royally screwed up the response thus far — where is the testing? where are the contact tracers? where is the PPE? why did Trump sit on his hands for months (January, February, the first half of March) after being warned repeatedly of the grave dangers of the coming pandemic? — one could make a good case that Trump is already guilty of mass negligent homicide. While the virus spread unchecked, Trump did next to nothing; instead, he wasted time downplaying the pandemic, insisting that the virus would “magically” go away. As a result, tens of thousands died. Trump’s inept response to the pandemic is almost certainly the greatest presidential leadership failure in the U.S. over the last half century, perhaps ever. (G.W. Bush’s plot to invade Iraq is a close second.)

In recent weeks, Trump has been undercutting the recommendations of his own Coronavirus task force by touting dangerous quack cures and proven-ineffective treatments. Now, with the virus still raging and another 1,000 to 2,000 Americans dying every day because of it, Trump and his science-denying minions are doing everything they can to ensure that there will be a second, deadly wave of the virus. Trump encourages the thugs, racists, outright Nazis, and deluded corporate tools participating in the astroturf reopening demonstrations, while Republican governors lift stay-at-home restrictions and reopen public gathering places.

These utterly irresponsible words and actions — prematurely opening the economy contrary to the advice of virtually all public health professionals — while the number of cases and deaths continues to rise, and while testing is still severely inadequate, guarantees that there will be a second deadly wave.

Why on earth would Trump want to do this? There are two reasons. The first is that, as is obvious, Trump is a malignant narcissist who cares about no one other than himself and his family. The second reason for this idiotic premature reopening of the economy is that Trump is, in fact, an idiot. It’s entirely possible that he might simply be incapable of understanding the consequences of what he’s are doing.

That’s probably not the case, though. Even though Trump and his minions are refusing to do what’s necessary — massive testing and contact tracing, income support for those who lost their jobs, institution of guaranteed sick leave across the economy, and institution of universal healthcare, while paying for it by taxing the hell out of the rich — there’s almost certainly a darker reason for the Republicans’ irresponsible actions and callous inaction. Trump has quite evidently made the calculation that if the economy recovers quickly and the second wave of infection, suffering, and death sweeps the country after this fall’s election, it’ll improve his prospects of winning a second term. He’s very probably wrong on both counts, but he appears to be dead set on this cold strategy.

Donald Trump and the Republicans have refused to provide anything approaching adequate aid to the tens of millions who have lost their jobs in this time of pandemic. They’ve coerced America’s unemployed workers (at least those who’ll have jobs to go back to) into making a horrible choice: expose yourselves (and your loved ones) to a deadly disease, or lose your homes and starve. As a result, at least tens of thousands more will die unnecessary, cruel deaths.

This isn’t politicking as usual. It’s premeditated mass murder.

 

 


“It was not only sinful but dangerous with a girl, because she might get pregnant. It was unnatural with a boy, because he wouldn’t get pregnant. That seemed to leave sheep; but no, that was abominable. There was your own right hand, but that led to blindness. I think they are lying to us, John thought.”

–The Earth Will Shake


For the last month I’ve been self-isolating, and have been working on a long-neglected project. Since 2014 or 2015, I’ve been intending to expand 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity (an 8,000-word pamphlet I wrote 20 years ago) to book length, and to increase the number of topics it covers. The purpose of 20 Reasons was to list all of the misery-producing traits of Christianity in one place, and I was pleased with the result when the pamphlet appeared in 2000, but over the years I gradually realized that the topic deserved much more extensive treatment.

With the election of Trump (with his evangelical true-believer base), the project took on more urgency, and now with the onset of the pandemic and consequent self-isolation, I finally have the time and motivation to finish the book.

At the moment I’ve written somewhere north of 30,000 words, and will likely write at least that many more by the time I finish the first draft in, I hope, late May or early June. The following is the first draft of Chapter 11, one of the new chapters. I’ll undoubtedly alter and expand it over the next month or two.

* * *

Christianity has an exceedingly narrow, legalistic view of morality

Everything which is not forbidden is allowed.” – the Lotus Principle (English common law)

Christians have certainly taken that principle to heart: they at least pretend to obey the dictates of the Bible (and their priests, popes, and preachers), while acting as if anything not specifically prohibited – no matter how sleazy, unethical, or outright monstrous – is perfectly fine, precisely because it is not prohibited by what they consider the only moral code: that expounded in the Bible.

They often pretend to keep the Bible’s commands punctiliously (keeping all of these commands would be utterly impossible), and to underline the sacredness of those commands will cite Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:18: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Of course, they only keep those biblical commands they choose to keep, especially those in vogue among their fellow Christians and those most open to public view.

The words of Jesus in Matthew 5:18 sum up Christian morality: follow the law as prescribed in the Bible.

But what a law!

Here are the most prominent prohibitions in the Bible, the Ten Commandments. (This very common list is an abbreviated version of the commands in Exodus 20.)

  1. I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange gods before Me.
  2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

  3. Thou shalt not make any graven image

  4. Keep holy the Sabbath day.

  5. Honor thy father and mother.

  6. Thou shalt not kill.

  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

  8. Thou shalt not steal.

  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

This is a rather minimal set of moral precepts. The first three commandments, presumably considered the most important by their author, speak only to the pettiness of that author. The fourth seems reasonable except that it implies wasting time on religious rites. The fifth also seems reasonable, but does it really merit being a fundamental part of a brief moral code? The sixth is more than reasonable and should be a basic part of any code of morals – and it’s a pity that the Old Testament god repeatedly commanded its followers to violate it. The seventh commandment makes sense to some, but again, should it be a fundamental part of a moral code? Aren’t there other things a bit more important? The eighth is also reasonable and should be part of any code of morals, as should the ninth. And the tenth commandment is simply weird: stealing is already prohibited by the eighth commandment, so why include this thought crime unless part of the author’s purpose was to control the thoughts as well as the actions of believers.

Let’s see what else the Bible prohibits or condemns. (This is far from a complete list of biblical prohibitions/condemnations, and in most cases there are additional Bible verses prohibiting or condemning these things. Almost everything else the Bible condemns or prohibits is equally trivial or absurd as the list that follows.)

  • Working on the sabbath (death penalty). (Exodus 31:14-15, Exodus 35:1-2, Numbers 15:32-36)
  • Worshiping other gods or idols (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 13:6-9, Deuteronomy 17:2-5, Colossians 3:5)
  • Cursing one’s parents (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 17:24)
  • Rebelliousness (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
  • Witchcraft (death penalty). (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:27)
  • Eating shellfish (an abomination). (Leviticus 11:10-12)
  • Blasphemy (death penalty). (Leviticus 24:14-16)
  • Wearing mixed fabrics. (Leviticus 19:19, Deuteronomy 22:11)
  • And, of course, sacrificing a blemished ox. (Deuteronomy 17:1)

But where the authors of the Bible really get hot and bothered is in their condemnation of sex. The Bible explicitly prohibits or condemns the following:

  • Adultery (an abomination and a death penalty). (abomination: Ezekiel 23:36-37, Leviticus 18:20, 27; death penalty: Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22, Ezekiel 23:45-47)

  • Fornication (death penalty). (Leviticus 21:9; death penalty: Ezekiel 16:35-40)

  • Cross dressing (abomination). (Deuteronomy 22:5)

  • Homosexuality (abomination and death penalty). (abomination: Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13; death penalty: Leviticus 20:13)

  • Sex with an “unclean” woman (abomination). (Leviticus 18:19, 27)

  • Being a rape victim but not crying out (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

  • Inability to prove (female) virginity (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

  • Sex with wife and mother-in-law (death penalty). (Leviticus 20:14)

  • Bestiality (death penalty and abomination). (death penalty: Exodus22:19, Leviticus 20:15; abomination: Leviticus 18: 23, 27)

  All of this begs the question, what doesn’t the Bible prohibit?

  • Slavery. The Bible nowhere condemns it, and in many places condones it, and even includes instructions on how to (mis)treat slaves. (See Chapter 16). And in one notable passage (Exodus 21:20-21) explicitly treats slaves as property.

  • Torture. The Bible not only doesn’t forbid torture anywhere in its nearly 800,000 words — it commands it: a number of passages order believers to not only kill, but to torture transgressors to death by burning or stoning (e.g., Leviticus 20:14, 20:27, 21:9). One might also mention that the Almighty is more than a bit of a sadist, as witnessed by, to choose but two among many examples, its horrific treatment of Job and its mental torture of Abraham

  • Rape. Not only doesn’t the Bible forbid rape, but in many instances God commands it, including child rape. Numbers 31:17-18 provides a “twofer”: in it, God not only orders child rape, but also mass murder.

  • Racism. There is not a single word in the Bible condemning it.

  • (Aggressive) Violence. Nowhere does the Bible condemn physical aggression. Rather, it commands it, over and over again.

  • Coercion. Again, the Bible nowhere condemns coercion. On the contrary, the relationship of God to its “chosen people” is coercive almost in its entirety, and what is slavery (which is implicitly condoned by the Bible) if not the ultimate form of coercion?

  • Cruelty. The Bible nowhere condemns it, and large parts of the Old Testament glory in it.

  • Mass Murder. God explicitly commands it (Hittites, Canaanites, and other victims of the “chosen people” in the “promised land”).

All of this helps to explain why so many Christians behave so abominably toward their fellow humans and other animals. They’ve learned from the example of their “moral” guide, and think that as long as they observe some of the injunctions in the Bible, especially those relating to sex, they’ll be “saved.” Beyond that, they believe they have complete carte blanche to do anything, no matter how cruel or vile. (Here, one can’t help but think of religiously observant mafia members, and of the Catholic Church which is only too happy to welcome them and take their money. One can’t also help but think of the torturers and torture implements employed by the church for centuries during the medieval and Renaissance periods.)

In response, Christian apologists would point out that there are many passages in the New Testament, especially those purporting to be the words of Jesus, prescribing kindness and tolerance. What they don’t point out is that in Matthew 5:18 Jesus specifically endorsed, as “the law,” all of the terrible things cited above, and that he never denounced the horrors of slavery or torture. That there are some good things in the Bible doesn’t excuse the many awful things in it, nor its many grave moral omissions.

It’s not hard to come up with a much better and much shorter list of “commandments.” In fact, The Satanic Temple (whose members have been aptly described as “atheism’s shock troops”) has done so with its Seven Fundamental Tenets:

  1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.
  2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  3. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.
  5. Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.
  6. People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.
  7. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

You decide, which seems a better moral guide, the Ten Commandments or the Seven Fundamental Tenets?


Image  —  Posted: April 12, 2020 in Christianity, Religion