Posted by: terrapraeta | December 10, 2009

God Isn’t Dead — She’s Red!


Don’t draw your own conclusion.
Submit to the grand illusion.
Get on your knees.

There will be no absolution.
No final step of evolution.
The end is near.

I, I, I am the president.
I, I, the emperor.
I, I, I am the king of the world.

The only good god is a dead god.
The only god good for me.
The only good god is a dead god, baby.
The only damn god I need.

Marilyn Manson, Dead God

I finally finished both volumes of Jensen’s Endgame. Good stuff and it gave me lots to think about. Yesterday morning I began Vine Delorias God Is Red. Another good one and it is already sparking a number of thoughts. In fact, work was so slow yesterday that I made it through almost half the book.

One of the things that immediately struck me was a discussion about Christian anthropomorphism of the deity. God is always represented as an old human male, characterized as the ultimate family patriarch: very much a patriarch in the terms of our culture as Jensen relates. Violent and vengeful and abusive but also all-loving. As if those things can honestly co-exist.

Meanwhile, in Native American tribal belief systems, however the Great Spirit is described, it is almost always as an unknown, unseen force without anthropomorphic form. I found this to be an interesting thing to point out, seeing as how Christian theology, based in Hebrew tradition supposedly relates back to the ten commandments. And how did that go? Oh yeah: Thou shalt make no idol…..

In fact, in reading Vine I am seeing a whole lot more of the internal inconsistencies of Christian thought. I’ve always been aware that there is a lot of hypocrisy in (especially) modern Christian thought and behavior. But I find in reading this, I am seeing a whole lot more obvious contradiction, and I expect that is because Vine is truly an “outsider” looking in. At least far more so than most modern humans. Good stuff.

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Responses

  1. “Violent and vengeful and abusive but also all-loving. As if those things can honestly co-exist.”

    Yeah, but… ain’t the universe so? Well, ok, skip the vengeful and substitute “weirder than hell.”

  2. Hey —

    I don’t know what you mean? The world, IMO, is neither violent (in terms of “violation”) nor abusive…..

    tp

  3. Well, what I mean is… maybe it isn’t so surprising that some people see God (or Mother Nature) as violent and abusive as well as loving… because, well, riding a crazy universe on a hunk of rock with a thin layer of life clinging to it, with howling cold and chaos overhead, not knowing where it goes and why… and with all manner of disasters hanging over us, coming down like a hammer of Zeus often enough….

    All those critters fried to a crisp 13,000 ya in N America when the comet busted into Canada… maybe they did wonder for a moment why the universe was abusing them so?

  4. Hey —

    Except to any animal “in tune” with its environment doesn’t experience the world as chaotic, filled with disasters… and sure, the meteor hit was pretty chaotic I’m sure… but I think you are conflating “death” with “abuse” in that case. Lots of things died, but abuse is chronic, it IS chaotic and it is above all personal

    tp

  5. Just sayin… that’s the kinda universe it is, one that busts people’s chops sometimes… not surprising folks would take it personally…

    If having celestial bodies running around smacking into planets at random isn’t chaotic, I don’t know what is… 😉

  6. Hey —

    I dunno…. you are seeing this, at some fundamental level, very much opposite of how I see it. Just the whole frame of “busting peoples chops”….. if you do something stupid, of course you’re gonna get burned. Civ for example. But if you are paying attention and participating, then you are in the midst of a mutually supportive relationship.

    Even the celestial bodies aren’t actually “running around randomly.” They are following thier own rules and occasionally those rules lead to “disaster.” But so what? On our time scale it happens very rarely, and who are we to say that the end results are “good” or “bad” — they could be both. They could be life affirming in the long run………..

    I dunno… babbling….

    tp

  7. Eh… just saying that I can understand where someone is coming from when they picture God as both loving and violent… is all. I don’t see it as unreasonable.

    Ya don’t believe in randomness being built in to the universe?

  8. Hey —

    Fair enough….

    Oh… yes, I do “believe” in randomness…. I’m an old time science nerd. Most especially cosmology, quantum physics, string theory, chaos theory… and evolution. But I probably experience randomness differently now, than most people interested in those topics……….

    tp

  9. Vera,
    I think that what is unreasonable is this idea that the universe is doing these things TO YOU (whoever you is). When something catastrophic happens, the universe isn’t considering you at all.

    Apart from that I have a:

    Mild nitpick.

    When most people say random, they really mean arbitrary. It is, in fact, very difficult to pick a random number from 1 to 10, but very easy to pick an arbitrary one.

    JimFive

  10. Of course the universe is doing those things to me, since I am on the receiving end. Regardless of awareness.

    Is the universe aware of what it is doing? Apparently you dismiss it out of hand… I think there is some sort of awareness, though not in the sense of micromanagement.

    One thing I am sure of though: when I hear people making pronouncements about how the universe IS, I feel irritated because I value epistemological humility.

  11. > Of course the universe is doing those
    > things to me, since I am on the receiving end.
    The fact that you experience something does not imply that it was done purposely to affect your life. The universe is doing things. That those things affect you is irrelevant to the universe.

    When a tornado goes through the midwest the locations of the towns are irrelevant to the tornado. The tornado goes where it wants to go and if we happen to be in the way then we call it a catastrophe.

    JimFive

  12. @Vera
    I would also be interested in knowing what I said that makes you think that I dismiss the idea of an aware universe?

    JimFive

  13. Hey —

    quickie…. the metaphor in this case…. when you eat something fermented, you play havoc with the intestinal flora in your gut… does that mean that you are doing ecocide to your intestinal bacteria?

    tp

  14. Jimfive, I was arguing earlier that it seems reasonable that folks take the violence and love extant in the universe and apply it to God. (To use the intestinal flora argument: a colony of intestinal bugs going through the ongoing vagaries of the gut, being supported at times, and harmed at other times, could infer the same. If it could infer.) This is not implying that the human wishes to harm her intestinal flora, or that God wishes to harm humans. It simply describes what is experienced from the human (gut flora) vantage point. Am I coming across?

    “When something catastrophic happens, the universe isn’t considering you at all.” “That those things affect you is irrelevant to the universe.” And you know that… how exactly?

  15. Hey vera —

    I think it is reasonable for folks to “take the violence and love extant in the universe and apply it to god” — if and only if, they have no relationship with the rest of creation.

    And that is exactly the point at which I was disputing with you. What does one see when there IS relationship?

    No longer, then, are things done to you, but rather, you have failed to pay attention and respond appropriately to what your relations are telling you. For example of what I mean… look at the Sentinelese. You know…. the ones that survived the 2004 Tsunami simply because they were paying attention…..

    tp

  16. I don’t accept what you say because that creates — if I read you correctly — a “blame the victim” situation… did the people who were killed by the tsunami fail somehow to make “relationship”? (And some Sentinelese were probably killed, as well as other tribesfolk on other islands. Was it through their own failure?!)

    We don’t get damaged (and ultimately killed) by the universe because we have somehow failed to build relationships, and people who do build relationships are not immune from the same.

    I mean, sheesh, whichever tribes people were killed when Tunguska hit, did they fail somehow to see it coming?!

    Similarly, one could argue that people who get abused by their relatives have somehow failed too. I do not accept such argumentation!!! (Obviously.) So I am not sure where you are going with this…. (?)

  17. > “When something catastrophic
    > happens, the universe isn’t
    > considering you at all.” “That those
    > things affect you is irrelevant to the universe.”
    > And you know that… how exactly?

    At the risk of sounding facetious, the universe told me. If you prefer a more mundane explanation, then by projection. At most, I am to the universe as a skin cell is to my body. While I don’t go out my way to harm my skin cells, I don’t go out of my way to keep them from harm either. Most of the time, I don’t consider them at all, and never as individual entities. There is more to this knowledge, however. From our vantage, hurricane Katrina was a disaster. However, it was only a disaster because there were people living in its path. The hurricane went where it wanted to go, it would have gone there if no people had been there and it went there while people were there. The presence of people made no difference to the hurricane.

    Now, to bring this around to what I see as the primary point of discussion: Was hurricane Katrina abusive?

    Violent, perhaps. Disruptive, certainly. But I wouldn’t agree with abusive. Abusive implies an intent to do harm that I don’t think exists.

    JimFive

  18. Nice analogy. Does the body make sure its liver cells are ok? Is it in some way aware of what is going on? Sure it does and sure it is. Intricate loops of feedback everywhere. If a liver cell dies, it has repercussions, only multiplied when many die. The body knows. Why would the universe be any different?

    You may not keep your liver cells from harm, but your organism does, very much so!

    In any case, I did not object to you having a different view of it than I; what I did object to is you speaking as though THIS IS HOW IT IS AND I KNOW FOR CERTAIN. Hogwash on that…

    Is there intent to do harm within the universe? I sometimes speculate that there are spiritual forces out there that are hostile to human beings. Not that I blame them. Do I know? No way… just some dark thoughts sometimes… Mostly I think the universe is trying very hard to come down on the side of life and love.

  19. Hey vera —

    “Blame the victim” — no, not exactly. But yes, the victim is culpable for the part they played in the situation. If I walked out in front of speeding car, I would be to blame for my own death/injury. To live in the world and pretend as if it does not matter… or that it is not relevant, that is to invite death or injury. To then turn around and blame the car is absurd.

    People that are part of the universe still die. Of course. But thier perception of what is going on is very different. As far as I heard, they believe none of the Sentinelese were killed (likewise the native animals) by the tsunami itself. And if they had, it would have simply been time. Everyone dies, whether by act of nature, disease, old age, or violence… so why would one way of dying be “victimization” while others are not?

    People that are abused, are somewhat culpable as well. Very young children — no — then it is thier other family members that are culpable. When one is abused, it is because (again, excepting children) one has accepted that abuse. Mother’s that fail to defend thier childen are as much to blame as father’s that abuse (and vice versa) Now… just like the application to civ culture overall… some forgiveness is applicable when we recognize learned helplessness and cycles of abuse. But there is STILL only one way to stop it. And that is for the victim to stand up and say NO MORE.

    This is different in the cases of violence between strangers, or any one off situation. A woman that is raped because she was walking down the street (or for any other innocuous reason) is not to blame. She is truly a victim. But then, even so, it is up to her to get past it and heal. No one else can do it for her.

    tp

  20. Hey —

    I think Jim’s skin cell analogy was more apt. Liver cells (just like skin cells) die all the time. And the body as a whole could not care less. Now if there is disease — massive die off of cells — then the body will notice, but even then there is only very little it can do on its own.

    So… metaphorically, IF the universe notices or cares that people die… there is no reason to believe that it can do something about it, even if it wants to….

    Not to be too obnoxious…. but the “religious” always claim faith………. whereas the spiritual “just know”. I prefer spirituality myself 😉

    tp

  21. Eh… I don’t even know what we arguing about anymore. 😉

  22. I just wanted to add that I don’t accept the dualism inherent in referring to my body as an organism separate from me.

    Apart from that I think we’ve been talking at cross purposes. I’m not sure, vera, what you were trying to say about God and the universe and my response against the idea that the universe is abusive may have been a diversion.

    JimFive

  23. I am not referring to your body as a separate organism. I am referring to it as something that knows how to run things apart from the organism’s conscious knowing & doing (the you). A way of describing a reality.

    I was simply saying that I understand how a person would see God/universe both loving and, er, … destructive and violent.

  24. > I am not referring to your body as a
    > separate organism. I am referring to
    > it as something that knows how to run
    > things apart from the organism’s
    > conscious knowing & doing (the you).
    > A way of describing a reality.

    Umm…That’s precisely what I was talking about. You have separated mind from body–Classic Dualism.

    JimFive

  25. How would you describe it then? How would you describe that your organism knows how to keep the liver or the heart going, without your conscious mind being involved?

    I am not separating mind and body. I am pointing out that our conscious knowing is limited, and that we do well to leave other stuff to our unconscious organismic knowing.

  26. I think what I am saying is that there are many ways of knowing. Organismic knowing is one of them.

  27. Well, hi.

    Couple of notes: vera didn’t introduce the word “abusive”…pondering the etymology there…

    And JimFive, I’m always glad to get new angles on the philosophy of probability – have you read The Black Swan?

    Thanks for the random/arbitrary distinction, I haven’t thought about the word “arbitrary” before, and I’m pondering the etymology there too, who is the presumed “arbiter” there? I guess that takes us back to “acts of God”, and we’re back where we started.

    John

  28. Hey —

    No, you’re right John.. “abusive” was fromt he original article….

    When speaking of “picking a random number” the “picker” is the arbiter. When speaking of randomness in nature, then the universe itself is arbiter….

    and on the duality thing…. conscious mind…. unconscious mind… subconscious mind…. reflex… these are shading scales not distinct “minds” 🙂

    tp

  29. Yup. I just call them ways of knowing. Another one is the “knowing inside” Wolff talks about in Original Wisdom.


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