Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

February 25, 2012

Candidate Promises Beheadings

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 5:06 pm

February 28 is a voting day here in Michigan. Checking out my ballot on publius.org, I see I have the choice of Republicans for President, one person running for one school board position, and an up/down vote on later electing a committee to revise the Detroit City Charter (replace the old, broken charter with a new, broken charter?). I’m going to vote Ron Paul for President for the completely trivial reasons that he wants to stop waging imperial wars all over the planet, remove us from the grip of bank-created debt-based play money, and also to restore some semblance of civil liberties to the citizens. So, mentally file me under “naive first-time voter fooled by cynical false promise to legalize marijuana” while you fantasize that Obama is really going to show his true colors if given a second term. Whatever. The only choice on Tuesday is between Republicans, why not check the box that indicates “I enjoy my remaining degree of freedom”?

In the general election, there is more choice. Did you know that there is a Green Tea party? Its members include, and perhaps consist entirely of, Roseanne Barr, candidate for President of the United States and Prime Minister of Israel. She declared on Mother’s Day 2010, with this speech. She declares patriarchal politics obsolete and calls forth Divine Matriarchy, saying that “Patriarchy is impotent, and qualitatively unable to solve even the simplest problems in the Cosmos, such as picking up its own socks, or placing a carton of milk back in the refrigerator after drinking directly out of it.”

Her three-part plan:

1) Outlaw war, including the War on Drugs (legalize cannabis.)

2) More women in government. Government loans to poor women to start businesses.

3) Outlaw bullshit.

Part #3 turns out to involve some enforcement difficulties, but Barr is the tough lady we need to see this program through:

Barr is recognized as a Green Party candidate for President. Her campaign page is available here — as of writing time, there is a bizarre prayer against the warlord Kony splashed across the top, but there are some good essays and news bits farther down.

Back to Ron Paul — the practical person’s protest vote. Many are afraid that, if elected, Paul would allow for abortions to be all but banned and the South to become resegregated. You know what I’m afraid of? Ron Paul would be inaugurated promising great change, but then find it strangely difficult to implement basic executive perogatives, like shutting down Guantanamo Bay prison or calling Justice Department dogs off of the medical marijuana community. I mean, truly, look at the difference between what Obama promised and was able to achieve. Paul himself was politically unable, as a Representative, to cast a principled vote of “Nay” against the pointless, brutal, and illegal invasion of Afghanistan (his staff threatened to quit.) So, what would it matter if he were President? He’d simply become the prisoner-in-chief of a prison nation.

That’s why I favor the more ironical candidates.

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February 19, 2012

Conspiracies are a Fact of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paragardener @ 4:45 pm

From time to time, I see a book or article published that asks why people believe in conspiracy theories, and what can be done to help the poor fools. Michael Shermer, writing in Scientific American, sees conspiracy theory as a result of cognitive biases, such as “patternicity,” the human tendency to find patterns, whether or not they are there, and “agentism,” the tendency to imagine that intelligent actors have caused things to go the way they’re going. Erik Hayden, writing in the Atlantic Wire, suggests that Machiavellian people believe in conspiracy theories because they would participate in conspiracies themselves (“Sure Cheney flew remote control planes into the towers. That’s what I’d have done to push the Patriot Act through and invade anywhere I liked.”)

Asking why people believe in conspiracy theories is totally ridiculous, like asking why some people believe in apes. The skeptic can point to a mountain of shady evidence that leaves one in doubt about Sasquatch, but we know damn well that there are chimps and orangutans in this world, and we know just as well that there are real conspiracies (people working together to commit crimes). John Wilkes Booth did not act alone!

The role of conspiracies in history is highlighted by that most charming of American institutions, the CIA. The CIA defines covert operations as activities “conducted or sponsored by this Government… but which are so planned and executed that any U.S. government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them.” So besides intelligence gathering, the CIA is the authorized criminal wing of the government. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of conspiracies hatched there: toppling the democratically elected governments of Guatemala and Chile, installing the Shah in Iran, conducting “secret” wars in Laos, Cambodia and Angola, attempting to invade Cuba and assassinate Fidel Castro, slipping johns LSD and watching them get in on with hookers from behind a one-way glass, selling heroin and cocaine in America, arming the Taliban, and on, and on…

At this point, some conspiracy skeptics differentiate between “conspiracies” and “conspiracy theories.” “Conspiracies” are undeniable and well-documented crimes like the Watergate break-in or the murder of Julius Caesar; “conspiracy theories” are any conspiracies I don’t or won’t believe in. People who abuse the language in this way deserve to be called “deniers” — denying things is neutral, and you should deny false things, but just the same the word suggests “Holocaust denier” and “addict in denial,” so go for the cheap hurt. Allow me to illustrate:

Conspiracy theorist: “FDR totally knew that the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor.
Skeptic: “Nuh-uh. There’s no way that people in government knew the attack was going to happen, yet no one leaked the information to the public. That is just a ludicrous conspiracy theory.”
Conspiracy theorist: “Oh, well, I guess I should’ve known you’d be one of those Pearl-Harbor-Inside-Job deniers.”

I make fun, but just as there are people who will believe the thinnest of conspiracy theories (“Nazis secretly dominate world events from their base inside Hollow Earth”), there are a whole lot of people who are seriously in denial about the possibilities for conspiracy. Despite the frequent occurrence of conspiracies in the real world, conspiracy theory is to be marginalized from all discussions of politics or history.

Look up “New World Order” on Wikipedia, and you will find two main entries (plus various entries on books or musical acts):

When George H.W. Bush told us that he was building a new world order, that was meant in the “politics” sense: “Despite various interpretations of this term, it is primarily associated with the ideological notion of global governance only in the sense of new collective efforts to identify, understand, or address worldwide problems that go beyond the capacity of individual nation-states to solve.” According to Wikipedia, the new world order spoken of by Establishment figures is a positive, benign, problem-solving order.

“In conspiracy theory, the term New World Order or NWO refers to the emergence of a totalitarian one-world government… Numerous historical and current events are seen as steps in an on-going plot to achieve world domination through secret political gatherings and decision-making processes.” Thus, if you don’t like the elites creating interlocking trade organizations and treaty obligations that are fusing into one worldwide agency of control, you are a conspiracy theorist, outside of the realm of reasonable, normal debate. Develop a positive outlook on the elites who build those international controls, and you could add your input to the “New world order (politics)” page.

Explaining something with a conspiracy theory is not something crazy, like blaming witches for your problems. Conspiracies are happening every day. Since criminals generally want to hide their activities, it can be hard to prove or disprove any given conspiracy theory; sometimes we may not all agree as to whether something was a conspiracy or who was behind it. I don’t believe in calling my opponents crazy, by scientifically examining the reasons for their bizarrely mistaken beliefs, or by excluding them from mainstream discussions. Conspiracy theories can be investigated through evidence and reason, just like any other stories about the world.

February 11, 2012

I’m all fo’ Zohydro

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 7:57 pm

Lately I’ve seen rumors flashed about Zohydro, a new super-painkiller “10 times stronger than Vicodin” that will create a new category of pill addict. This appears to be some mix of brazen scaremongering and bleak ignorance. I think, if released for doctors to prescribe, Zohydro will be less problematic than Vicodin for both pain patients and “street” users.

The scaremongering began December 26 of last year, when the Associated Press issued a hatchet job on the proposed new pill. The piece was entirely focused on the potential abuse potential of Zohydro. It quoted anonymous “critics” and anti-drug activists frequently, and barely laid out manufacturer Zogenix’s case for the pill. Newspapers and CBS News then repeated the story, sometimes making it more sensational in the process, thus creating the impression of widespread panic amongst authorities. I will now put this scare to rest with my incredibly influential blog.

What is Zohydro, really? It is time-release hydrocodone, an opioid drug already available in the popular form of Vicodin. Zohydro may be considered as time-release Vicodin, without the second ingredient acetaminophen (aka Tylenol).

Pain patients must take Vicodin every four to six hours, which is unpleasant. The pills aren’t small, and you have to carry them around like an addict because otherwise you’ll end up in pain and far away from relief. People lucky enough to sleep through the night will unluckily wake up unmedicated and in pain. To solve the problem, Zohydro contains several doses that gradually dissolve in your stomach. If the “super-pill” Zohydro contains 10 times Vicodin’s dose of hydrocodone, it also takes 3 times as long to release it. Clever people may be able to defeat Zohydro’s time release technology and get the entire dose at once, but even very stupid people can chew up a handful of Vicodin pills and achieve a similar effect. IMHO, extended release medication is nothing to be afraid of.

Each Vicodin pill also contains 500-750 milligrams of acetaminophen, aka Tylenol. That’s the equivalent of an extra-strength Tylenol, or more. According to a poison-control resource buried within NIH’s website, no one should consume more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen in a day. Overdose causes the usual nausea-abdominal pain-convulsions pattern of poisoning, possibly leading to liver and kidney failure and death. Guess what, NIH? Vicodin addicts blow out that 4,000 mg limit each day and every day. They are killing themselves because there is simply no source of hydrocodone available that is not mixed with a second drug.

The safety of acetaminophen is questionable. Personally, I’d rather pop a hydrocodone (or heroin) pill than a Tylenol if I had an annoying headache, because acetaminophen stresses your liver and I drink enough alcohol to stress my liver already. A literature review published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy found that patients with no risk factors were having their livers hurt by taking acetaminophen daily, even when they stayed below the accepted 4,000 mg limit. In January 2011, FDA asked pill manufacturers to keep acetaminophen to below 325 mg per pill, to limit the damage. Vicodin manufacturers are still putting out the same old formulations.

I wholeheartedly agree with my mortal enemy, the FDA, on this issue. Crank down the acetaminophen levels in our medicines! Tylenol is mixed into many, many common medicines for cold, flu and so on, despite all of the people with risk factors against it, and despite the risk of combining multiple medications that contain acetaminophen and accidentally overdosing.

So why are people slamming Zohydro for not  containing a deadly drug? Apparently, some people believe that lacing hydrocodone with poison is an appropriate “abuse deterrent.” According to the AP’s miserable excuse for a story:

At a conference for investors New York on Nov. 29, Zogenix chief executive Roger Hawley said the FDA was not pressuring Zogenix to put an abuse deterrent in Zohydro.

“We would certainly consider later launching an abuse-deterrent form, but right now we believe the priority of safer hydrocodone — that is, without acetaminophen — is a key priority for the FDA,” Hawley said.

Something that makes you puke when you take too much might be a good abuse deterrent. Something that gradually eats your liver without giving you symptoms is a sadistic and violent punishment on drug abusers, not a deterrent.

Apparently, the folks at FDA get it, but AP’s Zohydro story was driven by statements from organizations like National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids, and Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. I have to suspect that these groups are driven by a pleasure-hating Puritanical streak quite as much as they’re driven by a genuine concern for patients and addicts (I’m being totally unfair, to the Puritans).

Dave Masko, writing on Huliq, voiced the claims that “people in real pain live with it” (implication: people taking pain pills are all whiny hypochondriacs) and suggested that pain relief is a luxury comparable to getting drunk. Once we’ve identified painkiller users as escapist subhumans, I guess it is acceptable to deny them any relief or launch a deadly attack on them through their livers.

Hopefully there is reform in the medical establishment, based on evidence and reason, to allow safer pain pills onto the market. Hopefully, the AP will give equal billing to drug manufacturers and FDA as it gives to anti-drug scaremongers in future stories (maybe patient advocates could even sneak a quotation in there).

I’m all for Zohydro. Everyone has a right to try to manage their pain, damnit! These people raising trivial concerns about a less-dangerous version of Vicodin should really take a long, hard look at where they’re coming from. I hate it when people I know are hurt or killed by drugs — but would you really “protect” addicts from their own stupidity over and above patients’ rights to live without extraordinary pain?

February 5, 2012

Pigs, in Cages, on Antibiotics

We experience many benefits from living in this modern world — great material wealth (A.C. units for the poor and such), pretty good expectations for health, formal equality between the sexes, a relative lack of violence, and for the most part the powerful don’t stick their domination in our face like the whip-wielding overseers of old.

So is everything great and nonviolent because we’ve evolved into enlightened Buddhas, or what?

If we had snazzy new social institutions that produced self-reliant and compassionate people, I could believe that. I have the feeling that our world’s lack of violence and overt oppression is actually the result of people having been trained into passivity. People are simply compliant towards their managers — most people won’t fight unless they’re ordered to, and no one needs to crack a whip on a worker who’s always willing. It isn’t simple to crush the (cantankerous, unpredictable)  human spirit and produce people who would volunteer for slavery. How are souls crippled on a mass scale?

It’s almost impossible to crush the spirit of a confident adult. They will come back from most kinds of tragedy and trauma and maiming, a little crazier, but still swinging. To consistently break people, you must break them as children. So, I’ll first take a look at our child-rearing institutions: school and television.

School

Most parents seem most concerned that their child’s education prepares that child for “a good job.” Educators tout children as “our most precious natural resource.” Oh no, have you seen what people do with precious natural resources? We have tacitly accepted that schooling is meant to produce a good corporate employee — a human resource, suitable for service to a bureaucracy. We hope that our children go far in education, so that they can be the most specialized, highly-paid corporate employees. Nevermind that two-thirds of millionaires are self-employed. The message that one must seek good employment under a patron has been so successful, that we went from a colonial America with two-thirds of households headed by a self-employed worker, to 18.5% self-employment in 1948, down to about 7.5% throughout the 2000’s (citation). Right from the get-go, we’re trained for dependency, and it is the norm.

I have a special feeling about this phenomenon of “employee-ism,” as it stands in a stark contrast to my dirt-worshipping worldview. In my religion, the generative power of Earth + Sun is the big sacred thing to organize life around. This is a viewpoint developed by ancient farmers, who were acutely aware of their dependence on earth, rain, sun, birds and bees and so on. They imagined gods behind natural phenomena, and tried to do right by these gods so that they would be able to keep on harvesting and living. Nowadays, employment is the big thing. People depend on “job creators” for abundance, and try to please those masters so that they might continue having money in their bank account and in this way be able to continue living. Bottom-dwelling janitors and garbagemen are low forms of life, unpleasing to the marketplace, and top-level executives with good teeth and sharp suits are what we should all aspire to. If it’s not a religion, employee-ism is certainly the dominant myth of our time.

So, employee-ism is one form of dependency that schooling fosters. As well, schooling extends childhood into the natural time for adulthood. Indeed, since adult minds are less plastic than young ones, this results in permanent  immaturity for most of the well-schooled (as evidenced during the GOP presidential debates?). Basically, a schoolroom is taking children out of the world and putting them in a laboratory for drama and psychological manipulation, isolated from adults except for the authority figure of the teacher. With one adult in the room, children compete for that person’s attention. The teacher can only do so much to dole out rewards and punishments to their oversized flock of children, so children end up in what a rat psychologist calls an “aperiodic reinforcement schedule.” Like a rat whose food-dispensing button is on the fritz, students’ minds react to their lack of control with frustration and increasing symptoms of psychological stress, sometimes including violent behaviors. Rats who cannot escape random punishments develop “Learned Helplessness,” the laboratory animal’s equivalent of clinical depression, arguably the distinctive mental disorder of the “developed” world. Those who don’t develop pathologies still aren’t striding through the natural maturation process — people just don’t mature by sitting in a plastic chair six or eight hours a day, performing almost meaningless tasks and competing for the attention of a parental surrogate. Just to prove the point: if there were no schooling, there would be no social ill of “teen pregnancy.” That is because, in the pre-schooling world, teenagers were adults considered ready to take care of themselves and raise children of their own.

School doesn’t even help academically. The Founding Fathers lived in a culture of self-education, where people ate up knowledge so that they could become more accomplished. George Washington did not enter school until he was eleven, at which time he could already read, write, and do simple math. He studied surveying for three years, and at the age of fifteen went to work earning the equivalent of six figures in today’s dollars. While surveying and amassing a real estate empire, Washington taught himself geography and astronomy. By the age of 18, he’d read all the works of Henry Fielding, Tobias Smollett, and Daniel Defoe, the Commentaries  of Julius Caesar, Morals  by Seneca, and other works by Roman generals. Yet, according to John Adams, he was “too illiterate, too unlearned, too unread for his station and reputation,” and other contemporaries agreed. What Washington really liked was dancing and riding horses, not being an intellect, yet his academic accomplishments are impressive enough by today’s standard. He spent three years at school, learning mainly surveying. Ben Franklin, writer, diplomat, inventor, pretty much the National Genius, was schooled for only two years (citation).

The important skills like literacy and numeracy can be learned in a few weeks, when the student is ready. What is going on during all those other years of education?

Our American system of schooling was intentionally and explicitly designed to produce docile workers,  as shown in this 1906 statement by Rockefeller’s General Education Board:

In our dreams…people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple…we will organize children…and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.

So, schooling encourages stupidity, subservience and immaturity, in the name of an efficiently-managed society. I have educator friends, and I know that you guys are trying your best to push against that system, to raise up kids who can think for themselves, and to teach powerful skills like literacy. I know, and I respect you for it. You have little chance with the system you’re in. A guard can only do so much to make prison nicer for the inmates.

Television

For most Americans, time not spent at school or work is spent under the blare of a television. According to Nielsen, the average American watches 4 hours of television in an average day, every day, for their entire life. Over a 65-year life, that totals to 9 years of solid gazing time. It’s amusing to see Americans as television-junkie couch potatoes, so go ahead and visualize a guy drinking canned beer, with orange Cheetoh fingerprints all over the white-T-shirted dome of his belly. Are you back?

Television is the new hearth. Instead of gathering around a fire, good for warmth, cooking, and generating relaxing alpha brainwaves, we gather around the television, often eating meals in front of it, and getting the same brainwave payoff as from a flickering fire. The chatter and friendly faces on television alleviate loneliness , just a tiny bit. And, television can captivate small children and temporarily prevent them from creating chaos. So having no hearth and maybe no friends, television is a necessary second-best. This may tend, however, to devalue actual human relationships.

While we like to deride television-watching as “mindless,” all that time spent watching is time spent learning, absorbing the truth as television presents it. Even though no one believes  that they are influenced by advertising, we know  that everybody is wrong on that count. First of all, big, for-profit corporations pay for most of the advertising on teevee. To those entities, even charitable giving is calculated to maximize profit. They find that $60 billion / year is about the optimum amount to spend on televised ads (citation).

To some extent, these ads are about brand choice. I may have been influenced by the pro-working-class Miller High Life delivery guy character to drink that beer instead of Budweiser, but that doesn’t concern me a lot because the choice between macrobrews was pretty meaningless to begin with. Ads are also designed to increase demand, even to create a demand where there was none before (how did life ever go on before Febreze?). Often the protagonist in an advertisement caves in to desires they know they should resist, or acts selfishly and puts the product above their human relationships. The programming around the paid ads is also advertising, for the most valuable programs create a buying mood — ever watch HGTV?

Comparing ourselves to the comfortable families on teevee, we experience “relative deprivation,” the feeling of doing worse than our neighbors. No, you cannot keep up with the Kardashians, but why would you even want to emulate those hopeless consumer addicts? Oh yes, real people are uglier than those on television. Sometimes you may catch a British show and be startled to see actors with imperfections such as crooked teeth or a droopy eye, but thanks to miracles of modern medicine, the people on American teevee are pretty close to flawless. You  need some new clothes, a little surgery, and a case full of Maybelline products.

It demeans human relationships and promotes consumerism and encourages passivity with its very form… there’s one last nasty effect of television worth mentioning. Television dominates our politics. For national-level positions, 94% of candidates spending the most money win. We could auction off Congressional seats, and not lose anything important from our democracy. Much of the ruling campaign / PAC money goes into television ads. These are so hopelessly small-minded and childish that it’s hard to imagine people being manipulated by them… a black background, scary violins, an unflattering still of Newt Gingrich and an ominous narrator claims that… NEWT EATS BABIES! I’m not sure what they’ve claimed about Newt lately, but the specific, rational content hardly matters. Either 1) voters have been so pacified by schooling and television that they lack the critical thinking ability of a voodoo zombie or 2) television ads exert sway over our subconscious minds, similar to hypnotic suggestion.

I can’t prove it at this point, but I believe that advertising is the most powerful force in mainstream American culture. Advertising may have more sway than reason, ideology, or religion — after all, it is the deciding force in elections, and not those other dusty old ideas. Today is Superbowl Sunday, a national festival of advertisement. Everyone is eager to see the newest innovations in the external control of their minds. We identify as employees, but relish the role of consumer.

A Well-Managed Life

If I am correct, people’s ability to determine the direction of their own life has been hollowed out by the vast time devoted to the passive pursuits of watching television and being schooled. Television specializes in creating artificial demand, and schooling specializes in letting every student know their proper place in the class hierarchy (mainly, the system needs worker bees). Welcome to the cycle of work-consume-sleep. It’s tempting to apply livestock metaphors to the half-people produced by this way of life. We are cattle, we are the herd, we’re sheeple. Or rather, all the people outside my own clique are cattle — our  little clan is totally above it!

Sheep need shepherds. We have a vast priesthood of experts to manage our unmanageable lives for us.

While the availability of quality food is abysmal and the validity of most nutrition research is questionable, a standing army of nutritional experts will happily tell you how to eat. The massive effort hasn’t helped the Average Person’s health any — that guy keeps getting fatter and sicker. The experts will tell you how much to drink — 1 drink per day for women, 2 for men. They’ll tell you what drugs are okay to use and which are not, and the consequences of stepping out of line on this count are drastic. There are experts to reassure you that your sex life is normal while telling you how you’re doing it wrong. Experts advise on exactly how to write a resume and conduct yourself during a job interview, and I have to wonder what differences a manager can even find between applicants #’s 1 and 2. Hell, today the television is full of talking heads advising you on how to understand the Superbowl, in case you can’t invent your own Superbowl comment to share around the water cooler tomorrow.

The cult of expert serves a greater evil — the consolidation of power in the hands of a few. The new power is a unity of government with big finance and leviathan-scale corporations: it goes by the names corporate fascism, corporatism, crony capitalism, the bailout state, oligarchy, plutocracy, or kleptocracy. Part of what these people want is to limit economic activity to establishments like Big Pharma, Big Food, and Hollywood. People who willingly follow expert advice, vote, work hard and consume mass quantities of corporate goods will experience a slowly declining quality of life and loss of rights. Those who resist the encroachment of a corporate-government Uberpower will be vilified as conspiracy mongers, terrorists or violent protestors.

I write this mainly from a blindered American perspective, but it is a worldwide phenomenon. Recently Greece’s democratically-elected Prime Minister Papandreou was ousted and replaced by the “technocrat” Papademos — a professional banker, the former employee of JP Morgan and the European Central Bank.

I will not accept a totally passive existence, with my personal life hanging on expert advice and my material and political life dictated by managers working for the corporatist monster. My own struggle is with depression, aka Learned Helplessness. I just can’t seem to deeply believe that I can change the circumstances of my life through my own actions. I will keep trying, though, so you keep trying and maybe someday we’ll both break out of our cages and meet out there beyond the barbed-wire fence.

Special thanks to Radiohead for recording the inspirational “Fitter, Happier.”

February 4, 2012

I don’t think the missionary is coming back.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paragardener @ 5:38 pm

A missionary popped up on my front porch, totally obvious in his black trenchcoat and hat. I didn’t feel the need to be saved at that moment, so I considered hiding in my house, but that seemed wimpy. I thought about giving him a rude, angry sendoff: “take your God and shove it!”

There was only one civil thing to do: I stepped outside to talk to him. “Can I help you?”

He showed me a Bible verse, something from James that referred to Abraham as Jehovah’s only friend. “Wouldn’t you like to be Jehovah’s friend?”

Uncomfortable silence. “Well, isn’t it good to have a friend?” he persisted.

“Um… that depends on who your friend is.”

I explained, as gently as I could, that I did not want to be friends with a god who ordered his people repeatedly to commit genocide, and I especially don’t like that incident in Numbers where Jehovah orders the Isrealites to steal all the virgins from a city they’ve leveled. That’s icky, and this guy’s teenage daughter was following him around, looking sullen, so that made it way more uncomfortable to talk about marriage-against-her-will. “Look,” I told him, “this fighting for God is still going on. These days it could be over the name of God — Jehovah versus Allah. I don’t want to have anything to do with it.”

He told me that people who still fight over God are falsely claiming to be his followers,’cause they’re not really doing what God laid out for them. I told him that I could at least accept that they were hypocrites, ’cause in fairness the Bible does promote peace and love in many places.

He asked, “what would you do if your neighbors were keeping a child in their house, abusing them?”

I mulled it over. Having your parents arrested and being sent to foster care isn’t always better than the nasty situation a kid is already in. “Well, in some circumstances I would have to call the cops.”

“Well you see, the people in these cities that were destroyed were doing bad things, like sacrificing their own children. God had to have his people take action against them.”

It came out that he had an article all about the topic, but it wasn’t on his person. I told him that he should come back and stick it through the bars on my security door. We talked about the Bible for another minute, and then he cocked his head like a confused dog, said his goodbyes, and walked on down the block. Had he heard the voice of Jehovah?

Now I’ve been thinking about our conversation, and I want to know: 1) isn’t killing everybody in the city worse than the occasional child sacrifice? We’re talking about soldiers murdering babies with hand-to-hand weapons en masse… 2) isn’t Abraham Jehovah’s friend precisely because he was willing to sacrifice his own son?

That was almost three weeks ago. I don’t think the missionary is coming back.

Come on, man, I didn’t get to tell you about my Gaia, or even display the shrunken heads of all the missionaries who visited previously!

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