Marco…YOLO

Mano Paul votes for “YOLO” as the worst word of 2012. The poll actually calls for “banishment”, which flips on the boo light for censorship, but in the principle of charity we’ll just assume Mano thinks YOLO is bad and we should feel bad for thinking it.

Aesthetically, I agree, but mostly because my only impression of people who use it comes from Fail Blog : Ugliest Tattoos.

Mano claims that YOLO is Biblically incorrect, yet his quotes (including John 11:25 and John 3:16) in support of his argument only seem to undermine his point. Jesus actually tells us we can live forever! It’s hard to imagine how this refutes the idea that we only live once. This idea of everlasting life seems to be a central tenet of Christianity, judging how often we see posters with the John passage outside of churches.

Let’s extend further charity and assume Mano is taking a philosophical stand on the afterlife. No serious person could doubt that humans experience something that we call death. The debate is about whether what we experience as consciousness lives on despite all evidence to the contrary. Does Mano have any serious thoughts to contribute to this argument other than a couple of sentences from a dusty book of myths? The Hindus have their books of myths, too, equally dusty; on what grounds does he dismiss YOLOAOUYETCOR (You Only Live Over And Over Until You Escape The Cycle of Reincarnation)? Not enough ink for the tattoo?

It may not even be true that we all want to live forever, if we think about it, though I tend to subscribe to the Fun Theory of the Universe. However, very few of us not suffering from serious depression are likely to say “yes”, if they’re asked if they want to die. It’s a nice thought to believe in an afterlife. But just because we wish to live forever, that doesn’t make it so.

There is a very silly argument that we should believe in Jesus just in case Christianity is true, because the risk is too great if we’re otherwise wrong. Mano should know a few things about risk management. It’s hard to know if that would make him more likely to accept the argument, or less, but hopefully he has at least considered the case that this life here on earth is the only one we get, and it DOES end when our bodies die. It would be very sad indeed for him to waste so much of his and his family’s life in worship of a false ideal, if this is our only turn on the merry-go-round.

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Slaves, Obey Your Masters

Mano Paul wrote a poem. The meter is terrible and the rhyme scheme inconsistent, but glass houses and all that. No one can doubt the amount of energy Mano and his family dedicate to their own slavery. And thus ends 2012, the most recently declared “Year of the Bible“. Is there any hope of this horrible tradition ending?

In honor of 2012’s designation by the state of Pennsylvania as “Year of the Bible”, an atheist group purchased a billboard reminding voters of some of the less savory parts of the book. The billboard was promptly torn down. While there are no doubt valid concerns that this may not have been the most sensitive way to call attention to the immorality of the Bible that the Senate was so proud to celebrate, apparently for some people the correct response was simply to destroy the evidence. Christian apologetics for slavery are some of the most backbending, special pleading, ill-considered arguments in the whole of religious discourse, but of course Christians can’t admit that something in the Bible was wrong, or else they might have to start honestly examining what else in the Bible might be wrong.

Mano starts off 2013, with no apparent self-awareness of irony, by whitewashing American history for his fellow believers. While there were no doubt Christians on the side of abolition, the Bible was used by slavers to justify the practice up until it was pried from their cold, dead hands. Perhaps we owe Mano the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he is simply ignorant of American history. Perhaps we owe the Austin Christian Fellowship of India a similar benefit of the doubt for not denouncing Mano’s ignorant sermon, for they may simply be ignorant themselves.

It is one thing to glorify a moment which we should regret for ever having been necessary. It is another thing to take credit on behalf of benighted first century shepherds for being the first “oppressed” group to experience this moment, as if those shepherds who worked the night shift were yearning for freedom from their oppression and not just doing a crappy job that had to be done. But by far the worst thing is that Mano not only ignores the truth about the role of Christianity in the US institution of slavery, but goes on to proudly declare how wonderful it is to be a slave to God instead of “sin”.

In 150 years since Mano’s celebrated Watchnight, progressive thinkers have been working toward a society and moral system which does not require enslavement of any kind. Mano and his fellow fundamentalists are still working to return us to the times of slavery, whether they realize it or not. If only Mano spent as much energy with his family learning history and studying ethics in 2012 as he did making poetry out of his immoral doctrines – perhaps the rest of us would have more hope for the new year.

Christmas Perspectives Perspectives

Mano Paul writes a series of posts leading up to Christmas titled “Christmas Perspectives”. Analysis and deconstruction follows.

No Fear, Only Faith

Mano repeats the dangerous notion that belief in God means that one can have no fear of anything, because God makes anything possible. We evolved a fear response for good reason – to ensure we pay extra attention to dangerous situations. If we are actually the product of design, we would expect that the side effects of that response (irrationality, sweating, paralysis) would not be so counterproductive. However flawed the mechanism, though, it is evidence of a survival advantage to have fear.

No matter how often they repeat it, it’s clear that most Christians DON’T actually believe that God gives them invincibility. Though there are the occasional exceptions, there aren’t millions of stories of deaths after Christians try to fly, or stop bullets, or breathe underwater, or do any other dangerous impossible thing that God should supposedly make possible.

Fear is a terrible thing to endure, especially chronic existential fear. That is why religion is so successful: it takes advantage of the fearful in their weak moments and gives them a “cure” – a fantasy world in which they don’t need to be afraid. Ironically, Christianity is perpetuated by the imaginary concept of hell, which is supposed to inspire mortal fear. Christians give themselves and each other this hypochondriac’s disease, which makes them even MORE in need of a cure for their fears.

If only Christians spent the energy they pour into their devotion instead of changing the world to be a less scary place and actually understanding the things they fear. They plaster on layer after layer of God bandages and ignore the disease for the symptoms.

God With(in) Us

Mano asks each of us if God is with us, as well as within us. It is not entirely clear what he believes the difference is, but clearly Mano believes it is superior for God to be within us and not just with us.

Christians believe the birth of Jesus fulfilled an OT prophesy (Matthew 1:23). Apparently Joseph wasn’t interested in literally fulfilling the prophecy by naming his son Immanuel (Hebrew for “God with Us”), but we’ll get to poor Joseph in a minute. Without further explanation than this reference, Mano offers no other clue whether he means that God was with us in body for a short time in the form of the Son, or that God is creepily watching us do whatever it is we do, or something else including a combination of all these things.

To support his definition of “within”, Mano quotes Philippians 2:13, which outlines a more active participation of God in our lives, not unlike the puppeteer with his puppets. He says we need God within us and not just with us, which implies that we have some kind of choice in the matter. I suppose this is a more palatable theology than a God who enters us at will whether we want Him to or not (not unlike a rapist would).

A rough summary of Mano’s position might be: “I believe God is hanging around waiting for us to let him in, and we should do that by thinking that we want him and by doing the things we think he’d want us to do.” Why is this added step necessary? Shouldn’t it be enough to decide we want to do whatever this supposedly perfect being wants and then let Him take it from there? After all, Christians acknowledge almost nothing more than the fact that we are wretched sinners who don’t know our own way.

If only God could communicate better, once He is inside of us, what we are supposed to do instead of leaving it up to us to decide what is His will. Maybe we wouldn’t have ended up with “Gott mit Uns“. As an exercise for the reader, did Nazis believe God was “with” or “within” them?

God’s Will Towards All Men

There are many secular traditions at Christmastime. Whether Christians borrowed them from others or we borrowed them from Christians and made them our own, some of these traditions seem like things we should practice the whole year, instead of for a few weeks in December. “Peace on earth and good will toward men” is one of those sayings which secularists might even believe even without knowing where it came from (Luke 2:14). Imagine if the Christians in the US military actually applied their biblical principles and committed to peace by laying down arms and coming home?

The Wise Seek to Worship

Mano claims it is wise to seek to worship. We should give people the respect they are due, naturally, but this borders on tautology. It is wise to seek to dismantle ideas. Those that are true will survive the attempt. Those that are false will crumble like so many idols through history.

The Gift of Our Life

Mano claims that we owe our lives to God. It is hardly a gift then, is it? This is probably the worst example of Christian Doublespeak – that Jesus gave us a gift when he died on the cross. If he did so with no strings attached, sure. But if we are obligated with our very lives for this gift, well, that’s not a Christmas tradition any reasonable moral person would celebrate. To give him our lives isn’t then a gift, it’s payment of our mafia protection money. Even Santa only asks us to be nice instead of naughty.

Condescension for Ascension

Mano admits that it was condescending of Jesus to live among us. Wow, thanks, Jesus! Now we love you even more! In yet another example of Christian Doublespeak, this condescending act (which in the overwhelming number of cases is negatively connoted) is a loving act. The story so far: God creates man, fucks up by making us weak to temptation, kicks us out of paradise, tries to give us a go of it on earth, fucks up, drowns us all to start over, fucks up, then condescends to come live among us to show us how we’re supposed to behave if we want to come back to live with him. If that is supposed to be some sort of role model behavior, perhaps we’re better off trying to find our own way.

Promised Son for the Prodigal

Mano mixes up the parable of the prodigal son with the Jesus myth. Well if the prodigal can waste his temporary gifts and still be received back into his father’s arms, what incentive does that give us not to live it up while we can? In this light, Christians who truly believe in redemption have more moral justification than anyone for killing, raping, and stealing on this world if they can simply repent and enjoy heaven in the next. It is a common accusation of atheists and humanists who don’t hold themselves accountable to a nonexistent God that we will simply behave immorally without divine accountability. But what accountability exists in the Christian worldview? God continues to fuck up, but he keeps trying to find ways to get us into heaven anyway. Shouldn’t we just enjoy ourselves until he figures out the rules for this game?

The Real Christmas Story

Imagine the Christmas story took place today. What would we really think is going on? Is there any reason to believe it actually happened differently 2000 years ago?

The Christian Dictionary

Mano Paul loves alliteration. If only he spent as much time saying useful things as he did trying to say them cleverly. When Mano says “Possession, Profession, Practice”, he says little more than the clichéd “Practice what you preach.” And apparently without irony.

Mano continues another fine Christian tradition of taking words that already have specific definitions and trying to make them mean something different in a Christian context. Aren’t there enough syllables for Christians to make new words if the ones we have don’t mean what they want them to mean?

Granted, love is one of those words that probably lost any hope of having a well-defined meaning. At least the Greeks tried to separate romantic love from sexual love from familial love. But let us hope it never has to mean “obedience” and “fear” the way it does for Mano, if battered wives and other abused spouses/lovers are to have any hope of learning to escape their torture. Austin Cline details all the similarities between God and an abusive partner. Now those are some points for Christians to ponder.

Without With one further comment, Mano likens the touch of God to evidence at a crime scene. Christians certainly are victims of their God belief.

The 7 Steps of Obsequiousness

Mano Paul claims there are 7 steps in Christian Life. There seems to be quite a bit of disagreement on the subject:

xian steps

(Source)

It’s odd that 16 got so many hits – probably a bug in the code. However, even those that agree that there are seven disagree on what they are:

J.W. Depson: 1. Live by faith; 2. Read your Bible; 3. Pray; 4. Go to church; 5. Get baptized; 6. Witness; 7. Be filled with the Holy Spirit

1st Baptist Barberville: A.Virtue B. Knowledge C. Temperance D. Patience E. Godliness F. Kindness G. Charity

Jen Davis: 1. God is Number One ; 2. No one’s perfect but try anyway; 3. Read God’s Word (presumably the Bible); 4. Create your vision; 5. Know thyself; 6. Live like an eagle, flying over your troubles; 7. Pray

So Mano, like all Christians, just made up his own rules, probably because he had only gotten as far in his dictionary as the “A” words: Accept, Acknowledge, Abide, Align, Act, Associate, Agree. It’s interesting how all of these verbs except one are deferential to some authority. What does Mano say about Act?

Step 4 in Christian life is to Act – act in accordance to his will, in service to him. What kind of service are Christians called to? We are called to serve one another, but not merely as servants, but soldiers as well.

Oh, well. (Wait, I thought Step 4 was Align, and Step 5 was Act? Oh right, he made them up.)

Mano, and many Christians hold this slavery and obsequiousness in the highest possible regard:

To be a servant of Christ Jesus does not necessarily mean, being a slave to him (although being called a bondservant (slave) of Christ would indeed be one of the highest accolades, active Christians can be honored with). It is not a sign of weakness but a sign of meekness and power, because as a servant of Christ, Christians are not called to be a doormat to be trampled upon, but they are called to bear the mighty weapons of God as soldiers for Christ. We are enlisted in God’s army and we serve behind enemy lines, fighting not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces, because the god of this world (the devil) has blinded the minds of many.

These mental gymnastics are amazing, the contortions into which Christians pretzel their minds to redefine their bondage as virtue, their weakness as power. They believe with all their hearts that joining the ranks of God’s soldiers give them some advantage over the rest of us. They believe that their delusions are the true reality, that they are the ones who are immune to the “Devil’s blindness”, with no more authority than a dusty tome of Bronze-Age goatherd myths. How do they know that the Bible wasn’t written by the devil?

Points to Ponder:

Who is more likely to be enslaved – a flock of sheep who have made virtue out of ignorance and slavery, or the skeptical who demand evidence and reason for their beliefs? If this mythical devil exists, it is certainly has the power to deceive any human – why toss out the one weapon we have (rationality), if that is the enemy we must fight? And if the devil doesn’t exist, rationality is the only means we have of living right in this world, anyway.

In the Year of Our Lord 1984

Mano Paul says slavery is power. Does that sound like Doublespeak to anyone else? Or does he really see actual parallels between the Gospels of JC and Snap?

The Power” starts with a clip in German about the start of production of a line of personal computers. It would seem that even Snap sees more power in science and technology than in faith. Turbo B goes on to rap about basically how awesome his rhymes are. How exactly is Mano using this song to claim that a “proud, arrogant, and egotistic attitude” brings “absolutely no power”? Does he think that Turbo B is being ironic?

The authors of the original version of the song stole samples from Chill Rob G, Jocelyn Brown, and Mantronix. Before the US release, a new version had to be recorded to replace the samples, and the artist name “Snap!” was adopted. Christianists defend against arguments that the Jesus mythology is stolen, too.

In 2011, disciples of “The Power” threatened the architectural stability of a skyscraper. As an exercise for the reader, what analogies can be made about a group of followers acting in unison that leads to destruction?

There seems to be a tradition in faith blogging to pick some pop culture reference and try to tie it back to the Bible somehow. This repetitive exercise is basically doing nothing but reinforcing the cognitive bias toward confirming interpretations. Or maybe it’s simply a form of “here’s some shit I like; maybe I can use it to make Bible study more interesting”.

The trouble is that Mano has actually stumbled onto something like truth about the ego and self-importance. (Just because the Bible isn’t always true doesn’t mean that it is always false.) If he actually had the philosophical chops to have learned about the ego from Freud and the Buddha and everyone else who has discovered the same thing about it, instead of starting with Turbo B, he would likely use that as justification for all of the other nonsense tied up with it in the Bible. (Just because the Bible is sometimes true, doesn’t mean it is always true.)

The ego is a nasty little beast, always looking out for itself. Maybe you can keep it from making your identity about “high-ranking titles and positions”, but then while you were congratulating yourself about your humility, suddenly it takes on “slave” and “martyr” as your new identity and defends those with the same ferocity and blindness. You think you have power? Try winning the battle with your own identity. Good luck finding all the right mirrors.

A Terrible Story That You Should Tell No One

The story, retold by Dan Barker:

Imagine you are strolling down the sidewalk and a man excitedly calls you over to his front porch to share some “great news.” The man’s got a gruesome torture chamber in his basement, but you don’t have to go down there. Instead, you can come over, hug the man’s son, say you love him and you can all move in together in the attic and tell them how great they are forever.

“Isn’t that great news?”

Oh, and by the way, in this story the man has killed the son whom you’re hugging and brought him back to life, just so you can feel like all the bad things YOU have done are forgiven.

If you have any sense at all, you will run screaming from that house and never look back.

Mano Paul asks his fellow Christians if they are proselytizing enough. If they want this awful mythology to last, probably the best strategy actually is to just shut up about it.