Friday, July 29, 2011

How then shall I live?

Normally I don't have much time for philosophy but my last post did put me into a bit of a philosophical frame of mind.  How should I go through life?  What are the important qualities to strive for?  Which bedrock virtues are best used as a foundation for everything else?  It's more difficult to decide than it sounds on the surface since a lot of virtuous things really aren't necessarily virtuous.  For instance, loyalty.  Being loyal is good, right?  Not necessarily!  Many were loyal to Hitler and Stalin, terrorists can be loyal to their cause and  I consider none of that to be virtuous!  I'm looking for concepts that can stand on their own two feet so to speak, things that are intrinsically good to be.

Well I'm no philosopher and also I'm still pretty young so consider this a work in progress.  So far I've settled on three things: being good, being smart and being skeptical.  By "good" I refer to treating others with the kindness, decency and respect they deserve, to actively care about the wellbeing of others and the betterment of the world you live in.  By "smart" I don't necessarily just refer to intelligence (which is rather out of your control) but rather to a commitment to do all you can with the intellectual resources you were dealt.  The mind is a muscle that can move the world and it needs to be stimulated and exercised.  To me a smart person is someone who is willing to learn and open to be educated.  There is no excuse for a life of ignorance in the Information Age.  By "skeptical" I refer to a commitment to grounding your beliefs in reality, to not believe things without evidence and especially not to trust in things despite evidence to the contrary.  None of these qualities are innate to humanity and therefore all three things need to be constantly striven for and cultivated.  I think these three things form a very solid foundation on which to build your life but these things all require one another and you can't just have some of them, you need them all to be present.

If someone is smart but neither skeptical or good then they tend to be the kind of person who does a lot of harm for really bad reasons.  Worst case examples would be people like Dr Mengele or those CIA scientists who did the crazy unethical experiments with LSD and attempted psychic warfare.  These weren't stupid men but a little goodness would have prevented their cruelty and a little skepticism would have prevented their ridiculous experiments entirely.

If someone is smart and skeptical but not good then they may have some valuable insights but no one is going to give them the time of day because they're probably going to be raging assholes.  Actually asshole is the best case scenario here, worst case scenario would be professional mediums, psychics and other con artists.  They're smart enough to expertly deceive others and they know they're fake so they don't lack skepticism but they are happy to take full advantage of the good nature and credulity of others.

If someone is smart and good but not skeptical they may be a very pleasant person to have a conversation with but you really should be careful when taking advice from them.  They may be well meaning, intelligent people but they tend to promote a whole lot of nonsense.  Good examples would be the scientists who fell hook, line and sinker for Uri Gellar or Project Alpha.  I think Dr Oz would also be a perfect example - a charismatic, gifted surgeon who wants what is best for people but is gullible as hell and is now unleashing an escalating parade of quackery on the public.

If someone is skeptical but not good or smart they typically end up as contrarians, going against the stream simply for the sake of going against the stream.  They tend to call all the wrong things into question for all the wrong reasons.  They often find their niche as trolls on internet discussion forums, being skeptical on things such as the holocaust, global warming, evolution and the germ theory of disease.

If someone is skeptical and good but not smart they tend to be skeptics of the well intentioned but profoundly misguided sort.  In their most harmless incarnation they could be conspiracy buffs, skeptical about everything the government says and passionate about getting the "truth" out.  Unfortunately this combo can also manifest in parents who don't have their kids vaccinated or who use alternative medicine to treat actual illnesses.  Despite doing it because they want the best for their kids, they are doing harm because they are skeptical of all the wrong things.

People who are just good but not smart or skeptical tend to epitomize the expression that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  With some power at their disposal they can do some real damage even though they mean others nothing but the best.  Unfortunately they are too uninformed and gullible to know what that is.  When these people are in government it can be a disaster.  Or if they have their own talk show they can spread terrible misinformation like no other (looking at you Oprah).  When they have no power they tend to be simply the kindhearted suckers that con artists prey on.  The Nigerian prince scam unfortunately only succeeds because people like this exist.

Alternately I guess you could lack all three of these qualities in which case I hope to never run into you.  The Inquisition was staffed almost exclusively with people lacking goodness, smarts and skepticism if you ask me!

These three things aren't perfect but they work really well and they work even better when you start building with other things upon the foundation they provide.  Several things will actually enhance them all.  With added humility for instance, you will know that there are limits to how smart and informed you are and that maybe you don't know as much as you think you do.  Humility tells you that despite your best intentions you may not be doing as much good as you think you are and also it can remind you to be skeptical of your own skepticism because you may have a pretty big blind spot in there somewhere (looking at you Bill Maher).  Another good thing to add on top would be courage - the courage to choose kindness when indifference is easier, the courage to follow the evidence to wherever the truth may lie and the bravery necessary to admit to yourself when what you know turns out to be wrong so you can go out and learn anew.

Anyway, I'm 34 and this is my best shot in the dark.  In five to ten years I may have a completely different life philosophy, who knows?  Like I said, this is a work in progress but so far it seems right to me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Skeptical Skepticism for Skeptics

Yesterday, blogging friend Gumby did a post on the issue that's been causing a huge uproar in the Skeptical Community - the horribly named "Elevatorgate".  I think Gumby did a very good job discussing the situation so I don't really have anything of substance to add here.  I agree with his assessment and I don't think it's worthwhile reiterating the entire thing on my blog.  Seems to me that everything worth saying has already been said regarding "elevatorgate" (who thought up this name?!) and I have nothing original to add.  OK, well maybe one thing.  Can we, as a society, please stop adding "gate" to words to describe a scandal?  Pretty please?  The Watergate scandal was called that because it happened at the Watergate Hotel.  It had nothing to do with either water or gates.  Adding "gate" to a word to denote scandal is just stupid and it makes no effing sense!  Now that I have that off my chest...

I think the fact that the issue of sexism and how women are treated in the Skeptical Community stirred up such a nest of hornets is worth looking into.  It made me think of that really dumb antiquestion* believers often ask of skeptics - "if you're so skeptical, why aren't you skeptical of skepticism?"  Obviously it's an incredibly stupid question - or is it?  In the way the people who say it usually mean it of course yes, it's incredibly stupid.  But I don't think it's entirely stupid to suggest that perhaps skeptics should perhaps be a little more skeptical about their own skepticism.  Hear me out.

I am not saying there is a problem with skepticism.  Healthy skepticism is good (also, healthy).  The scientific method, logic and evidence based reasoning - while not perfect - are by far the best tools we have to separate fact from fallacy.  No, skepticism is not the problem here, skeptics are.  Skeptics are human beings.  Human beings are terribly unreliable at observing and correctly interpreting reality.  The human brain seems to be wired for belief and our minds are riddled with cognitive biases making us easy to fool.  A human being can easily believe stupid things for bad reasons and thanks to our built in proclivity for confirmation bias we find it incredibly difficult to part with cherished beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Despite our best intentions its always easier to believe a true sounding falsehood than a difficult truth.  That is why we need science, why we only started to really make progress when we started using the scientific method.  The truth is often counter-intuitive, facts are not always self evident.  Skepticism does not come naturally to us, reason and logic are alien to our minds.  We have to learn these things and constantly practice them to become proficient at it and even then there will be no guarantees that we will get it right every time.  That is why good science requires peer review - anyone can be mistaken so the more minds, the more tests, the more evidence the better.  Skepticism is not a state of existence one can attain which will magically transform every corner of ones being into a bastion of reason.  Instead it requires a daily commitment to reason and evidence and a willingness to seek the truth wherever it may lead you.  None of that comes naturally to human beings.

And yet, it becomes tempting after a while to tell yourself that it does - to you at least.  That skepticism is something you can attain and that once you have, your every thought and attitude will be a reasonable one.  Its only human after all.  So little wonder that so many feathers get ruffled when someone tries to address sexism and/or racism in the Skeptical Community.  Once the idea that your every thought and reasoning is logical and sound has taken hold then any suggestion that you may be just as wrong as those sheepish non-skeptics about something seems terribly insulting!

I think this is a very good thing.  I don't know that any of us have the self awareness necessary to know every dark corner of our minds and the bad thought patterns that may be hiding out there.  I know this all too well, being new to skepticism myself.  For most of my life I was massively credulous so learning to be skeptical and applying sound reason is sometimes a bit of an uphill battle for me.  Situations like this, I have found, tend to bring everything up to the surface - which is where it needs to be if it's to be properly dealt with.  So bring it on, the arguments for and against, the anger, the reasoning, the overreactions, bring it all.  Here is a chance for everyone to learn something about themselves and about others, a chance to become better skeptics and better human beings.

So yes, if you are a skeptic you should be skeptical about your skepticism.  For skepticism is something you can have but not hold.  The day you stop pursuing it is the day it slips from your grasp.  You can seek it, you can find it but you cannot possess it because for better or worse, you are human.


*A question is something you ask in order to learn something, an antiquestion is something you pretend to ask in order to reinforce your own ignorance.  Other examples include "If you're so into tolerance why won't you tolerate my intolerance" and of course, that creotard classic "Were you there?! Huh? Huh? Were you? Were you there?"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I dag er vi alle Norske

Today we are all Norwegian.  I have to admit, up to this week I have never given Norway much thought.  Beautiful country, land of the Vikings and their incredibly hot descendants and that's about the extent of it.  But the recent tragedy has changed all that.  Anders Behring Breivik murdered almost a hundred people in a senseless act of terrorism this week and now Norway is on our minds and in our hearts.  My heart goes out to them, cliched as that may sound, I feel saddened with them and touched by what happened to them even though they aren't my people.  As I read this story though I find myself wishing they were my people because as much as the tragedy fills me with empathetic sadness, their response to it fills me with admiration and respect.

Anders - a right wing fundamentalist Christian - committed this atrocity because he hated the culture of tolerance in Norway, especially towards immigrants and Muslims.  The Norwegian response to this attack on tolerance?  A vow to continue being tolerant.

The Prime Minister of Norway, said:
"You shall not destroy us, you shall not destroy our democracy and commitment. We are a small but proud nation. No one should scare us or shoot us into silence. No one should scare us from being Norway."

Meanwhile Eskil Pedersen, leader of the youth camp that Anders attacked responded by vowing to continue such camps in future saying:
"We meet terror and violence with more democracy and will continue to fight against intolerance,"

Now that, is incredible.  I wish we could all see such sentiments from our leaders when terror attacks happen.  If evil men attack you because of your principles, shouldn't the correct response be to hold on to those principles?  Wouldn't the worst possible response be to sacrifice those principles in the name of safety and security?

It's a little ironic that in the wake of an attack by a Christian fundamentalist, it is the people of Norway who are acting more in line with the fundamentals of Christianity.  In the book of Acts and the history of the early church, when the Christians were being cruelly persecuted by a brutal military regime their response was to become more like their Messiah.  They did not choose to become more cruel, brutal or military themselves in order to become safer, instead chose to lay down their lives as their Master did before them.  Being attacked by Rome for being Christian made them more like Christ, not more like Rome.  That only happened later...

These days whenever a tragedy occurs it seems as if it's the Fundamentalist Christians who are most vocal in calling for stricter controls, harsher penalties, more draconian measures and more blood in retaliation.  Of course at the moment they are too busy decrying the media reporting that the perpetrator was a Right Wing Fundamentalist Christian, pointing out that no true Christian - one who followed the teachings of Jesus - would ever commit such an atrocity.  They are completely right in that but if this tarnishes them by proxy then they really only have themselves to blame.  Who do you think started this trend of blaming the acts of evil, deranged men on their purported beliefs?  Turnabout is fair play, is it not?  Besides, modern Fundamentalist Christianity has little to do with the fundamentals of Christianity.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Trouble with Exes

A common sight in the Evangelical Christian community is the ministry of the "exes".  I had a pastor for instance who was an ex-alcoholic and would frequently talk about that.  There are a lot of ex-addicts (drugs, porn, you name it) with speaking gigs in the Christian community, sharing how Jesus freed them from their old life of bondage.  Once at a church camp we had a man named Jan Eriksen, a Norwegian ex-pimp and gangster turned evangelist to prostitutes, as the guest speaker.  (Little off topic, but when I was about 16 we had an American Vietnam veteran ex-field medic come to lecture us on the dangers of sex and how wearing condoms or just having oral sex did not protect you from the most nightmarish sexually transmitted diseases.  That was at school though, not church so it doesn't count.) Anyway, with these exes I have no beef, on the whole they do a good job reminding people that there is a life after addiction and horrible circumstance, that escape is possible.  They show that even if you are lost, you can be found - their message is one of hope.  But there are other, darker exes who do not share a message of hope and recovery at all.  These would be people like:

Alberto Rivera, Ex-Catholic.  Alberto became world famous thanks to Jack Chick who used his story for several of his tracts and comic books.  He claimed to be a former Jesuit priest who gained access to the inner workings and secrets of the Catholic Church.  He alleged that the Catholic Church was actually an ancient organization dedicated to destroying the work of God on Earth using it's vast power and riches to start wars, economic recessions, famines and various political and religious movements to undermine and destroy true Christianity.  He tapped a rich vein of anti-catholic sentiment prevalent in Protestant Christianity and while his fame may have petered out since his death I won't be surprised if a very large section of fundamentalist Christianity today has had their views of Catholicism shaped by his stories.  He didn't have a whole lot of proof for his allegations regarding this vast conspiracy and when Cornerstone Magazine looked into his past they found all kinds of problems with his story.  There was no record of him being a Jesuit priest for instance but there were records showing him to be a married father of two in the USA when he was supposed to be a celibate priest in Spain.  Furthermore the chronology of his story just doesn't add up, the facts didn't check out and then there was the matter that he had a long legal history of committing fraud.

Mike Warnke, Ex-Satanist.  During the 70's, Mike took the Charismatic Christian world by storm with his testimony of his life as a former Satanist.  He was a likeable, charming speaker who captivated audiences all over with his tales of a vast Satanic underground undermining the church and seducing young people into debauchery.  As he rose through the ranks of Satanism he eventually learned that this was an ancient organization dedicated to destroying the work of God on Earth using it's vast power and riches to start wars, economic recessions, famines and various political and religious movements to undermine and destroy true Christianity.  Despite being billed as an expert in occult matters he didn't have a whole lot of proof to back his tales.  When Cornerstone Magazine decided to look into his story they found that reality was very different from what he claimed.  Somehow his family, friends and former fiance all remembered a completely different Mike from the one he claimed to be.  Furthermore the chronology of his story made no sense.  He claimed to have gotten into drugs in college, the drugs eventually led him to become a dealer and through his drug dealings came into contact with satanists.  He then joined and gradually rose through the ranks of the satanic movement until he eventually became a high priest.  He traveled all over meeting several famous people, brought all kinds of innovation to the Satanic church (like rape, blood drinking and sacrificing fingers) and worked tirelessly to recruit thousands of young people into satanism.  Eventually his drug use made him a liability and the satanists kicked him out, tried to kill him with an overdose and left him with nothing which led to him enlisting in the Navy as a last resort where he became a born again Christian.  The problem?  He started college in 1965.  He enlisted in the Navy in 1966.  That makes his story seem incredibly unlikely!  While he eventually admitted to embellishing much of his testimony, he still claims that some of it is true.

John Todd, Ex-Illuminati Druid.  John claimed to have been a member of a powerful family of Scottish Druids who imported witchcraft to America and helped found the Illuminati.  Growing up in this ancient occult family gave him great insider information regarding the Illuminati - a powerful organization dedicated to destroying the work of God on Earth using it's vast power and riches to start wars, economic recessions, famines and various political and religious movements to undermine and destroy true Christianity.  Though never as big as Warnke, he was very popular in Charismatic circles and thanks to his association with Jack Chick his influence is still felt.  He is partially to thank for the Christian idea that Rock music, occult themed books and movies and role playing games are all satanic gateways that lure unsuspecting youngsters into the occult.  If you ever hear some of the really wild "true history of Halloween" stories in a Fundamentalist Church then there's a good chance you can trace it back to Todd.  As with the previous people on this list, investigations into his past proved that most of his stories were either complete fabrications or utterly unverifiable.  Over time, he drifted further away from the mainstream as his stories got wilder and he started making crazy accusations about several political leaders and church leaders that disagreed with him.  Also rather strange was the way he went back and forth between born again Christian warning against the occult and organizing book and record burnings and being a Wiccan coven leader with an occult bookstore.  Mostly it seems he used various religions as a cover for preying on underage girls and he was eventually jailed on rape charges. 

Lauren Stratford, Ex-member of a Satanic Ritual Abuse cult.  During the repressed memory Satanic panic heyday of the 80's Lauren quickly rose to fame with her sordid tale of lifelong ritual sexual abuse by Satanists.  With the endorsement of influential Christian speakers and authors like Hal Lindsey and Mike Warnke she soon had TV appearances lined up and had a book on the shelves.  Her story of growing up in a Satanic underground movement (disguised as good Christian folk) dedicated to abusing and murdering children had Christian parents terrified.  Her story seemed so incredibly terrible it was hard to believe it could be true.  As it turns out, it wasn't.  When the good people of Cornerstone magazine looked into her past they found that her entire story was a hoax.  What's worse is that she had a long history of pathologically looking for sympathy with wild tales, tales which had grown more elaborate through the years and tended to crib heavily from other people's stories.  After her star as a ritual abuse survivor faded she would later go on to reinvent herself as a Holocaust survivor.

Walid Shoebat, Ex-terrorist.  Walid is a brand new entry on this list, seeing as how CNN just recently broke his story.  He claimed to have been a Islamic fundamentalist terrorist who threw a firebomb at a bank in Bethlehem and spent some time in an Israeli prison.  These days he is a born again Christian who is very popular among Christian (and government) groups who pay him to lecture them on the dangers of Islam.  Now unlike the Illuminati and baby eating Satanists, Islamic terrorists are real and they are dangerous.  However it's doubtful whether his advice to fear and distrust every Muslim and suspect every Islamic group of being a terror front is really the greatest advice.  He sells himself as an expert in terrorism but even if his story was true, I don't see how much of an expert he would be - his one alleged attempt at terrorism was woefully underwhelming!  As CNN points out, his entire terrorist past may be a lie:

More detailed articles here and here.

As you can tell, unlike the ex-addicts and ex-sinners, these exes are pretty dark.  Their message is not one of hope and deliverance but of fear and paranoia.  They're not telling you that no one is too lost to be saved, they're telling you that everyone is evil and out to get you!!  Why would such a terrifying message be so popular?  Why do these guys have the influence that they do?  Their stories are widely believed despite the fact that even the slightest amount of fact-checking brings it all crashing down.  Clearly people want to believe them, they want their horror stories to be true, hence the lack of skepticism.  But again, why is that?

There could be many reasons, in fact this phenomenon is probably not due to just any one thing.  For one thing living in a world full of lost and broken people who could really use your understanding and perhaps a helping hand isn't that exciting, in fact it sounds like a bit of an imposition.  On the other hand, living in a world filled with monsters and unspeakable evil is really exhilarating!  Plus protecting yourself and your loved ones from all these creepy monsters won't cost you much and will be super exciting!  The dark exes really helps you tap into that primal, tribal, us-versus-them mindset hardwired into us all.  They turn the world into a black and white place, us (the good guys) and them (the evil ones), which really simplifies your life/political choices by a lot!  Also with the bad guys being so cartoonishly evil, you automatically become a better person just for not being them!  While hurt, needy people come in all kinds of shades of grey, enemies on the other hand simplify life considerably.  Listening to those ex-addicts and people whose life took a turn for the worst can be a sobering experience because it reminds us that we are living a very fragile existence.  After all, they are people just like us and if the things that happened to them happened to us, who knows how we would have turned out?  The dark exes on the other hand lets you forget all that nonsense because all bad things are clearly the work of unseen dark satanic forces!  If you know all there is to know about these terrible people then you don't have to worry about bad things happening to you now do you?

Those are some of my best guesses.  Over on The Slacktivist, Fred Clark wrote a very interesting post on this very matter a while back called "Mike Warnke and Marriage Equality", so do yourself a favour and check it out.  It explores not only this strange phenomenon among the Christian faithful but also how the "satanic underground" fears of yesterday have now made way for the equally unfounded fears about "the gay agenda".

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hero Time! The Find Your Own Nazirite Adventure Quest!

I was chatting to a friend of mine the other day and she told me how she felt like she was losing touch with her own identity.  She has been spending so much time lately trying to live up to other people's requirements of her that she wasn't sure who she was anymore.  Now if you've read my previous blog post I bet you think I sat her down and preached the Gospel of Gaga to her.  That does sound like something I might do, but in this case I did no such thing.

This week was Nelson Mandela's birthday and the whole country was very worshipful about it.  It was celebrated everywhere, but not by everyone.  Couple of posts on Facebook reminded me that one man's freedom fighter is still another man's terrorist.  Not everyone looks up to Madiba.

We don't all have the same heroes.  Why should we?  We are not all the same, we don't all value the same things and that's just fine.  You don't have to enjoy the things I enjoy nor do you have to be impressed by the people who impress me.  But while I would certainly not expect everyone to agree with my assessment of Lady Gaga as the Last Great Nazirite, I would very much hope that you wouldn't disregard the concept of the Nazirites completely.

No one should have to do this life by themselves.  As the poet said, "No man is an island".  As the Zulus say, "umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" (You become a person through other people).  So much of the world seems dedicated to grind you down and tear you to pieces.  Having someone to look up to, someone who's life calls you onward and upward makes all the difference in the world.  You don't like my Nazirite?  Fine, pick another.  There are so many poets, painters, musicians, magicians, leaders, lovers, composers and writers to choose from so find the ones who feed your soul, those who remind you who you are.  Those who remind you to stay true to yourself.  Those who constantly push you to be better.

These aren't just empty words and I can prove it.  When people talk about their heroes I'm often reminded of that scene in Zoolander where Owen Wilson's vapid male model character talks about his role models and mentions how Sting inspires him: "Sting would be another person who's a hero. The music he's created over the years, I don't really listen to it, but the fact that he's making it, I respect that."  My point is you can't just list someone because its the cool thing to list, that person either makes a real difference to you or they don't.

Check out the post count on the right of the screen.  Notice how I've blogged more in half a year than I have done per year for the last 2 years?  Lady Gaga is a big part of that.  Stop rolling your eyes at me and hear me out!  See before she was the world famous Lady Gaga:

She was Stefani Germanotta, a young girl from NY with a deep love of music and some very big dreams.  In an interview she told how as a young, completely unknown artist she would play hour and a half long sets full of songs no one knew whenever she got a stage.  To give you some perspective, here she is as a student at an NYU talent show:

Just FYI, she didn't win, she came in 3rd.  As you can see the seeds of who she would become are all there but she hadn't quite hit her stride yet.  The talent is there, those songs were not bad at all but they were never going to top the charts.  A more pragmatic person would have advised her to get a real job instead and make music more of a hobby.  She kept going though, kept writing songs, kept preforming and eventually she found her voice and took the world by storm.

Now I'm no Lady Gaga, I don't have a fraction of her talent so this comparison breaks down pretty early on.  But the thing is, I really do like writing.  It's the only thing I've ever really dreamed of doing, one of the few things I truly enjoy.  Now I may never become famous or widely read but that's no reason not to keep at it.  If I love doing it, why not do it more, why not try to get better at it?  It may not bring me fame or fortune but that's no reason to not get all the enjoyment out of it that I possibly can.  That's why I've been writing more blog posts this year, who knows maybe one day I too will find my voice?  I like to think I'm getting more comfortable in my own skin here, despite (or maybe because of) having an audience in the single digits.  Lately it's been easier for me to speak my mind and to be honest when I write - I'm starting to be more like myself.  We can't all be famous, we can't all achieve greatness but that's no reason to not enjoy the things we do and learn to be good at it.

So laugh at me all you will for revering a 25 year old pop star the way I do but do yourself a favour, find a Nazirite of your own.  Believe me, it makes a difference.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Last of the Nazirites

"Don't you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can't be exactly who you are."
— Lady Gaga

Have you ever heard of the Nazirites?  Let me tell you about them.

Since childhood I have known about the Israelite holy men and women known as the Nazirites.  I knew the story of Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist but I never really thought much about it.  It was only when listening to historian Ray Vander Laan's "That the World May Know" series that I learned the most important thing about the Nazirite vow namely the reason it exists.  See I knew from my days in Sunday School that the Nazarite vow required three things:
  • Abstain from wine, wine vinegar, grapes, raisins, intoxicating liquors and vinegar distilled from such.
  • Refrain from cutting the hair on one's head
  • Avoid corpses and graves, even those of family members, and any structure which contains such (Apparently for some this ban on dead things also meant not eating meat)
What I never thought to ask was why they had to do these things, why did these things made them "Holy unto the LORD"?  None of those things were wrong or immoral so why would abstaining from them make one holy?  Maybe the answer is in the fact that "holy" doesn't mean what you think it does (or at least back then it certainly didn't).  As I've written before, "holy" meant "different", "set apart", "unique" - which is exactly what the Nazirite vow set you up to be.  A Nazirite didn't look like everyone else, they couldn't fit in to society like everyone else.  To put it a different way, a Nazirite was a freak, but the important thing here is that they were freaks for a reason.  They had a purpose, they weren't just different for the sake of nonconformity.  Instead they were living reminders to the people of Israel that they too were supposed to be different, that they were a nation set apart by God and that they were not supposed to look like and live like all the other nations of the world.  Nazirites lived as freaks to remind those around them that they weren't supposed to blend in.  It brings my favourite quote from Angel to mind:  "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh, and cruel. But that's why there's us - champions. Doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world is as it should be, to show it what it can be."

Those were the Nazirites of old.  Now, let me tell you about mine.

"For being different, it’s easy. But to be unique, it’s a complicated thing."
— Lady Gaga

There are a lot of words people use to describe Lady Gaga but I don't think the word "holy" is usually among them.  Yet if "holy" is to mean "different" and "unique" then she has to be the holiest person I know by a long shot!  There really is no one else like her.  Some artists reinvent themselves with every album they release but she seems to reinvent herself anew every morning.  She sets a new standard for concepts like "different" and "unique", she's a hyper dramatic, beautiful freak.  She may be full of shit but she is never less than true to herself.  She changes all the time and yet she is always aggressively her, sometimes only more so - every prop she ads on only makes her more her.  She stands out wherever she goes, she blends in nowhere and she is impossible to miss.  She is truly, fundamentally Holy/Different.

Every bit of me is devoted to love and art. And I aspire to try to be a teacher to my young fans who feel just like I felt when I was younger. I just felt like a freak. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm trying to liberate them, I want to free them of their fears and make them feel that they can make their own space in the world.
-- Lady Gaga

You know what, my description sounds a little clumsy.  I think she said it a lot better than me in her latest column for V Magazine (I'd very much recommend the entire article):
"Art is a lie. And every day I kill to make it true. It is my destiny to exist halfway between reality and fantasy at all times. They call me “theatrical,” but I posit profusely that I am theatre, and that theatre is me. I am a show with no intermission. It is this thing that summons me from the depths of reality and reminds me that the power of transformation is endless. That I (we) possess something magical and transformative inside —  a uniqueness and specialness waiting to be exiled from the depths of our identity. I have said before that I am a master of escapism, which many attribute to my wigs, performances, and my natural inclination to be grand, but perhaps that is also a lie. Maybe I am not escaping. Maybe I am just being. Being myself."

Now while she is clearly unique, that in itself is not enough to qualify her as a Nazirite.  After all, you can't throw a brick into a room full of artists without hitting someone "different" looking!  Merely looking strange is not enough, for a Nazirite is never odd just for the hell of it, a Nazirite is different for a purpose and that purpose involves other people.  Here is where she transcends most of her peers.  As you can probably tell from her quotes, she certainly does use her uniqueness as a platform to reach out to others, to remind them that it's OK for them to be different too.  To see how successful she is with her message, look no further than her fans.  Especially to unpopular, bullied teens and those in the LGBT community - in other words, those under the most pressure to suppress who they are and conform to societal expectations - she has been a light in the darkness.  This is her message and it is heard far and loud, you don't have to be like everyone else, you can be a freak and be proud.  You don't have to try to fit in, there's no shame if you don't, you can be who you are and be loved and valued for it.  If you let her, she will remind you that being yourself is a good thing.

"You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way."
— Lady Gaga

So then, may I present to you - Mother Monster, Champion of the queer, Friend of the odd,  Goddess of the Night, Queen of the freaks, High Priestess of the Holy Darkness,  Hammer of the Status Quo, Enemy of Conformity, The Voice of change calling you out from the desert of bland, the Strange Beauty, the Lying Truth, Patron Saint of Aggressively being yourself:  Lady Gaga, Last of the Nazirites!

"I want you to walk out of her tonight not loving me more, but loving yourselves more."
— Lady Gaga

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Secular Government is a Sane One

I've mentioned before (also before before) that I'm a big fan of American politics.  Elections in the US are exciting to watch because there either candidate can actually win, unlike in South African politics where we have only one party that always wins every election by a landslide.  I think that the upcoming presidential elections are shaping up to be really interesting.  So far I'm especially enjoying the race for the Republican presidential nomination.  I'm no political analyst so I don't want to use overly dramatic language like saying "the Republican Party is at a crossroads!" or that there is "a battle for the soul of the party!!" but it does seem to me that what happens in the 2012 election will have a serious impact on the future of the party.

Following the success of the Tea Party in the midterm elections, the religious right suddenly have more power than they've had in a very long time - and they are using it for all they're worth.  Things that belonged on the far right fundamentalist lunatic fringe just a few years ago are becoming increasingly mainstream on the conservative side it seems.  Case in point, the popularity of Michelle Bachman as a serious presidential candidate and of course this:

What was poison for a presidential candidate just last election is now the water of life and those who are unwilling to swear fealty to the new right wing, fundamentalist Christian dogma may just find themselves sidelined.  The religious right are now the kingmakers and they demand doctrinal purity - no gays, no abortion, no taxes, no healthcare, no compromise.  Therefore, all the moderate, more centrist conservatives are being flogged for their "progressive" views and so now the moderates have to fake allegiance to the fringe or risk losing support.  This in turn leads the party ever further towards the far right and I think this will cost them.  For instance look at the issue of gay marriage - fast becoming the Republican Albatross.  The religious right wants none of that and are fighting it tooth and nail BUT public opinion is turning rapidly and the majority of Americans now favour it.  While doctrinal purity may win you the Republican nomination it may very well cost you the election.   Worse, in the history books of tomorrow they will stand alongside the villains who fought against women's suffrage and to keep racial segregation alive.  Only time will tell I guess.

Now I could be reading it all completely wrong, I am half a world away after all.  Just seems to me that this next election will determine the future direction of the Republicans - either they will do well and the Religious Right Wing Fringe will become more powerful than ever OR they will get spanked and moderates could wrestle back control.  I for one hope that cooler heads will prevail.

But again, I know that no one likes a foreigner coming along, telling you your business and pretending that they understand things better than you do and I definitely don't want to be that guy.  No one likes that guy!  So I will rather just post the words of a great American, Robert Ingersoll.  He wrote the following in 1879 but it's so appropriate that it may as well have been written last weekend:

"I would like also to liberate the politician. At present, the
successful office-seeker is a good deal like the center of the
earth; he weighs nothing himself but draws everything else to him.
There are so many societies, so many churches, so many isms, that
it is almost impossible for an independent man to succeed in a
political career. Candidates are forced to pretend that they are
Catholics with Protestant proclivities, or Christians with liberal
tendencies, or temperance men who now and then take a glass of
wine, or, that although not members of any church their wives are,
and that they subscribe liberally to all. The result of all this is
that we reward hypocrisy and elect men entirely destitute of real
principle; and this will never change until the people become grand
enough to allow each other to do their own thinking.

Our Government should be entirely and purely secular. The
religious views of a candidate should be kept entirely out of
sight. He should not be compelled to give his opinion as to the
inspiration of the Bible, the propriety of infant baptism, or the
immaculate conception. All these things are private and personal.
He should be allowed to settle such things for himself and should
he decide contrary to the law and will of God, let him settle the
matter with God. The people ought to be wise enough to select as
their officers men who know something of political affairs, who
comprehend the present greatness, and clearly perceive the future
grandeur of our country. If we were in a storm at sea, with deck
wave-washed and masts strained and bent with storm, and it was
necessary to reef the top sail, we certainly would not ask the
brave sailor who volunteered to go aloft, what his opinion was on
the five points of Calvinism. Our Government has nothing to do with
religion. It is neither Christian nor pagan; it is secular. But as
long as the people persist in voting for or against men on account
of their religious views, just so long will hypocrisy hold place
and power. Just so long will the candidates crawl in the dust --
hide their opinions, flatter those with whom they differ, pretend
to agree with those whom they despise; and just so long will honest
men be trampled under foot."

From "Some Mistakes of Moses" by Robert G. Ingersoll available for free online here.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bran Covered Jack

The problem with writing in my second language is that I sometimes find it very hard to say exactly what I mean.  Afrikaans is a very visceral, descriptive language that lends itself very well to idiom.  Sadly this means it usually loses a lot when you try to translate it to a more boring language like English.  For instance we have this saying that goes:  "Meng jou met die semels dan vreet die varke jou" which if translated directly reads: "If you mix yourself with bran, the pigs will eat you" - which makes little to no sense.  Bran after all is a wholesome, colon-friendly product and I'm not sure pigs are particularly into it.  "Semels" on the other hand would more accurately be not bran but rather the waste product you get after milling wheat or corn, the stuff not really fit for human consumption that's best fed to animals.  The meaning of the idiom here is that if you hang out with a bad crowd you'll eventually become indistinguishable from the rest of them.  So to translate it properly I guess I'd have to change it to "If you roll around in carrion you'll end up surrounded by vultures".  With that out of the way, lets talk about someone who really exemplifies my new idiom - Jack T. Chick.

If you look at his earliest works they portray only very standard, straightforward message of Christian evangelism - get right with Jesus before  you die or you will go to Hell.  If he had stuck to these, chances are most people wouldn't even know the name Jack Chick.  What made him really famous however was the fact that he eventually began wrapping the gospel message in the most batshit crazy conspiracy theories known to man.  Why did this happen?  I would hazard a guess that perhaps it happened because he started spending time with the most batshit insane members of the Christian fringe you could hope to find.  Here are some of the folks who helped Jack become the man he is today:

Alberto Rivera.  If you know any of his work, you know that Jack Chick hates Catholics more than the Westboro Baptists hate the gays and Katy Perry combined.  From what I've learned in his comics and tracts, the Catholic church was responsible for creating Islam, Communism, Freemasonry, the Nazis, the Mormons, the Mafia and just FYI the entire Holocaust was basically a new Catholic Inquisition against the Jews!  Apparently, the Catholics have been working for Satan for millennia trying to destroy all real Christians (Protestants) and the only true Bible (King James 1611, duh!).  In fact, when the Antichrist eventually shows up, it's going to be none other than the Pope!  Now these are some pretty wild claims so you would assume he has some very solid evidence to back it up.  Instead what he has is the word of one man, Alberto Rivera.  Alberto claims to have been a Jesuit priest who had access to lots of secret Vatican inside info.  Eventually all these horrible truths, coupled with the fact that Catholic dogma contradicted the Bible led him to reject Catholicism.  The Jesuits then locked him up and tortured him in an asylum in Spain trying to force him back to the fold but eventually he escaped and spent the rest of his life fighting to expose the Vatican.  The thing is, unlike Chick, the Christian magazines Cornerstone and Christianity Today looked into his story and found a few small discrepancies.  For one thing the Catholic church denies that he was ever a  Jesuit priest or a bishop and the 3 doctorates he supposedly held turned out to be from a Colorado diploma mill.  They even found an employment form showing him married and with two children in the US while he was supposed to be a celibate priest in Spain.  Furthermore they found that "Rivera had a 'history of legal entanglements' including fraud, credit card theft, and writing bad checks. Warrants had been issued for his arrest in New Jersey and Florida, and he was wanted by the Spanish police for 'swindles and cheats'; while in the USA in 1967, he claimed to be collecting money for a Spanish college, which never received this money." (Source). 

John Todd.  John Todd a.k.a "John Todd Collins", "Lance Collins" and "Christopher Kollyns" was the man responsible for alerting Chick to the dangers of the occult.  Chick published three comic books (not tracts, comics) explaining how secret Satanist Druid Illuminati agents control the world, all based on what he learned from John Todd.  Did you know that all Rock music - even Christian Rock - is actually satanic and when you listen to it you bring demons into your house to make you less of a good Christian?  Same goes for Dungeons & Dragons, Horoscopes and Star Wars - all plots to turn Christians into Satanists!!  Again, a tiny bit of background checking raises serious doubts about his claims.  Most of his claims are either impossible to verify or downright false.  What we do know is that he was married several times, alternated religions between charismatic Christianity and Wicca several times though it seemed that for him religion was merely a means to get close to teenage girls.  Wherever he went, complaints seemed to surface regarding inappropriate sexual behaviour towards underage girls.  He spent a few months in jail for forcing oral sex on a young girl and years later was convicted on several rape charges and sentenced to 30 years in jail.  He eventually died in a mental health facility.  The sheer insanity of his life is hard to capture in a paragraph so I would strongly recommend this summary of his life here and here or for a briefer rundown, his Wiki page.

Kent Hovind.  When Chick felt the need for a science adviser to help him illustrate the war godless scientists are waging on the clear and obvious literal truth of Genesis he turned to Dr Kent Hovind aka "Dr Dino".  Whenever Chick mentions anything about evolution, just know that Hovind was his source.  Unlike the others I've mentioned so far, Hovind didn't fabricate his past.  He does however fabricate some of the worst, laughably false, most facepalm inducing attacks on science that you are ever likely to find.  He is so terrible that he is even shunned by the rest of the Young Earth Creationist community!  You have to be a new kind of terrible for Answers in Genesis to publicly distance themselves from you - and Kent Hovind is.  He claims to have many years experience teaching science in high school.  What he does not mention is that he only taught "science" at unaccredited church schools.  His doctorate is likewise from an unaccredited diploma mill (just like all his qualifications) and is not in any scientific field either, it's in Christian Education.  He is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence for tax evasion.  (Source)

Rebecca Brown.  With the departure of John Todd (though Chick did support and defend Todd to the last) Jack was in need of a new source for fresh occult info.  Lucky for him, help was at hand in the form of Dr Rebecca Brown - medical doctor by day, demonslayer by night.  I already discussed her rather unorthodox views in a previous post on Dirty Sexy Demonology so for more info do check it out.  The post was satirical but I didn't make up anything she actually teaches, you will find everything I mentioned in her books!  Thanks to her, Chick had up to date info on how demonic Halloween was and got to stay current on all the latest plots by witches and satanists to infiltrate and destroy Christian churches.  In gratitude he got her books published and so released her patented Curse Theology on the public.  Now unlike everyone else on this list, her credentials are actually real, she really did go to med school.  However she's not technically a doctor anymore (and not just because she's a full time demon hunter and witch smeller now).  "In 1984, Brown's medical license was revoked by the issuing state of Indiana. The licensing board ruled that on numerous occasions she had "knowingly and intentionally misdiagnosed her patients", blaming their illnesses on "demons, devils, and evil spirits." A board-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed her as suffering from "acute personality disorders including demonic delusions and/or paranoid schizophrenia" and observed her injecting herself with unknown substances. The board also found that she had over-medicated her patients and administered improper treatments, as well as failed to properly document their treatment." (Source.)  For a more detailed discussion I would recommend these: Part 1Part 2.

With friends like these, is it any surprise Chick tracts are as insane as they are?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Problematic Theology Made REALLY Simple

Let's say I tell you that I own a Davy Crockett style coonskin cap.  Now let's say that first off you think that "coonskin cap" sounds vaguely racist even when a Wikipedia link is included showing it's not and secondly that you are skeptical and do not think it's possible that I can own one.  How should I respond to you?

The best possible answer I could give would be:

See?  Argument settled, it's right there for all the world to see.  Still skeptical?  Feel free to come over, I'll show it to you in person and maybe even let you touch the soft fluffy hide.  Just wash your hands first.  Still don't believe me?  Really?  How could you not?  You're just being contrarian on purpose now, aren't you?  Psh, I can't talk to you when you get like this!

On the other hand...

The worst possible answer I could give would be:

Really?  How is that even an argument?  Sure if I said "You don't know everything there is to know in the universe so it's totally possible that I'm right and you're wrong" I would probably technically correct in a way but that's a terrible answer to a simple question.  Similarly if I told you to just believe that I have a hat and that if you presuppose that it is true you will feel the proof of my coonskin cap ownership in your heart - that wouldn't be very convincing either now would it?  No, I'm pretty sure that would sound insane.  Even worse, I could say that I don't need to give you proof, the fact that I told you about it is all the proof you need and if you don't believe me then just wait until you're dead because then you will have all the proof you want.  If I said that and you punched me in the face, no one would blame you because that is such a bad argument that it actually goes full circle and becomes the opposite of an argument.

Only thing left to add is that I look uber manly in a coonskin hat.  Don't even bother trying to refute that argument, you're just going to end up looking stupid.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Problematic Theology Made Simple

My entire youth spent in church, a year in Bible School and 3 years in Seminary and I never once heard it explained quite as well as this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic:

Theodicy is a theological problem that predates Christianity (See Epicurus) but sad to say, 2000+ years of theological pondering has left us no closer to an answer.  Well, if you want to be technical it has left us with a great many volumes of answers but none of them are particularly satisfying (hence the many volumes).  The problem is simple, on the one hand you have a perfectly good God who is all-knowing and all-powerful.  On the other hand you have the messed up world we live in.  One of these things make it very hard to believe in the other and the problem with reality is that we are kinda stuck with it.  The problem, like I said, is simple - if God is so great why is the world so evil?  The answer is also fairly simple, all you have to do is change something about God to make Him fit the state of the universe.  Problem is that the moment you start tinkering with God you change Him into something less godly and usually you end up with a God as ugly as your universe - which makes the whole exercise pointless.  Honestly, I don't see what is so bad about the skeptical view here.  Surely an uncaring universe is preferable to one governed by a malevolent or apathetic God?  Also, if you're going to have a God that can be overruled and marginalized by your (and everyone else's) choices at all times then why bother having a God at all?

In all fairness, I think CS Lewis made a pretty good case for free will as a solution in "The Problem of Pain".  I can agree with him that for God to actually stop every evil thing that happens would require near constant miraculous intervention and having the laws of physics and reality altered every couple of seconds does seem like an absurd expectation to have.  The problem is, even the free will argument breaks down after a while.  Let's say I'm walking down the street and I find a teenager who tried a dumb stunt on his skateboard and ended up with two broken legs at the bottom of a sewer drain that is busy filling up with water.  He got into that situation by his own free will, no doubt.  However if I ignore all his pleas for help and just leave him there to suffer I'm not respecting his free will, I'm being a dick!  Where it falls apart for me is not that bad things happen or that evil exists, it's that there seems to be no divine help when you beg for it. 

Ye gods I am sick and tired of the weepy, impotent God of modern Christianity!  I was reading The Shack which explained how God was right there when the protagonist's little girl was abducted, molested and murdered, crying with her and feeling her pain.  I have found that this is a Godview shared by many evangelical Christians and it's meant to be comforting.  Comforting?!  Comforting my ass!  You know who can cry along in empathy when children get molested?  Me!  Also: You and anyone you know with even a shred of humanity left in them.  We don't need God to do our crying for us.  A God who could have saved that little girl, now that would be a praiseworthy God!  I don't need a God who can get weepy about my pain, I need a God who can help.

How I long for the Old God, for the God of Elijah and Moses!  He walked the earth in fire and lightning, He was powerful and He was present!  When Elijah wanted to show who served the true God he didn't have to break out the ontological argument  or anything like it because he had a God who answered with fire!  Moses didn't show up in Pharaoh's court with the Cosmological Argument because he had a God who could turn a staff into a snake, bring down horrific plagues on the land and split the sea in half!  Their God may have been terrifying but you knew without a doubt that He was real and you wanted to be on His side!

Or how about an eating, drinking, miracle working God-with-us like Jesus?  You don't need to discuss "first causes" and "unmoved movers" when you can walk on water and raise the dead!  If you were on the side of power and the status quo He was every bit as terrifying as the God of Elijah but if you were amongst the outcast and the broken you had no better friend.  He didn't go through the land feeling sorry for people, He healed and restored and helped!  He was present and He made things better for those who called on Him in a real and tangible way!  Jesus of Nazareth was nowhere near as emo as the neutered Jesus of modern suburbia.

I guess what I really long for is a God who lives in reality and not in philosophy.  Is that too much to ask?  I don't think I'm alone in this either.  Despite all his apologetics and philosophy, even CS Lewis ended up inventing a God more majestic, compassionate and present than the one he preached about in his theological works.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dirty Sexy Demonology

Do you ever find yourself feeling disenchanted by the inherent passivity and lack of sexiness of "lamestream" Christianity?  Ever wish you could do more to fight the forces of evil?  Sure, praying about it and hoping God will do something somehow at some point is nice and all but don't you ever wish you could do something more exciting, more dangerous, perhaps even something more... sexy than that?  Do you ever say to yourself, "Protestant Christianity is fine I guess but I sure do wish it could be more Medieval Catholicism!"? Well if you said yes to any of those questions then boy do I have a great product for you!

First, let me tell you the story of how I learned of this exciting branch of the Christian tree.  See back in my teenage years my parents decided to play host to a wayward youth pastor for a couple of months.  Now having a pastor under your roof 24/7 is less fun than it sounds but she did make up for it by occasionally telling the most amazing tales of her experiences battling teenage witches and warlocks.  Well technical term for shepherding young Satan worshipers (did you not know that's what all witches are?  Don't you just feel ignorant now!) back to the Christian fold is "deliverance ministry", but the way she told it sure sounded more like a battle to me.  A mage battle!  Since I was so fascinated by her tales she gave me a book to read called "He came to set the captives free" by Dr Rebecca Brown (MD).  To say that the contents of that book was "mindblowing" would be a massive understatement.  The story Dr Brown told was just totally unbelievable!  I mean really it is just like impossible to believe that such a story can be true!  (Except it totes was, because she's a Christian so you know she wouldn't fib and all that) It was like reading the script of the most awesome supernatural horror movie ever except it wasn't a movie - this shit was real!

Now over time me and the Charis-manic branch of Christianity had to go our separate ways due to irreconcilable differences (long story) and I kinda forgot about it until this week when this book featured in the excellent Prodigal Witch series over on Swallowing the Camel which you should totally read if you have any interest in the "former Satanist" phenomenon because it's awesome.  The blog that is, not the phenomenon.

Anyhoo, back to the good part.  As you can probably judge just by looking at the cover, "He came to set the captives free" introduces you to a darker and far more exciting version of Christianity.  Basically it takes normal, everyday, boring old Pentecostal Christianity and then strips out all the boring shit and then streamlines it into something sexier!  Don't worry, just because they threw out a lot doesn't mean they don't replace it with a ton of totally awesome extras!  When the dust settles you'll find that you got yourself some real old time religion.  I mean really, really old time religion.  Like a thousand odd years or so old.

I'll quickly get the boring part out of the way so I can tell you the juicy stuff.  Here is what happens in the book:  As a baby, little Elaine's soul gets sold to Satan by some evil nurses.  She grows up with lots of occult talent and then gets forcibly drafted into full blown Satanism at a religious camp a popular classmate tricked her into attending.  She takes to satanism like a duck to orange glaze and quickly rises through the ranks to eventually become the Bride of Satan.  That's not just a title either, she actually has a physical church wedding with Satan complete with honeymoon (Spoiler alert - the Prince of Darkness is a terrible lover!).  She has many awesome magical adventures in Satanism fighting against the forces of God until she runs into the right kind of Christian - Dr Rebecca Brown MD!  She then learns that Christianity is actually far more awesome, converts and has lots of magical adventures in Christianity fighting against the forces of Satan!  Now doesn't that just sound better than anything YOU have ever done in church?  Welcome to the wild world of Curse Theology!

It's like this but where one wizard ♥ Satan and the other one is way into Jesus.  Can you guess which one is which?

Forget everything you know, this is not your daddy's theology!  This is Christianity times awesome squared!  Let me break it down for you:

In the one corner we have your opponent, the demons.  You know how in the Bible possessed people are drooling, epileptic lunatics and how whenever Jesus or one of His followers told the demons to leave they just packed up and went?  Snoozeville, amarite?!  Well good news, turns out Jesus was holding out on you and in fact demons are awesome.  Turns out you can use intelligent demons to make yourself smarter or instead use lesser demons to enhance your physical abilities.  In the book for instance, Elaine uses demon power to become a deadly martial arts master!  Hold on to your hat though, because those are just the entry level demons!  Turns out demons can also enable you to do incredible magic - and I mean real magic, not lame David Blaine in a box magic - feats for both personal entertainment and practical self defense!  But wait there's more!  Are you sitting down?  Do you think werewolves are cool?  Of course you do!  Werewolves are awesome!  You know what is more awesome?  The fact that according to Rebecca Brown, demons can turn you into a real flesh and fur werewolf!  Also vampires but I feel Twilight made them lame so I'm not even going to bring that up.  Also these motherfucking demons don't just get out of the motherfucking person they're possessing just because you asked nice.  Oh no, these mofo's are going to put up a fight!  Hope you're ready!

In the other corner, there is you.  Now you may be feeling nervous because your enemy sounds totally awesome but that's only because Satanists and their demons totally are!  Never fear, you get to be even awesomer!  Pop quiz, a horde of satanists are astrally projecting themselves your way and they are bringing all their pet demons along, what do you fight back with?  No, the urine in your underwear won't prevent you from being torn limb from limb.  How about some effing ANGELS instead?!!  Because if you are good enough, God will totally lend you some and apparently those dudes kick sooo much satanic ass it's not even funny!  (Actually it may very well be funny because according to the book they do snarky wisecracks while they whoop demon ass!)  Don't worry though, it won't all come down to a game of creature summoning every time.  Turns out Christians can do all kinds of magic too when they need to.  Except it's not magic because magic is Satanic and therefore Christians don't use it.  They just use stuff that looks and sounds exactly like spells and ritual magic except it's completely different because they get their magic from Jesus.  It may seem daunting, but never fear, Dr Brown wrote a whole slew of books that will teach you all the spells and counterspells (or prayers, whatever) you need for both defense and offense against the forces of darkness.

Interested?  How could you not be?  All that usual Christian stuff about loving your neighbour like yourself and forgiving those who trespass against you and caring for the smelly homeless people is hard work and it's neither sexy nor cool.  On the other hand, having a theology that bears an uncanny resemblance to magic is super exciting and not that hard at all!  Let's face it, your life lacks excitement, your job doesn't seem that important and no one in your family appreciates you.  All of that changes when you get to be a front line warrior in the secret war between heaven and hell!  You can finally silence that annoying feeling that maybe you're a loser!  OK no one is going to appreciate you more and your job and life will still be meaningless and insignificant but deep down you will know that you are actually as cool as you always dreamed you could be!  Humility is for chumps, why not be a (secret) hero instead?  Curse theology, demons and the like is sooo sexy!  If you add some dirty sexy demonology to your life you can be sexy too!!

[Disclaimer:  Dirty Sexy Demonology only makes you feel sexy, doesn't actually make you sexy or cool.  Embracing Curse Theology and the teachings Satanic Panic teachings of Rebecca Browne and her ilk may instead lead to excess loneliness and friends and family spurning you for being "annoying as fuck" or "a chore to be around" (their words, not mine).  Don't worry, you don't need friends when you have delusions of spiritual grandeur and a sense of smug superiority!  The more people you drive away the more God loves you! ]