Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reason gets an early mark

I had a marvelous lesson this morning on exactly how the Christian religion completely fails to come to grips with reason.

The subject of this morning’s message was “How (or why) does God permit bad things to happen?” I immediately sat up and started paying attention; the speaker was a man who is quite sharp, and I thought his take on it would offer something new (at least to my experience).

Unfortunately, I was quite wrong.

The primary argument offered was that in Genesis, God turned over the world to humanity, thereby allowing free will. By giving humanity “dominion over the Earth” in Genesis, He “delegated” His authority to us, and in that act committed Himself not to intervene in the world. To do so, He has to be invited to do so, through prayer.

(There was an aside offered that the spiritual world cannot act in the physical without a human being as a sort of gateway, to invite or plead with God, and God will not break this “law” – he had to manifest as a human being to influence the physical world.)

This has holes in it so large you could drive a truck through it.

Even the speaker admitted that there are multiple instances in the Bible where God acts completely of His own volition. Two easy examples cited by the speaker himself: the Flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah. There are countless other examples in the OT - the burning bush, multiple prophets to whom he spoke directly, even a horde of ravenous bears that killed children who made fun of one prophet's baldness. (Yes, what a loving God.) Remember, this argument is based on the early chapters of Genesis, so there is no part of the OT or NT to which it doesn’t apply.

The speaker admitted that despite all this arm-waving about the separation of a physical and spiritual world, it seems that God can act in “sovereign judgment” over the world whenever He chooses, and destroy all or part of it if he gets fed up.

To paraphrase this line of reasoning, God has determined the bounds and laws of the physical world, and committed that He will not act to violate them.

Oh, except when He decides to, irrespective of His commitment not to do exactly that.

Oh, and when someone prays to him (and presuming He decides to answer said prayer).

So, in other words, God could intervene in any thing, any time; he just wants us to pray for it. And most of the time he’ll ignore those prayers. Except when he decides to just say “the hell with it” and do something anyway without anyone wanting it.

Evil exists because we have free will, and because God won't intervene. Except as noted above. So really there's no reason for the existence of evil at all, then, is there?

God is a liar and a fraud, or more capricious than a three-year-old with attention-deficit disorder.

Or... maybe... a complete fable?

And this was proffered as a rational argument for the existence of evil. Well, mission accomplished, but not the way it was intended.

[Head explodes]

Saturday, May 24, 2008

No more Eurovision

I can't stand another dose of bad TV like last night, so with apologies to all of my avid readers (I think there's one out there somewhere... I can hear you breathing), I'll be "reviewing" Master and Commander instead.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Watching the 1st semi-final of Eurovision on SBS (Australia’s multicultural FTA station). Yes, TV is that bad tonight. But Eurovision is always good for a giggle, so stream-of-consciousness reactions are below.

I miss the first couple or three putting the kids to bed. I don’t think I missed much.

Estonia – one of the most puzzling things I’ve seen. A chorus that sounded phonetically like “lego lego stretch”, waving of a German flag (why?), unexplained explosions, and apparent carnal knowledge of a piano, all performed by the Wiggles’ creepy older uncles. Followed by booing. “Ah yes, now we’re at Eurovision!” Someday I’d like someone to explain that little number to me, but even then I don’t think I’ll understand.

Where’s Terry Wogan when you need him?

Moldova – not bad at all actually, a slightly jazzy, late-night-style number. Best experienced with scotch on ice. I’m a bit puzzled why the singer’s hair seemed to be caught in the wake of a jet engine, but whatever.

San Marino – looked a bit nondescript, but I was interrupted by the kids.

Belgium – hell, it’s a candypop on legs. Someone shoot her RIGHT NOW. A strange combination of bubblegun pop with classical instruments sung by someone trying to capture the spirit of Mary Poppins.

Slovenia – a radioactive ghoul. No, a radioactive space ghoul.

Norway – passable, although they look like fembots. More mysterious hair-waving-in-a-jet-exhaust. I don’t think the venue is outdoors?

Poland – another blond looker. They must be cheap in Europe this time of year.

Ireland – atonal militaristic stuff with a dog. Fabbo. No, sorry, it’s the famous turkey! Well, that’s okay then.

Okay, the turkey just farted. Really. I’m backing away slowly…

Did anyone ever tell Ireland that green, white and orange is a really tacky combination?

The commentators are arguing whether the puppeteer constitutes a seventh person on stage and hence a breach of the rules. Sigh. How much does the job pay and can I do it next year?

Andorra – this should be good, this country is the size of a sheep farm. Not a large sheep farm either.

The singer has a martian sucking her brain out or something. Strange black thing stuck to her forehead. The song isn’t too bad, however – bland and insipid, but at least it isn’t downright awful.

Boznia/Herzegovnia – something from a bad remake of Pinocchio. With bridesmaids, for no apparent reason.

Armenia – interesting start, mildly catchy beat. And at least it’s not another damn blonde.

[NB: I don’t actually have anything against blondes. Really. I think my sister is blonde, but she changes her hair colour so much that I’ve honestly forgotten what her natural colour is.]

…Okay. The singer punctuated the beat by thrusting her breasts upwards three times while the camera zoomed in on her. That isn’t a blatant appeal to the male judges, oh no.

The Netherlands – hmm, a bit Latino in feel and beat, quite appealing actually and one of the few entrants to appear moderately professional.

Finland – heavy metal again! Once they’ve found a trick, they don’t give it up easily. At least we’re spared the hideous costumes this time, but they seems to be a time warp back to the eighties – long hair and empty-air-head-thwack stuff. Think Wayne’s World, the Bohemian Rhopsody scene.

I think they’re miming, even to the extent of not playing the instruments; the drum beats are off, and the guitarists don’t seem to be actually playing.

Oh goody, fireworks! That always adds so much musically.

Romania – a duet, for something different. The black-and-green costumes play right into some very old stereotypes. Quite pleasant though, competently done and musically a little bit engaging, if you like musical-type theatrical duets. (I do.)

Russia – missed the start having a smoke. Hmm, slightly atonal to my ears, but that could be a cultural thing. Waaaay over the top with theatrics. Roller skating! Hahahaha! Oh dear, these boys need to get over themselves. Why are Eurovision entrants almost invariably regurgitating musical trends from two or three decades ago?

Greece – a Britney Spears wannabe. Same dancing style and all. Actually, she’s overdressed for Britney. No, sorry, she’s shed some of her costume, and other bits look like they may malfunction. Fairly ordinary pop with lots of blatant look-at-my-body, so it will probably get lots of votes, Eurovision politics permitting.

A small break for a tennis star. Of course that’s relevant to the evening.

After much hiatus the results:

Greece. No surprise.
Romania. Nice call.
Bosnia/Herzegovnia. Interesting.
Finland. Oh boy.
Russia. Enh.
Armenia. Okay.

Another triumph of style over content really. At least the farting turkey didn’t get through.

So much for Euro Idol. I think I want to see Eurovision Big Brother. No, I tell a lie, that’s pretty much the historical narrative of the European continent, isn’t it?