Divine Blindness: Day 5

Still nothing! I am disappointed in the extreme. Surely God can have no more excuses? I mean, why would an omnipotent, omniscient being have any difficulty at all in doing as His follower bade Him? It’s been five days and the time for traipsing Mill Ave. is nearly upon us again. If God is so interested in the goings-on of Mill, wouldn’t it benefit Him to have one of the Resistance out of action and suffering a crisis of non-faith?

Wait, you’re thinking. God doesn’t have to obey anyone! So what if Cesar claimed to be able to call down the Lord’s wrath upon me? That doesn’t mean He’s going to do it.

But why, though? This deity, who would necessarily have to be very well acquainted with who I am, knows what proof I need to believe in him, and to thus be “saved”. If he can perform such enormous feats as destroying Sodom and Gomorrah and (paradoxically) impregnating a young woman sans genitalia, why can’t he blind me to save me from the fires of Hell? Surely he knows that I would be more inclined to believe after such a miraculous experience.

Perhaps the Lord is as I suspected: a cruel god, a tyrant unmatched. Perhaps he truly does not care for his followers one bit…

Or perhaps, just perhaps, He is not the god of the Bible. He could be a different god entirely, one who never claims to intervene. Or maybe it is a deist god, who does not interfere with the universe much after creating it, leaving its creations (us) in a state of benign neglect…

Or maybe, and much more likely, it’s none of these things at all. The reason Cesar couldn’t blind me using the power of the Lord is because there is no Lord. There is no power to call on outside of ourselves to get the things that we want. Didn’t Jesus claim several times (in Mark 11:24 – 25, for instance) that whatever a Christian believed would happen and prayed for would take place? Not so, it would seem.

Science has never found much in the way of evidence for gods at all, and nothing that can’t be explained by naturalistic causes. And thankfully, when science (and the scientifically-inclined mind) doesn’t know something, it tries its damndest to discover what it is. That’s in direct opposition to religion, which can only spew the same nonsense it ever has, with some obnoxious apologetics thrown in for flavor.

My point is this: I very much doubt that there will ever be evidence for a god or gods. With so much progress being made by science in the past few hundred years, evidence has begun to increasingly show that the natural world has far more explanations and answers than any religious book. And as this progresses, the gaps for God to exist in become smaller and smaller. When you get to present times, He becomes little more than a handyman, stepping in to do the heavy lifting when things get too hard for poor little science to handle. And nearly all hypotheses involving God have either gone kaput or are regarded as nonscientific.

Religion is simply not reconcilable with scientific observation. Hence the overwhelming majority of atheist/agnostic scientists. They’re applying the scientific principles of skepticism to their own lives, as all of us should.

And as for those who believe in the Christian God, the one called upon to blind me, they have no basis at all for what they believe other than an ancient book written by men and deemed infallible. The God of the Bible could never have created the universe or us. I doubt he could ever do more than sit and have a temper tantrum of the floor of some cosmic nursery.

However it may be (and my position on the matter should be obvious), the truth remains that I am not blind. Hooray!

Divine Blindness: Day 2

Being blind seems to be remarkably similar to having sight. I’m beginning to think that perhaps nothing is happening at all.

Then I remember that Father’s Day was yesterday. I can’t expect so much out of God. I mean, like any good dad He was probably partying into the early hours with His son Jesus, going all Old Testament on a keg of prodigious size. The resulting hangover will surely take a day or two to overcome.

Meanwhile I sit and wait for the proof that he even exists. Surely blinding an 18-year-old girl shouldn’t be too hard for him? Once He can get up off the couch without puking up a universe or two, I’m sure he’ll get right to it. Cesar’s request is probably not far down the queue, right?

We’ll see.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, June 20th 2009

I’m so excited I can barely contain myself. The Lord is going to blind me!

Last night was a fairly calm night, as Phil and those with him were the only ones hanging around. The exception was Edwin, who vanished soon after we arrived. With Phil was Cesar, a preacher I’d seen around only a few times.

He came up to us immediately as we approached the post office corner, and started in on his usual shtick. “I love you. You are my sister,” he said, indicating me, “and you are my brother.” He waved his hand at Kazz. “I love the both of you. But you need to respect us.”

He rambled on in the vein of “respect” for a while, and his main premise seemed to be that we would be bringing the wrath of God down on us if we continued to do what we do. He ignored me when I told him that while I respected their right to preach what they wanted to preach, I didn’t have to respect what they were saying. Also, the very fact that he seemed to be threatening us with God’s wrath was not terribly “respectful” of him to do.

“I can make you blind,” he said, looking at me. “For a little while, you will be blind.” I took this again as somewhat threatening, until he assured me that he had no need of touching me. He had only to speak to God, telling him that I was a child of Satan and to reveal himself to me. He did this, at my request, and he told me that the blindness would start some time the next day.

Phil made his usual mischief (including the hilarious misspeak below), and Jim rolled up to discuss the “merits” of creationism with us. We were at one point convinced that everyone was leaving when it turned out they were just making a final lap around Mill, preaching out of their portable loudspeaker. We followed behind, our megaphone held at the ready. The cacophony of the mixed sounds migrated down the street as we tailed them, and we left them only when they began to preach directly into the bars. I was sure that the police would be along soon enough to stop them from disrupting the merrymaking of the bar patrons.

The night itself was fairly nondescript, with the main event being Cesar’s little séance. Today has not brought me blindness, but I am willing to give him some leeway. Today was Father’s Day after all. Perhaps God was busy; perhaps Jesus took him out for a nice lunch and a Mylar “Best Dad Ever!” balloon. I’m willing to wait and see if this blindness thing will come through.

I can’t wait.

Quote of the Week
Phil: “Jesus said if you have hated in your heart, then you have committed adultery!”

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Friday, May 22nd, 2009

This Friday night was sparse with us-lings, since many were at the SFTS end-of-year party. Kazz, Spyral, Ezra, and I all dropped in on the revelry; Spyral and Ezra decided to stick around while Kazz and I went out to Mill.

An unpleasant little surprise awaited us upon our arrival. The Door were out, in all their screaming, shouting, spooky glory. I had never yet seen them, only heard tales of their insane antics and occasional violent behavior. They were all I could have hoped for and more on this night. A large number of them were dressed in black bodysuits, dancing and wailing with skeleton-painted faces as a mad preacher howled above their writhing bodies. Some waved ghostly gauze banners with images of what may have been demons on them. A reasonably large crowd looked on, and Omar and Jim stood not too far from where we set up the speaker.

A couple of the less-crazy members came to speak with us while the show wore on. However, when I say “less-crazy”, please remember to whom I’m referring. These two young men seemed completely devoid of anything resembling sense. The one I spoke with primarily seemed absolutely unwilling to consider, even for the moment, that the Bible was fallible or in any way untrue. He seemed to dance around my questions regarding his presence on Mill; after all, didn’t Jesus proscribe such behavior as public worship and showing off?

After some time, the large group began to pack up and leave. Relieved at their retreat, we began heading back down Mill towards Urban Outfitters. As we walked, Omar told us about having the cops called on him earlier that evening. As when this happened before, the Door simply didn’t want to share the corner and decided to make a police matter of it. Of course, once the police turned up they could do nothing about it except to make sure no one was obstructing the sidewalks. This was welcomed with frustration by the Door, as one could expect. And to top it off, Omar went on to say that the guy who had called the police on him got a faceful of bird feces some time later. Ah, irony.

On the northwest corner of 6th St. were Jonathan, Phil, and their attendant hangers-on, who were about to set up at the southeastern corner and begin their usual proclamations. As we walked up, Phil hastily removed his arm from its position around Missy’s shoulders and sat up straighter on the planter box. Refraining from teasing him about “lusting in his heart” was quite difficult, especially as he crossed his arms and leaned back, yelling “Jesus is LORD!” at passerby as we spoke with Jonathan about having a debate.

We attempted to set up near them as they moved to the southeast corner, until we were shooed across the street by the hot dog vendors. Here, Jonathan performed the most sickening act of the entire night: he began to administer the “Good Person Test” to a group of kids, all of whom looked to be no more than twelve or thirteen at most. Not five feet from us, we looked on as he smilingly asked them what they’d call someone who lied, or stole. They seemed generally willing to listen to him, and I admit that I was saddened and angered beyond belief by his tactics. It’s disgusting enough when these mind tricks and falsehoods are used on adults, but when he tries them on children…

A man who’d been hanging around us, however, asked us to think about how Jonathan thinks of what he’s doing. He doesn’t see it as bad, or evil, but as helping people. I still cannot find it in myself to condone such behavior, even when considering it from that side. What he does preys on the weak and the gullible, at the best of times. In this instance, he was polluting the minds of those who aren’t sure of themselves yet, who can be more easily shaped to think certain things than adults are. I find it abhorrent, no matter what the context there is within Jonathan’s mind.

At long last, however, Jonathan packed up and Kazz and I returned to the party, there to watch the antics of our compatriots and try to feel less ill about what we had witnessed.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, May 2nd 2009

Apologies that this took so long to post.

Mill Ave. wasn’t quite crawling with preachers this past Saturday, which isn’t to say there weren’t any. Since it’s usually pretty devoid of them on Saturday nights now, there seemed to be a comparatively large amount. Al and his cronies were handing out their “I.Q. Test” tracts by the Light Rail, and we kept an eye on them for a while. Then word came that the dreaded Jeremiah was on on the corner of 5th St.

A cameraman was out to document Jeremiah’s incredible preaching abilities, and we set up our equipment nearby. Joe and Kyle were already there, and Rocco turned up a while after. We were bothered for a while by the adversarial cameraman, who intimated that we were cowards for not “preaching” our beliefs on our own, instead of merely reacting to the street preachers. He didn’t seem to understand when we tried to explain to him that we aren’t really fond of annoying people without cause.

Jeremiah began to speak, and we all watched as the crap began to fly from his mouth and splatter, moist and mushy, onto the pavement and the deaf ears of the crowd. He seemed fixated this night on the “10 out of 10 people die” line, as well as “God knows what’s on your computer history!”. His infinite loop seemed even shorter than usual, inducing yawns after about three revolutions of the “Jeremiah’s brain” turntable.

Appropriating Rocco’s megaphone, I said my usual stuff too. Hey, if he can have reruns, so can I. Kazz and I passed it back and forth for a bit, then I gave it to him to recover from the thin fog of smarm particles emanating from Jeremiah, which were beginning to overcome me. Hence the new saying, “When Mill gives you smarm, make smarmalade.”

Of course, it does not do to forget why we’re out here. What Jeremiah does hurts people. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to realize that. As Kazz said to him, if he had a leg to stand on he wouldn’t have to resort to frightening people with tales of “the lake of fire” and such. There is also the simple fact that he is not willing to debate with us. When asked, he said, “I’m not here to debate! I’m here to proclaim,” which induced gales of laughter from all present.

Eventually Jeremiah got frustrated and stomped off, carrying his equipment with him and almost visibly sulking. We stayed around for a while, and Rocco spoke with several young men of an unsavory, rather intimidating character. El Presidente also granted the cameraman an interview, which will be ostensibly be shown in their church and almost certainly have Rocco misquoted to the point of ridiculousness.

We decided to pass on an opportunity to bother Al, who had since brought out his speaker. A few of the hecklers we’d had earlier were there, and we figured they were capable of handling anything Al had to dish out (which as usual wasn’t really much).

This Saturday was an important reminder to us, however. No matter how dead they’ve been, they can’t be neglected. As ever we need lots of people out to contend with the “proclamations” of those such as Jeremiah. We’ve recently been a little sparse, especially late on Saturday nights. Sometimes it’s difficult making sure you have enough people with you to be safe. Even if there aren’t many preachers out on Saturdays, it’s important to be safe since things can happen even when you aren’t opposing anyone.

On Debating Specifics

I often state that religion can be defied on reason alone. Simply put, if there is no evidence for it, there is no reason to believe it. There is also no reason to disbelieve it, though if evidence can be brought against it, the claims become increasingly absurd and defy Occam’s razor to the point of ridiculousness.

Thus, it’s often seemed silly to me that so many of us are forced to argue the specifics of Bible passages and the like in order to make our point. The thing is, though, that many of the people we’re debating against are willing to make great rationalizations for what they believe. They’re incredibly forgiving with the book. They variously condemn us for taking a phrase too literally or, alternately, not literally enough.

And yet they say that their book is not open to interpretation, that it is concrete and infallible. I find this disturbing; they accuse us of living our lives without a guiding code, but it is they who are willing to mold their scriptures to reflect whatever they like them to. And they still claim infallibility, and promote that their own interpretation is the only way. All others are not the *true* followers.

Of course, so many people won’t listen unless we know the specifics of their particular faith (usually varying forms of Christianity). They’ll call us on these specifics when what we’re arguing is for reason. It’s like discussing bad slash-fiction with a middle-aged basement dweller: none of it ever happened, none of it will ever happen, and yet you’re arguing over specific plausibility like it really matters. It’s not about the specifics. It’s about fundamental concepts of rationality. They’re large, large enough that it seems people can’t see them so often, preferring to pick over smaller things.

It isn’t about the smaller things. It’s about the things required for faith in their God: deep solipsism, the relinquishment of personal responsibility, suppression of the questioning intellect, and the acceptance of personal unworthiness and helplessness that are necessary to be “saved.” All of these things are, to my mind, unhealthly in any person looking to improve the state of things. These are the mentalities of downtrodden slaves, not of thinking human beings.

Little is accomplished by going down the list of contradictions and conflicting interpretations in the Bible, of which I understand there to be many. But it would seem that we will never be listened to if we cannot play their game. With any luck, by showing proficiency with their texts, they become more willing to listen to what it is we have to say: that reason and rationality should not be suppressed, and that religion is a prime enemy of the intellect. I hope that one day people will listen to reason, rather than arguing empty, truthless scripture.