Tag Archives: God

Turn by Turn Directions

Imagine for a moment, that from the moment of your birth, there was a singular destination to which you were bound, and that the journey to that destination would occupy all the time and energy of your life.

Imagine further, that taking a wrong turn on that journey could have eternally dire and inescapable consequences.

That would suck.

Now imagine, once more, that as is often the case for us in this modern world of wonders, there were an App for that.


Life Directions

In this scenario, the algorithm behind the app is programmed in such a way that it not only knows where you are now and what direction you are heading, it knows about every obstacle and side street you will ever encounter.  It knows about all the other drivers, where they are heading, and when you will interact with them.  It knows about the traffic and weather conditions you will experience today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of your life.

All of which would be profoundly handy, if the app could be expected to relay even a fraction of this information to you.

But that’s not how it works.

There’s no glowing blue dot on a map that moves when you move, and no artificially soothing voice badgering you to turn left in 300 feet.

The information is there, but by design it doesn’t display.

And there are no ‘In App’ purchases that will make it do so.

Seems a bit less convenient now, doesn’t it?

It gets worse.

The reason the algorithm knows about all the traffic holdups and twisting side streets to nowhere, is because it put them there.  What’s more, rather than directing you along the most direct and speedy route to your destination, the algorithm is designed to offer up vague guidelines and suggestions while purposely directing you through bad neighborhoods and into bumper to bumper traffic jams, all as a way to test your willingness to continue using the app.

You might think that the other drivers could provide some assistance, but you’d be wrong.  Most of them are too busy arguing about which version of the app you should be using and on which platform.  The dedicated UserGroups are typically more interested in increasing their own numbers, and less so with actual troubleshooting.

But the one thing they will all tell you, fervently, is that you’ve got to TRUST the APP.  If you don’t trust the app, you will never arrive at your destination.  At least, not the one you were hoping for.

And who’s fault would that be?

The other users will let you know, and with absolute certainty, that if you take a wrong turn along the way, or maybe you get sideswiped by a bus, you only have yourself to blame.  Obviously you couldn’t have been using the app correctly.

If, on the other hand, you navigate your way through some bad situation unscathed, that’s just the app doing its thing, and not something you should be taking any credit for.

Probably, you should think about making a contribution to the developer.


Occasionally, I feel the need to construct these little “What If’s” when trying to understand how Monotheists see the world.

Sometimes they are helpful.

Sometimes they are just entertaining.

Sometimes they scare the crap out of me.

All I can say about this one, is save yourself the trouble and don’t download the app.


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Filed under Death, Modern Life, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized

City and Tower: A Prophecy Found

I had a moment of revelation recently, one that drove me into the pages of the Bible.

Don’t worry folks, this isn’t my “I found Jesus and renounced my heathen ways” post.

Not even close.

But I did find a Biblical prophecy that I feel certain is, even now, coming to pass.

And that’s kind of a big deal for me!

If you know me at all, or if you’ve so much as skimmed through any of my writing here, you have to know that I don’t put a lot of stock in the Bible, and even less in the so-called prophecies there-in.

That is not to say that I am unfamiliar with them.

I received many a heaping helping during my childhood in the Bible-Belt, and then later, as my interests turned toward the study of mythology in all its varied forms, I researched many of them on my own time.

And what I found, in almost every instance, was that Biblical prophecies are typically nothing of the sort.  Instead, they usually turn out to be descriptions of events that had already transpired when they were written down.

That these passages have been reinterpreted as representative of future events has, I think, more to do with the apocalyptic mindset of a later generation of Christian readers, than the intent of those who chronicled the myth-historical origins of the Hebrew tribes.

The core belief of Christianity, after all, is that the end-times are imminent.  Therefore, all prophecies must be happening in the now, the signs must be there, you only have to know where and how to look for them.

So imagine my surprise when I found one sitting there, out in the open where everyone can see it.  And it’s one that I’ve never once seen it listed, or had spouted at me by someone trying to prove that the Bible was inspired by the mind of God.

All the others I’ve been able to discount.  But this one, this one is just huge.

Let’s go through it.

Genesis Chapter 11:1-8

1 And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.

2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3 And they said one to another: ‘Come, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.

4 And they said: ‘Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, with its top in heaven, and let us make us a name; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’

5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6 And the LORD said: ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do; and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.

7 Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’

8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city.

Everyone knows this story, right?  It’s the Tower of Babel, and what we are supposed to believe it that it explains why people all over the earth spoke different languages if they were all descended from the handful of folks that made it through the big flood on the Ark.

More The Confusion Of Tongues

But let’s take a moment and look at it with an eye toward recent events.

  1. Suddenly there was this thing called the Internet, and everyone everywhere could talk and share ideas with each other.
  2. Suddenly, all the important stuff seemed to be happening in one place: On Line.
  3. Apparently, building stuff with bricks and mortar was some cutting edge technology back in the day, so imagine instead a world built of data, a marketplace of ideas.
  4. They built for themselves a city and a tower, and they called it Social-Media and Facebook.
  5. And then God got bored one day and logged in to see what the buzz was all about.
  6. There he found groups devoted to Yoga and Cosplay and something called GrumpyCat, and discovered, to his absolute horror, that everyone wasn’t talking about him.  And when they did talk about him, it wasn’t always in the most complementary fashion.  New ideas were the meat and drink of this strange new land, and the potential broadening of experience and understanding was the hope of the dawning age.
  7. At this point, he closed the shades on his house, took his phone off the hook, and started hacking a bunch of his followers’ user accounts (‘cause hiding your passwords from an omniscient deity is kind of a bitch).  Once in, he started posting memes debunking climate science and claiming that president Obama is a Muslim.  He was always ready with poorly edited PlannedParenthood videos, and made up statistics on a thousand topics.  He started posting about “Keeping Christ in Christmas” before retailers were finished dumping all the unsold Easter candy, and whenever there was a shooting in a school he was johnny-on-the-spot to suggest handing out handguns like candy.
  8. Now this was stuff that no thinking person could believe, and yet they did, because they heard it repeated again and again from their friends and loved ones, and it was on the internet so it must be true.  Right?!  Fact-checking became something that only intellectual snobs with too much time on their hands bothered with.  The traditional meanings of words like “fact” and “opinion” were switched, and pretty soon no one could communicate with anyone else, because all appearances to the contrary, not as single one of us is still speaking the same language.

It’s all right there in black and white!

And it has to be God doing it because no mortal could lay the bullshit down so think.

Errr…, maybe Trump.

There are those, I am sure, who will find these revelations offensive.

I understand that I seem to be reducing the almighty Abrahamic God to nothing more than a giant internet troll…, and if I am, isn’t that still better than taking a literal interpretation of the story, which has him (an omnipotent god) scrambling like crazy to muck up human language before the mortals figure out that by working together, there is nothing they cannot accomplish.

Nah, it has got to be the internet thing!

I found a Biblical prophecy that I can believe in.

Doesn’t mean I’ll be joining team Yahweh, of course.  I mean, however you choose to interpret the story, it is not exactly what I would call a ringing endorsement.  But it will definitely change the way I approach conversations on the internet.

A city and a tower with its top in heaven…,

It was a nice idea.


Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Mythology, Philosophy, Religion

The Greatest Trick

He looks uncomfortable, sitting in the chair across from me; and that’s the only description I can really apply to him.

Is it a him? Her, perhaps?

I can’t say for sure. His features are flowing and indistinct, the hair color and length seems to shift from moment to moment. Even the clothes…,

“Can you stop that?” I ask, a little more sharply than I intend. I’m wondering now, if I’m not the one who is ill at ease and projecting my own discomfort onto him.

—heh, right you are. and that’s the point innit?

“Excuse me?”

—‘projecting’ you thought. that’s me then, a projection.

“I thought you were supposed to be the Devil.”

—ain’t we all? (said with a smile)

A pause then.

—ahhh, i see it now, you’re not a believer. strange that, no atheist ever gave me so much as the time of day…,

“Oh, I’m a believer,” I reply, “just not in you.”

—oh what then, you buddhist or something? one of them ‘new-agey’ types, maybe?

“Let’s just say I follow the gods of my ancestors.”

—oh them, (waves one hand dismissively) we don’t really walk in the same circles. (another pause) don’t get me wrong, they had it pretty good, the ‘old ones’ did, but then they let it all slip through their fingers. they never really capitalized on their influence, see? never made you lot need them.

“And we need you?”

—like you wouldn’t believe.

“Do explain, please.”

—so the world’s a shit-hole, right? pollution and wars, murder and slavery, but who made it that way? not me, brother. i’m just a name in a book you barely remember how to read.

—oh, but you can’t blame yourselves, ‘cause then you might have to take some responsibility. you might have to actually try to make things better, put a little effort into it for once. heh, easier to blame me for your troubles. ‘the devil made us do it’, yeah?

—so for a couple thousand years you put all that blame on me. you imagine me corrupting you and whispering into your ears with every nasty thought that comes into your minds. maybe you want to fight, or catch a quick fuck, or just help yourself to whatever’s lying around? well there i am, taking the blame for tempting you. because maybe you could have resisted your own impulses but how can you ever hope to resist the bloody prince of darkness?

“So,” I ask, “you’re acting as some kind of scapegoat for humanity?”

—no, no, (laughing) you’ve got it all wrong. that old bit went out of fashion in the long ago. the old hebrew priests liked to chase their ‘scapegoat’ out into the desert. they didn’t want the mangy thing hanging around, not after they loaded it up with all their wrongs, their ‘sin’. no, they drove it out into the wastes, to die, alone. thought it was important to clean their slates, so they’d have room to ‘sin’ again, and again. another year, another goat.

—but do you see the faithful trying to drive me anywhere? no sir, if anything they’re calling to me! they hold me close and give me a warmth and a life i never would have had without ‘em. just look at the words they use to describe themselves. the most devout among them believe in nothing more than that they are all, every one of them, tainted with ‘sin’.

—‘fallen’ is the word they like to use, and every time they say it, when they think it, when they believe it about themselves, they give themselves to me. the more righteous they are, the more deeply they feel their imagined transgressions, the more they puff me up, make me important, give me power and make me REAL!

And for a moment, he seems very real indeed, sitting there in front of me, gaze lifted slightly upward, an expression, almost of rapture, suddenly solidified on his face.

And then the moment passes.

He fades until he is no more than an insubstantial bogeyman, fidgeting in his chair, unaccustomed perhaps, to such direct observation.

—yeah, i do better when i keep to the shadows. (sly smirk) if you see a thing for what it is, you can name it, control it, even banish it – if you had the will.

“And you don’t want to be seen, controlled, banished.”

He sits upright, suddenly serious.

—no, i don’t, and neither do they.

“Who are ‘they’?”

—the ones who made me, feed me and frighten their children with me, who blame me for every stubbed toe and tidal-wave. without me the lot of ‘em would have to fend for themselves. without me they would have to take responsibility for their actions on the one hand, and accept that the earth doesn’t revolve around ‘em on the other.

He begins to fade from my sight then, and I get the sense that our brief interview is over.

“Wait,” I say, “before you go, tell me about the ‘other’.”

—what ‘other’?

“You know who I mean,” I reply in exasperation, “the ‘One God’ of the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims. The all-mighty creator of heaven and earth…,”

—heh, ever meet him?


—and you won’t, but damned if he’s not useful.

“So, are you saying that he exists, or that he doesn’t.”

—i love that question, ask it again! go on, then! (huge cheshire grin) no? eh, don’t matter, really. if you’re not gonna ask, someone else will. someone always does. and be sure someone else has an answer. and there will be disagreement and bloodshed and war that covers the land. you just watch, yeah? them as believe one way will point at the others and say that ‘i’ deceived them, that theirs is the true and only way. an’ they keep doing their thing, in ‘his’ name, and i grow more powerful still. i’m just an empty mask, a projection of their fears, but fear is the one thing they truly share among themselves. try and take that away from them and i promise, they’ll tie you to the nearest bit ‘o kindling.

—listen friend, as for your gods, that lot never did much for me, but that other one, the ‘one’ that came with me out of the desert, the one in whom they place their faith, with his son and his prophets, and his holy texts, so vague and contradictory and…, and bloodthirsty…,

The chair is empty now (wasn’t it always) and there is only the voice, fading, as if from a great distance…,

—you know that i’m not real, except through the will of those who believe in me, who fear me and mark me as the enemy of all; but let me tell you a secret: the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that god exists.

An Empty Mask


Filed under Modern Life, Philosophy, Religion

Dust in the Wind

You could usually count on the exercise coming before lunch.  Three short bursts of the school bell and we’d be up from our desks and filing into the hallway.  “Single file,” the teachers admonished repeatedly, while we formed a line in front of our lockers and then dropped to our knees like supplicants before the Ka’bah, foreheads to the floor and our fingers laced together over the backs of our heads.

—Tornado Drill—

What I never understood was why they always told us it was coming ahead of time.  There was never any surprise involved in the drills, nothing to simulate the confusion that would have undoubtedly run rampant in an actual emergency.  We just plodded into the hallway and knelt uncomfortably for several minutes, until the return bell sounded.

Some would try to pass the time with a muttered joke or two, while the teachers paced to and fro, checking the line.  One kid, I remember, would always sing the old Kansas song, ‘Dust in the Wind‘ just quietly enough to be heard by those immediately around him, but not so loud as to attract unwanted attention.

I suppose the little smart-ass thought the whole ordeal was a big joke.  At the very least, he doubted the obvious security provided by kneeling at the foot of heavy metal lockers, which were themselves inexpertly affixed to the crumbling walls of a poorly maintained WPA era school building.

Occasionally, one of the other kids would tell him to “shut up!”  I guess the song made them nervous.  People cling to the rituals that make them feel safer, even when they know better.  To challenge these illusions is to make oneself a target.

Perhaps they simply thought that I wasn’t taking the drill seriously enough.

Or they just didn’t like the song.

Dust in the Wind 01

I dream sometimes of tornados.

I have worked over the years to keep myself always open to what I call the “dreaming world” while going about my walk-a-day life.  The benefit of this, for me, is that I feel that I am better able to perceive the various layers of reality beyond the simply mundane.  On the flip side, however, I find that I do not dream as often as I did in my youth, or at least, I do not remember the dreams that I do have.

There are a handful of exceptions to this: a selection of recurring dreams that I have been visited by, again and again, since I was very young.

The tornado dreams are almost always the same.  I find myself in the house where I grew up.  It is a normal day, but there there is a feeling of expectation in the air.  I stop what I’m doing and go to a door or window where I see a column of greenish grey destruction snaking down from the clouds and pulverizing the earth, perhaps a mile away from where I stand.  At this point in the dream, I usually rush outside to get a better view, or perhaps to seek shelter.  There is no rain in these dreams, and the wind ahead of the funnel is perhaps lightly gusting and cool.

And now I am awake to the fact that I am dreaming.  You might think that this would improve the situation, that perhaps I would fully awaken, or realizing that it is a dream, bend it to my will and dissipate the approaching cyclone.  Instead, my subconscious simple decides to double-down and more funnels drop from the iron-clad sky, whirling ropes of destruction in every direction I turn.

Dust in the Wind 02

We have been sharing our “Tornado War Stories” lately.

It seems as if we all have them.  If you live in ‘tornado-alley’ long enough you are likely to collect a few.  We watch the news reports of Oklahoma City getting pounded again and again, not to mention the damage from storms closer to home.  The cleanup efforts stretch from days into weeks and you know that it could just as easily have been you, sifting through the rubble, looking for some fragment of the life you lived before.

And so we share our stories, and take comfort in the fact that we are here to tell them.

My own closest encounter took place when I was in my early twenties.  I was still in college but working summers with my father in residential construction south of the DFW metroplex.  I was driving home from a job-site in my ramshackle car and absolutely captivated by the scene in front of me.  The gravel road I was speeding along was bordered on both sides by low hills and trees so that my only view of the sky was an almost perfect ‘V’ rising up from the road in front of me.  That slice of sky contained one of the most beautiful sunset scenes I have ever witnessed.  A giant glowing orange anvil of cloud rising up and over my vehicle, peeking out from a lower layer of cloud which smoldered with an impossible shade of purple deepening to black.  If I’d had a camera with me I would certainly have stopped to take a picture of that sky.  Also, I might easily have died.

Instead, I kept driving and as the road turned and dipped down into a little valley, suddenly everything changed.  My car skidded to a stop on the wet gravel as I was assaulted by a wall of water mixed with light hail, plummeting from the sky.  I flipped on the headlights and pulled as far into the ditch as was possible, wrenching the hand-break up as far as it would go.

Within moments, in the dim glow of my headlights, I watched as the pelting rain shifted from vertical to horizontal.  And then I couldn’t see anything at all.  The world beyond my windshield was reduced to pitch.  There was only the roar, and the rocking of the car on it’s springs, and lost beneath it all the sound of a young man singing “Dust in the Wind”.

And then it was over.  The darkness, the noise, it all abated almost as quickly as it had begun.  I stayed there, parked at an angle, canted between road and ditch, for several minutes.  I rolled down my window in the light rain and was amazed to discover that there was very little damage immediately around me.  I think the storm skipped over the top of the small valley in which I had been forced to stop.  Further up the hillside, the trees had not faired so well.

As I put the car into gear and began to pull back onto the road, I was nearly sideswiped by a number of vehicles racing down the road in the direction of the retreating storm.  It was the first time I had ever seen storm-chasers doing their thing.  Their small convoy of two black cars and a van looked a lot like the rival team from the movie ‘Twister’, except of course, that movie was still several years away from release at that point in time.

Over the years, when I have shared that story, some have wondered if a prayer wouldn’t have been more appropriate in what could have been my final moments.

To them I say, “Just read the lyrics.”  If ‘Dust in the Wind’ isn’t a prayer, I don’t know what is.

Dust in the Wind 03

When disasters happen, it’s not uncommon to hear questions like “Where is God?” or “Why does he allow these terrible things to happen?”  Sometimes there is even some strange variety of blame involved, as this or that theologian choses to blame the victims for being unrighteous or sinful, and bringing down the wrath of their deity.

People always ask “why” when presented with forces over which they have no control.

The “why’s” are much simpler than most people care to think.

Tornados form because warm and cold air masses sometimes collide in areas where the barometric pressure is low enough to allow their formation.  They destroy our stuff and take our lives because we choose to build neighborhoods in the places where they traditionally form.

The storm was there first, has always been there.  We built in it’s path.  It’s what we do.

The monotheist (who believes that their God makes all the decisions as to who lives and who dies, and when) may be driven to question the storm, to look for a purpose.

I believe in many gods, some of which are manifest, possibly even incarnate within the power of the storm.  The gods I believe in may not decide the where or why of our living and dying, but they are there with us in the moment.  I have no reason to question the storm.  It simply is, and I embrace the power within it, for good or ill.

As many close encounters as I have had over the years, I am still energized and excited by the approach of a severe storm.  I’ll stand in my front yard until the rain begins in earnest, reaching out with my mind and drawing the energy of the tempest into myself.  Sometimes I can feel the electricity crackling between my fingers, feel the energy flowing out of the clouds and into the earth beneath me.  There is a deep spiritual power, a religious awe, inspired by the storm that I cannot deny.

We mourn the dead and we rebuild (hopefully learning along the way to build better shelters), but we need not ask why.  We live and eventually die with the knowledge that nothing lasts forever, but the earth and sky.

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Filed under Nature, Prayer, Religion, Spiritual Journey, The Gods

A Better God

At the end of every election cycle comes that special moment when you can sit back and relax, satisfied in the knowledge that you have watched your last campaign ad.  This time around it feels as if we have been bombarded with more than ever before and however the election itself plays out, I will be very glad of the reprieve.  However, in these final hours, I ask that you indulge me by watching just one more, an ad narrated by Mike Huckabee titled “Test of Fire”.

“Your vote will affect the future and be recorded in eternity. Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire?”

If you are a Christian, Mike Huckabee is telling you not only what you should believe but who you should be voting for.  The arguments being used in this ad are not based upon a political or economic ideology but on singularly religious grounds.

Poorly hidden within all that imagery of a pretend blacksmith haphazardly pounding on forged words, is the threat of damnation for those who choose to vote the wrong way.

While most Christians seem to believe that their god created mankind with the power of free will, Mr. Huckabee and his ilk suggest that a vote for the wrong candidate could land you in hell.  These men and women would have you believe that you should vote not for the candidate of your choice, but of Gods.

What good upstanding Christian would want to defy their almighty God and risk an eternity of suffering on the off chance that someone with a low paying job my need access to inexpensive contraceptives, or that their gay friends may someday want to marry?   This despite the fact that, last I checked, their god had failed to officially endorse any candidate on the ballot.

Well, I have this to say to Mr. Huckabee and all those who believe as he does:
If your god is so small minded and petty as to condemn you to an eternity of suffering because you voted for the candidate who best represented your personal values in this, or any election, maybe you need a better god.

Some of you might suggest, at this point, that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of election season and lots of people will say some pretty crazy things to make their respective partisan points.  Political contests do tend to polarize us to a greater than normal extent.  I concede that point.

It is at times like this that we really need something to pull us together as a singular people.  If there is any silver lining to be found in the devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy, it must be that a natural disaster of this magnitude can force us to put aside the insanity and join together in common purpose.


“Hurricane Sandy is hitting 21 years to the day of the Perfect Storm of October 30, 1991.  This was the day that President George Bush Sr. initiated the Madrid Peace Process to divide the land of Israel, including Jerusalem. America has been under God’s judgment since this event.”

—Pastor John McTernan

Or perhaps not…,

“The Great Flood in the time of Noah was triggered by the recognition of same-gender marriages.  The Lord will not bring another flood to destroy the entire world, but he could punish particular areas with a flood.”

—Rabbi Noson Leiter, discussing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Think I’m just singling out few token crazies to make my point?  I truly wish that these folks were alone in their hysteria, but they are not.  Among all the prayers and outpouring of support I have seen on Facebook and Twitter over the last week have been similar accusations from otherwise ordinary citizens who honestly believe that Hurricane Sandy was a punishment sent by their god against our nation.

And then, there was this:

“Destroying everything by the command of Allah, these punishing winds serve as a just recompense for their disbelief and crimes against Islam. It is the answer to the prayers of the oppressed Muslims across the globe and a response to the silent whispers of the Muslim prisoners.  So we call upon the Kuffar in the U.S. to reject their falsehood before it’s too late, embrace Islam and enter to the fold of the faithful.”

—Statement from the Al Shabaab cell of al-Qaeda

You shall know them by the company they keep.

So we have a sampling of Christians, Jews and extremists from a radical Islamic terror group who all see Hurricane Sandy as a judgement upon the decadent citizens of the United States for our collective sins against the Most High.

I suppose it’s nice to know that Christians, Jews and Muslims can still manage to find some common ground.

Allow me to say this one more time because I think it bears repeating:
If your god has aim so poor that he has to smite an entire area of the country with hardship instead of just the people he is angry with; if he is so feeble that he is unable to strike his enemies on his own or properly defend his chosen people without American military involvement; if he demands that adulterers and witches be stoned in the streets, that homosexuals do not receive the same rights and freedoms as everyone else and that rape victims carry the seed of their attackers to term; if he requires you to pass a “test of fire” when you enter the voting booth and vote for the candidate he chooses…,

Maybe you need a better god!


Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Politics, Religion