On Arming for Armageddon

This is what I wrote before the new year that was to bring about the end of all things.

ON ARMING FOR ARMAGEDDON

What you don’t know won’t hurt you–it will kill you.
Sign in U.S. Air Force training facility.

Then said he unto them…he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
Jesus, the Christ. Luke 22:36.

If, on December 31, 1999, at the very stroke of Midnight that heralds the dawn of the year 2000 C.E., the world ends, the Messiah comes or returns, the Apocalypse happens, the Battle of Armageddon begins, the saved are raptured from moving cars that careen on into busloads of godless, unbelieving, Camp Quest-type little children, believers ascend up into the air to meet Jesus who is on his way down to Earth to establish his Kingdom–if the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised, and if the Revelation to Saint John the Divine prove true and one third of the stars fall to the Earth, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride, and the sheep be separated from the goats, and the believing good be lifted up unto the highest Heaven to take their reserved seat at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, whilst the unbelieving bad are dragged to their well deserved eternal torment awaiting them in the deepest pits of fiery Hell as Gounod’s Faust plays in the background–then, Gentle Reader, you should know that you are now holding your very last ever “Kagin’s Column,” because your narrator is going to repent, be saved, and be out of here, leaving you condemned remaining sinners with only this final heresy. That should make it quite a collector’s item–if anyone there be left around to collect it.

But, bless you, the world should go on as before, and there should be more Kagin’s Columns, because none of these dire things will happen. They won’t happen because such beliefs are superstitious nonsense. They are primitive myths. The only way they can be harmful is if they are believed. Contemplate, if you will, just what would really happen if one third of the stars “fell” to Earth.

Webster defines superstition thus: any belief, based on fear or ignorance, that is inconsistent with the known laws of science or with what is generally considered in the particular society as true and rational; esp., such a belief in charms, omens, the supernatural, etc. The myths are not the danger. Those who believe in the myths are the danger. A related problem is that there is very poor agreement in our “particular society” regarding what is “true and rational.” Some think the world is only ten thousand years old and that animals and people were created from nothing in six days. No evidence to the contrary makes any difference. They want their myth taught in schools. Others want their myths taught instead. For the past two thousand years, we have had a lot of wars over what myths should be taught in school.

The feared “Y2K bug” is somewhat different. For future researchers, reading this in the far future, Y2K (standing for “Year 2000”) is a code given for the unpredictable problems inherent in the unfortunate fact that lots of the computers that order our lives have not been taught to understand that time might go past the year 1999. Until the clock strikes 2000, we just won’t know how big a problem that little training defect really is.

Anyhow, a seemingly growing population of irrational humans are preparing for the disasters they are certain will flow from their end-of-the-world delusions that mingle the non-existent with the fixable, as they set about to bring upon themselves and us the chaos that is feared. People are hording food, water, and weapons to await the end of civilization, the end of the world, the coming of Jesus, Judgment Day, and Lord knows what else. And they are prepared to waste other believers whose eschatology (look it up) is only slightly different from theirs. Guess what they will do to people like those secular humanists, who they think really caused all the problems of the world in the first place by teaching evolution, and by taking the Ten Commandments out of public courthouses, and by prohibiting prayers in public places like Jesus ordered on his last visit.

Let’s say Jesus really did “return” to Earth. How well received do you reckon he would be, considering that the many different Christian denominations appear incapable of agreeing on even the smallest points of theological doctrine? Do you suppose His Holiness the Pope will step aside and let Jesus have his chair? Do you guess the T.V. preachers will leave their bully pulpits and, on bended knee, hand over to their Messiah their microphones and their diamond mines? Does one even wildly imagine that the many religious leaders of the world will be disposed to permit the god they have awaited to resolve for them the disputed points of their several faiths?

To survive the madness that seems certain to befall us, we need to understand that the feared coming millennium is not a real thing. There is no “real” millennium, just as there is no “real” line on the ground between the states of Kentucky and Tennessee such as one might see on service station road maps. A millennium, like all measurements of time, is something humans made up and then forgot that they made up. We can measure time any way we like. It makes no difference, so long as all agree on the rules. But even the rules are unclear. China, the Maya, and lots of other countries and peoples all have very different dates, based on different origin myths, for what we call 1999.

The year 2000 is not the beginning of a new third millennium. It is the last year of the second millennium. 2001 is the first year of the third millennium. Here’s why. When a baby is less than one year old, her age is cooed out something like, “five days old,” “nine weeks old,” “three months old,” that sort of thing. She is not said to be “zero” years old. When said child has lived a full year, she is then said to be “one year old,” and has her “first birthday,” surrounded by adoring relations. At one year old, the child starts her second year of life. For all of that second year she is said to be one year old. The second year of life, when finished, is celebrated as the child’s “second birthday.” And so it goes throughout life. One is always one day, to three-hundred-sixty-four days, older than one’s stated age.

If our numbering of years worked like birthdays, then 2000 would indeed be the first year of the third millennium. Like the aging baby, the 2000th birthday would mark the completion of the 2000th year of living and the start of the 2001st year of living, and 2001 would come at the end of the 2001st year of living. But it doesn’t work like that with dates. There is no dating of “three days,” “seven months” or such, during the first year of this imaginary calendar, as there is in the dating of the lives of babies. The first year of the calendar would have been the year “one” the entire year, from New Year’s Day on, not the year “zero” or some fraction of time less than one year. At the end of that first year, the year “one” was finished, and the year “two” began on New Year’s Day. The tenth year of the calendar means that nine previous years have been completed, and that one is living in a true tenth year, not working toward the end of the eleventh year, as would be the case if we were talking about birthdays rather than calendars.

For birthdays, the start of year 2000 would mean you have actually started the 2001st year of living. For calendars, the start of year 2000 means you are starting the final year of that millennium. 1000 was the last year of the first millennium, just as 100 is the 100th year of a 100 year period of time. 101 is the first year of the second set of 100. 2000 is the last year of this millennium. 2001 is the first year of the next millennium. Most people don’t understand this and think a new thousand year period starts at midnight on December 31, 1999. This is particularly true of the crazies who ascribe cosmic meaning to that event, as did their predecessors in religious madness in the year 1000. The world didn’t end then. The world won’t end now.

The whole idea of the importance of the coming millennium is that it is believed to be two thousand years after the birth of Jesus. But this is incorrect. If the Bible is to be believed, Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great of Judea. It is a well known fact of history that Herod died in the year 4 B.C.E. Therefore, Jesus could not have been born later than that date. Therefore, sadly, the real millennium occurred on or before 1996, and we missed it.

Chances are that, if you are reading this, you are a naively innocent liberal who thinks people are inherently good and well intentioned, and that religiously, or otherwise demented, fanatics won’t really shoot you in the face for no sane reason if, with tolerance and caring, you simply understand and accept them. People who hold this view are frequently identified only as “victims.” It has been said that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. Please accept, for your own safety’s sake, the truth that there really are dangerous people about who will kill you for the fun of watching you die, and please further accept that millennium madness will bring these types out around New Year 2000 like earthworms after a summer rain. There are Christian militia groups, often commanded by ministers, trained in the use of military firearms, committed to “regaining” America for Christ. They have trained home invasion units to deal with the enemies of God–you know, those who practice the “religion of evolution”, promote the “murder of the unborn”, want “special rights” for homosexuals, want God out of the classrooms, and so forth. Do you know the type? You better, because they know you.

Your narrator has been denounced by them in churches, as have other identified individuals who disagree with them. Well, they are making straight the way for the return of Christ to lead them against the Antichrist, believed by some to be already among us, and revealed by the “mark of the beast” in such things as the bar codes used in food stores. Yeh, no kidding! They really are that nuts, and they are armed and extremely dangerous.

If you don’t have enough respect for the value and importance of your own life, and the lives of those you love, to acquire and learn the safe and disciplined use of appropriate tools for self protection and home defense, then at least try to acquire a working knowledge of the belief systems of those committed to harming you. Defending one’s life is a moral obligation. Knowledge is indeed power, and you may learn enough to avoid a deadly confrontation. Jews in Germany tried to avoid confrontation. Ask someone in Israel today how they feel about the liberal’s dream of making their family safer by not having a gun in the house.

Here’s a crash course in just what, in broad overview, those looking for something supernatural to happen around New Year’s Eve or Day believe:

Chapter One. God, for uncertain reasons, decided to make everything from nothing, including our universe, our planet, and ourselves. God made people, and they disobeyed God by gaining knowledge of good and evil. Although they could not have fairly been held to know it was wrong to disobey God before gaining knowledge of good and evil, God punished them for not being the kind of created beings God wanted them to be.

Chapter Two. The numerous descendents of the two created people that had disappointed God also disappointed God, so God killed all of them in a flood. Only eight adult people survived, by living for a year in a large floating box that was 450 feet long, by 75 feet wide, by 45 feet high, that also contained samples of every kind of animal, bird, and bug of the inundated planet. Every living child on earth was killed by God’s flood, as was every pregnant woman and every fetus. God’s views on the murder of children could not have been made more clear. God promised not to do it again.

Chapter Three. The Earth is repopulated by the eight people and the animals that survived the flood in the box. God was still disappointed by the behavior of the descendents of the people he had saved from drowning. God then supernaturally produced a son from the body of an unwed teenage girl, so that the boy could grow up and be killed as a sacrifice to God for the sins of everyone else. After the son was killed, God brought him back to life and took him to Heaven. All people have to do to go to Heaven when they are dead is to believe that God let his son be killed, as a child sacrifice for their sins, and then brought him back to life. Before he went back to Heaven, the reanimated dead son said that he would return shortly to Earth to take believers back with him to be with him and God.

Chapter Four. For nearly two thousand years, the faithful have waited for the son God made, permitted to be killed, and then brought back to life, to come to Earth and get them as he promised he would do. For some reason, this is thought more likely to occur on thousand year round numbered years. So, despite the Bible’s assertion that no one can know the day or the hour it will occur, the crazies prepare for the return of the son of the god, with wildly differing versions of what will happen upon his return. Some, but far from all, of the possible events and outcomes predicted are set forth in the opening paragraph of this blasphemy. As in most matters of faith, you can take your choice.

Naturally, nothing supernatural will happen, because there is no supernatural to happen. That is not the concern. What is of concern is the possible actions of those who believe something end-of-the-world like will happen and who are committed to helping it along. Some such have already emerged, and they have worked much mischief. We can be certain more wait the fast closing end of the year 1999. It is these living persons set upon harming others and achieving self-fulfilling prophecies that we should fear and guard against, not the fears and fairy tales that drive them. They are the darkness we need fear.

Here are some of your narrator’s prophecies for the future, drawn far more specifically than any of those of the Bible or of any of the 900 telephone line psychics. The year 2000, the last year of this millennium, will come. The Messiah will not come. The world will not end. Neither Jesus nor Satan will appear. Nor will the Antichrist. There will be no Rapture. There will be no apocalypse. There will be no battle of Armageddon. The failure of these events to occur will strengthen the faith of some, as the people continue to imagine a vain thing. There will be more Kagin’s Columns.

The final year of this millennium, that will so quickly come, should be for us a time of reflection. The dating of our years, the structure of our centuries, and the very idea of a millennium, are, to be sure, artificial. But so are most of the many signposts that mark our roads and measure our days. Symbols are powerful. They are of great importance and value, so long as we don’t mistake the symbol for what it is meant to symbolize. We can find meaning in the final year of this arbitrary thousand year period that is a slice of how we measure time. The past one thousand years has been filled with war and with superstition, the latter often giving birth to the former. The next thousand years can see our kind populate the stars, or it can see us regress to the worst of the past darkness from which our evolved human minds have delivered us.

Consider, as a benediction for our age, the words of Thaddaeus, said to have been from the first century of the first millennium (see Kagin’s Column, “On the Gospel of Thaddaeus”):

May that measure of peace, justice, harmony and understanding denied religion and its deities be attained by mortals through the use of their minds, and may reason, science, curiosity, and discovery replace the fear, the guilt, the pain, and the ignorance of trembling in terror before capricious gods. Ecce homo.

Happy New Year!

Edwin.
(c) Edwin Kagin.

On Taking Hold by Letting Go

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it. Omar Khayyam.

The Tao that can be talked about is not the true Tao. Tao Te Ching.

The universe has changed and you have changed since you started reading this column. The universe is still the universe and you are still you, but you are not the same you in the same universe as when you started this adventure in reading, and both have changed again since the last comma. This is because of the nature of the universe, not because of the nurture of this writing. Like it or not, the world has now changed yet again, and so it will always be. Change is the only constant. When you were born, you started your dying, and, since birth is the leading cause of death, death is the only certainty you can claim. You need not believe or accept this. It doesn’t matter a bit. The universe doesn’t care what you believe, is indifferent to what you want, and is unaffected by what you think. None of your feelings, aspirations, or actions are of any more consequence than those of a turkey prayerfully believing that Thanksgiving will never come. Still, thinking humans invent religions and philosophies to convince themselves that what is isn’t, and that they, at least, are special, exempt, and certainly more important to the universe than turkeys. All such thought things fail. The greater the attempt to deny what is, the greater the misery of those who try to keep the river from flowing where it is flowing. No moment is ever the same as any other moment. The river, while the same, is never the same. No one can ever bathe twice in the same river.

So is there any meaning to life? Of course. But it cannot be taught or revealed. There is nothing to teach and there is nothing that is hidden. You have to invent it. Invent what? The meaning of your life of course. It’s that simple. The reason “It” seems so complex is because of belief in dualism–because people insist on looking for two or more things where there is only one, because they do not understand that they are part of it, and that they write and star in their own play. This misunderstanding causes suffering. The suffering can be stopped by letting go of the belief that the world is composed of different forces or things that act in opposition, one constantly at war against the other. One can simply accept that yesterday is past and tomorrow may never come. Most people are concerned about everything in the world except what they are doing right now, in this moment that is all there really is and all that anyone ever really has.

Dualism is the curse of Western philosophy. It is baffling to the Eastern mind that people would try to look to something outside of themselves to save them. Dualism is so much a part of the way we automatically think about everything that we are unaware of operating from a bias or mind set that is not universally shared. Whether we approach discussion or decision from a religious or secular orientation, we seem unable to dare, dream, or decide without nagging uncertainty and painful conflict. We drown in dichotomies.

The religious of Christian persuasion worry about the “problem” of “good versus evil,” and fantasize two opposing armies, one led by a god and the other by a demon. The dualistic dilemma extends to such questions as “free will” versus “predestination,” a non-issue that troubles secular scholars in the form of “free will” versus “determinism.” The imaginary “mind-body” problem of both secular and religious polemics was presented by a student to the Zen master. “Master,” said the pupil, “my mind is troubled. How can I pacify it?” “Take out your mind and show it to me,” said the master, “then we can determine how best to calm it.” Another disciple asked a master “How can I become enlightened and learn the meaning of life?” The master asked, “Have you finished your breakfast?” “Yes,” said the truth seeker. “Then,” said the master, “wash your bowl.” The finger that points to the moon is not the moon. Life is lived by living.

Consider a two edged sword. Take the hilt in both hands and study it. There are two separate blades, yet it is one sword. Move it. Can one blade be moved without moving the other? Can one edge strike the other edge? As a two edged sword cannot be two edged with only one edge, there can be no idea of goodness without the existence of something to which it can be compared. A concept like “true” is meaningless without “false.” One could not exist without the other. Love and hate are two horns on the same goat.

The “yin and yang” of oriental thought is widely misunderstood by those nursed in dualism. It is not two conflicting principles forever engaged in constant struggle–male/female, dark/light, good/evil, heaven/hell, right/wrong, or whatever else some insecure professor might dream up. The two are part of the same thing. Both are contained within the one circle.

The heart of the samurai is the sword. The symbol of the samurai is the cherry blossom. There is no contradiction. The arts of archery and flower arranging are of equal importance. Each is a part of the same thing, like the two blades of the one sword. Like the yoke and white of the one shell.

Tao flows–eternal, ever changing, yet always the same. This is a paradox only in our perception. Fullness of life is grasped by letting go. If your cup runneth over, it maketh a mess for someone to clean up. Only the empty cup can be safely filled.

Right now is all we have. As John Lennon observed, life is what happens while we are making other plans.

Edwin.

© 2011 by Edwin Kagin

An Observation on the Existentialism of an Anonymous Lemming

An old man caught a lemming once
That was trying hard to die;
Before it finished its last plan,
He took it home to fry.

He flicked its little head right off,
Prepared it for the pan;
“Now his meat can serve some use,”
Thought the little man.

“He’d aimed to end up his own way,
But that don’t matter now;
This knife of mine worked just as good;
Besides he’ll do for chow.”

“No matter how you die, you’re dead;
There ain’t no doubt to that.
He chose to go; I helped him out.”
And he popped it in the fat.

(c) Edwin Kagin 1995

On the Disposal of Human Remains

Here lies an atheist, all dressed up and no place to go.
Humorous tombstone
________________________________________
Today’s cheery topic treats what to do with your carcass when you are dead. Like it or not, one day you will have to be disposed of. Animals don’t make a fuss of this fact; they go off and die. Humans, believing they are better than animals, invent religions. The prime motive of most religions is to create a myth about some kind of individual continuance after all electrical activity in the brain stops and the organism starts to rot. As the old preacher put it, “Brothers and sisters, this is only the shell; the poor nut has gone.” Where the nut has gone is a matter of much debate, as is the problem of what to do with the shell. Some religions believe the body must be buried, others hold it must be burned. Take your choice.

Traditional Christian human remains disposal involves burying the corpse in a box in the ground. Bodies were to be laid East to West, so the dead flesh could rise to great Christ who is coming from the East. No kidding. Christianity teaches a bodily resurrection and an ascent of the reanimated cadaver to heaven. The Bible says nothing about humans possessing an “immortal soul.” You can win bets with believers on this point. Them bones are to rise again. The ghoulish, and those who have witnessed autopsies, may wonder how those who slept in the graves will get by with the brain, heart, lungs, intestines and other really important stuff removed and thrown away. And mystical indeed will be the rebirth of the decapitated — say a saint like Sir Thomas More whose body is in one place and whose head was stuck on Traitor’s Gate. Ah, the mysteries of faith. What of those who died in Christ in explosions or carnage that converted living flesh to mangled roadkill? What of the woman whose murderer husband ran her dismembered body through the wood chipper? Will those whose bodies are cremated to ashes in a fiery furnace yet in the flesh see God? So goes the belief. The Book of “Job” says yes, even if the carcass is eaten up by worms, you will see God in your bodily form. The age you will be isn’t revealed. Maybe you get to choose.

Persons planning to be buried should understand that no grave on earth is anything other than a present or future crime scene or archaeological site. Eventually, someone will dig you up for saleable goodies or for information your burial stuff and postmortem analysis can reveal about your time. Or your grave can be scooped away to make room for a subdivision to house the children of the “life what a beautiful choice” movement. The greatest tombs of the greatest kings, designed to be secure for eternity, were magnets for thieves who weren’t fooled by myths of
curses. You can stroll through the burial chamber of a pharaoh, stripped by tomb robbers centuries before archaeologists put the living god’s remains in a glass case in a museum. Native American sacred burial grounds, and even Civil War graves, are being plundered by the irreverent, who sell the honored dead’s tools and belt buckles at flea markets. More people are alive right now than have ever been alive at any one time in the history of the planet. If everyone is buried, eventually there will not be space available for both the living and the dead. Guess who wins that argument.

You could donate your body to a medical school for dissection by students, but there are usually more than enough dead incompetents to satisfy this need. The best way to get rid of your burdensome dead body is to burn it up. Crematorium ashes are sterile and far easier to dispose of than decaying meat and bone. The ashes can be scattered somewhere, cast into a bust of yourself (to be sold at some future garage sale), put in a decorative vase, or used to plaster the wall or provide variety in the cat box. Your then heirs can be creative. It doesn’t matter — for you won’t be there. The Bible says, “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:4-5, by God. How the foregoing can be reconciled with the notion of life after death is another of those mysteries of faith.

If you have lived in such a manner that anyone will miss you or lament your absence, there are rational ways for them to celebrate your existence, share and purge grief, and then get on with their lives. Those tending to your disposal should cremate your corpse privately and quickly, after permitting family, if they wish, to see how your dead body looks. It may help them appreciate you are really not going to be seen or heard from again. After a suitable number of days or weeks, depending on how your survivors feel, they can have a party in your memory. Photos and videos could accompany anecdotes of your presence on earth, and artifacts of your life’s journey could be displayed as, amid feasting and merriment, you, in your diversities (if any), are remembered.

Before you return to wherever you were before you were born, it might be a good idea to so live that people remember you fondly. This is not a dress rehearsal. Life ends / Tao flows.

Don’t take life too seriously; you won’t get out of it alive anyway.

Edwin

(c) Edwin Kagin
April, 1994

Tomorrow is Boxing Day

The great vortex that is Christmas 2011 is petering out in the exhausted malaise of its celebrants, with presents and paper and ribbons and bows strewn everywhere about and gluttony proving the reason for its inclusion in the catalog of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Tomorrow Christmas will be forgotten for another year as dazed players push, and maybe even pepper spray, one another in a great stampede to profit from refunds, exchanges, and sales. Tomorrow morning, Christmas is, by dog, over.

Except in Canada and England and maybe some other places about which I do not know. The day after Christmas is a holiday in England and Canada known as Boxing Day. I know this because my Helen was Canadian and told me about it. This national phenomenon, like universal health care, again shows that some non-American customs and ideas might actually be superior. Like having a full day to rest up after the Christmas madness. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving too, but not on the same day as we do, and for different reasons, so it is not relevant here.

The theory of Boxing Day is that the occupants of the manor are to use that day to box up leftover food and perhaps some gifts for the household servants and the poor. Don’t know if they actually do that these days or not. Nevertheless, Boxing Day is, in the enlightened countries that recognize it, a public holiday.

I prefer to think of the day after Christmas as a day of rejoicing that the holiday is finally over. And a time for getting ready for the next holiday—one truly worth celebrating—New Year’s Eve ticking down and merging into New Year’s Day. This is about as secular as a holiday can get. At least in the traditions that spawned the Christian Christmas. It is absolutely essential to the mythic traditions to stay awake and await the midnight stroke of the clock that announces the arrival of the New Year. And, if possible, to kiss someone you love.

In that it seems that absolutely nothing of any consequence happens anywhere between Christmas and New Year’s Day, one can be inventive.

It is my custom to purchase the calendars for the next year only after Christmas has gone away. This is because they are usually on at least half price sale. After the first of the year, the calendars remaining for sale will become increasingly less expensive. But since I think it is tempting fate—I dare not say bad luck—not to have all calendars of my home and office reflecting the correct month and year, the first thing I do after the ball drops, and the first kiss of the year has happened, and the new year has been toasted, is to remove the old, now dead calendars, to reveal the calendars for the shining new year I have pre-placed behind the calendars of the year then gone. The requirement to purchase the calendars after Christmas does not apply to those calendars thoughtfully sent for free by some outfit trying to get one to contribute to something like Citizens Against Continental Drift.

Then the days before the next year can be spent listening to the media generated lists of accomplishments and errors done during the dying year, together with the names of persons you are expected to recognize who died during the year. And then there are the predictions of the psychics and other such. It would be fun to carefully write down these predictions and date them. Then, at the next New Year’s Day, they can be pulled out and submitted to a reality check. Might make a nice blog too. I think I will do it.

More on the coming year and the going year later.

Edwin.
December 25, 2011
© 2011 by Edwin Kagin.

Have Yourself an Atheistic Christmas

It is Christmas Eve, and I have almost lived through this year’s annual greatest of holidays. At midnight, Christmas will begin, and twenty-four hours later it will end. It will be over! But not yet. At this writing, the world is shutting down in anticipation. The 24 Hour Kroger closed at 6:00 pm. Gas stations are closing. People are smiling. Even NRP is playing Xmas music.

Lots of people are in church. Children are nestling to greater or lesser degrees of snugness in their beds awaiting, or fearing, the coming of Santa, an anagram for Satan. Lots of people are getting drunk, and lots are getting laid.

Santa Clause is coming to town. Not a very good modern role model actually. Overweight; labor laws scoffer; animal rights ignorer; and—believe it with horror—a smoker!

Some folks will die in car crashes from negligence and some will die by their own hands from, inter alia, pills, or pistols, unable to deal with what they experience as the depression and loneliness of the day. And it will be observed how awful it was for this to happen on Christmas. How dare they stain the wonder and magic of Christmas with their blood?

After the ripping of the packages, some fine meals will be consumed and much booze will be ingested.

I plan to have a wonderful time visiting with my children and grandchildren and having a splendid dinner. But, by present custom, I will neither give nor receive Christmas presents. I make up for this character flaw by being extra generous on birthdays.

Tomorrow at midnight the whole show will stop as if someone flipped some mighty cosmic switch somewhere. The Christmas decorations will still be up, but people will cease compulsively smiling at one other, stores will reopen, and celebrants of the season will start forgetting just what they got for Christmas. Relatives who can’t stand each other can quit pretending again. Some children will be delighted, others will be sad, and some will feel sold out. Some adult humans will already be arguing about the holiday bills that will soon arrive. Some of these spats will lead to divorce. A general fatigue and let down will occur as many expectations have been dashed and both adults and children will be drained.

Stupid discussions and invective about “self proclaimed” nonexistent “new atheists” and their imaginary “War on Christmas” can be put on hold for another year.

Many atheists love Christmas. And that is just fine. Christmas can, in paradox ally, be either religious or secular, or both. But most people don’t know this. They actually think that mistletoe and holly and Baby Jesus and astrologers and shepherds and mangers and flying reindeer and hewed down trees and Yule logs and feasting and drinking and all of the other heterogeneous trappings of the great day are all somehow compatible with each other.

Atheists can enjoy a perfectly secular Christmas and totally ignore the son of god superstitious part.

One neat way some atheists deal with the event is to celebrate the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton. It is on December 25. Some atheists have a tree in their home with fig newtons hanging from it and gifts for each other under it. A lot of people around Newton’s time, who were not born on December 25, are listed as having been born on December 25. This could well be because the religious constabulary of the day had made it unlawful to celebrate Christmas. No kidding. But, if one’s birthday was on December 25, it was perfectly legal to have a big birthday celebration. Get it? So these good people simply lied in church birth records to give them lawful cause to have a Christmas celebration that was called, if the authorities asked, a birthday party, for say Isaac Newton, certainly not for Jesus. Is is now seemingly impossible to know for sure if Sir Isaac was really actually for real born on that date or not. It doesn’t really matter.

So, the end is near.

On to New Year’s Eve!

Edwin
December 24, 2011
© 2011 by Edwin Kagin.

The Reason for the Season

December 22, 2011

Offensive humor is more powerful than defensive politeness.

That is when you are, as we are, under religious attack.
There is to be, in this blog, as much offensive material as I can tastefully write.I don’t care if you “get” the jokes or not or why you think they are jokes or not.

There is going to be something somewhere in my blogging to offend just about everyone at some time or another, whatever time is. If people aren’t offended, blasphemy is without meaning. And I will have failed in my mission to comfort the troubled and to trouble the comfortable. Go ahead and be offended. Such offense taking cannot happen without the consent of the victim, so if, at any time, you feel overwhelmed, you are invited to switch to another channel.

Example of humor as a weapon. In Texas, a state in the United States, public officials, bound by oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States, are busy removing Thomas Jefferson from public school history books and substituting some foreign religious figure in his place.

Such inspired a brilliant attack-response created by Kathryn Kagin, a young artist (and daughter of Edwin) from whom we hope to see much more good work. She removed Jefferson from a photo of Mount Rushmore and substituted the head of his holiness, that Pope. I will publish it here when I figure out how to post photos. Thought I knew, but what I thought would work didn’t work.

Christians are, at this time of the year, pleased to announce all over the place things like “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” and similar certainties compelled by their religious faith. They seem to have little difficulty if religious icons of their religion appear in public places, like Court House lawns, public highways, and public centers of government. Like twelve-foot-high crosses on highways in Utah and a twenty-foot-high cross of structural material from the faith based attack on the World Trade Center in New York. Then they say it is not religious. Wonder how it would look if it was.

Today, December 22, 2011, is the Winter Solstice. This event, overlooked by Christmasterians, has been celebrated by non-Christian cultures from times far before the madness of searching for the Holy Grail got going. Solstice is the day, discovered by people far smarter than we think they were, when the days stop getting shorter and, slowly, ever so slowly, started to get longer again.

It is perfectly reasonable that our ancestors who observed this event could not know for certain if the gradual lengthening of the nights would continue until all was in darkness. It was therefore also reasonable to ask the gods du jour to give back to humankind, and to all other living things, the light of the sun. How can modern believers in such things as a god child being born in a feed trough from the womb of a virgin, and being adored by goatherds and astrologers, possibly consider Solstice beliefs and practices odd?

The Jesus cult of the first century Common Era simply borrowed the details from other mystery cults and acted like the data were unique to them. Like the worship of Mithra in the first century CE. Mithra was born on December 25, the then Solstice, walked on water, raised the dead, was crucified and then arose from the dead. Inter alia. Sounds vaguely familiar don’t it?

It wouldn’t have been too hard to get rid of atheists by simply killing them or by letting them clearly know they would not make the next roll call if they did not convert. No wonder there are so many closet atheists today. Mithra is our heritage. We are bathed in the blood of the bull.

But I digress.

If we would find some commonality among earth’s children, universal festivals and celebrations might well, as suggested by the founder of American Atheists, be celebrated four times a year. These are the Winter Solstice, the Summer Solstice, the Vernal Equinox, and the Autumnal Equinox. If you don’t know what they are, look them up and then you can be as religiously literate as an intelligent eight year old Mayan child.

So, when religious types who want you to play in their sandbox, and who want the laws that apply to all of us to be used to kick start their proselytizing, you can know with certainty that their assertion that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” is just plain wrong.

Solstice is the reason for the season.

And there is a grand tradition of drinking, feasting, and gift giving thereunto appertaining that goes way farther back than the Baby Jesus stories.

There is also a grand tradition of fertility rites and related activities associated with the season, but don’t tell them that.

No need to blow all of their fuses at once.

Edwin.
December 22, 2011
Solstice.

Religious Christmas is a festival of humans who tearfully celebrate unfulfilled expectations. This blog will usually contain new material. However, the following classic (hopefully) Edwinian writing has been in demand every Christmas since its first publication as a “Kagin’s Column.” In response to numerous (maybe three) requests that it be repeated now at this holiday season, here it is so you don’t have to go digging for it in the archives of earlier blogs:

ON CHRISTMAS, or
“NO, VIRGINIA, THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS”

If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!
Uncle Ebenezer Scrooge (not to be confused with Uncle Scrooge McDuck)

————————————————————-

I can’t prove that no ungulate unit of reindeer persuasion can fly, any more than you can prove I don’t have two invisible unicorns that frolic in benign innocence at Camp Quest. I can’t prove there are no living dinosaurs (as the arkonuts challenge the skeptical to do) anymore than the arkonuts can prove the English text of Genesis they rely on is identical to the original version they hold was dictated, or inspired, by god. But if one says that all crows are black, there is no need to check every crow to falsify that assertion. All that is needed is to find one white crow, or any crow of a different color. Similarly, Santa skepticism can be soundly silenced by the production of one flying reindeer. Yet Christmasterians insist doubters disprove Santa, sleigh, and such, or keep silent, lest they destroy a child’s simple (mindless) faith. This method of proof proves useful later, as children, programmed to believe fantasy is truth, grow to adultery and unquestioningly follow the fantastic follies of faith of their fathers (and mothers–political correctness must not be permitted to fall down a personhole).

To be sure, Plato (not to be confused with Mickey Mouse’s dog) argued that, to conceive of something that is real, one must somehow get the perfect idea of that something from the place it really exits, to wit, the world of forms–a place somewhere that no one has ever seen. Reality alone wouldn’t do. Thus, everyone but philosophers know what a horse looks like, and kids know all about Santa without having to survive Philosophy 101.

Can we imagine, or even believe in, something that doesn’t exist? Sure we can. Just talk with those who have been abducted by aliens. If some unseen thing is believed by many, e.g., angels, it is called faith. If a thing is believed by only one, and is wildly outside the gates of common sense and experience, then the belief, e.g., suddenly realizing that one’s guardian angel is made of grape jelly and having him (there are no female angels–check your bible, you can win bets on this) on toast, it is called psychosis. The problem is that the invisible and the non-existence look much the same. Christmas beliefs fall somewhere between the province of priest and psychiatrist.

Christmas combines two contradictory images of godlike characters: Jesus, the Christ, who taught that to be saved one should sell all of their property and give it to the poor (the church later declared belief in this teaching a heresy), and Claus, the Santa, to whom children are taught to write letters requesting property–believed to be given by Santa, in one night, to those children of the world found worthy–in direct challenge to the counsel of the Christ. One should note, before teaching the latter belief system, that an anagram of Santa is Satan.

The day itself, meaning Christ’s Mass, is the same day the Romans used to honor their sun god with gift giving and feasting. Christmas is quite pagan. Its secular celebration involves rituals specifically forbidden by holy writ, like hewing down a tree, bringing it inside the house, decorating it, and praising it. This is as clear a violation of divine decree as public prayer, or celebrating the Sabbath on the first day of the week instead of on the seventh day as ordered (Commandment IV). No wonder we are in such trouble these days with crime, inflation, and teenage pregnancies.

Unfortunate cultural consequences flow from the forced frivolity and jejune joy Christmas creates and requires. People get depressed when they don’t feel happy as they should, when they do not have their artificial expectations fulfilled, and when they cannot meet the unreasonable artificial seasonal needs of others–like their mercenary relatives, and their materialistic, greedy, spoiled children–and get even deeper in debt by trying to behave as expected.

Thanks to Tom Flynn, and his wonderful heresy The Trouble With Christmas, I chucked the whole thing a few years ago, and lived. Try it. You will feel better for it.

Should I be granted a Christmas wish, it would be that the holiday be canceled, and that the whole show appertaining to this business of Christmas not be done at all. Please understand that I do not care if others celebrate Christmas if they wish, nor would I suggest that they be prevented from doing so. I just don’t want the holiday to be compulsory for me or anyone else–any more than I want other people’s prayers, that they have an absolute right to pray, to be forced upon me by public officials or upon children by public schools. One who would rather decline gets somewhat tired of listening to those who absolutely and uncritically assume all good people celebrate Christmas, and that something is horribly wrong with anyone who ignores the invitation to attend their compulsory party.

Failing the unlikely event of Christmas being made optional, I would alternatively wish, in seasonal answer to Virginia’s famous question, that we might see something in the public press, for innocent children, like:

Dear Virginia,

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. It is a myth that has been cruelly used to deceive children for the pleasure of adults who unwittingly destroy children’s sense of basic trust by teaching them that the world is something other than it really is.

I know this news must be a shock to you, and I am truly sorry for your discomfort. But it is not my fault. The person who tells you the truth should never be blamed for the hurt that comes from learning that others have lied.

You should not believe in Santa Claus any more than you should believe in fairies, or in demons waiting around to pull you under the earth, or in angels lurking about to transport you above it.

People do not need to believe foolish things to have love and compassion and caring, any more than they need a special season or holiday to be nice to one another.

If things believed prove false, does that mean peace, and sharing, and kindness must dissolve like mist along with the untrue things? Of course not! We don’t need magic to have happiness, and wonder, and joy. Our beautiful world is full of these things, and they are very real, and our real world holds more interesting and wonderful people and things than any fairyland anyone could ever even imagine.

Some adults are afraid of things they don’t understand, and they teach children to believe in magic. But the truth is really far more exciting. Wouldn’t you rather learn what is on real planets, that are millions of miles away, than believe reindeer can fly? Have you ever seen the northern lights? I have, and I can tell you they are more beautiful, more mysterious, and more wonderful than any pretend story anyone could ever invent about elves that have workshops at the North Pole.

Is it okay to pretend and to believe things we know are not true? Of course it is! And it can be a lot of fun. Intelligent people love to play. Any time you watch a movie or a play or go to a costume party you are playing and pretending something is so that is not.

We know those aren’t real people in the TV–only images of them–but we know we are pretending, and this is fun and much different from believing a falsehood. Would it be wrong to tell a friend of yours, who firmly believed there were really small people inside the television set, that his or her belief was not true? Would it be right for you to be condemned for destroying that friend’s childlike faith? What if several of your best friends thought they could fly, and set off for a bridge over a 600 foot deep gorge to prove it? Would it be wrong for you to politely try to convince them that they just might be mistaken, no matter how firmly they believe they are right? Would you be destroying their childhood or saving their future?

Follow the truth, no matter where it may take you. And don’t pay any attention to those who think comforting falsehoods are better than understanding the world as it is. If you ever have children, teach them trust by telling them the truth.

By the way, just in case you didn’t know, the stork didn’t bring you. You are here because your parents had sex.

Keep questioning, Virginia, and don’t feel it is the least bit wrong to demand correct answers.

Asking questions is what makes us human.

Your friend,

Uncle Edwin
=====================================

And Here for Dessert:

Christmas Letter

Dearest Beloved of Our Family in Christ,

There have been many changes this year for our family. Our beloved 17 year old daughter suffered blindness and paralysis after being struck by a drunk driver on her way home from Wednesday night church services. Aunt Polly died of liver cancer, following a long and painful illness. The family cat was smashed by a UPS truck. Mabel’s M.S. is getting worse and she can hardly do anything much anymore. Father had to have a triple bypass operation, and now uses a breathing tube. The house was burned down by sparks from the burning of Harry Potter books in our yard. Little Marvin got a chicken bone stuck in his throat at a church picnic and was rushed to the hospital where doctors had to remove his voice box, so he can never talk again, but God miraculously saved him. Miranda is now being home schooled after she left eighth grade to become a single mother. An abortion was out of the question, and we know God has given us a hydrocephalic grandchild for his own good and perfect reasons. Our oldest son had his left foot blown off in an ambush in Iraq while helping to bring Christ and Democracy to those poor heathens. We rejoice in the wisdom of our God, in His gifts, and in His plan for our lives. We bear grateful witness to all that our great and merciful God has done for us in the past year, and we praise the works of His hand. Oh, almost forgot. The dog died.

In His Holy Name,

The Fundangelical Family

© Edwin Kagin. December, 2006. Permission to reproduce without profit is given. If you make money on it, I want some of it. Edwin)

http://freethoughtblogs.com/kagin/2011/12/21/170/

A Blog In Time

I am as excited as a priest in Chuck-E-Cheese over my new blog.  That was funny wasn’t it?  I thought so when I first heard it.  Have no idea where it came from so I can’t ascribe credit for it.  Maybe it is now part of our spiritual heritage.   Someone said Einstein said something to the effect that the secret to genius is concealing your sources.

So why was that funny?  It was funny to at least some of you.  The reason it is funny is because it proclaims (or at least implies) that certain priests have an unhealthy and unlawful interest in children.  Hence the venue of a place where kids go and a priest who went it there, presumably to ogle children, excited to be in that known haunt for children.  And it is his type and other fanatical religious fellow travelers who are the targets of this new adventure in blogging.

This blog is titled “Blasphemous Blogging.”  Here is how I described it in its earlier incarnation:

Blasphemy is the crime of making fun of ridiculous beliefs others hold sacred. This blog is about satire, truth, inquiry, and critical thinking. It is about enjoying life before death. It is about how some try to control many through their notions about a make believe supernatural world and imaginary rewards and punishments after death. This blog says that blasphemy is a good thing, a healthy thing, and a good antidote to harmful superstition. This blog is about freedom. Edwin.

I really don’t see any good reason to change a word.

Thank you for your comments.  It was good to see some old friends.

I am satisfied that blogs are, to us the living, what the coffee house, Fleet Street news, and hand set type were to our ancestors who were then surprised from complacent superiority by the telephone and telegram.  My father, the minister, had a little joke which informed listeners that the three ways to rapidly dispense information were telephone, telegraph, and tell a woman.  Isn’t that cute?  He had a lot of little jokes

And once I got used to the physical reality of telephone and telegraph (but certainly not of women), along comes electronic everythings that do not seem to be grounded in physical reality–at least not in what I learned of in school.  This is enough to cause serious culture shock to anyone who remembers when Geography and Health were still taught in High Schools.  Although I seem to know a bit more about how to work electronic stuff (not how it works, for dog’s sake) than some of my similarly aged fellow travelers, for serious questions I suggest consulting an eight year old.  They have never failed me.  They do not see the Internet as some kind of idle persons toy–something without inherent  usefulness.  Those who hold that view are going to lose and the eight year olds are going to win.

We are going to talk about how to hold back the night–how to prevent the coming of a new Dark Ages.   Because I plan to make much of this blog autobiographical, with a fictional gloss, speculation only makes the project more fun.  You are welcome, should you have the slightest interest in doing so, to try to figure out what is fiction and what is fact.  Just like you should be doing in any inquiry about the nature and things of religion.

The proposed title for my autobiographical ramblings is “Never Live with a Woman Who Keeps Self Improvement Books in Bedroom.”

Edwin

December 20. 2011.

INTRODUCING BLASPHEMOUS BLOGGING: THE BLOG OF EDWIN KAGIN.

This is my first blog from the front porch of my new blog home. I give thanks and appreciation to all of those who worked with, or worked around, my electronic ignorance and my behavioral eccentricities to make this blog actually happen. A number of my writings, and other postings, from an erratically fed former blog, have been added to this new blog. The address, or URL, is:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/kagin/

It is my intent to use this much appreciated opportunity to do some serious blogging. I haven’t written much, or done much for that matter, since Helen Kagin died on February 17, 2010. It is time for that to change. It is time to affirm life.
You can find out perhaps more than you may care to know about me by going to my website, www.edwinkagin.com and by putting Edwin Kagin into Google and hitting Enter.

There seems nothing more worthy of discussion within our world view of atheism, at this moment of what we understand to be time, than the life and death of Christopher Hitchens. To that end, I offer for my first blog on freethoughtblogs.com:

In re Hitch

Christopher Hitchens said of Thomas Jefferson:

“We make no saint of Thomas Jefferson – we leave the mindless
business of canonization and the worship of humans to the fanatics
-but aware as we are of his many crimes and contradictions we say
with confidence that his memory and example will endure long after
the moral pygmies who try to blot out his name have been forgotten.”

This statement, reportedly read at the Texas Textbook Rally when Hitch was too ill to attend, can now serve, by changing names, as a tribute to Hitch. For a long time he drank too much and he smoked too much. He could be belligerent, angry and hostile. I did not know him, although I heard him several times and met him once as he signed his book for me and I gave him my book “Baubles of Blasphemy.” Don’t know if he read it or not. Never heard.

I could have introduced myself to him at the bar of the hotel where he was drinking prior to giving a brilliant talk as one of the four “horsemen” who had gathered for the event. But when people are drinking, their actions are less predictable, and I did not want to be responsible for causing some theoretical problem before his address, so I missed the moment. I kind of regret that now, because I will never have that chance again.

That is because “Hitch” died of cancer. He knew he was going to die, and he confronted that reality fully and appropriately. He seemed a nicer person than he seemed before the reality of his death sentence diagnosis was made known. He was both jeered and praised by religious types who must have hated him for his eloquent destruction of their most deeply held beliefs. But many of them actually seemed to admire him. Some religious types announced they were praying for him. As Hitch observed, such was both appreciated as a sign of caring (maybe—maybe not) and seen as a somewhat foolish exercise.

Hitch made clear that no “deathbed conversion” proceeding from a dying brain should be given credibility.

Is Hitch in some non-material word of when? Probably not. Is he having chats with, and being oriented to his new thing by, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Ingersoll, and Helen Kagin? Probably not. It would be nice. No, these splendid persons, as well as Hitch, have ceased to exist in what we are pleased to call the natural world.

And the certain knowledge that each of us must go where they have gone should, I think, provide a certain sense of comfort. At least each of them now knows for sure what happens, from their point of view, after death. What is really going on with all of those places we can no longer clearly see in the night sky because of light pollution? If it were not for religion, we might have by now found out.

Perhaps the finest tribute to Hitch is the spontaneous happening that seemingly everyone in Freethought, and many outside of it, are talking about Hitch and his legacy. The discussions, memories and observations are close to uniformly positive. Some Fundies laugh and jeer at their understanding that Hitch’s soul is now being punished for eternity by an entity they are pleased to call a loving god.

What I will remember of Hitch is that he was perhaps the finest stand-up debater I have ever encountered or heard of. He was not restrained by fear that he might be offensive to his opponents. He didn’t care what they thought or felt when he was denouncing the crimes of their priests, and their teachings and commands that made a lie of the claimed benefits attendant to their religious good works.

It takes some serious moxie to call the beliefs of so many believers dangerous foolishness in public. But Hitch did just that. He happily challenged anyone to explain just how some beneficial act could only be done by religion, or to name a good thing a religious person can do that a non religious person cannot do. Or tell what good idea religion has offered. “Love thy neighbor” comes close, he thought, but that is not always a good idea. Sometimes such can be very terrible and destructive.

Hitch did not feel any obligation whatsoever to be nice to religious apologists. He did not respect their beliefs, and he said so. He did not respect the people who advanced these beliefs either. He felt that many such efforts to push for ridiculous beliefs, like the Creation Museum, were ultimately dangerous to society. Science has helped people live. Religion has helped them die. As forbidding by divine order the use of condoms in countries dying from AIDS.

Hitch was a mighty warrior.

Hitch was an attack dog for truth.

Edwin