Monsters in Motion

“Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout / The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray / And though she feels as if she’s in a play / She is anyway” — Paul McCartney

Over two and a half years have passed since I added lyrics and commentary to this site. It was June 2015. I had finished posts for seven of eight songs on Depths of Distrust. Then I just figured “screw this.”

It’s not that I no longer cared about my three faithful readers. Nor was I exhausted of ideas. It was just that – as it turned out – I didn’t care to blog. I simply lacked the desire to sway opinions and emote digitally. So I figured it best, rather, to spend the little free time I had creating polished forms of self-expression: that is, writing and recording new songs, as well as working on book projects (one, which I published last July: In the Beginning: A Serious Satire on Myth, Philosophy, and Belief).


Speaking of art and works in progress, the last song on Depths of Distrust deals with a topic that my next book will cover in the form of mind-bending philosophical thriller (anticipated publication, early 2019). That topic, generally speaking, is the question:

What constitutes reality – order or disorder?

Assuming there is such a thing as reality, and that it is meaningful to ask what sort of thing it is, one might approach an answer in terms of the distinction between material and form. Think of a statue… oh, I dunno… of some hip war hero from the South… or of that defiant little girl in NYC that folks think is so sociologically momentous… or a monument to your dog licking itself. Who cares? Just think of some sort of statue.

Now, when you point to that statue and ask, “What is that?” will you answer “That’s Buford B. Buchanan,” or “That’s a brave little girl,” or “That is my doggie, Mr. Stinkums – idn’t he cute?” Hopefully not. Why? Because what you’re pointing to is bronze, or marble, or plastic, or some other material. This material can take the form of any of those subjects, but it will never be those things. It will always remain itself. The form, however, that some material takes is temporary, and it does not change the essence of the material.

dog statue

Image: Carole Raddato. Commons.wikimedia.org. Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Put simply: forms come and go; material abides. All, in fact, that really exists is shapeless, ever-flowing, disorderly stuff. Order is arbitrary – a temporary artificiality.

Order is art and art is order. Think of a photo of a woman dancing. The photo is static, artificial, flat – even colorless, in comparison to the vivid and varied hues of the original. The photo depicts an event frozen in time, and thus says very little accurate about it – the woman’s beauty, the movement of her limbs, her facial expressions, the excitement she radiates, her curves in motion.women dancing

In fact, if folks today weren’t so accustomed to pics and selfies, one might find a depiction of a dancing figure frozen in time puzzling and unattractive. Why is she holding her arm up over her head all jagged-like? Why is she squinting her eyes and contorting her face so awkwardly? She’s supposed to be having fun, right? Where’s the life?

This is all to say that reality is curvy, constantly moving, and a bit clumsy. It is not a magazine photo of a Victoria’s Secret model standing still, face caked with paint, waxen body posing for the camera. Art is fake, flat, plastic, and rigid. This goes for sculptures, photos, paintings, performances, records, books, and all other forms of expression that attempt to simplify, flatten, and freeze the flow of nature. Art is artificial.

Art, like all forms of order, seeks to capture, to restrict, to bind, to hold in place. It serves to filter out what is real; to simplify what is natural and complex; to block and interrupt flow; to process, package, and sell.

Art and order must be imposed on material. Like the form of a sculpture, they constrict consciousness. They delineate boundaries that separate what the mind ought to include and exclude. Ultimately, however, this amounts to carving lines in the sand, inevitably to be dissolved by the flow of the tide.

Reality is continuous. It is what it is. It doesn’t depend on a name or a label. It isn’t here or there, now or then. Reality doesn’t exist in discrete chunks. It’s definitely not 1s and 0s – not a digital recording, nor even vinyl. Reality is a live outdoor performance on an unexpectedly cool evening, with a mildly inebriated conductor leading an ensemble of unfocused, fidgety performers playing slightly off-key. Reality is senseless and ugly. It’s uncomfortable and unacceptable.

dog sports

Image: Dapuglet. Flickr.

Which is real? A stray, smelly mutt scrounging the trash for food, snarling at passers-by, relieving itself whenever and wherever it has the need? Or a freshly groomed, tagged, and leashed purebred, possibly even sporting a sweater boasting the logo of a college football team, posing calmly with its ‘owner’ for a selfie (though it craves nothing more than to tear the furniture to shreds)? Reality is smelly, messy, vicious.

Order is imposed by pressure, by squeezing a square peg into a round hole. The dog behaves as you wish because it fears you will force its nose into the mess it makes. But only what is unreal and insecure would need to resort to threats in order to exist. Dog is you – you are god. Reality doesn’t need to be sold or pushed. It doesn’t need to be saved and is never at risk.

Order is nothing more than an imposed construct – an illusion that good boys and girls are trained to view as real. Just think of all the things that comprise this “reality”:

  • Social norms and rules, manners, rituals
  • Laws, ordinances, oaths, and contracts
  • Religions, the concept of god, prayer
  • Holidays, dates, times
  • Morality, good and bad, right and wrong, left and right – all dichotomies
  • Political parties and issues; voting
  • Nations, cities, roadways, landscaping
  • Rights, possessions, and property (outside of one’s own mind and body)
  • Tribal associations, race, teams, jobs, titles, gender identifications
  • Your name – first, middle, and last
  • Celebrity status, entertainment, the ‘news’, and other forms of make-believe
  • Signs, labels and tags, uniforms and badges
  • Cosmetics, clothing, bodily fashions
  • Family ties and the so-called ‘bond’ of marriage
  • Technology, convenience, simplicity, automation
  • Myth, scientific explanation, education
  • Numbers, concepts, and language itself
  • The verb ‘is’ (the biggest lie ever told).

Ladies Dolls Female Barbie Girls Brunette BlondeNone of this is reality. All are fabrications forced upon the mind in an attempt to bring order to chaos. All are filtered, censored, simplified imitations. At best, they are artificial, flat, rigid symbols – like an anorexic model, a street map, a child’s toy, a calendar, the hands and face of a clock. Imagine the world stripped of these illusions.

Order is repetitive, circular, complete, and closed. It is the ring that binds the finger. Reality is unending, open, and indefinite. It is unfaithful and selfish. Chaos is king – disorder, his decree. Control, but a castle in the sky.

ringsOrder is a drug that pacifies and tranquilizes the unsettled mind, channeling its focus into fixed, prescribed locations, like television programming, social media memes, and advertising. The mind itself resists unsettled thoughts, unanswered questions, feelings that cannot be categorized. Plato compared us to prisoners shackled to a wall in a dimly-lit cave. But we’re really bound by flickering shadows.

gated community

Image: Parihav. English language Wikipedia.

Order is a sedative, a stage performance that requires submission and assimilation. It is the suburban housing association that forces you deal with flux by imposing the illusion of uniformity and security. But neither bedtime story nor automatic gate can soothe your fear. No costume or badge can arrest decay. Reality is cancer. It’s hideous. Monsters in motion are all that’s real.

“God is a concept by which we measure our pain” — John Lennon

© Joshua J. Reynolds 2018. All rights reserved.

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“The Source”

From Chaos waters Time first nods
From Night born the light of Day
Mother Earth, raped by Sky, bares Titan gods
Bound and locked away

Mutilated by his son
Raining blood, utters a curse
Child devoured, prophecy is done
Father burns, lightning is hurled

For ten years storm-god rages on
Forests burned, seas boiled away
Final threat, flaming roar, eyes hundreds strong
Crushed by mountain, slain

All birth grows from what it is not
Fated in cycles of war
Aggression devastates
But fails to dominate
Destined return to the source

By cosmic planning Time moves on
Four seasons, fixed stars and Fate
Warming sun up at dawn, the moon’s motion
Gods give Nature her rightful place

Uncompleted world undone
Divine image, a creature to serve
Fruit of truth, tree of life, temptation
Fire burns as man yearns to learn

Innocence, a place of peace
(Painless bliss, joyous feasts)
Prosperous, a life of awe
(Peaceful deaths to live with gods)

But imbalance must be righted
Your delight can’t last for long
Opened eyes, mind enlightened
Happiness, an illusion

Curses, anger
Race doomed to failure
Forever toil
Until blood turns to soil

Time of Iron, man’s decline
Faithless children born with hairs of grey
Cities sacked, parents slain, jealousy and lies
God’s image proves its own hate

Inundated by the flood
Helpless cries damned to drown at birth
Love divine buries life deep within the mud
Will Father learn when taking his turn?

All birth grows from what is not
(Force from flaw, sick from sane)
Fated in cycles of war
(Win needs fail, frail needs strength)

Transgression throws its weight
But scales fluctuate
Destined return to the source
(Death the price for our gain)

Lyrics © Joshua J. Reynolds 2014. All rights reserved.


“The Source” is a song about origins — specifically, how things tend to originate in violence and death. The lyrics are based on a book I am writing that offers a satirical look at ancient myths concerning the beginning of the universe and mankind. Like the book, the lyrics amalgamate an assortment of such myths to focus on their similar origins, plot structures and themes.

Despite the convictions of devout Christians, there is very little that is unique or authoritative about the stories from the so-called ‘Bible’. I summarize below the Bible’s main themes concerning creation, which also happen to turn up in much older Mesopotamian myths, as well as those from ancient Greece.

  1. The creation of the world as a separation of opposites from a primal chaos: Separation of light from dark, as well as the waters above and waters below the sky in the Hebrew Genesis; Separation of fresh water (Apsu) and salt water (Tiamat) in the Babylonian Enuma Elish; Separation of earth and sky, as well as day and night in Greek mythology, esp. Hesiod’s Theogony.
  2. The world as a flat disk floating on water covered by a solid, domed roof of sky/stars: Hebrew Genesis; Babylonian Enuma Elish; Greek myth, esp. Homer’s Iliad and Hesiod’s Theogony.
  3. The supremacy of a storm/sky-god who sets primal chaos in order: Hebrew Elohim/Yahweh; Babylonian Marduk; Greek Zeus.
  4. A storm/sky-god who battles and defeats terrible, disorderly monsters: Yahweh vs. Leviathan and Behemoth (Hebrew Job; Psalms); Marduk vs. Tiamat and her demons, snakes, dragons, scorpion-men and bull-men; Hittite Teshub vs. the dragon-monster Illuyanka; Zeus vs. Typhon.
  5. The creation of mankind from some earthly or biological material to serve the gods and/or to tend to divine gardens: Hebrew Yahweh’s creation of Adam and Eve from soil/human rib; Sumerian Enki and Earth create first humans from the blood of a dead god, mud and spit; Babylonian Marduk creates people from the blood of an enemy; the Greek gods create the first woman out of clay.
  6. After the work of creation is complete, the mighty storm/sky-god feels the need to rest: Hebrew Elohim; Babylonian Marduk.
  7. The storm/sky-god sends a flood that wipes out most of mankind as punishment for their wickedness and/or annoyance: Noah in Hebrew myth; Ziusudra in Sumerian myth; Atrahasis in Akkadian myth; Utnapishtim in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh; Deucalion in Greek myth.
  8. A trickster deity who defies the storm/sky-god and promotes human knowledge: Hebrew Satan; Mesopotamian Enki/Ea; Greek Prometheus.
  9. Woman as troublesome temptress and her curiosity, which leads to human suffering: Hebrew Eve and her tantalizing fruit; Greek Pandora and her alluring box.
  10. The decline of mankind from paradise and the corresponding divine curse: Adam and Eve in Hebrew myth; Prometheus story in Greek myth; Pandora story in Greek myth; The Five Ages of mankind in the Greek Hesiod’s Works and Days.

These ten themes represent some of the well-known parallels that anyone with half a brain can pursue in much greater detail using any reliable online or offline source.

Now then, possible reactions to these striking commonalities might include:

1) Ignore the obvious parallels (just as you might ignore the Bible’s obvious contradictions and injustices) and stand firm by your faith that biblical stories are unique and authoritative. It is certainly acceptable to believe whatever you want to believe, but only as long as you keep it to yourself. You should not attempt to convert others or influence public policy according to those beliefs any more than you should persecute, violate or harm others for not sharing them.

2) Take the approach of the theologian, who will attempt to explain away the parallels (as well as the contradictions and injustices) according to some subtle and sophisticated theory that only the handful of experts with advanced degrees and years of Ivory Tower isolation would stand a chance of understanding. Such theories tend to appeal to arguments concerning mistranslation, offering instead the “correct,” “original” meaning of a relevant Hebrew or Greek term.

Now this is certainly admirable work, since it does make use of reason and evidence, as opposed to faith, which is by its very nature non-rational and close-minded. The only problem is that my salvation should not have to depend both on my acceptance of the Bible and of some random scholar’s intricate interpretation of it.

I mean, the Bible is ‘the Book’, right? It’s meant to stand alone, wholly sufficient in its supposed truth and authority. One shouldn’t require a Ph.D. to understand it any more than one should be required to know ancient Hebrew and Greek. Indeed, if only a select few can understand the real meaning of the Bible’s original wording, then all the more reason to conclude that it was not written for modern lay people.

Russell Crowe's

Russell Crowe’s “Noah.” Paramount Pictures. 2014.

3) Or we might take a rational approach, which realizes that the Bible’s stories, as all stories, were derived from prior and contemporaneous human sources. This means, in turn, that they cannot be, at least not directly, the ‘word of god’. In other words, the Bible has a traceable history of development and transmission, often using non-Jewish and non-Christian sources. One might respond by saying, e.g., that the five different flood narratives describe the same historical event (i.e., the “biblical flood”). But this still neglects to address the presence and influence of different deities who are fundamentally at odds with the Jewish/Christian god.

Anyway, in addition to these ten general parallels, “The Source” also touches on the theme of strife between divine parents and their children, esp. the conflict between father and son. In Greek mythology, Cronus mutilates the genitals of his father, king Uranus, who in turn curses his son. Now king himself, Cronus swallows his own children to prevent himself from being overthrown. But his own child, Zeus, outwits him and defeats his father in an epic battle.

Goya. Saturn Devouring His Son. Wikipedia.

Goya. Saturn Devouring His Son. Wikipedia.

Likewise, the Babylonian Apsu plots to destroy his great-great grandchild Ea, who eventually prevails, just as Tiamat plots to destroy her great-great-great grandchild Marduk, who goes on to become king of the gods. And finally, in the Hittite myth Kingship in Heaven, Kumarbi challenges and mutilates the genitals of his own father, Anush, while Kumarbi’s own son Teshub later defeats him and goes on to rule universe.

Of course, we find none of this bloody, parent vs. child power struggle between the Christian god and Jesus. Jesus does not try to overthrow his father or snip off his genitalia (although, given the maleness of this god, we must assume anatomical correctness). Jesus, however, does get to share the keys to the divine kingdom, but only after dear old dad treats him to a bloody death on the cross, which is what ends up setting things right in the world… somehow.

Artemision Bronze. Wikipedia.

Artemision Bronze. Wikipedia.

No… Jesus and daddy don’t go head to head in Christian mythology. But the Judeo-Christian god still harbors significant insecurity regarding his rule. That is, he constantly struggles with his human children – cursing, destroying, punishing and denying them the possession of knowledge and power. Divine jealously is what links the Judeo-Christian god to Zeus and Marduk.

As an aside, it is silly that these Star Wars-style fairy tales and ancient metaphors of rule and kingship still mean anything to rational people in this day and age. I myself have never seen or met a king or lord. I have never lived under a kingship or in a kingdom. I have never been ruled and so have no idea what the experience is like. Lords and kings and kingships are completely foreign to me. So I have no idea why Christians today try to communicate with me, others and themselves in these and similarly archaic terms.

The

The “Lamb of God”

I mean, I had a father growing up. So I somewhat understand what it might mean to say that some god or another is my ‘heavenly father’. But ‘lord in heaven’ and ‘kingdom of god’? No clue whatsoever. Such talk is to me as senseless as the Christian obsession with lambs, esp. Jesus as the ‘lamb of god’. What I am saying is that I couldn’t care less about lambs. I don’t find them particularly appealing or interesting (except on a skewer). So why the hell do Christians try to convince me to join their cult with so much talk of lambs?!?!

When you tell me that Jesus is the ‘lamb of god’, what I hear this: “Blah bleo laoc lk eyznho euohdoa… lamb.” So please… just stop with the ‘lamb’ talk. And while you’re at it, cut out all the ‘lord’ and ‘kingdom’ nonsense, the references to the archaic ritual of ‘sacrifice’, and the creepy business about how eating god’s ‘body’ and ‘drinking’ his blood is going to bring me eternal happiness. The bleating of a lamb makes more sense to me than that sort of gibberish.

Mmmmmm

Mmmmmm

To wrap up: Even as the Greeks and Jews were telling myths to understand their world, early philosophers began to offer naturalistic explanations of the principles those stories represented. Instead of a violent struggle and succession of gods leading from chaos to order, Anaximander, for instance, argued that cosmic order consists in a balance of opposites (hot/cold, war/peace, justice/injustice, etc.), each side attacking and replacing the other according to a natural, impersonal cycle. No one side prevails for long, before it is replaced by something else, which in turn will succumb to its opposition. This sort of explanation was meant to be a rational alternative to stories of anthropomorphic gods imposing order by dominating enemies and subjugating supposedly wicked human beings.

Anaximander relief. Wikipedia.

Anaximander relief. Wikipedia.

The same goes for myths themselves. Just like everything else, stories about the gods change over time as they are borrowed, inherited, assimilated, edited, censored, spun, omitted, transformed, die and resurrect in new forms according to cultural, temporal and geographical variations. The upshot is this: if one myth’s death is another’s birth, then I see no point in debating with believers. Even if you convince them of the absurdity of their beliefs, you’ll just end up with another, similarly ridiculous, story as the new supposedly authoritative tale.

I don’t want to give Christians any ideas on how to speak more relevantly to their modern audience, but I would not be surprised if two-thousand years from now rational people find themselves dumbfounded as to why the predominant religion of their time speaks of god as the ‘Divine CEO’ or ‘President in Heaven’. Maybe that will make about as much sense to them as ‘Lord’ and ‘King’ should make to us.

Oh. I get it. I'm a believer now!

Oh. I get it. I’m a believer now!

© Joshua J. Reynolds 2014. All rights reserved.

“Contagion”

Principio caput incensum fervore gerebant
et duplicis oculos suffusa luce rubentes
sudabant etiam fauces intrinsecus atrae
sanguine et ulceribus vocis via saepta coibat,
atque animi interpres manabat lingua cruore
debilitata malis, motu gravis, aspera tactu

“First they felt their heads burning with fever and their two eyes growing red and glowing throughout. Their throats were black within and drenched with blood as the airways were blocked and closed by ulcers. The tongue, interpreter of the mind, flowed with gore as it was weakened by pains, difficult to move, and rough to the touch.”

inde ubi per fauces pectus complerat et ipsum
morbida vis in cor maestum confluxerat aegris,
omnia tum vero vitai claustra lababant
spiritus ore foras taetrum volvebat odorem,
rancida quo perolent proiecta cadavera ritu

“From that point, when the deadly disease had passed down through the throat and filled the chest, after it had flowed into the miserable heart of the sufferer, then in fact the very bonds of life gave way. The breath rolled out a foul stench from the mouth, just like the odor of exposed, rancid corpses.”

omnis… divom natura
necessest inmortali aevo… fruatur
semota ab nostris rebus…

nam… ipsa suis pollens opibus
nihil indiga nostri
nec bene promeritis capitur
neque tangitur ira

“A god, by its very nature must enjoy immortal existence, far removed from our affairs — strong in its own resources, not at all in need of us — neither won over by our services, nor touched by our anger.”


“God is not to be feared, death is not a risk. It is easy to procure what is good, while what is bad is easy to endure” (Epicurean ‘Four-fold Remedy’).

As you might have suspected, the vocals for “Contagion” are in Latin. The lines I used are from the poem “On the Nature of Things” (De Rerum Natura), penned by the Roman poet Lucretius (94 BC – 55 BC). Lucretius was an ardent admirer of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who lived and taught in Athens roughly 250 years before the poet’s death. In light of his deep respect for Epicurus, Lucretius composed his 7400-line poem to expound the philosopher’s doctrines.

Epicurus bust. Wikipedia.

Epicurus bust. Wikipedia.

At the core of this philosophy was the secular, mechanistic view of the universe known as ‘atomism’. In particular, Epicurus (and Lucretius) argued that all that really exists are an infinite number of tiny atoms moving around empty space at random, colliding with each other and forming all the visible stuff and events that we experience in the world according to fixed natural laws.

The idea here is even more relevant to life today than it might seem. Lucretius’ overall intention, as that of his predecessor, is that a rational understanding of why things happen in the world as they do will remove our fear of the gods and of death, thus allowing us to attain true peace and happiness in life.

The human soul, for instance, being purely physical in nature and subject to natural laws, must die along with the body. As a result, Lucretius insists, we can experience no sensation at all after death. Death will be for us just like what it was like before we were born: absolutely nothing.

As for god, a perfect divine being must be content with its existence. This means that god can have no needs, desires, emotions or worries. God would therefore have no reason to interfere with the workings of nature or human beings. This knowledge, in turn, should free us from the anxiety that comes from our efforts to worship god correctly and to live a righteous life – all in order to avoid everlasting punishment after death.

This is Epicureanism in a nutshell. Now, the lines I have used for ‘Contagion’ can be found at the end of the final book of Lucretius’ poem (book six). There, the poet describes in gory detail the horrific plague that devastated the population of ancient Athens during the Peloponnesian War (430 BC).

So how does this graphic plague narrative fit in with Lucretius’ mission to explain the mechanics of the universe and dispel our fear of the gods and of death? Keep in mind that Lucretius is attempting to explain the nature of things. This includes everything that might exist or take place around us: e.g., the earth, sky, stars, animals, man, the soul, civilization, the gods, hallucinations, the seasons, meteorological phenomena, and supposed miracles.

The basic idea is that nothing comes-to-be from nothing or perishes into nothing, as if by supernatural agency. All things change, come-to-be and perish because of the combination and separation of atoms, and all according to the immutable laws of nature. Not even god can influence or interrupt this natural flow of cause and effect.

Consequently, the various imperfections of the world must also have specific causes, especially the countless disasters that afflict humanity, seemingly for no reason, or in the eyes of believers, because of god’s wrath. For instance, Lucretius offers a natural rather than supernatural explanation of lightning, which was often seen to strike even the very temples of the gods. Similarly, he explains volcanoes and earthquakes as the result of natural processes underneath the earth’s surface.

It is within this context that Lucretius turns to the plague. He reminds us that world was not made for us. Disease, he says, has a physical cause in the combinations of various types of atoms which accumulate and upset the balance of health. He also discusses what we know today as infection and contagion, as well as the influence of climate as a factor in the spread of disease.

Plague in an Ancient City, Michael Sweerts. Wikigallery.org.

Plague in an Ancient City, Michael Sweerts. Wikigallery.org.

As mentioned, Lucretius’ description of the plague’s symptoms is graphic. In addition to the lines that I have translated above, the poet describes anxiety, incessant retching, convulsions and exhaustion. The sufferer’s body was cold to the touch, but the inside burned to the bone. Medicine was useless. Some people jumped into streams and wells in a futile effort to quench their constant thirst. Delirium and hallucination set in. Breathing was nearly impossible and sweating profuse. Putrid blood flowed through the nose. After nine days of agony, along with uncontrollable twitching, coughing and tissue deterioration, the victims would finally die.

The plague also had severe social consequences. Unburied corpses littered the streets. As soon as people got sick, they fell into frenzied despair. Ironically, many committed suicide. Those who dreaded death most refused to tend to the sick. But they too succumbed, just as those who did try to help the victims. Lucretius also describes parents stretched out over dead children and dying children clinging to the bodies of dead parents.

Finally, and most relevantly, the temples and shrines of the gods were filled with corpses. Lucretius emphasizes how little believers’ reverence and worship of the gods mattered in the end. The entire nation was in terror and lawlessness ensued. Some families even began to use other people’s pyres to burn their own dead, which often led to disputes and bloodshed.

Lucretius’ tragic picture of the Athenian plague shows us humankind at the mercy of natural forces beyond the power of their own knowledge, skill and religious customs. It depicts the inevitable suffering that human beings face in a world that was not made for them. Ironically, the power that comes from knowledge of the atomistic structure of the universe reveals the painful fact of our ultimate powerlessness within a hostile world. Most of all, the narrative strongly suggests that god does not care a bit about the welfare of human beings.


The occurrence of extreme, senseless suffering is not restricted to the ancient world. We need only turn our thoughts to the recent disaster in Nepal. We have all seen the clichéd memes on social networking sites expressing prayers for the victims and survivors of the earthquake. Such responses make even less sense than the disaster itself. If god has the power and will to alleviate human suffering, then why would he wait until enough people asked him to do so?

pray for nepalAs my mom used to say, ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’. Nature is a cruel killer who indiscriminately attacks young and old, innocent and guilty, rich and poor, healthy and sick. Consider yourself lucky if you get through life without experiencing serious suffering, sickness or misery. Only deluded, narcissistic fools would consider it a divine blessing granted specifically to them… and why? Just because they had gained divine favor by praying, kneeling or chanting in the prescribed manner? So Jesus says: “Clasp those hands real tight and get down on your knees or I won’t help those little children whom I allowed to be crush by falling debris.” Do I understand that right?

The specific function of a mind is to think — to figure things out according to common sense and reason. So what does reason say about all this suffering? Either god doesn’t know about it, doesn’t care about it, can’t stop it, or doesn’t exist. Those are the only options. Of course you could simply ignore the rational workings of your mind and cling to faith — convince yourself that god was ‘ready for’ the victims of the plague or the earthquake or whatever other disaster.

You could convince yourself that the suffering all makes sense in god’s mind, but not ours. (Of course, leave out the part about how our own tiny, limited minds could know even that much.) Reassure yourself that despite the victims’ unspeakable suffering, it is all part of the plan of a god who loves them very much. But this is not love. Most of us had unquestionably loving parents who would never allow us to suffer in such ways if they had any say in the matter. Whatever was at work behind the scenes during the Athenian plague or the Nepal earthquake, it is not what any sane person would recognize as ‘love’.

I often say ‘faith is a mental illness’. Of course, this metaphor is meant to be provocative. But the similarity between faith and delusion is striking. Faith is a matter of stubbornly denying whatever conflicts with one’s beliefs regardless of reason and common sense. An adult who goes through life refusing to accept conclusions that contradict what they simply feel to be true no matter how strong the contrary evidence is a person who is not using his or her mind in a healthy, sane manner.

Lucretius’ point is that a rational view of the universe allows us to see an event as horrific as the plague as far less of an illness than religion. Religion and the fear of death that inspires it are the real contagion.

© Joshua J. Reynolds 2015. All rights reserved.

“Our Father”

Destroy life on earth
Drown the innocent
Sick and elderly
Defenseless infants

Dash some kids to death
Before parents’ eyes
Loot the homes of foes
Thrash and rape their wives

It’s in the book
It’s in your heart
Believe

Kill all male children
Kill their mothers too
Keep the virgin girls
For your sexual use

Curse the children who
Scorn a hairless man
Watch while savage bears
Shred them where they stand

He so loved the world

Stone the thief, his kids, and more
Stone his cattle too
Stone to death those you deplore
For opposing you

Force your enemy to eat the flesh of their own sons and daughters
Kill the man who refused to impregnate the wife of his brother

In his own image

Raining fire down on towns
Torch thousands of men
Grind to salt those you allow
To see your sins

Burn and sacrifice
Your young girl to me
I shall grant you bloody victory

Bash brains to bits against stones
Toss bodies out to rot alone

Give virgin daughter to mob for rape
Slay this one, slay that one
Decapitate

Drive sword right through
Pregnant woman’s guts
Slice her open
Tear and rip her up

Starve and torture
Carve the corpses
Infect the genitals
Hamstring the horses

Spread disease
Leave nothing to breathe
Mercilessly taunt and slaughter

Strike the slaves
Send a plague
For I am the Lord, thy Father

On and on
The list goes on
Of beneficence flawed
Fear and fright don’t qualify
As love for your god

Lyrics © Joshua J. Reynolds 2014. All rights reserved.


fear the lord - Copy“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” — Mark Twain

The lyrics to “Our Father” are straightforward. They are comprised mostly of a variety of descriptions of the atrociously violent acts ordered, approved or committed by the Jewish / Christian god in the so-called ‘Bible’. Along with the lyrics above, I have included hyperlinks to the relevant passages as they have been reprinted in over 100 different translations at BibleGateway.com.

Aside from “the Good Book” itself (New Oxford Annotated edition), I used as my secondary sources The Skeptics Annotated Bible and Dwindling in Unbelief. Both are excellent websites that I highly recommend for reliable information and humorous criticism.

I have to give credit to the author of these sites, Steve Wells, for having the stomach to rummage through the Bible to compile (and comment upon) the relevant stories. For my part, Judeo-Christian mythology is not something I exactly enjoy reading. In fact, I would rank the experience alongside the nauseous feeling I get when encountering any other racist propaganda or fascist nonsense.

Equally distasteful is the fact that the Bible is in origin nothing more than one tribe’s attempt to divinely sanction and glorify its own existence to the (violent) exclusion of all others. Sure, other ancient cultures had similar myths. But compared to, say, the ancient Greeks’ Iliad and Odyssey, the Judeo-Christian form of self-explanation — with all its irrelevant pedantry, hypocrisy, verbal and narrative simplicity, barbarism and absurdity — seems no more than the product of scared children and superstitious savages.

order and chaos - CopyOne thing I enjoy even less than reading the Bible is debating devout believers. Not a single rational argument is ever likely to convince such people of the absurdity of their beliefs because those beliefs are grounded in faith and authority, neither of which proceeds through anything even remotely close to reason, logic, evidence, fact or common-sense.

For this reason, I don’t attempt to make a case here for why people should suspend their belief in the Bible. I desire to do this just about as much as I want to explain to a bratty, snot-nosed little kid sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall why there’s no such thing as Santa Claus. Instead, I am happy simply to offer these general reflections and, more importantly, to provide convenient links to the various passages I reference in the lyrics.

god love - Copy“The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it, protect it from hurt, shield it from disease, clothe it, feed it, bear with its waywardness, lay no hand upon it save in kindness and for its own good, and never in any case inflict upon it a wanton cruelty. God’s treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is the exact opposite of all that, yet those best minds warmly justify these crimes, condone them, excuse them, and indignantly refuse to regard them as crimes at all, when he commits them.” — Mark Twain

© Joshua J. Reynolds 2015. All rights reserved.