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October 09, 2006

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Brian, let me preface my comment with a caveat (can I do that?) your ability to post so much material, with a fairly high level of intellectual heft, is no small feat. That you do it with seeming effortlessness makes it even more enjoyable. I don't tell you often enough how much I appreciate the effort it must take to generate this site and the content in it.

Now to the idea that I am supposed to go forth and call out everyone who does not censor his or her speech to remove all statements regarding morality, God, life after death, etc...

It's all too easy to make fun of extremists who believe in the "fantasies" of yet-to-be-proven human potential, or the infallibility of their beliefs, or the wholescale condemnation of those who cannot fall into lock step with their own pet rationalizations. Fundamentalists (of every stripe!) agree on one thing in my experience with them - that they are absolutely correct and anyone who disagrees is absolutely wrong. Wait, that could be two things.

Nevertheless, as your average run-of-the-mill woman born and raised in the Northwest (now transplanted onto the aventurine-crusted Eastern seaboard) I have come to the conclusion that the only way to defeat someone convinced in their rightness is to agree with them. Judo in many forms is the best form of self defense.

I've tried this Judo-style tactic on Jehovah's Witness and Mormon missionaries to great effect: they don't even bother to return to my home after I offer to pray for them with complete sincerity and NO trace of irony (because I truly feel they need prayer if you know what I mean). Instead they are flabbergasted and their righteousness is replaced with a confusion that makes me pray even harder for them. (I guess "intend for them the highest and best good" is the better technical term for what i call prayer). I've agreed with Right wingers with equal success, when they are actually true believers, as I vehemently agreed with thier laissez faire idea of government, then took the idea to its end point and trumpeted the benefits of no hospitals, aid workers and ambulances, no fire departments or police of any kind as they are 'tools of socialism'. Even in Pendleton, Oregon the guy on the streetcorner stumping for the schmuck of the month shut the heck up about the pinko opponent he was swiftboating when I mirrored his vehemence.

This tactic works less well with those who are posing as a believer, who straddle the fence and never really have any sort of convictions at all. Those who claim that we all have the right to our opinions usually get stoked over someone's inability to be politically correct. And the socialists usually want some form of cum-congregation to replace the popes and ministers of their own youth. But at least those people have the courage to sustain some form of morality that is personal, even if they do lapse into hypocrisy.

Maybe I am just getting older, but I am tired of being angry with ignorance and vanity. I don't indulge in those things as often as I could because I do not want to pay the price for them, but that's ultimately a selfish act and not a benevolent one. I used to think it was my job to educate or set straight my fellow journeyers, but I have come to believe that -- for me -- my job is to understand others ideas rather than teach my own.

It comes down to my bedrock faith, my deeply held belief that all that I encounter was Created, and as part of the Creation I submit unconsciously or consciously to that which I emanate from and am happiest when I coexist with all other aspects of Creation. In other words, this isn't a mistake, I am not aware and communicating by accident but by design, and the best I can do is to be genuine and present in each monent.

To spend my time waking someone else to my truth is like blowing a whistle in the street that only my dog can hear. There are times, like this, when I feel the urge to share. And then I am silent. Not because I am stupid, or weak, or infantile, but because up until now I have learned that fighting a thing makes it more powerful.

But Brian you seem like smart man filled with a great deal of wisdom. There is every chance that you could be right and this moment is a cosmic accident devoid or purpose or meaning.

Let's agree to disagree.

Jeanine

Jeanine/benandante, you make some excellent points. Well said. Conversational judo: a great skill to learn. I'm a white belt at it, sadly. Clearly you've learned to deflect fundamentalists with greater expertise.

That said, appropriately enough I'll challenge you a bit. I respect your faith in design. You aren't dogmatic about it. As you said, you're not out to convert anybody. Terrific.

I just don't see the evidence for design. We can feel that it's true, which is fine. But I'm enough of a believer in objective reality to mistrust my feelings when it comes to understanding the depths of the cosmos.

I don't doubt your experience. That can't be doubted. It's yours. Like Harris, what I doubt, and mistrust, is the whole notion that faith should be one of the foundations of human culture. A personal philosophy of life, sure. Societal policies, no.

Fundamentalism survives by swimming in the sea of faith. Your faith, my faith, everybody's faith. I don't want to contribute to religious intolerance by helping to keep the sea full.

I realize that I'm just responsible for a trickle, yet it still feels right to me to do what I can to dry up the source of jihad, crusades, inquisitions, heresy trials, fatwahs, and all that.

Lastly, I don't believe that this "moment is a cosmic accident devoid of purpose or meaning," as you said. I'm an optimistic person. I find lots of purpose and meaning in my life. It doesn't seem accidental at all.

I'm simply agnostic about the source of it all.

Brian, once again disourse with you is like eating at a five star French bistro, excellent in every way and what exquisite torture that I cannot possibly eat every morsel (or discuss every point that occurs to me on every topic we discuss).

As Judo has been taught to me, the purpose is to deflect what comes at me; to put it Nanother way, to offer no resistance to what comes at me, to be so passive (while firm in my own stance) that what comes at me ends up throwing the other person off balance.

Those who know me in my "real" or offline life know that if someone uses a perjorative racial term they will be told in a quiet voice that I find such terms offensive and I will not remain in the company of people who use such language. The same goes for religious intolerance and name calling -- I do not allow such behavior, period. That seems easy today, but a few years ago that was a difficult stand to take, at least for me it was. Yet more people have chosen to quietly insist upon tolerance. Faith doesn't keep fundamentalists alive, arguing about faith keeps them alive.

As for the idea that humanity has reached some sort of tipping point that we must act now or be lost somehow, I cannot share in your faith in humanity's sudden enlightenment. I recognise the darkness of the human spirit upon our planet for ages and perhaps before that. Before the fatwah, there was pogrom. So long as people have differences there will be those who seek to destroy what they don't understand, be it in the name of God or in the name of power or oil or spice. The urge is the same.

If our disagreement -and I think it is a semantic argument at best- but if our disagreement stems from the source of the meaning that we derive from our lives, then I have completely misunderstood almost all of your writings that I enjoy so much. That source of all that is, that state of unity, that sense of connection with an indefinable something that encompasses and eclipses experience -WU/WYRD if you will- is not something outside of myself, but it is also not me, either. Somehow it encompasses you and me and all that is and will be and has passed, and it is seprate from me and it is my deepest self.

When I connect with that part of me I find my optimism about even the most stubborn, most thick headed and strident voices I encounter because we are truly connected in that ultimateness that can't be defined. I don't experience that ...encompassing... as 'me' but it is not a 'seperate God' either. It IS. We ARE. How can I hate what has not become awake? I can't hate a rabid dog, only his bite. I cannot hate the snow, only the damage it does. I do not hate those who have decided that everything will be better -including them- if they can only kill everything that they are repulsed by or afraid of.

You are more eloquent about these things, your gift for defining the undefinable is truly remarkable. When you tap into that awareness of something greater/infinite, don't you bring to your life greater empathy, greater compassion, greater enthusiasm?

I don't mean to be disrespectful. I do not use words like accidental as perjorative or demeaning, but in a scientific context.(I will embrace the characterization of fantastical believer if my choices are believer or scientist.) But how is this conversation both Meaningful/Purposeful AND YET Devoid of Religious Fantasy? I'm too simple to reconcile the concepts, I reckon.

So I will continue to support tolerace. No one knows the truth for another: not a government, not a guru, not a society. If I fight to preserve the rights of even the smallest minority, then the majority poses no threat to me either. The jihads will ultimately fail, just as the pogroms did, just as the inquisitions did. They aren't fed by belief they are fed by hate and intolerance. The opposite of intolerance is not more intolerance, it is acceptance.

I feed the sea of Dogma with more dogma, even my new, improved personalized version of dogma. Alternatively, I dry it up with whatever you choose to call it. I call it faith, you're free to call it optimism, but I think we do agree that it isn't a demand that life conform to our conceptions but that we live in harmony with it instead. Beyond that, I am still learning day by day and trying not to be too disappointed in my fallibility.

Thanks again for the food for thought.
Jeanine

Jeanine:

I read both of your discussions, and loved them equally.

Keep writing, you are a wise and talented one......

Best wishes.....Roger

Roger,

I've come to take your kind words for granted. What an affront to you! Please accept my sincere, blushing stammering thanks for all of the wonderful feedback. My ego loves it I suppose, but so does my soul, and that still small voice within me too. I promise you I will not take your generous praise for granted again.

And I do enjoy hitting the play button on the machine, so speak slowly and clearly at the beep. And savor the moment, my friend.

Jeanine

Brian,

I've addressed Mr. Harris' first book in comments to one of your earlier posts. He hasn't lost any of his boldness as is evident by his second work.

Science, by definition, is not concerned with metaphysics or the supernatural. Most religions profess a being that is spirit or supernatural in nature. Given that, it would seem that science would be totally silent regarding a deity.

The statement that scientists and non-believers are the most humble of humans *should* be true. But when a scientist says, 'There is no God', he or she is speaking outside the scope of their discipline. Science *should*, more than any other secular enterprise, instill humility and wonder - because it clearly shows how small we are in this vast universe. We have yet to personally set foot on another planet - and there are billions of planets to explore. How can a scientist, in good conscience, knowing the limitations of the discipline's scope and the constant flux in knowledge, state there is no deity? We know so little.

Science is, without a doubt, a very powerful tool. But it is not all there is to the human experience.

There are many flaws in Mr. Harris' line of reasoning. My personal feeling is he is controversial by intent, not for the sake of promoting truth or to foster cooperation but to make a buck; not unlike Dan Brown's riveting but definitely not true-to-history 'DaVinci Code'. At least MR. Brown's book is entertaining. Serioulsy, what are the chances that billions of believers are going to give up their faith? What are the chances that humankind will dispense with tens of thousands of years of history and no longer have spiritual yearnings or seek a relationship (of various sorts) with The Divine; give a face, a name to Wonder?

Science is one window to the universe and religion yet another. There is no place for arrogance or self-righteousness in either. Yet, since we're human, they always seem to slither in.

Hi Jeanine
I have a question that hunts me since forever. I am sorry if it doesnt fit in this discussion completely, but it triggered me! This discussion is very much about violence. The violence in religion is evident. Its all about the great unacceptence of the 'other'. Your Judo is something I try to learn and in many occasions it works. When some-one is trying to convince me into Jesus Christ I can respect this persons efforts to only a certain extent. After that I walk away friendly as possible. But what about a very dangerous and growing thing here in Europe: neo-nazi's. I truly am offended by these people, as I am with fundamentalists in whatever religion. These Nazi's are growing even politically in Germany, Holland, Denmark. I demonstrate with many others against them in the streets. Sometimes it gets out of hands; things burn, stones are thrown, a battle between us, nazi's and the special police happens. Then I stand in the 'middle' of this and cant think no more. Or I just go into the flow of this or stand still, very quit and cry. Because I cant live with people who are out there to gain power over the bodies of others who are not like them. I hate that. It is me that hates, even if I am cappable of love them also, simply for the fact that they are born just as I am. And still, why not 'kill' a Hitler, throw a stone to a nazi? I know youre answer holds a piece I never can install by my actions. But as Brain says; why respect and scratch backs when we all know how wrong it is?

Spooky, I look forward to Jeanine's response. She's more adept at spritual judo than I am.

What came to mind when I read your comment is what my Tai Chi/Martial Arts teacher often says: it's fine to softly deflect, or redirect, an attacker, but often they'll just keep coming back for more. And more. And more.

So there's a place for softness, and there's a place for firmness. That's what Tai Chi is all about--both, not one of the other.

In the martial side of Tai Chi, which I'm attracted to, sometimes you simply have to shut down an attacker. Or at least, try to.

Like you said, a jerk may not get the message with loving kindness, whether this be in the form of a gentle rejoinder or a retreating wave hands.

A crashing wave also should be part of our self-defense repertoire, whether verbal or physical. Stop! Now! Kaboom!

Spooky, I share your frustration with that particularly nasty form of spiritual xenophobia, neo-naziism. When my sons were much younger, we lived in Portland Oregon where a large and quite violent sect of these people decided to overrun town. I don't know if you remember, but two very nice people were beaten to death, and quite a few more badly shaken up and bruised by the thugs. More distressing, they hung out in Pioneer Square in the center of downtown and at the Saturday Market, both places I adored going with my boys.

So this is what I do/did in such a position, being a younger mom with two tiny guys in tow, I was not really going to do much to stop them on my own. Demonstrations just feed these jerks, in my opinion. Besides, as I understand it, Judo is *the deflection of violent attack* and not an offensive stance. In essence Judo is a way of dealing with psychic hecklers, even those in a rage that rivals those on PCP.

The only way to shut that energy down is to do what I do to my kids when they are out of line and resorting to violence. I ignore them and then I do not allow them free rein. In the case of the skinheads, when they spoke to me, I would tell them that I could not support their violent way of life in the kindest voice I could. I am grateful no one ever approached me beyond panhandling while I was with my boys. I do not know what I would have done. I hope I could have been an example of kindness.

More to the point, when they would swarm at the Market, I would not back down or move to the side, which is what the jackbooted twits wanted, and they would say something stupid but never even talk of harming me and they would move over to pass me. They never seemed to bother me at all with my sons, but I did not look at them with hate, either, or dare them to talk to me, only with sadness and occasionally as I said I completely ignored them. If they had ever raised a hand or begun violent or aggressive acts against anyone while I was a witness I would have immediately called for help and sat down in the middle of the sidewalk or the street.

Spooky, I feel that while NeoNazis are reprehensible they are also children of God; like wasps and killer bees they live alongside me on the planet for some reason I do not understand and I have to deal. I work to keep them away from my community but not by spraying every flying thing that comes at me with DDT!!

Judo does not allow me to preemptively strike against another, it only shows me how to deal with agression coming toward me. Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama and other much greater examples and teachers speak nonviolent forms of protest if you are drawn to that path. (I don't go over to Kingdom Hall and take on the missionaries, the Judo only works when they come to my dorr.)

For me, ratcheting up the anger and the testosterone just makes things worse. Thoughts are things. Words are cement. Think well of a man and you strengthen that which is solid, think ill and you strengthen that which is shadow.

Like I have said, I am a pretty simplistic sort of person, but for me, this works.

And before you dismiss this as the pollyanna ravings of a babe in the woods, let me tell you, I have been able to deflect but not walk away unscathed. I have unfortunately had some experiences with the darker side of humanity, and I have had my time of testing this way of living and being (even before I knew to call it Judo, I was just trying to love as Christ did) and it was hard! but I just kept telling myself "this man is a child of god and he is so lost he does not know what he is doing" and that willingness to not fight back or feed his power trip with fear bought me enough time in the form of shock and confusion that I could run like hell to the fast food joint and not move until the police came. LOL Judo is not a form of kevlar, spooky, it is a way of deflecting attack, not vaporizing the bullets if you know what I mean.

I don't throw rocks at idiots because it hurts ME Spooky. Thats why you don't take what you want without regard to the consequences -- because it will rob YOU of something much greater than something you snuck off the plate of some poor schmuck. I cannot hate the people who hurt me, there are times I am afraid until I remember that I am safe. They didn't alter MY SOUL, but his own soul and has to live with that forever. I ran into a man who hurt me badly one day on the street and he tried to make me afraid but it did not work! Because I was not hurt or confused, I was calm and I was whole and I could see him for the frightened little boy that he is.

The same is true of these hate mongers. They feed off of the disgust, they need attention. When they get aggressive the public has to firmly place them in jail, but I ask you to stop feeding the hatred and look to something else: their targets and victims, I am sure they need reassurance, support. Speak in a loving voice and tell people all the things that you find wonderful about diversity. Quell fears and anxieties that these hate groups feed off of (in Oregon it was blaming immigrants for the deep economic problems facing Oregonians). I hope you are not a target but if and when you are in the situation where you are the target of violence, you'll have to act as your own soul tells you to act. I am not very brave and the few times I have been overwhelmed by violence I was not Ghandi I cried and I begged for my life to be over rather than live with the aftermath at the time and I was human and frail and not peaceful but who is when the purpose is to hurt you? But I am alive and I am whole and I have never allowed fear of what might happen to keep me cowed in the presence of bigotry or hate or violence. I have been spit on for my convictions, but I did not fight back in the sense of getting even with them. I have never tried to hurt someone for not agreeing with me, not even when they humilliated me. (But I DID file a police report, and I DID give DNA, and I DID identify them.)

I am no saint! I walk this path because I do not like what hatred and fear do to ME. I can't even hate horrible people because that robs space in my mind and heart for memories and feelings that are joyful and warm. I can't be grateful and angry at the same time, not yet at least, I am too simple a soul for that. And when you are truly afraid or very very angry, drink a glass of water. Seriously. I have never felt fear or anger after a long drink of water (for some reason).

I don't know why injustice is a part of our world, but it is. I am certain you can do much more when you are calm and focused than you can when you are filled with anguish and sobbing. Do something with your feelings that can continue even if all the skinheads woke up tomorrow and went home -- I will go into MOTION with the feelings and act on them.

Sorry to go on so long, it is a hard question and I wish it were a more satisfying answer but I am no Joan of Arc, Spooky. Perhaps someone wiser than me has a better answer for you. I'll be thinking of you and meditating that you will have the highest good.

Jeanine

Jeanine,

Hopefully, your kind advice, helped Spooky in some fashion.

His discussion gave some insights into a "Type" of Cultural War that is occuring in Europe. Cultural wars exist everywhere.

We can all wish for the best....
Roger

You could call it a Cultural War in a sense: it goes back through history till not that long ago: first and second world war. These happenings are partly very distend, time flys, new wars begin, countries change... And yet some people of my generation and even younger, grew up intensely with the notion of mass-destruction of millions of people. Jeanine, thank you! Somehow I know what you speak of. When I fight (in the way I do) I also become part of what I fight against. Violence, soft harted as I am, is not something I fear. Physically and mentally I can take a lot, give alot so to speak, but I dont like it. Its being out of balance. PHUUAA. Its weird to feel close to a peacefull atmosphere in the universe, meditate, read the poems of Rumi etc. and the next moment entering a demonstration that go"s out of controle.
I take your words, Jeanine, and ponder. I know its true. But to actually let that grow within, from within, and not as a dogma or moral code to behave takes time perhaps. How to act, how not to? I cant sit still and let it all happen. I am not suposed perse...
I guess I take myself to such situations to learn new ways. To find out what violence does in detail (outwards and inwards)and change it for good within. "Stop, Now, Kaboom!" Yes. Sometimes it is part of my repertiore. I can be completely soft and be very powerfull: its not opposites perse, but in me it is,still. The question is how well do I serve others. What can I do to stop fascists, extreme primitive thoughts, and exclusion of all who are just different. Thats why I have asked this question here, again, like I always ask this question. How to eliminate hate? How to accept injustice without being passive, or violent? How to love your enemy? And respond lovingly? Where is the diffence between a positive force that stops violence and violence itself?
To be honest; I have a long way to go. But your exemple Jeanine (yes I know your not a saint) does hold a piece to this puzzle.
Spooky.

Spooky, I am so proud to read your words today. They make me proud to be human, proud to be intelligent, proud to be concerned with doing what is right.

Perhaps you are following Malcolm X's path and I trying to follow Martin Luther King's in my own primitive way. I will be doing a great deal of reading over the next few days trying to deepen my understanding of Malcolm X and his ideas. As I read your words, his voice and face were in my mind and when I asked "who is this man?" I knew it was Malcolm X (and then verified it online because I am skeptical too despite my direct experience).

The puzzle of racism is here so that tells me we have to solve it. I focus on the alternatives to racism so that enlightened thought might one day prevail. But what if it is time for me to consider a new idea? Perhaps you are my teacher, and it is time for me to take a stand rather than passively submit to what I perceive I cannot change.

Great discussion. I adore the minds that populate this place!
Jeanine

I wrote alot then threw it away..ha, difficult stuff isnt? I guess we are eachothers teachers. Great he?
I dont know much, but according to Kant, or better, what he came up with is; only a free person can be ethical. This comes from the man who thought deeply about 'how' we can know in the first place and what the limits are of our abillity to know, and with that thought he lay a foundation for our modern thinking. If I am right the Japanese also made a link between freedom and responsibilty (and discipline of mind). Anyway, perhaps we should seek a word that implies both, a notion that refers to freedom and ethics at once, next to the terms we allready have.

Harris attacks Christians, and is very honest and clear about a crucial piont:

"Before I point out some of the problems with these beliefs, I would like to acknowledge that there are many points on which you and I agree. We agree, for instance, that if one of us is right, the other is wrong. The Bible is either the word of God, or it isn’t. Either Jesus offers humanity the one, true path to salvation, or he does not."

Who is right and why? How can one be right?

Also he says that its not that christians enjoy it but that they believe its true.

I say they do enjoy it because it saves them. They enjoy the lack of fear. They dont have to be scared. And thats a freedom. But not true freedom; true freedom has no fear as a basis. Nazi's fear differences, they also fear not to belong deeply rooted in their blood and soil. Their identity is attached to outside properties. Nihilism, as spoken about elsewhere, isnt affraight to let such identifications go, and therefor is pretty free.
Am I free? Yes and no, I feel captured when some-one is in prison. Whatever prison, physically or mentally. I also feel captured within my self limited space of ego. While it is the ego that should be free in order to understand ethics.
Ego, whether in religion, philosophy, or discussions as this, always seems to be to trouble-source.
Even Brian says: ' ......egotistical attempts at wish-fulfillment."
So religious or not, our ego is to be blamed, while at the same time it is only the ego that can transform and learn to find better ways.
Lets keep it to racism, exclusion and selfrightiousness; I feel free to go against those who destruct others by logic, ego, science, emotion, religion, ideology, etc. There is no excuse for destructing anything alive whether eco-system, animal or human.
The basics of life is to be eaten or to eat; millions of little creatures I kill just by breathing in and out.
So, I cant stop destruction. Its part of our physicall universe but I eat a vegan diet, for as long I am not in Siberia. That helps minimize destruction. To minimize is enough; not to elimitate since thats unrealistic.
I dont believe in laws that protect big companies, institutions or governments who, by law, destruct more then necesarily. Suchs exclusion do not serve the whole; the unity in diversity of nature, culture or our psyche. For now the sleepy minds that do not realize how destuctive they are; they (they!) are not my friends. I know they are under God, the universe, whatever..and I have to learn to accept their paths aswell. They show me that we are not a finished entity as humans. They show me my limitations aswell as their own. We have a lot to learn; I have a lot to learn. Mildness is highly important. But I find it hard to handle when destruction is in progress. How to stop it and be aware of my primitive brother acting out his stupidity; while I might feel his fault, but I am not wise enough to truly do the right thing...not free enough. Meaning free enough as in not attached to my ideological thought, however well-intended. However truly felt in my hart.
Mmh, so for now I follow my intuition which says that violence is always wrong and destructive when it seeks power and controle. But when it refuses power and controle it becomes self-defence. The Self stands up and demands freedom; for all. Absolute freedom, which, hopefully is also true ethics. Well the proccess continious !

Spooky, a wise old friend drilled into my head that there are chocolate and vanilla and strawberry flavors of ice cream for a reason. Namely, if we could all be satisfied with one flavor, they would carry ONE flavor! :)

Most people feel the rightness of their habits and ideas and mindless actions... it's the self-aware people who question their correctness and can allow other people to have their own truth.

But let's say that squashing self righteousness in all forms is the best course of action... where to start?

Do we kill the folks involved in mindless acts of violence and inhumanity? because most of the horror that people inflict upon one another is the product of a diseased or traumatized mind. But - onward! no pity, no compassion, one strike and OUT!

...And ...now what? Are we naive enough to think that all the horror that man can conceive is eradicated forever? Or do we agree that evil acts will continue? What to do then, just continue to kill in the name of preemption? (if yes, I think a certain administration needs your support right about now)

And what about the people who 'poisoned the well' in the first place? If we hold them accountable, then what does that accountability look like ... do we kill them outright (careful here, this is how Mr. Rushdie became a walking lottery ticket, my friend), or simply jail them for having wrong ideas until we are satisfied their programming has been readjusted (which is more along Mao's train of thought).

If we don't stop the people who encouraged the evil behavior, then they are free to recreate their army.

If we kill the army, we deny any chance at rehabilitation to otherwise good and honest people who are mentally ill or just very desperate to fit in/survive.

IF we decide that YES we should punish the violent and YES we should punish the zealots who encourage them ... do we do this is private? or in public? if in private, we make these peopel martyrs and we further mystify the process of punishment, allowing their followers to claim they are alive. IF we kill them in public, we are guilty of the barbarism we decry in them. (Careful! wasn't this Hitlers defense of his Nazi Party kristalnacht).

So some of us fight the causes - mental disease, childhood trauma, poverty, racism... while others try to keep order and still others feel drawn to seek retribution. (If you ask Messrs Cheney and Rumsfeld if the war in Iraq is a mistake, they become visibly angry at the idea of rape rooms, torture, inequity under Hussein, etc etc -- and who am I to judge the sincerity of another man's outrage?)

As Durrell always said... Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry... and in my case, cherry fudge ripple walnut praline with a pickle on top.

All I can say, "God created Pistachio almond for a reason."

So, as always, it comes down to awareness, doesnt it? To become aware also to find out how and why violence works. You are hitting a point: when we punish we use the logic of that we dont want to anymore.
I will judge another man's outrage. But I also have to be aware that this outrage can be sincere. Facts are important therefor, because its more or less objective.
When more damage is done then good is done, and it is visible like in Iraq, then I can say this war didnt work, moreover, it is criminal behaviour. So was Hussein's dictatorship......

I dont know, really, I feel so stupid when it comes to this questions while I always feel them present in my mind. On numerous occasions I question myself. Did I truly do it right? "Evil" is part of us, of me. I try to look at it in the mirror, confusion is the result still. Not wisdom. I cant find my flavor! Well, dried fruit I enjoy...dipped in chocolate, mmh

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