Tag Archives: Religion

An Uncountably Infinite Number of Sins

I, like all of God’s children, am a sinner. In my life, I commit infinite sins against the ideal set by God. Therefore, when I go to the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter reads my page in his book, which can fit an infinite number of sins, in a second. Therefore, he will take one second to read my sins.

In fact, though, I commit an infinite number of sins in a single day. If I live to be one hundred, over the course of my lifetime I may commit as many as 36,500 times infinity sins! Saint Peter has a trick for this issue. He can fit an infinite number of sins on one page, so he just logs them all on the same page, which he still reads in a second.

But, let’s think about it some more. God is infinite in his goodness, so every infinitesimal segment of each action I take includes infinite sins against God’s ideal. Therefore, Saint Peter has to read infinity  times infinity sins against God’s ideal from his book. Impressively, Saint Peter can still do this in a second. What he in fact does is arrange a table of sins, with instants in the column header and sins in the rows header (here represented in a Google Spreadsheet). Then he reads through diagonally and finishes in a second.

Capture
By reading the infinite list of infinite lists of sins as a single infinite list, Saint Peter can still get through it in a second.

However, consider that by sinning, I affect other people. When I fail to move with divine grace, it encourages other people to be lax when they move. However indirectly, each of my sins is partly to blame for every other sin that will ever be committed in the future by anyone else. Therefore, if we assume humanity will exist on into the infinite future, each sin I commit every instant cannot be accounted for fully until the infinite number of sins resulting from it are accounted for. Each of these sins cannot be accounted for until the sins resulting from each of them are accounted for. Because he cannot account for even one sin from an infinite list without accounting for an infinite number of sins, Saint Peter cannot make any amount of progress reading my sins in any amount of time.

While Peter stands trapped at his podium reading at infinite, but not uncountably infinite, speed the first sin caused by the first sin caused by my first sin in the first instant of my life, I help myself to his keys and unlock the gate. Everyone is welcome in Heaven.

Picture credit: http://thedabbler.co.uk/2015/07/how-to-approach-the-pearly-gates/

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Do you like stories where peace and the will of the people triumph over greed and hate?

Do you like women standing up for a cause they believe in and winning?

Did you like this commercial where an imam and a priest are brought together, courtesy of Amazon Prime’s lightning fast two-day delivery service?

Then you’ll love seeing Muslim and Christian women come together to force peace in Liberia.

I watched this movie and it was fabulous.

Antepenultimas

That’s the twenty-ninth of December in layman’s terms. The day before the next to last day of the year. Ok, not really. In fact, it’s the plural of “antepenultima” which is a term in poetry referring to the syllable before the next to last syllable of a word. Let me explain the reason I would offer such a silly fake definition of an obscure word…

‘Twas the night before Antepenultimas. Dad, Alice, and I were discussing Christmas. Alice noted that Christmas is short for “Christ’s Mass.” There were many such masses dedicated to saints, Dad explained to us, holidays such as Michaelmas. I wondered what other ancient Christian holidays ended in “mas,” and so I looked it up. The result was utterly uninformative, but did lead to me making up a holiday for December 29th wherein ancient Christians celebrated St. Antepenulti, the patron saint of the day before the next to last day of the year. In addition, this led to a wonderful game one can play in the car or at home.

Allow me to demonstrate:

“What is the ancient Christian holiday celebrating the patron saint of movie theaters?”

Answer: Cinemas (be sure to pronounce the “mas” as in Christmas)

“What is the ancient Christian holiday celebrating the patron saint of bedclothes?”

Answer: Pajamas

“What is the ancient Christian holiday celebrating the patron saint of mid-sentence punctuation?”

Answer: Commas 

“What is the ancient Christian holiday that in modern day has become known as ‘Mother’s day?'”

Answer: Mamas

“What is the ancient Christian holiday celebrating the patron saint of large, curly-haired animals?”

Answer: Llamas

I played this with Alice and Dad. The mas list requires a little searching to find recognizable words among all the obscure medical terms, but was such a hit that Alice insisted we play it again with her mother Carol and brother Geoffrey. Let me say right here, Alice’s mother Carol is astounding at the mas game. Once she understood the rules, I don’t think she missed a single word.

For your convenience, here is a list of generally recognizable words that you can use for the mas game.

  • mamas
  • limas
  • pumas
  • comas
  • llamas
  • aromas
  • kormas (I didn’t know this one. Geoffrey asked it of Carol and she got it, though)
  • enemas
  • dogmas
  • commas
  • magmas
  • dramas
  • karmas
  • pajamas
  • stigmas
  • plasmas
  • schemas
  • enigmas
  • athsmas
  • panamas
  • cinemas
  • miasmas
  • traumas
  • diplomas
  • grandmas
  • dilemmas
  • dioramas
  • melanomas
  • charismas
  • panoramas
  • anathemas
  • penultimas
  • docudramas
  • emphysemas
  • melodramas
  • antepenultimas

Craft Brunch

I managed to get well enough from my flu to come to a craft brunch at my parents’ house. It featured culinary creations in their usual display of radical acceptance. They live their short lives with defiant, sugary smiles that belie their inevitable violent ends. Let me share some quotes to recognize these brave pastries and candies, because I think we have a lot to learn from them.

“With no mouth or arms or legs I merely stand still, bright red and staring through my tiny black eyes. I am thankful for these eyes, through which I may see the world during my brief stay upon it.”

“My beard is made of sliced bananas and my marshmallow-blueberry eyes point in different directions so that for my temporary existence I will never see clearly. Nevertheless, I am at peace with what I have been given.”

“I fear my body has not the constitution to survive this cocoa bath, for it is much too hot. My pretzel-stick arms have no joints with which I can push myself out, so I instead change my perspective. Soon I will join with the cocoa. It welcomes me into its embrace.”

This blog post is dedicated to my aunt and uncle.

The crafts are the work of my mother, my sister, and my aunt.

Universalism in the Land of Good and Evil

I don’t know how many of you have seen “Grand Theft Auto Pacifist.” Probably very few. It is a short video series about a man who attempts to play grand theft auto five online while adhering to the law and moral values in general. Needless to say, the structure of the game itself makes it very difficult to live nonviolently and within the law, and the narrator spends a lot of time hilariously musing over the philosophical implications of this world.

I would like to start by saying that when I started playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends, I never expected to create a pacifist character. For one thing, even if I want to take that challenge myself it would be too much to ask of my fellow players. When one player said that he was going to be a conservative Pelorite, though, Pelor being a deity within the game, I thought I would be a liberal Pelorite. Particularly, I would be a universalist who believes that everyone gets to go to Pelor’s heaven.

Of course, since violence is built into the game, I had to have some modifications to typical universalism. Particularly, my character Zacchariah Holbrech developed a sense that murder and violence were simply sending people to the heaven where everyone eventually goes.

My father played with us, too, and inspired by the Pelorite devotion brewing in the party, he developed another Pelorite, one who actually was disinterested in violence. I think if given his way, he might have happily stayed at the Abbey and simply stopped playing with us once we went off on our adventure. Sometimes his character “Tom the Monk” will complain that really he just wants to bind books and that’s what he’s good at, not fighting. He fights anyway.

Zach is very comfortable with fighting, but for a while he tried to maintain a level of decorum. As a lawful good character, when he promised a captured bugbear that he would not have him executed in return for information, he was horrified to learn that overnight one of his non-Pelorite party-members smashed the tied up bugbear’s head in.

After some increasingly game-interrupting attempts at getting the party to agree not to kill captives that they had promised not to kill, Zach received a message from “Pelor himself” (AKA  the gamemaster – the guy that creates the whole scenario and tries to make sure everyone’s having a good time) that really keeping your word to evil monsters is not very important. As long as evil is slain, Pelor is happy, said Pelor. Zach took this message to heart, but when it came to a poor, mistreated goblin locked in a dungeon not in any position to hurt anyone, he couldn’t do it. Instead, he shouted and shouted about how he was going to kill this goblin until another party member mercifully relieved him of his Peloric duty. Eventually somebody who knew Goblin language talked to the goblin until the goblin said he believed in them (the party members). Then another party member made the theological argument that the goblin was therefore a Pelorite by extension.

It’s difficult to play any kind of character with whom I could remotely identify in this world constantly at war between two irreconcilable forces of “good” and “evil.” For example, continuing the fantasy tradition of writing that sounds like war propaganda, The description of the bugbear includes this passage, “when a bugbear holds its blade, it kills only when it can be assured that the murder will cause maximum pain and suffering to those its weapon does not touch; to a bugbear, the true goal of murder is to strike not at the victim, but at those who held the victim dear.”

This is, after all appropriate for a creature whose alignment, as defined by the game, is not to a particular faction or cause so much as just to evil. This notion of absolute evil makes the idea of everyone going to heaven a little confusing.

Nevertheless, despite his intelligence of only 10 (no better than average!), Zacchariah is pretty good at making theology work for him; he now takes a Rawlsian perspective. The bugbear did not choose to be a bugbear and therefore naturally inclined to hurt people. Taking a theological interpretation of John Rawls, although the bugbear’s actions are evil, when it loses its body the brain chemistry that gave it such pleasure at others’ pain is lost with it, and the soul that goes to Almighty Lord Pelor is pure. Thus, it is a kindness to kill evil creatures. I think  I’m just going to have to accept that Zacchariah is a straight up religious extremist like most of my party. Thank goodness this is just a game.

The Purpose of Life

Has anyone ever told you the “purpose” of something? The purpose of a fork is to allow us to pick up our food without dirtying our fingers. The purpose of food is to be eaten, don’t play with it. The purpose of sex is to have children. The purpose of a woman is to have children. Nobody knows the purpose of life.

If you’re offended by some of those statements or are still wondering about the last quandary, let me help you out. There is no such thing as an absolute purpose. A fork has many uses, including but not limited to propping up a window, poking open the cover of a new yogurt container, or prying open a tupperware that has sealed shut. Women are people who get to define their own purpose. Man or woman, the purpose of your life is what you decide it is.

If anyone tells you not to use something for other than its purpose, ask them why. If they can’t tell you why, they’re not worth listening to. The same goes for someone telling you what your purpose or the purpose of someone else is. If they give you a reason that doesn’t make sense, explore it more deeply. Keep asking questions until it makes sense. Rely on your own understanding, don’t listen to anyone who says your understanding is not enough.

If your purpose appears to be to serve an all-powerful being with inscrutable goals and priorities, consider asking that being to prove that it exists. If it can’t or chooses not to, you’re free to do what you want.  If it does prove that it exists, well, you should probably do what it says.

If your purpose is to serve a nation, ask what about that nation makes it worth serving? If your nation tells you that it’s not safe to tell you what it’s doing, ask why. If it tells you it’s not safe to tell you why, keep asking. You can serve your nation best by making sure it sticks to the values that it claims to hold. If it doesn’t, is it really your nation?

If your purpose is to serve humanity, by all means serve humanity. Whatever particular cause or organization you choose to be part of to advance humanity’s cause, apply the same scrutiny as when serving a nation.

Critical thinking is what makes you human. Once you give up your skepticism, you give up part of your humanity. Your purpose is no longer your own, it belongs to the entity you refuse to question.  You’re giving up your freedom to define your life. If someone tells you that your purpose exists without you choosing it, it’s not true. You choose.

Cover image repurposed from: kalanlp.com

Who Loves Jerry?

Jerry had had his hair done like Jamie Jackson, but he wasn’t Jamie Jackson. Jerry’s hair was not like Jamie Jackson’s anymore. It was spread with the rest of him out across the rocks beneath the aptly named Suicide Ridge. Looking down there now, you couldn’t be blamed for having no idea Jerry had ever existed. “C’mon, Mike,” said Kenneth, “are you scared?”

Mike’s hair was plastered to his face underneath a knit cap. He shuddered under his thick jacket. “I don’t know, man, this seems like a bad idea.”

“Well, Mike,” Ken frowned “it’s dangerous, yeah, that’s kinda the point. How are ya gonna know if you’re like Jackson if you don’t find out?”

Mike crossed his arms against the cold, “but if I’m not like Jackson, I’ll be like Jerry.”

Ken rolled his eyes, “yeah, but it won’t matter then, will it? I mean, if God, er, or whoever he is, if he just lets you die, clearly you don’t matter.” Mike didn’t know what he was doing here. He’d been standing right here a week ago when Ken was convincing Jerry to jump. He asked the obvious question anyway, “Why don’t I matter?”

Ken kicked a rock off the off the edge of the cliff, as if just to see something fall off while he waited for Mike to jump. “Nobody cares about you, man! This guy, he controls everything! He won’t let Jamie Jackson die, and everybody knows it. If Jackson jumped off this cliff right now, a plane would come swooping down to catch him, or a wind would blow him so he falls in the ocean instead of on the rocks.”

“Or maybe he’d wake up in traction with a feeding tube down his neck.” Mike put his hands in his coat pockets.

“Naw, man. That’s boring. Jackson is clearly a main character. Who wants to watch a movie about some jerk who jumped off a cliff and ended up in traction?”

“You want to watch the movie about some jerk who jumped off a cliff and magically flew out to fall in the ocean.”

“Damn right. That’s what everybody in America tunes in to see every night when Jackson does his next death cheat.”

“People care about me.”

“What?”

“People care about me. You said nobody cares about me.”

“Who? Who cares about you?”

“My parents do, idiot. They love me.” Mike realized his parents would be devastated if he ended up like Jerry.

“Oh yeah?” a smile wormed its way across Ken’s face, like he’d just figured out how he was going to win this argument, “tell me more about these parents of yours.”

“What?” Ken knew Mike’s parents, “you know my parents.”

“I do,” agreed Ken, “What do they look like?”

“Uhh,” Mike was baffled at this line of questioning, but he tried to conjure an image of his parents in his mind. He pulled the cap further down over his head. It seemed to be getting colder by the minute.

Ken tapped his wrist, “Well?”

Both of Mike’s parents were redheads like him. “They’re both redheads, like me.”

Ken nodded, “Oh, is that right? Tell me more.”

This was infuriating, “What do you want to know, Ken!? What’s the point of this stupid quiz?”

Ken’s smile opened into a full malignant grin, “what are their names?”

Michael’s parents names were Linea and Hurton. “Linea and Hurton, is that what this is all about? You just want to stop calling them Mike’s mom and Mike’s dad?”

It was a lame insult, and Ken ignored it. “Your redheaded parents Linea and Hurton didn’t have names until just now. They didn’t have red hair, or even exist until I brought them up. They won’t exist if you jump off and don’t survive. Don’t worry about what they think. All that matters is the creator and what he has planned.”

Michael was genuinely fearful now. He had to admit it was frighteningly difficult to remember any more details about his parents. They just looked like floating red wigs in the air with little labels “Linea” and “Hurton.” “I-” he stuttered, “Who are you?”

“I’m Ken, you’ve known me since Kindergarten.” Michael had known Ken since Kindergarten. “How many people have you led to this cliff?” Michael asked.

“Hundreds. Or maybe you’re the first. Does it matter?”

It didn’t matter. “It doesn’t matt-” Michael started to say, but caught himself. He had to leave. He had to go back to his parents, his real, whole parents who existed in flesh and blood.

But what if they didn’t? His zero-degree rated coat was not warm enough for the weather now. The wind whipped at his face, his nose stung and burned with each breath of icy air he sucked in. A fog obscured everything more than a hundred yards away. There was nothing besides Ken, Mike, and this cliff.

Mike was right next to the cliff. He could have sworn he was not that close before. Just one step and he could know if he was real. If there was anyone out there who was real and really cared about him. If he wasn’t…

Ken was right behind him. He seemed to hear his thoughts, and Michael felt his hot breath on his ear, “it’ll all be over anyway.” Michael reached a foot out over the precipice.

“Don’t do it!” came a voice from the fog. Michael looked back and saw a light. Ken frowned, “You’ll never know!” he snarled. Michael looked at Ken. He took his foot back onto solid ground. “Maybe I do know,” he said suddenly as the light grew brighter and a bright blue uniformed police officer came out of the mist. The sudden squall had died down and Mike was comfortable in his heavy coat. He walked toward the police officer, keeping his eyes on Ken, “Maybe God, or whoever he is, just showed me he does care.”

Ken stood stock still on the precipice, glaring ominously at the police officer, who eventually gave up trying to convince him to get in the car to be taken home. The officer turned away and said “you should know the window on your side doesn’t close all the way, kid,” before leading him to the passenger seat. As Mike and the officer drove away, Ken disappeared into the fog.

In a sudden fit of terror, Mike realized he thought of the officer as just a bright blue uniform. He looked over and saw him completely. He had dark skin and a long, narrow face with a square jaw. His nose was prominent and looked like it had been broken in the past. He hadn’t shaved in a few days, and his bright blue uniform was worn and had a mustard stain next to the right pocket. He saw Mike staring at him, and he smiled. “Hey, kid, you know that God loves you, right?” Mike knew now that God loved him and wouldn’t let him come to harm. On the long trip home, though, a chill wind blew through the window of the cop car. The question remained in Mike’s mind.

Who loved Jerry?