T.F.: By the rivers of Babylon

Tribulation Force, pp. 21-27

After spending much of the first chapter presenting their notion of the Proper Limited Role for Women, the authors begin Chapter 2 with some reflections on Manliness. Both of these discussions are excruciating, but where the previous one was often infuriating, this one is just kind of awkwardly embarrassing.

Godly manly men must be manly, it seems, yet still in touch with their feelings — but not in, like, a gay way or anything. Manly men thus weep and hug and share, but only provided that they also always feel an appropriate manly discomfort in doing so. We see this demonstrated by each of the last surviving Promise Keepers. From Buck:

Buck didn't know how to respond when Rayford Steele greeted him warmly. He appreciated the warmth, but something nagged at him and he held back a little. He still wasn't quite comfortable with this kind of affection …

And from Rayford:

Rayford was new to this kind of sensitivity. Before his wife and son had disappeared, he had not wept in years. He had always considered emotion weak and unmanly. … Uncomfortable, Rayford looked away.

And from Bruce:

Bruce had smiled at Rayford's story of getting into trouble on the job, and he had smiled when Buck arrived. Suddenly, however, Bruce's face had clouded over. His smile had vanished and he was having trouble composing himself. … [He] pressed his lips together to keep them from quivering. His eyes were filling. … Bruce was a different kind of guy. He had always communicated in his own way and in his own time.

Bruce spends most of the next 10 pages in this struggling-for-composure mode. The authors reassure us constantly, though, that this is an expression of Bruce's godly fervor and of his blunt honesty, which requires a kind of courage and thus is also an expression of manliness. (The virtues all seem to be gendered here in the world of Left Behind. Courage belongs to men, temperance to women.)

The source of Bruce's anguish here and the cause of this hastily assembled emergency meeting of the Tribulation Force is an astonishing new development, a discovery he's made from his long days and sleepless nights "poring over the Bible and commentaries" while simultaneously watching CNN.

Bruce looked up. "Now I know what people meant when they said they feasted on the Word. Sometimes I sit drinking it in for hours, losing track of time, forgetting to eat, weeping and praying. Sometimes I just slip from my chair and fall to my knees, calling out to God to make it clear to me. Most frightening of all, he's doing just that."

Buck noticed Rayford and Chloe nodding. He was newer at this than they were, but he felt that same hunger and thirst for the Bible. But what was Bruce getting at? Was he saying that God had revealed something to him?

The suspense has me nodding off — I mean nodding along — too. What is it, Bruce? What has God revealed to you that caused you to call this emergency meeting?

Finally, Bruce Barnes reveals his revelation: He has figured out the identity of the Antichrist. It's that new leader of that new One World Government — Nicolae Carpathia. 

Now to you and I this might seem like old news. Carpathia's identity as the Antichrist of this story was obvious from the get-go, and it was explicitly acknowledged hundreds of pages ago. The whole reason Buck is here in Chicago, after all, is because he was just in a room with the Antichrist as he was being all kinds of Antichrist-y, twirling his waxed mustache with bloodstained fingers and saying things like, "Bwah, bwah, I am the Antichrist! Scary, scaaary!" (I'm paraphrasing.)

But while this has all been spelled out previously both to readers and to the members of the TF Quartet, the authors haven't yet provided a full-length summary of the Antichrist Check List. Bruce corrects that here:

"Don't you see? We know Nicolae Carpathia is the Antichrist. Let's assume for the sake of argument that Buck's story of Carpathia's supernatural hypnotic power and the murder of those two men is ridiculous. Even so, there's plenty of evidence that Carpathia fits the prophetic descriptions. He's deceptive. He's charming. People are flocking to support him. He has been thrust to power, seemingly against his own wishes. He's pushing a one-world government, a one-world currency, a treaty with Israel, moving the U.N. to Babylon. That alone proves it. What are the odds that one man would promote all those things and not be the Antichrist?"

That's a pretty good summary of how LaHaye and Jenkins view the world. This is their reflexive response to the arrival of every new president, prime minister, MP, mayor or justice of the peace. Each must be viewed as a potential Antichrist Candidate and evaluated according to this check list.

  • Deceptive
  • charming
  • people flocking to support him
  • thrust to power
  • pushing a OWG
  • pushing a OWC
  • pushing a treaty with Israel
  • moving the U.N. to Babylon
  • supernatural hypnotic power (optional)

The tricky thing about this check list, as we've seen, is that these words don't seem to mean the same thing for L&J that they mean for the rest of us.

"Deceptive," for example, doesn't necessarily mean lying or dishonest, but rather that the AC is suspected of having a nefarious secret agenda. If no evidence can be found to support this suspicion, that lack of evidence is interpreted as evidence that this particular AC is dangerously adept at keeping his nefarious hidden agenda well-hidden. Thus every AC can be said to meet this criterion.

We've already discussed on several occasions how "pushing a one-world government" here means something more like "insufficiently belligerent and suspiciously irenic." That, coupled with the dreaded "treaty with Israel," is why L&J and all Rapture enthusiasts suspect anyone who utters the word "peace" of being the Antichrist.

That's a change from the view of apocalyptic types from older times. They used to fear people like Napoleon — those who sought to conquer the world through force, riding forth on literal, flesh-and-blood white horses, intent on empire. But to premillennial dispensationalists, would-be imperialists get a pass. They're obviously not "peacemakers," so there's no need to worry that they might be the Antichrist. This is another example of how the PMD view that the Antichrist will be a wolf in sheep's clothing leads them to be suspicious of all sheep while being complacent about wolves. They're not fearfully vigilant against the rise of the next Napoleon or the next Caesar or the next Pharaoh — they're keeping watch against the rise of the next John Lennon. Imagine that.

I suspect this is related to another curious linguistic feature of L&J's books and, indeed, of nearly all PMD literature. In these writings, the phrase "one world government" appears repeatedly, almost incessantly, but the word "empire" is almost never used.

My guess is that this is partly a defense mechanism. PMDs have developed an instinctive arms-length avoidance of any potential mention or allusion to anything that might prompt one to think of the Roman Empire. It's very, very important to them that no one think of the Roman Empire when reading the book of Revelation. Thus even though "empire" is a more concise and more precise term for this thing that PMDs fear, it's too fraught with historical meaning for them to use.

The clumsy, less accurate phrase they have settled on as a replacement is also telling. It comes laden with all sorts of ugly connotations that reveal quite a bit about the intellectual family tree of PMDism in general and of Tim LaHaye in particular. Apart from PMD literature, you're most like to encounter the phrase "one world government" only in John Birch Society tracts or in even more explicitly hateful "Protocols," "diaries" and manifestos. LaHaye et. al. don't like to talk about that side of the family, but their use of this phrase keeps bringing it up.

Anyway, the reason for Bruce's recitation of this check list here is that Nicolae Carpathia has apparently just announced that this very list of things is his own agenda as the new leader of the newly established OWG. This is meant to be the Big Reveal, so to ensure the full dramatic effect with as much immediacy as possible, Jenkins decides to relay this to us third-hand, by having Bruce tell the others about how he learned this from CNN.

"He announced it through his media guy, your former boss, what's his name?"

"Plank."

"Right. Steve Plank. They held a press conference so he could inform the media that Carpathia would be unavailable for several days while he conducted strategic high-level meetings."

So to recap there, this is a huge news story. The key players in this huge news story are Buck Williams' best friend and the world leader he met with several times during the previous several days.

And Buck got scooped on this story by CNN and, apparently, by just about every other working journalist on the planet. Buck didn't even see others' coverage of this huge story because at the precise moment his best friend was on television revealing the details of the huge story that he completely failed to cover he was preoccupied with petty retribution against a co-worker. He was upset with her because she was insufficiently deferential to his awesome journalistic prowess.

"He said that Carpathia, while not seeking the position of leadership, felt an obligation to move quickly to unite the world in a move toward peace. He has assigned task forces to implement the disarming of the nations of the world and to confirm that it has been done. He is having the 10 percent of the weaponry that is not destroyed from each nation shipped to Babylon, which he has renamed New Babylon. The international financial community, whose representatives were already in New York for meetings, has been charged with the responsibility of settling on one currency. …"

Stop. Just make it stop.

Deep breath.

OK, obviously trying to unpack just that one insane paragraph — to respond reasonably or logically or to assess the political plausibility or desirability or even the logistical possibility of each part of Nicolae's crazy-quilt six-impossible-things-before-breakfast agenda — is more than we can hope to accomplish here in a single post. And it gets worse. There's more.

Plus I've already skimmed past some things we'll have to double back to look at — like another retrofit patchwork attempt to make us think Rayford has been grieving, or the mash note Buck left in Chloe's locker. So obviously we're going to need to revisit these pages a bit.

But before we go let's just pick one absurdity for closer inspection:

"… shipped to Babylon, which he has renamed New Babylon."

Why not to Troy or to Machu Picchu? What possible purpose could there be for establishing a global capital in an ancient lost city in the Iraqi desert?

L&J's answer, of course, is that it's the fulfillment of prophecy. That explains why this has to happen in their novel — it explains the authors' motive for this relocation, but it doesn't explain the character's motive. Why would Nicolae want to relocate there? Why not, say, back home in Cluj?

We have to assume that Nicolae is working off the same Antichrist Check List that Bruce and the authors are using. Apart from the whole problem of these supposed prophecies also insisting that he's doomed in the end, you'd think poor Nicolae would find the arbitrariness of his appointed tasks a source of frustration and bewilderment. "OK, what do I have to do next? Babylon. You're serious? Why, exactly, would I want to do that? Babylon doesn't even have an airfield, so how am I supposed to transport 10 percent of the world's arsenal to …?"

Unlike the poor Antichrist, the authors don't need to worry about any of the logistical impracticalities of their prophecies. They just have to recite them, in order, and to inform their readers that what has been foretold has come to pass.

But again, why Babylon? Well, it's in the Bible. The Bible actually mentions Babylon quite a bit. The prophets just go on and on about it.

L&J would say that sure, the liberals and doubters and Jews will say that this is because the Babylonian Emp– … Babylonian OWG was an actual place whose actual army actually inv
aded Judah and carried the people of
f into actual exile. And those liberals will go on to speak of Babylon as a symbol for exile more generally, getting all metaphorical the way that liberals and doubters always do. But L&J know they're all reading this backwards. The actual exile of the people of Judah was really, in L&J's view, just a metaphor — a prophetic foreshadowing of the far more important future New Babylon to be established by the Antichrist any day now. If those stories weren't all about predicting and foretelling, then why do they call them prophets, huh? The other references to Babylon throughout the scriptures, those references that the liberals interpret as metonymy for exile, those should all, in L&J's view, be interpreted "literally" — as references to the coming, actual New Babylon.

So when, for example, John the Revelator speaks of Babylon it's not because he was writing to people who were, like Daniel, living as exiles and resident aliens in a hostile, foreign empire, but because he was writing to people like us — to 21st-century Protestant Christians whose lives will, at any moment now, be interrupted by the Rapture and the rise of an Antichrist we won't still be around to see, but who will, among other things, establish as the capital of his OWG a city called New Babylon.

That is what the word "Babylon" means to Tim LaHaye. That is what every mention of the word Babylon — whether in the New Testament or in the Hebrew scriptures — means to Tim LaHaye. That and only that. This is, again, what he means when he says he reads the Bible "literally."

Pick up a reggae album at random. Any reggae album. Listen to it and you will find a far more accurate, reliable and theologically sound exegesis of the meaning of Babylon than you will ever get from Tim LaHaye or any other so-called "prophecy expert."

  • Tonio

    I’m merely trying to explain why people who experience deity are willing to believe it: because that experience is as intense as the experience of love, and is as difficult to deny within oneself.
    I understand your point. What I don’t understand is what exact experience is involved – every description I’ve read of them has been long on vague generalities and short on specifics. Is it the intensity of the experience that leads people to automatically suspect an exterior-to-the-mind cause?
    I also tend to be skeptical as a sort of self-protection/mental hygiene thing…
    Ako, your paragraph addresses the concerns I have about desire as a substitute for empiricism, or assuming that one’s emotions have any impact on the universe in and of themselves.

  • Erl

    Tonio, I know this is a bit late, but I think that the distinction you’re looking for is that of “subjective” versus “objective.” A thing with subjective reality is not any less real. Indeed, subjective entities can be easier to prove on cogito ergo sum grounds: “How do I know that love exists? I experience it!” But subjective entities cannot be shared, save through objective mediums.
    I think this also encapsulates the example of a pulsar’s radio signal, though I’ll use it in a bit of a different way. Imagine the radio signal is a talk radio show rather than a consistent pulse. Obviously, the relevant photons have objective existence, and their mathematical relationships are equally objective. In other words, all of the data needed to reproduce the SOUND of the show exists in the signal itself. But it is only by passing that sound through a subjective filter–consisting of our attitudes, memories, knowledge, beliefs, etc– that the MEANING of the show can be extracted. And if humans were to vanish tomorrow, that meaning would be impossible to extract, even though the signal could exist forever.

  • hf

    Apparently the elves are not immune to the lure of Frodo Lives! stickers, because according to the Silmarillion they had a story about the lesser-known human who married an elf going to Valinor and joining the elven race.

  • hapax

    I thought elves wore rainbow and unicorn stickers.

  • ako

    Nick, Tonio, thank you. I sometimes get this paranoid feeling that almost no one’s like that, and I’m completely weird for having subjective feelings, desires, and imaginative instincts so far from reality.
    Which is, now that I think about it, an illustration of why I tend to mistrust thoughts and feelings about the nature of reality that aren’t supported by empirical evidence.
    Anyway, it’s nice to hear that other people get it. I think it might, on some level, have to do with how your brain is wired. On a lot of these matters, there seems to be a degree of natural inclination towards one thing or another.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Not meaning to contradict The Old Maid, but to support her rather:
    Any description of reality in Valinor should probably be taken with a massive grain of salt by mortals. The rules are different there, and we rational types would probably get pretty flustered by some of the things we might experience were we allowed a visit. For example, the Sun and the Moon were made from a great fruit and a great flower grown in Valinor – the stuff of children’s myths to humans and Hobbits, but witnessed history to elves such as Galadriel.
    (In the Fourth Age, when the world is now a sphere, and Valinor out of reach, do the Sun and Moon remain magical flora; or do they become the flaming sphere of hydrogen and the cold sphere of rock we know them as in this world?)
    Hmm. I think it’s getting close to time for my yearly re-read.

  • Leum

    Mikhail, it’s important to remember that Tolkien was writing an alternative mythology, not an alternative history. These were the stories he wished we’d told around our campfires in the stone age.

  • thirstygirl

    Re subjective vs objective- for a while my brain’s favourite game was to obsessively try to work out the appropriate emotional response for any given situation and judge my own against this. I couldn’t trust any of my emotional reactions to anything because I couldn’t tell whether I was actually feeling it or just manufacturing what I thought was the right response.
    And while I’m better about accepting the legitimacy of my own emotional responses, I am still inclined to down-weight them against something with ‘proof’- which means I often have to distance myself from arguments where my gut-feeling is objecting even when the logic seems clean so I can dissect why I’m having this reaction without automatically acceding because the argument seems plausible and I’m trained to distrust my reactions.

  • Alex Scott

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but in the case of my belief in God, I can’t rely on evidence. I have hints, sure–but the presence of order and beauty and the anthropic principle aren’t conclusive slam-dunk data. My faith is really built more on intuition, abstract contemplation, and artistic sensibilities. My whole life, I’ve only ever needed one bit of evidence: I exist. I’m here.
    And I’ve always had this question on my mind–why am I who I am? Why do I have these hands, this face, this brain? Why was I born in this time, in this place? I’ve always had this sense of an ultimate source–that there is something behind my existence, supporting it and helping it along. I’m relatively certain now that this source is God–or rather, what feeble human inventions like “language” describe as “God.”
    In the past few years, I’ve had the chance to read a lot of Paul Tillich, who defines God as “the Ground of Being,” or “being-itself” — that is, the simple fact of existence itself is what we refer to when we say, “God,” even if we don’t realize it. This Ground of Being is an infinite and eternal presence, and therefore completely outside our experience and comprehension–and yet it permeates everything, and so, in Augustine’s terms, is “nearer to me than I am to myself.” I was shocked when I found out that this was actually one of the most ancient and traditional descriptions of God in the Church. I’ve seen it in Augustine, Aquinas, and Thomas Merton. And it so perfectly describes what I’ve sensed in myself that I’ve adopted it as my pet theology.
    This kind of helps me deal with theodicy, too. Since God is an all-permeating presence rather than an external all-powerful tinkerer–more like Marvel’s Beyonder than anything else–his omnipotence is more of a description of his position as ground and source of all Being. In other words, he’s all-powerful because everything depends on him to exist, not that he can do whatever he wants. He creates and sustains, but does not exert coercive control.
    It also allows for a universe where order and chaos interact in order to create itself. I very much enjoy the statement by John Polkinghorne (at least I think it was him–I first found it in an Episcopal Church report on evolution) that God created a universe which builds itself. So he backs off a bit anyway, so the universe can do its own thing. This is how I like to read the account of the first Sabbath in Genesis. It’s God stepping away so the world can be itself.
    And, of course, since God alone is eternal, that means that everything–prosperity and suffering alike–must come to an end. If nothing else, the recession has really driven that home for me. I haven’t been laid off, but there’s a lot of uncertainty, and it really could happen any day, if it happens. If it does, all I can do is brush myself off, appreciate the overall experience, and move on as best I can. So it goes.
    Now, I’m well aware that thoughts and beliefs can be misleading. Our brains are good liars, I’ll give ‘em that. And history is rife with examples of people who committed atrocities because of what they thought was God’s instruction. For one thing, I think this is why virtually every decent religion commands humility. For another, this is why I think that mystics–in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions–advise practitioners to go beyond thoughts and notions. This isn’t the same as rejecting rational thought. It’s detachment form them. You let your thoughts drift by so that, after enough practice, it’s just you and God.
    In this system, even visions and altered states of consciousness should be taken with a grain of salt. Even if they do come from somewhere else, you’re still limited by your fleshy, moist, material human brain, and can thus misinterpret it. Buddhism even considers them outright delusions (see The 3 Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau). This is kind of what Zen gets at when it says, “When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha,” because even your most pious beliefs about the Buddha, his teachings, and Buddha nature must be set aside to carry it all out. The true communication with God comes with detachment from the self and union with that mysterious ground of being we Anglophones address with a totally inadequate three-letter word.
    I do believe this is possible, and hot dammit, I want it.

  • http://clockworkegg.etsy.com MadGastronomer

    I understand your point. What I don’t understand is what exact experience is involved – every description I’ve read of them has been long on vague generalities and short on specifics. Is it the intensity of the experience that leads people to automatically suspect an exterior-to-the-mind cause?

    I would say, rather, that it is part of the experience for it to seem as external-to-self. In much the same way that I perceive you or my dog as separate-from-me, I perceive my gods as separate-from-me. For example, one of my early experiences was a distinct sensation of a large, dark figure which I visualized as wearing voluminous robes being right behind me. It was an intense and overwhelming feeling, yes, but part of the feeling was that there was *Someone* there, protecting me. Since I had just finished leaving an offering of food for Hecate at the crossroads, and part of the ritual was that I was now supposed to walk away without looking back, because she was coming to partake of the offering, it made perfect sense to me that the presence I felt behind me would be Hecate. But there was a definite sensation of it being external, even without that. It was like “feeling” someone watching me, in a way. And all of my experiences have carried the feeling of “this is another entity”. It is, for me, an intrinsic part of the sensation of divine presence. Sometimes, the gods I encounter speak to me or communicate with me, again as if they were external. (Fine, fine, invisible entities talk to me, I’m crazy; can anybody who is tempted to say that take it as already said?)
    I’m not sure whose accounts you’ve heard, but when I have a hard time describing my experiences, it’s because there simply aren’t good words for it. And I, at least, am often reluctant to put it into words that are going to be insufficient. To grab an example from a book I can’t currently remember, if you went back in time and picked up a cave man with rudimentary language, and took him for a ride in a helicopter, and then returned him home, how would he describe it? He might explain that the thing was like a cave, all enclosed, but part of it was clear, like ice, and it flew like a bird. So he tells his story of the flying ice cave, and it sounds weird and vague because he simply doesn’t have the words for it. Eventually, because he tells it so often, his story might come to replace the actual memory for him, so that when he remembers it, he doesn’t remember the nameless helicopter, he remembers the flying ice cave. Now, if I were to allow the memory of the words I put my experiences into to replace the actual memory of the sensation, then I would have lost something, and so I’m generally reluctant to try to describe it.
    Does that help?

  • hf

    In this system, even visions and altered states of consciousness should be taken with a grain of salt. Even if they do come from somewhere else, you’re still limited by your fleshy, moist, material human brain, and can thus misinterpret it.
    “By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.”

  • http://mabus101.livejournal.com Mabus

    Tonio: That sounds pre-Enlightenment to me, as if the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence had never been written. That’s not intended as an insult.
    Well, the Restorationists were certainly aware of the Declaration. (Alexander Campbell, for instance, arrived in America a couple years after 1800; I forget the exact year, but he personally knew a couple of the younger Founding Fathers. James Monroe, I think…..) I’m not sure what Campbell thought about government being authorized by the consent of the governed.
    On the other hand, Lipscomb, and possibly Barton Stone (who originally led a separate movement deriving from the camp meetings), had a very different attitude about government, in which a republic was just a small step on the road to what I call “theocratic anarchy”, a stateless society that didn’t require any kind of human government because its people freely chose to follow God’s moral laws. I think they would have scoffed at the notion that government could derive from the consent of the governed. I imagine Lipscomb, in particular, saying, “Suppose a man violates the law, and is sent to prison. Very few people would consent to such a thing. Either his personal consent is irrelevant–in which case whose consent, precisely, is required?–or consent of the governed is not truly the basis of the system.” (Restorationists tended to be sceptical of representation in matters of consent because of its use in defense of original sin, with Adam representing all of humanity.)
    If other fundamentalist churches treat government that way as well, maybe that’s the true reason that the extremists who run Regent University and Patrick Henry College fight the church/state separation. They might see government being neutral among religions as interfering with that covenant, or they might see the covenant as requiring government to honor their god.
    I don’t think so. To begin with, I’m pretty sure the three-covenant construct is a perspective not shared by other churches, except maybe the Christian Churches (and, just possibly, the Disciples of Christ). Second, the concept is actually used to defend church-state separation–as I said, the different covenants have no real authority over each other. (For instance, the state can do things like require building safety standards of churches, but it isn’t allowed to say a thing about doctrine. Neither can it remove existing restrictions on marriage, but it can impose restrictions of its own (or remove the ones it creates)–blood tests, for instance.) The concept really includes very little content about the nature of the state “covenant” beyond that, and I’m not really even sure where the idea came from, though it’s all through our literature.

  • http://thegreenbelt.blogspot.com The Ridger

    For example, the Sun and the Moon were made from a great fruit and a great flower grown in Valinor – the stuff of children’s myths to humans and Hobbits, but witnessed history to elves such as Galadriel.
    (In the Fourth Age, when the world is now a sphere, and Valinor out of reach, do the Sun and Moon remain magical flora; or do they become the flaming sphere of hydrogen and the cold sphere of rock we know them as in this world?)

    In Hogfather, when Death continually tells Susan that she must save the Hogfather (Discworld’s Santa analog for anyone who hasn’t read it), the reason is “so that the sun will rise”. After it’s all over, she says, annoyedly, “The sun would have risen just the same, yes? … It’s an astronomical fact.”
    “The sun would not have risen,” her grandfather Death tells her. “A mere ball of flaming gas would have illuminated the world.”

  • Tonio

    I know this is a bit late, but I think that the distinction you’re looking for is that of “subjective” versus “objective.” A thing with subjective reality is not any less real. Indeed, subjective entities can be easier to prove on cogito ergo sum grounds: “How do I know that love exists? I experience it!” But subjective entities cannot be shared, save through objective mediums.
    Thanks for the good suggestion. “Subjective” and “objective” come close to my meaning. Your talk-show-signal example is an excellent one.
    I sometimes get this paranoid feeling that almost no one’s like that, and I’m completely weird for having subjective feelings, desires, and imaginative instincts so far from reality.
    That doesn’t seem weird at all to me. I don’t understand why someone would treat emotion as another form of sensory input, instead of internal reactions to sensory input.
    ThirstyGirl, of course emotional responses are legitimate, and one has the right to one’s feelings. Pointing out that emotions aren’t empirical evidence does not delegitimize the emotions. From your post and Ako’s, it sounds like we share a natural tug-of-war between our reasoning and our emotion. I don’t deny that sometimes an emotion can suggest a course of action or give a new perspective that hadn’t been considered. The key here is that those have no value unless one tests those suggetions or perspectives. Intitution can point us in the direction of evidence, but it’s not evidence in and of itself.
    the presence of order and beauty and the anthropic principle aren’t conclusive slam-dunk data
    Alex, those are merely assumptions about order requiring agency. That’s why “intelligent design” remains popular, because natural selection seems counterintuitive.
    I’ve always had this sense of an ultimate source–that there is something behind my existence, supporting it and helping it along.
    Would you describe that as a sensation?
    Paul Tillich, who defines God as “the Ground of Being,” or “being-itself” — that is, the simple fact of existence itself is what we refer to when we say, “God,” even if we don’t realize it.
    Because our language and culture generally define “God” as a being, Tillich risks being misunderstood when he uses “God” for that concept. I would advise him to use a different word only for clarity.
    visions and altered states of consciousness
    Would you explain what those are?
    I imagine Lipscomb, in particular, saying, “Suppose a man violates the law, and is sent to prison. Very few people would consent to such a thing. Either his personal consent is irrelevant–in which case whose consent, precisely, is required?–or consent of the governed is not truly the basis of the system.”
    And part of the problem there is people like Lipscomb think of government only in terms of laws and restrictions, as an authority only. They don’t seem to see that living under government has benefits as well, such as defense and public services. It’s an exchange between the government and the government. That’s the price of living in society – one can avoid that only if one lives completely outside society.
    (Restorationists tended to be sceptical of representation in matters of consent because of its use in defense of original sin, with Adam representing all of humanity.)
    Would you explain?
    Second, the concept is actually used to defend church-state separation–as I said, the different covenants have no real authority over each other.
    I wasn’t talking about the three covenants. I was proposing that other churches may believe only in that one covenant in a different form.

  • Tonio

    I mean, “It’s an exchange between the government and the governed.”

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com/ wintermute

    Dawkins is not the only scientist who has accused the Templeton Foundation of seeking to blur science and religion.

    I don’t think “accused” is the right word, when they annually award $1.6 million to a “living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works”.
    Oh, and their $50,000 “Epiphany Prize for the Most Inspirational Movie”, whose winners include The Passion of the Christ – kind of odd for a non-religious, scientific foundation, don’t you think?
    It’s like saying that the Templeton Foundation is not the only organisation that has accused Dawkins of being a biologist…

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com/ wintermute

    “Anyone who claims that they have literally no evidence as to whether or not their partner loves them other than a vague feeling simply doesn’t understand how those feelings are constructed, based on evidence that you don’t consciously notice.”
    I’m not quite sure what you’re saying, but I think I disagree. I used to feel I had good grounds for believing my ex loved me, but, well, you notice the word was “ex”. It’s made me rather cynical about the possibility of knowing love.

    Obviously, I don’t claim to know anything about the relationship in question, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that you had no evidence that there was love; love doesn’t always last forever, and it’s not always enough to make a relationship work, so it’s possible that your ex did love you; and even if they didn’t, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t act as if they did, even if they did so out of entirely base motives.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/JohnRobison JohnRobison

    A quick note.
    The name of the last book of the Christian New Testament is Revelation. It may sound a tad obscure, but the book is a single Revelation (the word in Greek is the root for Apocolyps). Making it a plural is a trick that PM’s do since they don’t get what it is that they are reading.

  • Tonio

    Making it a plural is a trick that PM’s do since they don’t get what it is that they are reading.
    Would you explain the larger theological distinction between the singular and plural there? I’ve been using the singular name from a strictly factual standpoint.

  • random atheist

    “part of the problem there is people like Lipscomb think of government only in terms of laws and restrictions, as an authority only. They don’t seem to see that living under government has benefits as well, such as defense and public services. It’s an exchange between the government and the government. That’s the price of living in society – one can avoid that only if one lives completely outside society.”
    There’s a lovely bit in one of the Socratic dialogues – the one where he’s been sentenced to death, can’t remember the name – where his friends have arranged his escape from prison, they come to him to tell him so, and he refuses to leave.
    His argument is that he has lived in Athens all his life, and he has never spoken out against their laws in all that time. Therefore, it would be hypocritical for him to start objecting to these laws now, just because they’ve suddenly become troublesome to him personally.
    It’s not completely relevant, I suppose, but there’s roughly the same point being made: you can’t take advantage of the good parts of being governed, then complain when the bad parts hit you. Or you can, I suppose, but then you’re being inconsistent. I suppose what I’m trying to say is there’s an implied “consent to be governed” going on there.
    “The name of the last book of the Christian New Testament is Revelation”
    If you must quote from the Book of Revelation
    Don’t keep calling it the Book of Revelations
    There’s no S – it’s the Book of Revelation
    As revealed to St John the Divine.
    -Half Man Half Biscuit, “Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo”
    Can I just say how much I’ve been interested by the discussion on atheism and theism? It’s really fascinating. I haven’t had anything to add – or rather, every time I think of something to say, I notice that someone else has just said it – but I’ve been enjoying reading the posts!

  • Tonio

    you can’t take advantage of the good parts of being governed, then complain when the bad parts hit you. Or you can, I suppose, but then you’re being inconsistent. I suppose what I’m trying to say is there’s an implied “consent to be governed” going on there.
    Excellent point. Perhaps the real problem with the Lipscomb concept is that it’s not just authoritarian but self-focused. It view government only in terms of limits on the individual, as if power was the only coin of the ream. That doesn’t sound quite like libertarianism, but I’m not sure the distinctions have that much relevance.

  • The Old Maid

    According to the Silmarillion they had a story about the lesser-known human who married an elf going to Valinor and joining the elven race.
    That would be Tuor-the-nice-boy who married Idril Celebrindal. Every other time the species intermarried there had to be a Big Story (because only Eru/God could change their ontological nature so they would go to the same place). Luthien had to be turned into a mortal to marry Beren. Arwen had to be turned into a mortal to marry Aragon. Beren and Luthien’s son Dior and grandsons El-this and El-that were all murdered before they could could show signs (or opinions) as to who or what they would grow up to become. Elwing married Earendil in a “dances with wolves” moment. (“It makes sense. They are both fusions.”) But the mortal Tuor gets to marry the princess of Gondolin and no one bats an eye except the Jealous Elven First Cousin Maeglin. Tuor then goes to Elvenhome without mention of why Eru/God changed his nature to Elf-nature. I think maybe Tolkien was just tired!

  • hf

    Hey, it still worked better than the Redactor’s hack-job. ^_^

  • http://ksej.livejournal.com Nick Kiddle

    “Obviously, I don’t claim to know anything about the relationship in question, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that you had no evidence that there was love; love doesn’t always last forever, and it’s not always enough to make a relationship work, so it’s possible that your ex did love you;”
    The basic problem was that it was a fair-weather relationship. There wasn’t enough love to sustain us once we hit a snag, and I didn’t find that out until we hit the snag.
    “and even if they didn’t, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t act as if they did, even if they did so out of entirely base motives.”
    Well, that was sort of my point. Things can look very convincingly like love, but turn out to be something altogether different, so how can you ever know what you’re experiencing?

  • Mac

    **The Nicene Creed : and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures
    which is just hilarious to me. Was the rest not according to the Scriptures ? Is the writer trying to distance themselves from that particular claim ? Do they think it’s particularly unbelievable compared to the rest, that they need to confirm the Scriptures do, indeed, say this ?
    Is there some early church politics involved ?
    Did they just need to say “according to the Scriptures” at some point and stuck it there ?
    I think in this case, “according to the Scriptures” means “as was prophesied in these texts.” The whole “three-days” thing was important and is what’s being substantiated here. (After all, if you believe this stuff, other people were resurrected — Lazarus, after four days, for example.)

  • Alex Scott

    Because our language and culture generally define “God” as a being, Tillich risks being misunderstood when he uses “God” for that concept. I would advise him to use a different word only for clarity.
    That might be a bit difficult, what with him being dead 44 years and all. Besides, he makes it very clear in his writings that by “Being” he does not mean a being, but the Being. He’s very emphatic in some works that God is not one thing or one Being among others.
    visions and altered states of consciousness
    Would you explain what those are?

    You know, like when you’re deep in meditation, and suddenly Jesus Christ himself appears and starts talking to you. Or an angel starts chatting. Or maybe even a few demons come by to poke at you. This is not the destination of mystical practice, though it can be part of the path (it’s hardly universal). Plus, even if they do come from Jesus or some angels, the very fact that they’re divine and infinite and perfect and you’re small and human and physical and imperfect means there’s a risk of being misinterpreted.

  • Alex Scott

    I think in this case, “according to the Scriptures” means “as was prophesied in these texts.” The whole “three-days” thing was important and is what’s being substantiated here. (After all, if you believe this stuff, other people were resurrected — Lazarus, after four days, for example.)
    Pretty much, yeah. The earliest Christians were convinced that what had happened to Jesus was part of God’s plan, as laid out in the Torah, Prophets, and Psalms. They managed to reinterpret the life of Jesus in light of the Hebrew Scriptures, and the Hebrew Scriptures in light of Jesus. More specifically, it’s a quote from 1 Corinthians, where St. Paul’s discussing the resurrection. There, he’s probably assuming everybody already knows which scriptures he’s talking about, so he doesn’t get much more specific.
    I would imagine it’s probably there to help secure the place of the Hebrew Scriptures in Christianity. The New Testament, after all, quotes the OT repeatedly, whether about Jesus himself, or about the Church’s early theology in general. This was one of the Church’s biggest differences with various Gnostics, especially (IIRC) the Marcionites, Valentinians, and Manicheans, all of whom regarded the OT as evil.
    Ironically, according to St. Augustine, part of the reason the Manicheans rejected the OT was because they took it too literally. They’d read passages like “In his image he made them” and think that it meant God was constrained to a human form. What helped Augustine covert to Christianity was learning from St. Ambrose that you could interpret it metaphorically, too.

  • helen_s

    If someone has mentioned this in one of the other comments please delete this. Because it’s simply to say that
    I can’t believe that he talks about Rayford ‘getting into trouble on the job.’ Anyone who reads these books for fun has got to have the IQ of an eight-year-old; and they may well have the sense of humour of one too.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Buck didn’t know how to respond when Rayford Steele greeted him warmly. He appreciated the warmth, but something nagged at him and he held back a little. He still wasn’t quite comfortable with this kind of affection …
    Rayford was new to this kind of sensitivity. Before his wife and son had disappeared, he had not wept in years. He had always considered emotion weak and unmanly. … Uncomfortable, Rayford looked away.
    Bruce had smiled at Rayford’s story of getting into trouble on the job, and he had smiled when Buck arrived. Suddenly, however, Bruce’s face had clouded over. His smile had vanished and he was having trouble composing himself. … [He] pressed his lips together to keep them from quivering. His eyes were filling. … Bruce was a different kind of guy. He had always communicated in his own way and in his own time.

    There’s only one comment I can make on THAT…
    Sing along and substitute “Bucky/Rayford/Brucie” for “Johnny”…
    The tricky thing about this check list, as we’ve seen, is that these words don’t seem to mean the same thing for L&J that they mean for the rest of us.
    The thing I picked up on that checklist is it sounds a lot like the “How to Tell if Your Child is Into The Occult” checklists that were circulating during the Satanic Panic of the early Eighties. The ones that were so generic 90+% of kids would fit them. I played D&D back then; I know from experience.
    If no evidence can be found to support this suspicion, that lack of evidence is interpreted as evidence that this particular AC is dangerously adept at keeping his nefarious hidden agenda well-hidden. Thus every AC can be said to meet this criterion.
    Thus, the standard Catch-22 of Conspiracy Theories. And why it is literally impossible to shake a Conspiracy True Believer. All argument against The Conspiracy PROVES the critic is part of The Conspiracy. All evidence against The Conspiracy is Disinformation Planted by The Conspiracy. Lack of evidence for The Conspiracy is PROOF The Conspiracy is so Vast THEY Can Silence Anyone.
    “THE DWARFS ARE FOR THE DWARFS! WE WON’T BE TAKEN IN!”
    I suspect this is related to another curious linguistic feature of L&J’s books and, indeed, of nearly all PMD literature. In these writings, the phrase “one world government” appears repeatedly, almost incessantly, but the word “empire” is almost never used.
    It almost sounds like one of those mantras used by the Communists in their heyday — like “Capitalist Oppressors” or “Imperialist Running Dogs”. Almost this doubleplusduckspeak babble trying for a multisyllable hypnotic rhythym that disconnects the brain.
    My guess is that this is partly a defense mechanism. PMDs have developed an instinctive arms-length avoidance of any potential mention or allusion to anything that might prompt one to think of the Roman Empire. It’s very, very important to them that no one think of the Roman Empire when reading the book of Revelation. Thus even though “empire” is a more concise and more precise term for this thing that PMDs fear, it’s too fraught with historical meaning for them to use.
    This harks back to The Seven Hills upon which the woman sits. (Not Rome, not Cincinatti, but artificial ones specially built for New Babylon. See the bottom of this comment.)
    The clumsy, less accurate phrase they have settled on as a replacement is also telling. It comes laden with all sorts of ugly connotations that reveal quite a bit about the intellectual family tree of PMDism in general and of Tim LaHaye in particular. Apart from PMD literature, you’re most like to encounter the phrase “one world government” only in John Birch Society tracts or in even more explicitly hateful “Protocols,” “diaries” and manifestos. LaHaye et. al. don’t like to talk about that side of the family, but their use of this phrase keeps bringing it up.
    My old college roomie went off the deep end using that exact phrase after the November 2006 elections. He was prone to strange tangents as long as I’ve known him, but this was a surprise; after the Dems swept Congress in 2006, he sends me this email in all-caps and boldface starting off “THE COMING ONE-WORD GOVERNMENT IS HERE!!!!!” and continuing on into some sort of hard-to-decipher rant about the UN and the Bible, finishing up with how he was “Studying SCRIPTURE and Waiting”. (From my own experience inside a PMD cult, I had a good guess about what he was “Waiting” for, and wondered if he was up on his roof so he wouldn’t have as far to travel.) That was the last contact I had from him. Like I said, he’d gone off on strange tangents before, but never like this. Not Left Behind Fever of 106+.
    So when, for example, John the Revelator speaks of Babylon it’s not because he was writing to people who were, like Daniel, living as exiles and resident aliens in a hostile, foreign empire, but because he was writing to people like us — to 21st-century Protestant Christians whose lives will, at any moment now, be interrupted by the Rapture and the rise of an Antichrist we won’t still be around to see, but who will, among other things, establish as the capital of his OWG a city called New Babylon.
    Even if he has to bulldoze seven artificial hills in the middle of the flat Mesopotamian floodplain to Fulfill The Prophecy…
    Pick up a reggae album at random. Any reggae album. Listen to it and you will find a far more accurate, reliable and theologically sound exegesis of the meaning of Babylon than you will ever get from Tim LaHaye or any other so-called “prophecy expert.”
    What? No Steve Taylor?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    So, wait, wait, wait. You mean to say that this highly powerful guy, the AC and all that, decides he’s going to rename Babylon, and the best he can come up with is New Babylon? REALLY? — Emcee
    It gets worse, Emcee.
    Who other than a PMD End Time Prophecy freak would name a new religion they founded “Enigma Babylon One World Faith”?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Wow. I’m amazed how much of the early part of the chapter seems to be Rayford and Buck trying to come to grips with their new, unfamiliar feelings for one another. — Sivi Volk
    It has been commented before that Rayford LaHaye & Buck Jenkins have written more canonical yaoi slash setups into their magnum opus than any other authors. Especially when their two Gary Stu Author Self-Inserts are onstage together.
    Never mind Batman & Robin; here come Rayford & Bucky!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p01156e58e6e8970c McJulie

    Who other than a PMD End Time Prophecy freak would name a new religion they founded “Enigma Babylon One World Faith”?
    I dunno, it sounds a little like the text on the bottles of hippie soap with all the writing on it.
    You know, Dr. Bronner’s. You ever read those things? Wacked out. Good soap, though.

  • Abelardus

    I dunno, it sounds a little like the text on the bottles of hippie soap with all the writing on it.
    You know, Dr. Bronner’s. You ever read those things? Wacked out. Good soap, though.

    No arguments there. Those bottles have some far-out stuff printed on them, but the soap itself feels and smells heavenly.

  • Indigo

    In the past few years, I’ve had the chance to read a lot of Paul Tillich, who defines God as “the Ground of Being,” or “being-itself”
    God is the Higgs boson? No wonder the LHC broke, for humanity was not meant to know God!
    *cough* Sorry.
    I thought I’d mention that this entry isn’t appearing on the Left Behind page.

  • cjmr

    sorry, another bookmark comment, since I actually have to switch off my computer for travel and can’t leave my browser up.
    —-
    Paul Tillich. The pastor of the church my family attended when I was growing up was really really into Paul Tillich. Wish I’d paid more attention to his sermons…

  • Alex Scott

    God is the Higgs boson?
    Well, they do call it the God particle…

  • Tonio

    Besides, he makes it very clear in his writings that by “Being” he does not mean a being, but the Being. He’s very emphatic in some works that God is not one thing or one Being among others.
    Did he mean “Being” as the phenomenon of living things with consciousness existing, or a specific living thing with consciousness?
    You know, like when you’re deep in meditation, and suddenly Jesus Christ himself appears and starts talking to you.
    I’ve never been “deep in meditation” – I’ve tried a couple of times to meditate and my brain seems to be incapable of reaching a meditative state. As I type this, I have Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down” as my earworm of the moment, and that’s only because I heard the song about half an hour ago.
    the very fact that they’re divine and infinite and perfect and you’re small and human and physical and imperfect means there’s a risk of being misinterpreted
    What is the basis for making the assumptions involving infinite and perfect?

  • http://www.HandbellSoloArtist.com Michèle my bell-flower

    I’m sure someone else has already posted this by now, but I’ll do it anyway….
    @ hapax & Amaryllis: I’ve always been partial to The Dover Bitch, myself.
    Link in case HTML doesn’t work right now: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-dover-bitch/

  • hf

    I’ve tried a couple of times to meditate and my brain seems to be incapable of reaching a meditative state.
    Yes, it would be at first. (Also at second and third.) The supplementary path of imagining or causing lesser* visions seems much easier, if perhaps more dangerous for the reasons already laid out.
    What is the basis for making the assumptions involving infinite and perfect?
    I can’t speak for Alex, but to me that sounded closer to a reductio argument: you can’t trust the visions absolutely if they come from you, but you still can’t trust them absolutely if they come from an alien source and you have to filter them through your brain.
    *Meaning, not that philosophically interesting compared to some harder kinds.

  • hf

    (It should go without saying that a truly infallible source means something alien, in the original sense of the word.)

  • hf

    Oh, and thanks for the earworm, %#!(. After yesterday’s storm discussion I kept humming “It’s Raining Men.”

  • Tonio

    imagining or causing lesser* visions
    How would one cause a vision? I had the impression that a “vision” was out of someone’s conscious control? If I deliberately imagine something in my head, like a blue platypus with wings, that wouldn’t seem to qualify as a “vision.”
    that sounded closer to a reductio argument: you can’t trust the visions absolutely if they come from you, but you still can’t trust them absolutely if they come from an alien source and you have to filter them through your brain.
    (Vinnie Barbarino voice) “I’m sooo confuuuused…”
    (It should go without saying that a truly infallible source means something alien, in the original sense of the word.)
    How so?

  • http://clockworkegg.etsy.com MadGastronomer

    How would one cause a vision? I had the impression that a “vision” was out of someone’s conscious control? If I deliberately imagine something in my head, like a blue platypus with wings, that wouldn’t seem to qualify as a “vision.”

    I suggest you do some research here. Historically, there are thousands of ways to put oneself in a state where one is very receptive to visions. Some of them involve drugs, some of them don’t. Trance states (which are distinct from meditative states), hunger, pain, exhaustion, physical exertion, drumming, dancing, singing, and many many more have been used over the millennia to induce visions, and, when done correctly, these rituals do usually work. But they it generally takes discipline and work — sometimes years of it — to gain the knowledge of how to do them properly. It’s frequently as much of a mental discipline as it is a physically performed ritual (as many rituals are). Go check out things like the Sun Dance, vision quests, Australian aboriginal walkabouts, whirling dervishes, and there are many others.
    And I’m still curious: did my explanation of otherness and wordlessness in experiences of deity help you at all?

  • Alex Scott

    Did he mean “Being” as the phenomenon of living things with consciousness existing, or a specific living thing with consciousness?
    I’d say it more as “the phenomenon of anything existing.” God, as Being, doesn’t need living things to exist. God can also be like a living thing with consciousness, in that he is understood as acting entirely under his own agency and will (and also in his capacity as source of life and wisdom), but given that God wouldn’t have, or need, a body or a brain, we are again faced with the limitations of speaking of God in human terms. So something of a cross between both.
    This page has several articles and whole books by Tillich, if you’d rather get it from the source. He’s kinda dense–sometimes even I can’t wrap my head around his ideas.
    On visions: what hf and MadGastronomer said.
    How so?
    Well, by its very nature, it would be so totally unlike us–free of all our limitations, both physical and psychological, and the problems that are caused by those limitations–that it would fit just about any definition of “perfect” or “infallible” we could come up with. Our brains would, by necessity, have to use very limited means to sort through something infinitely complex and powerful. It’s a bit like trying to run YouTube on a punch-card computer, or trying to understand Paul Tillich.

  • Leum

    I can’t speak for Alex, but to me that sounded closer to a reductio argument: you can’t trust the visions absolutely if they come from you, but you still can’t trust them absolutely if they come from an alien source and you have to filter them through your brain.
    Um, yeah. That’s kind of why people like Tonio and me don’t go in for revelation as a way of knowing. First, because we can’t be sure that the revelation is truly external (see also: Vorbis) and second because even if we can, you’ve assured as that our understanding is so imperfect that we’ll never really get it anyway.
    And of course I can’t trust anyone else’s revelations for the reasons stated centuries ago by Thomas Paine.
    But I have to agree with whoever said that you can’t just meditate once or twice to see if you can get into a meditative state.

  • Tonio

    Trance states (which are distinct from meditative states), hunger, pain, exhaustion, physical exertion, drumming, dancing, singing, and many many more have been used over the millennia to induce visions, and, when done correctly, these rituals do usually work.
    Those sound like simple hallucinations. Is that the case? I’ve more or less made a lifelong promise to myself not to try any drugs like that, not even marijuana. I don’t even like anesthesia – the room-tilting feeling is very uncomfortable. When my kids were old enough to want to be spun around, I discovered that I cannot go for more than a revolution and a half without feeling disoriented.
    did my explanation of otherness and wordlessness in experiences of deity help you at all?
    No, but that’s not your fault.
    He’s kinda dense–sometimes even I can’t wrap my head around his ideas.
    While I don’t expect you to explain his ideas, at first glance he seems to be making a huge number of assumptions.
    Well, by its very nature, it would be so totally unlike us–free of all our limitations, both physical and psychological, and the problems that are caused by those limitations–that it would fit just about any definition of “perfect” or “infallible” we could come up with. Our brains would, by necessity, have to use very limited means to sort through something infinitely complex and powerful.
    Pardon my confusion, but I’m still having trouble unpacking the theology. While your point about limitations has interior logic, what basis is there for assuming the existence of something perfect or infallible? I’m not arguing that something like that is nonexistent, I’m simply questioning the core assumptions.
    Leum, can you provide your specific Vorbis and Paine quotes?

  • Leum

    Vorbis was the High Exquisitor in Small Gods (Terry Pratchett). He thought he was hearing Om’s voice telling him what to do, but it was really the echoes of his own thoughts bouncing in his brain.
    From The Age of Reason

    As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.
    No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it.
    It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication — after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.
    When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some historian telling me so. The commandments carry no internal evidence of divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention.

  • Leum
  • http://clockworkegg.etsy.com MadGastronomer

    Those sound like simple hallucinations. Is that the case? I’ve more or less made a lifelong promise to myself not to try any drugs like that, not even marijuana. I don’t even like anesthesia – the room-tilting feeling is very uncomfortable. When my kids were old enough to want to be spun around, I discovered that I cannot go for more than a revolution and a half without feeling disoriented.

    Well, I’ve had very very few hallucinations (once, maybe twice, having had a concussion or having fainted from heat), but no, in my experience it’s very different. I don’t use drugs myself, and never have. I drink very lightly, too, and hate anesthesia and opiates I’ve been given by doctors. But the visions I’ve had are experientially different from the hallucinations I’ve had, and also from dreams. Hallucinations, while sometimes having an internal sense apparent at the time, have always made a lot less sense later. They’re also very difficult to remember. Visions, on the other hand, make sense afterwards (even if only by some internal logic, and even if I have to do some work to figure them out) and are much easier to remember. They also generally prove actually useful. They tell me something. Sometimes I have to work out what they’re telling me and what to do with that, but it’s useful one I do work it out. And, again, they simply feel different.

  • Alex Scott

    what basis is there for assuming the existence of something perfect or infallible?
    You know what? I’m not sure. Of course, “fallible” is kind of a human POV in the first place. From the POV of a fully enlightened Buddha, everything is perfect to begin with, it’s just our distorted perceptions, colored by our desires, that make it seem messed up. The annihilation of desire and attachment is supposed to restore the proper perspective.


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