NRA: Throwing Chaim under the (hypothetical) bus

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 148-151

Earlier this week, I was surprised to learn that the famously atheist magician Penn Jillette agrees with Jerry Jenkins about the moral obligation to proselytize aggressively. Terry Firma at Friendly Atheist shared this comment from Jillette:

I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life. … How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? … If I believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that a truck was going to hit you, and you didn’t believe it and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point at which I tackle you.

That’s very similar to Jerry Jenkins’ own views on the urgent duty to evangelize, and why no one should be offended when a sincere believer tries to “save” them:

If I had a neighbor who truly believed that if I didn’t wear a purple necklace, I would never get to Heaven, I would go to Hell, I would probably think he’s crazy. I would scoff and laugh. But if he didn’t tell me, I’d be a little offended.

I agree with both of them, up to a point. Their logic seems sound to me. Given their premise, their conclusion seems inescapable. This is an ironclad “if … then” argument. If you truly believe that God has revealed to you the one arbitrary, symbolic gesture without which everyone will be tortured for eternity, then you have an absolute duty to inform as many others as you can so that they, too, can make this gesture — wearing a purple necklace or praying the soterian incantation — and thus be spared unimaginable, endless pain. If that is what God is like and if that is how God’s universe works, then it really would be hateful not to spend your every waking hour spreading that news.

But while I agree that Jillette and Jenkins’ conclusion necessarily flows from their shared premise, I think their premise is ghastly nonsense.

Both Jillette and Jenkins defend aggressive proselytizing based on the premise that God is a cruel, capricious monster undeserving of our devotion, a God unworthy of — and evidently uninterested in — our love. This is a God whose default stance towards humanity is one of enmity and hatred. And the only way for any human to escape that default damnation is by learning and performing the secret handshake — wearing the purple necklace or uttering the magic words. That’s all rather horrifying.

This weird idea of a Hell-bent deity offering salvation only to those who have learned the secret gesture isn’t something one can easily glean from the Bible. With some studious creativity and a good bit of squinting, this idea can be shoehorned into, and then read back out of, a select handful of painstakingly excerpted Bible passages, but if you read any more of the Bible than just those few verses — even accidentally — or if you fail to read those few verses in just the right way, then it becomes very, very hard to reconcile this religion of Hell-avoidance with the God of that book.

It took centuries of hard work to transform the Bible into a manual of Hell-avoidance. It would be more credible, and far easier, to claim that the central theme of the dictionary is Hell-avoidance, since the dictionary mentions Hell more often than the Bible does. The Hebrew scriptures and the Pauline epistles of the New Testament have nothing to say on the subject. If you’re looking for Hell in the Bible, about the only place you’ll find it is in a handful of the semi-Pelagian parables of Jesus, wherein Hell is never the default destiny of the “unsaved,” but always rather the deserved punishment for selfish rich people. And yet none of the people who preach a gospel of Hell-avoidance seem to believe in that idea of Hell.*

But if this Hell-bent God and this religion of Hell-avoidance are not central to the Bible, they are central to the novels of the Left Behind series. It doesn’t matter whether or not this is how the actual universe works, it’s how the universe of these books works. In the real world, Jenkins’ premise is cruel and absurd, but the world of Jenkins’ novels is Jenkins‘ world — and in Jenkins’ own world, his premise is true.

Yet in Jenkins’ own world, neither he nor his hero, Buck Williams, lives up to this premise.

In these pages, Jerry Jenkins repeatedly stresses two things:

1. Buck loves his dear old friend Chaim Rosenzweig.

2. Chaim’s life is in imminent danger.

Buck had often been warmed by Chaim Rosenzweig’s ancient-faced smile of greeting. There was no hint of that now. As Buck strode toward the old man, Rosenzweig merely opened his arms for an embrace and said hoarsely, “Cameron! Cameron!”

Buck bent to hug his tiny friend, and Rosenzweig clasped his hands behind Buck and squeezed tightly as a child. He bured his face in Buck’s neck and wept bitterly.

The weeping here is for the family of their mutual friend, the former rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah, whose wife and teenaged children were recently murdered by “black-hooded thugs.”

Chaim’s sobbing appears to embarrass the “tall, dark-complected driver” who accompanies him.

Chaim nodded toward him. “You remember Andre,” Rosenzweig said.

“Yeah,” Buck said, nodding, “how ya doin’?”

Andre responded in Hebrew. He neither spoke nor understood English. Buck knew no Hebrew.

Readers already knew that “Buck knew no Hebrew.” But after that odd, unprecedented eruption of a Jersey accent from Buck it was probably necessary to clarify what is and isn’t true about how this character speaks.

Chaim tells Buck that Tsion has gone into hiding, and that “the authorities are trying to implicate him in the murders of his own family.” Here, finally, is an example of the kind of scheming, conniving evil I was lamenting the lack of in our last installment. Murdering Tsion’s family is evil. But murdering his family in such a way that he takes the blame and disgrace for it kicks things up another notch to Antichrist-level evil.

Unfortunately, though, this attempt to pin the blame on Tsion is rather poorly executed. And it’s not even the work of the Antichrist, but of “the authorities” in Israel — the one nation not yet under the power of Nicolae Carpathia. These “authorities” are Israelis who have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah and who are therefore, according to the authors, evil and manipulative. But, again, Tim LaHaye is a staunch friend of Israel. Ahem.

Tsion’s driver has also been killed.

“What?” Buck asked. “Not him too?”

“I’m afraid so. A car bombing. His body was barely recognizable.”

“Chaim! Are you sure you’re safe? Does your driver know how to –”

“Drive defensively? Check for car bombs? Defend himself or me? Yes to all of those. Andre is quite skilled.”

So Chaim is in good hands with his capable manservant Kato … I mean Andre. Yet he and Buck are both still worried for his safety:

“But you are associated with Dr. Ben-Judah. Those looking for him will try to follow you to him.”

“Which means you should not be seen with me either,” Rosenzweig said.

This is followed by another full page describing all the clumsy, amateurish awesomely sophisticated James-Bond maneuvers Buck has planned to escape being followed while he is in Israel. Plus a bit more of Buck/Jenkins’ signature telephone-porn. Realizing that Chaim used both their real names when booking Buck a hotel room:

Buck had to suppress a smile at the man’s sweet naiveté. “Well, friend, we’ll just use that to keep them off our trail, hmm?”

“Cameron, I’m afraid I’m not too good at all this.”

“Why don’t you have Andre drive you directly to that hotel. Tell them my plans have changed and that I will not be in until Sunday.”

“Cameron! How do you think of such things so quickly?”

“Hurry now. And we must not be seen together anymore. I will leave no later than Saturday night. You can reach me at this number.”

“Is it secure?”

“It’s a satellite phone, the latest technology. No one can tap into it. Just don’t put my name next to that number, and don’t give that number to anyone else.”

OK, so Buck is only in Israel until Saturday night, so that gives him … we have no idea. As usual, Jenkins hasn’t bothered to tell us what day it is. Or, for that matter, what month it is.

As they depart, Chaim says:

“If I were a praying man, I’d pray for you.”

“Chaim, one of these days soon, you need to become a praying man.”

Here, finally, Buck hints at his concern that his dear, sweet friend still isn’t wearing the purple necklace of salvation. Until he sees that amulet hanging from Chaim’s neck, he has to worry that his friend could walk out of the airport terminal and get hit by the Hypothetical Bus — sending the unsaved old professor straight to an eternity of hellfire and torment.

But it’s even more urgent than that here. It’s the Great Tribulation and the Hypothetical Bus isn’t hypothetical for anyone anymore. Buck knows that “Bible prophecy” says the first four “seals” of divine wrath will kill “a fourth of the earth.” And he knows that the seven seals of wrath will shortly be followed by seven “trumpets” of wrath, each of which will, in turn, slaughter another huge portion of the ever-dwindling population of those who survived the previous judgments. A frail old man like Chaim Rosenzweig seems particularly vulnerable and unlikely to be among the tiny remnant of those who somehow escape death in the coming months.

But it’s still even more urgent than that, because — as the two friends have just discussed for several pages — the “authorities” and the “black-hooded thugs” who killed Tsion’s family may also be coming after Chaim. The Hypothetical Bus is hunting for Chaim Rosenzweig. Its targeting system is locked onto him. This must seem to Buck as though it is likely his very last chance to convince Chaim to put on the purple necklace before it’s too late.

And yet he doesn’t:

“One more thing, Cameron. I have placed a call to Carpathia for his assistance in this.”

“I wish you hadn’t done that, Chaim. I don’t trust him the way you do.”

“I’ve sensed that, Buck,” Rosenzweig said, “but you need to get to know the man better.”

If you only knew, Buck thought. “Chaim, I’ll try to communicate with you as soon as I know anything. Call me only if you need to.”

Rosenzweig embraced him fiercely again and hurried off.

And that’s it.

Buck thinks, “If you only knew” — if only his dear friend somehow knew what Buck knows. If only there were someone who knew what Buck knows and who had a chance to speak to his friend Chaim, to tell him those things that Buck knows that he desperately needs to know — that his eternal fate depends upon him hearing and knowing. If only someone would tell him.

To paraphrase Penn Jillette, how much does Buck have to hate Chaim not to tell him? What’s stopping him from laying it all out and explaining to Chaim that Nicolae Carpathia is the Antichrist who will betray Israel, defile the rebuilt Temple and slaughter anyone who gets in his way?

I suppose the authors would say that Buck can’t risk telling Chaim what he knows about the Antichrist because that might jeopardize the secret plans of the Tribulation Force, but that can’t be the reason for Buck’s silence because:

A. Buck and the Trib Force are supposed to be heroes, and heroes are supposed to accept greater risk for themselves if there’s a chance that it might help save others; and

B. The Tribulation Force doesn’t actually have any plans, secret or otherwise.

What exactly is the worst thing that could happen if Buck told Chaim everything? The “naive” old professor might run to Nicolae and tell him all about it — tell him that his pilot, Rayford Steele, and his pet journalist, Buck Williams, were secretly conspiring to silently disapprove of him?

The bottom line here is that Buck and Jenkins have embraced the premise that Buck has an absolute obligation to tell Chaim everything. And yet Buck doesn’t tell Chaim anything. Chaim ought to be more than “a little offended” by that.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* It’s interesting that Jenkins’ analogy involves a purple necklace. I like to think that’s an unintentional, subconscious acknowledgement of what the Bible actually does have to say about the idea of Hell.

Here’s a longer quote in which Jenkins presents his analogy in more context. This is from a 2007 interview, but he has used this same “purple necklace” analogy many times:

When we first started this, we went at it with such a sense of sincerity and pure motive. I mean, my feeling — and I was informed in this, too, by Dr. LaHaye’s attitude — would care about people. We really believe this.

We realize it’s a divisive message, especially in a pluralistic society, and that there would be people who disagree and say, you know, you’re [saying] Jesus is the only way to God, and that he’s going come back and rescue people out of the Earth. And so they’re saying we’re crazy.

And then they try to go further and say, it’s spiteful, condescending, or kind of hateful to other people. I often use this illustration, but if I had a neighbor who truly believed that if I didn’t wear a purple necklace, I would never get to Heaven, I would go to Hell, I would probably think he’s crazy. I would scoff and laugh. But if he didn’t tell me, I’d be a little offended.

And so my feeling is, people can laugh and scoff and disagree, and that’s their right. And, you know, honor that right. We live in a society where we’re free to compete in the marketplace of ideas. This is our idea. People are wondering what these crazy Christians think is going to happen? This is what we think.

Note that his main point is that others should not be offended by the “divisive message” he and Tim LaHaye are sharing. He wants us to appreciate their sincerity, and to recognize that because they sincerely believe we are damned if we fail to embrace their message, their proselytizing is actually an expression of genuine concern, respect and affection.

Like Penn Jillette, I’m willing to accept that argument. I would note, though, that this argument suggests that others who hold views other than the one held by LaHaye and Jenkins are also due the same generous hearing Jenkins pleads for here. Jenkins is quite gracious to his hypothetical neighbor with the purple necklace. I don’t know if he’d be quite so gracious to an actual neighbor with an actual Book of Mormon (or an actual Koran, or an actual copy of The God Delusion).

The bit with the purple necklace is Jenkins attempt to provide an example his listeners will find “crazy.” He wants us to see this purple-necklace faith as sincere, but goofy, absurd and arbitrary. He also wants us to see this purple-necklace faith as precisely analogous to his own soterian gospel. And it is. This sincere but foolish neighbor is foolish because he thinks we “get to Heaven” and avoid Hell by wearing a purple necklace, whereas Jenkins knows that we “get to Heaven” and avoid Hell by reciting an essential prayer. The silly neighbor has put his faith in a magical amulet, while Jenkins knows that only the proper magical spell can save us. They both agree, though, about the essential meaning of life, which for both of them involves only this: avoiding Hell.

And that, again, is why it’s intriguing that Jenkins settles on a purple necklace. Because if there’s one thing the Bible literally teaches about a literal Hell, it’s that Hell is for people who wear purple. So if you are going to make avoiding Hell your top priority, then nothing is more important than finding every purple-clad rich person in fine linens and pleading with them to help you feed the beggars at their gates before it is too late.




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  • arcseconds

    I didn’t know The God Delusion was motivated by a belief in the Perverse Master!

    But it explains a few things.

  • Enopoletus Harding

    Elaborate, please.

  • arcseconds

    Well, it’s “like a joke” (some feel it’s “incoherent” and “not actually funny”).

    Explaining jokes that one has just delivered is embarrassing for all concerned, so I don’t think I shall.

    Perhaps some kind soul who understands it (if there is any such) can take you aside and explain it to you.

  • vega

    Um, no, please don’t call us stupid when we ask for clarification. If absolutely nothing else, the link in your post keeps leading me to a blank page.

    Your original post had the hint of a potentially interesting conversation. If your mention of the “Perverse Master” refers to what I think it does, then I think at least part of your premise is one we’re quite familiar with. In fact it’s kind of a theme over here. But where do you make the jump from that to Dawkins? We’ve often had discussions on the lines “IF God acts maliciously, THEN God is evil, THEREFORE ought not to be worshiped or obeyed,” without bringing up Sir Richard or the God Delusion at all.


    Elaborate, please.

    Unless you don’t want to. No problem there. But the backhand on disengaging was kind of unnecessary.

  • arcseconds

    OK, it seems my joke does require explanation or else there’ll be a riot, and you asked nicely, so I’ll respond to you.

    But I warn you, it’s not going seem very funny by the end of it…

    So, as i mentioned to hf, this is what I was responding to:

    I don’t know if he’d be quite so gracious to an actual neighbor with an actual Book of Mormon (or an actual Koran, or an actual copy of The God Delusion).


    Now, what struck me is that someone who’s keen on The God Delusion is not likely to be in the same position as the others. Muslims and (I guess) Mormons(*) might think they’re saving you from Hell and getting you into Heaven, and therefore have the same subjective justification as Jenkins or the Purple Necklace guy.

    However, atheists don’t think they’re saving anyone from eternal damnation.

    (That’s a point I think Dawkins would appreciate. )

    I thought of just pointing that out, but then I got to thinking, maybe someone wanting to foist The God Delusion on someone could be in the same position of wanting to save someone from eternal damnation, if they believed in the Perverse Master.

    The Perverse Master is a reply to Pascal’s wager, which proposes a being (the eponymous Perverse Master) who will condemn you to an eternity of torment if you believe in supernatural beings (including itself) and grant you an eternity of bliss if you do not.

    That undoes the wager argument rather, as the scales involving infinity end up being equalized.

    You’re not supposed to believe in the Perverse Master, of course, it’s just a thought experiment, and even if you started to think there was a Perverse Master for some reason you really ought to try to turn around and stop believing in them, because by believing in them you believe you’re going to Hell.

    But what if someone did believe? They’re damned themselves, of course, but they can save everyone else. And they’d do this by acting just like the most enthusiastic atheist. And such a person would be in an equivalent position to the Mormon and the Muslim in Fred’s example.

    Up until that point, it’s just really an absurd scenario I’m painting, but I took it a step further and suggested it might be true of Dawkins himself.

    If that were true, all of the usual complaints about Dawkins (that he’s overly uncharitable about the effects of religion, that he doesn’t really understand religion, that he’s not interested in listening to religious people but just promoting what he sees as truth) are beside the point. Of course he’s being uncharitable: he’s trying to save everyone from the Perverse Master!

    So, there you go, it requires about three difficult leaps, an obscure philosophical argument, and isn’t really all that funny. If someone got it immediately, it might be worth a chuckle, i feel.

    I thought it was funny when I thought of it, at any rate :)

    (*) I’m not all that sure about Mormons, though, I don’t know much about the belief system but you can get saved after death, can’t you?

  • vega

    Ooh. Oooooh! Further discussion!! This pleases me intensely!!!

    I should not engage right at this second, as I have just taken an ambien and will shortly be burbling about pink elephants, but I would like to respond to this when I am once again fully conscious.

    Arcaseconds, I really am sorry if it felt like I bullied you into this reply. I shouldn’t have jumped on you downthread the way I did.

    That said, I do want to engage with what you’ve said here. Not funny? Irrelevant! You have given to me Teh Philosophies and I wish to hop about and frolic in them like a lovely field full of daisy-chains that I can rip apart and put back together in different ways and have much talky intellectual funs! Uh. Metaphorically speaking, that is.

    There goes the ambien, sorry.

    Just to make sure you know- you’re under no obligation to continue engaging with me or anyone else about this. In fact, if you don’t want me to reply at all, let me know and I won’t. I kind of wrestled this explanation out of you, and really do feel pretty bad about that.

  • arcseconds

    Oh, i don’t really mind, i’ve a thick skin :-)

    I was a little irked at getting an earful, but apology very much accepted.

    I don’t in principle regard myself as above criticism but
    in practice I am even given a rather negative interpretation of my actions, at worst I was a bit rude, but well within normal boundaries of actions here that don’t inspire finger-wagging.

    And as you can see, it was a bit of an effort to explain.

    But let’s say no more about it. (I’m just glad I didn’t bring out the sarcasm… I was tempted, you know…)

    Did you have anything you wanted to ask?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Oh, it’s the “anthropomorphic deity to whom we refuse to pay tribute or even acknowledge” that created Secular Heaven

  • hf

    It’s like a joke, only incoherent, aimed at a community punching-bag, and not actually funny!

    I don’t know about Penn Jillette, but Dawkins almost certainly knows you don’t believe in that God. He just finds yours vanishingly unlikely as well.

  • Makabit

    And assumes, just like the earnest young lady at the bus stop, that people are interested in what he believes, and will find his beliefs relevant to their daily lives.

    I’ve nothing much against Dawkins, but he reminds me a lot of the evangelists he’s pitted against.

  • hf

    What are you trying to say? People are indeed interested in what Dawkins believes, as you can see from his book sales. Just as clearly, Dawkins does not accost people at a bus stop.

    He would prefer that believers lost their faith, perhaps. But I think he would settle for ensuring that people raised with no religion did not convert to one. Because if other trends continue, that would create a majority of atheists (in America, possibly worldwide as well) within a few generations.

  • Lliira

    I doubt Jerry Jenkins would accost people at a bus stop either.

    Dawkins is a misogynist turd.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    “he (Dawkins) would settle for ensuring that people raised with no religion did not convert to one” – hf

    Perhaps true – but if true, not good. Try substituting “Jenkins would settle for ensuring that people raised in his type of Christianity did not leave that branch of the religion” or “Imam so-and-so would settle for ensuring that people raised Moslem did not convert to any other faith (or none)”. To ensure that something does or does not happen demands coercion, so any of the three statements would severely conflict with freedom of religion as understood in the U.S.

  • Lliira

    Yep. Dawkins treats his atheism like a religion, with himself as one of its great prophets. This is offensive to me as an atheist.

  • arcseconds

    … and, you know, with respect for people’s autonomy, and common civility…

  • hf

    Your straw-man depresses and repulses me.

  • arcseconds

    how do you ensure something like that, then?

    or did you not really mean ‘ensure’?

  • Lliira

    She’s not using a straw-man. She’s arguing with what you actually said. Throwing out accusations of logical fallacies where there are none, rather than trying to have a conversation with what people have actually said, is not making you look better.

  • hf

    So I talk about statistical trends – without saying “all,” if you want to be pedantic about it – and you think I’m talking about uniformity. I talk about someone who writes books, so you think I’m talking about coercion. I talk about someone famous – infamous, even – for criticizing the indoctrination of children, so you think I’m saying he endorses it (or worse). I talk about someone who plainly believes reason leads any unbiased person to atheism, so you think I’m talking about lies or physical force. I talk about conversion to a religion, and you assume I’m talking about something public and preventable (like bowing your head and making loud noises in school, as opposed to praying). Good to know.

    I see where I could have written more clearly. Do you see where eo’s comment went for cheap points rather than trying to understand?

  • Michael Albright

    I’m going to argue that whether hf meant “ensure,” Dawkins, judging by his writing, wouldn’t agree with it. In his stead, to bring hf’s comment into line with what Dawkins has said on his own behalf: “I think he would be satisfied if he successfully persuaded parents not to indoctrinate their children, instead providing them with relevant information and allowing them to decide when they’re old enough.”
    Essentially, if every religion had a confirmation process, without all that emotional pressure, that would be Dawkins’s ideal.

  • arcseconds

    but Dawkins almost certainly knows you don’t believe in that God. He just finds yours vanishingly unlikely as well.

    I have no idea what you’re on about. I didn’t say anything about Dawkins thinking I believe in any God, even for the sake of a joke.

    So, either you’re as incoherent as I am, or you haven’t understood my joke-like utterance.

    Which means you’re not really in a position to critique it.

    Of course, the fact you didn’t understand it (I’ll admit that it is a bit obscure, but I hoped this crowd would be up to it!) means i’ve misjudged my audience, so clearly I shouldn’t give up my day job just yet!

  • hf

    No, I get it. Even Penn Jillette wasn’t talking about Pascal’s Wager, but about a certainty of Hell — “beyond the shadow of a doubt”. (If you want something closer to Pascal, look at my other response. But even that assumes the existence of something like a Christian Heaven, per the parent comment at the link.) Getting from there to Dawkins was pure other-bashing on your part.

  • arcseconds

    I’m sorry, but clearly you don’t get it, because you don’t even have any idea of what I’m referring to. You think I’m going from Jillette to Dawkins on my own.

    What my ‘joke’ was referring to rather was this:

    I don’t know if he’d be quite so gracious to an actual neighbor with an actual Book of Mormon (or an actual Koran, or an actual copy of The God Delusion).

    There’s no great leap from a book to its author, i feel.

    this is starting to get embarrassing, hf. you’re edging me closer and closer to explaining my own joke, while demonstrating utter conviction at my guilt, built on a complete lack of comprehension.

    now, because i’m a nice guy, if you ask nicely, I’ll explain the ‘joke’ to you, although that requires me to admit my delivery has completely failed, and you to admit you don’t understand it.

    or, we can both leave this conversation with what remains of our dignities intact, simply by you not taking the matter any further.

    but i warn you, if you persist with your current attitude, i’m going to be forced to use sarcasm

  • vega

    Ah, there we go. I appear to have missed part of the original essay. Thank you for clarifying. That only took wading through four or five posts full of oddly aimless passive-aggressive swipes, butthurt sniffling about how none of us got your joke, a number repeated assertions that this failure was as much the result of the stupidity of the audience as it was the author’s failure to communicate effectively, and my own continued inability to ascertain your position on any of the topics of conversation beyond “You all stupid.”

    So tell me, sir and/or madam- what is your opinion on the topic of Richard Dawkins? And were you originally even interested in getting any response to your original post that did not consist primarily of “Ell-oh-ell das funny?”

  • arcseconds

    My goodness, a lecture on manners!

    Do you not see having to explain a joke or having to ask for an explanation as embarrassing? I mean, to start with, it shows the joke has failed, and so immediately puts the joke-teller in a difficult situation. No-one gets the uproarious laughter they were hoping for after several minutes of explanation: at best they get an ‘oh, i see, that’s quite clever actually’, but more often it’s a snort or an eye-roll.

    In addition, the joke is seldom worth it, as this one is not.

    So, there’s no need to interpret my statements as “you are all stupid”.

    Also, you did notice that hf is being quite uncharitable and not-nice to me, and hasn’t actually asked any questions, right? Is it really reasonable to expect my interaction with such a person to answer your own personal questions?

    Finally, I don’t want to rub it in too much, but really, while my joke has a lot that was obscure about it, I wasn’t expecting to have to explain that when I mentioned The God Delusion that referred to Fred’s mention of The God Delusion.

    I mean, yes, it’s possible for people to miss things, and it doesn’t mean you’re stupid to have missed it, but I don’t think this really deserves the ‘it only took’ lecture.

    I explained it as soon as it became evident it needed explaining!

    Right, I’m off to explain my joke to Enopoletus Harding, who seems to be the only person who is both capable of asking nicely and interested enough to ask…

  • vega

    (in case of tl;dr- arc, I apologize for snapping at you, HF was rude too, and thanks for saying EH asked nicely.)

    Yes, I did notice that HF was being unfair to you and rather obnoxious. Part of my frustration with the conversation was that you guys were talking around each other to the point that I couldn’t quite tell where _either_ of you were coming from, and it was unfair of me to target you specifically as being rude. The fact is, I found the entire conversation somewhat infuriating to wade through, and HF was at least 50% responsible for that. It was unfair of me to single you out specifically, and unfair of me to respond to you with such charged & insulting terms. For that, I apologize.

    The reason I responded specifically to you, instead of HF, was the sequence of events that went thus:

    You left a vaguely worded, though somewhat intriguing, post on the top of the comments thread.

    Enopoletus Harding responded to your post, politely asking you to elaborate.

    HF responded to your post, and was rude and confrontational.

    You responded to Enopoletus Harding by refusing his request, then quoting HF’s rudeness back to him, even though given the timing E. H. could not have even read that post, much less had anything to do with its content, when he responded to you.

    My choice to respond at all was strongly influenced by the fact that I find “GOSH, it was just a JOKE, why should I EXPLAIN, not MY fault you just don’t GET it, GEEZE,” to be one of the most fucking obnoxious rhetorical formulations in the known universe. But then, I am somewhat freakish in that I actually don’t mind either explaining jokes or hearing them explained, as I often appreciate them MORE when I understand them.

    The thing is, I actually wanted to know what you were thinking. You brought these two interesting concepts into proximity, but there wasn’t enough context for me to follow your link, and I was honestly interested to know what you were thinking!

    So I followed your conversation with HF.

    This may have been a mistake, because where you were spending a lot of that conversation avoiding telling us what you were thinking, HF appeared not only to not know your position, but also seemed to not realize s/he didn’t know it, and quite possibly to not even care what it was. Their part of the conversation contributed at least as much to making the reading a chore to me as yours did, and I am certain it must have been even more infuriating to you as a participant. I shouldn’t have snapped, and I am sorry.

    Thank you for bringing up the quote, I did miss it in the essay the first time around, which is why I brought it up in my first response to you. However, Fred’s mention of it here was kind of incidental to the rest of it, and I’m still not certain where you made the connection. This might change shortly, as I have yet to read your explanation to Enopoletus and intend to do so presently.

    Your acknowledgement that he asked politely actually went most of the way toward repairing my irritation- which, again, was my problem, not yours, and you’re certainly under no obligation to mollify me. You didn’t even actually have to post the explanation if you didn’t want to, and I apologize if I made it sound like I was demanding that you do/threatening a riot if you didn’t. I want to emphasize now, because I think it might have come across as snide in my first post- there really is absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting to explain your position. There is nothing wrong with wanting to disengage with a conversation. It’s not a loss to say something like, “I’m sorry, I thought that made more sense but I don’t feel like explaining right now.” Or if it’s someone responding like HF, maybe a variation along the themes of, “Hey, that was pretty incredibly rude & I don’t think you understand my position, but I don’t want to engage with you right now,” & depending on how rude they were maybe follow it up with a little “hey f@^# you too jerk.”

    Just… don’t put it on someone else for not understanding, when it’s you that won’t explain yourself.

    Thanks for your time.

  • arcseconds

    Oh, and no, I wasn’t actually expecting any responses at all, necessarily, although an ‘LOL’ would have been nice.

    And surely that’s fine.

    It’s OK to just make a joke, you know.

    It’s also OK to show your appreciation for it, and I don’t see any need to mock people who show such appreciation (or for that matter people who appreciate such appreciation).

  • vega

    It is OK to make a joke. It’s also OK to appreciate a joke, and to enjoy others’ appreciation for a joke you’ve made. It’s admirable that you not see any need to mock someone for enjoying a joke.

    However, you did seem to feel the need to mock other people for not getting your joke earlier, and that is what I was objecting to. To be fair to you, it seems you felt you were being ganged up on at the time, and that feeling sucks.

    As for not expecting any response at all… Are you new here? I think you must be. If not, you’d already know that we treat the comments threads under Fred’s articles as a forum for active and extensive discussion. You might see the occasional “LOL” here and there, but anyone who posts here can expect to have their comments jumped on, dragged around, picked over, picked to pieces, and those pieces picked to pieces again and then possibly re-purposed for use in other arguments.

    I hope you didn’t take that part personally; outside anyone being genuinely rude, it’s not because of you per se, it’s because this is what we find fun.

  • hf

    If you really want to engage with a related argument, see here.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    But if he didn’t tell me, I’d be a little offended.

    Actually, I would be a little offended at being harangued about needing to wear a purple necklace or my nonexistent soul will be transported to a nonexistent hell.

  • Lori

    In fairness, there’s a lot of territory between “doesn’t tell me” and “harangues me”.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    True. However, what someone doesn’t tell me about and I’m not aware of, I can’t be offended by, so in that light, Jenkins’s statement is actually something of a non sequitur.

  • Lori

    You could be aware of the neighbor’s beliefs without him having told you about them. For example, one of your other neighbors could mention it. “Yeah, Bob’s a nice guy. He always returns tools in better shape than he borrowed them and the annual block party just wouldn’t be the same without his One Pot Delight. That purple necklace thing is a little weird, but what are ya gonna do? It takes all kinds.”

  • Makabit

    A friend of mine is fond of commenting, “It doesn’t TAKE all kinds. We just HAVE all kinds.”

  • Lori

    I tend to say that it doesn’t take all kinds, we just have kinds we don’t need, but have no ethical way to get rid of.

  • Thomas Stone

    It seems comparable to a situation with a gay friend of mine who, in a friendly and non-threatening way, hits on pretty much everyone he knows. I’m straight, and he knows it, but if he never hit on me- I’d be a little hurt.

    Obviously, though, it would be an entirely different matter if he started harassing me.

  • Lori

    What am I? Chopped liver?

  • Michael Albright

    Yes. Delectable, savory, chopped liver, browned with onions and mushrooms in a rosemary-sage cream sauce served with a glass of fine merlot.

  • Persia

    Yeah, that’s my thought. Especially in a world where thousands upon thousands of people are wearing purple necklaces and everyone knows why.

  • Ben English

    Wait, you’re saying you don’t have a soul?

  • otrame

    Yeah that’s what he was saying. Most atheists don’t believe in anything supernatural, including such things as souls.

    Never saw any reason to think I have a soul either. I’ve been getting along fine without.

  • Brian Westley

    Well, try rowing a boat without one…

  • Lliira

    My Google-fu is weak and came up with lots of restaurants named “Soul Boat”, so I am at a loss. A boat?

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    It’s a Simpsons joke. Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for $5 and then starts dreaming about what it’s like to be soulless. In it, all the kids have a soul to row boats with (and Milhouse has his and Bart’s souls, so he doesn’t have to do any rowing himself), but Bart has to row all alone.

  • Lliira

    Oh I see. I remember that episode vaguely, but it’s been a very long time since I watched The Simpsons.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Great Episode.
    Starts out with everyone filing into Springfield Community Church and Bart & Milhous passing out the hymnals at the door. (That should have been the first clue.)
    Sure enough, the hymnals were doctored. “For our first hymn, turn to ‘In the Garden of Eden’ by I.Ron Butterfly.”
    This being the Simpsons, they don’t realize they’ve been had until about three verses in, at which point the Reverend cuts the service short, takes Bart and the other kids into his office, and preaches Hellfire-and-Damnation to them until Milhous cracks and fingers Bart.
    It’s while polishing the pipe organ as punishment that Bart & Milhous make their little bet. After which, weird things start to happen to Bart. His breath doesn’t fog the freezer windows at the Quik-E-Mart. The automatic doors don’t work for him. The family dog reacts to him like a stranger. THEN the dream you cited above happens…

  • Ben English

    I don’t think most people think of souls in that way tho? It’s not some measurble phenomenon or scienticially quantifible thing inside you, it’s a metaphor for all the things that make you a moral human being. Hence we say things like “[insert evil CEO here] sold his soul for his fortune.”

  • SkyknightXi

    Well, I’m pretty sure the soul exists. Mostly because I have yet to find any meaningful distinction between the concepts of “soul” and “mind”.

  • dpolicar

    There’s a popular concept in my culture, typically referred to as “soul”, which has the posited property of continuing to function normally despite the brain’s destruction.
    There’s a popular concept in my culture, typically referred to as “mind,” which has the posited property of ceasing to function when the brain is destroyed.

    I’d call that a meaningful distinction between the concepts of “soul” and “mind.”

  • hf

    I have yet to find any meaningful distinction between the concepts of “soul” and “mind”.

    If the clearest lay-interpretation of modern physics holds, then one of the two constantly splits into copies of itself in alternate timelines. Each of them is a continuation of the original. None can unambiguously claim to be the source of the others.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Readers already knew that “Buck knew no Hebrew.”

    Oh, welladay then. I guess he’s not that much of an international traveller if he hasn’t even bothered to buy freakin’ Berlitz phrasebooks. Butthead.

    “It’s a satellite phone, the latest technology. No one can tap into it.
    Just don’t put my name next to that number, and don’t give that number
    to anyone else.”

    I think Buck forgot you need to encrypt the connection. Otherwise anyone who knows the radio frequency (even if the phone is highly directional, the waves still spread out somewhat) can tap it.

    Nitpicky, but if he’s gonna wow us over his PHONE PORN by god at least get it right.

    If you only knew, Buck thought.

    Gee, Buck, you mean like, telling Chaim you have ironclad proof that Nicolae Carpathia murdered two very prominent, well-connected, powerful men and then covered it up? All so he could get their money and clear away two potential obstacles to his path to world domination?


    He wants us to see this purple-necklace faith as sincere, but goofy, absurd and arbitrary.

    Somehow I doubt Jenkins would be that full of his patronizing benevolence if he found out that someone else who held a different faith than he did, saw his religion as “sincere, but goofy, absurd and arbitrary” – like gee, maybe an animist or a Hindu or … you name it.

    Jenkins is showing very well the unconscious majority-Christian bias he’s been inculcated with as a consequence of growing up in the USA.

  • GDwarf

    Nitpicky, but if he’s gonna wow us over his PHONE PORN by god at least get it right.

    A while back I read Kevin Mitnick’s (at one point the most-wanted hacker in the world, though for pretty harmless crimes*) autobiography. He first got into hacking the same way most of the early hackers did: teaching themselves how to hack phone networks to get free calls and such. So the first part of his book has a bit of technical information on how he did this stuff. It still has less “phone porn” than these books, and is, naturally, way more accurate. He explains how he tapped into private FBI lines*** (the ones being used by the task force hunting him) in fewer lines than Ellenjay devote to describing whatever new telephonic idol their heroes have just bought.

    *His version of events (which isn’t contested by his “victims”, so seems likely to be accurate) is that most of his hacking** was breaking into university/corporate networks and downloading programs that looked interesting. Not re-distributing them, just seeing what the latest in computer programming was. The companies that wanted him thrown in jail argued that the security they had to implement to stop him should be counted as part of the damages he caused them, which is all kinds of wrong. He also paints a picture of a judiciary that had no idea how computers really worked, and so were terrified by them. He spent almost all of his incarceration in solitary confinement because the prosecution claimed that if he had access to the pay phones in the non-solitary areas he could use them to launch nukes. I’m being totally serious about that, it’s in the court transcripts and everything.

    Still, his story has a happy ending: He was let out of jail early and is now probably the most successful security adviser in the computer world.

    **Most of his hacking was also what we’d now call “social engineering”: He’d call up people and ask them what their password was, and be given it. Now, there was more to it than that (he used his knowledge of phone networks to make it look like he was dialing from an inside line, and he’d call other people at the company to find out what sort of information would be asked for and such) but not much more.

    ***He called up the phone company, pretended to be a technician, and got another technician to patch him in. I’m being dead serious. That was all it took.

  • FearlessSon

    Most of his hacking was also what we’d now call “social engineering”

    Actually, most hacking in general is social engineering. Computer encryption and/or protection is relatively robust, but the weak link in any security system is always the users, and when the users can be manipulated by confidence games and an air of authority, well… notice that most “automated” methods of hacking have less to do with secretly infiltrating a system using purely technical methods and more to do with tricking users into authorizing permissions or entering passwords when they really should not.

  • Brian Westley

    I work at a large, well-known computer peripheral company, and just last week they tried a phishing test to employee email. I saw the phishing attempt (an email about a package that wasn’t delivered with a link to click, which used a suspicious URL) and reported it without clicking on it, but a surprising number of the computer programmers did click.

  • BringTheNoise

    …but the weak link in any security system is always the users

    Not at my (soon to be former) employer, where the weak likn is management policy that insists that usernames and passwords are typed up and left next to the PC they relate to.

    No, really. I have no idea why they insist on passwords in the first place, except to slow down my work rate by having to type it in every time I leave the computer for 5 minutes or more.

  • Jamoche

    Obviously it’s to prevent people from hacking in from outside, because isn’t that how it always happens in the movies? Nobody ever just walks in and sits down someplace they shouldn’t be!

    At one of our quarterly password resets, mine didn’t take, so I had to call and have it reset *again*. The security questions I was asked were:
    “What’s your phone #?”
    Me: “Umm..” *leans over and looks at phone* I don’t need to know it; people who need it look it up on the internal website
    “And your office #?”
    Me: “Er, officemate, mind sticking your head outside the door and reading the sign for me?” We know where our office is, we don’t notice the sign
    “OK, good”.
    Me: “You do realize you’ve just asked me questions that anyone sitting at my desk could answer?”
    And the topper: “That’s OK, we trust that you’re Lee”.
    Er, no. Because that’s only *half* my Southern double first name, and using half my name means you’ve failed *my* security test.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Not at my (soon to be former) employer, where the weak likn is management policy that insists that usernames and passwords are typed up and left next to the PC they relate to.

    Is Scott Adams’ website still collecting “true pointy-haired boss” anecdotes for possible inclusion in future Dilberts?

  • banancat

    Oh, welladay then. I guess he’s not that much of an international
    traveller if he hasn’t even bothered to buy freakin’ Berlitz
    phrasebooks. Butthead.

    Obviously the authors expect any place worth visiting to cater to them by having all the important stuff in American English. Why would a super awesome American manly man bother to learn those phrases when clearly all the lesser people of Israel should care for nothing but making his visit more convenient. So basically, the worse stereotype of an obnoxious privileged American tourist, but translated into an Apocalyptic world and with a career that makes him more than just a standard tourist. But it’s everyone else’s job to learn English because America!

  • Invisible Neutrino

    That’s what makes Buck being an actual globe-trotting reporter so incongruous. He’s literate and verbal in English only, yet he’s gone to how many foreign countries in the course of his career? Any reporter with even a smidgen of cultural sensitivity would’ve bought the frakkin’ Berlitz phrasebooks as soon as they were assigned to, say, Germany, or Israel, or Russia or whatever.

  • Daniel

    Exactly. “a smidgen of cultural sensitivity” is dangerously close to tolerance. This is a man whose journalistic style is to sit sullenly refusing to repeat a question when the Pope apparent asks him to- in case it feeds his ego. This is a man who fiddles with phones as the world ends. This is a man untroubled by millions of mourners who’ve lost their children, and who will not save a woman from the embodiment of evil because he’d prefer to avoid the hassle. Why would he want to learn another language? English was good enough for Jesus- just look at the King James Bible.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    That’s what makes Buck being an actual globe-trotting reporter so incongruous. He’s literate and verbal in English only…

    A Gary Stu Author Self-Insert DOESN’T know something?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Ah, but you see, in LaHaye-world, English is the chosen language!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I thought it was Christianese.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Ignorance Is Strength.

  • Lorehead

    When we met Buck, he was reporting from Israel on the Russian-Iranian-Ethiopian attack, and had been there, as I recall, for some other reason when the surprise attack failed. He’s been back several times to report on other stories. I guess he did this without learning a word of Hebrew, not even Biblical Hebrew after learning that Biblical prophecy was the key to both temporal and eternal life. In fairness, you can get very far in Israel with English, although as a reporter you’d really be limiting yourself to talking with people who speak English and might not be representative of–hey, wait a minute, wasn’t there supposed to be one world language by now? Does this mean Israel isn’t included in that, either?

  • Daniel

    Complaining that they haven’t got the phone porn right is a bit like watching actual porn and complaining that the tools they’ve brought would be useless if you were trying to fix that model of fridge.

    It does seem odd though that this “loveable” and “goofy” religious belief also involves unimaginable suffering for the majority of the human race. It’s one thing to have an adorable eccentricity regarding a purple necklace that harms no one, but quite another when once people have got the necklace you start with the add on charms- “Oh, the necklace is necessary, sure, but after that- you can’t be gay.” “Pardon?” “Yeah, the necklace, you have to have that, definitely, yeah. But, once you’ve got that- you can’t be gay.” “I’m not gay but that seems a little bit weird…” “Are you married?” “Yeah…” “your wife shouldn’t work.” “…Sorry?” “And did you have sex before you were married?” “Erm..” “Because the purple necklace really, really hates that.” “I don’t think that’s any of your business” “It very much is my business” he says, holding purple necklace twixt thumb and index finger “And also, the purple necklace will totally hate it if you come up with any kind of progressive tax policy.” “Right.” “But otherwise IT’S JUST A CUTESY HARMLESS PURPLE NECKLACE!”

  • kcrothers

    “Complaining that they haven’t got the phone porn right is a bit like
    watching actual porn and complaining that the tools they’ve brought
    would be useless if you were trying to fix that model of fridge.”

    Which gives me the first ever reason to post this NSFW link:

  • FearlessSon
    “It’s a satellite phone, the latest technology. No one can tap into it. Just don’t put my name next to that number, and don’t give that number to anyone else.”

    I think Buck forgot you need to encrypt the connection. Otherwise anyone who knows the radio frequency (even if the phone is highly directional, the waves still spread out somewhat) can tap it.

    You know, what bugs me about the satellite phone thing is that it may be harder tap, but it is by no means impossible. Such a phone requires, you know, a satellite, hence the name. That satellite then transmits somewhere, which may or may not be secure. Whomever controls the satellite can get access to anything transmitted over it and tap into it like they would a land line. Somebody owns that satellite, paid to have it launched, so someone has control over it, either a private communications firm (which I believe Nicky has taken control of as part of his media monopoly) or is owned by a government (which Nicky also controls.) If he was really paying attention, he could get everything said over that phone. Heck, given how closely placed people like Buck are, I would be surprised if he did not have agents monitoring them already for loyalty enforcement reasons.

    The advantage a satellite phone gives is that you can use it in a wider range of places than a cell phone, which is limited by the network of towers. It is not because it is necessarily secure. The only way of making it secure are if you can guarantee that no outside power has access to the satellite, such as a clandestine government one to be used by spies for the state, for example. But I sincerely doubt that the Tribbles are running their own space launch program. That kind of thing would be hard to conceal.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Yeah, but Buck doesn’t know any of these things. They make his head hurt. He just knows that new technology is bright and shiny and whirrs and lights up when you turn it on and, as an important Godly manly-man, he HAS to have it. Because God wants him to have it. You know, like his giant-ass range-rover that takes a couple hundred just to top off the tank. He can show it off to other people and use it to tell them how important he is and how important they’re NOT. It’s how he gauges his worth as both a man and as a human being.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The same giant-ass Range Rover he bought in a product placement insertion a couple minutes after Chicago just took at least one nuke hit and he (and the dealer he immediately bought it from) were somewhere outside the major damage zone but still close enough to see the mushroom?

  • arcseconds

    If your encryption is good enough, and the keys are secure, you can be assured of security even in this situation.

    Which is why Mr. Neutrino is right to say the key (if you’ll pardon the pun) here is encryption.

    Although, those are big ‘if’s.

    Even if the encryption is pretty good, it might not be good enough, as Nicolae could throw the entire computing power of the world (and all the cryptanalysts) at cracking the code, if it was important enough for him.

    Moreover, the encryption business suffers from the same kind of problems that you point out with the satellite. If the good enough encryption at both ends is handled by trusted technology, then a compromised satillite is fine (although they could maybe work out who was phoning whom), because they can’t do anything with the encrypted signal.

    But who says the encryption technology hasn’t been compromised?

    (This phone is off-the-shelf, isn’t it? Even if it’s super-spiffy hard-to-get off the shelf).

    That would just require the Tibbles to be cryptanalysts and firmware programmers, rather than running their own space launch programme, but apart from Buck’s phone-phreaking in the first book, we don’t have much evidence of competence in this area, either.

    (although, you could be in a position to put a fair amount of trust the technology, if for example it has been produced pre-Nicolae, and had been publically audited as being secure, or something…)

    He’d probably be better off not using the satellite phone, actually, as he can’t be sure of the security even if it is encrypted, and it might be pretty obvious if Nicolae’s intelligence agency already has access to the satellite or monitor unusual RF transmissions from around where Nicolae is (or his lieutenants).

  • aunursa

    This must seem to Buck as though it is likely his very last chance to convince Chaim to put on the purple necklace before it’s too late.

    If Buck knows that Chaim is aware of what Buck believes, including the danger he believes that Chaim is facing, how many times must Buck continue to witness to him?

  • Xclamation

    I don’t think it’s a matter of how many times Buck has witnessed to
    Chaim (or anyone else). It’s more a matter of making the best possible
    case he can. To do so may require multiple attempts at witnessing as new
    facts and evidence come to light. For instance, let’s say that Buck,
    early on in his spiritual walk with the Lord, makes a fumbling attempt
    at spreading the Good News with his friend, but it doesn’t convince
    Chaim to convert. Okay, well, Buck tried. It didn’t work, but whatever,
    he’s done his due diligence.

    Let’s then further stipulate that at
    a later date, Buck came across nearly 6000 pages (!) worth of carefully
    researched “Biblical prophecy scholarship” written by his deceased
    pastor. A reasonable person* would take that as an opportunity to again
    try and warn their friend(s) away from hell.

    *So, I guess maybe this doesn’t apply to Buck anyway.

  • banancat

    To use Gillette’s metaphor, if you thought a bus was about to kill your friends, how many times would try to convince them to get out of the way? If your friend denies the bus but knows you believe it, would you just accept that and stop trying to convince them? “Oh, I warned him once about the bus. If he dies now, it’s his own fault and not my concern anymore.”

  • WingedBeast

    Perhpas not at “once”, but there does seem to be a certain point where, unless you have new information that actually shows the bus to be there, you just don’t have anything new to say.

  • Lorehead

    Maybe a better example is if you have a drug-abusing friend whom you truly hope will quit before it kills her. At the same time, only she can choose to go clean, you want to respect her autonomy, and certain aproaches will be counterproductive. There’s no one script I could tell you to follow without knowing your friend and what kind of relationship you have.

    Not being a Christian, much less the type of Christian who’s freaking out over Pope Francis’ radical idea that God loves everybody, I of course don’t think that’s what the situation really is, but if we are to take L & J’s stated beliefs seriously as facts, the analogy would roughly hold. I think the point is that RTCs, including Buck and Rayford, don’t generally act the way they should if that really were the case.

  • SisterCoyote

    We interrupt your comment thread to bring you this message:

    Oh my God isn’t Pope Francis the best pope in the last fifty years, his theology makes me so happy, all of the win

    –we now return to your regularly scheduled L&J Snarkfest.

  • Lorehead

    I’m surprised a conversation on this topic went this long without somebody else mentioning him.

    I would happily go back much further than fifty years. I can’t lecture the Pope about Catholic theology, but he really does seem to be trying to live his life by the example of Jesus of Nazareth, which is something I respect.

    And I think it’s revealing to compare the reaction to a very different message from L&J’s: that God really is just and merciful and deserves our uncoerced love. I’m glad I now live, for the first time in my life, in a world where the Pope says that people on the other side of the culture war can be good people, and that we can work together to make the world a better place.

  • Dash1

    the example of Jesus of Nazareth

    Except for the part where Jesus of Nazareth seems to have treated women as actual functioning human beings, as opposed to merely the “walking wombed-ed.”

  • Lorehead

    He’s not taking a vow of poverty or giving sermons in Aramaic. And, not to threadjack, I really am not sure how he’d feel about most contemporary political debates. He just talked about different things.

  • Dash1

    Actually, the status of women was a debate that goes well back before the time of Jesus of Nazareth. And his disciples’ attitude towards Mary of Bethany indicates that it was active among his followers.

  • Lorehead

    I have no objection to your saying that he treated women as people, which they are. If he was divine and infallible, then of course he was also totally right about every political issue, which means he must have agreed with me. Pardon, I meant, you.

    If he wasn’t, then there’s really no evidence that he had any opinion about most of today’s debates at all or had even thought about the hypothetical possibility of a situation exactly like this, nor any way to determine what that opinion might have been if he did, besides which that would be a matter of historical rather than moral interest.

    That’s no knock on him. Wise rabbis of the past typically didn’t talk much about 21st-century American politics.

  • Dash1

    I think we may be talking about somewhat different things, and I’ll try to clarify. (Also, I’ve never known this commentariat to object to threadjacking–or even to think of it as such: poking around such questions as come up seems to be more the way it’s thought of.)

    Here’s my point: whoever or whatever Jesus was, the accounts given of him in the gospels, which are pretty much what we’ve got to go on, if we’re to go on anything, indicate that within the context of his time he had a very–I hesitate to use the word “liberal” because it will immediately conjure up 21st century associations, but I don’t see an alternative term, so…–“liberal” view of women. I.e., he didn’t remand them to only certain spheres of interest and activity.

    His current Holiness, OTOH, takes a very conservative view of women within the context of his time.

    (Also, can’t refrain from adding that debates about the status of women aren’t just “21st century American
    politics.” Off by a couple-three millennia and many cultures.)

  • Lorehead

    I don’t think you can meaningfully classify everyone who’s ever lived on a one-dimensional axis with the label “liberalism” at one end. I also don’t think you’re fairly representing what Pope Francis thinks; if you asked him whether he agreed with the beliefs you claim he holds, he would say no.

    Or suppose you turned on your time machine, set it to the year 50, and had it retrieve one of Jesus’ male followers. Would he still, now that he’s in the present, count as trying to live his life by Jesus’ example? In his time, his belief that both men and women are filled with the holy spirit and called to prophesy was incredibly radical, but today–okay, bad example.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Eh, not sure I would call it “all of the win.” Though I did enjoy his goofily-“generous” statement that “even atheists” are capable of being saved.

    Thanks, Frank! We’re already doing good. (Though our definitions of good might not necessarily align.)

  • Elizabeth Coleman

    I can totally see the condescension in his words, but I’m thinking his primary audience was other Catholics, many of whom have atheist loved ones they may be terrified will go to hell. This is Francis reaching out to them to say “don’t worry!”

    His secondary intention is either telling Non-Catholics that we’re cool, or taking a big fat dump over on the sola fide side of the lawn.

  • Lliira

    There seems to now be a pope who’s merely 50 or so years behind the times, rather than 500. It’s sad that people are so used to having horrific popes that they’re thrilled with this, but meh. Even were the pope a Catholic version of Carl Sagan (however that would work), we’d still have the same problem: he’s got too much secular power. Any is too much, but the amount he has is way way WAY too much.

    Also, having a “good” pope just means putting off the necessary revolution in the Catholic Church a little while longer. The previous pope made people so uncomfortable, it looked like there were going to be real changes. Now? Doubt it.

  • FearlessSon

    Even were the pope a Catholic version of Carl Sagan (however that would work)

    A pope Carl Sagan would probably toke up a bit before writing a sermon, then hold mass in a planetarium. And it would be awesome.

  • Redwood Rhiadra

    Please note that the Vatican has clarified his statement – we atheists are *still* going to hell. The Pope’s official doctrine is that we aren’t so far gone we can’t convert. Which isn’t even a slight change as far as I know.

  • Lliira

    I don’t really care that the Vatican believes I’m going to hell. They can attempt to save my afterlife all they want, so long as they keep themselves out of politics in this world.

  • Redwood Rhiadra

    The Church is, I think, incapable of keeping itself out of politics.

    And, really, what I was responding to in this thread was a bunch of people saying “Look how much better Francis is than the other Popes”, when what he really said is no change at all from his predecessors.

  • Lorehead

    I don’t think I agree with that reading of what he said. I didn’t hear him (or the Vatican) as claiming to know exactly how God runs the afterlife, but just saying that an atheist can be a good person is a big change from the culture-of-death, all-those-priests-were-led-astray-by-the-sexual-revolution hogwash we’ve been getting for decades now.

  • Lorehead

    To be fair, it says that they (and I) “cannot be saved” if we are aware of their religion but choose not to join it. It doesn’t say that means we’re going to Hell, although it’s stopped believing in most of the other places we might go instead. At this point, I don’t think they’re even claiming to know.

  • Ross

    You know, I think if some atheists are going to complain that religious people say they’re going to burn in hell for all eternity for not believing, it’s kind of unfair to to get all belittling when religous people say that atheists *aren’t* going to hell.

  • Lorehead

    On the other hand, it was pretty obnoxious for the LDS to declare they were sparing all Jews who died in the Holocaust. (They’ve stopped doing this.) Think of all the ways you can insult someone by “forgiving” them.

  • Lliira

    What, we’re not allowed to be insulted by more than one thing now?

    The idea of hell is insulting to the human race.

  • Ross

    You’re allowed to be insulted by anything you like, but if you feel the need to go around setting up these “If X then I am offended also if !X I am exactly as offended,” you’re going to have to deal with the fact that you’ve disincentivized trying to avoid offense.

  • Lliira

    “I believe you can be saved from hell” is not the opposite of “I believe you are going to hell.” Both of them have exactly the same assumptions: 1) There is a hell. 2) If you don’t believe what I believe and behave the way I want you to behave, you’re going to it. 3) I know enough about both you and the mind of the god I believe in to know for a fact what will happen to you when you die. 4) I know more about you than you do.

    “I believe you can be saved” has implicit in it “you have to change who you are, and in the exact way I tell you to change.” It is offensive. Frankly, I prefer the people who think I can’t be saved, because they don’t actually try to change me against my will.

  • Invisible Neutrino


    Can we not? Please?

    *breaks out in hives at the corporatespeak invading the English language*

  • SisterCoyote

    I suppose – but he’s made a huge step in the right direction, so I’m prepared to believe he’ll go further in time, and also suspect that he knows there are limits to how much he can do without getting push-back.

  • David S.

    Buck thinks “if only you knew”, not “if only you believed”. It doesn’t sound like that Buck has ever made a solid statement of the acts of evil Carpathia has done that are known to Buck to Chaim, so as to convince him that Carpathia can’t be trusted. I can’t imagine thinking “if only you knew” at someone, unless I was actively depriving them of information; otherwise it would be “if only you believed”, or “if only you would listen”.

  • Sue White

    “Tiny friend”??

  • Turcano

    “Say hello to my tiny friend!”

  • Lliira

    Yep, that’s what I ended up fixating on too. “Tiny” suggests even smaller than hobbits to me. Is Chaim a garden gnome?

  • Kubricks_Rube

    I was picturing Mel Brooks as Yogurt in Spaceballs.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    “May the Schwartz be with you!”

  • kcrothers

    I see that your Schwartz is as big as mine…

  • FearlessSon

    “Now, let’s see how you handle it…”

  • D Johnston

    Makes sense if you think about it – Buck is a male protagonist in an L&J novel and therefore required to be really big; Chaim is a Jewish stereotype and thus likely of below average height. The size difference must be massive.

    Never underestimate the power of badly designed characters.

  • Kenneth Raymond

    Buck is a male protagonist in an L&J novel and therefore required to be really big

    You know what I end up thinking of? Harry Dresden. Dude is huge, described in the books as basketball-player tall. He fits the same kind of mold of male protagonists needing to be giants, but less stupidly.

    I mean, at least for Harry something is occasionally made of it beyond “tall = manly,” and especially since Butcher actually describes people it’s become part of Harry’s essential… Harry-ness for him to be so tall. Like, he gets to loom over people and discomfit them, except it’s never the people he actually would want to discomfit who are bothered by his height – much the same with his status as a wizard, the only ones who are intimidated are those he doesn’t want to intimidate. It’s an interesting bit of subtext of how the world relates to Harry and his appearance/status that Buck doesn’t get to have because L&J are bad writers.

  • GDwarf

    It also helps that Harry’s height is an occasional minor nuisance to him. Especially with his very tiny car. It’s also, as you say, not used to mark him as “manly”, it’s just a trait he has. I suspect it’s also at least partially to contrast him against Karrin Murphey, the 5-foot-nothing police officer who could destroy him in any non-magical fight.

  • Kenneth Raymond

    Yeah, seriously. If he and Murph ever got into a fight, I’d really hesitate before I laid money down on either side – at any point in Harry’s career, frankly. It’s not just power and skill but knowing how each other works, and I suspect she’d be much better at thinking around Harry’s gambits than he’d be with hers. (Plus, y’know, plot necessity, but still.)

  • aim2misbehave

    Now you’re making me think of Sam Winchester…

  • Elizabeth Coleman

    Particularly in the first book, I get the impression that Harry is a variety of gangly tall which, in combination with his geeky love of magical stuff, makes me instantly think of nerds like my old boyfriend (for whom Harry is a perfect Mary Sue). I kinda miss the early days with Geeky Harry, rather than Massively Overpowered Harry.

  • Tofu_Killer

    As a jewish character in an L&J novel, I would expect that 66.6% of Chaim’s body weight is in his nose.

  • Daniel

    Cameron’s a man/ and he’s bigger than Jews/ but his overheads are high/ and he looks straight through you when you ask him where the kids are…

    And he could have married Verna with the sensible shoes/
    he could have married Verna with the sensible shoes…

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Don’t forget the Manly Firm Handshake.

  • banancat

    Because Jewish stereotype, amirite?

  • ShifterCat

    Chaim is Buck’s only friend
    But not his only friend
    Chaim is his little glowing friend
    But really he’s not actually his friend
    But he is

  • Ima Pseudonym

    I’m now mentally changing Chaim’s character into David the Gnome. It can only help. Except that David would have class than to hang out with either CallMeBuck or Cam-Cam.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Murdering Tsion’s family is evil. But murdering his family in such a way that he takes the blame and disgrace for it kicks things up another notch to Antichrist Book of Job-level evil.

  • D Johnston

    I know why Buck is keeping his mouth shut. He’s mum because Jenkins still thinks he’s writing a thriller.

    That’s the cause of a lot of the problems in this thing. The L.B. novels are part of the apocalyptic/dystopian subgenre – broad scope, story-driven, heavy on world building. But Jenkins is clearly a big fan of political/spy thrillers – narrow scope, character-driven, heavy on fine details. It’s not so much that these two subgenres can’t be united (at least, I hope they can – I’ve spent the last two months trying to do it), but it’s like Jenkins never realized that that’s what he’s supposed to be doing. He’s just trying to write out a Ludlum-esque thriller without acknowledging any of the elements that separate this from Ludlum’s work.

    Think about it. The tightly-knit inner circle? The tendency by the members of that inner circle to mislead everyone they meet? The friendly-seeming characters who can’t be trusted? The big secret plan? All of these are common elements in thrillers. Problem is, this isn’t a thriller. In a thriller, the objective is to expose and/or eliminate the bad guy; but in this apocalyptic novel, we’re not allowed to do anything to the bad guy, so the “plan” goes nowhere and Buck is forced to lie to everyone for no good reason.

  • aunursa

    But the Tribbles are praying sincerely for Chaim and Hattie. And they’re causing Nicky to trip and fall flat on his face. Isn’t that enough?

  • Dogfacedboy

    Dear Lord,

    Please bless and keep me and the rest of the Tribulation Force safe from harm during these evil times.

    And please bless my tiny Jewish friend, Chaim. Open those warm little eyes in his ancient face and let him see the truth. Please help him to proclaim you as his Lord and savior in his charming Hebrew accent. And keep him out of harm’s way, and safe from dark-complected people and black-hooded thugs.

    And bless that hottie, Hattie! Please save her slutty soul and help her to see the shame of her wicked, immoral ways. But don’t let her even THINK about aborting the precious little demon baby inside her.

    Finally, Lord, please give Nicolae Carpathia a wicked paper cut when he reads the latest issue of Global Community Weekly. Heh-heh.

    Your will be done.


  • Ima Pseudonym

    So when do the Tribbles break out the heavy artillery and short-sheet Nicky White Mountains’ bed? That’ll show ’em!

  • Charity Brighton

    Ironically, Chaim Rosenzweig is the only character who actually treats this story like it’s a violent action thriller. Everyone else fantasizes about physically fighting the Antichrist but Chaim is the only character that I can recall who actually does it.

  • hidden_urchin

    It also occurs to me that, in the thriller genre, the super secret group with friendly but untrustworthy members is usually the Big Bad that the heroes must expose.

    Jenkins’ happy accident was that he pitted two thriller villians against each other so we can pretend he wanted to show how evil people generally consider themselves good. Unfortunately he forgot to include a hero.

  • Daniel

    I still really hope that at the end, from out of nowhere, some actual arse kicking heroes appear who it turns out Nicolae has been trying unsuccessfully to kill since the disappearances. That’s the point when we find out that he’s know about the tribbles all along and that he regards them as what they are- pompous buffoons- instead of the arse kicking heroes they imagine themselves to be.

    They all have to have their counterparts, of course. There’s Raymond Granola, vegetarian former bicycle-rickshaw driver and champion hackey sack player, his daughter Chloe (named after the Greek fertility goddess) recently graduated from the Sorbonne, his life partner humourously referred to as “Amanda” because before the operation she was a he. She also works in fashion, as an executive in Jean Paul Gaultier. There’s Ray’s sidekick, ace blogger Baruch Williams- grandson of a refugee from the Nazis and a lapsed Catholic who sheltered her. Williams is an atheist, though, and has incontrovertible proof that aliens did it, and Nicolae is actually one of them.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I still really hope that at the end, from out of nowhere, some actual arse kicking heroes appear who it turns out Nicolae has been trying unsuccessfully to kill since the disappearances.

    The only candidates I can think of are six colorful ponies from a magical land called Equestria. Who DID take down their world’s Antichrist figure at the beginning of First Season. (And as Antichrist figures go, Nightmare Moon is a lot classier villain than Nicky Mountain Range.)

  • Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 197 pages

  • chris the cynic

    Ok, so, I’ve been busy, sick, dehydrated, sleep deprived, off my meds, sick again, even more sleep deprived, malnourished, and so forth. The point here is that it’s been a while since I was keeping up.

    I have a question. World War III. Is that over? If yes, how did it end? (Obviously Nicolae wins, but there’s plenty of room for variation.) If no, how long before Jenkins remembers there’s a war on and how long since he forgot?

    (I do intend to go back and read what I’ve missed, by the way.)

  • P J Evans

    You haven’t missed a lot, actually.
    I hope that whatever got you goes away really soon so that you feel a whole lot better.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I think it’s been concluded for a few pages, but reading the book, you wouldn’t think it had even happened.

  • reynard61

    I get the impression that the Human-on-Human phase of WWIII has pretty much ended (though a small eruption or two is still possible), and the first vial Deity-on-Human can of whup-ass is about to be opened.

  • SkyknightXi

    Vials…bowls…Given that these are dispensing wine from the vineyard of God’s ire, why does no one in the English speaking world speak of them as “chalice judgements” or “goblet judgements”? (I have to admit that “chalice judgements” works better on the tongue.)

  • Tofu_Killer

    War? what war?

    Don’t worry, the people in the novel (and L&J apparently) lost track too.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Problem is, Global Thermonuclear War is one of the items on the End Time Prophecy Checklist (at least since Hal Lindsay and Christians for Nuclear War), so Ellanjay have to check it off. No matter what.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    There was apparently a war of some sort in the books. The authors talked vaguely about nukes flying around, but since the main characters barely noticed and no one else seemed to be affected, it’s really hard to tell. If there WAS a war, it apparently petered out somewhere off-stage, and no one in the book seems to care about it one way or another now.

  • Daniel

    Is it ever explained exactly what a non-radioactive nuke is and how they differ from ordinary bombs?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Nope. L&J just don’t understand fallout.

    Jenkins later goes and clumsily patches it up with a whole song and dance about the radiation monitors going kind of funny, so the GC never resettled the city, and lo and behold it tuns out Chcago was totally fake nuked.

    Enter the Strong Building.

  • Daniel

    I know this sounds naive even as I’m writing it but- what? Really? Fake nuked? What the bloody hell is that? What would be the point of that? I’m fake-shooting the messenger, sorry. How the hell do people actually read these things? I’m on the verge of ranting… I’ll take a deep breath.

    Seriously though, fake nukes?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Don’t try to think on it too hard. L&J screwed up in the first place by incorrectly describing the effects of the nuke in the first place (even if the suburbs WERE relatively untouched, radioactive fallout + basic precautionary measures would require people to move well away from Chicago and environs, maybe settle further north or even try to get into Canada as refugees.

    If Carpathia’s attack pattern was anything like the map in this blog entry I found, then Chicagoites suriving the initial attack should move north and a bit west.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Maybe someone else here remembers that, but I don’t really think they did. I keep picturing something like the N^2 mines from Evangelion, except that bombs and blast effects were actually depicted more-or-less realistically in Evangelion–at least compared to here. I think that they just handwaved it all away because they didn’t really care much about anything that happened away from their viewpoint characters. And due to their utter lack of imagination and their exhibited hostility toward actual *research,* they decided that, since the radiation wasn’t present, no one outside the immediate blast zone of a nuclear bomb would be affected, ergo, businesses like car dealerships would remain open just in case someone came along who wanted to buy a giant fully-loaded SUV in the middle of a Global War. At least that’s what I’ve got so far. I don’t even think they ever bothered to completely explain who the hell the Global Community is supposed to be at war WITH (except $INSURGENTS$), since they’re supposed to own all the weapons and everything and everyone that ISN’T Israel, so what they’re doing is akin to imploding a skyscraper to kill some roaches in a room on the top floor. So we’re back to “It’s happening because Murdergod said it was going to happen in His Bible.”

    Maybe someone else remembers it differently. I’ve slept since then, so my memory may not be reliable.

  • Daniel

    I have been confused about the whole war thing since it happened. The none radioactive nukes- why bother using them? It’s just another sign of how out of touch they are- nuclear war is such a retro fear. Do they know that “nuclear” isn’t a synonym for “massive”? It’s like they just think it’s a quantifier.

    But interestingly, Chicagoans have been left outside of the narrators’ points of view- beyond their observation in an area that presumably has now been sealed off. They have food, they are (or should be) in the vicinity of a radioactive isotope in a sealed area, with food, and the GIRAT can’t see them. Are they dead, or alive, or both?

  • Jamoche

    Are they dead, or alive, or both?

    According to Terry Pratchett, the third possible state for an unobserved cat in a box is Bloody Furious. Seems about right for all the Left Behind extras.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    If an event doesn’t happen within direct eyesight of Buck and Rayford, it’s in some sort of weird neither/nor indeterminate state, so I guess that the people in Chicago are neither alive or dead. So wouldn’t that seem to imply that CallMeBuck and RayRay the ONLY real people throughout the entire book series? I think Ellenjay have actually invented Schrödinger’s Apocalypse.

  • Daniel

    Maybe this is a fantastic exploration of the reality of total solipsism. Rayford and Buck don’t actually believe anyone else exists, and are living their horrible, selfish, boring lives accordingly. They’re calling themselves heroes but all that requires is saving themselves, because only they exist. Everyone they meet is, as far as either Buck or Ray is concerned, just a psychological projection, including Buck and Ray. Nuclear weapons don’t work because neither character actually know how they work. The world ending around them is a metaphor for such ludicrous self absorption, particularly as everyone else actually seems to be doing fine. Maybe these books are actually savage and brilliant critiques of the extremes of individualist consumer culture, where even a supposed absolute truth like religion is a simple matter of stating a password and being saved, and where science can be flexibly implemented according to the half baked understanding of narcissists. Perhaps the terrible writing is reflecting this. Or maybe not.

    Why is solipsism not considered pride?

  • Ima Pseudonym

    I wish I could actually believe that these books were written as brilliant satire or a, as you say, savage criticism of consumer culture, but given what we’ve seen so far, we’re giving the authors entirely too much credit if we do. I figure that the main characters, being authorial stand-ins, are incredibly dull-witted, obtuse, narcissistic and self-absorbed because the **authors** are incredibly dull-witted, obtuse, narcissistic and self-absorbed. And, by and large, so is the intended audience of these books–the entire story, all 16 books of it (or whatever it is now) is one single, continuous revenge fantasy directed against anyone and everyone everyone who isn’t an American-style hyperconservative PMD Christian.

    As for why solipsism isn’t considered “pride–”

    You know, I’m really, REALLY poorly equipped to discuss philosophy on even a basic level, so I’m not sure if you meant “in general,” or if you meant in the context of the books, or just among Ellenjay’s brand of Christian, or Christians in general. I actually thought it WAS considered some mutant variation of pride and selfishness. But in the context of the books, it seems the authors didn’t bother to think any aspect of the world they’ve created through to any kind of proper conclusion. B & R are apparently intended to be the readers’ viewpoint characters as well as author stand-ins, and they’re obviously there to observe as each and every step of their Apocalypse Checklist is followed to the letter. The way it comes off is that nothing that happens off-stage matters and might as well not *exist,* but making them seem like the reality-warping kid from the “It’s a Good Life” episode of the Twilight Zone wasn’t intentional. They’re really intended to let the reader see and vicariously experience what’s happening without being uncomfortable, perhaps helping to reassure him or her that no, pain, misery and discomfort are going to be for the OTHER people during the Tribulation, not Real True Christians. So, it comes off to other people outside the culture as solipsism, even it’s not intended to be.

    At least that’s the charitable interpretation.

    The one I actually believe, though, is that Ellenjay have a stunted sense human empathy AND have some hybrid version of Morton’s Demon living somewhere in their forebrain, preventing them from following any line of reasoning through to its ultimate conclusion so they can’t really perceive how horrifying the fictional world they’ve created actually *is.* Their monstrous narcissism is one they unfortunately share with a majority of PMD culture as a whole, and they don’t see it as a flaw anymore than they see the “Name It and Claim It” Prosperity Gospel as the warped and twisted perversion it is.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Holy Wall of Text, Batman! I have no idea if I even answered your question because I kept getting getting interrupted for the five or six hours it took me to write that, repeatedly lost my train of thought and had to try to pick it up from scratch every time. I can’t even tell if what I wrote makes any sense at all anymore.

    tl;dr version: the authors are narcissistic pusbags and assume everyone else in existence is one too. And the PMD religion encourages its followers to become one if they aren’t already.

  • Daniel

    I think that’s it. And I think that’s actually the most offensive thing about these books, leaving aside the dreadful level of the writing. These men think all their readers are selfish, monstrous sociopaths more concerned with being right than with helping other people to NOT DIE. They’ve imagined a choice between “save people’s lives” and “rub their noses in it for not listening to you when they die” and have assumed most people would go for the latter.

    Just imagine, millions of people who wouldn’t be dying and miserable if they’d just listened to me.

  • ShifterCat

    Thanks to you, I’m adding “Morton’s Demon” to my vocabulary.

  • Daniel

    If you like that, check out Wittgenstein’s beetle. it would have made a much more efficient getaway car than a range rover.

  • Daniel

    I meant within the context of the books rather than in general- paradoxically Timkins doesn’t seem aware enough of the world in real life to be solipsistic (you can’t deny something exists if you’ve never even heard of it- see all the business with “Africa” as a single country and “Siberia” being barren). I suppose the one defence against the charge that solipsism is pride is that, presumably, it’s possible to be a self loathing solipsist.

    I like the idea that the reason nothing seems to actually accord with how the real world works, from the UN to the nuclear bombs, is because the characters describing them do not know how those things work. This would also explain the huge weight of importance given to things like Air Force One, which- no offence to any US aeroplane patriots out there- has been transformed from a mode of transport to something with the same power, and more significance, than the constitution or the entire body of US law. Rayford feels this way, so it is reflected in Rayford’s world. This is the overlapping fever dream of two very, very boring men. Timkins are what Rimbaud and Verlaine would have been had their absinthe been spiked with Horlicks.

  • Jamoche

    Schrödinger’s Apocalypse – from the people who brought you Inception:

    Chicago was nuked. Or was it? Chloe Steele thinks she was there, thinks she remembers trying to outrun the blast with her boyfriend – but why does she also remember the baffled SUV dealer who didn’t seem at all concerned about the mushroom cloud on the horizon? But now that she and Buck are apart, reality seems fuzzy. Slowly she comes to realize that the reason he’s the only one aware of the great conspiracy is that it only exists around him – and his reality distortion field is spreading…

  • ShifterCat

    I would so watch that movie.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    If an event doesn’t happen within direct eyesight of Buck and Rayford, it’s in some sort of weird neither/nor indeterminate state, so I guess that the people in Chicago are neither alive or dead.

    Considering Ellenjay made the major strategic error of trying to tell a story of literally COSMIC scope ONLY from the POVs of their two Author Self-Inserts, that’s quite an undertaking.

  • P J Evans

    And they miss that the cockroaches are going to survive anyway.

  • Jamoche

    More proof that bugs really are God’s favorite species.

  • Daniel

    A quick point about the SUV as well- he gets a Range Rover, which in Britain are not symbols of rugged masculinity but of poncey yuppies who live in the city. Hence “Chelsea Tractors”- I found it quite amusing that this was used as a symbol of Buck’s machismo, being as in its country of origin- lefty, liberal, NHS loving Britain- this car would be driven by a cossetted urban douche bag pretending to be rugged. Which Buck clearly isn’t.

  • depizan

    Maybe it’s just because of the growing number of SUV driving people in the decades since the books were written, but Range Rover doesn’t exactly scream “manly!!!!” to me as an American, either. I suspect if the books had been written later, it would’ve been a Hummer instead.

  • Daniel

    But then Buck Williams would have been getting a hummer in the middle of a nuclear holocaust. There’s no way he deserves that.

  • Lliira

    Range Rovers were symbols of rich, shallow white people who lived in the suburbs when Jenkins wrote these books. He’s never exactly had his pulse on the cultural zeitgest of broader America — just of his own teeny piece of it.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Range Rovers were symbols of rich, shallow white people who lived in the suburbs when Jenkins wrote these books. He’s never exactly had his pulse on the cultural zeitgest of broader America — just of his own teeny piece of it.

    Just like Jenkins has demonstrated Area Knowledge of only Greater Chicago. Outside of that, it’s cruise ships on the Jordan River.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    “Chelsea Tractors.”

    Heeeeee…I am *totally* going to remember that and use it. :D

  • esmerelda_ogg

    He’s NOT?!??!!

  • Daniel

    No. His every action demonstrates he’s a take charge, rugged, world weary man’s man, very much like Indiana Jones but with a wider readership and a greater facility with language. Pointing that out should be like pointing out the Great Wall of China is long.

    Buck is who Buck thinks people who are not Buck want to be. Buck only roles down his sleeves for church. When Buck eats a cookie, grown women weep. Buck insists other people call him Buck. Buck knows what counts is not what you say or do, but how the narrator describes you. If that narrator is you, so much the better.

    1. a. The adult male of some animals, such as the deer, antelope, or rabbit.
    b. Antelope considered as a group: a herd of buck.
    2. a. A robust or high-spirited young man.
    b. A fop.

    Cameron Williams is not a fop. Would a fop drive a top of the range Range Rover purchased during a nuclear holocaust? Would a fop live in the best damn house in New York in the run up to the end of the world? Would a fop have the balls to make faces behind his boss’s back?
    Fops don’t even know what the great wall of China is, much less what its dimensions are.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    “Buck knows what counts is not what you say or do, but how the narrator
    describes you. If that narrator is you, so much the better.”

    Snerk. :-D :-D

  • Daniel

    I forgot to add that Buck is a thirty year old man who can boast

    “I’ve never
    had to worry about disease and all the emotional stuff that goes with
    intimate relationships.”
    He can impress a girl by saying he’s lived for thirty years without ever having had a meaningful emotional connection with another person. What a guy!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I forgot to add that Buck is a thirty year old man who can boast

    “I’ve never had to worry about disease and all the emotional stuff that goes with intimate relationships.”

    That’s because Buck is supposed to be The Romantic Lead in a Christianese Romance Subplot. He HAS to be a Pure Virgin though an Utterly Depraved Heathen, conforming completely to the Evangelical Purity Cult. Otherwise he couldn’t be a Christianese Romance Lead.
    Remember the target audience are easily-offended Church Ladies who must be reassured that “You, Dear Reader, are always right.”

  • Daniel

    Oh, I know that. It’s the same for Chloe. The difference is if you hear a twenty year old woman has not yet had a serious relationship (not necessarily sexual) you’d think “fair enough, twenty’s still quite young”. But to hear someone who is thirty saying they’ve never had an “intimate”- meaning sexual, but specifically mentioning “emotional stuff” as well- relationship is either very sad or extremely weird. It’s not something most non-sociopaths would be so happy to admit. “In thirty years I have never actually known anyone that I have made an intimate emotional connection with! Let’s get married!”

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    No. His every action demonstrates he’s a take charge, rugged, world weary man’s man, very much like Indiana Jones but with a wider readership and a greater facility with language. Pointing that out should be like pointing out the Great Wall of China is long.

    His every action demonstrates he’s an Author Self-Insert in a bad fanfic.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    this car would be driven by a cossetted urban douche bag pretending to be rugged

    The stereotype in Canada or the USA of an SUV driver who never gets dirt on it is exactly this – an urbanite or suburbanite whose idea of “rugged offroading” is hittng the gravel shoulder on a highway.

  • Daniel

    Careful. Gravel might damage the paintwork. Best be safe, just drive in the bus lane.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I found it quite amusing that this was used as a symbol of Buck’s machismo, being as in its country of origin- lefty, liberal, NHS loving Britain- this car would be driven by a cossetted urban douche bag pretending to be rugged. Which Buck clearly isn’t.

    But Buck DOES fit the archetype of “a cossetted urban douche bag pretending to be rugged.”

  • Dash1

    I can’t quite tell whether this explanation would work better as part of a speech in a play by Tom Stoppard or Samuel Beckett. Either way, you’ve nailed the exact tone for a description of one of Jerry Jenkins’ nuclear wars.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Nicky bombed some bigger US cities with non-radio active nukes that didn’t even damage the suburbs, made a speech about the death count and the drama and then life went on.

    I think the only time it was mentioned after the actual description was over was when they spoke of Bruce’s funeral.

  • Sue White

    I dare anyone who is taking a writing course to use the phrase “ancient-faced smile of greeting” in an assignment.

  • Kenneth Raymond

    Oh geez, I got hung up on that too. It’s indicative of the complete lack of editing that goes into these books. To me, it screams of some awkward first-draft turn of phrase that you just spit out unthinkingly while trying to get through a scene and forget about immediately. Only when you come back to it later do you find yourself brought up short and wonder, “What the hell does that even mean?”

    I do it all the time so I have to give anything I write at least one close pass before hitting post (or submitting for an assignment, or sharing with someone else, or whatever). Meanwhile Jenkins isn’t even self-reflective enough for at least that much on something he sells professionally.

    (Dang it, Disqus, why’d you have to go and eat my first version of this. If it pops up suddenly I’m gonna be annoyed.)

  • Charity Brighton

    Didn’t he say (well, confess) that he basically just churns out a draft and sends it off to be published without revising or editing much himself?

  • Kenneth Raymond

    To my knowledge, yes. Basically this is just me harping on that point when it comes to this one particular manifestation of his horrible writing practices. It’s something I know I do all the dang time, and so I just want to facepalm over the fact that he misses something like that and yet still gets paid so much.

  • Charity Brighton

    Well, if you wanted to be like Jenkins then maybe you should have pulled yourself by your bootstraps and signed a pact with the demon lord Mammon, trading your soul in exchange for an irresponsible, unconscionable, unholy 16-book deal with a major publishing house. But you didn’t, and he did, so there we go. No use complaining over spilled blood.


  • Kenneth Raymond

    It’s not even really envy on my part as it is a sort of… affront, I guess, at the idea that someone could be that much of a hack and still profit. I feel kind of insulted on general principles that the bar isn’t set higher than this.

    ETA: Basically I want him to apologize to writing for what he’s done to it.

  • FearlessSon

    I feel kind of insulted on general principles that the bar isn’t set higher than this.

    Sadly, the intended audience is unwilling to reach for any higher bars if those bars are set by scary people from outside their tribe who might say things that they do not expect and the uncertainty of it is all terribly upsetting.

  • Sue White

    I’m no writer and I feel the same way. If success were based on talent, Fred would be 20 times richer than L&H.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Because he’s a CELEBRITY Author.

    And nobody dares edit a CELEBRITY Author. Not if they want to keep their job and perks and be able to claim access to the CELEBRITY.

  • D Johnston

    He claims that he spends the first half of his day editing and revising what he wrote the day before (allegedly dozens of pages).

  • Charity Brighton

    Brazen lies. I’ll buy that he checks for spelling errors, but nothing beyond that.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    He should be revising that to “contemplating his navel and then examining the toilet for the next chapter’s words.”

    ’cause he might as well be literally crapping these books out for all the effort he puts into their realism. And spell checking is a piece of cake, all he has to do is hit F7 in Word.

  • Launcifer

    Ancient-faced smile of greeting, huh?

    I… I’m starting to think that Jenkins managed to write this by copy-pasting non-sequential sections from the magic supplements of a random fantasy roleplaying game into the text of a Tom Clancy novel before running it through an online translator to hide his tracks. It makes about as much sense as anything else.

  • otrame

    That…..that explains so much. It’s been incomprehensible, how truly awful (or frequently offal), the writing in these books has been, but that really makes sense.

    I feel so much better.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I dare anyone who is taking a writing course to use the phrase “ancient-faced smile of greeting” in an assignment.

    Sounds like something Ambassador Londo Mollari would say.
    Even has a similar rhythm to “What, O moon-faced assassin of joy?”

  • Tofu_Killer

    The purple necklace analogy reminds me of the well meaning teachers I had in grade school in the waning days of the Civil Rights movement. In order to convince us of how enlightened they were, on the first day they would say some variation on, “I don’t care about race, I don’t care if you are black, white, purple, orange, or green, you are welcome and tolerated in my class.”
    Which kind of begged the question of race, and reduced the seriousness of the fight for equality to a silly problem of skin color instead of addressing a culture-wide project of hate and fear.

    As Fred points out, the purple necklace analogy sounds good as a metaphor up to the point where you realize that he is not really addressing the central problems of faith and salvation with any sincerity.

    That said, I think I would be a little pissed off if my neighbor didn’t give me one of his necklaces after I lent him my hose last week.

  • auroramere

    I don’t care if you are black, white, purple, orange, or green

    Yes. Racism isn’t about skin color in the Crayola or Easter egg sense. The unspoken condition, generally unsuspected by the privileged speaker, is, “…as long as you act white.”

  • guest
  • Magic_Cracker

    So Chaim is in good hands with his capable manservant Kato …

    Could it be, Chaim is really the Green Mitzvah?

  • Daniel

    or Inspector Jewseau

  • thatotherjean

    So Jerry Jenkins admits that he would scoff and laugh and think his neighbor was crazy for believing in wearing a purple necklace as a way to avoid going to hell, but doesn’t recognize how offended he would be/is when people scoff and laugh and think he’s crazy for believing in the “Sinner’s Prayer” as a way to avoid going to hell. Not terribly self-aware, is he?

  • FearlessSon

    So Jerry Jenkins admits that he would scoff and laugh and think his neighbor was crazy for believing in wearing a purple necklace as a way to avoid going to hell, but doesn’t recognize how offended he would be/is when people scoff and laugh and think he’s crazy for believing in the “Sinner’s Prayer” as a way to avoid going to hell. Not terribly self-aware, is he?

    Altemeyer, yet again:

    High RWAs show little self-awareness when making these comparisons. Sometimes they glimpse themselves through a glass, darkly. For example they agree more than most people do with, “I like to associate with people who have the same beliefs and opinions I do.” But they have no idea how much they differ from others in that way. And most of the time they get it quite wrong, thinking they are not different from others, and even that they are different in the opposite way from how they actually are. For example they are sure they are less self-righteous than most people are–which of course is what self-righteous people would think, isn’t it? And when I give feedback lectures to classes about my studies and describe right-wing authoritarians, it turns out the high RWAs in the room almost always think I am talking about someone else.

  • Monica

    I’m asking out of curiosity, and I know this community has a reputation for having civil discussion about religion, so here goes. When Jesus gives His disciples their final instructions, He tells them to spread the gospel and “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16, KJV). If Jesus is not speaking of eternity in hell, weeping and gnashing of teeth, etc, etc, what sort of “damnation” does He refer to?

  • Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Most translations say “condemned”, which is a very broad word.

    Also, there are apparently questions about the origin of that verse. First I heard of it, though.

  • AnonymousSam

    Wow, the doublespeak in that page… “The Bible is totally trustworthy and every word is true except some of this might not be legitimate although don’t for a moment think that I’m casting doubt on the word of God just that we can’t take it as gospel except that every word is true just don’t think of it as entirely valid although every word is sanctified.”

    I’ve never seen someone backpedal in so many circles. Doesn’t he get dizzy?

  • otrame

    That is the dance of the person with some shreds of intellectual honesty trying to deal with both the facts and with what they are “supposed” to believe. Not a rare phenomenon.

  • Dash1

    Yes. And I would add that, while he seems to believe that the last verses of Mark aren’t actually legitimate and while he probably doesn’t have a problem with that, he knows that unless he keeps announcing loudly and frequently that none of this questions the authority of the Bible, his audience will be after him with pitchforks.

    Seen it before. It’s tough to maintain intellectual honesty in that context.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Reminds me of the SNL sketch about the interview with Richard Nixon: “18 hours totally uncensored – except for the parts we’ll cut out.”

  • Bethany

    Yes, I think the predominant view among Biblical scholars now is that Mark originally ended at verse 16:8 with the women saying nothing to anyone about the resurrection.

    Many modern translations have every after verse 8 in brackets for this reason.

  • Kenneth Raymond

    I’m not a particularly authoritative source, but there’s at least one view that maintains Hell and damnation as removal from the light of God’s love and grace. Hell isn’t so much fire and brimstone as it is cold isolation, a chilling sense of loss and disconnection where you’re alone with yourself and your sins, and if there is anyone else there it’s other people who are busy wallowing in their own personal damnations.

    The cynical outsider in me, though, wants to point out that Christianity started as a weird little messianic cult in the Roman Empire, and wonders how common that sentiment may have been among other such cults at the time. Kind of mystery cult boilerplate to entice people into signing up, like modern conspiracy theorists and pseudoscientists peddling their nonsense with the same standard litany about how they know the big secrets that THEY Don’t Want You To Know (whoever THEY may be). Basically the writer trying to get people to do the initiation ritual by appealing to the idea that they’ll be special and in the elect for being in on the “big secret.” (Arguable whether Christianity was itself a mystery cult, but it was definitely influenced by them.)

  • FearlessSon

    Kind of mystery cult boilerplate to entice people into signing up, like modern conspiracy theorists and pseudoscientists peddling their nonsense with the same standard litany about how they know the big secrets that THEY Don’t Want You To Know (whoever THEY may be). Basically the writer trying to get people to do the initiation ritual by appealing to the idea that they’ll be special and in the elect for being in on the “big secret.”

    Heck, you do not even have to go to mystery cults or conspiracy theories trying to entice people in with that kind of stick-it-to-the-man woo. I see it in online advertisements all the time, including on this very site. “Power companies hate this!” and all that.

  • Dash1

    My favorite is the claim that “Language Professors hate him,” “him” being Pimsleur. Which is silly, because (a) professors of, e.g., French aren’t the ones teaching basic French language courses, and (b) said professors would be delighted if the Pimsleur system worked well enough to insure that their students could learn the language easily, quickly, and accurately, so they could get their graduate students working on more interesting projects than getting the freshmen through their language requirements.

    Basically, the Pimsleur ad demonstrates rather nicely that the company that approved and is paying for it knows nothing about actual language instruction.

    (Sorry–I’ve been waiting to rant about those stupid ads forever and when the hook came, I grabbed it.)

  • Jamoche

    It makes the product look bad too – I’ve done Pimsleur learn-by-tape (learn-by-CD just doesn’t scan as well :) ). It’s not going to magically make you fluent, but it can get you to a functional conversational tourist level. If the company that makes the “tapes” is really behind this, their ad agency should be sacked.

    Though it could be like the Netflix popunders that have put me off the company permanently, even though I’ve been assured that Netflix itself isn’t behind them – my take is if they aren’t, then why are they letting whoever *is* behind them use their name?

  • arcseconds

    That’s probably the most silly version I’ve seen too, but the ‘Dermatologists hate her’ is pretty silly, also. The dermatologists I’ve met seem much more concerned with melanoma than with wrinkles.

    There’s another one that really grates whenever I see it, but (perhaps fortunately), I can’t quite remember what it is now.

    I’m not sure that they need to know nothing about language instruction though — advertising strategies don’t necessarily have anything to do with reality (at best, they have to do with the reality of what will make people buy things).

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Gas additive companies do it too. It preys on the fact that a lot of people would put reindeer piss in their vehicle’s fuel if they thought it could save them a buck or two.

  • j_bird

    Wait, reindeer piss doesn’t actually improve gas mileage?


    Anyone want to adopt a reindeer? He’s toilet-trained…

  • Lliira

    And also, if you don’t know the Big Secret, you’re doomed. From thetans to herbal “remedies” to ridiculous diets to tinhatting (insisting certain straight male stars are gay): people are prone to thinking they’re in on something that the Powers That Be want to keep from them. If you just know this and do this thing, you are better than the rest of humanity.

  • SkyknightXi

    So…why not help elevate everyone else, in this milieu? Does one use an objective gauge of nobility, or only in comparison to whomever is the lowest?

  • Lliira

    I don’t know “why”, but I do know that certain people really like the feeling of knowing secrets no one else knows. To some extent, I think most of humanity has this tendency, and it’s not a bad thing. You know your friend is pregnant but she hasn’t told anyone the happy news, for instance — it’s a nice feeling of being part of an inner circle. But, like all good feelings, it can be taken too far, and the need for that good feeling can overtake one’s judgment and personality.

  • Ben English

    Wait, wearing purple gets you sent to hell?

    I guess we know where Stephanie Brown has been for the past two years. :(

  • banancat

    A running theme through the Gospels is that being rich and greedy is a pretty big sin, especially when others are starving and homeless. Purple dye was expensive so in that verse it’s pretty much just another way of pointing out how bad it is to be rich, especially buying purple dye instead of, you know, saving the life of a starving orphan by giving them food.

    (Edited to fix homophone fail)

  • Ben English

    Yes… I know all that… I was just making a joke. Or a joke-like utterance.

  • FearlessSon

    As bananacat says, purple was long associated with wealth in general and royalty in particular (as they tended to have most of the wealth.) This mostly comes from classical era Mediterranean cultures, of which the Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews in the Bible would be.

    Wikipedia has a good article on it.

  • Sue White

    I associate purple with Phoenixville.

  • AnonymousSam

    Heh, ran into someone like this yesterday — someone who said that anyone who hadn’t confessed their sins and accepted Christ would go to Hell. He gave us a block of text telling us why we should repent (it was all about how much Hell would suck and how great it would be to be in God’s presence FOR REVER. At the bottom, he concluded, in the most passive-aggressive martyr’s lost cause bullshit I have ever seen,

    “I know none of you will believe this until it is much too late, but I’ve done my part, as I am commanded. Your fate and inevitable demise is entirely in your hands.”

    Very rarely do I feel the urge to punch someone. Every now and then, though…

  • Headless Unicorn Guy



  • banancat

    Disqus is making it so hard to follow comments! I keep getting notifications of new comments above that were added while I was reading/typing, but after I read the new one I forget where I left off in the older comments. I wish someone else would create a comment system to rival Disqus and put them out business. I’d be happy to never see Disqus again, honestly.

  • Bethany

    I’ve been totally unable to actually sign in to Disqus all day. (Hence posting as a guest.)

  • FearlessSon

    Same. It logged me out (as it occasionally does) at my school computer, so I tried to log back in using my Twitter account (as I always do.) But now it is telling me that I need to create a Disqus account and link it to my Twitter!

    Uh, hello, Disqus? The whole reason I use my Twitter as a log in is so that I do not have to make a Disqus account, and I resent the unwelcome feature addition.

    Fortunately my machine at home is still logged in, so I can comment from here. Just not from a slow work period in class.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah. It likes to eat my cookies sometimes.

  • FearlessSon
  • Invisible Neutrino

    Image has disappeared. You might want to remake it and then save the final output to imgur or something.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    I wish they’d at least give us the option of reading the comments in the order they were posted (the way it used to work). That made it so very much easier to check for new comments, and also to follow the flow of the conversation.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Oh hell yes, me too. You can sort of get it if you disable JavaScript, but then you can’t post here. What someone needs to do is invent the DisqusBrowser, that ignores all the JavaScript that modifies the way user comments appear, but still lets you reply to things and post in the comment box.

  • FearlessSon

    One thing that always struck me about this series is that characters tend to fall into two categories, either those who know conclusively about the end-times action going on here and say the magic words to become saved, and those who are duped by Nicky and played for foolish saps until God comes and claims their souls.

    My wonder then is, where are the people who both come to a conclusion about the true nature of what is going on here, and at the same time do not say the magic words and become saved? Those who, having gained all the information necessary, make an informed decision to not become Real, True, Christians. Do we even see anyone like that, ever, in these books? It does not seem too implausible to me. The signs are obvious that something supernatural is going on, research into theology could give people a predictive theory to work off of which would be more supported by each prediction. Heck, given that there seems to be a common conceit among fundamentalist Christians that everyone believes in God deep down but refuses to “believe” out of spite, I would think that people putting the puzzle pieces together and still refusing to say the magic words would be well-supported in the setting. But given the actions of God in this work, there may be people who do not care to align with Him even knowing that they are damned for their choice.

    They may die and be sent to hell, but at least they go to hell on their terms, and not God’s. To take a page from the Bard of Avon, sometimes it is indeed nobler of the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

  • Charity Brighton

    To be fair, there are a couple of characters like this. Carpathia himself seems to know about God and the devil and consciously chooses the side that will lose, because–

    I think there are a handful of minor characters who do come in contact with the ‘truth’ (especially once the Tribulation becomes more explicitly divine — demon locusts and Wormwood and stuff) like Bo Hansen and some others, but you’re absolutely right — Jenkins retains that Jack Chick dichotomy

    The onyl deviation is the series that takes place in the Millennium Kingdom. This place is basically Heaven, but you get to pick if you align yourself with Jesus or align yourself with an evil force called the Other Light, which is basically Satan. Everyone knows all about God and the Bible according to Jenkins, but some people choose to align themselves with the Other Light even though they know they will be struck dead once they reach 100 years of age (everyone else will live forever) and cast into Hell.

    They do this because–

  • FearlessSon

    I want to be able to say, “I made the choice to step in front of that bus and let it hit me. Is this not my choice to make?”

    Though in the case of the Millennium Kingdom, it is either eternal torture… or eternity in hell. At least hell means not having to share eternity with the likes of the Tribbles.

  • Kenneth Raymond

    There is a certain romantic appeal to choosing Hell, especially in the face of a tyrant overlord like the RTC God.

    Though, tangentially, I did just read Brust’s “To Reign in Hell,” which is pretty much just that – a fantasy novel version of the war in Heaven. That book was one whole beautiful chain of pride-fueled communications failures and Yaweh comes out of it as someone who conceivably could become the RTC God down the line. That book’s Lucifer (and Satan, and Mephistopheles, and Asmodeus, and…) is definitely worth choosing Hell over.

  • SkyknightXi

    As I remember, the kernel of the disaster was ultimately Abdiel just wanting to avoid having to do any problematic work with the cacoastrum. And being determined to make sure his currently cushy existence is never threatened. I wonder if a claim could be made here that Sloth is more dangerous than Pride.

  • Ross

    I want to be able to say, “I made the choice to step in front of that bus and let it hit me. Is this not my choice to make?”

    See, I’m all for self-determination and pluralism and all that stuff. But when you put it like this, it really does sound like the answer is “Then you’re just wrong in a diminished-capacity sort of way and we do have the limited right to take away your self-determination until you learn to stop choosing to stand in front of busses.”

  • Antigone10

    I never know exactly where to draw that line. There is sort of a knee-jerk reaction when I get accused of “knowing better than the other person”. And I don’t want to set myself up as superior, being a fallible human being, but part of me answers “Yes, I do in fact know better than you”. Seat belts laws are often the trip-up on this one. I don’t really have a good argument against the “It’s only hurting me, so why shouldn’t I make the decision instead of the government on whether or not I should wear one?” Other then “if you choose not to wear one, you’re being stupid and seat belt laws have saved thousands of lives since their implementation”. Which is not really compelling on a philosophical framework- the government can compel you to do things in your own self-interest if there is really strong evidence that it’s better for you? That’s a little creepy.

    I mean, the step-in-front of the bus person is not just harming themselves, they’re possibly harming other people (the bus might swerve, they might go through the windshield) and there’s the whole “clear and present danger aspect”- and this one isn’t even close to a fuzzy situation about clear-and-present danger. Proselytizing missed both the “evidence” aspect and the “clear and present danger” aspect, so I feel pretty comfortable about the “quit spamming me about it,” but that’s my evidence requirements, and I have no way of proving them to be the best. Pluralism is unsatisfying.

  • ShifterCat

    Slightly off-topic, but as far as seat-belts go, a person who refuses to wear a seat-belt could well harm someone else. They could fly through the windshield and into another person, or, if they’re in the back seat, their hands could go through the front seat and into the seat’s occupant. (I heard about a case of that, anyway.)

    There are other factors too, like the fact that the children of suicides are more likely to attempt suicide themselves.

    So yeah, there are reasons why society tries to discourage self-destructive behaviour.

  • Lliira

    For the analogy to work, there has to be a a high moral price for not stepping in front of the bus. Perhaps a small child is in front of the bus, and running in front of it is the only way to save the child. Or maybe the bus driver is, unknowingly, about to drive the bus full of people off a cliff, and stepping in front of it will make the driver swerve away from the cliff.

    But I don’t think the analogy can work, really. We know some pretty likely outcomes from stepping in front of a bus, and none of them are good. People only believe in hell and in this evil genie god who can send you there. There’s absolutely no evidence for it, let alone evidence that people accept as part of our shared reality.

  • Cathy W

    I recall Aunursa mentioning a group of people in the Milennial Kingdom (possibly folks who were just over the magic age where you didn’t count as a child for Rapture purposes?) who do basically that: “Yes, God, you are real, and we accept that your son Jesus came to save all of humanity, but this Tribulation thing was kind of a dick move, also telling use we need to choose Jesus under these circumstances does not actually count as offering us a choice, we’ll go be with our families in hell where you sent them for no good reason, kthxbye.”

  • Ross

    I think that’s more what the meta-characters said. The textual versions were just like “Yes, God was right to do all those thigns, but we’re stubborn and obstinate children so we hate Jesus anyway because YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME”

  • Guest

    Something like that. The spoilers said something about how there must have been “children of the goats” somewhere on earth, but none of them are characters (“goats”=people who went to Hell). The rebels all come from churched families. You can pick them out because when everyone else is eating veggies and cheese at the Lectures, those are the kids who skipped Bible school that day.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    The authors implicitly believe that everything that Turbojesus and his daddy Murdergod have done so far is GOOD, and so does the audience that these books were originally intended for. The Rapture and the attendant loss of life? Good. The giant killer quake? Good. The wars? Good. The epidemics and plagues, and the judgement where TJ kills every last one of Carpathia’s followers (presumably along with anyone that wasn’t following Carpathia, but also hadn’t said the Magic Words(tm) and sends them all to Hell to scream “Jesus is Lord” while they incinerate for the rest of eternity? Good. Each and every death is seen as an act of ultimate good and perfect justice by aan all-wise, all-knowing, kind and benevolent deity who arranged everything to be **exactly this way** from the very beginning of creation. In other words, everything–EVERYTHING–was planned from the beginning and is working out exactly as planned…which is the most fundamental assumption throughout each and every book–and it’s all Good.

    Given that core assumption (and their deliberately stunted imaginations) the authors *can’t* treat the rebels with anything even remotely resembling depth or respect–doing so would require them to actually think about the rebels’ true motivations for rejecting Turbojesus and the wondermous “paradise” he created for his followers, so the ONLY ways that they’re left with is (1) portraying them as snotty, spoiled kids screaming “NO! I DON’T WANNA!” while rolling around on the carpet kicking their heels, and (2) portraying them as twisted freaks who crave power and love wickedness for its own sake. They can’t actually examine anyone’s reasons anymore closely than that, because doing so may take them down avenues where they’re forced to closely examine the moral and ethical implications of God’s actions. It might lead to the idea that the things that God did from the Rapture onward are monstrous, that it’s hideously unjust to expect people to simply shrug off their damned loved ones, promptly forget them and go on with their lives–except it’s actually worse than that, **since they’re expected to love their loved ones’ killer with all of their heart and soul, without hesitation or reservation, or he will kill them too.** It might even lead to the idea that the ONLY reason any of this happened is because God decreed that it would at the very beginning. Timkins are hyper-Calvinists on steroids, whether they fully ealize it or not.

    In fact, it might lead them to conclude that the rebels had a point, and if the authors do that, the readers might, too. And that can’t be allowed to happen–ever. So they can’t–in fact, they can’t even show them as *realistic* spoiled brats, because their blinkered worldview won’t permit them to actually show what realistic crime and rebellion really look like, leaving them with laughably idiotic villains who resemble Pinocchio’s Lampwick more than any real-world partisan or terrorist. This is what happens when the little demonic censor sitting in their forebrain patiently sifts through each and every thought, looking for concepts that might lead to fundamental doubt, and discards them before they actually form in their minds, and it’s exactly the same reason why people like Ray Comfort believe that they understand why nonbelievers reject their message. Their little internal censor won’t allow them to examine anyone’s actual motivations closely because doing so is dangerous to their own worldview, and only permits pathetically malformed logic and twisted concepts through the perceptual filter in the other direction.

  • Carstonio

    Both Jillette and Jenkins talk as if the latter’s god were a force of nature and not a sentient being. Jenkins sounds insincere because he doesn’t condemn his god’s behavior. If he wants to convince me of his sincerity, he could start by petitioning his god to do away with hell as unjust, especially the criteria for membership. As it is, Jenkins comes close to sounding like a child scolding a misbehaving sibling: “Aw, you’re gonna get it!”

  • Charity Brighton

    It’s funny that Buck is wagging his finger at Chaim’s “naivete”. I vaguely remember his escapade in the UK (back when there was such a thing) when the ‘Scotland Yard’ (ditto) murdered one of their own officers with a car bomb intended to take them both out. The extent of his cunning was to plant his ID near the dead police officer, trusting that Stonagal will consider this sufficient evidence to stop looking for him.

    Then he spends a half hour placing calls to his friends and family — at their homes and offices. Because, of course, the vast worldwide criminal conspiracy would never be so unscrupulous as to bug his family’s phones, right? Especially after they found only one corpse in the wreckage instead of two?

    Oh and don’t forget his most brilliant plan. Later, he determines that Carpathia is likely under the control of Stonagal and Todd-Cothran — that is, he believed that Carpathia was either their dupe or their henchman. So, naturally, our savvy hero decides that the first thing he’ll do once he gets back to the US is to go to Carpathia’s office alone at night and try to talk him into helping him escape from — and I can’t stress this enough — evil conspiracy that he thinks Carpathia is a part of. (Okay, maybe not vaguely

    Compared to that, Chaim using his real name at a hotel isn’t that bad.

  • Daniel

    Thank you so much for bringing that up. This was another point in this story where I wanted Buck Williams to be real so that it would be possible to point out all the cack handed “evasion” he got up to in the first book and maybe clip him round the ear.
    Also, isn’t Chaim the world famous internationally renowned scientist who ended world hunger? Would the McGillicuddy Gambit (a new Tom Clancy novel title) work for someone as well known as him? Is that naivete or just acknowledging that if Stephen Hawking turned up at a hotel claiming to be “John McCompletelyunknown” it wouldn’t wash?

    One thing that is quite rewarding about these books is that I find there are no characters in all fiction I hate as much as Rayford and Buck. As I’d like to be a writer it’s kind of reassuring that I could never create heroes as utterly hateful as these two.

  • Daniel

    Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Buck Williams the GIRAT.

  • Charity Brighton

    No ‘man’, huh? I guess he can’t complain when they went out and called Hattie Durham, the Antichrist’s secretary, immediately after hearing from him?

  • Daniel

    I know he’s the Antichrist and everything, but really the whole Hattie Durham thing is hardly playing fair. As has already been established the Tribbles imagine everyone is playing by their rules, their bizarre, archaic, paranoid, lazy rules, so they can hardly imagine that Hattie will be taken seriously if she passes on any information about them. I mean, Buck and Ray don’t listen to women so why would anyone else? I suppose that just goes to show how sneaky the Antichrist can be. Darned devil!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    You mean Hattie the Hottie, future Whore of Babylon?

  • Charity Brighton

    Why do people keep calling her that?

  • WingedBeast

    A Note on the Analogy:

    If you’re tell your neighbor that he needs a purple necklace once, and he hears, understands, and does not believe you… telling him again doesn’t help. So, you can stop repeating it.

    That’s the bit that bugs me most about prostelyzation. It’s not the attempt to convince me of something of which I am not already convinced. It’s the assumption that all you have to do is repeat the base claim, sometimes with new metaphores or with new wording but the same basic claim, and at some point I’ll suddenly *ding* and say “Wow 394,935,120 was the magic number! I’m a believer now!”

    So, let me say to anybody who believes (as Fred Clark and many a Christian does *not*) that the purpose of life is to avoid Hell, I’ve heard your claims. Unless you have something that is actually new, your duty is discharged.

    That said, if you do actually have some new information (repeat, new information, like the kind of new information that Buck has for Chaim, specifically the evidence that Nicky Carpathia is the anti-christ) the important thing to do is remain calm, state your evidence, provide it if necessary and, above all, remember that it’s not evidence if you have to believe before it’s evidence.
    Here, Buck has several things, including major bombings, special revelations, and the fact that these two firebreathing guys are actually prophets.
    Of course, the entire book series could be avoided if only God so loved Chaim, and the rest of humanity, so as to use his words calmly and wisely, as a parent or good leader or good friend might.

  • Ruby_Tea

    The hilarious part is that Buck tends to stick to the tried and true “information” of “God loves you so VERY much.”

    Even several books down the line, Buck stays up all night with Chaim (oh, wowwww…), pleading with him to become Christian, which only entails Buck repeating that Jesus paid the price for his sins. Which, presumably, Chaim has heard approximately 4,213 times before from Tsion BenJewishGuy, so I don’t know why Buck thinks time 4,214 will work.

  • WingedBeast

    From a Doylist perspective, I get exactly why. Because that tends to be all there is. “Oh, you don’t share my faith? You must not have heard about it before. Oh. Well, they must have explained wrong or you must not have been listening. Let me repeat almost exactly the same thing again.”

    Sure, there are different variations on the same theme. But, when it comes to prostelytising for hell evasion through being a Christian, there’s one steady theme.

    Therefore, that has to be good enough. That has to be something that, on its own, is convincing. To admit that more may be needed and/or useful is to admit that what you have is lacking in the effort of convincing the reasonable.
    So, they’re not allowed to use all this new information to have Buck say “Hey, all this new stuff about which a reasonable human being paying attention to world events probably doesn’t already know, but is good evidence!”
    From a Watsonian perspective…
    “Let’s try 4,215. I’ve got a good feeling about this one!”

  • Daniel

    It’s also odd that in order to convince you of something you don’t believe in, these purple bracelet wearers need to threaten you with something else… you don’t believe in. I’m never quite sure how that works.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Human beings are VERY good at getting scared of imaginary things.

    Hellmongering Christianists don’t really seem to get that (trigger warning: violence, SAW movie reference) if God puts someone in a death trap that will kill them horribly unless they cut their own foot off to escape, leaving them a hacksaw does NOT QUALITY AS A ‘RESCUE’.

  • Ross

    NB: Jigsaw doesn’t actually do that. You think that he means for you to cut your foot off to escape, but if you’d just stayed calm and not immediately jumped to the sadistic conclusion, you’d have noticed that you actually have plenty of time to hacksaw off the chain and leave your foot alone. That‘s always the shocking twist at the end, that if you’d just stayed calm the whole time, everything would have actually been fine.

  • flat

    I have been thinking, but the bible says that God will judge, which means that I can say that God will hold us responsible for what we do, but every person will he threat as an individual.

    We do not have to earn our salvation it has been given to us as a gift, but we do have to accept it.

    so in a way I can understand why people want to rule in hell rather to serve in heaven.

  • Daniel

    What actually happens in heaven? [cue for a song…] This is something I’ve never been clear on, because I think most believers’ views differ from one another. Could someone please help me out? I’m a sarcastic sod, but this is a genuine request, as I’ve never understood the whole heaven and hell thing- if anyone is prepared (in the spirit of the purple necklace, p.b.u.i) to share their views with me I’d be very grateful. I can’t help the sarcasm- I’m British.

  • flat

    nobody actually knows what exactly happens after you die, some people had Near-death experiences and described that they felt it was not their time yet.

    Since I believe that God is love and that being in heaven means you are near God which means you are somewhere where you are really loved for who you are.

    This is what i believe about heaven, it is very short summary for what I believe happens after you die.

    So I quess that in the end you have to take a leap of faith.
    But that is something between you and God if you believe in Him.

  • flat

    I am sorry I wish I could say more about it but this is all I know about it.

  • Daniel

    Thank you for that reply. Can I ask- is it just Gos that loves you for who you are, or are there other people from your life there too, that also love you for who you are? If there are, then are they in your heaven, or are you in theirs, or are there multiple versions in each person’s?

    That wasn’t very coherent, I admit, but I mean if heaven is a place where you are loved, and are happy, then that is a very idiosyncratic place. Not everyone you love will love you back, and not everyone you want to love you unconditionally will. So if heaven includes those other people then their idea of heaven obviously wouldn’t include you- so there must be another heaven for them where they get to have people they love loving them and so on ad infinitum. Here’s where my problem starts- if heaven is a place of reward for me, then my ideas of reward or of love unconditional would include a certain ex girlfriend, whose life has moved on significantly since she dumped me. So in her heaven, presumably, I wouldn’t feature. But in my heaven she definitely would. So where is her actual spirit, soul or whatever, and where is mine? And is it fair to her if she ends up in my heaven as real, or is it fair to me if I am given a replicant version?

    If heaven is just me and God this problem doesn’t arise. But then I would ask what happens if it is just me and God?

    Again, thank you for your reply.

  • Daniel

    “God” obviously. Luke Gos can’t save anyone now.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Like Flat said, we don’t have detailed information. I think there are suggestions here and there in the Bible that it’s seen as a place of a vast community (most explicitly in Revelation, but there are suggestions elsewhere). FWIW, the impression I have is that part of the transition from mortal to heavenly life would be gaining the ability to love everyone – so yes, you and your ex girlfriend would be in the same heaven and you’d both be happy about it. But nobody in this life really knows.

  • Daniel

    Thank you kindly. Most of the reason I ask i because I am not a believer, and I don’t understand what causes other people to believe. Which makes your answer all the more intriguing- I assume that heaven is not your main reason for believing in God and Christ, so how important is it to you to know what heaven is? Do you think heaven is an actual tangible place? Or if it’s a place of “vast community” would it be possible to create a heaven on earth?

  • flat

    Of the heaven on earth thing I have to think of the republic of heaven by phillip pullman.
    I haven’t read the books but I did read the part where they described it.

    And I admit I am sceptical about it because it reminds me about past experiments where they attempted to create a heaven here on earth and it all ended in failure.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    First, it’s not all that important to me to know exactly what heaven is like. I believe it’s a place, or time, or state of being, filled with joy; eventually, I hope to find out the details from experience. As for a heaven on earth, that seems to be what we’re promised once Christ returns; a world of love and peace and happiness that we will all cooperate to build with divine help. But again, I don’t know exactly what that would / will be like, and I don’t think anyone else on this side of death does either.

  • Daniel

    So in short, the people (like yourself) who seem to have the most appealing ideas for what the afterlife consists of- even down to saying “we’re not really sure” (which to me makes it sound potentially explorable, a place where you can indulge in curiosity) are the people for whom heaven and hell are not priorities- compared to say “loving thy neighbour” etc.

    The people like Tim and Jerry (I’d like to nominate the composite name “Timkins”, as it’s precisely as macho as they deserve) who see them as central to Christian belief are the ones who simultaneously make them the least attractive places ever- one because it’s supposed to be, and the other because it’s some sort of brainwashing hive mind shared with people like them. I have often wondered why in Chick Tracts we are never actually shown what happens in heaven, but a prurient glee is taken in depicting Hell. Timkins seem to have the same interest.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Interesting analysis – and it rings true, I think. (Also – I certainly hope there’s room for curiosity in heaven!)

    BTW – “Timkins” is the best name yet for our fearless typist and his leader, and I think I’ll borrow it next time I have a comment to post about them.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Hmmm…Ellenjay Timkins. You know, that has legs. I like it.

  • Daniel

    I think the full name should be reserved for parody fic- and spelled Ellen J Timkins, their much, much better female counterpart.

  • flat

    Those are interesting questions, but I think you made a mistake when you said that heaven is a place of reward, it means you think that there are conditions before you can go to heaven.

    But personally I think heaven is more of a gift you receive with no conditions to it, only that you have to accept it despite yourself.

    I do not know if your ex-girlfriend would be there but maybe you can work things out in this life before you move on to the afterlife.

  • Daniel

    I wasn’t thinking of it as a reward, as such, more of a sort of thank you, a token of esteem. I have read some theology and religious philosophers, and what has always struck me i regards to this question is how much easier they seem to find describing Hell than Heaven.

    If heaven is a gift, then what sort of gift? The easiest one to understand is that it’s where you get to do whatever you want for eternity, which leads to the problems I mentioned before. The interpretation of it as being a union with God and, presumably, all the other people who believed in Him when alive scares me- it suggests a sort of hive mind and a death of what I would call, in my atheist way, my soul- that part of me that is inalienably me, my insubstantial luz. I don’t imagine these are the only two options, but these seem to be the most common and neither really appeals to me. So what do you believe Heaven is? Is it a place? Is it something that happens? Is it a communal mind- the ultimate community, and if so are souls in that community still identifiable?

    I really am very interested in this.

  • flat

    I think heaven is a place that happpens to be a community where everyone is an identifiable idividual.

  • Lliira

    When I was Christian, all of this is why I decided the idea of Nirvana made more sense than the ideas we have of heaven. Once I learned about Nirvana (middle school iirc), I figured that’s what heaven would be. That means losing one’s sense of self, so the ex-girlfriend conundrum would not be an issue.

  • PepperjackCandy

    One of the things that I think happens is that we gain wisdom upon entering Heaven. We see the events of our lives more clearly than we did while we were stuck here.

    In the case of your ex-girlfriend, in Heaven, you and she would understand why things went wrong in your relationship and how to have a relationship (though not that kind) with each other without getting tripped up by the issues that messed things up when you were here.

  • Guest

    A version I like is Anthoy DeStefano’s “A travel guide to Heaven.” He thinks it will be like this:
    1. We will meet God … and be able to talk to God the way we talk to each other. (Reason: Anyone could walk up to Jesus and talk to Jesus.)
    2. We will be ourselves, but with perfect bodies and clean hearts and minds. (Reason: because verses about it.)
    3. We will be creative and lives our lives and do interesting stuff. (Reason: because we are created in the image of God and God does all of those things.)
    4. Pets go to Heaven. (Reason: because God created them for His own purposes and we see animals in the Bible participating in miracles and stuff. So why would that stop in Heaven?)
    5. We will really love it there, not by being turned into the kind of pod-people who would love it, but by it being a place that real people with real hopes and dreams would love. (Reason: God’s a daddy, not a puppet-master.)
    Worth a look.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    You get to enjoy the eternal entertainment of watching the Unsaved be tortured in hell.

    (Not making this one up, but kinda wish I was. One of the early Big Thinkers of Christianity, I forget who, argued that the Saved MUST enjoy the torments of the damned. O_o )

  • Daniel

    St Thomas Aquinas and Tertullian, I think it was. Aquinas argues in Summa Theologica for the logical necessity of enjoying watching the damned writhe, squirm and burn. It has to happen to prove God’s goodness.

  • Kenneth Raymond

    Given what’s involved in L&J’s interpretation, well, it looks less like accepting a gift than having something forced on you, and then ever after it’s used to guilt and berate you into doing stuff for the “giver.” It’s bad when the absolute best possible interpretation I can come up with for this is still vicious emotional blackmail.

    The inclusion of Hell in the equation just makes it worse, and L&J (and many others) are all too happy to include Hell. Now it’s stopped being a fake gift and turned into a protection racket.

    Fred’s more open, compassionate take on it is all very nice, but basically the L&J-alikes and their obsession with Hell have too far soured me on the whole deal to not compulsively look askance upon it all. They’ve already made a Heaven of Hell and a Hell of Heaven for me.

  • banancat

    That doesn’t make me feel much better. In complete honesty, I wouldn’t want even Hitler himself to suffer torture for all eternity. A god that would sentence anyone to such a fate is not a loving god, and not somebody that I would want to spend eternity with. So don’t condescend by telling me that I’m just some selfish silly child who wants to rule rather than serve. No, it’s much more complex than that. Scratch that; it’s actually quite simple: I would not want to spend any amount of time in the presence of a being who would sentence someone to eternal torture.

  • Nick Gotts

    Agreed – or for that matter, to finite torture. Surely one of the things all decent people agree on is that torture is wrong? And that would include the torture of being left “alone with your sins” or anything similar: solitary confinement is recognised as a form of torture.

    On another point, as a non-believer, the question of what heaven is like seems as pointless as the question of whether the gold in the pot at the end of the rainbow is in the form of specie, ingots, or jewellery. There’s no more reason to believe in the first than in the second.

  • SKapusniak

    Hmmm, so I’ve been I’ve just been searching for various versions of the sinner’s prayer/prayer to be saved (there seem to be a lot of different variations), to see what I made of them when I read them *as magic spells* and…

    …yowza! Just, like, woah! eeeeeek! no freakin’ way dude!

    In any fantasy literature or rpg that sort of thing would, depending on the prayer version, be a cue for actions ranging from slowly backing out of the inn with hands near weapons before anyone notices (at the fluffier Billy Graham end), through retreat to a well defended location to prepare for the imminent onslaught of the dark lord’s horde, up to a full-out tragic sacrifice ending of ‘site nuked from orbit, all our heroes died, ’twas the only way they could be we got them all’ (for the hardcore versions that my search engine seems to favour).

    By comparison purple necklace guy with his amulet of warding just doesn’t set off the same alarm bells. In fact, if they both appeared in the same work, I’d be pretty sure I knew who purple necklace guy was trying to get me to ward against.

    Are these flavours of Christian completely sure that one of the reasons that the people they’re preaching to get freaked out isn’t down to their magical invocation being taken more seriously by their audience than they themselves appear to?

    I can see why they don’t like D&D and suchlike, don’t need people being genre-savvy in a genre that would teach you not to touch spells like that.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Not surprised. :) In fact ISTR Fred has also likened the kind of thinking propounded by L&J to the D&Dish casting of magic spells with dice rolls.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    As some wiseguy on an RPG site once pointed out, if we could get guys like LaHaye and Pat Robertson to wear black robes while they talk about their upcoming Apocalypse, it’d only be a matter of time before some yahoos in chainmail broke down the door, killed them all, and took their stuff.

    “Well done, Hrothgar! Now their evil lord Cthulhu won’t rise from the depths and destroy the world.”

    “They worshiped Jesus, not Cthuihu.”

    “Well done! Now their evil lord Jesus won’t rise from the depths and destroy the world!”

    “Yep. Dibs on their watches.”

    I wonder how many XP Harold Camping would be worth?

  • aim2misbehave

    I can see the purple necklace thing as, up to a point, like “If my friend is in danger, don’t I have a moral obligation to make sure they’re aware of the danger, if it’s not unsafe for me?” Like, let’s say there’s a fast-moving wildfire coming towards your neighborhood, and you know your neighbor doesn’t turn on the radio or TV often enough for you to be sure that he’s heard the emergency alert broadcast. In that case, the caring, kind, decent thing to do would be to call him up or even run over to his house and knock on his door and be like “Hey, there’s a wildfire coming this way. I’m evacuating and you should too, and I’ll help you do it!”

    The point that most Christians miss, I think, is the point where if the neighbor says “Yeah, OK, thanks for telling me! I’m fine on my own!” then it’s time to get back to your own business of evacuating early enough not to be in the way of firefighting vehicles or checking your firebreaks one last time or whatever.

  • Panda Rosa

    Wasn’t there that one old woman? man? who refused to leave Mt. Helens when it erupted?

  • Lori
  • aim2misbehave

    Yeah, there was the innkeeper who refused to leave his inn, then a few of the other people killed were a vulcanologist and volunteers watching the volcano and reporting on it who felt that the advance warning they could potentially give would be worth the risk, and there was an assortment of photographers, wilderness enthusiasts, and others who simply wanted to see a volcano about to erupt up close.

  • dpolicar

    I dunno. There’s lots of situations where I might continue to make a nuisance of myself if I see someone I care about acting self-destructively, even if they say “OK, thanks for telling me, but I’m fine.”

  • esmerelda_ogg

    For ex: I have a couple of friends and relatives who smoke. I don’t mention the issue every day or every week or every month, but I do feel obliged to remind them from time to time that it’s Really Bad For Them. (I feel this obligation especially strongly because cigarettes killed my father.) That said, I know and they know that nothing I say will change their behavior unless other factors are aligned just right.

  • dpolicar

    Right, exactly. I have a number of relationships like that, and I have friends who periodically scold me about things in much the same way. It all seems reasonable enough to me.

  • aim2misbehave

    Well, if it’s a religion analogy, then you’ve got more neighbors than you can ever warn in your lifetime, too.

    I suppose it might also depends on how close I am to a person or how much I understand them – like, if it was my sister acting self-destructively, I’d go pretty far, but I’d probably understand why she was intentionally staying in danger and probably have a hard time resisting myself. (Basically, we’re the kind of people who completely understand the appeal of poking around active volcanoes because they’re cool/they’re there/we can. Fortunately, we’re also the kind of people who have an excellent sense of danger. And fortunately don’t live within driving distance of any volcanoes that are active enough to be threatening)

    If it was my brother, OTOH, I know that if I ask him something twice and his answer stays the same, there is nothing in the world that can change his mind.

  • dpolicar

    Agreed that how close I am matters. Relatedly, I said “someone I care about” advisedly; I can’t really imagine behaving this way for neighbors I don’t care about, and if I found myself behaving that way I’d be forced to conclude I was being a jerk.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Ok, this is hilarious

    I’m watching a movie called The Mark, and it’s another standard medium-budget Christian-themed End Times film.

    The opening scenes have the focus character, Chad, injected with an OMGMICROCHIP, which of course needs to be specially transported, so the shady biotech research firm he works security for will fly him incognito to the G20 in Berlin.

    SO THEN WE HAVE AN AIRPLANE omfg this is hilarious.

    It’s like a cross between Pan Am and Left Behind. We’re on the fully-loaded 7*7 in the first-class section with fancy comfortable seats, the stewardesses are all hot women, and the co-pilot’s going to propose to his girlfriend (who is a stewardess!) in Berlin. Oh, and there’s a journalist on-board, too! (At least the journalist is a woman and not a chauvinistic dbag like Buck)

    Oh and it has a banker conspiracy in it too only it’s actually kind of believable – wealthy people using the problems of the world financial system to accomplish their own nefarious ends, etc.

    *snerk* oh god, it gets even better. The co-pilot does a Rayford and is all like I AM GONNA DO THIS NOOOW. He proposes on the plane! and they’re totally smooching and hugging when the other stewardess catches them. :P

    *continues watching the movie, snickering at the silly and obvious parallels :P *

  • Baby_Raptor

    Its probably still a better story.

  • Lliira

    Doesn’t sound bad so far. Unless the viewer is supposed to think the smooching is evil.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Heh, naw. But it looks like it’s Passenger 57 meets Pan Am meets Left Behind.

  • Lliira

    I have a very high (or is it low) standard for bad these days.

  • FearlessSon

    I’m watching a movie called The Mark, and it’s another standard medium-budget Christian-themed End Times film.

    The Mark? Are they sure that title does not refer to their intended audience?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Hah more parallels

    So the RAPTUUUUUUURE hits in the middle of a fight between this guy trying to steal the OMGEVILMICROCHIP and the ex-soldier who it was implanted into

    And his brother was a Christian and doing all the standard stock exposition (“Gods plan for your life”, etc) which we see in flashbacks, so the ex-soldier dude catches on real quick what happened…

    And THEN

    And then…. we find out the ORDAINED PRIEST ON THE PLANE GOT LEFT BEHIND.


    There’s even a sequel. :P

  • Benjamin Thomas

    I think it’s unfair to Jillette to call it a “shared premise”. PJ clearly doesn’t believe the premise (like Jenkins does), he is only acknowledging the validity of the if/then argument you can make from it, just like you do. I’m sure he’d have as much of a problem with the initial premise as you do, if not even more of one.

  • Beroli

    “I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all.”

    Not a beginning that makes a lot of sense without the premise that every Christian–actually, make that every religious person!–thinks nonbelievers go to Hell for being nonbelievers.

  • damanoid

    I have a question about the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus linked above. Doesn’t the last line of the parable sort of deny the basic premise of Christianity?

  • ShifterCat

    I have two more problems with the purple necklace analogy.

    First of all, if you believe that wearing a purple necklace will save someone’s soul from eternal torment, not only do you have an obligation to try and convince your neighbours to wear one, but you should also avoid doing anything that will give them an aversion to purple necklaces. “I would have been okay with the idea if that guy hadn’t chased me down the street waving an amethyst pendant! Now even looking at a purple necklace makes me upset.”

    Second, it’s one thing to believe that your neighbours are going to Hell if they don’t wear purple necklaces. It’s quite another thing to believe that not wearing that jewelry, or any jewelry at all, means your neighbours deserve Hell.

  • Dash1

    if you believe that wearing a purple necklace will save someone’s soul
    from eternal torment, not only do you have an obligation to try and
    convince your neighbours to wear one, but you should also avoid doing
    anything that will give them an aversion to purple necklaces

    (emphasis added)

    There are not enough “likes” in all of Disqus to express my agreement with this.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    No, no – you need to FORCE purple necklaces onto everyone. At gunpoint, if need be.

  • WingedBeast

    Two important details. Thank you.

  • ShifterCat

    To clarify, my other two problems with the analogy are the “purple necklace god is a monster” point which Fred brought up in the post, and the “this purple necklace also means agreeing with all of our socio-political beliefs and practices” point which Daniel spelled out in a comment above.

  • Daniel

    Exactly. What the analogy demonstrates is two contradictory points about Timkin’s faith. If Christianity, this life altering, heaven securing, bliss bringing uber-belief is analogous to something as simplistic as just wearing a purple necklace, then there is no substance to it and so it shouldn’t be taken seriously. It is just as eccentric as the necklace wearing neighbour.
    If on the other hand it should be the guiding light of your life, and inform and instruct everything that you do then it is clearly far more than just a purple necklace, and therefore cannot be dismissed as a harmless affectation. If saying the right words at the right time is sufficient to get into heaven, then you can’t ask that every other aspect of someone’s life be governed by rules stemming from that same faith. Either it’s cutesy and eccentric or it is complex, involved and meaningful- it can’t be both and it’s disingenuous to present it that way.

  • Nick Gotts

    This weird idea of a Hell-bent deity offering salvation only to those
    who have learned the secret gesture isn’t something one can easily glean
    from the Bible. With some studious creativity and a good bit of
    squinting, this idea can be shoehorned into, and then read back out of, a
    select handful of painstakingly excerpted Bible passages, but if you
    read any more of the Bible than just those few verses — even
    accidentally — or if you fail to read those few verses in just the right
    way, then it becomes very, very hard to reconcile this religion of
    Hell-avoidance with the God of that book.

    Really? The following are all words attributed to Jesus in the gospels.

    Matthew 5:22: “But I say to you that every one who is angry with the
    brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall
    be liable to the council; and whoever says ‘You fool!’ shall be liable
    to the hell of fire.”

    Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot
    kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in

    Matthew 11:21-22, Jesus: “Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you,
    Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and
    Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I
    tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and
    Sidon than for you.”

    Matthew 11:23: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?
    You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you
    had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I
    tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the
    land of Sodom than for you.”

    Matthew 12:33-34: “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render
    account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will
    be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

    Matthew 25:41: “Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me,
    you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his

    Mark 4:28-29: “Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons
    of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemies
    against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an
    eternal sin.”

    Mark 9:43-48: “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is
    better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell,
    to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it
    off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be
    thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is
    better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two
    eyes to be thrown into hell, where the worm does not die, and the fire
    is not quenched. For every one will be salted with fire.”

    Luke 12:49: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it
    were already kindled!”

    Luke 13:2-5: “And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these
    Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they
    suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all
    likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell
    and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all
    the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent
    you will all likewise perish.’”

    Luke 13:23-34, & 27-28: “”And some one said to him, ‘Lord, will
    those who are saved be few?’ And he said to them, ‘Strive to enter by
    the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not
    be able. But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you
    come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’ There you will
    weep and gnash your teeth”

    Luke 16:22-29: “The poor man died, and was carried by the angels to
    Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades,
    being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and
    Lazarus [the poor man] in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham,
    have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in
    water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham
    said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good
    things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted
    here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a
    great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from
    here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And
    he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I
    have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into
    this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the
    prophets; let them hear them.’”

    John 12: 48: “He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a
    judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.”

    John 15:6: “If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and
    withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and

  • Carstonio

    If you truly believe that God has revealed to you the one
    arbitrary, symbolic gesture without which everyone will be tortured for
    eternity, then you have an absolute duty to inform as many others as you can so that they, too, can make this gesture

    No, one would have an absolute duty to condemn the policy as unjust and repulsive, and to try to convince the god to change the policy. Both Jenkins and Jillette treat the premise as through there’s no sentient mind that created the policy, or as though humans can do nothing to change it. If it’s the latter, I find it profoundly disturbing that both refuse to even express an opinion on the policy itself.

  • dpolicar

    (shrug) I don’t buy in to the premise, but if I were somehow convinced that the god in question were significantly more intelligent and well-informed than I was and I were somehow convinced that the god’s goals/values were not opposed to my own, I suspect I would accept pretty readily that even policies that seemed unjust and repulsive to me were still worth supporting, in much the same sense that I would accept that foods that seemed unwholesome and repulsive to me were still worth eating.

    I’ve never run into anything that convinced me of anything remotely like either of those things, though.

  • Carstonio

    That’s a big if. In that situation, I might view the policy as proof that the god’s values weren’t compatible with my own. And I might subscribe to the food analogy if I believed that how people are treated by the god or by their peers didn’t matter. That’s not an accusation that you hold that belief.

  • dpolicar

    Yah, it’s a big if. As I say, I’ve never run into anything that convinced me of anything remotely like that.

  • Lliira

    Foods that seem unwholesome and repulsive to you are not worth eating, for you. They may be for someone else, but one person’s yummy spinach is another person’s nausea and self-hate.

  • dpolicar

    > Foods that seem unwholesome and repulsive to you are not worth eating, for you.

    Typically, sure. But if a nutritionist I considered significantly more intelligent and well-informed than I am informed me that some food which seems unwholesome and repulsive to me would improve my health, I would probably believe them, and consequently consider that food worth eating, because my health is worth more to me than avoiding things that seem unwholesome and repulsive.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Perhaps there really isn’t a sentient mind behind it at all. The books actually seem to make more sense if you assume the god of the story is actually Azathoth. I suppose that would make Turbojesus Nyarlthotep, wouldn’t it? And while I’m not sure I’m prepared to extend the Lovecraftian analogy to reality, whatever people like Bryan Fischer are worshiping really does seem to be more akin to a Lovecraftian elder god than any deity of forgiveness and light…

  • Winter

    I worked it out a while back: Jesus is Yog-Sothoth. How is Jesus described in scripture? The Truth, the Light, the Word, the only path through which one may approach the Father. And, of course, the hope of resurrection lies with him.

    And how is Yog-Sothoth described, and what are its attributes? It is the Gate and the keeper of the Gate, one may call upon it for the learning of things beyond mortal ken, its aid is instrumental in the raising of the dead and the banishing of things summoned. And the Greek for “Saviour” is “Soter,” hence the S in the Ichthys sign; note the resemblance to Sothoth.

    Incidentally, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward uses a number of incantations invoking “Adonai Eloim, Adonai Jehova, etc.”

  • Carstonio

    Beyond the cruelty of Jenkins’ premise, he doesn’t present proof. One would have to accept that a god exists and that heaven and hell exist, and I’d like to see Jenkins try to explain these to someone with zero knowledge of the Abrahamic religions, or of any religions. But more than that, Jenkins doesn’t acknowledge the possibility that he’s wrong about the guidelines for getting into heaven or hell. Using his hypothetical example, imagine a competing theologian who insists that a purple necklace is required for admission to heaven and that it’s an orange one that sends one to hell. There would be no reason to treat one as more likely than the other.

  • ShifterCat

    Adding a fifth to my list of objections — Jenkins is making the same faulty assumption as Pascal, in acting like there’s only one religion to consider. What if one neighbour believes that a purple necklace sends you to heaven and an orange one sends you to hell, while another neighbour believes the opposite?

  • Lliira

    Jenkins’ analogy is gobsmackingly disrespectful of Jenkins’ own religion. It’s the kind of thing one might expect from the most scornful of atheists. He’s saying his religion is one in which you have to use the right magic in order to avoid punishment and obtain reward. And the magic is entirely superficial and arbitrary, at that.

    “Say your right words,” the goblins said.

  • Aeryl

    I haven’t even finished the post yet, but this diversion into discussing Hell brought to mind a conversation I had with my boss last week. She made the comment that Ariel Castro would get a job torturing people in Hell. And I was dumbfounded. I thought Hell was where evildoers were sent to be punished, but in her mind, it was where bad people went to keep doing the things they liked.

    I can’t really wrap my head around it. If I believed in Hell, I would find comfort in the thought that Castro would be undergoing what he’d done to those women. But she, a born and raised Southern Baptist who believes in Hell, thinks he’s gonna have a good time, and isn’t comforted by that thought.


  • MuseofIre

    Um. Chaim’s driver is a dark-complected, Hebrew-monoglot named *Andre*? I guess he could be a Sephardi whose family retained their traditional Spanish-inflected names, but it doesn’t exactly scream “ordinary working-class Israeli” to me. Which, considering the deep level of stereotyping in practically every other character’s name in the series, is kind of interesting.

  • ShifterCat

    Maybe Andre is just messing with Buck.

  • MuseofIre

    Much as I’d love that, it would also mean that the saintly and guileless Chaim is also having on his dear, dear friend Buck. And that would just be implausible, wouldn’t it?

  • Sue White

    I wonder how Jenkins would feel if his goofy neighbor had the political clout to make THIS life a hell on earth for anyone who doesn’t worship his purple necklace?
    Telling the unconverted heathen about your sincere religious beliefs is one thing. Forcing people to live by them is another.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Start Wearing Purple?
    At first I thought the face on the poster was Ron Post of Those Annoying Post Bros.
    Then I clicked on it, got to YouTube, and now I don’t know what to think.
    Gibber gibber tweet gibber tweet gibber…

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Ah, those were fun comics. Often sick and twisted, but fun.