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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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • …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.

  • 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

  • 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.)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • kcrothers

    I see that your Schwartz is as big as mine…

  • 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:

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • I would so watch that movie.

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

  • esmerelda_ogg

    He’s NOT?!??!!

  • FearlessSon

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

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

  • 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.

  • “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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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

    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

    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

    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…

  • 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

    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.

  • 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.

  • Daniel

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

  • 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.”

  • Ben English

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

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • Daniel

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

  • 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).