NRA: Throwing Chaim under the (hypothetical) bus

NRA: Throwing Chaim under the (hypothetical) bus May 24, 2013

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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  • 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?

  • 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

  • Why do people keep calling her that?

  • Ima Pseudonym

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?”

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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?

  • 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

    (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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Daniel

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

  • Consumer Unit 5012

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

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Ignorance Is Strength.

  • 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’.

  • 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 )

  • 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?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

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

  • Consumer Unit 5012

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • dpolicar

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

  • 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.

  • 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.