August 11, 2009

Robert Wright is getting a lot of press with his book The Evolution of God as I am sure you at least tangentially have realized. Hard to avoid juggernaut publicity campaigns these days. (what?! you missed the postcard mailings which blanketed some nether county in eastern Kentucky when my book came out?)

You can read some longish selections of each chapter at
the book's impressively thorough webpage, which is a nice stopgap until his book starts showing up at thrift stores (I give it three months).

I wonder if the religious presses go through periodic waves of enthusiasm and marketing the ways the irreligious genre does. Or do they call that revivialism? If the three preconditions for a revival can be readily identified (the Boles model--or is it four? it has been awhile) then there must be a like- three or four preconditions for the opposition-to-religion set to churn out the books. Ying/Yang, Christ/Antichrist, whatever. Maybe this is the great battle of the Tribulation. Wouldn't that be a downer.

I found Wright's selections interesting but not exactly stunningly original. Or even original. But the writing is good and I bet there is something to be gleaned here.

But I think you very well might be better off reading American Gods, which said almost the same thing only better, and also has a good story to boot. Plus, it is in almost every thrift store right now. (I know Neil Gaiman is something of a clown but that book is actually pretty good).

Hitchens book (another media splash) is ok and is exactly as you would expect. I do think that his mischaracterization of Buddhism mars the book since quite literally the only example he produces as evidence is an overuse and slight misreading of Zen at War, which is a great book made even profound because of how directly it shows the complete perversion of Zen Buddhism in Imperial Japan. It happens that I was teaching this book at exactly the time I picked up Hitchens book, so what I thought was his careless misuse of it was really grating. Hitchens wants all religions to fit into his model so he has to torque Buddhism into place and uses this book to do it even if the point is exactly the opposite. But my sense is that that particular task is not only senseless, it is utterly beside the point as far as the core of Buddhist philosophy goes.

(don't worry, this is not a sign that Undismayed is not going to veer from the Mexican music path into half assed Buddhist philosophizing).

God seems to be on people's minds these days. Or is that better termed " on their feverish brains"? The issue is in the air, even around here where our mind is ever-placid and untrammeled like a winter field.

All of this was in my mind today I ran into a friend of mine today who also happens to be a Hasidic Jew. I like the guy a lot, friendly, smart, and all of that, good to see him. But I have to say, he is nuts. Completely fucking insane. And this is all a theologically based lunacy, of course. He is no less and no more batshit insane than the hardcore fundamentalist Baptists I know in much greater numbers around here, but a lunatic to be sure. And they are all nice people too, these got-damn fucking fundamentalist nuts. And not one of them has yet held a poisonous snake. Men of God! Quite!

Or at least the ones I associate with are all good people despite their eternal wandering in the thickets. I certainly can't bear witness for the fundamentalist crazy m'fers currently spanking off to pictures of Sarah Palin cradling her rifle, or to those others busy fucking dudes in airport bathrooms.

Or this moron yelling at Arlen Specter:

"In Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) faced an unruly audience that booed and jeered as he attempted to respond to accusations that the legislation pending in Congress would allow the government to deny them care, steal money from their bank accounts and obliterate private insurance.

"You can do whatever the hell you please to do," one angry man yelled at Specter. "One day God's going to stand before you, and he's going to judge you and the rest of your damned cronies up on the Hill. And then you'll get your just desserts." '

Wait, isn't it the opposite--don't we stand before God while he sits up on a Golden Throne or something? And isn't Specter the crony while its the gays and the liberals and the people-who-want-all-old-people-to-be-unplugged the ones pulling the strings?

Though the angry man does have a good point. There is no fucking way God wants people to have health care or to be healthy. He takes care of it all. "Health care" is not just a communist idea, it is an abomination in the bright blue eyes of God's Master Plan.

He (that is, God, not the angry dude) knows the Ralph Stanley song: "Everybody Wants to Get to Heaven But Nobody Wants to Die". Time to die! She-it, God probably whispered that into Ralph's ear on his way to investing some person in a Wise County church with the Holy Spirit.

No health coverage = more people finding their seat at the Welcome Table. Specter, with his fancy-schmancy federal health care is never going to get to touch the hem of His purple raimants so fair or drink of those life-giving waters.

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