Friday, December 28, 2012

The Christmas [Blank] - 2012

My wife and I were going to skip the Christmas story tradition this year since our new baby has kept us pretty busy, but my brother wrote one, so I went ahead and added one too. My sister also contributed a story, increasing the range from “silly to weird” to more like “silly to pretty messed-up”. Also, I reformatted the ebook version so the text isn’t part of the pictures, and so that the pictures are small enough to allow a few more years’ worth of stories before I hit the Smashwords size limit on the file.

You can get the free e-book in various formats from here:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Military Feng Shui

I have this really, really great idea. As I understand it, Feng Shui is about positioning objects to channel chi in a way that is beneficial to the people it flows around. (I know the official spelling is “qi”, but I’m a fan of phonetic spelling when possible.) So what if we tried using it for purposes other than home furnishing? Imagine lining up your tanks and cannons and soldiers (and couches, if you want) in such a way that all the chi in the area flows around them and gives them a tactical advantage. Or even in a way that forces a bunch of chi forward in a concentrated beam – a chi laser! You could also trick your enemies into maneuvering into a formation that seems to give them a tactical advantage, but then all of a sudden all their equipment shuts down or falls apart. You cannot tell me that this is not a fantastic idea. (Hopefully I am not spoiling any national secrets by suggesting it.)

Organized Religion

I talked a while ago about how it seems to me that a belief in morality seems to imply a belief in God. Well on a semi-related note, I recently saw a Facebook comment that drove me crazy, although I didn’t reply because I don’t know the person and it would have come across as being argumentative. The original post (from someone I do know) was a quote from Martin Luther King, saying this:

"Any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried."

Fair enough. I’m not sure what religion doesn’t care about those things, but I assume he was telling people that political issues can also be moral issues that people are obligated to become involved in. Then someone replied to this by saying that “this is precisely why all ‘religion’ fails”. WHAT?

Aside from the huge jump in logic involved in trying to take a comment about religions’ obligations to suggesting that all religions fail (at what?), the quotes around the word “religion” make me think this is an example of a common, yet inexplicable, attitude: that religion is good, but organized religion is unnecessary or even harmful. Proponents often cite various world problems (wars, etc.) that have been caused in the name of a particular religion. But the existence of a misguided religion (or even thousands of them) doesn’t mean that none of them are valuable. (Besides, people have a way of waging war even if they can’t use religion as a justification.) But aside from that, let’s consider the fundamental claim here. If religion is good but organized religion is bad, then that means that there is a God, and he cares what we do, but that he definitely does not want to tell us what he wants in any organized way. It’s pretty hard for me to imagine why God would require people to practice disorganized religion!

It seems to me that this is just a weak way around the cognitive dissonance between atheism and morality I mentioned before. But it really is weak, because any set of values you care to pick can be traced back to prophets delivering a message from God – the most fundamental form of organized religion. And of course, if you believe that it’s important to listen to authorized messengers from God, my obligatory next question would be: why not expect God to keep delivering messages to us today in an authoritative, organized way? (hint ☺)