left biblioblography: December 2005

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


‘From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!’

  • Old Scottish Prayer

I find this old, old rhyme very startling in its implications. Because it says ever so much, if one reads between the lines.

It’s all about fear.

Do you recall that very first moment, laying in bed, in the dark, and seeing the curtains morph into some tentacled nightmare? Or perhaps it was your jacket, laid across a chair, which began to take some unfathomable shape, beyond its proper dimension.

Let’s add another word.

It’s all about night fears.

Fear in and of itself is hard-wired into our nervous systems. It beats arrhythmically in our hearts, a pounding tattoo in our veins, whether it’s a near miss in traffic, the hoarse incoherency of confrontation with one of the walking wounded, the loss of a loved one, the sudden sound in the dark when walking to the car.

We do need the fear. It teaches us not to grab the knife as it falls, to touch the bright redness of a burner, to calculate whether or not to run a red light, to pull the hand back from chomping machinery.

Fear. Such a monosyllabic word; so rife with ramification.

As a species, we lack most of the necessary components to be true predators. No fangs to rip, no claws to rend with. But we are granted by evolution that most valuable tool: the mind.

The mind requires structure. It requires virtues too numerous to list here. But with the birth of identity, comes the need to identify.

Some ancient cultures maintain, in their rituals and rites, that to name a thing is to have power over it. Why? Identity requires it. Structure requires it.

Examine any ancient (or semi-modern, or even modern) culture, and you will encounter a huge divergence of ‘ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties’, from the Celtic to the Asian, everywhere you go.
It boils down to putting faces and names to the sounds outside the campfire. Dating back to a time when every moment, waking or otherwise, was a grim battle for survival, where death was but a heartbeat away, and no more. It perhaps dates back even to when our ancestors fled the gaping, jagged teeth of the Devonian shark.

But first we name the thing. It brings us closer to understanding it. Then we measure by observation.

Of course, when lighting the torch, or flicking on the light, it vanishes. So we begin to ascribe attributes unobservable to this fleeing creature that defies pigeonholing. The imagination runs rampant, and sometimes, the fear overwhelms, and what was once a curtain moving in the draft takes on every possible aspect of that which we dread, and the rhythm begins, the tattoo pounds.

And somewhere, somehow, some resourceful Alpha wolf measured the impact, on himself or another, and the AW became the shaman, the priest, or the village witch doctor. Offering protection from the fear. Proffering a shield against the unknown, the sounds beyond the campfire.

Thus, religion was born.

But when the herd outgrew the fantasy, another had to be invented. Or reinvented. It evolved, for wont of a better word.

Thusly, were ‘ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties’ also born. In response, a number of mythic creatures benign were also born, for it is observable, that most things have a counterpart, or, to paraphrase Heraclitus, life is a dynamic interplay between polar opposites.

Yes, we should live with some sense of wonder. The unique nature of our world precludes otherwise.

But there are limits. There needs be some boundaries defined: otherwise, fantasy becomes illness.

And yes, there are ‘ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties. There are predators.

They are human, is all.

‘What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive’, as the old bard Bill once said.


Saturday, December 24, 2005


With increasing frequency, I’m encountering this sort of nonsense all over the Internet:

“Pol Pot, Mao, & Stalin [occasionally Hitler’s tossed into this mix] were atheists, and look what THEY did.”

However, when turnabout becomes fair play, and an atheist (like myself, or others) respond with “What about Torquemanda, the Crusades, the Inquisition (substitute your religious example of intolerance/atrocity here), we’re greeted with this gratuitous nonsense:

“Well, they weren’t TRUE Christians.”

The old ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy, of course.

From http://www.candleinthedark.com/logic:

FALLACY OF REDEFINITION OR The "No True Scotsman..." fallacy Suppose I assert that no Scotsman likes to play checkers. You counter this by pointing out that your friend Angus likes to play checkers. I then say "Ah, yes, but no true Scotsman likes to play checkers. “

This is an example of an ad hoc change being used to shore up an assertion, combined with an attempt to shift the meaning of the words used original assertion; as well as "counting the hits and forgetting the misses" -you might call it a combination of fallacies. Whatever you call it, it’s a nasty attempt to alter reality to suit one's needs.

Truthfully, this sort of double standard just pisses me right off.

We, as atheists, have no such luxury. The black eyes of the French Revolution, the Communist/Bolshevik Cultural reconstructions (name it whatever you please: a rose by any other name, etc.)?

We’re stuck with it. The good, the bad, the ugly.

Growing pains are such a pain in the ass. When they cost lives, it’s much worse than that.

It’s no use arguing that their variety of atheism is divergent from ours. Sure it is. Atheism is a key (not a core) component. But then, I’m no sociologist, anthropologist, or degreed in any way. Ergo, not really qualified to speak from that angle.

As a human being, though, I AM qualified to say this:

Take your medicine. Accept the fuck-ups, the bad judgment calls. Life isn’t so convenient that you can simply say, “Oh, I won’t accept the consequences of THAT action.” Sure you can. It’s a bootless effort, for it’ll haunt you, denial notwithstanding. One way or another.

Social Darwinism is such a bankrupt meritocracy. The sad part is, that the Christians practice it with such abandon, it makes the brain fart.

From answers.com:


"The application of Darwinism to the study of human society, specifically a theory in sociology that individuals or groups achieve advantage over others as the result of genetic or biological superiority."

I’m including in this definition (this is free-hand, so forgive me), the tendency to cut the weakest of the herd from the larger portion.

So then we come to bastard children.

The ‘no true Christian’ standard.

The Christians, by and large, refuse to take credit for the bad shit done in their savior’s name. How nice for them. How luxurious.

It’s very much the social equivalent of disowning a friend or family member who commits some social faux pas: “Hey, he/she’s not with me!”

Cowardice. Plain and simple. Swimming in that ole Egyptian river.

Defining ‘Christian’ is easy. ‘Christ-like’, or ‘resembling Christ’.

Really? In what way? Isn’t one of the key components simply believing? Or do we go with ‘Acts plus faith’? Faith alone? Acts defining faith?

Can any of them agree? Obviously not. Not even in their book of fables.

All about spin. All about ‘plausible deniability’.

It’s such an amorphous concept; it’s surprising any of them agree on ANYTHING. Which they can’t. Witness the dizzying divergences among the Christian faith.

Bastard children, all.

Which brings us to number three: bad karma.

No, not really a proponent. I’m speaking here of the societal implications.

Cause and effect, really.

The larger part of this country are Christians (which of them are ‘true’ Christians? as my good friend, rainbows4dinosaurs pointed out recently on the NoGodBlog, kudos to you, sir!). We are beginning to see (with much more frequency, now that the rose-colored glasses are off) a startling amount of stark denial on a regular basis. Witness the moving feast of ‘that ain’t so!’ on Fox News (granted, this has been going on for some time now, not just on that fake news show). See the amazing President who’s never wrong! Watch as the ACLU attempts to destroy America! Witness the lies of Movingon.org!

It’s like a denial freak bally (for a good definition of that term, read Harlan Ellison’s A Gopher in the Gilly: I like to be helpful, but I can’t do everything for the reader; besides, adults should do research on their own, not take my, or anyone else’s, word on a subject).

Don’t like it? Either do something about it, or accept it.

Life changes. Good or bad, that’s the way it is. If you are one of those nimrods who want to freeze everything in stasis (Christians and/or Republicans), well, my friend, you’re SOL.

Take your medicine. You don’t need to like it. Hey, it tastes bad occasionally.

Burnt hand teaches best, they say. I’ll not repeat Santiago’s oft-spoken aphorism.

Just learn from it. Stop denying it.

That’s my nickel’s worth.