I see that Ken has the daily mull up and running again, with a few improvements. One of those improvements is a picture of the blogger, next to their post.
This presents a couple of problems where I'm concerned—and I'm going to need a little help from my readers.
The problems I spoke of are:
- It's simply impossible to get a picture of me, in the conventional sense. My existence and nature just don't lend themselves to photography. You can't just take a snapshot of The Ground of All Being on a Sunday afternoon in the park.
- And then, in this particular universe, on this particular planet, among certain organized religious groups, there's been a long-standing taboo against anyone creating an image of me.
I have mixed feelings about the second difficulty.
On one hand, I have a sort of theoretical agreement with the whole idea—the intention is definitely sound.
ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I was reluctant to take on this whole blogging thing, when Ken first started nagging me about it, was that I've done this kind of thing before.
Not a blog, exactly—and not in this universe—but I do have enough experience along parallel lines to know that eventually it gets me drawn into local politics.
I generally try to stay above all that.
But sometimes my tolerance for sheer stupidity and for fundamental dishonesty just runs thin.
So I'm going to step in, and point a few things out:
THE ONLY RESPONSES I've received directly have been in the comments sections under my posts.
But Ken has gotten some responses elsewhere.
One of my readers criticized his writing, saying that the God "whose personality was established in the letter" wouldn't particularly care about claims of a "war on Christmas".
Another accused Ken of "taking SPAG to a whole new level".
"SPAG" stands for "Self Projection As God" or, as that reader put it:
Taking your innermost desires, moral compass, and other attributes and projecting them onto God.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not presuming to tell you that you're not made up of the Ground of All Being...but so am I, and so is Henry Kissinger, and so is my dead dog, Logan. I'm trying to say that while you haven't burned yourself yet, you're definitely playing with fire. That's all. Though I do like your take on what makes supernatural and what that means.
Ken was a little offended by these responses, but then he has a very thin skin.
I, on the other hand, found the whole thing deliciously ironic.
Both comments are related to my topic today, which has to do with another question some of you have been asking:
LAST TIME I EXPLAINED THAT two quite different kinds of supernatural phenomena exist, depending on which definition humans use of the word "nature".
The first kind, based on the idea of nature as "the whole universe that humans experience", is the supernatural world underlying that universe—the supernatural which is just beyond the reach of human experience, mostly being investigated by the physicists among you.
The other way you humans use the word "natural" is to mean that same universe—the one with supernovas, praying mantises, and the pacific ocean—but minus your best friend, ice cream, couches, and even the basset hound and the itch on the end of your nose.
It's the part of that universe that exists without human beings and their influence.
LAST TIME, I POINTED OUT that the idea of the supernatural is rooted in your human concept of the natural world, and that there are two distinct human concepts of what is natural.
"Many of the gods and goddesses of the ancient religions, for example, would not have qualified as supernatural under this definition."
The first of these is the entire universe-as-you-experience-it, the world of basset hounds and couches and supernovas and praying mantises and chocolate ice cream—everything that you can observe with your normal senses, or even with a scientific instrument.
Using that idea of natural, the supernatural becomes whatever lies beyond that universe, the reality you can't observe, even with scientific instruments, but which is the ultimate source of this world you can observe.
This is a rather modern idea (speaking from your point of view).
ANOTHER POINT THAT CONFUSES people about me is the whole idea of the supernatural.
"The entire universe you live in: the world of basset hounds and couches and supernovas and praying mantises and chocolate ice cream"
Of course I'm not the only inhabitant of that realm, even in human imagination.
I share that distinction with angels, fairies, vampires, the devil, ghosts, leprechauns, and even Santa Claus.
I think this may be part of the confusion.
The problem is that there are not one, but two supernatural realms, and they often get confused.
Surprised you, didn't I?
You thought I was going to say there's no such thing.
Well, there are two such things, and it helps (or at least it helps you humans) to keep them separate in your minds.
MY LAST POST ELICITED a comment from a reader, ojones01, which was particularly insightful:
One of the ideas I struggle with the most is the thought that I "know." And in my "knowing," I am cut off from the reality around me, because I can see only what I know. No amount of evidence, arguing or persuasion can cause me to see anything else, because I know. It is so easy for me to fall into this trap, and my brain shuts down completely -- No need to think, no need to listen, no need to hear, no need, no need, no need....because I know. WOW! Do you hear the arrogance in that? That is not what I want, because that arrogant "knowing" keeps me from knowing you. Because I know, and what more could there possibly be to you than what I know?
I EXPLAINED IN AN EARLIER post that one of the reasons I chose an atheist site to blog on was that I am, in a very real sense, an atheist.
But I also said that was not the most important reason.
The other reason has to do with the whole idea of channeling, or, if you prefer, inspiration.
The world is full of books which claim to be my words, and frankly that's been the source of no end of trouble.
Most of those books actually were inspired by me to one degree or another—but that's not the problem.
The problem lies in how people react when they think they know what I've said on just about any topic.
There's this bizarre tendency to focus on the words to the exclusion of the music—and of common sense.
So let me put a few things straight.
Everybody channels me all the time.
SINCE THIS IS THE LAST Sunday before Christmas, and since both Sunday and Christmas are special to Christians, I thought it would be a good time to comment on the whole "War on Christmas" nonsense that fills the airways at this time of year.
Just for the record, I'm really fond of sleigh bells ringing, lit up trees, gift-giving, family gatherings, and even Santa Claus.
I'm not so much in favor of people lying to their children, but that point stands on its own, and really has nothing specific to do with Santa.
I'm even in favor of the story about the baby in the manger, except for a few points, which I'll get to later. It's very touching and magical.
But modern-day American Christians, especially the ones who go around screaming about a "War on Christmas" are missing the true meaning of the holiday, in several ways:
Since my first post was on the subject of Thanksgiving, I put off the general introduction to my blog until now.
As you may remember, I promised that I would eventually get around to some of the obvious questions, such as "why am I breaking the silence now, after all this time?" and "why am I doing it on an atheist site?"
I'm going to at least begin to keep that promise in this post, and I think I'll start with the second, and probably more controversial, question.
There are several reasons why I picked an atheist site for these posts, and I'll take them one at a time.
The first and probably least important reason is that I am an atheist.
Sounds paradoxical, doesn't it?
In spite of the fact that I have an inflated reputation for paradox, I assure you that this is really not one at all.
It's more a matter of semantics.