Bad Religion, 1.

The title is partly for my punk buddy John Fowles, but also because I intend to spend a few posts reviewing a new book by Peter Vardy, Good and Bad Religion (London: SCM, 2010).

You may have noticed that the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens recently squared off in another one of the popular atheists vs. intellectual believers debates. It’s worth watching for its style only: Blair the charming, disarming politico, Hitchens full of bite and wit. But the content is stale, alas. Religion is bad, says Hitchens Dawkins, Harris. Not all religion, rejoins Blair. Etc. Etc. You’ve heard it all before.

Vardy’s book is an admission to the new atheists that much religion is indeed bad, and that rather than rush to defend faith, believers should use this as an opportunity to root out the bad. He agrees with Marx, and Euhemerus millennia before, that religion is often used to do evil: “Marx was rejecting religion as a political tool of oppression by the powerful against the weak. In other words, he was rejecting bad religion” (p.9). He also thinks Philip Pulman is right (as do I).

Vardy writes that “[b]oth atheists and supporters of ‘good religion’ need to be on the same side in resisting ‘bad religion'” (p.14). The first challenge is to identify the “bad.” What are the “clear criteria” (p.11)  for identifying bad religion?

Next: Truth.

Comments

  1. >What are the “clear criteria” (p.11) for identifying bad religion?

    Ibn Rawandi: when religion escapes the bounds of reason.
    Al-Ma’arri: superstition and dogmatism.
    Freud: destructive to the psyche.

    ?

  2. Hitchens seemed to argue during the debate that a primary “evil” of religion was the surrender of independent thought (i.e., you must ultimately accept someone else’s best judgment, whether that be a fallible church authority figure or a God who may seem capricious and vengeful, over your own best judgment).

  3. Matthew Chapman says:

    Good religion tells us how we ought to behave.
    Bad religion justifies us behaving as we like.

    Good religion tells us we have special moral obligations in relation to God.
    Bad religion tells us we have special moral privileges (ie exceptions) in relation to God.

    Bad religion identifies the “other” in humankind.
    Good religion tells us there is no “other”.

  4. living in zion says:

    Bad religion is anything I don’t like.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    I have a feeling that no matter how we try to define “bad religion,” Mormonism is going to end up on that side of the ledger…

  6. Re: 2
    He seems to have an interesting thought… “ultimately accept someone else’s best judgment…over your own best judgment”.

    I’m curious if anyone can make a claim from an intellectual, non-religious standpoint that any of has something called our “own judgment”. Are we not all a product of someone else’s judgment? Who could possibly claim their “judgment” would be the same on any given issue if they were born 1000 years earlier? Doesn’t that fact require you to accept the reality that no matter what you do, you are accepting someone elses best judgment in determining your own?

    If one side says I want to do X, because the prophet said so (no LDS should do this without the individual spiritual confirmation anyway).

    How is that different than another “free-thinker” saying, I want to do Y, because I say so because I’m integrating the intellectual foundations laid by my predecessors into what is supposedly “my own” judgment).

  7. Bad Religion = source of pride
    Good Religion = source of humility

  8. Good religion and Bad religion is most often not institutional, but rather individual.

  9. James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

    Bad Religion teaches us that I’m a 21st century digital boy, I don’t know how to read but I got a lot of toys. My daddy’s a lazy middle-class intellectual, my mommy’s on valium so inneffectual . . . . C’mon now!

  10. *seconds the motion from John C and Matthew Chapman*

    The only way an entire religion can end up on the “bad” side is if it actively teaches doing whatever we want and justifies it.

  11. I agree with c, I think our worldview is mostly a sum of the ideas that others present to us mingled with our experience. I don’t think there is much “own best judgment”, and I think regardless of the existence of institutional religion that people will flock to the ideas of others. If you take away the Glenn Beck, you still have Rush Limbaugh; and I think its pretty much the same on the other side of the aisle. People like to be told what to believe. Thats not to say that they don’t have the ability to think and judge for themselves, but I do think that people will always make pleas to the ideas of others to justify the evil that they do. Whether its Hitler using Luther’s ideas to justify genocide, or if the leaders of the United States are using “Manifest Destiny” and the idea of dispersing democracy throughout the world to make war with Mexico, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq . . . . . . .
    In the end its the same. Religion/ideology/philosophy are neuter in themselves as far as being good or bad. It’s what they are used for that make them either good or bad.

  12. Brad DeLorrow says:

    What does God say?

  13. bad religion is one that uses political powers to force others to its standards when others have not accepted those standards.

  14. I agree with c as well, and with the point that religion in the broad and abstract sense is neither good nor bad but the uses to which it is put are.

    However, I don’t think that’s what Hitchens was saying. I think he was saying that religion causes us to be divided, sometimes within ourselves and other times along community lines.

    For example, I might personally think that supporting gay marriage, in terms of making it legal, is the right thing to do, but ultimately surrender to what I perceive as the church’s position of opposing gay marriage. That kind of dissonance may cause me internal confusion and pain, and may cause me to define certain groups as “them” when I prefer to think of them as “us.” I’m not sure there’s an easy way to fix that.

  15. Latter-day Guy says:

    Bad religion is evidenced when we pretend that loving God and loving Man are conflicting mandates.

    Bad religion is evidenced when we use platitudes like “love the sinner, hate the sin” to cover the fact that we find it too easy to hate sins––when they are not our own, and too hard to love sinners––other than ourselves. (I’m reminded of Lewis’s refreshing refusal in Surprised By Joy to comment on the “heinousness” of a particular sin, because it was not one to which he was tempted.)

    Bad religion is not necessarily evidenced when our “moral, righteous” actions cause others pain, but certainly when we then want to pretend that such pain does not matter, that it is somehow not our fault (because we “chose the right”), and that we are not responsible to do everything within our power to relieve it. The more convinced we are that the action which inflicted suffering was right, the more responsible we are––at the very, very least––to never look away from that suffering. Even if we can do nothing to heal it, we must choose to share it.

  16. You could also flip this on its head as well. Atheism is bad says Blair. Look at Stalin and Mao after all. Hitchens (a guy I like FWIW) says not all atheists are bad. Who exactly says Blair? So we start a list. Good atheist Hitchens… Bad atheist Stalin.

  17. John Mansfield says:

    Considering how Nephi sorted such things, I don’t think there is anything he approved as good religion that Hitchens would like in the least.

  18. Latter-day Guy (as is typical) gets it just right:

    Bad religion is not necessarily evidenced when our “moral, righteous” actions cause others pain, but certainly when we then want to pretend that such pain does not matter, that it is somehow not our fault (because we “chose the right”), and that we are not responsible to do everything within our power to relieve it.

  19. If I were Hitchens, I would probably counter that the “moral, righteous” actions that cause others pain were put in scare quotes because at least some of those actions, and probably many or all of them, were neither moral nor righteous.

    I’m not, though. So I agree with the sentiment as someone who is religious and is trying his best to muddle through with limited knowledge and whatever inspiration I can glean, correctly interpret, and put to use. I think if I were a cynical secularist, I would see at least some of those actions as “Bad Religion” (again, scare quotes).

  20. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    Thought this was going to be an OP on Greg Graffin and the band of my youth and youngmanhood. But this will do. Thank you.

  21. Latter-day Guy says:

    19, “moral, righteous” are in scare quotes precisely because if our actions are causing pain and suffering, we have serious reason to doubt their morality and/or righteousness. All the same, perception and intent matter. Even if such actions are in fact neither moral nor righteous, a mistaken perception that they are suggests a few things: we may be less culpable for the actions than we would be otherwise; we may have a poorly formed conscience; we may just be kidding ourselves, covering ugliness with a veneer of virtue/respectability––as Wilde suggests, perhaps “Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.”

  22. #5 I disagree with that. The Community of Christ demonstrates that Mormonism has the potential to be compatible with liberty, equality, and human dignity.

  23. Karl Popper has the answer to C’s point.

    The rot begins with knowledge claims because knowledge justifies power claims. If you know the future because of material dialectics, biological essentialism, or any other creed then your rule can bring about a better world.

    It is those knowledge claims that justify dictatorship and domination and discredit liberty. I agree with C. that it does not matter whether those justifications are religious or secular.

    So the key is, what do we claim to know.

    Good religion acknowledges that faith implies doubt. Bad religion will couch faith in terms of knowledge and certainty.

    Good religion will emphasize the limitations of mortals. Bad religion will claim to safe the world.

  24. Mormons will make little progress in this argument until we recognize and point out that all people are religious, and that all action is necessarily some form of atonement. Limiting this discussion to traditionally recognized religions completely ignores activities and involvements which people usually do instead of ‘religious’ activities as if those activities were not in fact religious also.

    Are sports not a religious activity? They draw the ‘masses’ into ‘temples’ to watch a ‘performances’ where a ‘hero’ contends with a ‘villain’. Do video games not take a participant by proxy as Mario from one ‘world’ to the next wherein a ‘dragon’ is contended with & defeated? What about film? Popular music? Literature? Boating? Yoga? Is there nothing that doesn’t deify some creator (master, artist, writer, director, player, Etc.)? Is there nothing without a sacred text to memorize (lyrics, movie lines, sports stats, chakras) in lieu of familiarizing yourself with Isaiah?

    People want to separate all these activities from religion because that justifies ‘immersion’. But even Melville temples the sperm whale and refers to the oil stash in the whale’s head as a ‘holy of holies’. Even Terry Tempest Williams attends Bosche’s Garden of Earthly Delights as if it were a celestial room.

    Atonement is the basic function of the human being. Even if you’re just talking about going to a corner shop to make yourself ‘one’ with a snickers bar. According to Christ, the body is a temple. That means ALL action is temple work, and there is nothing that is incidental. Not golf, not knitting, not US magazine. For Blair and Hitchens to argue over the merits of traditional religion is an exercise in futility because it ignores an entire herd of elephants in the room. When you look at the world through the lens that the temple has provided us, restricting the discussion to Islam, Catholicism and Warren Jeffs merely scrapes the surface of what’s actually happening to human beings.

  25. People want to separate all these activities from religion because that justifies ‘immersion’.

    No, they want to seperate them because they are not religion.

    But even Melville temples the sperm whale and refers to the oil stash in the whale’s head as a ‘holy of holies’.

    Understanding a metaphor FAIL.

    According to Christ, the body is a temple. That means ALL action is temple work

    If the body is the temple, then all action has the potential of being temple work – if we sancify it. It does not logically follow that all work HAS to be temple work. Also, the temple gets vacuumed every week – its work in the temple, but I think it would be incorrect to call it “temple work”. Maybe I’m wrong.

    Atonement is the basic function of the human being. Even if you’re just talking about going to a corner shop to make yourself ‘one’ with a snickers bar.

    This is why I like talking about this in Spanish. Expiar (Expiate) doesn’t have this pesky etymology which misleads people about what Christ’s sacrifice was really all about. Seriously, you are not taking upon you the sins of your Snickers™ bar when you eat it. You are just eating it. Drawing a parallel to Christs sacrifice is futile, misleading, and pretentious.

  26. Steve Evans says:

    #24 is just hilarious. Is this what humanities majors talk like these days?

  27. Also, let this be known as the first time in history that “temple” was used as a verb.

  28. Latter-day Guy says:

    24––Give me whatever he’s having, duuuude.

  29. Thomas Parkin says:

    Whatever tends to be good tends to enable and encourage us to expand the borders of our soul – the totality of everything we are – until we reach our full potential. Whatever tends to be bad tends to disable and discourage us from expanding the totality of our being, until we are little or nothing, at all.

    Good and bad religion follow.

  30. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    24 – I’m one with a Ralph’s croissant and a Mountain Dew for break-fast every morning. Sorry, I just had to say it, man. Sorry.

  31. Melville templing sperm whales, ftw

  32. My friends, I have no insults to offer back to you. I request that you respond in kind.

    Anyone with access to the OED will be able to confirm that “templing” is indeed a verb.

    The Lord established the body as a temple, not me. He said it, and now it is a part of the current covenant. Paul followed that up by asking “know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” Did he mean only when you are in the temple? No. Did he mean only when you are righteous? No. He meant in the AM and in the PM.

    1 Cor 6:20 – “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

    It seems pretty cut and dry to me. I may be crazy, but I am open to correction. So feel free. Jesus made a purchase, and it is always in effect. Hence, his command to stand for him in all places and in all things. So then our purchase follows the Saviors. He bought us, and what do we buy? Or more appropriately, what do we buy in to? Does not our purchase and attendance “save” someone or something? They need ten guys to play church ball, right? Your presence always counts.

    Vacuuming is absolutely temple work. It’s as much a part of sanctification as cleaning your temple clothes. But even evil has its own temples, rites, tithes and texts which are cited like scripture. Evil has its own garments. It is all temple work, both the sacred and the profane. The only essential difference are the gods worshipped and the people collecting the tithes.

    To be clear, B.Russ, when I used the snickers bar example I was not talking about saving the bar itself, but rather the brand. You can’t make a purchase in this world without saving someone. Snickers come from a company (Mars?) and that company extracts a tithe from all that buy in. Thus, they persist by this small covenant. We agree to continue buying, they agree to continue production. Same with the trucking company that ships them, same with the 7-Eleven that distributes them. You cannot eat or use any product without making yourself “one” with it in one sense or another. Thus you tie it to your eternal destiny. So Observer’s example of a croissant and Mountain Dew, even if offered in jest, is completely accurate. He is tying his immediate, long term, and even his eternal fortunes to those and all other products he chooses to put into his temple.

  33. 31. – Read Moby Dick, and explain to me otherwise.

  34. I liked #24. I am also fairly certain that I am the only one here who can claim to have sung a song with Greg Gaffin in a hotel room in Texas- or otherwise- so I am claiming the win. :)
    As an atheist I wish Hitchens and Dawkins weren’t our standard bearers. I find their snideness deplorable and their scholarship just silly sometimes. Specifically the idea that wars would cease, humanity would fall into reasonable and egalitarian discourse and all that rot. Stephen Fry is my guy- respectful of the contributions and outright beauty that religion provides but deeply skeptical and ethical in his disagreement with organized religion. Oh swoon!

  35. When you ascribe religiosity to all things, it devalues religion.

    The percentage that is kept by the Mars company is not a tithe, its a profit.

    I don’t “tie” myself to a snickers bar when I eat it. To be blunt, I poop out 95% of it, and the other 5% will be processed over the next couple years of my life only to dwindle away as dead skin/hair/etc.

    And again I reiterate, that Christ did say that our bodies were temples to emphasize the fact that we should do our acts in sanctity; not as an explanation that all acts were by necessity sacred.

    You seem like a nice guy (girl?), so I probably should have been more kind to you. If seeing all things as one, intertwined, and sacred helps you to live a good life, thats great. But when people try to ascribe an interconnectedness of all life and actions and try to insert a sanctity that doesn’t exist (calling profit tithe and calling digestion atonement) it devalues very important principles for me and strikes me as pretentious.

  36. Also, just for kicks and giggles, I typed “templing” into Microsoft Word. It underlined it in red. So Nah!

  37. Obolus (32-33),

    My friends, I have no insults to offer back to you. I request that you respond in kind.

    Since I happen to really love your blog, and because I hope you’ll stick around for a while, I will offer this: We only tease the ones we love.* Relax a bit, don’t take offense, and laugh.

    *Complete and utter lie. We tease people we hate, too. All the time, really.

  38. Steve Evans says:

    Obolus, I neither love you nor hate you, but I do think you are probably a little crazy. You talk like a crazy fundamentalist. I suppose I am jealous of your zeal. But mostly, I read comments like yours and think “wow, nuts.”

  39. What Thomas Parkin said in #29 – with no alteration or addition. Brilliant, friend.

  40. Bad religion is denoted by someone saying they know more about God than you do, and then asking for remuneration for that information.

    I’m not sure that there is good religion but it would involve no Monet ch

  41. Sorry……
    It might involve Monet but I meant to say it would not involve money changing hands but rather humility and tolerant exchanges of Godly ideas.

  42. I’m curious if anyone can make a claim from an intellectual, non-religious standpoint that any of has something called our “own judgment”. Are we not all a product of someone else’s judgment?

    This kind of seems like an important point. Certainly some of the simpler definitions are great (humility and finding the commonality between people being a couple that struck me particularly), but getting into specifics is always where things get tricky. Bad religion in one context could be good religion, or at least something that leads people to good religion, in another context. I agree that atheism throws the baby out with the bathwater, but it’s easy to see why. Producing a system that robustly rewards good behavior (whatever that means in a given time or place) and discourages bad isn’t straightforward.

    I think one marker of bad religion (and one that’s been mentioned before by other, better thinkers than myself) is absolutism. There should always be doubt and room for critical assessment of the appropriateness of any action. People don’t like critical assessment, though, I’d guess because admitting doubt means admitting you might be wrong, and people find that extremely uncomfortable. But maybe I just think that because science is my true religion ;)

  43. I don’t necessariliy understand identifying right and wrong based on pain caused. Pain is very grounded by time and a different understanding of time (eternity v. this life) can change a perception of pain. Niether do I understand a lack of empathy for someone’s pain.

    I also have a tough time celebrating independent thought when it comes from someone who only thinks “independently” like Dawkins.

    I get equally frustrated by assumptive absolutes: scientist people who think the best we know so far=truth, and religious people who think the way THEY understand a doctrine based on what little we know so far = truth.

  44. No, Britt. Pain is grounded in biology. It is a physiological response.

    I know what you mean. You are thinking about feelings and sensibilities but before we reduce reality to a metaphor, lets make sure that we acknowledge reality.

  45. In a good religion, leaders are accountable, especially with respect to power and money.

    When leaders are afraid to disclose their behavior, you can tell that something is not right.

  46. Hellmut,
    We know where you want to take this. Why be coy?

  47. OK. I think that the failure to disclose finances harms the LDS Church.

  48. The will to believe is immense. This will can be manipulated by bad people (or ignorant people) of any religion, which, I believe, is Dawkins’ point.

    How often I have sat in Gospel Doctrine listening to a teacher talking about Noah and the ark as if it were absolute truth, or Adam and Eve. This is terrible to believe because of what it allows us to do with the environment.

    There have been positions put forward in the LDS Church by leaders with a personal agenda and for personal reasons. Think of E. T. Benson who donated Church funds to the Birch Society, thereby setting an example for the believing. These leaders drove the whole Church into a ditch because of their own blindness and willingness to believe that their own emotional states were a result of the Spirit. That and together with members desirous of believing and willing to do whatever because of their will to believe.

    Can you think of a recent example?

    “Just drink the Cool Aid” killed thousands even as it killed the leadership.

  49. Please dial down the LDS Church bashing.

  50. Hellmut, what do you mean pain may is grounded in biology,? Of course! But to think emotion doesn’t play a part, as well as expectation, and circumstances is to misunderstand pain.

    stub your toe by surprise=pain
    kick door open=success

    Is the second perception wrong?

    this won’t hurt at all=shock +pain
    this will hurt but we can help you handle it=preparation+less perceived pain

    is emotional pain biological?

    What biologically happens when you find out you can never have children again? Is it biologically different if you find this out after you purposely chose a vasectomy?

  51. RJH, did you see Hitchens interviewed by Paxman the other night? Impressive, in the face of such odds, I thought.

  52. #49, RJH

    The LDS Church is much better than most. The Church teaches personal responsibility and personal revelation. The Church makes it very difficult for leaders with a personal agenda to become dominant and seriously injurious. The Church teaches us about our agency to decide for ourselves.

    I have learned about agency, the Spirit and the power of Christ in his true role. I have felt the spirit of Elijah, I have felt the sealing power in the temple.

    If the best Church can be bent by personal influences, then what can we expect of the worst?

  53. Latter-day Guy says:

    The Church makes it very difficult for leaders with a personal agenda to become dominant and seriously injurious.

    I have to disagree. The tendency to re-route local problems back to local leaders can create insulated abuse situations. Eventually, the squeaky wheel may get the oil, as long as the squeaky wheel manages not to get excommunicated in the interim. If a victim of ecclesiastical abuse is formally disciplined, that makes it much harder to be taken seriously by leaders highly-placed enough to help. This power dynamic allows certain abusers to destroy the credibility of their victims. (This is also enabled by the fact that discipline decisions are essentially one-man shows; the Bishop or, more usually, SP casts the only vote. High Council members may share their opinions, but in the end they are expected to get in line and sustain whatever decision the SP makes.)

    Such situations are, I believe (hope), rare — but having watched one unfold over the course of several years, I can only say it’s an ugly, awful, nasty business with the potential to be spiritually lethal.

  54. Institution on the Hill Like a beacon in the mind of an ancestor. To ignite a people’s will

  55. Scott B, thanks. I see that a thick skin is par for the course, but hopefully it will be understood that I mean harm to no one.

    35. – B.Russ, I can see your POV. But I would offer that true religion cannot be devalued. Its mythology perhaps, but not its Eternal heft. Mormons can be accused of hate, and that perception may hold sway with the crowd. But that doesn’t make it so.

    That said, I should clarify that I did not mean that all temple work is sanctification. To illustrate my intended meaning of “templing”, look at the language used in 3 Ne 19:32 & Moro 9:19:

    “And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak;”

    “And they have become strong in their perversion; and they are alike brutal, sparing none, neither old nor young; and they delight in everything save that which is good; and the suffering of our women and our children upon all the face of this land doth exceed everything; yea, tongue cannot tell, neither can it be written.”

    So both the sacred and the profane have an unspeakable extreme. One is understood to be treated with complete reverence, the other with unutterable dismay. Though individuals may attempt it, neither “can” be written because both defy description. But either way you end up with a human being who won’t really discuss the event. Kishkumen’s oaths, and those of our contemporary mafia, are rites of the adversary’s false atonement. But they are still templing. It’s just the profane version of the practice.

    Are these two examples from the BoM not in fact the end result of Lehi’s doctrine of the necessity for opposition in all things? I offer that one temple cannot exist in a Telestial plane without the other. Why? Because taking a stand necessarily draws a line. And building a temple in the first place is most definitely the result of someone having enough spine to take a stand. Therein, a “profit” is just a different name for the same extraction, and the Lord will make us accountable for all of our stewardships.

    Now am I claiming that all products are evil and to be abandoned? No. I’m a Jazz fan, and I enjoy reading Jerry Sloan’s quotes in the paper. But NBA basketball has it’s own “sacred” text, temples, and garb. Those that atone more than others are privileged within that hierarchy. It is a powerful religion that mesmerizes millions. I also like Grapenuts. I have to watch myself, like anyone in the church, and prioritize the Lord and his temple over all instances of my temporary worldly covenants. But the different diction we use for these essentially identical processes is merely superficial. The Lord’s distinction in their use is clear:

    “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

    As an example of going about it badly (as the OP puts it), think about the Beatles in this context. The fans were screaming and giving their time, talents, energy and bodies to that cult of radio sensation & personality. Their physical religious fervor is apparent in the documentaries. The mere presence of the band on stage was simultaneously a redemption and endowment of power. If Beatlemania wasn’t an example of atonement, then the word has no meaning.

    Consequently, all popular musicians are in the business of “saving souls”. Pop culture in general followed on the heels of a long tradition of religious revivalism in this country. The difference is that they switched out the idols. They needed a messiah that would cater to the natural man, so they inserted Elvis & his hips. Hence, musicians are treated like deities. And the experience of their performances/recordings are recounted in what can easily be understood as throw-away, religious hyperbole. Amazon.com and IMDB are literally filled with such testimonials.

  56. MikeInWeHo says:

    Obolus should get nominated for a Niblet.

  57. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    55 – Is part of the atonement of being a Jazz fan to eat Grapenuts so as to be “regular” in time for the Lakers series each spring?

  58. Steve Evans says:

    “If Beatlemania wasn’t an example of atonement, then the word has no meaning.”

    It clearly has no meaning for you.

  59. Latter-day Guy says:

    This is just getting surreal. As though Obolus lives in a world populated entirely by lobster-phones, melting clocks, and elephants with impossibly long, skinny legs.

  60. Folks, I think I want to marry this thread.

  61. 57. – Observer, posts like mine could hardly be proof of anything else ;)

  62. I would offer that true religion cannot be devalued.

    Well now thats just completely ridiculous!! I bought a pair of True Religion™ jeans last December after Christmas at Down East Outfitters. They were marked down to like $50.

  63. #50 Britt, I just find it troubling when people want to deemphasize other people’s pain, for example, by putting suffering into an “eternal” perspective. That’s pretty convenient for the abusers.

    It reminds me both of the Holy Inquisition or the Bolsheviks who were only too ready to sacrifice their followers to bring about some utopia faster.

    We cannot always end pain but that is all the more reason to respect people who are suffering instead of trivializing the hurt by imposing our metaphysical ideas on other human beings.

  64. I think we should be very slow to judge right or wrong based on our own pain. It is impossible to read another’s pain as anything other than what they express it to be.

    I was thinking more of biological pain as limiting another’s pain based on what science could identify as “pain”.

    scott b…there’s that slippery slope..right there. marrying threads.

  65. Thank you, Britt. I agree with that.

  66. Man, I really liked #24, but the ripostes had me rolling in the aisle.

  67. And where do I find this Obolus’ web-blog?!!

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