Friday, October 30, 2009

Dust, double standards, and good deeds


Jewish date:  12 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Lekh-Lekha).

Today’s holiday:  Friday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).

Topic 1:  Chapters 3 and 4 of The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2) by Philip Pullman.  The nature of Dust is explored by having the alethiometer lead Lyra to a physicist.  It is revealed that Dust is dark matter.  Dust/dark matter is conscious, and it is attracted to consciousness and the products of conscious thought, e.g., tools and other artifacts.  Dust/dark matter is not only responsible for the working of the alethiometer, but the Yì Jīng (I Ching) as well.  These claims suffer from two obvious problems:  1) Humans are conscious well before puberty.  Therefore one should expect that children well before puberty ought to be attracting Dust.  2) The world this conversation takes place in is supposed to be ours.  However, the Yì Jīng does not work in our world.  I am not impressed.

Topic 2:  Another crop of articles on the Israeli-Arab War:  “Dare to dream of a rebuilt Temple”, “CNN Waters Down the Israeli Response” and “Goldstone Report in the Clouds”.  Note the use of double standards to attack Jews and Israel and defend Muslims and the so-called “Palestinians”.

Topic 3:  “Clean Smell Promotes Good Deeds”.  I cannot make this up.

Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pullman stabs himself with The Subtle Knife


Jewish date:  11 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Lekh-Lekha).

Today’s holidays:  Thursday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Take Action: Sign the petition to President Obama | Save Darfur”.

Topic 1:  I have now read chapter 2 of The Subtle Knife (Book 2 of His Dark Materials) by Philip Pullman, and Pullman sets himself up for disaster.  The setting shifts back to the world Lyra started in.  Serafina Pekkala, a witch, discovers a lot of Church officials and Mrs. Coulter in a room together, plotting their next move.  They have already lost Lyra and an alethiometer (a divination device, the “Golden Compass” of The Golden Compass), and they are using their alethiometer and torturing a witch who thought with Lyra in an effort to get more information.  Lyra is the central character of prophesies, and they are very upset to have lost track of her and are trying to get hold of her again.  After euthanizing the tortured witch, Serafina goes on to investigate further consult and turn up other dirt on the Church and Lord Asriel.  It turns out that Lord Asriel has taken upon himself to do something amazingly ambitious and audacious:  he hopes to kill the Authority, the god of the Church/Magisterium.  This is the point where Pullman (figuratively) stabs himself, because he sets up a situation in which he cannot win.  If the Authority is an accurate reflection of the Christian Trinity, then this is impossible.  The Trinity is supposed to be immortal; therefore by definition there is nothing any human could possibly do to kill Him/Them.  Thus if Lord Asriel or any other human character kills an immaterial Authority, Pullman has him do something impossible.  On the other hand, if the Authority is sufficiently low a being so as to be killable, Pullman is attacking a god which does not reflect the one that Christians actually believe in.  Either way, Pullman loses.

Topic 2:  It is time again for another update of the latest episode of Eastwick, this time “Bonfire and Betrayal”, a Halloween episode, with references to witch burnings.  (Who did not see that coming?)  There is more of the tension between predestination versus free will in Roxanne’s visions, with attempts to prevent a foreseen death.  There is the disgraced pastor going insane and trying to murder Joanna.  (This feels cliché, or at least soap operaish.  Actually, the whole show feels soap operaish.)  There are more magic powers.  Nothing spectacular.



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Subtle Knife, sleight of hand, and Scientology


Jewish date:  10 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Lekh-Lekha).

Today’s holiday:  Feast Day of Theodor Reuss (Thelema).

Worthy causes of the day:  “Take off Walmart's health care "mask"”, “End So-Called Pre-Existing Conditions!”, and “Health care reform is around the corner”.

Topic 1:  Last night I read chapter 1 of The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2) by Philip Pullman.  Not really much new theologically so far.  Lyra Silvertongue (she has adopted a new last name) and her dæmon/soul Pantalaimon have so far retained physically separate form.  Naturally she finds unusual that the only other person she has met so far, the runaway boy Will Parry, does not have an external dæmon; she concludes that he carries his dæmon inside.  Will, unlike Lyra, managed to reach the universe of their meeting via a barely visible gateway whose origin has not yet been disclosed.

Somewhat off the topics I have discussed previously, so far Pullman’s protagonists have come from broken homes.  Lyra, the product of an adulterous union, was fought over between the neglectful Lord Asriel and the power-hungry psychopath Marisa Coulter.  Will’s father has long been absent, and his mother is mentally ill.  This tendency may simply be to create drama, but intuition suggests there may be something else to it as well.

Topic 2:  “The Obsession With Israel”.

This video asks the question of why there is so much focus on the alleged crimes of Israel when there is so much real, preventable suffering happening.  Perhaps the point is something akin to distraction techniques used by magicians:  to keep the focus off the real, preventable suffering, especially when perpetrated by the enemies of Israel.

Topic 3:  “French Branch of Scientology Convicted of Fraud”.  All those who did not see this eventually happening, stand on your head.



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Philip Pullman fails theology!


Jewish date:  9 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Lekh-Lekha).

Today’s holiday:  Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “No triggers for a public option. Tell Congress now.

Philip Pullman signing a copy of Lyra's Oxford...Image of Philip Pullman via Wikipedia
Topic 1:  Last night I finished The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) by Philip Pullman, and a great secret of this story is finally revealed in chapter 21.


The plot of this book focuses on two mysteries:  a weakly-interacting elementary particle known as “Dust” and the kidnapping of children.  Dust starts accumulating in children around puberty, a time when their dæmons loose the ability to change shape.  The Church has decided that Dust is evidence of (the purely Christian concept of) original sin.  Keep in mind, class, that original sin is sinfulness inherited from ’Adham (Adam) and Ḥawwah (Eve) due to their violating the prohibition of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; since it is something people are supposed to be born with, something acquired at puberty is probably not whatever physical manifestation it has.

To get around this obvious problem, Pullman rewrites his world’s version of Genesis 3:2-7 to give ’Adham and Ḥawwah dæmons which change shape.  The Snake promises that if they (’Adham and Ḥawwah) eat the forbidden fruit, their dæmons will take on their true forms.  Only when they eat of the fruit do their dæmons take on fixed forms and do they realize they are different from the rest of the animal kingdom, which do not have dæmons.  This still does nothing to get around the mismatch between Dust acquisition and original sin.  Pullman also introduces novel interpretations of a phrase from Genesis 3:19, “for you are dirt and to dirt you will return”:  “thou shalt be subject to dust”—hence the name of the particle—and that somehow this phrase is supposed to indicate that YHWH (God)’s nature is somehow to be partly sinful.  Neither of these new interpretations is tenable in the original Hebrew—and I will (figuratively, not literally) grind into the dirt the face of anyone ignorant enough to dare claim otherwise.  Pullman is simply jamming Scripture into a vague semblance of a useful form in order to be able to make the Church rationalize doing something awful.

As I have mentioned previously, the point of kidnapping children is to perform on them intercission, the separation of body and dæmon/soul.  Not one, but two reasons for intercission are given.  The first, which villain #1, Mrs. Coulter, is supposed to intend, is to keep children from being affected by Dust and thus save them from original sin.  No reason whatsoever is given to believe this should work, and nothing is reported on whether it works.  In fact, it makes no sense to have severed children wander around away from the facility if this is really what they want to do; such children should be retained in order to measure whether they collect Dust or not.  The other reason, which the heroine Lyra deduces that villain #2, Lord Asriel, intends, is to release the energy of the bond holding body and dæmon together.  Lord Asriel actually does this, using the energy to power a contraption to enable traveling to another world.

In summary:  I am not impressed.  Rather than show us the truth or beauty of atheism (whatever that may be), Pullman has invented a Christian world embodying what he hates about Christianity.  He hates the Roman Catholic Church.  He hates John Calvin.  He hates the past abuses of the Church.  But Pullman has gone farther than that.  He has rewritten and reinterpreted Scripture, and he has invented new crimes for the Church to perform and lame rationalizations for those crimes.  In effect, he is preaching against a Church which has never existed.  This is disappointingly in line with the other works of the militant atheism movement which I have read, the only improvement being that his writing is readable.  If he is trying to build a case against Christianity or religion in general, the fabrications invalidate it.  If he is trying to build a case for atheism, he has made no case at all.

Next up:  Book 2:  The Subtle Knife.  I hope it does not prove as big a disappointment.

Topic 2:  By now you probably should have heard of claims of the Mayan calendar running out or a rogue planet swinging by Earth in 2012, causing horrific disaster.  In response to this, I feel it is appropriate to note some materials debunking such claims:  “Apocalypse 2012? The Truth About the End of the World” and “Doomsday 2012, the Planet Nibiru, and Cosmophobia”.  I also dug up a relevant list:  “The millennium and end-of-the-world predictions”.  Due note that the end of the World has been predicted numerous times, and all times which have passed so far has proven wrong.  Given the shaky evidence on which the 2012 claims are based (to put it politely), there is no reason to believe things will be any different this time.


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Monday, October 26, 2009

Rioting over nothing


Jewish date:  8 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Lekh-Lekha).

Today’s holidays:  Monday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Commemoration of the Great Earthquake (Greek Orthodox Christianity).

Today’s topic:  “Temple Mount Troubles”:  Just in case you have not heard about this, the so-called “Palestinians” have been rioting on the Temple Mount over purely fabricated offenses.  And this is not the first time they have pulled this stunt.  This is attacking Israel over nothing, and no moral system should allow such a thing.  Applied morality deals with actual situations.  Get the situation wrong, and one is liable to do something unjustified.  If this is true when getting the situation wrong is a mistake, how much more so when one deliberately lies about the situation.  The fact that the “Palestinians” go to such lengths to fabricate atrocities indicates that they have no real grievance at all, or their grievance is something that many other people will not accept as valid.  Either way, the “Palestinians” are wrong.



Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Golden Compass and Da‘ath Torah


Jewish date:  7 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Lekh-Lekha).

Today’s holidays:  Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of Gerard Encausse and Feast of Karl Johannes Germer  (Thelema).

Worthy causes of the day:  “Change We Can Believe In” and “Reject Torture and Support the Closure of Guantanamo Bay!”  Also relevant is Names of the Dead.

Topic 1:  Chapters 16-20 of The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) by Philip Pullman.  Pullman’s notion of the soul gets even stranger.  Mrs. Coulter, the primary antagonist, temporarily has heroes Lyra and Pantalaimon in her clutches, and she gives some explanation of what the point of intercission (separation of human and dæmon) is supposed to be.  Allegedly at puberty the dæmon gives the human bad ideas and thoughts, and intercission, cutting the bond between human and dæmon, prevents this.  This suggests that the dæmon includes the libido.  This is further confused by Mrs. Coulter’s contention that the severed dæmon can be kept as a sort of pet and Lyra’s suspicion this is the actual situation of some of the staff of the General Oblation facility; this does not seem to correspond well to what happens in real life when someone is subjected to surgery which may greatly impact libido.  There is also a bear who is interested in acquiring a dæmon of his own in an effort to become more humanlike and even be baptized by the Church.  I really hope Pullman clears up these difficulties, because so far his conception of the soul is very confusing.

Topic 2:  “Interview with Professor Lawrence Kaplan”.  This interview deals with da‘ath Torah, a(n Orthodox) Jewish view which in its extreme form holds by blind faith in rabbinical authority—even beyond Jewish law—especially blind faith in the authority of specific rabbis.  Such a view is very controversial and arguably very recent.



Friday, October 23, 2009

Parashath Noaḥ and The Golden Compass


Jewish date:  5 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Noaḥ).

Topic 1:  In the interest of staying topical, I would like to note that I have done two reviews relevant to this week’s parashah:  one for Evan Almighty and another for the horrifically bad made-for-television movie Noah’s Ark.

Topic 2:  Chapters 14 and 15 of The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) by Philip Pullman.  In these plot-intensive chapters, the heroine Lyra Belacqua and her dæmon Pantalaimon reach the facility where the General Oblation Board is holding the missing children.  The children are kept in fairly comfortable conditions and regularly measured for a much mentioned microscopic particle known as “Dust” which is somehow connected with other worlds.  Lyra and Pantalaimon get to play heroes by rescuing a number of dæmons which have been separated from their children for purposes which still have to be explained, and they plan on breaking the captive children and their dæmons from the facility.  Severed dæmons could be a reflection of the concept of ghosts.  What any of the rest of this has to do with religion as conceived or practiced by real people is still up in the air.

Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Holocaust, free speech, Galileo, and Eastwick


Jewish date:  4 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Noaḥ).

Today’s holidays:  Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy causes of the day:  “Call them out: Tell Harry Reid to expose the Democrats who want to filibuster a public option”, “Take Action:  Stand with Melanie, not the insurance CEOs”, and “GOP: Stop Spewing Health Care Lies”.

Topic 1:  “Holocaust overload”:  George Orwell wrote a famous essay, “Politics and the English Language” on the misuse and abuse of the English language, often to political ends.  Words can be so misused and overused that they lose their meaning.  This article describes misuse of the word “Holocaust” which threatens to make the term almost meaningless.

Topic 2:  “Free Speech Under Foreign Assault”:  Major rule:  Suppressing free speech does not make one’s views any more true.  Those Muslims who adopt the tactic of abusing libel laws to squelch their opponents are advised to stop this dishonorable course of action and learn to make valid arguments like real men (and real women).

Topic 3:  “Galileo's Contradiction: The Astronomer Who Riled the Inquisition Fathered 2 Nuns”:  There is a common misconception that science and religion are diametrical opposites.  This does not reflect the actual religious views of serious scientists, e.g., the observant Catholic Galileo Galilei.

Topic 4:  Yesterday’s episode of Eastwick (that show I love to hate), “Mooning and Crooning”, deals with much of the town engaging in wild behavior induced by the full Moon.  I suspect that this may have been magicked inadvertently by Kat, Roxanne, and Joanna on Darryl’s suggestion.  Not really anything new theologically, though Darryl does provide the rudiments of a cover story.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Inspiration and The Golden Compass


Jewish date:  3 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Noaḥ).

Today’s holiday:  Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “ Civic Action: Stay off FOX” and “Save the Internet: Take Action!:  FCC: Stand Firm for Net Neutrality”.

Topic 1:  “Rabbis - the ultimate life coaches”:  Rav Boteach in his latest article complains about rabbis becoming spiritually irrelevant, relegated to announcing page numbers at services and making rulings on ritual matters.  He is correct that there is a lot of practical wisdom in Judaism (e.g., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Pirqe ’Avoth, not to mention a host of colorful characters to draw upon).  Since rabbis are supposed to be conduits of Jewish tradition, it makes plenty of sense that they should be doing a lot of the inspiring, too.  Remember, people:  religion is not just about rituals.  It encompasses all of life.

Topic 2:  Chapter 13 of The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) by Philip Pullman.  The more I read of this trilogy, the less I think Mr. Pullman has a clue of what the soul is.  We see more of the previously mentioned “intercissed” child, i.e., now dæmonless.  The boy is clearly traumatized, and he does not survive very long, but his mind is still present.  Even stranger is the case of the armored bears.  The bears make their armor, yet the armor is their soul.  Clearly Mr. Pullman does not identify soul with mind, but so far he has not made it clear what “soul” means to him.



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The cross, censorship, and The Golden Compass


Jewish date:  2 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Noaḥ).

Today’s holidays:  Birth of the Báb (Bahá’í Faith), Feast Day of Sir Richard Francis Burton (Thelema).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Keep Children Safe When They're at Child Care”.

Topic 1:  “Supreme Court debates cross”:  Seventy-five years ago, a cross was set up in memory of US soldiers killed in World War I on public land in the Mojave National Preserve.  Presumably this was done with the noblest of intentions, but considering that the cross is a specifically Christian symbol, there is naturally a valid issue of separation of church and state.  For some reason Justice Antonin Scalia does not understand or refuses to understand something which should be so obvious.

Topic 2:  “The American Library Association’s Stealth Jihad Against Free Speech”:  There is an irony in censoring someone in a celebration of Banned Book Week.

Topic 3:  I have now read chapter 12 of The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, book 1), and I am crying foul.  We finally learn what the devious, dastardly thing the Church is doing to the kidnapped children is:  intercission, which severing a human from his/her dæmon.  Why anyone would want to do such a thing is not yet revealed; I presume that Pullman will reveal that later.  But the results of intercission are inaccurate.  Intercission does not leave the human part of the victim unable to function.  In real life, a human without a soul is brain dead and may only be considered alive by technicality.  For all a human is is contained within the brain; if it were not so, then brain damage would never affect behavior and memory.  The idea of intercised children wandering around and some even surviving is therefore at best based on a bad interpretation of the soul.



Monday, October 19, 2009

The Goldstone Report, appeal to force, and The Golden Compass


Jewish date:  1 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Noaḥ).

Today’s holidays:  Ro’sh Ḥodhesh (Judaism), Bhai Duj (Diwali, Day 5; Hinduism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Enforce Lower CO2 Emissions to Stop Ocean Acidification”.

Topic 1:  “Exposed: Goldstone & the UN Farce”.  This article on the continuing scandal of the Goldstone Report.  Even Goldstone himself admits that the quality of information in the report leaves much to be desired, e.g., uncritical acceptance of the claims of terrorists, and this information would not be accepted in court.  As such acting upon the Goldstone Report is not justified.

Topic 2:  “Forced Islamization of Christian Conscripts in the Egyptian Army”.  Major rule:  One cannot force people to believe anything, no matter how much one threatens them (appeal to force).  Beating up and killing those who refuse to believe does nothing to prove one’s beliefs are correct.  Lying about what happened afterwards does not help either.

Topic 3:  I have completed chapter 11 of The Golden Compass (Book 1 of His Dark Materials).  Seriously emphasized is this trilogy’s depiction of souls.  I have mentioned before that every human in this world is accompanied by a “dæmon” in animal form, which is some sort of manifestation of the human’s soul.  The form of the dæmon reflects the nature of the human.  Children’s dæmons regularly change shape at will.  Adults, who are more set in their ways, have dæmons limited to a single form.  Usually dæmons are of the sex opposite that of their humans.  (Intuition suggests this may be a veiled reference to sexual preference.)  Dæmons can never get more than a few yards away from their humans, though there is an exception to this rule:  the dæmons of witches can get arbitrarily far away from them.  This may reflect the mystical/occult notion of astral projection, in which the soul is said to separate from the body.  Another species is also depicted as having souls:  polar bears.  For these the soul manifests as thick metallic armor.  Why Philp Pullman chose to have humans and polar bears have physically manifested souls, I have no idea; I am not aware of any religion which holds by such dramatic conceptions of the soul.  Increasingly this book seems less and less to be discussing any real religion and more and more diving into fantastic conceptions.

Peace, and have a happy new month.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

KJV Onlyism, plagiarizing the Terminator franchise, FlashForward, and The Golden Compass


Jewish date:  30 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Ro’sh Ḥodhesh (Judaism), Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Padwa & Govardhan Puja (day 5 of Diwali; Hinduism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Take Action: No Lobbyists for War Criminals”.

Topic 1:  There is a joke about a church lady who held by the King James Version (KJV), reasoning that if “Bible English” was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for her.  This is funny because, as is well known, the Hebrew Bible was composed originally in Hebrew with a little Aramaic and the New Testament was composed probably in in Koine Greek.  The KJV, published in 1611, is merely a translation.  Rabbi David Radinsky (formerly of Brith Shalom Beth Israel in Charleston, SC) claimed it is an excellent translation—except where it is wrong—but it is a translation nevertheless.  And as such, it perforce suffers from the major problem of all translations:  that it does not mean quite the same thing as the original text.  As such, reason demands that original texts, being better sources of information, must always be given primacy, i.e., if one wants to really know the word of God, what really counts are the actual words of God.  Irrationally, nevertheless there is still a King James Only movement which at its best prefers the KJV and at the worst considers the KJV a new revelation, despite no claim thereto or the total lack of evidence thereof.  On Friday I heard about probably the worst case of KJV Onlyism ever:  “Amazing Grace Baptist Church to Burn Bibles, Other Books for Halloween”.  Pastor Marc Grizzard of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina, plans this Halloween to burn non-KJV Bibles, as well as various Christian literature and music of which he does not approve.  Grizzard reportedly is not only a KJV Onlyist, but considers all other versions to be “perversions” and “Satanic”.  I really have no idea what he is thinking.

Topic 2:  “99 Red Balloons singer Nena in Damanhur naked time travel sect”.  Oberto Airaudi, the founder of the Italian group Damanhur claims he has invented a time machine which can only transport naked people.  Putting aside the fact that this time machine has not been reliably demonstrated yet—science publications would be crowing about the breakthrough if it were—is not the nakedness-only limitation of the device something right out of the Terminator franchise?  If one is going to make an outrageous claim, then one should at least have the audacity to make an original claim, rather than plagiarizing science-fiction.

Topic 3:  It was suggested out to me that I ought to be watching FlashForward, as the show purportedly deals with prophecy.  I therefore watched the four episodes available so far on Hulu.  Despite what was purported, the show deals with anything but prophecy.  Prophecy is receiving messages from divine beings, such as YHWH or angels, and seeing the future (prescience) is not a requirement for prophecy at all.  FlashForward, on the other hand, is centered around (almost) everyone on Earth blacking out for 137 seconds on October 6, 2009 at 11:00:00 AM (Pacific Time) and having a vision of what will happen to them on April 29, 2010 at 10:00 PM.  Though there is speculation that this may be prophecy—along with lots of other rampant speculation—there is no proof any divine being being the cause (direct or indirect) of the visions.  What this show is really about is the question of free will versus predestination.  There is much speculation on whether the prescient visions are truly necessarily the future or whether what is seen can be prevented.  Though some of the characters have pleasant visions, others are troubled by what they see.  E.g., a happily married woman foresees evidence that she will commit adultery.  Her husband, an FBI agent, foresees that there will be people coming after him.  Another FBI agent sees nothing, and he receives a phone call from someone telling him she foresaw reading an intelligence briefing claiming that he will be murdered on March 15.  Already the plot has crept towards fulfillment of many of the visions, with the characters seeking ways to avoid unwanted destinies.  Considering how the show is structured, we can only expect them to get increasingly desperate as April 29 approaches.

Topic 4:  I have now read chapters 4-10 of The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1).  It must be noted that I cannot always predict in advance what parts of the story will prove theologically relevant.  Even before chapter 4 someone was kidnapping children for some mysterious purpose.  Since then the reader is told that it is purported that a department of the Church known as the General Oblation Board is behind this dastardly deed.  I am crying fowl over this, because this use of “oblation” is in violation of the accepted meaning; an oblation is something offered, while these children are not offered, but taken under false pretenses.  Furthermore, I am not aware of the Roman Catholic Church ever practicing or condoning the kidnapping of poor children, and it certainly does not do so today.  Yes, I am aware that His Dark Materials is fiction, but so far as this fiction reflects reality, the General Oblation Board does a wretched job.  If one is going to write fiction to criticize religion, it makes no sense and is not legitimate to criticize a practice which does not exist.

Peace, and have a happy new month.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Esotericism in Genesis


Jewish date:  28 Tishri 5770 (Parashath Bere’shith).

Today’s holidays:  Choti Diwali – Narak Chaturdashi (day 2 of Diwali; Hinduism), Feast of Ida Craddock (Thelema).

Worthy cause of the day:  “ Political Action: Harry Reid: Include the Public Option” and “Take Action: Wild Lands Need You! Help Pass A Strong Climate Bill”.

Today’s topic:  This week’s parashah (section of the Torah read by Jews in synagogue), Bere’shith (Genesis 1:1-6:8), deals with the contentious subject of the origins of the Universe and humanity.  I have decided to take this opportunity to publish some material on this subject which has until now been sitting around on my hard drive doing nothing.

Contrary to the impression left by the people who make the most noise, belief in evolution is perfectly orthodox in Judaism and is approved by the Rabbinical Council of America (Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design 2005).

My personal take on the question:  There is no doubt that the opening chapters of Genesis have often been interpreted close to their literal meaning; this should be obvious to anyone who opens up Miqra’oth Gedoloth, the popular collection of commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.  However, there is reason to believe this is not the only legitimate way to interpret this material.  It is attested that in the times of Tanna’im and the ’Amora’im (≈ 40 BCE-450 CE), there were two branches of Pharisaic Jewish esoteric knowledge, Ma‘aseh Bere’shith (“the work of creation”) and Ma‘aseh Merkavah (“the work of the Chariot”) (Scholem 1987) which were only to be taught to a select few (Talmudh Bavli, Ḥaghighah 11b-12a; Talmudh Bavli Ḥaghighah 13a; Talmudh Bavli, Meghillah 25a-25b; Mishneh Torah, Sefer hamMadda‘, Hilkhoth Yesodhe hatTorah 4:17-18).  Due to insufficient transmission, this knowledge has been lost (Maimonides and Friedländer 1903, introduction to section 3).  Since we know we have this loss, it is irrational to assume that any specific interpretation of the pre-Abrahamic material in Genesis (Genesis 1:1-11:9) is the One True Interpretation (as if in Judaism we normally spoke in terms of One True Interpretations).  Furthermore, the fact that Ma‘aseh Bere’shith was considered inappropriate for all but a select few suggests something far removed from the literal meaning of the text, something difficult to understand and liable to misinterpretation.

For comparison, note the Song of Songs, which is traditionally regarded as esoteric and never to be taken a literal love song.

Physics is an aspect of the Divine Will.  Evolution, which is an effect of physics, is thus a working of the Divine Will.  Who are we to insist to YHWH how the Universe and everything in it was created?  Note that nothing in the Hebrew Bible conditions Divine love or mercy (or hatred or anger) or the commandments on our ancestry.  This is despite humanity’s humble origins even according to the literal meaning of the text:  dirt (Genesis 2:7).  Spiritual giants have often had humble beginnings.  It is not our origin which makes us important; it is who we are now and what we may become.

Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design. Rabbinical Council of America, 2005-12-27 2005 [cited 2009-02-09. Available from
Maimonides, Moses, and Michael Friedländer. The guide for the perplexed (2d). G. Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. 1903 [cited. Available from
Scholem, Gershom. 1987. Kabbalah. New York: Dorset Press. Original edition, Jerusalem:  Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1974.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Internet, anti-Semitism, and Eastwick


Jewish date:  27 Tishri 5770 (Parashath Bere’shith).

Today’s holiday:  Dhanteras (day 1 of Diwali; Hinduism)

Worthy causes of the day:  “Take Action: Save Rainforests and Stop Climate Change”, “Divided We Fail:  It's not over yet - tell Congress to stay committed to reform!”, “Message in a Bottle”, and “Take Action: Stand with Melanie, not the insurance CEOs”.

Topic 1:  “The Belzer Rebbe and the Internet”.  This article deals with a practical feature of Jewish law:  an enactment is only valid if Jews actually follow it.  There have been been enactments made against using the Internet, and they are frequently violated.  The practical uses of the Internet outweigh the paranoia against it.

Topic 2:  “The Times: Reinterpreting 'International Law'”:  This article details misunderstanding of the Geneva Conventions and baseless accusations in the war against Israel and the Jews.

Topic 3:  Yes, it is time again to discuss the show I love to hate, Eastwick.  Yesterday’s episode, “Fleas and Casserole”, brings little new.  Roxanne is still having premonition dreams, and Joanna mesmerizes yet another person.  Notable, though, is the appearance of a book of spells bearing on its cover a curly triangular symbol seen in various contexts, including as a scar on Jamie, the man Roxanne has foreseen will murder her.

That’s all for now.  Peace.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Omega Point Theory and anti-Semitism


Jewish date:  26 Tishri 5770 (Parashath Bere’shith).

Worthy causes of the day:  “Stop Inappropriate Antibiotic Use on Industrial Farms” and “Protect America's Oceans and Great Lakes!

Topic 1:  “Computers Faster Only for 75 More Years”.  The upshot of this article is that it appears that there is a fundamental limit as to how fast computers can possibly run.  How is this possibly relevant to religious fallacies and misconceptions?  Because if correct, then it dooms a fringe theological hypothesis (and arguably pseudoscientific hypothesis) known as the Omega Point Theory of Frank J. Tipler.  The Omega Point Theory claims that our Universe will eventually collapse in on itself (the Big Crunch).  But Tipler makes this bleak outcome into something positive.  He claims that the Universe will end with a computer-civilization.  Though the Universe does collapse after a finite duration in real time, in the simulation running inside the computer-civilization space can be as large as the inhabitants wish (if it has any meaning at all), and so long as the computer can keep working faster and faster, experienced time can be infinite.  This is where the cited article comes in:  there is only so fast a computer can possibly work, no matter what technology is used.  As such, even if the Universe does end with a computer-civilization, the computer civilization will only be able to increase its clock speed so far, which means its inhabitants will eventually experience an end.  To all those who hoped for eternal life in our Universe, sorry.

Topic 2:  “BBC: Downplaying Sderot's Suffering”:  An analysis of one-sidedness in anti-Semitism.



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cows and The Big Bang Theory


Jewish date:  25 Tishri 5770 (Parashath Bere’shith).

Today’s holiday:  Tuesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Protect Ocean Life Through a Comprehensive National Policy!” and “Act Now for Trade Justice!

Today’s topic:  Last night a religious fallacy showed up on The Big Bang Theory, of all places.  The fallacy showed up in an argument between two characters, Sheldon and Raj.  Sheldon insisted that Hindus consider cows like gods, while Raj, a born Hindu, insists that Hindus consider cows to be gods.  Raj, of course is offended and does not accept Sheldon’s claim.  This is an illustration of the folly of insisting to someone what he/she believes; naturally Raj knows better what he believes than Sheldon.  Furthermore, Raj, being a born Hindu, by default is probably more knowledgeable about Hinduism than Sheldon.  Now, considering that Sheldon is a genius (like many of the characters on the show), he probably has the capability of learning a lot about Hinduism.  If he learns enough, he could conceivably even draw upon enough relevant source material (the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Laws of Manu, etc.) to demonstrate that Raj is incorrect.  However, simply insisting without solid references or at least some reasoning is unconvincing.

Also:  I am not clear on whether Raj or Sheldon is right.  See the Wikipedia article “Cattle in religion” for more information, including references.  The article gives the impression that at least some Hindus believe that cows are inhabited by goddesses.  Perhaps a knowledgeable Hindu will be kind enough to enlighten us.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Golden Compass, chapter 3


Jewish date:  24 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Monday of the Twenty-Eighth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Crowleymas (Thelema).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Upgrade Aid” and “People with Diabetes Need Health Care Reform”.  Also:  I plan on donating platelets today.  Please consider donating platelets yourself and saving human lives.

Today’s topic:  My reading of The Golden Compass has proceeded to chapter 3.  Most of it is dedicated to character and plot development.  (This is a novel.)  There is a Chaplain character who get token mentions; he seems to be clueless and fairly harmless.  The central character, Lyra, also tampers with the remains of dead Scholars and afterwards gets haunted in nightmares until she puts everything back where she originally found it; it is not clear at this point whether anything supernatural is happening or just guilt.

That’s all for now.  I am trying to get back into normal life after the now-over Tishri holidays, and that is going to get in the way of me writing material on a few subjects.  E.g., I need to write about the Septuagint, the first few chapters of Matthew (in the original Koine Greek), and maybe a bit on the King James Version of the Christian Bible.



Friday, October 9, 2009

The Golden Compass and religious humor


Jewish date:  21 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Hosha‘na’ Rabbah (Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Friends of the Earth: Sign the petition”.

Topic 1:  I began reading The Golden Compass (AKA The Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman last night.  This is the first book of the reportedly atheistic and anti-religious His Dark Materials trilogy, and in the first two chapters it lives down to its reputation.  It is set in an alternate version of Earth where John Calvin became the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.  Please keep in mind that Calvin is not fondly remembered for his doctrine that people are predestined to be either saved or damned.  After Calvin’s death the Papacy was abolished, but the Roman Catholic Church morphed into a Byzantine bureaucracy and menacing government known as the Magisterium.  This sets the book up for attacks on organized religion in general and both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism in particular.  Already in chapter 2 we have some of the characters seriously worried because there is evidence that one of the Magisterium’s doctrines, that there are only two worlds, the material and the spiritual, is wrong, and this is disturbing because it is “heresy”.  This sets up the book for the cliché that religion is intolerant and close-minded.  Furthermore, all the humans in this book are accompanied by a “dæmon” in animal form, which is supposed to be a manifestation of that human’s soul.  This is a strange way of dealing with the notion of the soul, and my intuition does not like it.  We will see how deep a grave Pullman has dug for himself.  I am only expecting things to get worse.

Topic 2:  I have some religious humor references I want to get out of the queue, and the day before Shemini ‘Aṣereth—when we are supposed to rejoice—is as good a day to present them as any.  Not to mention they make a refreshing contrast to His Dark Materials.

funny pictures of cats with captions
(I have no idea how to grow a tomato like that.  I suspect it’s fake.)

funny pictures of cats with captions
(Considering that Basement Cat represents the Christian Satan, I think the captioner of this picture may be a bit confused.  Either that or he/she has invented Grim Reaper Cat…)

And finally, an oldie but a goodie, “Endothermic or Exothermic?

Shabbath shalom and ḥagh sameaḥ.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mere Christianity, Eastwick, the Temple Mount, and morality


Jewish date:  20 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth (Judaism), Thursday of the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Protect Against Toxic Chemicals”.

Topic 1:  Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (of The Chronicles of Narnia fame).  I finished reading it for the second time yesterday.  Mere Christianity is an intelligent explanation of fundamental Christian doctrines, including the teachings and nature of Jesus of Nazareth, for intelligent humans and should be considered recommended reading.  Notable is Lewis’s moral proof of the existence of God.  Lewis claims that morality is a human universal.  A lot of the details vary widely among religions and cultures, but a lot of the basics are widely agreed upon, e.g. “don’t murder” and “don’t steal”.  Lewis takes the universality of human morality as a sign that there is an objective morality and as a reason to believe that God exists.  This is by no means a rock-solid proof.  A lot of basic morality could have been shaped by evolution, both genetic and cultural, to be something which yields a functional society.  Once the basic moral system was established, it could have been spread all over the planet by human migration.  Still, the idea is a worthy attempt at a proof of the existence of God.

Topic 2:  The latest episode of Eastwick, “Madams and Madames”.  (I have to suffer watching this show, so all of you must suffer along with me.)  The more I think about it, the more the character of Darryl Van Horne seems to be a combination of two characters which we are supposed to hate:  Charles “Upchuck” Ruttheimer III from Daria and Emperor Palpatine of the Star Wars Universe.  Like Upchuck, Darryl is rich, obnoxious, and has a tendency to hit on women, even when he has little chance of success.  Like Palpatine, Darryl is evil, immoral, and (one might say) an evangelist for the Dark Side—which he seriously engages in in this episode.  However, if there is any influence, it is likely The Witches of Eastwick (1984) which is the influence on Daria (1997) and the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999-2005).  However, it is possible that some influence the other way has crept in during this latest incarnation of The Witches of Eastwick; time and future reading will tell.  Other things going on in this episode:  a Christian pastor opposes Darryl’s plan to build a brewery on the grounds that the land was promised to the church.  Darryl manipulates Joanna into exposing the pastor as a hypocrite who visits a whorehouse.  (Classify that as an anti-religious cliché.)  Meanwhile, Roxanne is haunted by visions of the dead Gus, her daughter’s would-be rapist.  This leads to her consulting a medium, whom she quickly recognizes as a fake.  Gus finally goes away after Roxanne gives her condolences to his mother.  And on top of this we have Kat and Roxanne working more magic via wishes.

Topic 3:  “Factor behind Temple Mount riots” gives more background on the current round of the Israeli-Arab War, with the Arabs rioting over apparently nothing anyone actually did.  The rioting may well be a political tactic to put pressure on Israel to make concessions (a form of jihad) or deflect attention away from ‘Abbas.  “J'lem: 'We win, you lose'” looks at the issue of competing narratives of Jerusalem in the Israeli-Arab War from a game-theoretic point of view.  Current Arab refusal to acknowledge the Jewish narrative and empirically accurate history and an insistence on a fictional history of a Palestine which never existed works against any chance of making peace except under the unacceptable term of accepting the dominance of Islam.  Not to mention that lying in order to win an argument is essentially admitting that one is wrong, as if the truth were on one’s side, a lie would be unnecessary.

Topic 4:  “Orthodox focus on Jewish ethics at High Holidays”:  Just a reminder that morality is part of religion and that we should never forget it.

That’s all for today.  Happy Sukkoth.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sukkoth and anti-Semitism


Jewish date:  19 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holiday:  Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth.

Worthy cause of the day:  “Tell the EPA: Regulate Dirty Coal Ash” and “Take Action: Send your senators The Ten Riskiest Foods Regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Report!”.

Topic 1:  Certain Jewish rituals may be described as experiential drama.  Sitting out in a sukkah and having to deal with the threat of (and actual) rain, I have been reminded of the instability of our situation.  Nothing in life is truly stable.  On small scales, the second law of thermodynamics makes life a constant struggle against entropy.  Everything crumbles and decays.  Even neutrons and protons may someday decay.  On larger scales, everything is in transition.  Living things keep evolving.  The landscape is always in flux.  The continents keep moving.  Moons, planets, stars, galaxies, and galactic clusters are always moving.  On the human scale, situations which seem stable inevitably change in a matter of years.  On longer scales, populations have been shifted literally all over the planet.  Sitting in the sukkah makes us realize just how fragile and temporary our situation really is and how much we are really dependent on YHWH.

Topic 2:  “Opinion: Speaking out is a risky business” and “Opinion: Like it or not, the Temple Mount is key to peace”.  Articles on Arab/Islamic anti-Semitism.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More Arab/Islamic politicking


Jewish date:  18 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth (Judaism), Samhain (Wicca).

נוצר על ידי :he:משתמש:אסף.Image via Wikipedia
Topic 2:  Yesterday I wrote about Muslims on the Temple Mount rioting under suspicious circumstances.  Suspicion is very much warranted:  Israeli police found wheelbarrows filled with rocks on the Temple Mount.  This indicates that the rock-throwing was not spontaneous but rather planned.  The Palestinian Authority, of course, claims the find was staged.  (As if the Palestinian Authority was actually trustworthy.  The key word here is taqiyya.)  They also still have the audacity to still complain about Israeli “aggression” and engage in paranoia.  It should be obvious that  it is illegitimate to manufacture a complaint against anyone.  If one has a legitimate complaint, one can make it based upon facts and evidence.  If one has to stage an incident, then one probably has nothing on which to base a complaint.  (Either that or one is one is so unbelievably stupid as to lie when telling the truth would do a better job.)  For people who are supposed to be big on honor like the Arabs, this sort of stunt is disgustingly dishonorable, and all those who have participated in this charade owe the entire State of Israel a serious apology—at the very least.

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Lack of freedom of religion


Jewish date:  18 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth (Judaism), Samhain (Wicca).

Topic 1:  Unfortunately, there is a lot of religious intolerance by many of the governments of the former Soviet Union:  “AZERBAIJAN: Police chief deports local-born Baptist – with no documentation”, “RUSSIA: 'You have the law, we have orders'”, “KAZAKHSTAN: Officials who raid religious communities 'merely fulfilling their duty'”, “TAJIKISTAN: 'It seems that reading the Bible together is now a criminal offence'”.  Vietnam and Turkey also have problems along these lines:  “Buddhist sect decries lack of religious freedom in communist Vietnam” and “Overlooking religious minorities”.  The folly of a government trying to dictate truth should be obvious; reality really does not care what people or groups thereof (such as governments) think, but it is whatever it is nevertheless.  It must also be noted that this is illegal under international law.

Topic 2 will be in a separate post because Blogger is giving me some nonsense about posts being limited to at most ten labels, and I have another topic to write about.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

The White House, the Temple Mount, and Capitol Hill


Jewish date:  17 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth (Judaism), Monday of the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).

NOTE:  Do not trust the tarp you put on top of your sukkah when it rains to keep the contents dry.  (It started getting wet here in Charleston starting last night.)  I have a cot mattress hanging from the shower rod of my bathroom in an attempt to dry it out because the tarp was  ineffective.

Topic 1:  “Whitehouse Blues”:  Every president of the United States of America at least since Jimmy Carter has tried to put an end to the Israeli-Arab War without dealing with the fundamental problem:  it is a war of Islam against Judaism and Christianity.  Trying to solve it by putting pressure on Israel to act against its own best interest has no chance of working since it does not change the fact that Arabs have no interest in making a real peace or doing anything substantial towards making a real peace.

Topic 2:  “Anger at Jerusalem shrine clash”:  Thus it is written:
Palestinian leaders have blamed Israel for raising tension in Jerusalem after a day of clashes at the city's most sensitive religious site.

Police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse 150 Palestinian protesters who had thrown rocks at non-Muslims who entered the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
OK…  So the so-called “Palestinians” start throwing rocks at non-Muslims, and somehow Israel, which sends in the police to stop them from behaving in an unacceptable manner, are to blame “for raising tension”.  The claim is suspicious in the first place since the so-called “Palestinians” cannot even agree on what what the alleged provocation for throwing rocks was in the first place.  Am I alone in suspecting that there was no real provocation at all?

Topic 3:  “Islam on Capitol Hill: A Missed Opportunity”:  I doubt I can do better than the author of this piece on noting what is wrong with the idea of “Islam is a religion of peace.”

On to other things I hope to do today...


Friday, October 2, 2009

“The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas”


Jewish date:  14 Tishri 5769.

Today’s holiday:  ‘Erev Sukkoth.  (Lots of ritual ahead for the next nine days.)

Worthy cause of the day:  “Stop Wildlife Poisoning on Public Lands” and “President Obama: Stop the Senate Democrats kneecapping health care reform.

Today’s topic:  “The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas”.  I find this whole idea bizarre. There is an irony that just as Christianity usurped features of other religions (including Christmas) itself in self-promotion, atheism (which most definitely for the likes of Dawkins and co. is a full-fledged religion, whether they really want to admit it or not) is trying to usurp a feature of Christianity. But what they are trying to absorb, other than set up their own holiday on December 25, I have no clue. The core of what Christmas is supposed to be about, the birth of Jesus, is anathema to militant atheism. The surface features, e.g., having a holiday on or about December 25 and the Christmas tree, are European pagan, so far as I know, and should also be considered anathema. Take those away and you have… what? A generic winter holiday? Even the concept of “holiday” is (or at least originally was) religious, so the whole idea should be anathema. This idea in the most positive light of something not well thought-out and at worst as a Ken Rove-style publicity stunt to try to rally together all the obnoxious atheists they can and anger all the Christians they can.

My advice: Let the Dawkinsian atheists found an unholiday on some date relevant to atheism, celebrating something actually relevant to atheism, and showing what is so great about atheism.

Shabbath shalom, and ḥagh kasher wesameaḥ.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Jimmy Carter, anti-Semitism, and Eastwick


Jewish date:  13 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holiday:  Holy Protection of the Theotokos (Greek Orthodox Christianity).

Worthy causes of the day:  Give blood, please.  I just got called asking for a donation of platelets, and I scheduled an appointment for the day after Simḥath Torah.  If you can give blood, please do so and save a life.  Also:  “I SUPPORT A PUBLIC OPTION”, “Call them out: Tell Harry Reid to expose the Democrats who want to filibuster a public option”, “Send a message to your Senators (Support Senate clean energy legislation)”, and “Responsible Teen Sex-Education Programs”.

Progress on my sukkah:  Furniture and an electric light have been installed.  The decorations are going up today (YHWH willing).  Also:  see the Dry Bones cartoon “Sukkot (1994)”.

Topic 1:  “Jimmy Carter’s Price Tag”.  This article by Rav Shmuely Boteach argues that Jimmy Carter is not an anti-Semite.  This may sound surprising, considering Carter’s one-sided criticism of Israel (e.g., Palestine Peace Not Apartheid).  Rav Boteach argues that Carter is actually a “useful idiot” who takes the moral shortcut of assuming that in any conflict, the weaker of the two parties is always right (“underdogma”).  Unless one’s moral system explicitly claims the weak are always right and the strong are always wrong—and I am not aware of any formally declared moral system which does—this is a fallacy.  Morality is usually conceived of dealing with how one behaves, and there is nothing impossible or even unlikely about the strong doing good and the weak doing evil.  Power simply makes it easier to do evil on a larger scale.  However, the ability to do great evil does not always translate into doing great evil.  In the Israeli-Arab War (in progress since the 1920s), if Israel has really been committing genocide as its detractors have claimed, it has been doing an unbelievably incompetent job of it.  Israel has a larger population, a stronger military, a higher level of education, and more resources than the so-called “Palestinians”.  Israel has repeatedly beaten off invading armies.  If they really wanted to wipe out the “Palestinians”, who are more of a nuisance to Israeli society than an actual danger, they could have done so easily long ago.  Instead, only a few thousand “Palestinians” (at most) have died at Israeli hands—out of a population of a few million.  This puts the chances of a “Palestinian” being killed by Israelis in the neighborhood of 0.1%.  This is completely inconsistent with genocide; it is completely consistent with Israel fighting a defensive war against the “Palestinians”.

Topic 2:  “Israel: As Fanatical as Iran?”:  This Honest Reporting report documents a variation on tu quoque (“Hey, Israel’s just as bad as Iran.  Why aren’t you picking on them instead?”), a bizarre accusation involving chewing gun, and one-sidedness in the Goldstone Report.

Topic 3:  They had another episode of Eastwick on television last night, “Reaping and Sewing”, and you must all now suffer along with me.  I am kicking myself (figuratively) over not realizing before my last Eastwick post that the concept of working magic via wishes is very similar to the concept behind the monstrously stupid film and book The Secret, in which one is supposed to get whatever one thinks about (“the law of attraction”, which apparently does not work for me).  In the world of Eastwick, however, Darryl claims that it really does work for Joanna.  In this episode, Joanna continues her investigation of Darryl van Horne and strongly suspects that he has stolen the identity of a dead child; Darryl has certainly done something magical to cover up his true past, and it is not like Satan would have his own birth certificate or Social Security number.  The rest of the theology and magic is pretty much the same as in the previous episode:  premonitions, the ethics of controlling other people through magic, and unintended conjuring.

Time for me to move on to other things I have to do...

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