Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Googling God

The blue line on the top left represents Google search volume for the word “God” over the past eight years. The top red line represents searches for “Devil.” As you can see, God held pretty steady in this virtual battle of the spirit world into early 2010, when it suddenly took an energy shot and pummeled a surprisingly timid Devil into submission. What happened? Is the Devil being wily and biding his time, as is his evil way?

According to the Google News call-outs, God received a search jolt in January 2010 at the time of Haitian earthquake, when many wondered what he was thinking. A few months later, the U.S. right wing began ratcheting up its pre-election holy invocations as a Federal appeals court took up the issue of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. And in October last year, another sad news event led the heavenly charge as one of the trapped Chilean miners said, “I was with God and the Devil and God took me!”

Nothing like a natural disaster to get people thinking about You-Know-Who. It was always such. As I noted in a brilliant earlier post, there was an earthquake in Lisbon on All Saint’s Day, 1755, that horrified proto-agnostics the world over and partly inspired Enlightenment religious skepticism.

Viewing Google as a reasonable proxy for the national psyche, we looked at other telling trends. Every month in this country, about 17 million people conduct a search containing the word “God.” Only 1.2 million search for “Satan.” And a mere 1 million search for “cheeseburger.”

On the theme of this blog, about 165,000 Americans — almost no one, statistically speaking — types the phrase “is there a god” into Google each month. However, all is not lost. Millions and millions — over 16 million, in fact — type some version of the phrases “how can I find god” or “how do I find god” or “who is god” or (in a troubling act of cyber-desperation) “help me god.”

Whew! The Googleverse appears to be a sphere of hopers and believers, not of skeptics. “Jesus” doesn’t make the rankings until you get down to 6 million searches a month (the history-minded “who was jesus” coming in ahead of the more this-worldly, and unanswerable, “who is jesus”). And 5 million souls each month ask the questions “where is heaven” and “what is heaven.”

The scholars out there don’t really appear until we drop down to 1.8 million searches a month, where we find the vague “bible verses” and the practical “bible study.” And warm, glowing testaments don’t appear until the longer tail “love of god” (400,000 searches) and “good news” (250,000).

Interestingly, for all the conservative jib-jab about how we are a godless nation, Google tells a different tale. The first remotely skeptical (and pretty profound) query chimes in at a mere 100,000 searches a month: “who created god.” (If you have an answer, call me.) The troubling “satan worship” doesn’t even get 70,000 searches a month.

Yes, friends, the Devil is on the Google ropes. But a challenger is rising. Witness this:

What is that red storm rising, coming from nowhere in 2006 to threaten the supremacy of God itself in the eternal world order? What does that menacing red line represent? You guessed it: searches for the word “KARDASHIAN”.

You have been warned.

Real to Reel to Reel too Real

Latest The God Project Dot Net claim proving our utter clinical insanity in a world gone mad: That standard Hollywood screenplay structure as taught at pagan institutions globally is unknowingly soaked, steeped, marinated and architected by none other than the Jesus story as written by those woefully underpaid early screenwriters Mark, Luke, Matthew and John.

Last time we laid out what that screenplay “structure” looks like. Herewith, we present the Gospel parallel:

The New Testament Screenplay Blueprint

3 Acts: Standard Hollywood Structure (SHS) demands three Acts, each of which take place in a different location. Each Act starts at dawn. Act 1 ends up-beat, Act 2 ends down-beat, Act 3 ends up.

The Jesus story has 3 Acts — Act 1 is in Galilee and covers Jesus’ birth and preparation for ministry … Act 2 is outside Galilee in the rural areas as Jesus preaches with his band of sidekicks … Act 3 takes place in Jerusalem and includes his trial and death.

SHS demands an incident at 10 minutes (sometimes called the “Inciting Incident“) that shakes up the routines that have been presented in the opening scenes. Jesus’ birth is the Inciting Incident.

At 20 minutes, there is an important meeting or landing and the formation of the Heroes’ team — Jesus meets John the Baptist, who is his first team member and starts his ministry by baptizing him.

30 — SHS demands an odd mini-war where the Enemy does something evil to raise the stakes. Jesus goes into the desert here and is tempted by Satan (the ultimate Enemy).

Act 2 starts at 40 minutes — Jesus starts his ministry proper here. He’s assembled his 12 core team members (aka disciples). This is the “Love Act” where we slow down and get to like the good guys, seeing them at their best: Jesus turns water in wine, cures sick people, delivers inspiring Sermons on the Mount, etc.

At 60half-way up the mountain! — SHS requires a sudden physical event that amounts to a declaration of open war on the Hero. This is the point when Herod executes John the Baptist. So starts Jesus’ fatal war with the Jewish authorities.

Somewhere before the end of Act 2, SHS asks that the Hero has a kind of “leap of faith” — s/he commits to the journey totally and the ultimate goal becomes clearer. Here is Jesus’ transfiguration when he reveals himself as divine to Peter and James and predicts his own death.

Act 3 begins at 80 minutes — SHS demands a scene change (often at dawn). Jesus goes into Jerusalem on a donkey and will not leave until after his death.

SHS asks for a series of escalating thrusts-and-parries among the Hero and his allies and the Enemy. Jesus complies mightily, taking on the moneychangers, the high priest Caiaphas and the Jewish authorities, and the Romans.

In the midst of the escalating tensions, SHS requires a major Revelation or Betrayal at 90 minutes. One word: Judas.

The ending of the SHS is the most predictable section: a confrontation with the Enemy’s subordinates, the Enemy itself … Jesus’ trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate are archetypal, as is his Passion (the cross, the flogging, foul language) ….

Here’s where I think the SHS gets most explicitly Biblical. Think about your typical action movie — how Bruce Willis or Rocky or The Rock is physically knocked around almost to the point of death … and at a certain point, they literally almost die. Remember E.T.? He’s dead … No, he’s not!

Parallels with Jesus are obvious. Pay attention next time you’re at the multiplex. See if there aren’t 3 acts — up, down, up. See if there isn’t a major Judas-like Betrayal in Act 3. See if the Hero doesn’t get beaten up (physically and/or emotionally) and “die” … only to rise again!

It’s sort of unsettling if you think about it too much, as we have. Why?

Just Don’t Call Me a “Cynic”

Cynic Philosopher

Right now I’m reading Augustine’s incredibly long “City of God” and it’s a cannonade of awesomeness.

It starts slow. Ancient people didn’t share our modern, cinematic sense of story. Their books can seem like two or three or four things stapled together: Augustine’s own “Confessions” hits a wall at Chapter IX and seems to digress into a treatise on Time and Memory and so on, and you need a Ph.D. to understand why it all hangs together.

So: What’s a cynic? In Book XIV Ch. 20 of “City of God,” we get a startling explanation. Our word “cynic” comes from the ancient Greek word for dog, as does canine. “Kynikos” means “doglike.” Cynics were philosophers. In what way did they resemble dogs?

Augustine tells us that the cynics:

“. . . boastfully proclaimed their unclean and shameless opinion, worthy indeed of dogs, viz., that as the matrimonial act [i.e., bonking] is legitimate, no one should be ashamed to perform it openly, in the street or in any public place.”

Well! Much like the Big Bang and Heretics, Cynics were named by their enemies. Their esteemed leader, Diogenes, apparently, actually walked the walk, so to speak, performing a sex act in public like a dog. (Or faking it?)

Why? “Under the impression,” says Augustine, “that his sect would be all the more famous if his egregious shamelessness were deeply graven in the memory of mankind.”

So here we have Diogenes — the first Reality TV star!

Top 4 Posts at The God Project Dot Net

"The Award Goes to ..."

Happy Sunday, Seekers! This blog launched last November with nothing but a dream, a recycled WordPress.org account, and a domain name easily confused with a neo-Gothic rock band (“aggressive, intelligent, industrial-electronic music from northeast Kansas”), a fairly well-known horror novel by the late John Saul, and an obscure 2008 documentary with the exact same logline as our beloved The God Project Dot Net (“This is a story about a person looking for meaning in life, and the consequences he must ultimately face upon actually finding that meaning”).

So far, we have written 73 posts in 56 categories and a total of about 36,000 words. (To give you a benchmark, the average bestselling Janet Evanovich novel is about 60,000 words.) So that’s more than half a book’s worth of wisdom fire-hosed at you for free, kids. You’re welcome.

How is our traffic? Well, that’s proprietary, but I’ll reveal one piece of it. Back in 2009, I wrote a totally different blog on this same WordPress.org account under the domain name “Stuff Assholes Like” — a play on the then-phenomenal “Stuff White People Like” blog. It consisted of a numbered list of, well, stuff assholes like (“#35. Interrupting People”). Traffic to that blog averaged about ten times higher than traffic to the blog you’re reading now. Once again, the assholes win.

A few of my posts have had disproportionately large and sustained visits over the past few months. Since I can’t find direct links to them, they must be benefitting from some outsize word of mouth. In case you missed them:

“Top 4 Most Popular TGPDN Posts of All Time (So Far)”

#1. The Oprah-Eckhart Tolle “Scandal” — This post pointed out how much, um, homage the bestselling Eckhart Tolle pays to a certain 18th century monk named Jean-Pierre de Caussade, who wrote a classic treatise on the spiritual importance of living in the NOW.

#2. 20 Arguments for Atheism — A ranked list of the best arguments against the existence of God, as compiled by Professor Peter Kreeft and redacted by moi. (A similar list on 20 Arguments for God was not nearly as popular :( )

#3. A God Called “It” — Early on (Nov. 23), I wrote a brief manifesto on why I think it’s logically ridiculous to assign a sex to God, and why the only reasonable pronoun to use in referring to the God is “It.” I have no idea why, but for about a month there was a massive pile-on of visits to this particular post.

#4. Are Catholics Cannibals? — Answer: No. In which I address the issue of “transubstantiation” and whether Catholics believe the communion wafer really contains the body of Christ (ick).

Thanks for reading. Peace.

Warlocks & the Vatican

As you know, Charlie Sheen has recently been making strafing runs in his underwear around various TV and radio shows, erecting an odd philosophical system. But just as Meister Eckhart‘s apophatic theology of an uncreated soul bewildered the Avignon syllabus, so too it may be that Sheen’s “rants” describe a highly nuanced theology.

Charlie Sheen and His Army

In particular, I would like to treat one primary claim, which Sheen revealed during a discourse last week on the Alex Jones Show. Like a good Scholastic master, Sheen supported his primary claim — which we’ll get to in a moment — with a tripod of subsidiary theses. His preliminary tenets are:

  1. Personal supernatural powers (allegorical): “I’m sorry, man, but I’ve got magic.”
  2. Support from a legion of higher, but still created, beings: “There’s a new sheriff in town. And he has an army of assassins.”
  3. Metaphorical Jesuitical support for apostolic successors: “Guys, it’s right there in the thing, duh! We work for the Pope, murder people.”

Based on these premises, Sheen makes his primary claim, namely:

“We are high priests, Vatican assassin warlocks. Boom. Print that, people.”

In classical etymology, a warlock is simply a male witch. It may derive from the Old English waerloga, or deceiver. Assassins are those who murder others, often from political or mercenary motives. The Vatican is the seat of the Holy See. So Sheen’s claim to be a “Vatican assassin warlock” would seem to imply papal employment of known heretics to break the Fifth Commandment — certainly an original, if hardly orthodox, ecclesiology.

The Biblical stance on witchcraft is inconclusive. Certainly, the Pentateuch condemns witches and sorceresses (Deut. 18:11-12) and issues an assassination warrant of its own: “Do not permit a sorceress to live” (Ex. 22:18). However, the injunctions in the Hebrew Bible are clearly directed against female witches — not warlocks.

In fact, a man referred to as Simon Magus in the New Testament Book of Acts (8:9-24) is probably a species of warlock. “Magus” means “worker of magic.” Yet in Acts, Luke admits Simon had followers among the Samaritans whom he had “bewitched,” and ultimately this warlock was baptized. As to whether he then joined the secret ninja armies which Peter (Cephas) was forming behind the back of the Apostle Paul, the record is tellingly silent.

Belief in witches was outlawed by the eighth century Council of Paderborn. Likewise, the so-called “witch-hunts” that began in the Inquisitorial 15th and 16th centuries primarily sanctioned belief — treating witchcraft as heresy, while (implicitly) allowing practice, particularly among men. Luther called upon ministers to stone (female) witches (Table Talk 1538), yet Luther himself was condemned as a heretic by the Vatican.

So a close reading of the sources reveals that with respect to denizens of the Dark Arts, the Vatican has been careful to condemn only (1) females rather than males, and (2) believers rather than practitioners.

Leaving a huge, Sheen-sized loophole in Canon Law for precisely those agents of infallible, supernal justice he posits: that is, the deadly VATICAN ASSASSIN WARLOCK!

Sad News from “The Onion”

The God Project Dot Net generally pays no attention to news — our mind traverses infinite planes of timeless, formless non-space where God Itself is said to dwell — but we do sometimes pulse check the mundane, temporal world of our readers in “America’s Finest News Source,” aka The Onion.

And this week we learned that “Inspiring Cat Overcomes Prejudice To Win Westminster Dog Show.” Wow — that’s some cat! But then our misty eyes drifted upward and were devastated to espy this banner headline:

NASA COMPLETES 52-YEAR MISSION TO FIND, KILL GOD

Oh, no! Our own mission over, before we’d even scratched the Middle Ages. Reliable sources prove that yes, there was a God, but that It is now dead, murdered by NASA. Nietzsche was not a syphilitic little hypocrite but a Prophet. RIP, GOD. Alas.

The report reads, in part:

WASHINGTON — After more than five decades of tireless work, brave exploration, and technological innovation aimed at a single objective, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced Wednesday that it had finally completed its mission to find and kill God.

“I am ecstatic to tell you all today that we have beheld the awesome visage of the supreme architect of the cosmos, and we have murdered Him,” jubilant administrator Charles Bolden said after being drenched with champagne by other celebrating NASA employees.

Double alas, friends. And woe.

“He was damn fast. And strong — as strong as anyone I’ve ever engaged,” said Captain Trevor Sullivan, the astronaut whose weary team dragged a bloodied and beaten God back to the lunar module. “He fought like a wild animal, and the fact that He’s omnipotent really worked against us.”

And now what? I’ve got it! We will reinvent ourselves as The Flock of Seagulls Project Dot Net — and rededicate ourselves to a tireless intellectual search for the reality and meaning of that great ’80s New Wave power quartet.

Is Faith Reasonable?

As I attacked the sweet, sweet powder at the summit of Big Mountain — daring Canada to the north, stalwart Idaho to the west, hauntingly prehistoric Glacier National Park with its wisely sleeping grizzlies to the east, and the Kalispell-Flathead valley laid out like a magic carpet behind me — I worried at a simple question with an impossible answer, namely: Is Faith Reasonable?

Ayn Rand: Reason > Faith

What got us going was the provocative Sam-I-Am Harris, whose best-selling The End of Faith was quite explicit in saying: Hell, no! Faith is an abdication of the mind, like a willful astral projection of thought. Modern atheists (like the super-serious Ayn Rand, left) find faith not only irrational but immorally so. “The alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind,” Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged.

But we’d just spent some considerable time, as you may remember, with our old Benedictine friend Thomas Aquinas, who used his own genius-level reason to meticulously pick apart faith, and so embodied Anselm’s self-definition of faith seeking understanding. Faith came first for pre-moderns; understanding could not contradict the truth, which comes from God, and so it’s up to us to make it work.

As I see it now, those of us who are willing to accept there may be something worth calling God in this world can go two ways:

  1. Faith is mysterious, beyond words and explanations, more of a feeling, perhaps in the body; we may accept and commit to it but will never really be able to explain it
  2. Faith is difficult, and may seem irrational, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up on finding logical reasons to believe — we may believe there is good evidence for God (argument from design), believe it’s useful to believe (pragmatists), think we can get at least part-way to God using logic and syllogisms (Aquinas), or convince ourselves God must exist (Descartes, Aristotle)

Put another way, people who think there is a God and have a reason for thinking this do so either because (1) God revealed Itself to her either through the church or scripture or personal experience; or (2) God became a necessary condition to help her understand what she saw and thought.

Put another another way: (1) God finds us; or (2) We find God. The second path is that of reason and faith.