Friday, May 29, 2015

Crystal Lies Review, Chapter 1


So, I decided to take a trip to a local used books retailer, in the interest of picking up a few religious texts to do comparative literature analysis (read: to read them and see just what people still believe).  While in the vast religious section, I saw things ranging from I Ching to Confucius; from various translations of the bible to overviews of the Koran; from the Talmud to Mormon and Moravian texts; from the Occult to all manner of Pagan literature.  Oddly enough I didn't notice anything on the Poetic Edda, Zoroastrianism, Assyrian literature (Gilgamesh, for example), or any of the Greco-Roman pantheon literature (to be fair, they did have a mythology section, which I didn't venture toward today - that's where most of it would likely have been I suppose). 
Books I bought today.
However, my eyes fell upon this most interesting piece of soft cover proselytizing, 'Crystal Lies' (subtitle 'Choices and the new age') by F. Lagard Smith.  This first chapter is approximately nine pages long, in a standard font size and spacing, and it still seems like filler.  One of the lines in the first paragraph (and keep in mind, this is 1989) declares the following:

'Never before has a "Christian American" been so severely challenged.  Never before have so many people bolted from traditional religions for a human philosophy which calls into question the very foundations of Christianity.  Is it a great truth that is being discovered by New Agers, or are New Agers falling victim to crystal lies?'
This appears to set out the entire tone of the book.  The next paragraph decries the movement of religious texts to the back corner of book stores, while new-age (defined loosely as anything not in the four Gospels of Jesus, I think) stuff gets vast sections.  He even goes as far as calling the apocryphal texts (of the bible, mind you) new-age, and even implies that Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism are all new-age indoctrination.

Most of those who buy her books are only interested in learning about ... a famous actress.  They don't realize that they are about to be indoctrinated in New Age philosophy.
So we have a man who clearly believes that anyone who picks up an autobiography about an adherent to new-age philosophy will suddenly come to believe it as true as he believes in Jesus (or something like Jesus) himself. This is much like an argument some theists like to make about Dungeons and Dragons (made famous by a Chick Tract, even though it's bullshit).  Simply reading a book or playing a game doesn't make you an adherent of such a thing.  This harkens back to the Witch Hunters of not so long ago, who would somehow magically know what makes a witch, but somehow were never witches themselves. I always wondered how witch hunters could know every aspect of witchery but be immune from being pointed out as a witch. Of course, if it quacks like a duck...
Simply by reading this, you too can become indoctrinated in the idea that 
angels are corporeal beings that can fly you around outer space
because the grim reaper is totally in the bible we swear.
So here's the next quote, and this puts the chapter in perspective.  Remember, he's talking here about literally all that stuff (apocryphal bible texts, Taoism, crystals and chakras, Yoga, meditation, et cetera):

In case you might have overlooked the drift of these subjects and titles, they are books which once were found under the heading of The Occult.  As in witches and witchcraft.  As in Satanism. As in spiritism, mysticism and shamanism.  And they are selling in the millions to mainstream America...
So, in a few paragraphs, he's saying basically anything that doesn't agree with a standard he hasn't even set yet (although he has implied it is the gospels, since he clearly isn't familiar with the old testament's myriad mysticism - some of which is still common today in Jewish sects). He clearly isn't aware of the mysticism of even the New Testament though, either, like the raising of Lazarus; the feeding of the many from the loaves and fishes; healing of the 10 lepers, the blind, and many others; cursing of the fig tree.  Those are just to name a few mystical things from the new testament, for comparison to the things he's calling 'occult.'


So here's a heading for a section of this chapter.  My review of this book might actually end up being longer than the book itself if this pace keeps up...

The first few paragraphs talk about a fellow named Matthew Fox and how the Vatican silenced him for being too diverse in worship.  Basically, Smith's argument is that because he was including Buddhists, Feminists (and the feminization of god - an interesting concept for discussion later) and Environmentalism, he was silenced by the pope (as though this argument from authority holds water here somehow).  Basically, Smith doesn't like him, so let's talk about him for two paragraphs.  Literally the only thing here is anecdote.  It doesn't even serve his purpose.  Much like in the following paragraph, where he derides 'Protestants' he disagrees with who claim everyone is divine like god, like Jesus (an argument I'm not familiar with, and he doesn't use for anything but anecdote again, so I'll move on).  Although he does argue that these are the signs of fierce aggression among new-age movements, he doesn't really illustrate why.

And that's literally the entire section.  It's roughly 3/4 of a page.


I'm just going to quote the first paragraph of this section, for posterity or whatever, because it's utterly ridiculous.
The influence of the New Age movement is not limited to any one social, economic, or religious group.  It permeates the whole of society, from top to bottom, from the highly educated to young people not yet out of school, from the wealthy to the less fortunate who live in ghettos.  What began as a fad in the sixties--complete with hippies, flower-power, psychedelic drugs, and Indian sitar music--has become the religion of choice in the eighties.
So first, he calls this rough outline of a culture a 'religion.'  That's a pretty broad definition for something you want us to take seriously (whatever the real, old-fashioned, American one he means).  The dichotomies (false as they are) that exist in his mind are an interesting window to his own mind, indeed.  Implying that young people not out of school cannot be highly educated (or that age implies wisdom, rather a contradiction to Jesus?).  Implying that people either have wealth or live in ghettos (rural America has no poverty, apparently).  The idea that hippies of the 1960s was only a fad (because a culture of love and non-violence is so terrible?), and that sitars were their music of choice.  Surely this man has heard of The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, or any number of other popular artists of the time?

But again, I expect no less from the man who then goes on to complain that this 'religion of human potential' (yeah, you sodomites, quit trying to realize your potential!  Cant' you see god must've chosen this fellow to speak for him?).  He never actually explains what this religion is, but one can presume that stuff up there is what it is, basically everything he can't understand.

So then he cuts into this discussion between himself and 'one of the most successful law school graduates' where he teaches.  He doesn't give a real name for this fellow, so this story could be complete bullshit, but let's humor it for a moment.  Supposedly this law student develops a system of belief based on quantum mechanics.

Going to stop and discuss this a moment.  The law student actually explains to him, rather cogently, how quantum mechanics works with regard to an observer.  Basically, that our observation of quantum events forces them into various states based on their probabilistic nature.  Although the book doesn't go this in-depth with it (and I doubt this conversation actually happened how it is portrayed in the book - think evolution 'belief' a la Ken Ham), Smith basically tries to say the law student conflated quantum mechanics with spirituality, and how we all make observations and they are all equally valid or something.  This is hard to explain without copying the text exactly, but that's the gist of it.  Basically, Smith tells him that's not true and this somehow crushes the law student.  This sounds much more like a Christian straw man argument akin to that found in 'God's Not Dead.'

Worse yet, the look in John's eye and his responses to my probing of his new world view told me that he was no longer open to a search for truth.

That's literally how this author treats it.  Present him with science he doesn't understand and he'll conflate it with literally everything else he doesn't understand.  Basically, because Smith is holding on to a worldview that's severly out of date, it must mean everyone around him is wrong.  How can photons be waves and particles?  Surely looking at the world skeptically means one is in the wrong, because it questions my personal god.  This is basically Smith's argument. This also makes Smith a terrible person, telling everyone else they are wrong while not advancing an actual reason why Smith might be right.

The last line of this section is the clincher.  Basically making fun of other people because he thinks they feel as pompous about their 'beliefs' as Smith actually feels about his belief.  Just try reading this in the context above with zero cynicism.
If enlightenment is a process, he had completed the process and, at least for now, was one of the enlightened ones.


No joke, this is another heading.  We're on page seven.  37 lines per page.  8-10 words per line.  Let's pretend 300 words per page.  I might actually be more verbose than this book at this point.  Just wanted to point that out for reference.

Basically, this section tries to convince us (over approximately 3 pages) that truth is somehow not relative, but could be, and that the bible can be both or something.  I really don't understand his point. Let me quote a few things here, maybe you can be enlightened.
I often hear that religion thrives on close-mindedness. And certainly there is abundant evidence that the church is close-minded on a whole range of issues. But that is to be expected of a belief system which acknowledges absolute moral truth. 
One often confuses absolute truth with one's own perception of that truth.
The difficulty of having any meaningful dialogue with those who accept New Age philosophy is their belief that we must abandon rationality.
Spiritual success in the New Age is found in going inward to one's own subjective awareness rather than outward to an external God and to an objective truth about the universe in which we live.
Basically, that last quote kinda sums it up.  He thinks it's better to gain 'objective truth' through God than to actually think about things and act in a good, human way.  Not two sentences later, he even points out that
Once feelings become the standard by which all is to be judged, then no longer can there be any significant dialogue.
He's telling us that people are believing things because it makes them feel good (and be mindful that most people he's talking about are non-violent, literally not hurting anyone, and in some cases actually spreading goodwill)  while giving absolutely no other reason than 'the bible feels right so I'm going to espouse those views.'
Where, then, do we begin in attempting to sort out truth from fiction, objectivity from subjectivity, biblical teaching from secular philosophy?  What common ground do we have?
I really need to call out this point.  The way he is implying that biblical teachings are truth, are objective; anything else is subjective.  This is a common false dichotomy of LOTS OF RELIGIOUS PEOPLE.  Although, he's tackling this from a Christian standpoint, so I'm going to stick to that.  This is a shitty tactic, sometimes called a straw-man argument, sometimes a false dichotomy, but most definitely an argument from composition: all fallacies.
 Naturally, not everyone agrees that we should look to scripture for the answers to life's questions.  But there must be some point of departure for dialogue...
Here again with the false dichotomy.  He then goes on to quote 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Basically stating that all morality comes from god, while completely throwing every other religion out (even when several of them make similar arguments), not necessarily because it's right, but because he thinks it is right.

But I suppose that sums up this entire book.  He feels his way is correct, more than anyone else, and so it makes him right.  How is this different than any of the other things he's claiming are false ways to determine morality and truth?  They aren't. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Homosexuality, Kinds, and Shameless Promotion.

 So, I didn't have a good picture of a rainbow.  
Enjoy this picture of a tree I took a while ago.
So, here's a rather straightforward question to any religious (or even non-religious) person opposed to legalized same-sex marital status.


Specifically, what's the reasoning behind not allowing it?  What about it, exactly, compromises the integrity of hetero marriage?  What is so offensive about a man liking another man that causes such a burden to one's own relationship?  I can't fathom it, but I'd love to have a good, clean, logical debate about it.
Here's a picture of a cool flower I took once.
Being an atheist, let's pretend for a minute that I wanted to make illegal all religions that had a god, as they are an affront to my 'religion' (as religious people like to call it - let's go with it for this scenario).  It's not like those religions affect me, or have any bearing on the normal course of my life.  Still, other people believing in god is such an affront to my way of thinking that I decide no one should be allowed to have a relationship with god.  It's unnatural! 

How far does one suppose this sort of argument would work?  It seems a fitting corollary to the argument of same-sex relations.  Obviously, I'm not proposing that we eliminate religions.  Although, I don't know of any gay couples killing children by faith healing.  I don't know of any lesbians hacking up straight people in the streets.  I've yet to hear of the LGBT activists who commit genocide in the name of being homosexual.  I don't know of a single instance of a homosexual person trying to change the orientation of a straight person, no matter how much straight people might insist otherwise.
This is one of the kinds of things I make in my free time.
This is also the proper way to use the word 'kinds,' creationists.

Still, all of that aside, the question remains why some people feel this is an illogical thing.  What exactly is sanctimonious about someone else doing something you don't like, that literally has no effect upon your life?  Why shouldn't gay people be afforded the same rights as straight people?  When did you choose to be straight, as it were?  Are these questions you can answer in a logical fashion?  If so, the comments are below, let's have a chat for everyone to see, in the forum style your gods and prophets so dearly loved!

That's right, a different kind of thing.
OR IS IT!?  Nope, they're both made of yarn.
Can't be different kinds.  They start as a ball.
They turn into two things.  How is it possible, creationists?