Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The New Miss Malaprop IV

I have written here a few times of my evalovin' gf, affectionately known as my "insignificant other," my "25 to life sentence," my "ball and chainsaw," my "girl-fuhrer" and "the warden." And she is also known as the new Miss Malaprop. If you haven't read the previous editions of her witticisms, you really should take a look. They are enlightening. I usually like to start by saying I know that I (known as "D" in these posts) may seem elitist. I get it. But, I can't help it and don't be so sure you could either. Miss Malaprop, you should know, is not phased by my revealing her word-play. She's come to enjoy it almost as much as I do, pretty much the way Yogi Berra did. 

She loves to tell me of all the things I do wrong (I even open potato chip bags wrong), but she has her weaknesses, and geography is among the greatest of them. One night, we were watching a tv show we had seen many times before:

P: Where do you think this is supposed to take place? California? Arizona? Las Vegas?
D: What's the name of the show?
P: 'NCIS L.A.'  Oh, yeah.

Another time she was surfing looking on facebook, when she came across a friend who posted some travel pics:

P: "Oh, it says she went to the United . . . Kingdom."
D: "Which is where?"
P: "Germany?"
D: "No."
P: "France?"
D: "Look at the screen. . . ."
P: "England."
D: "Good enough."

She likes facebook. Another day, she was looking at my brother's page:

Patty - "It says on facebook your brother was in a gay parliament."
D: "Do you know what a 'parliament' is?"
P: "It's a cigarette."
D: "Well, that is true."

Well, it was true. Another one of her "specialties" is math. One weekend we were trying to mix together a solution to spray on the roof tiles. She was mixing and I was reading the box:

D: "You need 1 quart."
P: "Okay."
D: "So, this is a gallon. You need 1/4th of it."
P: "Okay."
D: "Do you know how much 1/4th is?"
P: "More than one half?"
D: "Seriously, how did you graduate high school?"
P: "I just did."

Another subject that often comes up is wild life. One day we were sitting at our favorite beach looking at some large aquatic birds:

P: "Look. Doves."
D: "I know I'm in one of those tv shows. Where's the camera?"
P: "Wait. Not doves. Swans!"

That may sound like just a harmless blip. But, it gets worse. Soon after we were sitting in the backyard of a bed and breakfast. The owner had a parrot which she would let sit in a tree during the day:

P: "I don't understand why she lets it sit in the tree. Isn't she afraid an eel will get it?"
D: "An eel? Really? Seriously? Oh, you mean a flying eel."
P: "Okay, not an eel. You know what I mean."
D: "At least doves and swans are white birds."
P: "Hold on. Give me a second."
D: "Okay, where does an eel live?"
P: "In the water. It's a fish."
D: "Right. So maybe something with wings, you think?"
P:  "A hawk."
D: "Now I understand the confusion. Practically the same thing."

This next one I would fit in the category of movies. We were waiting for a table at a restaurant when:

P: "So, I watched a pretty good movie last night, Hooters."
D: "Really? Hooters? Are you sure? Sounds like soft-core porn."
P: "Yeah, Hooters."
D: "I really don't think the name of that movie you watched was Hooters? What was it about?"
P: "Basketball. Hooters. H-o-o-s-i-e-r-s."
D: "Amazing."

We also differ quite a bit about neatness. I like a little mess (she would say a lot). She barely stops cleaning. But, let me demonstrate. I was sitting in my easy chair downstairs with all my stuff around me.

P:  "Here, you said you wanted a garbage can for the downstairs bedroom but you make a bigger mess next to your chair so I'm putting it here next to you."
D: "Okay."
P: "Just put it back there . . . oh my God, look at the garbage down there. Put that in the can."
D: "Okay."
[So, I put the bottle and a little used blood pressure machine I'm chucking in the can.]
P: "Now give it to me."
D: "What?"        
P: "The garbage can."
D: "Why?"
P: "So I can throw that stuff out."
D: "Are you crazy? You don't put stuff in a garbage can and then immediately throw it out?"
P: "Yes you do."
D: "So why don't you just stand here and I'll hand the stuff to you? The whole point of having a garbage can here is so you don't have to do that."
P: "Give it."
D: "Okay."

And there is also an issue about driving. I've recently learned speaking to my friends that we are hardly the only couple that fights about driving. But, it's a major problem with us. I do curse and scream at things, usually my computer, but I can't take the warfare with other drivers when she gets behind the wheel. Driving to Boston for the weekend, we stopped for a break and when we were getting back in the car, she wanted the keys, raising the usual issue:

P - "I want to drive."
D - "Do you promise not to fight with anyone?"
P - "Fine."
(Two seconds later)
D - "Oh my God. We didn't even get out of the parking lot."

But, such is my life. Like Charlie Brown, I keep believing she's going to hold that ole pigskin for me.

Last, just a couple of beauts that are hard to categorize:

"He doesn’t rule the rooster here."  Rule the Rooster?

And I think this one is appropriately last:

D: “Why are you home today?”
P: “I decided to take a mental day.”
D: “Pretty sure you take one of those every day.”

When I don't want to kill her, it is kind of fun.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

A Christian, A Hindu, A Muslim, and a Jew walk into a bar

No, this isn't a joke. It's just the title of the post. 
Gandhi famously said “I am a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, and a Jew.” Was he completely off the wall? Last week I was having dinner with Don and we were discussing the whole - is Obama a Christian thingee. We have always had different views of words and religion, but, I’ll stick with mine and let him comment with his opinion if he likes. And, I’ll give you a heads up. I don’t have what I would call a real strong opinion about what defines a religion, but more some ideas about what cannot.

Of course it matters how you define those religions. “If you wish to converse with me, define your terms.” Voltaire.

So, what about President Obama - Christian, Muslim, what? My answer is Christian. I believe it strongly, but, of course I can’t be certain. Though I think Republicans and/or conservatives have hurt themselves immensely (because in a presidential election in a roughly evenly split country, a few percentage points are huuuuuge) by insisting on it, that isn’t the point. If they were right and believed it, in my view, of course, I’d say have at it. I say both right and believe it, because if they do not believe it, then whether right or wrong, it is silly to bring it up. You just end up looking foolish as they did before the 2008 election (thanks to Trump).

Of course, some people do believe it strongly. But, their reasoning seems to be weak. The most obvious inspiration is that he also has an Arabic name. Of course, his father comes from Kenya and was a Muslim, although I understand became an atheist, and his step-father was also a Muslim, though barely. It’s hardly a surprise. It isn’t clear if when he was very young if he received Muslim religious training. It seems probable to me (I haven’t read any of his books) that he was considered one as an infant or very young person, but, that is meaningless to me because I don’t believe someone can be a member of any religion until they are old enough to make a choice about that.

Their parents, of course, would differ, and in fact most of the world considers themselves to be the religion of their parents.  And, we know statistically, most people do stick with the religion of their family. But he had a Christian mother and was raised for a long time by his grandparents, also Christians, went to a Roman Catholic School where he was nominally registered as a Muslim – his father’s religion – and then secular school, that he joined Rev. Wright’s church in the late 80s and left it during the 2008 campaign because Rev. Wright’s anti-American rhetoric was discovered. Now, I understand he is nominally a Baptist or at least his pastor is. I don’t really know if all this is 100% accurate, but it is what is reported. It doesn’t make that much of a difference to me because I only care about what he considers himself for the most part.

So, what makes someone a member of religion? Who gets to say? My answer in general is, it is not simple. For one thing I reject that other people can determine your religion. You are not genetically any religion. You are not a Christian or Muslim or Jew when a baby because your family or neighbors decide you are, any more than you would be a stoic or a nihilist just because your mom said so either, except, I guess in the most nominal fashion, like if you registered Republican or Democrat by accident.

And I also reject that any one person or group can define a religion except for themselves.

And I also reject that any one person or group can monopolize a name or word. And though that has been tried, it has always failed. Take for example Catholic. We often refer to the Catholic Church, but, in America, we usually mean the Roman Catholic Church. But, any number of churches refer to themselves as Catholic. The largest, I believe is what we usually call the Eastern Orthodox Church, but they call themselves the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church. Even the Roman Catholic Church quarreled in their history as to who was the Pope and it was usually, though not always, determined by force.

In my own view, when determining what religion someone is, there has to be two things present, both subjective but one personal and one reasonable according to the broad community.  Does the person believe themselves to be of a particular religion and do they have some beliefs reasonable consistent and not completely inconsistent as to central tenets of the religion. I do not say this is a comprehensive definition, because it is pretty vague and I think in a few minutes we could come up with hypotheticals or exceptions. I just say those are the things that matter. But, at the same time I believe an individual can say what he/she is, I also say that no one else has to accept it. At the same time, a third person might find the declarant or the objector unreasonable. In other words, as clear as mud. And not only should it be this way, but it really always has been as I describe. That’s why people have always quarreled or debated religion even going back even to ancient Egypt when worship of the god Aten briefly obliterated the other gods until his worship was itself was obliterated. The decision as to what the religion was simply depended on the Pharaoh in power. Of course, I am sure this debate went back to the first notions of religion, which are lost to us because there was no writing, and perhaps one group gave prominence to the sun god and another to the moon.

Naturally, many religious groups have far sterner rules for what makes someone a Jew or a Christian too. Not all. Buddhism, which is hard to discern from a philosophy in some aspects of it, is fairly open as to who may consider oneself a Buddhist and it easily blends with other religions. The Romans were actually very open to the worship of additional deities, so long as there was an element of their own worship involved (usually, I believe, their emperor as a god).

But, turning back to the more organized religions, it turns out that their own requirements can be as vague as my own definition, because as soon as one part of Christianity or Judaism or Islam, etc., declares rules, another group will disown it and have their own definition, usually only remotely different to outsiders, but very different to pious believers. These may be defined with sacraments, creeds or similar distinctive institutions, but again, the split can come easily. Indeed, in America, we are very familiar with the Roman Catholic Church, but there are other churches which consider themselves “Catholic” or universal too. Other Christians believe themselves non-Catholic, but the true or universal church.

Similarly, in Judaism, there has been great debate at to who is a Jew. Normally, it is the more religious Jewish groups that consider the less strict factions as Jewish, while the less strict are more inclusive. In Islam, the big break is between Shia and Sunni, but there are other groups as well. Which is the true Muslim, the Jihadist who sees himself as willing to fight and die for his faith or the faithful Muslim who doesn’t believe violence to be permissible.

Not surprising, many of these groups believe they are what they say they are – and no others – because God told them so or divinely inspired some revelation. It is hardly surprising that as an atheist, I cannot agree. I don’t quarrel that they may feel divinely inspired, but if I don’t belief in a divinity, I cannot logically believe that there inspiration actually comes from one.

I want to go back to my own definition to give it a more concrete example of what I mean by it being both an individual choice, but some relationship to what are generally considered the central tenets of the religion.

Let’s take Obama. He declares himself to be a Christian. Many others who consider themselves Christian do as well, though, as we know, there is a smaller group which believes him to be a Muslim or at least not a Christian. I can’t help but feel that is more political than anything else, because even if there is a religious analysis involved, I have never known anyone who supported his policies to believe he is not a Christian, nor anyone who believed him not to be a Christian or to be a Muslim, who was not opposed to him politically. I cannot agree that this is merely a coincidence. If the central core of his religious beliefs include Jesus and he is a monotheist (and, of course, you could debate what that means too) believes the New Testament central to his religious beliefs as well then I would concludes he is a Christian whether he determined he was some type of Catholic or one of the many protestant sects. If, hypothetically only, he considered Jesus only a prophet, and Mohammad the last prophet, then I would consider him a Muslim. If he thought Jesus was God, but the Buddha and Morgan Freeman also gods, I would not see him as a Christian, nor do I think most Christians would. I see no reason to believe myself that those are his beliefs, whatever his policies. Now, another person might say, no, he can’t be a Christian, because only Roman Catholics (or Methodists, Baptists, etc.) are real Christians or you can’t be a Christian and be pro-choice, that’s fine. But, we disagree.  
But, I don't think it can be that you just agree with the central tenets. I'd also say that you can't go beyond them in a way that just seems to inconsistent with them. For example, if someone believed in one God, or an indivisible trinity (not all Christian groups do) and consider the testaments holy books, I'd say if you also felt that Mohammad was a prophet or that Indra was also a god equal to God, then it would be hard for me to consider you a Christian, even if you did.
As an actual example, I will say that I am not sure about the debate concerning whether Mormons are Christians. They do consider themselves to be Christians, though not all Christians consider them so, even those who are relatively open minded about it in general. And if you look at the Christian creeds (the Apostle's, the Nicene, etc.), Mormons pretty much match up. Without going into much greater details, there seems to me that it is related to Christianity in placing Jesus in a central place (they are not, I believe exactly Trinitarians, having a twist with the Holy Spirit), but, I am pretty sure there is also a divine mother floating about and the notion that we all can become gods. I have difficulty seeing that as monotheistic. Certainly they consider the Book of Mormon as equal to the Old and New Testaments. In any event, don't get the idea that I care and if they want to be considered Christians, it is fine with me. At gun point, required to make a decision, I'd probably say yes. But, I understand why some Christians reject it as such.
I’ll end with my opening quote. Under my definition, can you be a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Jew, as Gandhi believed? Only under the belief that all religions are merely manmade manifestations of some monotheistic or monistic (Hinduism, a monistic - not monastic - religion, is usually described as having one central Being – Brahma – with many manifestations of it as other Gods such as Vishnu, Shiva, Ganapati and many others; it is similar, though not the same as monotheism). That would probably suit a lot of people who believe in God but are non-denominational. They believe there is a creator or a central divine being, but feel mankind, or certainly themselves, are unable to further comprehend it. However, I also do not believe that most Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews feel the same way.

With religion, you can go over the same ground over and over in different ways and I will not fall in that whirlpool of theology, but end it here and ask for your own opinion. Unlike a New York Times article I just read that ended with a question for the reader which I eagerly desired to answer, you can actually comment here.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .