No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

Dumptruck of Books

The Frankfurt trip and its sequelae, catching up with the other work that was not Frankfurt-related, and preparing for Maxicon have spared you from my recent reads. But no longer!

Sheri Tepper's The Companions. Not one of her better efforts in my opinion. Mankind is being plotted against by a lot of devious alien races that are oddball caricatures out of Retief. Not that there's anything wrong with Retief, but there's a difference between satire and earnestly ludicrous. It picks up halfway through, and there are a couple good payoffs and twists. Naturally, there is some requisite bashing of the patriarchal-theocratic complex.

Ambrose Bierce and the Queen of Spades is the first of Oakley Hall's several novels featuring Bierce as a Holmesian character told through the viewpoint of a Watsonian printer's devil/reporter. Does a pretty good job (so far as I know) of creating the historical era of 1890's San Francisco, but not as good a job at recreating Bierce. I can't claim to know the man, except through his stories, but I couldn't see "Bierce" as very much more than a character coincidentally named Bierce. But most importantly, it has a craptastic resolution to the mystery. Boo.

Gene Wolfe's An Evil Guest. I bought it based on a combination of Gene Wolfe, slight Lovecraftian elements, and that cover art. Unfortunately, I found the book quite baffling. Wolfe is often baffling, but not usually like this. As I wrote in a.h.c.: "Maybe a charitable spin would be to call it a dream: flying cars, alien contact, Cthulhu, broadway, powerful men on mysterious missions, seemingly set in the future but redolent of the past... and, like a dream, a strong, sensible plot is not in evidence."
When watching The Big Sleep, there comes a point when every viewer throws up his hands and says, "I don't know what's going on any more or why people are doing these things." An Evil Guest is that moment turned into a novel. In some ways that's quite an accomplishment of noir, but it was still unsatisfying.

Finally, some kind(?) sponsor ponied up $1,000 to offer two free books to atheists. I gave em my contact info and received The Atheist Bible [a NT with matter and commentary added by Ray Comfort specifically for atheists] and Comfort's You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can't Make Him Think.
Anyway, on to the Atheist Bible. I believe the takeaway message is that Hell is really really really really really bad, so accept Jesus into your heart and you won't have to go there. A fine message, but somewhat lacking in novelty or subtlety.
A great example is p.xv "How Famous Atheists Went to Meet Their Maker"
Do you know what Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward, George Orwell, Bertie Russell, Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke and George Carlin have in common?
If you said, "They are all totally awesome," you would be right. But Comfort points out two other things they have in common. They are all atheists, and they are all dead.
It's almost eerie. There are 12 atheists listed there, and each and every one of them is dead. Kinda scary, isn't it? If only Nietzsche had chosen Christ, he would still be with us today at the ripe old age of 165. Don't make the mistake Friedrich made.

Next, Comfort helps to rationalize "Contradictions" in the Bible. He discusses several issues of the sort that only a literalist could have a conniption about, though I never tire of hearing about Judas hanging himself and then his body falling headfirst and bursting asunder.

Next, he tackles "Atheist Arguments". He's big on the Design Argument as a response. Yes, in my experience, all buildings have builders, all paintings have painters, all universes hav...
Wait a minute, I only have one universe in my experience. And actually, I don't really know how it got here. If I had a nickel for everytime "common sense" turned out to be wrong when it was extended into regions outside of common experience... I'd have a tidy sum. Anyway, hold this firmly in your mind for at least a few moments: Comfort thinks that common sense is a firm foundation for a logical argument.
To the lousy 'atheist' argument that miracles disobey common sense, Comfort replies:
Then again, invisible television waves sending live news anchors to my home doesn't make sense either. ... Neither does it make sense that a 747 jet floats through the sky, packed with hundreds of people.

Guess we can't trust common sense after all! We have to actually check and see if something is so or not. Thankfully, Christianity has been around to give us television and airplanes.

In reponse to the charge that the NT and OT gods are different, with Buddy Christ being a kinder, gentler divinity, Comfort cheerfully describes how Jesus is every bit as keen to smite people. Smite smite, hell hell.

Christians have the burden of proof --> instead of being judges of evidence, atheists should consider themselves terminally ill (of sin) and in desperate need of a cure. Wow. This is like begging the question by proxy. Ask your interlocutor to assume you're right without argument.

Death penalty for rebellious children --> There are no recorded instances of the punishment being carried out, so that's all right then. Threatening kids with death keeps em in line. "In contrast, hundreds of thousands of young people have died in modern America, from rebellious drug- and alcohol-related lifestyles." Maybe they could have been saved from these needless deaths if only we had executed them.

"We are bound by moral absolutes whether we know it or not, just as we are bound by the law of gravity whether we know it or not. ... The atheist who doesn't believe that is like a man who says that the law of gravity has no influence over him. He jumps from a tenth floor to show you, and as he passes the third floor he calls, 'See, I'm flying!' He's right. He is flying."
No, you ignoramus. He is doing what we physicists call 'falling'. The law of gravity is acting just fine on him. I can break a moral law, but I can't break the law of gravity.
"Science discovered that when a certain object moves at a particular speed it actually supersedes the law of gravity, and can fly."
Oh no you din't.

Discussing Jesus dying for our sins. Imagine if I said to you, "I sold all my possessions to pay a fine for you." You'd think I was nuts.
But if I put it this way it may make more sense: "Angry police officers showed up with a warrant for your arrest. They have video of you going 80 mph through an area set aside for a blind children's convention. ... Ten minutes earlier your license was confiscated for drunk driving. ... You are in serious trouble. There is a massive fine and ifyou can't pay it you are going to be thrown in prison. I knew you didn't have the money so I sold all my possessions to pay it for you. Now the fine being paid for you makes sense, because you are aware that you have seriously violated the law."
I dunno about you, but if I am aware that I have seriously violated the law, then I expect to go to jail.

"modern meteorologists also often refer to the four corners of north, south, east and west"

Questions Atheists can't answer
What is the purpose of life? "We are just tiny specs [sic] on a big ball of dirt, flying through space, striving to be happy..."
Dude, you just gave a great atheist answer to the question. Bravo!
Why is there order throughout creation? "Why do the four seasons occur each year ... always in the same order? Why can we predict the sun's rising to the second 100 years into the future?"
Um, because the universe is governed by mechanistic laws, free from supernatural influences?

A Conversation with an Atheist
This is Comfort's fan-fic of a conversation in which a Christian converts (at least partially) an atheist. Again, the thin end of his wedge is everlasting torment:

Have you ever been in a dentist's chair when he hits a raw nerve in your tooth?
Did you like it?
Imagine what Hell will be like. It is a place of blah blah blah

The NT with Comfort's occaional comments. I skimmed through a few comments, but they aren't very interesting. I've read the NT before, so I skipped it.

Why Christianity?
You're offered your choice of the Mona Lisa, a Lamborghini, a million dollars, or a parachute. Oh, and you're hurtling toward the ground from thousands of feet in the air.
"Do you remember how it was your knowledge of the jump [and gravity] that produced that healthy fear, and that fear helped you to make the right choice? ... So, stay with me -- and remember to let fear work for you."

I'm afraid that's his main tactic. Create fear, and then offer a solution. It's a good advertising gimmick. Your child's brain is at risk!

Did you hear? Jane's butthole is a slightly darker color than the rest of her skin! She must be mortified! Doesn't she know about butthole bleaching? [NSFW Wikipedia page FTW!]
Tags: atheism, book, religion, sf

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