You Can’t Fool God

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Why bother with religious belief in the modern world? Isn’t it just superstition? Hasn’t it been disproven?

I write a lot of these posts to explore this question, not just for readers, but also for myself. Because modern humans like to think we’re at the top of the food chain and have figured everything out, while simultaneously reducing human existence to being merely just another animal that’s little more than a collection of chemical and electrical impulses that reacts to the material world. This seems contradictory and unsatisfactory to me, which is why I can’t stop thinking about it. 

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You’ve got to answer for everything eventually. Even when you die. I don’t know why, but this never bothered me.

I mean it scares me, which is the point, right? But it doesn’t annoy me. I don’t feel like it’s unfair that I’ll eventually face a final reckoning at the awesome judgment seat of the Lord, when that day finally arrives.

Because it makes sense. There are consequences to everything in life. Why would God be any different?

This seems cruel to some. This is yet another reason why non-believers seem to enjoy non-belief. “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” It’s easier, right?

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In other words, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” “Every man and every woman is a star.” 

Do whatever you want because, ultimately, there are no consequences.

Words cannot describe how terrible a philosophy this is. I know some will throw the “slippery slope” fallacy at me, but I’m not so sure that it’s always a fallacy. Think of it more like the law of unintended consequences: one small transgression that’s “not really a big deal, so stop being such a square” will eventually turn into real, officially sanctioned horrors later on.

I mean, writers at top journalistic publications are trying to normalize, or at least destigmatize, pedophelia, for crying out loud.

But even at a personal and not societal level, the fact remains that you can’t fool God.

This isn’t a commandment or even an informal tenet of Christianity, but it always seemed implicit to me. You can’t fool GodHe is omniscient, and no amount of rationalization is going to make the wrong thing actually be right, even though you can convince yourself and others that it is.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Galatians, 6:7

From the little transgression to the big, from what you do to what’s in your heart, God knows. And I am fine with this.  Continue reading “You Can’t Fool God”

Stay Alive

I really don’t like to be topical, but celebrity suicides make me sad. Any suicide makes me sad. And this isn’t just “Alex hopping on the anti-suicide bandwagon to make himself seem sympathetic.” No, I’ve been banging this drum for a while.

Mental illness is terrible. Depression is terrible. I liken it to a demon (maybe the demon?) getting his hooks into you and poisoning your mind with the sweet song of self-destruction. And it is an alluring message, one that we tend to romanticize in our art.

Whether it’s cultural (I think it partly is) or something else, everybody in America lately has suicide on the mind.

I’ve had my own struggles with this, believe me. But I don’t want to get into my life story here. I want to underscore yet again how this is a silent killer. Many who kill themselves seem outwardly to be fine, to have it all. They don’t always mope around wearing black, talking about how they’re going to do the deed. Often, they seem like regular, stable members of society.

Some depression can be situational, alleviating when the extreme stressors have been removed or overcome. Others are chemical or spiritual or I don’t know. I don’t know why it happens. I don’t know how it happens. All I know is that it’s a terrible thing.

At our cores is a deep yearning for oblivion. Many of us chalk it up to the fall of man in the long ago days when the first humans disobeyed God and were cast out of paradise. Our ultimate ancestors had the free will to decide between the human or divine, and we all know how that turned out because we’re living with the consequences.

Maybe that’s not your style. Maybe you don’t believe in anything save for what you see here in front of you. Maybe you don’t think there’s anything when you die and existence is a waste of time. Even so, something is keeping you from doing the deed. Don’t discount this! Maybe it’s evolution or chemicals or whatever. Don’t let go of it.

Find that one thing that keeps you going. It could be spite, it could be your pet, it could be that thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet.

Turn this depression, this burning passion for self-destruction into fuel.

Talk to people–not necessarily doctors, just people you know and love. If you don’t have anyone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. They’re great people who care. Trust me.

Go to church and talk to a priest, even if you’re not a Christian. They’re there to listen.

Talk to people you know from on-line. The Internet is a wonderful tool for connection. Use it!

Don’t give in to your existential despair. That’s what the enemy wants you to do. Fuck the devil. Spit in his face. He’s a bastard and nothing he wants for you is any good.

How do I know? I just know. Because only pure evil could convince someone that taking their own life is a good thing.

Stay safe everyone, and stay alive. God bless, and I want the best for you (even if you hate me).

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

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And check out my Instagram here.

Book Review: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a hot commodity these days: people think he’s everything from a savior to, uh, a secret neo-Nazi anti-Semite white supremacist.

No, seriously.

Who he is is a Canadian practitioner of clinical psychology and a professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in myth and symbol and what many call “self-help.” He got famous some eighteen months ago for openly refusing to comply with a proposed Canadian law making it a violation of the law to use the wrong pronoun (“he” when a biological male wishes to be referred to as “she” and that sort of thing). Since then, he’s become lauded by many right-leaning people and loathed by many left-leaning people, mostly for reasons that have little to do with what he actually says or believes.

Whatever. I’m here to talk about his second book, 12 Rules for Life, because that’s what I read. I’m not going to get into the extracurricular stuff except as it relates to this book. Because Peterson has become something of a father figure for a generation of young men, so the story goes, precisely because he doesn’t hate masculinity and doesn’t think it’s toxic. While his message is universal, it resonates with men because he offers a perspective that 60 years ago would’ve been common knowledge, but since the social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s have been seemingly rejected by Western society.

You know, stuff like “Speak the truth,” “Stand up straight,” and what has become kind of a catchphrase for him, “Clean your room.”

There’s more to it than that, as we’ll see.

To say the man has become a phenomenon is an understatement. Peterson is everywhere these days, which might explain some of the backlash.

Jordan B. Peterson

I like him well enough. He’s an engaging and folksy speaker–and writer–who tends to ramble, but somehow manages to come back to his main point. It can be a bit annoying at times, more so in print than in person. And while I enjoy his lectures and interviews, I have to say that much of what he says is pretty basic. He just says it very clearly.

Maybe I’m not as impressed as others by 12 Rules for Life because I have a fantastic father. Maybe I’m not that impressed because in a lot of ways Peterson and what he says reminds me of my dad. Maybe I’m just not really the intended audience for this book.

In any event, I enjoyed the book well enough, some sections especially. And while I can’t say I agree with Peterson’s take on everything, or buy all of his arguments, there’s some good stuff in here that offers an interesting way of looking at things, particularly when it comes to Biblical interpretation.

That’s right: Peterson is huge into the Bible. For a non-Christian (I can’t tell if he’s an atheist, agnostic, or whatever else), Peterson sure loves his Jesus. Like, a lot. It’s interesting.

So what is 12 Rules for Life? It’s a self-help book with 12 rules Peterson thinks anybody can use to navigate the chaos of life. I won’t go rule-by-rule, since your mileage may vary on all of them, and I also don’t want to just rehash the book here. Instead, I’ll give you a few points I disagreed with or found goofy, alternated with a few points I found interesting or helpful–dare I call it wise. Here goes: Continue reading “Book Review: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson”

The True Power of the Individual

Being a loner is ultimately self-destructive. Excessive Individualism results in a society of atomized kings who can’t get together for the greater good on any issue. Worse, they can’t band together to defeat common threats.

Individuality needs to be tempered with teamwork. This might explain why I find basketball such a fascinating sport. Maybe this simile is a bit of a stretch, but you get my point.

But there is one supreme way the individual can affect everything, the individual’s true power. And that is not by controlling other people, but yourself.

Remember: Positivity spreads just as much as negativity. It’s just not as much of an immediate head-rush.

Negativity is like a drug, or a sugar rush–you feel good right away, the crash is quick, and you need another hit. Positivity is like a healthy diet–it takes consistent effort over time to start working, but the benefits will be immense and self-perpetuating.

So much negativity. So much complaining. In fact, a recent post was essentially a rant about some things that drive me crazy. And while those are good and fun and all, they’re really not constructive.

I’d rather write about positive stuff, things that might help people see the world and their life in a different, better way.

Forget just writing about positive stuff–I just want to think about positive stuff and live positive stuff. Continue reading “The True Power of the Individual”

Optimistic Cynic

Choosing to be happy sounds so corny, but I am convinced it’s the only way not to get crushed under the weight of this hard, fallen world.

How one become happy in a world filled with imperfect human beings, and while being one yourself, will differ from person to person. Some use religion. Some decide to ignore negative information. Others find that dwelling on the bad helps them cope. Still others might drown the tragedy of being alive with distractions, either electronic or chemical.

I get that. I really do. A lot of what people do depends on their fundamental views of human nature. This deep stuff, but so much of one’s world-view depends on their answer to the following question: are human beings intrinsically good, or intrinsically bad?

Note well that I did not say “evil,” but “bad.”

People can either be perfected here on Earth and it is society that corrupts us, or we are born broken somehow and need to structure society, as well as work on structuring ourselves, to mitigate these tendencies.

In other words, society has to improve, or you have to improve.

This is really a simplified version, but it helps see how each of these basic assumptions about the nature of being can influence nearly everything, from political affiliations to religious beliefs to the very kind of art one creates and enjoys.

I am clearly in the second camp–that human beings are fundamentally bad and have to be trained to be good–and yet I find this a pretty empowering view of things. In fact, gaining a greater understanding of this view, and treating others and myself in accordance with it, has helped me become happier over time:

  • We are all imperfect, but we can all improve;
  • There will never be a Utopia or a heaven on Earth;
  • We all need to be kind to each other and ourselves because we’re all broken; and
  • I’m never surprised or disappointed when people, from the individual to the species level, makes the wrong choice.

Human beings will never learn the hard lessons from history. That is a fact. This is pessimistic, but pessimism about human nature doesn’t have to translate into being a miserable person.

I have come to consider myself as an optimistic cynic. I have no illusions about humanity’s ability to navigate terrible crises before the happen and head things off. This isn’t how the overwhelming majority of us operate, personally or societally. We have a massive inborn self-destructive streak, and we’re really good at sharing this dark tendency with society at large.

But, and here’s the weird part, we’re still here. We haven’t annihilated each other from the face of the planet, despite our best efforts. Yes, many peoples have been extincted through deliberate genocide, or by being conquered and breeded out of existence, or even inadvertently through diseases. Evil stuff like this still happens, and that’s the tendency we see among those people who can’t cope with the burden of being alive: they lash out at existence itself, whether they’re a mass shooter in a movie theater or school, or a dictator directing their anger at “those people over there.”

And yet, civilization exists in many parts of the world. And it’s actually quite nice. Believe it or not, lots and lots of human beings frown upon destructive, evil behaviors. This would not be possible for as long as its been going on (albeit, in a still woefully low proportion of the global human population) if this fallen nature of humanity couldn’t be mitigated.

Our rules don’t perfect us. They keep us free, from the harmful actions of the government, from the harmful actions of our fellow citizens, and often from the harmful actions of ourselves. Laws aren’t magic, but they do express the values of a society. And I’m much happier living in a society where things like rape and murder are punishable by life imprisonment or even death than a world that tries to legislate these dark impulses from our basic nature.

Because that is never going to happen. Continue reading “Optimistic Cynic”

Interesting People, Vol. 1: Adam Lane Smith

Welcome to a new feature here on Amatopia! It’s called “Interesting People,” and I’m going to interview people I think are interesting. Simple enough, right?

For this inaugural installment, I interviewed author Adam Lane Smith. Adam wrote one of my favorite books that I’ve read in a long time, a sci-fi mystery/adventure called Making Peace. I reviewed it upon release, and I highly recommend it to fans of the genre, or anyone just looking for something a little different than what you’ll find on the bookstore shelves.

Adam is also a very intelligent and easygoing guy, and I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know him over Twitter. In essence, he is the very definition of an interesting person. I hope you enjoy the conversation (my questions in bold, Adam’s responses in normal type):

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Before we get into anything else, tell me one thing: why on Earth don’t you have a blog or website of your own?!

The short answer is that I’m lazy.
The long answer is that in the process of writing my book I had to deal with many pitfalls and time sinks. My former publisher went full SJW and let me know in a passive-aggressive manner that I was no longer welcome at their company, and then in an aggressive manner threatened my day job. I started and then completed an apprenticeship as a psychotherapist. I worked a traveling job. I started two new jobs. I conceived and then had my first child, and then conceived my second. I worked long hours reading everything published and unpublished from fellow authors while networking with them and raving about their works on social media so they’d know who I was when I finally published my book.
The struggle wasn’t limited to my personal life. After I finished writing the book, I unwillingly went through three separate people for my final cover. My second cover artist almost opened me up to being sued by using copyrighted material and claiming it was legally okay after I confronted him. I had to learn about editing and got a punch to the gut from the fantastic editor I hired, which necessitated 45 hours of editing and rewriting after I’d thought I was done.
All of that is my sniveling way of saying I was exhausted. Rhett C. Bruno mentored me through the launch and warned me sternly not to launch without a website, but I was beyond caring. I wanted to be a real author and be done with the cursed work which had tormented my soul night and day for three years. (Is that tortured enough for me to be considered an artist?)
But, unlike with modern Hollywood trash writing, there is a happy ending! I’ve got someone working on my author website right now. That’s registered at AdamLaneSmith.com, and will eventually exist once I prod him hard enough.
That’s a pretty good reason not to have a blog, but I’m glad to hear that the official home of Adam Lane Smith on the web will soon be up and running.
 
Your answer dovetails nicely into my next set of questions. As someone who really enjoyed Making Peace–indeed, it’s one of the strongest Pulp Rev works I’ve read–I’m eager to discuss writing, but I’m also intrigued by this publisher who tried to get you fired. What’s that all about?
 
Before getting into that, though, how about a little of your background, to the extent that you’re comfortable talking about it? You know, the kind of thing an actual professional interviewer would’ve asked you about first.
I grew up in Central California in George Lucas’ home town. When he writes about Tattooine and has Luke complain about how miserable it is, that’s what he’s talking about. When he writes about Mos Eisley, that’s our home.
I grew up poor in the ghetto. My mother came from a wealthy family but was disowned and disinherited for marrying a Christian man, and my father grew up with a divorced mother in trailer parks. No one helped us, and my parents each worked multiple low-paying jobs day and night to keep us fed and scraping by. Life was hard. Much of this is mentioned or hinted at in the afterword of my novel.
People died, friends were molested, I fought for my life several times against violence and untreated sickness, I developed PTSD, family members were abducted and raped by gangs, violence was ever present. One of the first lessons you learn is to lay on the floor with the adults on top of you so they die first and the kids might live under the corpses.
I learned to love reading as an escape, and dreamed of being a writer. By the grace of God, I worked my way out with the help of my diligent wife. Now we live a life of relative comfort and safety on a farm.
Those who’ve read Making Peace probably see a great deal of my upbringing in the setting.

My Conversion Story

People have asked me for my “Easter conversion story” before, and since today is Holy Wednesday*, it seems like as good a time as any to talk about this.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe you’ll find it interesting. Or inspiring. Or crazy. I’m sure some “rational skeptic” will tell me it’s a “chemical phenomena akin to insanity that shouldn’t be viewed as proving anything other than the delusion-holder’s personal subjective experience,” and so on.

(Boy, wait until I tell the story about when I had an honest-to-God prophetic vision . . .)

Whatever. All I know is what I’ve experienced and you can take it or leave it. The important starting point for this particular story is that, from the ages of about fifteen to seventeen, I was an atheist.

Or thought I was. Things changed on Good Friday when I was 17.

Let’s back up a little bit though. I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church. Both of my parents are 100% Greek with either parents or grandparents from the old country. On my mother’s side, my grandfather is a priest, and so was his father. There were more in the family, but I don’t know how far back it goes.

My experiences with the church were generally positive. I rather enjoyed seeing my pappou up there doing the service and giving communion, and we always went out to breakfast afterwards. Orthodoxy focus a lot on the mystical, the afterlife, the resurrection, and the love of Christ . . . as well as the wages of sin. This didn’t bother me, nor was it prohibitively frightening. In fact, it made sense: Disobeying your own parents and ignoring tradition and common sense lead to big trouble. Why wouldn’t ignoring your heavenly Father lead to the same?

And the fact that there was a Creator didn’t bother me at all either. Everything has to come from something, I thought. And even to this day, “Everything spontaneously came into being in perfect order for no reason and with no cause whatsoever” remains an unsatisfying leap of faith to make.

No, what first got me as I got older was the idea of the Resurrection.

I remember on my way to church with the family when I was 14. It might have been Easter; I can’t remember. What I do remember is expressing skepticism that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead. “I get all the other stuff,” I said, “but how do we know he didn’t just die?”

My family didn’t quite know how to answer. Continue reading “My Conversion Story”