BEEP! BEEP! IT'S ME.

"Begin at the beginning,and go on till you come to the end: then stop." (Lewis Carroll, 1832-1896)

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked."Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat."I don't know," Alice answered."Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

"So long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

"All right," said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!"

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I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe. Like Arthur Dent from "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", if you do not have a Babel Fish in your ear this blog will be completely unintelligible to you and will read something like this: "boggle, google, snoggle, slurp, slurp, dingleberry to the power of 10". Fortunately, those who have had the Babel Fish inserted in their ear, will understood this blog perfectly. If you are familiar with this technology, you will know that the Babel Fish lives on brainwave radiation. It excretes energy in the form of exactly the correct brainwaves needed by its host to understand what was just said; or in this case, what was read. The Babel Fish, thanks to scientific research, reverses the problem defined by its namesake in the Tower of Babel, where a deity was supposedly inspired to confuse the human race by making them unable to understand each other.

"DIFFICILE EST SATURAM NON SCRIBERE"

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Religion and Mythology: The False Dichotomy of 'Good and Evil'

'Fact or Fantasy?'
It is interesting to me at least, how a lot of our story-telling, myth, legend, fable and literature, revolves around essentially the same message. The fight between "good and evil" and the eventual success of good over evil. Religious stories are essentially just an extension of this, or perhaps in an historical sense, our modern literature and story-telling is an extension of the genres of story - telling which preceeded it.

Mankind has always attempted through fable, myth, legend, folklore and consequently religious stories, to present life situations which mankind considers essential to the human experience. Ones which can provide examples of the characteristics and attributes which we consider to be shining examples of our better selves. And, as an adjunct to this, they necessitate examples of our none too pleasant natures as well. They are essentially "how to survive stories." So, the stories are full of self-sacrifice, strength through adversity, courage, determination and quests for truth in what are presented to be virually hopeless combats against the opposite of these characteristics.

They depict the model, or what is considered to be the desirable model, of human interaction and behaviours within a cultural and societal chronological reference. That many of these desired human attributes stand the test of time, that is, that they are found throughout history, indicates that mankind, has seen life as a struggle. And it is. Life is tenuous, unpredible, and inevitably fatal. So, human success stories provide hope of success and the comfort of knowing that success is possible. (By success I mean survival.)

All well and good. We like to hear how great we can be if we only set our minds to it. We like to believe that we can share some of those attributes of our heroes, religious or otherwise, by emulating their lives, deeds and works. Still all well and good. Now for the "but" and that was inevtiable too, wasn't it.. When, how and under what circumstances do we decide that a story is legend, myth, folklore, fable, or a false religion?

Answer: - When we decide that it isn't literally true. The majority of people on the planet have little or no problem with ascertaining that it isn't literally true that Achilles was immortal except for a spot on his ankle which wasn't immersed in the river Styx. People have little difficulty in deciding that Hercules didn't literally kill a 3 bodied monster called, Geryon. People have little difficulty in recognizing that Perseus did not slay a a creature called Medusa who supposedly had thousands of snakes as hair and whose gaze could turn a man to stone. Millions of people, do, however have great difficulty in assessing whether or not a man called muhammad rode a winged horse into the sky, or whether a man called jesus was born without the addition of sperm.

This is not to say that religious stories cannot fulfill a positive function, as all stories of human struggle can do that, but it is to say that we appear to have great difficulty in assessing and evaluating the literal truth of extraordinary claims if we choose one hero and their heroic accounts over all others. That is, we have difficulty in assessing the literal truth of extraordinary claims once we choose to use them as the guidebook to life, the universe and everything. (Obviously, my guide book is "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and I do not require or demand that everyone else has to consider the book the literal truth.)

The other "but" I have with the stories of good and evil is that they present a "black and white world." - A false dichotomy or dilemma of either this or that. Heaven or hell, good or evil and right or wrong. Unfortunately these concepts are only ever viewed within the narrow context of "what would MY hero do", rather than what would be a rational, reasonable or logical course of action under many or most circumstances. They also suggest that the just or righteous person has only ever one course of action to take under all circumstances. A one size fits all mentality and that to stray outside the "one size fits all mentality" is an act of evil in itself.

They are NOT pluralistic, in the sense that they recognize that all of these stories contain instances of human adventure from which lessons could be learnt, they are dictatorial. They do not see others in themselves, they see others as those who must submit to the "obvious truth" of their specific heroic creed of choice. They essentially devolve into, (when accepted as literal truth), 'believe in the one and only true hero or die'. This will either occur at the hands or will of the hero, or at the hands or will of those who follow the hero.


Eartha Kitt - 'I Want To Be Evil'



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31 Comments:

Blogger L>T said...

Your last paragraph about the pluralistic vrs. dictatorial was very interesting. I have been studying the philosophy of pagan religion during jesus's time.

For them religion was not about securing an afterlife. The Gods were worshipped principally through acts of prayer & sacrifice. Ethics was not usually a feature of these religions. Neither was correct doctrine. There was no such thing as orthodoxy or heresy, right or wrong belief. As a result most of these religions were tolerant of each other because there was no sense that only one of them could be true.

Christianity of course is very different...

5/3/07 12:50 am  
Blogger L>T said...

By pagan, in this sense, I mean mostly the Greek & Roman polytheists who adhered to local & state religions.

5/3/07 1:25 am  
Blogger L said...

1. I just wanted to say that I really always enjoy your posts :)

2. I love love love Eartha Kitt, and that is my second favorite song by her! (my first favorite is 'Old Fashioned Girl')

5/3/07 4:31 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

To lt

Thanks for your comments. It is the aspect of religion as a monopoly which is interesting to me also. In other words, a religion which teaches that ONLY THEY they have access to the one revealed truth which forms their mission. This indicates the autocratic and totalitarian nature of their faith.

There are 2 main religions which play this gambit, islam and christianity. And the monopolistic nature of their respective faiths seems to be like the story of "The Highlander."

In 'The Highlander' movie, there is room for "only one". The opposition is removed physically and violently and the powers associated with the others which are defeated then become part of the power of the Highlander, who is the only competitor left standing. To the victor go the spoils and the victor, when victorious over all, becomes allpowerful.

Monopolistic religions appear to act in a similar way to powerful corporations. Drive out competition until there is only one. Or the line from 'The Highlander' which always seems apt to me - “There can be ONLY one.”

Monopolistic religions do not play well together. They tolerate each other only in so much that they seem to be in a continual process of weighing up each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

They act essentially like gigantic religious corporations, continually looking for ways to increase their political power, and ways to diminish the political power of their competitors.

At their most fervent, they are totalitarian, imperialistic, autocratic and dictatorial.

5/3/07 9:54 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

To random

Thanks. You have a very interesting site yourself :)

5/3/07 9:55 am  
Blogger L>T said...

Yes, the exclusivness of christianity destroyed other religions. As a pagan you could incorporate other gods, no problem & still be a pagan. To be a Christian you had to denounce paganism. Belief in the one God required the destruction of the pagan gods. Christianity also went after Judaism, by taking over the Jewish God as their own.

There is so much of the corporation in Christianity, isn't there? Mormonism is a great example of that. Mormons are encouraged to be succesful in the world (to support the Church of course). My own X-denomination, The Assembly of God is a big corporation, also. They are the stuff that TV evangelism is made of.

5/3/07 11:34 am  
Anonymous ted said...

Fantastic stuff Beep.

There's no doubt that ancient stories often become the "stuff" of religion.

Trouble is, when we begin to decide that the stories are just myths and legends, there's always a contingent that just won't let go. Valid, logical explanations as to how and why things are, backed by hard and observable evidence just don't seem to cut it once there's a god involved.

5/3/07 12:19 pm  
Blogger Blueberry said...

The Judeo-Christian (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) will never be able to co-exist because they are intolerant (to the point of death, someone else's or their own) of someone with a different interpretation of God than their own. There will be constant war until all these religions are gone.

On the other hand, I always seems to gravitate toward Pagans of all types because they are not only very tolerant of other's views on gods, but they love the earth -- worship it even -- which is fine by me. The earth most certainly exists no matter what one thinks of its spiritual aspects.

Beep, did you see the movie "Troy" (with Brad Pitt/Orlando Bloom)? It's a VERY refreshing take on an old story, as the gods in it do not appear (well duh!), and Achilles demise (and perception of his skills) happens in such a way that you can really see how tales would be woven about it later. I love that movie in spite of the critics. Most of them didn't like it because they thought it should have had supernatural gods.

6/3/07 3:27 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

To Blueberry

Yes, I did see it and I enjoyed it. I also liked the way it was true to Archilles homosexual relationship, which was a part of the culture and the time period.

I wondered at the time, whether the movie suffered a bit BECAUSE it wasn't bashful in showing that relationship.

6/3/07 8:50 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

In the myth, Achilles is killed by an arrow which pierces his heel, (achilles heel). It was supposedly the only place where achilles was vulnerable as his mother, (who was a goddess of the sea, I think), dipped him as a baby in the River Styx in order to confer invulnerability upon him. Supposedly the only part which wasn't protected was his heel where his mother held him.

This part wasn't in the movie and I always considered this central to the myth. But it was an enjoyable movie nonetheless.

6/3/07 8:54 am  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

I hate it when you talk to someone at work, and they say it was God's will that they work there.

Even if there was one, he wouldn't care where you worked,

6/3/07 11:06 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM:
I also liked the way it was true to Archilles homosexual relationship, which was a part of the culture and the time period.
Which movie about Troy did you see? Because I watched the Brad Pitt version, & there was definitely NO gay leanings in it whatsoever.
Patrocles(?) was portrayed as his cousin, not his gay lover.

6/3/07 11:08 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE KA

It seemed obvious to me that his cousin was his lover. He seemed to be quite distraught when his "cousin" was slain. His cousin, Patroclus was also depicted as being somewhat effeminate I thought.

I suppose I just accepted that Achilles had a lifelong sexual relationship with Patroclus, but that that didn't interfere with any romance he might have with Briseis.

And that a very macho Achilles could have a homosexual relationship with his cousin and also with women.

The movie isn't explicitly homosexual, but the depth of feeling he has for his couisn is not underplayed in the movie either.

6/3/07 11:52 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE KA

I remember thinking at the time I watched it, and discussing it with friends, that it wouldn't appeal to an american audience because of the suggested relationship between Achilles and his cousin. It just seemed obvious to me that there was a realitionship that went beyond family ties. It was common for greek soldiers to act as mentors, as in the case between achilles and his cousin. Mentoring could also involve a close loving homosexual relationship.

Achilles is tender to Patroclus, but callous and arrogant towards others. After Patroclus dies, Achilles agonizes touching his dead body, smearing himself with ash, and fasting. He laments Patroclus' death using language very similar to that later used by Andromache of Hector.

It was obvious to me that even in the movie, that Patroclus and he were lovers.

6/3/07 12:00 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE renegade

If you start with the presupposition that god exists, everything becomes the will of that god, except when you want to blame someone for something you don't approve of, then the god is never blamed, your act of freewill is.

6/3/07 1:17 pm  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM:
It was obvious to me that even in the movie, that Patroclus and he were lovers.
Well, the movie starts out w/Achilles oversleeping, w/2 gorgeous women. & if memory serves, he had a ridiculous fling (non-historical) w/a Trojan woman (hehehehe. Funny entendre).
Usually, when Hollywood nods towards a romantic entanglement, there's more than a little liplocking.
Achilles is tender to Patroclus, but callous and arrogant towards others. After Patroclus dies, Achilles agonizes touching his dead body, smearing himself with ash, and fasting. He laments Patroclus' death using language very similar to that later used by Andromache of Hector.
Funny, all I remember is him getting extremely pissed off. Hmmm.
I didn't get the same impression. & I was familiar w/the story beforehand.

6/3/07 1:18 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

The homosexuality wasn't obvious, I suppose, (no kissing, or sex scenes). But I don't think that was necessary to get the message across?

6/3/07 2:37 pm  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM:
But I don't think that was necessary to get the message across?
I got a distinctly different impression.
Note also, that the Greek gods weren't even bit players. They busted up a few statues.
Of course, I'm big on sticking to the original story.

6/3/07 6:20 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

I will agree that the movie was made for "american consumption." Or that which would appeal to a wide american audience. This is to be expected, I think. The shame is if a movie is then presented as a realistic depiction of the original story.

6/3/07 7:09 pm  
Blogger Blueberry said...

On Achilles death in the movie: He is hit with multiple arrows in the chest and one in the heel, then he pulls out all the arrows except that one, he's just not strong enough and is going to die anyway, so when he's found it appears that the arrow in the heel killed him (a first impression without a medical exam). I thought it was a nice way to present it, because it's exactly the kind of thing that would have been explained away by post-mortem tales of the supernatural.

As for the movie Patroclus and Achilles, the sexual tension between them was very thick no matter what their relationship was. And if they had been lovers it would not have been out of the ordinary.

I read the Iliad about a year ago for the first time. They all mourned Patroclus as much as most of us would mourn an immediate family member! Different culture! And the Trojan Horse isn't even in there. I think that making a movie that was exactly a retelling of the Iliad would be rather boring. Just MHO.

6/3/07 11:52 pm  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

blueberry:
As for the movie Patroclus and Achilles, the sexual tension between them was very thick no matter what their relationship was.
See, I didn't get that at all. Patroclus barely had any face time (that I recall).
I fancy that I have an extremely critical eye in these regards, but perhaps I missed it.

7/3/07 7:54 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE KA:

"I fancy that I have an extremely critical eye in these regards, but perhaps I missed it."

Maybe women and homosexual men "saw the signs" - just a guess here.

I asked a heterosexual male friend if he thought the movie indicated a homosexual relationship between Achilles and his cousin and he said, no, and had absolutely no idea where I derived this impression.

His suggestion was that I was overlaying what I knew about their relationship, according to the story, onto the movie. I grant that is possible.

7/3/07 9:23 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM:
Maybe women and homosexual men "saw the signs" - just a guess here.
I thought I had pretty good 'gay-dar' for a straight guy. Maybe I missed it. ;)

7/3/07 12:45 pm  
Blogger King Aardvark said...

Different culture, different cues to set off gaydar. Also, maybe the acting just wasn't good enough to successfully portray a gay guy. Besides, they're supposed to be bi, no just gay, so maybe it's not as obvious.

Regardless, speaking of gay stuff, I thought the movie sucked balls ;-) Generally poor character development, random sex stuff for no reason, mediocre acting, lack of motivation, etc. Typical Hollywood fluff.

8/3/07 3:20 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

king aardvark:
Generally poor character development, random sex stuff for no reason, mediocre acting, lack of motivation, etc.
Yeah, but the fight scenes kicked SERIOUS ass.

8/3/07 5:46 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE aardvark:

All was forgiven here as Brad Pitt looked hot.

8/3/07 9:09 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM:
All was forgiven here as Brad Pitt looked hot.
Oh, is that all you women think about? (hehehehe - just playin').

8/3/07 9:59 am  
Blogger MichaelBains said...

Eartha freakin' Kitt!

Great... now I'm in love again.

lol!

8/3/07 10:07 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

Yeah Eartha does a great job of that song. :)

9/3/07 1:21 am  
Blogger Deacon Barry said...

In the movie, Agamemnon gets killed, but according to the legend he returns home to be murdered by his wife and her lover.
BTW Brian Cox is the cousin of my ward sister.

10/3/07 9:56 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

deacon:
In the movie, Agamemnon gets killed, but according to the legend he returns home to be murdered by his wife and her lover.
That's because he sacrificed their daughter to the gods. Think it was Poseidon.
I think Brian Cox is a vastly underrated actor.

10/3/07 1:21 pm  

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