Reality Check book trailer #2

My book deals with many topics on theme of “question everything,” so here’s another trailer, this time on the issue of mind control, particularly in relation to the first seven years of our lives, when we are like sponges soaking up information with no critical thinking:

[ Link ]

Speak no evil: You can’t even talk about porn, it seems

Many of you will know that I wrote a lengthy essay speaking out against pornography. The tone of the essay was one of empowerment against addiction and also of sympathy with those already addicted. I do not believe in condemning people, only in helping them to better themselves.

The essay was part experience, part information gleaned from conversations, part introspection, part personal philosophy, and part research. Throughout the essay, I made no distinction between those elements, because I was not interested in writing some kind of personal confession. However, somebody out there has interpreted it just like that. In the eyes of someone (I don’t know who, because this was communicated to me through a third party), I am viewed as dangerous. I am gutted that someone could so completely miss the 101 positive things I had to say that will help young people steer clear of pornography, and instead see me as some kind of villain.

I knew I was taking a risk to tackle such a taboo topic, but I also knew that so many young people were naively exposing themselves to porn and becoming addicted behind their parents’ backs, and all I could think was, “I know exactly what porn is, and I know exactly how to keep it out of my life. I can’t not share what I know.”

Anyway, I took the essay down, and in doing so I disappointed myself, because I feel I caved in to something I try very hard not to do: live in fear of what other people think of me. It’s the way a lot of people live, and it’s no way to live.

I plan to make some changes to the essay and put it back online. I want to improve the accuracy, amend some parts that I’ve had new thinking on, and snip a lot of unnecessary waffle out.

I try to live an inspiring life. I try not to be someone who merely comes home in the evening, switches on his television, and has no higher purpose than to entertain himself as much as possible on the way to death. I want to be the sort of person who does what he believes is right without fear of the consequences, but sometimes it’s so hard. I am just so disturbed that someone could read something I said and paint a picture of me that is the total opposite of what I am.

I leave you with some statistical information that reveals the sheer scale of pornography on the internet. The word “epidemic” comes to mind, and it’s clear that it extends to young people. I feel this is the ultimate justification for the necessity of an essay like mine:

  • Number of pornographic websites: 4.2 million (12% of total websites in world)
  • Daily pornographic search engine requests: 68 million (25% of total search engine requests)
  • Received unwanted exposure to sexual material: 34% of internet users
  • Monthly pornographic downloads (peer-to-peer): 1.5 million (35% of all downloads)
  • Average age of first internet exposure to pornography: 11 years old
  • 15-17 year olds having multiple hardcore exposures: 80%
  • 8-16 year olds having viewed porn online: 90% (most while doing homework)
  • Christians who said pornography is a major problem in the home: 47%
  • Adults admitting to internet sexual addiction: 10%

These stats are from Family Safe Media. Click the link for a lot more.

The inexorable oil crisis: Reasons to be glad

I saw a documentary recently called A Crude Awakening, where a bunch of experts said what they thought about oil. Documentaries tend to have an agenda, so you’ve got to be cautious about what you take from them. In the 1970s, scientists worried over the coming of a new ice age; now it’s global warming. As for oil, the experts seem to think that it’s all going to be gone in the next twenty years.

I’m not going to get too attached to specific projections, but there are certain inescapable facts we can take away from a documentary like this. The main one is: it doesn’t matter when the oil’s going to run out, it is going to run out. Oil is a limited resource. It doesn’t matter how many new repositories we discover, there can only be so many. Whether we use it all up in twenty years or a hundred, one day it will be gone. And the human race will be in big trouble. And I can’t help but smile.

You see, I don’t like the way the world is. On a simple practical level, as a cyclist, I hate these lethally fast, carbon-monoxide spewing, four-wheeled metal monsters that I share road-space with. I can’t help but smile at the thought of oil prices rising and rising, as oil becomes less and less available, while our pay checks stay the same. Eventually, I think people will have to consider bicycles, as it will simply be too expensive to drive. Flying somewhere on holiday may become a luxury that only the elite can afford.

I’ve been a fan of the idea of the electric car, but this documentary gave me a new perspective on that. With electric, there’s no longer any need for petrol, so that solves the immediate oil crisis problem, but all we’ve done is transfer the demand for the needed energy to our home electricity supply. And where does that come from, in the majority of cases? Electricity power plants based on non-renewable fossil fuels: coal. The electric car is also almost as much a pollutant as the regular car. It’s just that the pollution is all spewed out at the power plants instead of distributed evenly across the country via the tailpipes of millions of cars.

Even nuclear power isn’t the answer to the oil crisis. I personally hate nuclear power because of the deadly waste product it generates and our need to store it somewhere safe on our very unsafe planet. But even if I could get my head around that objection, nuclear power depends on – surprise, surprise – a limited, non-renewable source: uranium. And when it’s gone, it’s gone forever. So, with nuclear power, all we’re doing is pushing “The End” forward another by another few years, and not very many years according to the documentary.

They say there’s no way to build enough wind turbines to serve entire countries, in keeping with the energy consumption that we’re used to. Solar panels are very expensive to buy, in comparison to the small amount of the energy they generate. The bottom line is, the oil is going to run out, and there is nothing to replace it with. The modern world is living in a state of addiction to a drug, and someday the dealer isn’t going to have any more product. When that happens, we’re all going to experience withdrawal symptoms. No more long-distance travel. No more import-export trade. No more plastics. The impact sounds monumental, but it will likely happen in stages. Everything will simply start to get more and more expensive, and we will lose our privileges by degrees.

But you know what? It’s absolutely fine by me. Funny, even. I have grown to care a great deal about the environment, and it’s heartwarming to know that man can’t keep doing what he’s doing to the world, in the name of expedience and big business, indefinitely. The means of his destructiveness will run out and the earth will recover. I would love to see the roof of my home decked out with a big solar array, and a wind turbine blowing in the garden, while I learn to live a simpler life (something I’ve already started doing in many ways). Mankind lived for thousands of years just fine before the invention of electricity. We’ll never have to go back to that, but we won’t be able to enjoy anywhere near the level or energy we’re used to. I can’t help but think that in several hundred years time, our children might be sitting in schools having history lessons about the horrors 20th and 21st centuries. And they will be shaking their heads in disbelief at the things we’ve done to the planet in our pursuit of wealth and affluence. “Yes, children. In some population centres there were so many motor vehicles causing so much pollution that entire cities became encased in a smog that was so dense you could photograph it. The smog made it more difficult to breathe and caused illness. But people thought this was normal life, and they refused to change.” And the children will gasp in disbelief. People don’t accept their personal responsibility for the planet’s welfare when they see themselves as one among billions. But when all those billions are spewing out pollution, we are indeed all collectively responsible. There’s a saying that I love: No snowflake in an avalanche ever felt responsible.

I understand the predicament people are in. Not everyone is free and single like me. Not everyone works within two miles of their home. Not everyone can say, like me, “Screw cars. I’m gonna ride a bicycle from now on.” Not everyone feels they can change. But the change is coming. And I think that’s great. You can cling to the present system tooth and nail, feeding your oil addiction while the government makes you poorer and poorer through rising prices, until finally you are broke and beaten; the oil is gone and your money is in the hands of the fat cats. Or you can look for ways to beat the system and turn it into personal empowerment.

Of course, the discovery of alternative energy isn’t something that I can completely write off, and it’s certainly something to hope for. The past hundred years have seen massive technological leaps, and I think we can expect more. It’s only fair to say that change of one kind or another is coming, and none of it looks bad to me. The sooner the better, for the sake of the health of the planet and ourselves. To quote a song by REM: “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

I am the one and only

“Eek! Has Darryl Sloan got a messiah complex?” you cry. Nope. “I aaaam the one and onlyyyy … Nobody I’d rather be!” Good ol’ Chesney Hawkes, eh? You can’t beat ‘im. I’m serious, actually. I love that song. If you can get around the 80s cheese factor and listen to the lyrics, it’s actually carrying a really positive message championing individuality.

Individuality is claiming the freedom to think for yourself, to form and hold your own opinions. And the enemy of individuality is anything which denies you that freedom.

In the previous post I stated that our freedom to think for ourselves is “taken away by Popes, pastors, and every other religious authority that insists it has a right to your mind.” Let me clarify and expand on what I mean by that.

Our freedom to think for ourselves is only taken away because we give it away willingly, and are encouraged to do so. This is illustrated by the way that most Catholics don’t become Protestants; most Protestants don’t become Catholics; the majority of adult Christians are those brought up in Christian homes, rather than people who converted to it from here, there and everywhere. Churchgoers generally aren’t moving towards greater awareness of “the truth,” despite listening to countless sermons week after week. They are buzzing around merrily in their own cliques. That is not my opinion; it is observable reality in all the countless church factions. In my personal case, it is illustrated by the imbalanced state of mind I went through in my earlier years as a Christian – the days when I took at face value what I was told about what it is to be a good Christian. Only by taking back my freedom to think, by slowly realising that I was being fed error on some levels, was I able to say, “No. The way you people want me to think is not right.” And to step away. It was very hard to do, and took a long time. The scope of the problem is illustrated by how many people choose to blindly tow the line of whatever their individual church scene says is right. Churches are not teeming with people who embrace their individuality, nor are they encouraged to be individuals. Paradoxically, all the factions in the church were no doubt created by certain people expressing their individuality and rebelling, but this does not negate the point that the only way to escape the prison of a particular church faction that is in error is to start thinking for yourself and to stop giving up that responsibility to your minister.

The Bible itself, as an authority, is also a problem because when you become a Christian you have to accept all its precepts en masse. If your own intelligence leads you in a different direction on some points, you have to agree with what the Bible says regardless of what you think, because it’s the word of God. Take homosexuality for instance. I believe it’s not natural, okay? I did as a Christian; I still do. But if I allow myself the luxury of disregarding that the Bible calls it an “abomination,” I suddenly find myself able to empathise with other Christians who have been dealing with homosexual urges all their lives, with no evil intent (two of whom I’ve known as close friends, incidentally, and one of whom was responsible for leading me to Christ). And yet, typically, if I’m sitting with another Christian and a homosexual comes on TV, the Christian will happily pass a remark about “that queer.” There is the general feeling among Christians that homosexuality is a great evil, with Bible verses to back that up. My personal individual view is that there’s something very unbalanced about that attitude. So, do I believe what the Bible says, or do I believe what my experience of knowing homosexual Christians tells me? When your indivuality conflicts with a belief system, you’re in trouble. And that’s the problem with belief systems. For me right now, rejecting the belief system and embracing my right to have my own view, it is so refreshing to be able to look at somebody and say, “It doesn’t matter to me what you are,” instead of regarding them with suspicion as if they must be some kind of deviant. If I’m honest, I haven’t looked upon homosexuality as “evil” in a long time; “not normal” is as far as I can reasonably go. So, I’m guilty perhaps of covertly reclaiming a little of my individuality that was not strictly permitted for me.

I’m not just Bible-blasting here. This giving away of one’s freedom to think is equally true of people who vegetate in front of soap operas, and base their moral outlook on the behaviour of what they see there. On the topic of homosexuality, it’s interesting to note how society’s view of it has become gradually more tolerant over the past couple of decades. Is this because people have suddenly become more enlightened? Could be, but (the rights and wrongs of homosexuality aside) I’m more inclined to think the change came about by the bombardment of the population by positive depictions of homosexuality on TV dramas and movies. It’s covert manipulation, folks, made possible only by our willingness to accept what we’re told without thinking for ourselves. True, attitudes to homosexuality really were in the dark ages a couple of decades ago, and social consciousness has probably been moved to a better place, where we’re less likely to kick the crap out of a couple of “queers” in a dark alley, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the means of delivering this better understanding was a manipulative one. I mean, these days a guy like me can hardly raise a single objection to homosexuality on purely rational grounds without being immediately branded homophobic.

The big problem is that we can so easily sacrifice our ability to think for ourselves without realising we’ve done it. Another manipulation I fell prey to at a point in my life is the idea that the scientific view of reality is the only one that holds any water. You get an impression from society – and that’s all it is, just an impression, with no actual substance – that scientists are the truly smart people. Before you know it, you’re beleiving in an axiom like “Nothing is true until I can smell it, taste it, touch it, measure it, or quantify its substance by some means or other.” A man who opens his mind to the possibilty that there may be a God, and who chooses to pray to this God, is seen as backward by comparison. But the wider possibility that science won’t acknowledge is that a whole lot of stuff might be true that we just haven’t discovered with our microscopes and telecopes, etc. It’s no surprise, really, that a great many scientists have an athiestic perspective. They have decided that if they can’t find it, it mustn’t be real. To only have room in your heart for scientific thinking is a great pity. Once you ackowledge that it’s possible to discover truth beyond the narrow constraints of scientific investigation, you realise that the scientific mindset is a prison for your mind – useful within its own capacity, but inadequte as an exclusive principle to live by. The problem is, the wool is pulled over our eyes without us realising it.

Yet another aspect of this lack of freedom to think is what goes on with friendships during our school days. The more I look back on my youth, the more grateful I am to have been a geek – an outcast from the popular crowd. It was painful at times, sure, but the most beautiful gift of this is that peer pressure has absolutely no power over you. Since the popular crowd have already made you an outcast, there is absolutely no benefit to you in doing anything that would please them. You grow into a true individual, making your own decisions, and thinking your own thoughts, without any great feeling that you ought to conform. It’s no surprise that I finished school having never smoked a cigarette or consumed any alcohol.

The ultimate expression of indivuality is when you just don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks of you. That’s largely what’s motivating the direction of many of my posts in recent months. It’s easily mistaken for arrogance, but it’s really just the detemination to live up to a standard that I’ve set for myself: to speak out about what I care about, to be unafraid of rebuttal or ridicule.

It’s an interesting experiment to observe others, keeping your ears peeled for evidence of the fear of what others think – various expressions of the old “What would the neighbours think?” attitude. Even more challenging to look for it in yourself. As ol’ Chesney says, “You are the one and only you.”

How to slowly kill yourself and your children

[Appended 27 July 2008: On my stats I’ve noticed that people are arriving at this blogpost through search engines, using phrases like “how to kill yourself.” I have no idea how to give a complete stranger a reason to live in a single paragraph, but if you are thinking of committing suicide, what I can do is offer you an understanding, listening ear. So please, contact me. Nothing would make me happier than having opportunity to help someone.]

I have had a problem with being overweight my whole life. It was pretty bad when I was at school, until I finally had a moment of clarity at age sixteen (i.e. I had the hots for a particular girl and wanted to be in with a chance). I cut out lunches, bedtime suppers, and went cycling every day after school. It worked. Within a couple of months I was looking great, and I kept most of the weight off for several years. But I gradually started putting it on again, and although I never ended up with the same obesity as in my boyhood, I did end up with this annoying layer of flab around my middle. I’ve even made an effort to eat reasonably well in recent years, but I never managed to shift the blubber … until something came to a head in December 2007.

I started experiencing some bowel problems. That’s a lie. I’ve been having bowel problems for a few years. You know, soreness, minor bleeding, occasional constipation. Okay, if you need to, have a big horselaugh and get it over with, because I’ve actually got some important things to say here. It got to the point where I would hate the thought of going to the toilet. In December 2007 I decided: This can’t go on. What’s the first thought that comes into your head? “Go see the the doctor.” That might well be a big mistake (I’ll get back to that in a minute). What I did was a little internet research and I came across an interesting site called Wai Says. Some of the stuff on the site is radical, but I came across an interesting piece on how “Eat more fibre” is not the answer to constipation. This piqued my interest, because I had a very fibrous diet already and it wasn’t helping.

To cut a long story short, I learned that the old “Five portions of fruit or veg per day” is a misnomer. I was getting my five portions a day, but I was making it all veg, no fruit. When you think about it, fruit is completely different than vegetables, in terms of sugars, so how can the health profession make this blanket statement, lumping the two types of food together as if you can ignore the quantities in each? I’m convinced that lack of fruit sugars was a major factor in my constipation, and my overindulgence in vegetables (too much fibre) meant that my bowels were often trying to evaculate food too quickly, causing soreness and bleeding.

That’s not the whole story. I still liked my weekly (or twice a week) Chinese takeaways, full of who knows what in terms of artificial additives. I decided the only thing to do was to cut everything out and start off with “safe” foods – those proven to benefit the human body. Six months later, here’s how I eat …

Breakfast: Every morning I have toasted brown bread with butter and honey, a big tall glass of pure orange juice, and a slice of melon. I find this perks me up to the degree that I don’t even feel the need for a caffeine drink. In the beginning I was pining for a cup of tea and a big bowl of cereal, but these cravings vanished after a few days. I actually have a big problem with cereal. I think it was instrumental in me gaining weight in the past, and the processed nature of it responsible for some of my bowel issues. In any case, I find cereal completely unnecessary. Pure orange is great, and I go the extra mile to buy the “not from concentrate” variety.

Lunch: Sometimes I don’t bother. If I do, it’ll be a banana, crisps or nuts, or all of those. You might find it weird I mention crisps. Well, the only crisps I’ll eat are those hand-cooked Kettle Chips containing nothing artificial. Also, I don’t want you to get the idea that I’ve got this completely regimented eating schedule. I don’t. I just know what I can and can’t eat.

Dinner: Every evening I will have some kind of meat with my meal. I regularly buy fish (proper fish, like a Salmon steak straight from the meat counter at your supermarket, not some processed Fish Fingers), steak, and bacon. I never make chips, nor do I buy those oven chips (which are coated in fatty batter). Instead, I cut potatoes up into wedges, roll them in olive oil and cook them in the oven (a little herb is nice on ’em, too). I make three particular meals regularly: (1) salmon, pasta & salad; (2) steak, wedges, peas, mushrooms & onions; (3) bacon, egg, rice, mushrooms, onions. After dinner, I will often indulge in a cup of tea and some chocolate (the expensive organic 70% cocoa variety); I find it doesn’t do me any harm at all.

I’ll be the first to admit this is not the only way to eat, but it represents a pattern of eating that is the only way to eat, if you want to maintain your health. The pattern is this: Eat real food. Avoid all processed meats and as many artificial food additives as you reasonably can. When you’re at the butchers browsing the meats, did you ever look at the label under the sausages that says something like, “Actual meat content 75%”? What the hell is it that the rest of the sausage is made of! Do yourself a favour and buy an actual pork chop or something. You want to know a really delicious alternative to a humburger? Buy a tenderised minute steak (instead of a processed pattie; the meat will be tougher, but still brittle enough to bite), some tomato (as an alternative to ketchup), add lettuce, onion, cheese, and put in a bun. Delicious.

For a savoury snack, if you buy a packet of Kettle Chips crisps, you know you’re eating actual slices of potato cooked in sunflower oil. Look at the ingedients label on a packet of Pringles and you’ll see an unintelligible list of chemical substances that is frighteningly long. I noticed a Smarties television advert a while ago that said “No artificial colours.” This is the perfect example of the way companies will try to deceive the public into believing their product has a healthy side. Here’s how you tell. When a product says, “No artificial colours,” it means there are artificial flavours, otherwise they would proudly display “No artificial flavours or colours.” I see this all the time, and I steer clear of food like that. When you purchase candy for your child, do you realise you’re giving him nothing more than a lump of chemically enhanced refined sugar? Do you honestly believe that is beneficial? Do you suspect, as I do, that it might be harmful? Why not introduce him to a variety dried fruit snacks instead?

Here’s how common modern eating habits work. The crap is there being sold, so we buy it and eat it. And we find that it tastes nice. So we keep on doing it. And the detrimental effects don’t show themselves for years, until we suddenly realise we’ve turned into Ten-Tonne-Tessie, or we’re diabetic, or we’ve got bowel cancer, or who knows what else. A friend once said to me, “All things in moderation.” But to me, processed foods and artificial additives are more akin to slow-working poisons, and it would be crazy to subscribe to the idea of arsenic in moderation. One microgram won’t kill me, but don’t ask me to eat it anyway. I was at someone’s house a while ago (quite a rich family) and they asked me if I would like a glass of orange. I said, “Yes, please.” Then I watched them lift a big bottle of diluted “orange” from the cupboard, fill the bottom of my glass with this chemical substance, then top it up with water. And they handed this poison to me like it was normal. These are people with their heads in the sand, who (despite being rich) will save a few pennies by buying artificial orange juice that doesn’t even taste like orange, and think they’ve make a sensible choice. I let my guard down recently at a barbeque, where there was processed meats on offer. So I indulged, just this once. I paid the price the following day; my body, now re-sensitised to eating real food, almost felt like it was trying to tear me a new arsehole.

Am I an alarmist? I think I need to be. I’m no dietition, and I’ll be the first to admit there may be some innacuracies in this article, but if you still think there’s no link between cancer and food, you clearly haven’t been watching the news in recent years.

I no longer have bowel problems. And I’m glad I was able to sort my problem out without resorting to a doctor. Although I didn’t realise until recently how lucky an escape I may have had. I know of someone else who has bowel problems who did go to see a doctor. And the doctor prescribed a remedy. In other words, the doctor gives you something that allows you to keep on harming your body without noticeable ill effects (until it’s too late), and also helps keep the laxative industry running smoothly, as well as helping you grow dependent on an artificial means of keeping your body functioning normally. The last thing the health profession needs is to run out of sick people. It’s called treating the symptoms instead of the causes. Far be it from me to strike off all the good doctors in the world, but this is something to watch out for.

I could very easily have ended up sitting here today as overweight as I was in December, thanks to doctors. “Ah, you must have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Here’s a prescription.” Instead, I’m 2.5 inches slimmer at the waist and feeling a darn sight better than I’ve felt for most of my life. And I did it without dieting. Dieting is fruitless because it’s temporary. I lost weight even though I’m eating chocolate regularly, for goodness sake! What I did was make a permanent lifestyle change – one that I’ve adjusted to completely and love, and one that will stand to me for the rest of my life. I have not only woken up to the dangers of unhealthy eating; I have lost any kind of craving for it. When you detoxify your body from all that crap, you learn that the foods God placed on this earth for our enjoyment are actually delicious.

The only downside to this healthier way of living is that it costs more. And to that, I reply with a simple, “So what.” Putting your health and your bank balance side by side on the scales strikes me as foolhardy in the extreme.

We have all been conditioned

My previous post provoked an excellent debate. What I want to do now is amplify something I mentioned as little more than a closing remark in the post, because it’s really this remark that lies at the heart of the matter of why I’m so convinced there’s life after death and why athiests are so convinced there isn’t.

It’s the issue of conditioning. We have all been conditioned. Sometimes it’s as overt and obvious as those kids on the Jesus Camp documentary, indoctrinated by their teachers to believe the craziest ideas. And sometimes it’s so subtle that you carry it from the moment you learn it till the moment you die, without ever realising you were imprisoned by it. And the way to escape from it is to question everything, especially why you believe what you believe. Conditioning happens through every means the world throws at us to learn something, be it the media, education, religion, etc. These things are not evil in and of themselves, but we are conditioned every time we take in information and fail to question that information. Every time we get lazy in our thinking.

I’ve been waking up gradually in recent years, and I’m probably nowhere near fully woken up. A while back I wrote a post called “A Christian perspective on Jericho” (the TV series, not the Biblical city), which is an example of how I had started, at that time, to question the idea of Capitalism, something that we in the West are entrenched in. I never questioned Capitalism before, because we’re all Capitalists – so it must be the right way to live, right? Rubbish! That’s like living in 1940s Germany and saying, “The Nazis must be right, because everyone around me is one.” Capitalism is all about the ownership of things and the accumulation of wealth to the detriment of all else, including the welfare of the planet. School is shaped around the idea that the greatest course of action is for a student to stay in education as long as possible, so he can be as qualified as possible, so he can get the best possible job, and make the most money. We are encouraged to spend our lives pursuing the vacuuous quest of the accumulation of wealth. Nine years ago, I was faced with a crossroads. On the one hand there was a low-income job that I knew I would enjoy greatly, and on the other was a more stressful and problematic job that offered more money and status. Thank goodness I chose the former, but the choice was not easy, because I had been conditioned to think that the latter was what I was supposed to pursue and that not choosing it would have been some kind of personal failure. Conditioning! It’s bloody everywhere, and it’s tricky stuff to see!

Now, I’m going to bring into sharp focus what I think is one of the most subtle forms of conditioning. Science has taught us to think like this: “If you want me to believe something, show me verifiable proof. Without proof, I will not believe.” It sounds correct, doesn’t it? Deny it and you might as well start believing in flying pigs, eh? Oh, if only it were that simple, but it’s not, as I will demonstrate …

A man starts off by contemplating his death. He says, “There’s no evidence of an afterlife, so I won’t believe it. Death is the end.” So far, we are agreed. Then he considers the implications of his belief. He realises, ultimately, that his life will be robbed of meaning by his death. It will be as if he never lived, all his memories and experiences lost. He takes it further, and realises that one day, billions of years in the future, the same fate will befall the sun, and it will be as if the human race never existed, all our great achievements and knowledge forgotten. So what does he do? He shrugs and says, “That must be the way it is. Wishing otherwise doesn’t make it so.” Maybe he tries again, and asks himself, “Is there life after death?” And he answers, “There is no evidence, so I cannot believe it. No.”

Here’s where I differ. I give my mind permission to see the absurdity of the idea that the human race is meaningless, to contemplate the mockery this makes of our every achievement. And I allow this new information become a factor in the question. So, I ask it a second time: “Is there life after death?” Yes! When the alternative turns the human race into the greatest cosmic joke of all time, of course there must be life after death. The alternative is absurd beyond imaginging.

We have been conditioned not to allow the full range of our rationality to determine our view of reality. This is the inadequacy of the scientific method. It says that while a thing may be true, the human being has no right to believe it unless he arrives at that belief through an examination of observable evidence.

If you think the only road to truth is through observable evidence, you are thinking from inside a prison of your own making. Learn to see the wider picture of human rationality and break free. Don’t blind yourself with the idea that it’s evidence versus flying pigs, when there’s a hell of a lot more that goes into good clear-headed thinking.

Jericho – Not even the end of the world can kill Capitalism!

jericho.jpgNot long ago, I enjoyed watching the first season of the TV series Jericho. It wasn’t fabulous viewing, chiefly because it descended to the realm of post-apocalyptic soap opera, but there was another side to the story that I found fascinating. I don’t think everyone notices this (and I’m not even certain the writers see their show in this light!) so I want to draw attention to it. To me, Jericho is a story about the failure of capitalism.

Capitalism: an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

This is the way we live today. Life is about the pursuit of wealth. I devote enough time to that pursuit as a means of survival: to enable me to keep a roof over my head and to buy those things that make life liveable. I could probably have a high-flying IT career if I put my mind to it, but instead I chose to do a job I enjoy, regardless of the lesser wage. I’ve got some perspective. But not everyone does. Some people devote their entire lives to the accumulation of wealth. And it’s no wonder. It’s essentially what school teaches us to do: get as qualified as possible, so you can get the best job you can, so you can make as much money as you can. When you’re a kid, and you spend six hours a day, five days a week, under the pressure of that mentality, most of us end up buying into it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for education, but education with a little wisdom thrown in would be better.

The reason I like post-apocalyptic fiction so much is because we get to sweep away all the things we hate about present society and start again. Never mind that all the good things get swept away, too. I get a kick out of radical change. In Jericho, the USA is devastated by a nuclear attack. Some towns survive unscathed; Jericho is one such. Initially, the townsfolk get together under the guidance of the mayor. The US government no longer exists. Life is thrown into such disarray that the only course of action that makes sense is neighbour helping neighbour. But what’s really interesting about Jericho is that few of the people buy into it. They’re so infected with capitalistic thinking that not even the end of the world can bring them to their senses. First, there’s the old lady who runs the store. Suddenly, everyone needs what she’s got, so she uses it as an opportunity to drastically raise the prices. Later, a teenage boy inherits the store, and is fierce about retaining personal ownership of it. His girlfriend think he’s so cool because he kicks ass to stay on top of his rights. Likewise, one of the farmers is determined that he still owns all the of the grain in his fields, and any decision to share it will be made by him. When refugees arrive, they are all housed together uncomfortably in one building. It takes the townsfolk so long to allow the refugees to live in the empty homes in town, out of some ridiculous loyalty to the owners who are most likely lying dead in another part of the country. Things really heat up when Jericho has to have dealings with its neighbouring town. A willingness to share resouces and help one another is put aside in favour of an “if I do this for you, what are you going to do for me” attitude. Jericho withholds what the other town desperately needs, and the end result is war.

I found it amusing watching the people of Jericho blindly clinging to the self-centred ethics they were accustomed to and seeing it fail them at every turn. I have to ask myself whether this “message” was deliberately put into the series, or whether the writers were simply writing what they considered to be normal, decent behaviour. I honestly don’t know! Regardless, the message is there.

The thing is, this is probably how the human race would behave in those circumstances. It’s all me, me, me. Life revolving around accumulation and ownership, which is daft when you consider that the only things that are of any use to us are the things we can make use of while we’re alive. You can take nothing with you when you die.

I’m always impressed with how things were done in the 1st century Church:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. (Acts 2:44-46)

There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:34-35)

That’s a far cry to today’s Church, isn’t it? People arrive on Sunday morning, sit down and listen to a sermon, then leave and disconnect themselves completely from the lives of everyone else there until the following Sunday. If someone in the Church suddenly lost their home, I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone else offered no more assistance that an apathetic, “Sorry.” Will the Church ever be like it was in the beginning? Probably not. But at least if some of us realise how utterly infected we are by the fallout of capitalist life – greed, in other words – then it’s a step in the right direction.

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. (Proverbs 23:4-5)