A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The REAL Desert Dogs: Desert Dog Down!

This time, the Desert Dogs set out to find those elusive mummies they've heard about in the past (see the first El Paso episode). But the spirits of the dead decide to thwart their efforts. Ben, the Desert Dog website's blogger, fell seriously ill as the Dogs get closer to their rendezvous.

Also in this episode, the Desert Dog's Bug Man Marty Lewis finds a hive of killer bees, sits right next to them and talks about them too. He finds another insect, but that will be in the video found at the Desert Dog website, www.therealdesertdogs.com.

Archaeological Site Steward Joe Perry runs across numerous artifacts, even what may be a Native American burial, complete with beads, a broken metate, and maybe even some bone.

Music used with permission from Petroleum (Warner Music Group, the owners of Metallica's music, started cracking down on us). We might have passed the dispute process, because they stopped muting our videos. Gotta love fair use!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Previously, I wrote a rather lengthy explanation about a philosopher named Baruch Spinoza. Here's the practical part. You can apply Spinoza's ethics to real-life situations like cigarette smoking. Wanna know how? It's very easy. Learn as much as possible about the addiction.

This is actually how most people get out of their addictions, they become experts.

I used to smoke a pack and half to two packs a day, and so I was a heavy smoker. I was so addicted that I had to smoke just to make me feel normal. The way I overcame smoking was to examine all the reasons I held to rationalize my smoking, and all the triggers that led me to do it.

In other words, I acquired knowledge about particular things. For instance, I smoked because it made me feel calm when I was stressed out, because others around me smoked, and because I had acquired a taste for the smoke. I also had multiple triggers that I had associated with lighting up; someone calling me, getting in a car, eating, drinking, being bored, etc.

However, as I examined each reason it became clear to me that they held no water. The physical addiction to nicotine subsides in about two weeks, but the mental addiction can last forever. The mental aspect of the addiction is the biggest part of the addiction, yet it is only a figment of the imagination.

So I thought about my reasons. My first reason was that smoking makes me calmer. This reason was debunked after I imagined two people on a park bench; one is smoking and the other is reading a book. Who appears to be calmer? The person quietly reading a book of course! The person smoking is too busy trying to become normal again. Besides, nicotine is a stimulant and thus actually has the effect of making a person less calm. Reason 1 debunked.

The second reason was being around people who smoked. After watching people interact and smoke and laugh and talk, it became obvious that smoking part isn't that important. What causes people to laugh and interact with each other is simply being there. Reason 2 was debunked.

The third reason I had was that I had acquired a taste for smoke. The taste of smoke is tricky. First of all, it isn't a necessary taste but to be consciously aware in the present moment of smoke inside my mouth was enough to convince me that cigarette smoke in fact does not taste good at all. Reason 3 was debunked.

My fourth reason was the unconscious triggers. I would get into a car and light up, or if someone called me I'd light up. These were largely habits. I began to pay attention to what activities caused me to light up, and I wrote down a list. I had become aware of my triggers, something that very few smokers try to do. There was no reason to smoke.

What I'm illustrating here is that the most important thing is really to internalize your knowledge; learn about your habits and why YOU do them. Understanding WHY you do something, makes it easier to STOP doing something.

From there, you need only take action. Or actually, you only need to STOP.

Now imagine applying this to all our vices. Wouldn't it be great? Well, it's easier said then done. I've done this for a few things already, and of course there are more to do. This has been spoken of by numerous people, not just Spinoza, so there's a lot of words to back it up. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Siddhartha Gautama, William James, Bernadette Roberts ... they say the same things but they only differently. Supposedly, if enough vices are removed and replaced with knowledge and productive skills, one can reach a state of happiness, or 'excellence' as Aristotle called it.

It is a difficult state of being to achieve, and as Spinoza, a heretic who was excommunicated because he did not have the right view of God, said, "That which is excellent is as difficult as it is rare."

This is going to be a long one, but if you like philosophy then I think you'll enjoy it. The next blog will feature something more practical.
Baruch Spinoza's theory of ethics is still applicable today, and is even more relevant then ever in light of recent shifts in the views of religion. Being that I am writing this over 300 years after Spinoza, I will tweek it to fit a more modern understanding of the issues being brought up.I don't mean to reinvent the wheel, just to evolve it. Maybe throw some treads on it and attach it to a robot. Haha… I will also examine one particular example of how Spinoza's ethics can come in handy, and that is my own experience with smoking.

Spinoza wrote about his views on ethics and his concept of God at a time when Christianity was a dominant and militant force in Europe. His views were deemed heretical and he was subsequently sent into exile. He probably would have seemed fairly normal by today's standards, as the influence of the church, while still great, is such that it no longer administrates punishment for heresy.

Spinoza's ethical theory relies greatly on gathering more knowledge. He believes that we have a free mind, but not a "free will." In fact, humans are deterministic in the sense that they are slaves to their desires. By increasing knowledge, however, Spinoza argues that the desire for the most basic needs and wants in life can be largely superseded by a desire for higher things in life, such as wisdom. This switching of "masters" allows a person to free his mind, if not his will.A free mind doesn't control the body, but a human's individual desire does. This is because a body has certain affections that it needs in order to persist. So, when our body craves something – like something we are addicted to - our mind will crave it as well. This craving for something by the mind and the body is "appetite," and when the craving is tied to our consciousness, when we are constantly aware of it, is called desire. To illustrate, a drug addict will choose his drug of choice over sobriety over and over again because the drug has the effect of bringing him back to a perceived state of normality.During his ordeal however, a drug addict can think of what it must be like to not be addicted, even if just reflecting on the times prior to his addiction. He is free to think as he wishes, but not to act. His addiction is not necessarily connected to his intellect, but his actions are connected to his addiction.In order to begin to adopt more positive behaviors, Spinoza suggests developing good habits and most importantly, acquiring knowledge. Acquiring knowledge, specifically intuition toward particular instances (like drug addiction), will free us from our limited desires and replace the desire for lesser things, like drugs, with higher things, like knowledge.

To me, a human living more than 300 years after Spinoza, I can't help but admire his insight. Albeit his vocabulary is somewhat archaic, he touches on something that is relevant, even to one who is living in 2009. Today, of course, we are relatively familiar with fields in science that study the structure of matter right down to the atoms. And the strange thing about matter is that when we get down to the heart of it, it almost seems like it isn't there. It exists as a sort of energy.

That said, humans are caught in a weird situation. Given the vast expanse of space and time, an individual human is infinitesimally small and seemingly insignificant, yet for some reason a human comes from the default perspective that he or she is the center of the universe. Our perspective is largely why the reality of how insignificant an individual human is largely goes unnoticed by humans.The word "desire" is also antiquated. I would suggest that the word "addiction" be used to describe carnal desires, as it would be a better word to differentiate that particular kind of desire. Addiction, after all, is precisely what Spinoza was speaking about; physical and mental cravings tied to consciousness. Desire itself merely describes all appetites that our attached to our consciousness.

When humans with the proper faculties (not severely mentally handicapped) begin to seek knowledge about the world, there is a sort of satisfaction that is met as more knowledge and understanding is acquiesced. By learning more about the world, understanding our own mortality (memento mori), and discovering the connections between all of us, we are actually feeding another desire that we all have. Some call it "the need for God," while another may simply call it natural curiosity.For example, we don't actually see the thing out there in the world that light emanates from; we only see how it affects our eyes. And the way we interpret these things depends largely on the systems we've developed throughout our life to understand these phenomena. One's own religion, his understanding of science, and his own philosophy are what people use to understand reality, because we do not have any true perception of what "reality" is.So, a drug addict can overcome his addiction by seeking other things, and that's why many former drug addicts seek God. In a way, it's just filling one addiction with another. A drug addict overcomes addiction by focusing on a perceived truth (like God). He can remain relatively stupid (as far as book smarts go), but still conquer his addiction by focusing on something other than the problem.What Spinoza was talking about, however, is something more profound then simply switching addictions. And while his way isn't necessarily the only way, his solution of acquiring knowledge about particular things is better, and I can only speak from personal experience. Not by mistake, what Spinoza is describing has been mentioned by all mystics, religious and philosophical; from Buddha and Plato to Spinoza, and are still continuing on to the present.Humans naturally have a curiosity to understand their place in the universe, to understand the reality of it. Whatever it is, feeding this curiosity functions in much the same way as the drug addict who suddenly finds God, but structurally it is different. It removes the focus away from the addictions and/or bad habits; and gives us an objective understanding (yes, I think it’s possible to have an objective understanding) of why such behaviors are bad, and therefore unties the addiction from our consciousness. Colloquially speaking, the addiction seemingly floats away.

A Spinozan approach to addiction is better than adopting religion because the addiction isn't simply switched around, it actually is removed. It also begins to replace the addiction for the bad habit with a value judgment that has been determined by the person to be more valuable then the addiction itself.What makes these judgments valuable to a person is that they are in accordance with self-love and compassion; they are behaviors that make a better person. This is freedom, according to Spinoza. In essence, true freedom comes when we are able to make all our addictions float away.Philosopher Andrew Youpa said it this way, "... an individual in bondage is one whose value judgments result from his emotions and desires. A free individual, on the other hand, is someone whose emotions and desires result from his value judgments."

Next time, I will discuss how all this can be applied to practical situations like ending addictions.
Baruch Spinoza's theory of ethics is still applicable today, and is even more relevant then ever in light of recent shifts in the views of religion. Being that I am writing this over 300 years after Spinoza, I will tweek it to fit a more modern understanding of the issues being brought up.I don't mean to reinvent the wheel, just to evolve it. Maybe throw some treads on it and attach it to a robot. Haha… I will also examine one particular example of how Spinoza's ethics can come in handy, and that is my own experience with smoking.

Spinoza wrote about his views on ethics and his concept of God at a time when Christianity was a dominant and militant force in Europe. His views were deemed heretical and he was subsequently sent into exile. He probably would have seemed fairly normal by today's standards, as the influence of the church, while still great, is such that it no longer administrates punishment for heresy.

Spinoza's ethical theory relies greatly on gathering more knowledge. He believes that we have a free mind, but not a "free will." In fact, humans are deterministic in the sense that they are slaves to their desires. By increasing knowledge, however, Spinoza argues that the desire for the most basic needs and wants in life can be largely superseded by a desire for higher things in life, such as wisdom. This switching of "masters" allows a person to free his mind, if not his will.A free mind doesn't control the body, but a human's individual desire does. This is because a body has certain affections that it needs in order to persist. So, when our body craves something – like something we are addicted to - our mind will crave it as well. This craving for something by the mind and the body is "appetite," and when the craving is tied to our consciousness, when we are constantly aware of it, is called desire. To illustrate, a drug addict will choose his drug of choice over sobriety over and over again because the drug has the effect of bringing him back to a perceived state of normality.During his ordeal however, a drug addict can think of what it must be like to not be addicted, even if just reflecting on the times prior to his addiction. He is free to think as he wishes, but not to act. His addiction is not necessarily connected to his intellect, but his actions are connected to his addiction.In order to begin to adopt more positive behaviors, Spinoza suggests developing good habits and most importantly, acquiring knowledge. Acquiring knowledge, specifically intuition toward particular instances (like drug addiction), will free us from our limited desires and replace the desire for lesser things, like drugs, with higher things, like knowledge.

To me, a human living more than 300 years after Spinoza, I can't help but admire his insight. Albeit his vocabulary is somewhat archaic, he touches on something that is relevant, even to one who is living in 2009. Today, of course, we are relatively familiar with fields in science that study the structure of matter right down to the atoms. And the strange thing about matter is that when we get down to the heart of it, it almost seems like it isn't there. It exists as a sort of energy.

That said, humans are caught in a weird situation. Given the vast expanse of space and time, an individual human is infinitesimally small and seemingly insignificant, yet for some reason a human comes from the default perspective that he or she is the center of the universe. Our perspective is largely why the reality of how insignificant an individual human is largely goes unnoticed by humans.The word "desire" is also antiquated. I would suggest that the word "addiction" be used to describe carnal desires, as it would be a better word to differentiate that particular kind of desire. Addiction, after all, is precisely what Spinoza was speaking about; physical and mental cravings tied to consciousness. Desire itself merely describes all appetites that our attached to our consciousness.

When humans with the proper faculties (not severely mentally handicapped) begin to seek knowledge about the world, there is a sort of satisfaction that is met as more knowledge and understanding is acquiesced. By learning more about the world, understanding our own mortality (memento mori), and discovering the connections between all of us, we are actually feeding another desire that we all have. Some call it "the need for God," while another may simply call it natural curiosity.For example, we don't actually see the thing out there in the world that light emanates from; we only see how it affects our eyes. And the way we interpret these things depends largely on the systems we've developed throughout our life to understand these phenomena. One's own religion, his understanding of science, and his own philosophy are what people use to understand reality, because we do not have any true perception of what "reality" is.So, a drug addict can overcome his addiction by seeking other things, and that's why many former drug addicts seek God. In a way, it's just filling one addiction with another. A drug addict overcomes addiction by focusing on a perceived truth (like God). He can remain relatively stupid (as far as book smarts go), but still conquer his addiction by focusing on something other than the problem.What Spinoza was talking about, however, is something more profound then simply switching addictions. And while his way isn't necessarily the only way, his solution of acquiring knowledge about particular things is better, and I can only speak from personal experience. Not by mistake, what Spinoza is describing has been mentioned by all mystics, religious and philosophical; from Buddha and Plato to Spinoza, and are still continuing on to the present.Humans naturally have a curiosity to understand their place in the universe, to understand the reality of it. Whatever it is, feeding this curiosity functions in much the same way as the drug addict who suddenly finds God, but structurally it is different. It removes the focus away from the addictions and/or bad habits; and gives us an objective understanding (yes, I think it’s possible to have an objective understanding) of why such behaviors are bad, and therefore unties the addiction from our consciousness. Colloquially speaking, the addiction seemingly floats away.

A Spinozan approach to addiction is better than adopting religion because the addiction isn't simply switched around, it actually is removed. It also begins to replace the addiction for the bad habit with a value judgment that has been determined by the person to be more valuable then the addiction itself.What makes these judgments valuable to a person is that they are in accordance with self-love and compassion; they are behaviors that make a better person. This is freedom, according to Spinoza. In essence, true freedom comes when we are able to make all our addictions float away. Philosopher Andrew Youpa said it this way, "... an individual in bondage is one whose value judgments result from his emotions and desires. A free individual, on the other hand, is someone whose emotions and desires result from his value judgments."

Next time, I will discuss how all this can be applied to practical situations like ending addictions.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” - Luke 11:9-10

Any true Christian knows that all prayers are answered in three basic ways: Yes, No, or Wait.

Of course, the so-called skeptics always try to butt in on the truth, and say nonsense like, “What else do you expect?”

The best answer is that you can expect God to answer your prayers. I know in my heart of hearts that God answers prayers. In fact, I have tons of stories about how God has answered my stories. Why, just the other day I was praying to God, in tongues might I add, to heal my little puppy, which had just got run over by some low-rider driving a Chevy Impala. Guess what happened? Nothing.

That’s right! God answered my prayer “No.” And I respect Him for it, too. It is His call, after all. That is the proof that God answers prayers.

Another friend, William, said “That a difference that makes no difference is no difference.” He was presumably poking fun at my claim that God answered my prayer, and that no prayer would have the same result.

William wasn’t looking at the big picture. To quote Jesus, in Luke11:9-10, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”

Jesus didn’t specify WHAT would be given to you if you asked, only that “it” will be given to you. And IT is simply an answer! If I didn’t ask God to heal my puppy, then He wouldn’t have answered my prayer. But since I DID ask, Yahweh clearly and decisively answered it with a “No.”

William didn’t realize that there was indeed a difference. I prayed and God answered my prayer.
Some good advice to make sure you get the best results in prayer is to actually worship God in the beginning of your prayer. Actually, Jesus provides the best framework for a prayer, “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has sinned against us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

Lay it on thick. God likes that stuff. Then ask God to help you, but please be earnest! I’m pretty sure that since God is all-knowing, he knows whether you really mean it. True, since He knows everything, He also knew what you were going to say when He decided to create the universe somewhere between 6,000 years and 18 billion years ago, depending on which model of the universe you subscribe to.

Spread the Good Word to others, be sure to forward this to friends and family!