Shaming Women

So sayeth Saint Paul. When he wrote this, in the late 40s or 50s CE, women in the Roman Empire were still respected in religious rites, such as the all-female Bona Dea cult and of course the Vestal Virgins. In Judaism, their role was much more limited. I find it interesting, though, that Paul, the founder of Gentile Christianity, who claimed to speak directly to the ghost of Jesus, took such a harsh tone towards women. Why would it be shameful for them to speak, I wonder? From my Random Bible Quotes Facebook group.

Suicide, Free Will & A Monster

RIP Chris Cornell. I’m seeing a lot of posts on Facebook about suicide awareness today and I’m wondering if suicide hotlines work. If your brain is in a state where you’re seriously contemplating suicide (as opposed to just feeling down with remote thoughts of suicidal ideation), are you likely, in that state, to call a hotline? Does anyone have solid data? According to this article in Scientific American, “it is essential to recognize that most suicides are driven by a flash flood of strong emotions, not rational, philosophical thoughts in which the pros and cons are evaluated critically.”

This article quotes extensively from psychologist Roy Baumeister, who according to Wikipedia is now based at the University of Queensland. Baumeister simultaneously claims that “disbelief in free will can lead people to act in ways that are harmful to themselves and society” and yet “feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, inadequacy, or feeling exposed, humiliated and rejected” lead to suicide. In my experience, when you stop believing in free will, those “feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, inadequacy, or feeling exposed, humiliated” disappear. Where there is no free will, there can’t be any shame or guilt or inadequacy. Your actions are determined by physics, beyond “your” control. Even if your brain chemistry is going haywire for some reason, once the underlying neural structures have changed so fundamentally don’t believe in free will, it seems unlikely to me that any of those feelings can arise (beyond momentarily popping up before being negated).

In other news – Roger Ailes died. Not suicide, perhaps surprisingly after the year he’s had. I tend to agree with Matt Taibbi that Ailes was “one of the worst Americans ever”:

He is on the short list of people most responsible for modern America’s vicious and bloodthirsty character.

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we’re that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate.

And, of course, he played an enormous role in making Trump President. But as I keep saying (and I’ve been saying it since Bush) – Trump isn’t the problem, he’s only a symptom of the problem. I suspect that focusing on removing Trump is missing the point.

The Mythmaker

My latest obsession is using 3×5 cards as flash cards to improve my memory. Especially as I’m preparing for this documentary, there are so many people and dates I need to keep in my head, that I need a new tool – and there’s nothing that says ‘new tool’ like creating flash cards out of a pencil, 3×5 cards and a rubber band to hold them together. I’m using a regular old notebook for taking notes while I read books. The 3×5 cards I’m using to capture the key names, dates, ideas, just like a traditional flash card – question on one side, answer on the reverse, and I’ve got a pile of them wrapped up with a rubber band, that I go through a few times a day, to test myself. I’m also using groups of cards for other things – memorizing The Raven by Poe (which I used to know but have forgotten some of the verses) and the opening soliloquy from RICHARD III. Also using a separate pile for BIG IDEAS – I’m trying to write down the biggest idea I have every day or the best thing I learned and then I’m reviewing them every day. I’ve tried using notebooks and Evernote for this for years, but there’s something about cards that I really like – they are small, which force me to be succinct, they are easy to keep on my desk, and they are easy to randomize (a quick shuffle). And I’m crazy about pencils these days. There’s something about writing something with pencil on paper that makes part of my brain come to life – typing on a computer doesn’t have the same effect.

In other news: Chelsea Manning gets out of jail today. I hope she gets some peace, but I doubt it if she stays in America. So nice to see that “Backers have raised more than $135,000 for housing and other essentials and to assist her with her reentry into society after seven years in prison.”

Closer to home: Victorian police are deciding whether to charge Australia’s most senior Catholic over historical sexual assault allegations. But there’s concern that as Australia doesn’t have an extradition treaty in place with the Vatican, they won’t be able to arrest him unless he agrees to come back to Australia voluntarily.

Meanwhile, as I’m done with my Cold War research for this week’s recordings, I’m reading an actual hardcopy book (I typically only read ebooks) that I bought from eBay because it wasn’t available in a digital edition: THE MYTHMAKER: PAUL AND THE INVENTION OF CHRISTIANITY by Hyam Maccoby (1986). Maccoby was a British Talmudic scholar who makes the case that Paul was born a gentile, converted to Judaism, and later invented Christianity. He believes Jesus was a Pharisee who would have been horrified over what Paul did in his name.

Wardenclyffe Tower

I like to listen to instrumental music while I work, sometimes jazz, sometimes classical, sometimes techno, or Rob Zombie, or Brian Eno. Tonight I wanted to listen to Wardenclyffe Tower by Allan Holdsworth. I haven’t heard it in a long time but I owned it on CD back in the 90s. Anyway I went to Wikipedia to find out what he’s been doing lately, only to discover he died a few weeks ago, heart attack, age 70. I bet a lot of people have never heard of him, but he was one of the most influential guitarists of all time, according to people like Eddie Van Halen (from who I learned about Holdsworth decades ago), Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, etc.

Another guy who died today was Powers Boothe, who played Cy Tolliver on Deadwood, among many other great roles, usually playing the villain. A great actor who will be missed.

I spent most of today working on the script for our Christianity documentary, which is a complete mindfuck. So many rabbit holes, the story is so complex, it’s hard to know what to leave out. I had a phone call with one Aussie scholar who is going to be on the film, Mike Bird, and got turned down by another who doesn’t want to appear on film. Meanwhile, for research, I started reading a couple of books by John Dominic Crossan – The Historical Jesus in Context and God & Empire: Jesus against Rome, Then and Now. I’m sure they will open up completely new cans of worms I’ll have to unpick.

As I told Mike, my study of Christianity is the inverse of every other subject I’ve studied, in that the more I read, the more confused I become. It’s a complete clusterfuck. The scholars disagree on nearly everything, it seems.

Meanwhile Chrissy and Fox are still in the US, visiting her family. They’ve been away two weeks, due back in one more week.

Inventing The Messiah

Inventing The Messiah

My latest project is a secular (non-religious) documentary about the history behind Jesus and early Christianity. We’re going to interview a range of biblical scholars and academics to learn what they believe to be the HISTORY behind the story – leaving aside theology or faith, what happened? How did a fringe, Jewish personality cult from the backwaters of Middle East, end up taking over the Roman Empire? It’s a terrific and fascinating story. Check out our teaser video on Kickstarter for more information and support it if you can!