Archive for December, 2022

Carrier’s Theory On The Christian Pro-Life Movement

December 30, 2022

So Richard Carrier has had another thought.  Given how his last one turned out, I’d almost suggest that when he has these thoughts he should follow the “Buffy” example and lie down until they go away.  This is mostly because Carrier tends to not make posts to explore or work out these thoughts, but instead makes posts as if these thoughts are fait accomplis, where he takes a lot of time to point how these things really are correct and, especially here, that they’re the only reasonable explanation for certain things, while they end up being entirely alien concepts to the members of the very group — Christians, in the last two examples — that he’s had the thoughts about.  That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong, but it does mean that he needs to make very strong arguments free of flaws to convince people that he’s correct … and then he tends to make some elementary mistakes that call his arguments into question.

Here, what he’s exploring is what the actual driving force behind anti-abortionism is.  He makes the normal comment towards it being sexist patriarchal norms, but then suspects that it might be something more:  a personal fear of death, which is what he will argue for later.  But let me take on the sexism part first:

n other words, this is really just a desire to enforce sexist gender norms, lest failing to do so continually remind you that even your government has declared your religion false. Abortion has to be illegal—or else women can have all the sex they want without subordinating themselves to a man or enslaving themselves in servitude to his children. That’s why anti-abortionists are also against anything that actually reduces abortion—like free IUDs; or any kind of birth control; or even mere training in how to use it. Condoms are evil not because they kill babies—to the contrary, prohibiting condoms has killed a huge number of people, including babies—but instead because they actually allow women to claim equality with men, sexual and otherwise. It ****s up patriarchy.

I want to take this on because it highlights a major issue that I’ve had with the abortion debate over the years and that will raise its ugly head here again:  interpreting the goals and aims of a person based not on their own perspective and not on the perspective of the people they are analyzing.  The idea that any opposition to sexual promiscuity is based on, at least for the most part, a desire to avoid women being “free” has always puzzled me, since while it is entirely possible that some people hold that either consciously or unconsciously there’s a much more simple reason for that sort of opposition, that Carrier himself raises only to ignore (and misstate):

There is also, I suspect, a component of envy (like women who do not like other women claiming a hedonistic freedom they are themselves prohibited from enjoying; the “if I can’t have nice things, neither can anyone else” mentality) …

It’s not envy towards hedonistic freedom, but instead hostility towards hedonistic freedom.  Society in general and religions in particular have had a long history of being suspicious of and opposition to hedonism.  There, of course, could be a large analysis of why this occurs and there are probably a number of factors, but the primary one is probably that seeking simple pleasure is seen as, well, a bit childish.  Children live in the moment and only seek out the next pleasure, while adults are supposed to seek the “higher pleasures” and subordinate pleasure-seeking to those times when it is appropriate.  So while the traditional Protestant or societal work ethic of many cultures is that it is fine to seek pleasure once one’s work is done, the key part is to “earn” that pleasure with the hard work first, and we are supposed to be show the willpower to put aside pleasure and push through pain when appropriate.  Thus, pleasure and pain are seen as base components that we are supposed to be able, as humans, to push past.  Thus, any time someone makes an argument that restricting abortion and birth control will restrict the ability to have sex that argument is met with disdain because it is effectively saying that the person making the argument can’t restrict their seeking of sexual desire to appropriate conditions and times and wants to have completely freedom in that regard no matter what.  The same thing applied to a the debate over the Obamacare mandate to provide birth control when one woman — whose name a quick Google search cannot find, for good or for ill — protested that it was a necessity and was essentially called a “slut” over it who couldn’t control her own sexual urges.  It’s not that she was a woman, but instead that she was insisting that her sexual freedom had to count above all.  If you want to see the same reasoning from the other side, look at pretty much any argument from the left about incels (which hits a sore spot for me since I’m probably a technical incel but not part of their movement, but get tarred with the same “You only want sex” brush when my considered opinion is that if I only wanted sex I wouldn’t be even a technical incel).

Anyway, the whole idea that their pro-life opponents only want to control women is, it seems to me, a mistaken argument where they start from the presumption that the foetus ought not count as a person and to ban abortion is to restrict the freedom of women overly much, which leads to a conclusion that the effect, at least, is to control women’s reproductive choices for no reason, which means that the only reason for that can be to control women’s choices, and so the argument ends up the way Carrier expresses it (I recall Stephanie Zvan following that exact reasoning chain at one point).  The problem is that it starts from at least one assumption that their opponents do not hold:  that the foetus ought not count as a person.  Now, as you’ve seen above, pro-choice advocates have a way to dismiss the idea that pro-life advocates primarily care about the foetus, by arguing that they don’t support other options that would save more lives or improve the lives of children more.  But again this is a case of arguing from inside their own mindsets, since the things they advocate are also things that they think morally wrong or have other arguments for or against, and so are not directly related to their position on abortion.  Essentially, it’s like arguing that someone who supports the death penalty for murder cannot really be opposed to murder since executions are murder.  They have reasons that they use to argue that executions and murders are not the same thing, so you just can’t get there from that supposed contradiction.  It might still be a contradiction — their arguments might be incorrect — but it’s not a contradiction that you can use to consciously argue that they don’t hold the position they claim to hold.

So, for me, I think that “control women” and “control women’s bodies” are not, at all, the primary motivation for pro-life positions for, well, pretty much anyone.  Some advocates might see it as a nice bonus, but vanishingly few if any have that as their primary motivation, and I think that for most of them it really is the idea of simply killing something that will become a baby that drives their emotions and arguments on the issue.  Given how the stats show the contradictory idea that most people oppose completely free abortions and yet support some ability to get abortions, I don’t all that many people — either pro-life or pro-choice — are comfortable with the idea of abortion as birth control for that very reason:  they don’t like the idea that the thing that will become a baby and that pregnant women and their spouses have always waited for with joy and planned for and treated like a child — especially in the case of a miscarriage — should be disposed for the simple reason that someone just doesn’t want to have to deal with it for nine months.  That seems to treat such a thing too callously, even if it we don’t want to consider it a full person yet.

Anyway, as noted Carrier has an alternative motivation for being pro-life, and it starts from this idea about Christians:

… if we legalize that, just like if we legalize abortion, we are essentially declaring the Christian’s worldview false, because everything they believe about “man and woman” and their roles is inexorably linked to their entire Biblical worldview (Christ’s atonement, and thus mechanism of salvation, makes no sense without the story of Adam and Eve being taken in some sense literally).

Even worse: legalizing abortion means the government is thereby declaring their beliefs false. Right in their face. The cognitive dissonance is terrifyingly unbearable. It therefore must be crushed at all costs. The government must not repudiate their faith!

So, the basic idea is that if the government declares their beliefs false, this causes cognitive dissonance in them — as Christians — and this would challenge their faith and so they need to stop the government from doing that.  The problem is that this is a very odd view to take of Christians in general, as throughout the entire Bible — both the Old and the New Testaments — the fact that the government or the society around them held their beliefs to be incorrect wasn’t seen as something that caused them to lose their faith.  On the contrary, it caused them to strengthen their faith and led to the rise of various martyrs for the faith that Christians still idolize today.  Standing up for one’s Christian faith against the wave of societal disapproval is something that is a Christian’s duty and obligation, and not at all a sign that their faith is actually wrong.  I won’t go so far as to say that Christians want to be opposed and even oppressed in this manner, but while it can be depressing to Christians it’s something that we are supposed to fight our way through, not something to cause us to despondently relinquish our faith.  So from the start Carrier’s interpretation of what would be motivating Christians is remarkably unChristian.

Carrier is of course American-centric, and so we can see that in a sense he is correct about the impact of these governmental decisions, but not in the way he thinks:

It is an admission that they are losing the culture war. Their entire patriarchal culture—their entire religion—is just an archaic dying fad, factually unsustainable, and therefore unworthy of state endorsement. The horror!

The United States is somewhat unique in that many if not most Christians believe that it is in some sense a Christian nation, ranging from the belief that it was formed as a Christian nation to the belief that it at least espoused Christian values.  So, ultimately, American values and Christian values were aligned, and became even more so from both sides, as American values developed from those of the majority which were Christian ones and the values of American Christians evolved to bring in and justify what were considered to be the best of the American values.  So for a lot of American Christians that their democratic society is moving way from those shared values is indeed disturbing.  America is no longer a Christian nation in any sense, they fear, and since they obviously think that Christian values are the best ones they see it as becoming decadent and losing its way.  I don’t need to make this argument by implication as we see these arguments being made explicitly across a host of debates, from the abortion debate to the immigration debate to, well, a lot of other debates.  So, no, it’s not that they feel their faith challenged, but that they feel their society crumbling around them.

Anyway, ultimately Carrier is going to try to argue is that the fact that the government is declaring false is … the belief that they have a soul and so will survive death:

All the government is doing is admitting there are no facts admissible in court that a person even exists in a fetus. But that is tantamount to admitting there is no soul in a fetus warranting outlawing the killing of one. And if fetuses don’t have souls, the same evidence entails neither do babies, children, or adults. The state is thus declaring personal life is a particular physical brain-state. Which entails death is death. No more immortality …

The first thing to note here is that this is not an argument that Carrier really wants to make in the pro-choice context.  See, the argument implies that we cannot draw a distinction between a foetus and a baby and a child and an adult when it comes to whether or not one is a person.  Thus, if we have to declare that a foetus doesn’t have a soul, then we’d have to declare that none of the others do as well.  But if that’s the case, then we’d have to agree that there is nothing that distinguishes them as persons on that scale.  If we could distinguish them in some way then the argument doesn’t work since we could easily have a break at some point that allows for children and adults to have souls and so to be immortal even if they were forced to accept that foetuses don’t have souls (which, as noted above, is not something they need to accept on the government’s say-so anyway).  So no distinction between them as persons can be drawn if Carrier wants his argument to work.  But most people accept that adults and children are indeed persons and their lives ought to be protected by the law.  If we can’t draw a distinction wrt personhood between adults and foetuses, then they ought to be equally protected.  And so if foetuses are not to be protected, then neither should adults be.  Ultimately, if we can’t draw any distinctions, then either pro-life advocates are correct and the foetus deserves protection, or else adults don’t deserve protection either.  Neither outcome is good for the pro-choice advocate.

Carrier can try to avoid this by introducing a non-soul-based distinction, like he does with brain development.  However, that won’t work for him either.  First, if the distinction isn’t soul-based, then even if the Christian accepts it they have no need to accept that it means that the foetus doesn’t have a soul.  Second, if the distinction can be linked to the soul in some way then they can use that to break the progression and insist that, nevertheless, they still have souls.  Thus, either Carrier kills the pro-choice arguments or kills his own about the fear of death driving Christian pro-lifers.  Neither is a good outcome for him.

The second thing is that Carrier makes this argument in light of the fact that many if not most pro-choice advocates have abandoned the argument that the foetus is not a person and so has no rights.  The famous violinist argument, for example, explicitly argues that even in a case where the violinist is clearly a person the right to bodily autonomy trumps his right to life, and thus the bodily autonomy of the mother also trumps the right to life of the foetus if it has one.  For the most part, the argument has entirely shifted towards saying that the mother’s rights trump whatever rights the foetus may have.  Thus, for Carrier’s argument to work Christians must be deriving a message from the pro-choice outcome that its arguments no longer support.  That’s also not all that credible.

However, Carrier does make an interesting parallel in this section between Christian pro-life arguments and other ones, like same-sex marriage and creationism, and then makes a comparison to other potential issues:

Needless to say, there has to be some motive for being anti-abortion (as also anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-factual-education). Because it isn’t motivated by evidence. Indeed, even anti-abortionists recognize that it would be abhorrent of Jews to legislate a ban on pork and shrimp, or Hindus on beef, simply because of their personal religious beliefs. Everyone agrees they can simply freely not eat those things themselves; no one else, no one who lacks these beliefs, need heed such a directive. And so, if Christians believed in religious liberty, they’d agree they can refrain from abortions themselves if their religion declares them immoral; no one else, no one who lacks these beliefs, need heed such a directive. The government has no business outlawing abortion, then, than in outlawing pork, shrimp, or beef. But instead, when it’s abortion (or gay marriage, or switching gender, or teaching evolution or sex ed), they lash about for some rationalization to outlaw it, or at least impede it by law.

This is an interesting question.  Carrier also makes reference to banning pornography and notes that, again, it doesn’t seem like Christians are as upset by those things as they are by abortion and same sex marriage and creationism.  So what is the difference here?  Well, one big difference here is that in the same sex marriage or switching gender or creationism vs evolution or sexual education cases it’s not merely the case that the government is saying “Well, you can do it if you want but we’re staying out of it”.  Instead, they are taking an explicit and official position on it.  They are declaring that, under the law, same sex marriages are marriages and must be treated by everyone as such.  They are saying that someone who was born physically male or female can declare themselves to be a woman or a man instead and insist that everyone treat them that way.  As for creationism and sex ed, the issue is basically over public schooling, where the state is insisting that their children be taught those things that they don’t agree with and might not want them to know.  In all of these cases, then, it’s not simply something that the state is saying they aren’t getting involved in.  They are officially recognizing it and making others in some sense, at least officially, recognize it as well.  This contrasts to Carrier’s examples and to examples where homosexual sex or adultery were at least decriminalized, as in those cases the state can say that it’s not something they should be regulating — as per the “We have no business dictating what happens in the bedrooms of people” argument — but in the cases given here they can’t do that.

A useful way to think about it, I think, is with the line that Carrier references above:  how do people react to the argument of “Well, if you don’t agree with X, then just don’t do X!”.  For things like eating beef or pork, or watching porn, or having homosexual sex or committing adultery, even if people don’t like those things they can indeed claim that they can simply ignore it and, as Carrier cites in his post, say that those people are degenerates and sinners and bad and go on with their lives.  Yet when that argument is tossed into the other debates, it doesn’t work so well.  The only arguments about sex ed and evolution are that they can teach their own views in addition to the ones taught in schools, which makes the distinction explicitly clear.  For gender identity and same sex marriage, the answer is that the state is still demanding that they officially recognize it, as Carrier himself ends up noting without realizing it:

Consider a recent example. Atheists often scratched their head at why Christians were so enragedly obsessed with preventing the legalization of gay marriage. Why do they care what non-Christians do? It literally doesn’t affect them. Even when they insist it does (“I shouldn’t have to sell wedding cakes to homos!”), it really doesn’t (you literally are affected in no way whatever by who eats your cakes or where). Sure, maybe you can refuse to put words on your cake endorsing something you don’t believe in; that’s fine. But just cakes? Those aren’t words. And in any case, almost no one is a baker. So the once-nationally-pervasive anti-gay-marriage sentiment can’t be ascribed to angry bakers. This wasn’t a “won’t someone think of the bakers!” movement. Just as anti-trans activism isn’t really about bathrooms. So what was it really about?

Yes, the original opposition wasn’t to those specific claims.  Oddly, in both of these cases it was about the fact that the state was trying to recognize as real something that clearly wasn’t (ie the argument that same sex marriages weren’t marriages by definition, and that someone with a male sex isn’t a woman by definition).  But the arguments stay because the government officially recognizing those things has an impact on everyone around them.  The state uses that definition to insist that everyone has to accept that trans women are women … even if they don’t consider them such.  And the fear was that people involved in weddings had to treat same sex marriages the same as “traditional” marriages, even if they didn’t agree that they counted.  So the person who decorates wedding cakes — and surely would have had to, at least, put two grooms or two wives on the cake to reflect its same sex nature — is now compelled by the government to do that, even if it violates their religious beliefs.  That does add an element of state compulsion that means that “If you don’t like same sex marriage, don’t have one!” doesn’t really apply, as the decision impacts far more than one or more person’s private decisions.

Now, Carrier could note here that abortion doesn’t really fit in with these cases.  The state really does seem to be just saying that they’re staying out of making these decisions.  And yet if we analyze abortion in line with that argument I think we can see why it’s such a big deal and one that hasn’t been settled at all yet, unlike the other cases.  See, if you say to someone “If you don’t like abortion, just don’t get one!” you are quite likely to get a rather … aggressive response.  The reason, I think, is that to most people it ends up being the equivalent to “If you don’t like murder, just don’t commit one!” and we all have rather strong reactions to the idea of allowing murder, as is required for any society to survive.  It would basically be the equivalent of someone saying that an elderly wealthy person could be murdered for their inheritance, with a rather odd justification that their hoarding all that wealth is bad for society and so they don’t deserve the protection of the law (despite Carrier’s claims in the post, I have yet to see a really good argument that demonstrates that a foetus shouldn’t count as a person at some point during the pregnancy, and many of the ones given are indeed rather specious), and then when being challenged on that saying that if they don’t want to murder their wealthy relatives for their money they don’t have to.  We would tend to react rather poorly to such an argument, because we really can’t dismiss something that really does look like murder with such a specious reply.  Murder is serious enough that we don’t want to allow that sort of thing unless absolutely necessary.

That inherent distaste towards murder and our inherent feelings towards foetuses growing in the womb are the things, I think, that drive this for most pro-life advocates and, well, for most people in general.  That’s why, again, almost no one really supports completely unrestricted abortion and even those who do tend to try to adopt a position that they don’t care for abortions in some cases but think that it’s something that only the mother can decide.  Most people do not want to see foetuses aborted for exceptionally shallow reasons, even if they argue that freedom dictates that someone who makes that choice must be allowed by the state to do so.  It also explains why the abortion debate hasn’t died down all that much in the years and years after Roe vs Wade even though other issues have died down at least somewhat (yes, even the creationism debate).  It ties into too many primal emotions and the pro-choice side does not have solid enough arguments to overcome those emotions.

As one final rebuttal to Carrier’s attempted argument, note this:  one of the biggest religious opponents to abortion is the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church is, of course, supremely concerned with souls and the afterlife.  And yet among the Christian religions the Catholic Church is one of the most reliable allies for allowing teaching evolution in schools and not teaching creationism.  Yes, you can argue that that’s because they have a theological way around the soul issue, but if they could do that for evolution surely they could do that for abortion as well, and they don’t.  This, then, suggests that the opposition to abortion cannot be primarily about something that connects those two issues, since a huge opponent of abortion does not have the same problems with creationism.  For them, the issue seems to be over facts.  They accept that evolution is a fact, but consider abortions, same sex marriage, and gender identity to deny basic facts about the world, and so indicate that their society is horribly deluded itself and in need of correction.  That is, then, a sharp contrast to Carrier’s argument.

Thoughts on “I Know What You Did Last Summer”

December 29, 2022

So, let me continue on with my plan to watch everything Jennifer Love Hewitt has ever done by talking about “I Know What You Did Last Summer”.  Well, okay, there isn’t really any kind of plan here, since this movie series is rather famous — and parodied in one of the “Scary Movies” movies — and so when I saw the three movies available in a pack for a decent price from a new used DVD store that I wandered into this past fall I obviously had to pick it up, and that Jennifer Love Hewitt was in it after I had watched her in “Party of Five”, “Time of Your Life”, “Ghost Whisperer” and “The Client List” was just a happy coincidence.  It probably did encourage me to put this series on the top of my stacks to watch when I reorganized them recently, though.

Anyway, the plot here is that four teens are partying on the Fourth of July and head out to the beach before heading off to what they hope will be great and wonderful lives, but on the way back they run into a man and seemingly kill him.  While Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Julie and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Helen and even Freddie Prinze Jr.’s Ray all at some point want to simply report it, the drunken — but not driving — owner of the car refuses because he figures that they won’t believe that Ray — who was sober — was driving and he’ll go to jail, and convinces the others that that will happen, and so they agree to cover it up.  As they do so, the “corpse” comes to life but they end up, in a panic, dumping the body in the water anyway.  One year later, Julie returns and gets a note saying “I know what you did last summer”, and then other things start to happen to them, including the jerk guy getting run over but not killed.  But as bodies start to pile up they have to figure out who is trying to kill them before they are all killed.

One thing that is interesting about this movie is that while other horror movies would have them have done the deed and then perhaps had Julie be the only character affected by it, this movie focuses on all of them being greatly impacted by what they did.  Julie, the smart girl, is failing out of school.  Helen, the beauty queen, has failed completely at being an actress.  The jerk is living well because his family is rich but it’s clear that he hasn’t done anything in that year.  And Ray is working as a fisherman and later notes that the guilt over what they did was getting to them.  It’s rare that a horror movie with this premise will focus so much on the guilt they themselves have felt, and even more rare that it would do that without ever really having that pay off (it’s a minor point in a red herring about who the killer is).  For the most part, it’s only used to allow Julie to act sanctimonious, and while Jennifer Love Hewitt is really, really good at acting sanctimonious they could have easily let her be that way without having all of them be guilty and making it clear that their lives and their relationships with each other were all destroyed by what happened.

The biggest flaw of the movie, however, is indeed that it seems to set things up that it never really pays off.  There’s a arc with Helen and the jerk getting back together that is ended by the two of them getting killed off.  There’s also a rivalry between Helen and her sister that is never really developed or paid off.  The subplot of Julie and Ray getting back together is never paid off either, along with the relationship between the killer and the body that was found, along with the issues with the guy who likes Julie and has been her friend for ages.  All of this is in the movie and even highlighted, but the movie doesn’t really do anything with it.

Now, one way to look at it is that these are people who have lives and other things than what is important for the plot, and doing it this way might help us see them as real people without cluttering the actual plot with these full details.  But the issue with doing that is that there’s not a lot of time in an hour and a half movie, and so you can’t take time developing thing that you don’t pay off.  This has been one of my main complaints about modern horror movies lately, is that they take up time that could be better used for other things.  While the idea of “Chekhov’s Gun” has been dissected to death, one of the main ideas behind it is that if you draw attention to something, you need to pay it off somehow because the audience will notice and remember it.  No matter what you do, if you don’t use things you draw the audience’s attention to — even if just as a red herring — the audience will notice and will at least be disappointed.

The thing is that here, in contrast to the other movies, all I felt at the end of the movie was some disappointment that these things weren’t fleshed out, developed and resolved in the movie.  Interestingly, I didn’t feel frustrated with the movie for setting these things up and not paying them off or resolving them like I did with the other movies.  The reason for that, I think, is that the premise here is simple enough that I don’t feel that the time spent on those things was wasted time.  Sure, they could have hinted more at who the killer really was — there aren’t really all that many clues about it in the movie itself — but I didn’t feel like it needed it, and so didn’t feel like it took too much time away from the main plot.  And while the elements are there and our attention is drawn to them, it’s also not the case that the movie itself makes all that big a deal of the elements.  They’re there, but nothing in the movie turns on them and it really seems like the movie just wanted the elements there and didn’t want to make them a big part of the plot.  That’s why I pointed out above that you could use such things to try to get us to think of the characters as real people with real concerns in an attempt to humanize them, as it seems to be part of their character but not part of the plot.  And that’s why I could feel disappointed rather than frustrated with those elements, as they don’t take away time that was needed for the plot and does create more human characters even if the elements aren’t paid off.

This movie is a prime example of what you can do when you come up with a basic premise, have good production values and get good performances from your actors.  There’s a lot of things I could nitpick about this movie, but it works well-enough that I don’t really want to do that.  In that sense, it’s a lot like “The Craft”, which also has a number of flaws but is overall good enough that I can look past them.  And so, like that movie, I am likely to watch this one again at some point.

Thoughts on “Pericles”

December 28, 2022

This play also seems to be more of a drama than a historical, although it is clearly not a tragedy.  The basic idea is that King Pericles has come to a city to appeal for the hand of that king’s beautiful daughter, and would have to solve a riddle before he could do so, and it is implied that if he doesn’t solve the riddle something bad happens to him, which is likely death.  He does, but the key is that the riddle reveals that the king and his daughter are in an incestuous relationship, which Pericles doesn’t approve of.  The king then decides that he cannot be left alive knowing and disapproving of that, and so sends out an assassin to kill him.  Pericles flees to Tarsus and then tries to move on but a shipwreck causes him to land in another land, where that king has another lovely daughter and another competition for her hand.  They are incestuous, though, and Pericles wins the competition and ends up marrying her.  At that time, the person he left behind to run his own country has been convinced to take over the city if Pericles cannot be found, so he is found and he and his wife and their soon-to-be-born daughter return to his city by sea.  Another storm during childbirth causes his wife to die and be tossed overboard, and Pericles in his grief leaves his daughter with the king and queen of Tarsus to be raised.  As it turns out, his wife wasn’t really dead and is revived by some kind of healer.  After this, the queen becomes jealous of the daughter — and especially with her constantly outshining her own daughter — and arranges for someone to kill the daughter, but pirates intervene and sell her to a brothel, but she won’t allow anyone to take her virginity — yes, that’s a very major part of the play — and so eventually convinces the brother owner to sell her for a noble servant.  Meanwhile, the queen lies to Pericles about his daughter’s death which sends him into despondency, which causes the nearby city to send for his daughter to help him, even though neither of them know about their relationship at the time.  When it comes out, they are overjoyed to be reunited, and the daughter is set to get married to a noble, and when they head to the temple of Diana for the wedding his wife is also there and the whole family is reunited.

I’m towards the end of Shakespeare’s career, and it’s clear that he’s polished his playwright skills.  This play, like the previous ones, is written quite well and the dialogue works, and he returns to having a narrator and to acting out some of the actions, which works a lot better than his previous attempts.  However, it is starting to look like he’s kinda running out of plot and characterizations to work with.  The plot is full of contrivances to both separate and reunite the family, which makes the drama weak, and we don’t really find out much about any of the characters to hang our hat on how they approach things.  The incestuous king and his daughter are killed horribly just to get them out of the way, the play at the end says that the king and queen of Tarsus will be punished despite the fact that the king didn’t seem to want to kill Pericles’ daughter and only kept it a secret to save his wife, given that they all believed she was dead, and finally the entire scene with the brothel is pointless and unnecessary.  The assassin himself could have shipped her off as a servant and we would have skipped an entire contrived situation where we have to believe that a brothel owner who was talking about raping the daughter pretty much when he bought her would let her go for months talking customers out of having sex with her without doing so when he seemed convinced that doing so would end that behaviour.

Ultimately, the plot is full of contrivances that make the reunification of the family at the end a bit hollow, but there’s no other plot than those contrivances and nothing else to provide drama.  Shakespeare can still right plays, but compared to his greater works the plot and characterization is quite weak here.

Up next is “Cymbeline”.

Shallow Thoughts on a Couple of Scooby-Doo Cartoons

December 27, 2022

I finished off “Babylon 5” a little early in my Christmas run, but didn’t have time to start a rewatch of something else and didn’t want to start watching something new, and had taken out a bunch of movies to watch during the day when I was home but then ended up watching regular TV instead, and so I decided to at least poke around with watching those movies.  At one point, I came across the two live action Scooby-Doo movies that I had liked and started rewatching them, but then realized that I had a couple of Scooby-Doo cartoons that I had picked up on a lark because they were cheap (that’s pretty much how I get all of my animated shows these days:  when they’re cheap and/or I remember them) and figured it would be better to just try to watch them and at least shrink that stack a little.  So, I did, and here are my thoughts on “Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders” and “Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island”.  Both of them are pretty old — the latter is from 1998 and the former is from 2000 — but are still, obviously, recent compared to the earliest cartoons.

Which makes it a bit amazing that for the most part the voices really work and really remind me of the voices I remember from the original cartoons.  I’ve found that in general these things tend to get Shaggy and Scooby right and are often okay with everyone else.  Here, Fred, Shaggy and Scooby are bang on and Daphne is definitely serviceable, but I was disappointed with Velma in both of them.  Part of this was probably because I had watched part of the first live action movie first and Linda Cardellini does a really good job with the part … despite the fact, as I realized later, that her voice doesn’t line up very well with the original character’s voice.  The reason, I think, is that each character had a voice that reflected their personalities, and Cardellini’s inflection works really well there.  Here, Velma’s voice and inflection is just a little too “every person” to work for someone with a specific personality.  Yes, one could say that Daphne’s and even Fred’s voices tend that way as well, but that fits their characters better than it does the intellectual Velma.  It doesn’t really ruin things, but it was a bit disappointing.

In terms of the movies, I liked the first one better than the second one.  The reason is that the first one had a better mystery that was more in line with what they normally did, and their secondary plot was Shaggy and Scooby falling in love, which could be annoying at times but brought characters into the story that really did add to it.  The second one, though, had a main plot that was about Daphne really trying to prove that something supernatural really existed, and since they wouldn’t want to reveal the twist too early, so that hampered what clues they could leave and hint at which hurt the mystery.  In addition, the second plot was mostly Scooby chasing cats and not believing that he was a dog, which was humourous the first time but went on too long and wasn’t funny enough to carry the weight of such a subplot.  There was also a bit of a subplot with Daphne and Fred being jealous of other characters, but that wasn’t developed enough to really matter.  As such, the asides were much more boring than they were in the first movie and in the first movie there was more and a better plot that could give out clues or at least trigger investigations.  Thus, while I wasn’t wowed by the first movie I found it generally entertaining while I was bored at times during the second one.

Given that, I’d be more likely to rewatch the first one than the second one, which I don’t have much interest in rewatching.  However, the two of them are in the same pack and are animated movies, so they’ll go on the shelf in my closet for my animated stuff.  They aren’t bad enough to sell, and that means that that’s where they go.

Trunk Diary: The End

December 26, 2022

I rushed to Dromund Kaas to confront Thanaton in front of the Dark Council.  He set up an ambush of some of his followers to at least delay me enough to get the Dark Council to side with him, but they didn’t delay me long.  And as it turns out, the Dark Council weren’t all that inclined to side with him either.  Some of them weren’t happy with a slave rising as far as I did, but they rather pointedly noted that for all his power and all his advantages and all his clever plans he hadn’t been able to kill me either, and the Sith are all about power and ability.  That he couldn’t defeat me suggested that I had more power and ability than he did, and that he had to run to them to appeal to them to use their power and ability against me really looked like him trying to use them to defeat an enemy that he couldn’t.  And if there’s one thing that Sith hate, it’s their power and ability being used not in service to their interests, but instead just to help someone else.  And unlike Thanaton, they didn’t care about me on whit.  So they wanted him to defeat me himself.

Which necessitated a fight, but it was already established that he couldn’t beat me in a fair fight.  So he tried some esoteric Sith technique, but it was for things like that that I picked up those Force Ghosts in the first place.  So it had no impact on me.  Ultimately, I killed him and ended the Kagath and his threat.  And then, despite my having been a slave, the Dark Council … offered me his spot on the Dark Council.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I wanted revenge against the Sith in general and to completely reform if not eliminate it, and yet at the end of it all I am a full representative of the Sith.  I want to support and be part of the Empire, not the Sith.  But I have to admit that here is the best place to be to influence both the Empire and the Sith.  I didn’t want the power, but I have it and maybe I can use it.  Maybe I can talk to Doreau and work with her to reform things the way we both want them to be.

After all that, I had to figure out what to do with the Force Ghosts I had accumulated.  Since I was going to still be dealing with Sith and Imperial politics, the extra power they could give me would be an asset.  But I had promised to free them after I was done with them, so that’s what I set out to do.  But at least one of them pointed out that they didn’t want to go back to haunting their tombs and wanted to move on, and so I followed a plan from the Jedi that had them be redeemed — or at least settle their issues — to become one with the Force.  Maybe this means that the Dark Side is of necessity worse and everyone should be good people … but then I think I lean Light Side anyway.  But this probably means that the sides are pointless, and it’s about what you do and what you want to do with the power.  I don’t know.  I’m not an expert in these things.  I’m just the guy who needed and used the power to free himself and so can’t think that power is bad but can’t think that using it to enslave people is good either.

There’s one more conflict to deal with, but it isn’t mine, and I’m not sure who I want to win.

The Traditional …

December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the reader of this blog.

Don’t you mean “The readers”?

No, WordPress still says it’s pretty much just the one.

Carrier Claims Most Christians Worship the Antichrist

December 23, 2022

In a relatively recent post — yes, I tend to get quite a bit behind in responding to such posts — Richard Carrier claimed that most Christians are actually worshiping the Antichrist:

In recent years I came to a revelation: Christians are actually worshipping the Antichrist. Not all Christians, of course. Consider, for example, the Christian youth who come out to me after a presentation to a church group to explain their disappointment with their leaders and how they despise everything their churches preach, obsessing over abortion and gay rights and the whole conservative political regime, while they just want to do “Jesusy things,” like end poverty and alleviate suffering. They are worshipping Christ. Everyone else, everyone driving the likes of them out of churches worldwide for being, basically, unwanted heretics, is worshipping the Antichrist. And I think that does track most Christians the world over; but especially conservative Americans. Every cardinal and preacher driving a luxury car, jaunting about in private jets, or living in a million dollar home? Antichrist. Obviously. But I mean something far more pervasive and substantial than that. Bear with me here. Your eyes will soon be opened.

Now, when you read this your first thought might well be that this isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, but instead as a standard semi-mocking post aimed at pointing out the foibles or hypocrisy of Christians by casting their actions against such a dramatic backdrop.  Surely, one might assume, Carrier doesn’t really mean that, but is instead just came across some sort of commentary on the Antichrist or some recent movie or post or something and thought that it would be fun to place his comments and criticisms in that framing device.  Surely such a claim is too odd and dramatic and severe to be made in any attitude other than sarcastic, mocking fun.  But, no, reading the post and his arguments and even that entire paragraph really makes me think that Carrier, for some reason, actually believes this.  And if he actually believes this, it’s probably worth taking some time to analyze it and show how ones eyes should not be at all opened by his arguments.

Let’s start with the definition of “Antichrist” that he’s using to determine that Christians are really worshiping the Antichrist:

Now here is the kick in the head. The word “Anti-Christ” means, literally, the opposite of Christ. In other words, if you embody the Spirit that is the opposite of what Christ taught, you are embodying the Spirit of the Antichrist. You are therefore, really, in truth, worshiping not Christ, but the Antichrist. Literally or figuratively, the Antichrist has claimed your soul, and commands your obedience. You teach what that dark monster teaches; you do as that dark monster does; you live as that dark monster would live in your same circumstances. Thus, you can either embody the spirit of Christ, or the spirit of the Antichrist. How do you tell the difference? By whether, and how much, you teach and do and live what is exactly the opposite of what the character of Jesus Christ teaches and does in the Gospels—and the book of Acts (where, people sometimes forget, Jesus also appears and speaks, and animates the actions and choices of his flock; just less frequently).

What it’s interesting to note here is that Carrier is not at all appealing to any definition of “Antichrist” that any of the religions that care about an Antichrist are using.  That link there?  That’s a link to the Greek word study of what “anti” means.  So instead of Carrier taking any definition from theology or even philosophy of religion to make his case, he is inventing his own definition of “Antichrist” and is doing it based on an incredibly shallow interpretation of the term rather than engaging any more sophisticated interpretation of the term.  We should always see such a move as a red flag, and unfortunately it’s pretty common among some of the atheists who attempt to do philosophy.  Jerry Coyne did that in “Faith vs Fact” when he came up with his own definition of knowledge instead of using the one that epistemology is using.  While I’m not going to link to it, one of Bob Seidensticker’s common moves in the discussion of morality is to retreat to the dictionary definition of “morality” and note that it doesn’t say that morality has to be objective, ignoring all the philosophical arguments and examinations that lead to the debate.  Jonathan MS Pearce is better at it, but while again I’m not going to take the time to find the posts and link to them — there is a reason why I get so far behind in responding to these things [grin] — his nominalism means that he also often turns to the dictionary to argue philosophical points.  All of these are attempts to sidestep the philosophical or theological discussions by replacing the definitions used there with their own definitions.

There are a number of issues with that approach.  The first is that it can often come across as completely self-serving.  It’s rare that anyone invents their own definition that causes more issues for their position than the one or ones that they are ignoring.  So it always seems like they are creating that definition to make their argument seem more palatable than it would if they used the “official” definition.  Another issue is that it immediately creates a divide in the debate and something to argue over.  The people they are arguing with obviously didn’t consider that to be the proper definition, and so their first temptation is going to be to argue over that definition, especially if the new definition makes their case seem weaker a priori.  This isn’t going to help resolve the issue.  Another issue is that for these reasons it can hamper the debate over the real issues involved here.  Either the person inventing the definition gets dismissed as not understanding the debate at all, or the debate devolves into a debate over the definition instead of over the real issues.  It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that many of these people who treat definitions so cavalierly are also among the first to claim that philosophy is about wrangling over the definitions of words rather than dealing with substantive issues (Pearce is an exception most of the time, and Carrier has his moments as well).

Now, in the context of philosophy it’s clear that sometimes examining and changing the underlying the definitions is something that needs to be done.  Sometimes the definitions aren’t correct, or are stated in such a way that they actually do limit and hamper debate.  But in philosophy if you are going to do that it is crucially important that you justify such a move and point out the limitations that that definition imposed on the debate and show how the new definition avoids all of that.  You don’t simply introduce a new definition as if there had never been a definition in the first place and expect everyone to accept that, and that’s all Carrier does here.

This is a serious issue for his project from the outset.  The first issue is that for every Christian religion that cares about the Antichrist, they are going to have a very specific definition of the Antichrist and what it means to worship him, and it’s not this simple one spawned from analyzing the Greek grammar.  So if they pay any attention to his post at all, they are going to immediately say that that’s not what it means to worship the Antichrist and ignore all of his “evidence”.  On top of that, Christians already have a perfectly good term for those who act in ways opposing and even opposite to Christ’s example, whether intentionally or unintentionally:  sinners.  And, as it turns out, pretty much all Christians are sinners at times, and that doesn’t mean that we are all worshiping the Antichrist.  And, in fact, even if we protest that the sins we are committing are not sins, that just makes us wrong, not worshiping the Antichrist.  So that we don’t live up to Christ’s example doesn’t mean that we are opposing Christ and so are worshiping the Antichrist by Carrier’s definition.  Hence, the issue with Carrier’s definition is indeed that he invents one that almost no Christian would accept as a definition of the Antichrist and that would describe acts that pretty much all Christians would accept as sins instead.  So it’s just not going to work.

Okay, fine, but let me look at bit at Carrier’s arguments for the things that oppose Christ.  He gives some evidence that most Christians hold the view and then tries to argue for how it goes against the things Jesus taught as per the Gospels.  Now, while this was very American-centric — one of his arguments is about Christians not wanting government-provided health care which apples to the United States but not to Canada or Europe where a lot of Christians live — I was willing to let at least the evidence slide and just deal with the theological components … until I actually read some of his sources and was not only unimpressed but appalled by what he was claiming was “evidence”.  So I’m going to address his evidence and the theological/philosophical arguments for each point, which will make this post rather long but, then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who is a regular reader, so let’s get to it!

Here’s the first point:

Evidence: Most Christians want to pray in public, even fighting for the privilege of doing so before an unwilling public at sports games and in schools and Congress and government meetings; but even more so in general, in front of family and peers, even on national television.

But the Spirit of Christ said: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues,” in other words, even churches, “and on the street corners to be seen by others.” Christ warns: “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” But, Jesus commands, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” What is the opposite of this? All public prayer—even voluntary, even at home or in church—is the way of the Antichrist. If you pray in public, even in front of family at home or peers in church, and certainly if you support public prayer being imposed on people at events, in schools, in courts of law, in councils and legislatures, you are of the Antichrist. Because you are thereby embodying the opposite of Christ.

Now, his purported evidence here, as listed in the quote (as an aside, it really does make quoting easier when WordPress allows me to keep the formatting from something I’ve copied, that includes the links) is an article that says this:

The majority of Americans are not opposed to prayer at public meetings, as long as the prayer does not favor one religion over another, a recently released poll conducted by a New Jersey-based university found. Results of the poll come as several states are debating prayer at public meetings.

The poll, conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, found that of the 883 voters questioned for the national poll, 73 percent said prayer at public meetings was fine “as long as the public officials are not favoring some beliefs over others.” Another 23 percent opposed prayer at public meetings because such meetings “shouldn’t have any prayers at all because prayers by definition suggest one belief or another.”

So, it’s 73 percent of all respondents, which would include a number of non-Christians, but more importantly the question is not them wanting to pray in public or even pray to their own religion, but is instead being okay with some kind of ceremonial prayer as long as it doesn’t favour a particular religion, which by definition would include their own.  So, no, it’s not them wanting to be like the hypocrites and pray on the street corners so that everyone can see them, and thus be in opposition to Christ’s teachings.  They aren’t even asking to be able to pray in public, but are just saying that they are okay with it being done under certain conditions.  Which is a far cry from what Carrier insists that not only some, but most Christians actually hold.  Yes, in a comment Carrier says that the link to his evidence is supposed to “get them started”, but there really should be at least some direct link there, and so the “evidence” he cites should at least, well, actually make the point that Carrier wants to make, and this article really doesn’t do that.  At all.  This article and poll is in no way evidence for his contention that most Christians want to pray in public in a most unChristlike way.

Now, let me turn to the theology/philosophy.  As already noted, here the context is that we shouldn’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly so that others see them but who aren’t really anywhere near that pious.  As Jesus noted there, they have had their reward with the attention and public reputation that it gives them and so they won’t get any extra reward from God for doing that.  Now, Carrier takes it to mean that we can’t even pray in churches, and as it turns out as a blossoming non-ritualistic Christian in high school I actually debated that with my music teacher (Hi, Mr. Robbins!) about whether following the rituals was actually important and so whether not attending church services was in fact a sin, and I think this quote came up in the discussion (Matthew 18:19-20):

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

This really does seem to be public services with the Christian community gathering together for at least intercessory prayer, now doesn’t it?  As my teacher pointed out, while technically rituals aren’t required, Jesus advocated for them on the basis of building and maintaining a Christian community to support each other and that could work together to spread the Word of God.  And that sort of community building, it turns out, is exactly the sort of thing that the people in the article he cites want.  They don’t want to be seen by others praying, but they want the entire community praying together to develop closeness and a sense of community, which is why they don’t really care if it’s their religion that the prayer is about even most of the time, but only that prayer that does such things is what’s allowed.

Okay, so then why does Jesus say to go into a dark room and pray alone with no one else around?  This is actually a point that’s really important for the rest of the points, because it shows a rhetorical technique that Jesus used quite often:  giving a more dramatic counterpoint to highlight the intention that he wants us to have.  Remember, in the original context Jesus is opposed to the hypocrites who pray in public not because they want to talk to God but instead because they want to be seen being pious and praying.  One can pray in public without having the intention of being seen to be praying in public — as the above comment on community building demonstrates — but if someone is not willing to pray all alone where no one can know whether or not they are praying then they are at least at risk for preferring to be seen praying than to actually pray.  If someone can commit to praying when no one can know it, then they have the right intentions so that when they do pray in public, it will be when such prayer is appropriate and not for their own self-aggrandizing.  So especially since Jesus does pretty much tell us to pray together, He doesn’t mean that we are not allowed to pray in public, but that we are to do so with the right attitude and intention:  the intention that means that we could pray all alone with no one the wiser for all our lives and still be content with the outcome.  So all that rhetorical trick does is drive that idea home:  if we are unwilling to do that, then we cannot have the right attitude to pray properly, whether in public or in private.

The second point is this:

Evidence: Most Christians approve, indeed often even insisit upon, all manner of violence in self-defense, imagined or real. They support gun ownership for that reason. Vicious guard dogs. Baseball bats by the bedstand. Prison rape—and all manner of other forms of suffering for the incarcerated. Police beatings and killings. War. They even fly blue flags advertising their support of police violence. They back extraordinary amounts of public money being spent to maintain a whole machinery of global violence, while opposing diverting any dime to national health. Many wouldn’t hesitate to shoot an intruder dead. Nor feel bad about it. Most, refraining only for being squeamish, would still pat on the back anyone who did. Their demands for violent cruelty against immigrants and refugees can even be heard across the nation.

But the Spirit of Christ said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth’. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Jesus thus commanded you not to resist an attacker, or even a thief or enslaver. You aren’t even to defend yourself in court against lawsuits. He is so absolute, we must conclude he means you not even to resist a rapist, a wartime invader, or a home intruder. You must abstain from all violence—even in self-defense. You aren’t even to allow the legal system to step in and provide protective violence for you—as his quote of Torah law directly entails, as also his command that you not defend yourself even against lawsuits. Any Christian, therefore, who is not an absolute pacifist is embodying the Antichrist in some measurable respect. But all warmongers and violence-gloaters, promoters of guns and police violence, are wholly in the service of the Antichrist. Because they are embodying exactly the opposite of Christ.

This is the point that pretty much forced me to address his “evidence”, because the article he cites there is … an article by David French, who is hardly most Christians and certainly doesn’t speak for most of them.  That on its own would be bad enough, but the kicker is that the article is in fact French arguing against Carrier’s interpretation that Christ insists that we not act in any way in self-defense.  Surprised?  After all, Carrier doesn’t mention that that’s what French is doing, nor does he in any way address French’s arguments, even through a link to a post that Carrier had made refuting it in the past.  For someone who gets so incensed when people dismiss his own arguments without addressing him, Carrier is quick to do the rather odd thing of using a detailed argument against his argument that Christ would have opposed all violence, even in self-defense,  as evidence that most Christians hold a view in opposition to what Christ taught.  And call it an Appeal to Authority, but I think that prima facie I’m going to trust the Christian guy who studies Christianity over the guy who was never a Christian and likes to take potshots at it when it comes to interpreting what Christ really meant.

Philosophically, here we get the first really clear example that Carrier’s condemnations are less about what Christ would say and more about what Carrier says and thinks we should do, as evidenced by tying it to the “Blue Lives Matter” movement and taking that up another notch to insist that people who support that and other things support police violence.  Everything he lists here is a political point, not a personal one or even a worldview one.  So as we can see here he starts down the path of saying that if Christians don’t agree with his interpretation of these political points, then they must support the behaviours themselves and those behaviours are against what Christ taught — again according to him — and so Christians are worshiping the Antichrist.  Since most Christians would disagree with, well, pretty much all of his interpretations, this isn’t going to have any traction with them and, bluntly, nor should it.

Theologically this is one of the more interesting points he makes, since Jesus here does seem to advocate for extreme non-violence.  Again, though, we have examples from Jesus that suggest that this isn’t meant to be absolute.  Before going to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked that his followers find swords and his admonishment was less that violence was never acceptable but that it wasn’t the right thing to do in this case, and Jesus famously whipped the moneychangers out of the Temple in an action that might not have been a true beating but at least was somewhat aggressive and so could be considered violent.  So it doesn’t seem like Jesus was opposed to violence in general.  Moreover, Carrier takes the tack that Jesus even opposed defending yourself in a lawsuit, which is so ridiculous that we should only accept that if we have no other option, and despite Carrier at times talking about being charitable and not insisting on your opponents holding ridiculous views that’s what he does here, especially since he later mentions the story of the Good Samaritan and his interpretation would mean that if the Samaritan had come across the robbers actually beating and robbing their victim even if he was capable of defending the victim physically he’d be obliged to step aside and allow them to beat him half to death and only then, once they had gone, could he step in to nurse the victim back to health.  Again, that’s such a ridiculous implications that we really should look for a more reasonable one.

The issue is that Carrier takes the shallow interpretation of the Old Testament quote providing the context of the legal system when the context it really provides is that of retribution.  Jesus is saying here that in the Old Testament everything was based on the model of retribution and revenge, where we did unto others what they did unto us and let nothing stop us from doing so.  In the context of the quotes Carrier provides, we can see that again Jesus is using the rhetorical trick of going to the opposite extreme to ensure that we approach things with the right intention.  If someone slaps us, our first inclination would be to slap them back … so Jesus says that instead we should let them slap the other cheek instead.  If someone sues you and is likely to win, we shouldn’t try to make it difficult for them to collect or, in a modern parlance, tie them up in court with procedural issues, but instead should give them more than they ask for.  If someone forces you to go one mile, don’t fight them all the way but instead go two.  But there’s nothing here that says that one must submit to an unjust judgement or not defend oneself from attack or unjust oppression, and in fact in the last case it seems clear that Jesus is referring to a case where there is no way that you can avoid going at least that one mile.  Taken along with the Gethsemane example, Jesus is saying that one shouldn’t resist for the sake of resisting or to hurt the attacker so that they “feel it” and so get less gain from their attack.  We are not to be vengeful, and so are not to do things, even resist, simply to hurt the person who we feel has wronged us.  That’s all these quotes mean, and so are not a blanket condemnation of violence or of defending others if one actually can.

The third point is this:

Evidence: Most Christians despise immigrants and the homeless, striving to spurn them and turn them away and take away any refuge or welfare given them. They want the homeless arrested or driven out of sight; some even would like them killed. They howl at any aid or home given to the refugee. They regard and treat immigrants as little more than thieves or vermin, an invading threat to be loathed and literally walled off from home or aid.

But the Spirit of Christ said: To the damned, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” And the damned, Christ tells us, will then ask him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” And He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Every homeless person, every refugee, every immigrant looking for a better life is Christ himself. Your Christ told you this.

Even John the Baptist said, indeed to announce the way of Christ, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” And this is reflected in Christ’s Parable of the Good Samaritan, who was the moral equivalent of a refugee: set upon and robbed of their livelihoods and left to survive in a foreign land. Christ commands you to help him, not turn him away. The homeless are in essentially the same pickle, and deserve essentially the same return; as Christ commands, you are to take them in, clothe and feed and house them. So if you take the opposite position on these things, if you do not do all within your means to give the homeless homes, the starving food, to give refuge to the refugee and the immigrant (the “stranger”) alike, if you oppose social policies that do these things, you are serving the Antichrist. Because you are serving the spirit opposite to that of Christ.

Once I started checking Carrier’s “evidence”, I found this, which is so strange that it made me wonder if he was trying to test his readers to see how gullible they were and if they’d simply believe what he told them without checking it, but I dismissed that on the grounds that he would have revealed the joke to them by now.  See, that article he gives in the “most” part?  That’s a link to an article that says that most Christians aren’t as anti-immigrant as their leaders are and portray them as:

Most conservative Christians of course want Americans taken care of first. Which is reasonable. Corporations have been lying (as they tend to do) about a paucity of skilled workers as an excuse to hire cheap foreign labor. They can’t just out and say it’s solely profit motive, because that would be bad PR. So they make up some bullshit about how they just can’t find anyone in the U.S. to do jobs that in fact millions of Americans looking for jobs have been specifically trained for. But that involves immigration policy regarding foreign skilled workers who come here legally, not what most people go on about, which is their fear of uneducated masses washing across the border “illegally” and stealing jobs that, it turns out, Americans actually won’t do anyway (despite obviously being qualified to–since here we are talking about minimal skill jobs, which just require backbreaking industriousness, which a shocking amount of Americans are too pampered to endure…although in part because such jobs are criminally underpaid, which gets us full circle back to that corporate greed this paragraph started with).

But it appears the vast majority of conservative sectarian leadership is even more on the side of liberals in terms of calling for more humane treatment of refugees and more accommodating treatment of immigrants, seeing them as admirable and an asset rather than awful and a threat. The Tea Party in fact has been consistently ignoring a nearly unified conservative Christian lobby on this, in its efforts to tank all real immigration reform.

That’s right. Christian leaders are uniformly against the Tea Party on this.

So this could be simply another example of Carrier not reading the post that he’s referencing before imposing his own view on it, but the kicker is this:  the author of that post is Carrier himself!  Yes, Carrier is using as “evidence” that most Christians “despise immigrants and the homeless” an article of his own that argues that most Christians don’t despite immigrants as much as the Tea Party and some religious leaders insist they do.  Yes, Carrier isn’t even interpreting his own post correctly.  That’s … well, that’s just some real good evidence there …

As pointed out above, though, this is another clear example where Carrier is insisting that if Christians don’t see the political situation the way he does then they don’t care about immigrants and homeless and are acting against Christ.  But even Carrier himself, in the quote above, says that it’s reasonable to want to help Americans first before taking in more immigrants, so things are not so clear.  Even those who oppose the more open immigration policies might well want to help those refugees but don’t agree that the best way to help is to let them all into the country and give them full benefits and voting rights.  And Carrier needs these interpretations to be unequivocal to make this case that most Christians even might be worshiping the Antichrist.  But they ain’t, so his point isn’t either.

The fourth point is this:

Evidence: Most conservative Christians in America oppose public health care (the last nation in the developed world to not finally create and enjoy universal health care). They want to spend billions on a war machine, none on any machine of public good. They want armies and navies to spread abroad; but don’t want to cure their own sick at home.

But the Spirit of Christ said: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” Freely give. Just as you shall then freely receive. Heal the sick. Christ commands you. Raise the dead. Christ commands you. Cleanse the diseased. Christ commands you. Drive out demons. Christ commands you. If you take the opposite position, of opposing rather than acting to provide all these things freely to all, of opposing rather than supporting universal physical and mental health care, you have taken the position opposite that of Christ. You are serving the Antichrist.

That he had to limit it to most conservative American Christians already invalidates his “evidence”, but even then his point doesn’t work, as per this quote:

Overall, 43% of Protestants and 54% of Catholics say it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure all Americans are covered, according to Pew. They may not think the government offers the best health insurance, but they believe it has the power to get something done, as Carter noted.

He could try to make some hay over that 43% of Protestants … if that wasn’t in an article that argued that the sick needed to be treated but the government was the wrong way to go about it, which means that many of them might be more anti-government than opposed to helping the sick.  Which then leads right into the philosophical point that Carrier is insisting that if they don’t support his idea of public health care then they don’t want to help the sick and so are worshiping the Antichrist, which as we’ve just seen is not at all clear or established.

The fifth point is this:

Evidence: Most Christians promote hatred of their enemies, often even of minorities, and love only for their own kind. Their lipservice to Christian love does not hide their actual true beliefs and behaviors. Their hatred has led many to commit hate crimes, join insurrections, threaten peers with violence; they fly blue flags in support of beating and killing minorities; and many more than do these things, endorse or defend them, or look the other way, secretly in their heart sympathising with them. Acting on hate. Thinking with hate. This has become a Christian norm.

But the Spirit of Christ said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you [only] love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Any Christian who expresses or feels hatred or disdain for anyone—whether neighbor, minority, or political foe—and does not chastise themselves for this and change their attitude more toward Christ’s, the more they instead indulge in their hatred and despite, the more they are embodying the opposite of Christ, and are thus serving the Antichrist.

Okay, so here Carrier finally has an example of “evidence” that could be a starting point to coming to the same conclusion he did, as the article contains a survey that shows that Christians are more racist than the non-religious.  Unfortunately, Carrier needs to make the claim that they are reveling in their hatred, and the article actually argues that they are upset at the very implication that they might be racist while acting in ways that the author considers to be racist, which doesn’t at all make that point.  Theologically, it’s shooting fish in a barrel to argue that Christians shouldn’t hate, but again we already have a term for those Christians that give in to and express hatred for others:  sinners.  Yes, we shouldn’t hate, but few Christians actually justify their hating others or even acknowledge that they hate the people, at least, so this is yet another swing and a miss for Carrier, despite it likely being the easiest one for him to justify.

The sixth point is a long one:

Evidence: Most Christians defend their right to property and wealth, to be richer than others, to have more money and goods and property than others, and to this end even oppose taxation or any other redistribution of wealth

But the Spirit of Christ said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” For, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Jesus thus commands everyone to not care about accumulating possessions but to count on their community, their society, to ensure they have all they need; in other words, he commands us to embody socialism. This is in fact one of the clearest and most repeated themes defining the Spirit of Christ.

As Matthew relates, when a rich man asked how he could secure himself a place in heaven, Jesus answered:

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Likewise in the Parable of Lazarus, a rich man is condemned to the eternal flames of hell, explicitly without any chance of forgiveness or reprieve, simply because he did not share his wealth with the poor and needy. And again, Jesus approves the socialism of Zacchaeus, who vows to give half his wealth to the poor and repay anyone he cheated four times more than he took; and Jesus says he has thereby followed the Lord’s teachings well and thus will be saved. In many ways like these, Jesus repeatedly condemns the rich, and indeed anyone opposed to substantial sharing and redistribution of wealth. He instead commands sharing, redistribution, selling your goods and properties so you can give the poor whatever they need.

Jesus also fully supported paying taxes (which even then funded social welfare programs like infrastructure spending, municipal water supply, and food aid: see Christians Did Not Invent Charity and Philanthropy). Indeed he never opposed taxation in any form. His ideal inspired community, in fact, adopted the Marxist credo: from each according to their means, to each according to their needs (just read from Acts 2 and Acts 4). A Christlike government would do the same; and Jesus already endorsed using compulsory taxation to do it with. Jesus also commanded that you share your wealth without boasting of it or even mentioning it. So, no putting your name on buildings, or expecting any personal return on investment, whether glory or favor.

If you do not endorse the same—if instead you oppose all these things Jesus taught—socialism, taxation, substantial wealth redistribution—if you pursue the opposite (clinging to your money, not letting anyone tax it, accumulating capital, enjoying luxuries, voting for lower taxes, making merely token charitable contributions—remember, Zacchaeus gave half, and the rich son was expected to give all, whereas typically Christians give trivially, and that mostly only to the coffers of their own wealthy churches rather than anyone genuinely in need: see Myths of Charity: The Enduring Sham of Arthur Brooks), if you live obliviously doing not a thing for every Lazarus who could benefit from your sharing, every needy stranger (remember Jesus’s commands on that matter; we just went over them), then you are embodying the opposite of what Christ taught. You are thereby worshiping the Antichrist. You are realizing in your behavior and actions not the world desired by Christ, but the world desired by the Antichrist. You are thus the Antichrist’s servant. That you call them Christ is just another Satanic disguise. In truth you have chosen to build and serve the Antichrist’s world rather than Christ’s.

Carrier’s evidence is a claim that Christianity created capitalism, but from the article it wasn’t in the way he needs it to be to make his point:

It was the church more than any other agency, writes historian Randall Collins, that put in place what Weber called the preconditions of capitalism: the rule of law and a bureaucracy for resolving disputes rationally; a specialized and mobile labor force; the institutional permanence that allows for transgenerational investment and sustained intellectual and physical efforts, together with the accumulation of long-term capital; and a zest for discovery, enterprise, wealth creation, and new undertakings.

So, the values it brought that allowed for capitalism were not related to greed or wealth itself, but instead to more communal values without which capitalism has no hope of getting off the ground.  And the article seems to be defending capitalism on those grounds rather than insisting that it’s all about greed.  So it’s not good evidence for his contention.

Theologically, Jesus isn’t really insisting that we all must be poor.  As seen in the earlier examples, Jesus’ command to the wealthy man to give up all of his wealth in order to become a follower is a test to see if the rich man will put following Jesus ahead of his wealth … and he won’t.  That’s what causes Jesus to exclaim that it’s harder to a rich man to enter heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of needle, not because being rich in and of itself would disqualify him, but because it’s too hard for the rich to put God ahead of their wealth.  But in line with the Stoic philosophy of Seneca, if a rich person gained and maintained their wealth honestly and virtuously then it’s no sin for them to have it and maintain it.  The rich person in the story of Lazarus was not condemned for being rich, but for being able to help and instead pointedly ignoring him and his suffering.  The tax collector gave his money away not because having money itself was the problem but because he was a sinner, explicitly cheating people and being a tax collector which in general would require him collecting taxes from people who couldn’t afford it and having them arrested in those cases or leaving them destitute.  It’s also a bit of a stretch to say that he insisted on wealth redistribution to the level that people like Carrier espouse. especially since again a lot of the examples of demands to sell everything and follow him is not about having wealth or redistributing wealth, but about leaving behind the less important to follow a more important calling.  Few of us have such a dramatic calling that we need to do so.

As for the point about taxes, that’s a huge stretch.  The point about giving back to Caesar what was Caesar’s was about following one’s secular obligations, which would include paying taxes.  That doesn’t mean that they should support all forms of social programs, and especially not the social programs that Carrier insists are needed.  Yes, they can and even must have opinions about the secular realm in order to pay unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and fulfill their secular obligations, and those opinions may differ from Carrier’s about how much taxation is valid and what social programs are necessary.  Again, Carrier is judging them for not agreeing with him and insisting that if they don’t agree with him then they are worshiping the Antichrist.  But he has been consistently unable to establish that opposing him equates to opposing Christ, and that also holds here.

The last point is this one:

Evidence: Most Christians not only judge others, they even use those judgments as excuses to take away the rights of others (either by law or social pressure), rather than regulating their own conduct alone. Instead of just following their own religion in abstaining from sex (gay or straight), or abortion, or only adhering to their own gender norms, they seek to empower society to suppress and repress human sexuality at every turn—gay and straight—and to enforce their own gender norms on everyone else, and to hinder others’ access to abortion. They block sex education. They aim to prevent people learning the history of racism. They hinder access to birth control. In countless ways they use their judgment of others to control others, peoples not even Christian, or Christians who do not share their judgments.

But the Spirit of Christ said: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” And: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you,” for “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Christ condemned stoning sinners, literally and figuratively. He commands to love, not condemn; to treat others as you would want to be treated—which when carried to its own completed sense can only mean, “were you them” (see Your Own Moral Reasoning: Some Things to Consider). If you act the opposite of this, if you think the opposite of this—if you judge rather than forgive, and even use your judging to oppress and control other people rather than regulating yourself alone, in any of these ways or others—then you are embodying the opposite of Christ. You are serving the Antichrist.

His “evidence” is a link to an article that says that some LGBTQ+ people are judged by some Christians and some Christian organizations.  He ignores that many of them would argue that they don’t judge the people but instead judge the act, and a lot of the actions could be seen in this right.  But I can grant that a good number of Christians and maybe even many of them are indeed overly judgemental.  Again, we have a word for that:  sinners.  They are not living up to the standards of Christ, but that’s a failing, not a worship of the Antichrist.  So again we can’t get to where Carrier wants to get from here.

There is more that he talks about here, but I’ve gotten through the main points and don’t feel like sorting through the rest of his rhetoric to find a potential point to talk about.  Suffice it to say that Carrier starts from an overly simplistic definition of “Antichrist” and then most of the time fails to even live up to that definition, and his “evidence” is laughable given that he even misinterprets one of his own posts that explicitly concludes the opposite of what he wants us to conclude.  So while there is lots of room for improvement among Christians, we don’t really have to worry that we are worshiping the Antichrist.  Phew.  Dodged one there.

Thoughts on “Curse of the Mayans”

December 22, 2022

I had picked this movie up a long time ago and never gotten around to watching it, and so when sorting through my horror movie stack I saw it and decided that I really, really should just go ahead and watch it and be done with it.

The basic plot is that the Mayan calendar wasn’t reflecting when the world would indeed end, but instead when the world would start to end, with a prediction that some ancient aliens would be released from their imprisonment to end the world.  An artifact is found that relates to this, and an academic creates an expedition to seek out that area and he recruits a diver who has stopped doing these sorts of expeditions because she lost her husband on the last one.  For much of the rest of the movie, we see them heading out to the site with one of the older members talking about how this is a terrible idea.  When they get there, they can’t unseal the site, but the other woman — who is dating the ex of the diver — seems to get possessed and then manages to break and open the seal.  They then explore the underwater site but it is revealed that the aliens actually take over bodies, and start to do that to the other members, and so the academic sacrifices himself to blow it all up and the diver manages to survive and in some kind of surreal ritual talks about having to stop the rest of them before they can bring about the end of the world.

My overall impression of this movie is that it is incredibly boring.  I gripe about Developing Doomed Characters but it can work and be necessary if those relationships and personality traits are needed or used as elements of the horror or as part of the resolution of the story.  But none of them are.  The diver is potentially still interested in her ex and the other woman isn’t happy about the two of them being so close, but then someone else is interested in the diver and after getting drunk she sleeps with him.  This has no impact on anything else in the plot, nor are these weaknesses what allows them to be possessed.  We don’t get a real resolution to the diver’s issues from having lost her husband, nor does the academic get hoisted on his own petard as he gets to go out in a blaze of glory.  Even after the possession is revealed and she’s told how to kill them she doesn’t really kill any of them that way.  The lore is mostly pointless and most of the movie is spent just with them getting there and not related to the supposed horror elements itself.  Ultimately, nothing at all happens in the movie.

Obviously, if I’m saying that the movie was just incredibly boring that’s a sign that I didn’t care for it.  And I didn’t.  More time should have been spent in the caverns or prison or tomb or whatever with more explanation of what was going on.  Instead, it spends a lot of time just having people do normal things that have no relation to anything that happens, which ends up with nothing of import happening in the movie.  This one is going into my box of movies to sell as I am not going to watch this movie again.  I regret watching it this time.

Thoughts on “Timon of Athens”

December 21, 2022

This one doesn’t seem to be a historical and isn’t a comedy, which would make it a general drama/tragedy.  Since I’ve tended to prefer the dramas/tragedies, that should be a good sign for how much I like it.  But let’s see how it all shakes out.

The basic idea is that Timon of Athens is a wealthy man who likes to treat friends, enemies, annoyances and, well, pretty much everyone generously, throwing large banquets for them and giving them expensive gifts, which pretty much everyone happily accepts although the cynical Apemantus mocks, well, pretty much everyone over it, which Timon takes relatively well.  Of course, Timon overspends his wealth and ends up with a number of debts that even his extensive estate cannot cover.  It turns out that some of his debts seem to be owned by some of the men that he has been treating, and he appeals to them for loans himself to cover his debts for at least a while.  However, they all plead poverty and refuse to help him.  At the same time, a captain in the army, Alcibiades, appeals for the life of a friend who has committed a crime but is denied, which he considers a huge injustice.  Alcibiades goes off to raise an army to perhaps save his friend or at least avenge him, while Timon wanders out into the wilderness in a storm to live out his life, which he expects to be short.  Alcibiades and Apemantus both appeal to him to accept a loan and return to some sort of civilization, but he refuses.  Ultimately, Timon dies and is entombed where he said he’d be, and Alcibiades manages to force Athens to submit to him.

The play reminds me a lot of “King Lear”, with the old and wealthy lead surrounded by flatterers who won’t actually do anything for him when he needs them to, who rejects them all and descends to a sort of madness until his death.  The issue I had with that play was that there wasn’t enough plot to cover its length.  “Timon of Athens” is shorter, but has even less plot than “King Lear” did.  All we really have is that a man who spent well on those who he thought were his friends loses all his money doing that and has all his friends abandon him, with a mostly irrelevant subplot around Alcibiades.  Given that, we don’t really learn enough about Timon to really find what happened to him tragic.  As in “King Lear”, the tragedy doesn’t follow from what we know of his nature, because we don’t really learn that much about his nature.  It’s unjust what happens to him, but not unexpected and he himself could easily have at least gone with Alcibiades after he lost everything, so the tragedy falls a bit flat.  It could have been avoided and there’s no reason for Timon to not take the options that would avoid the tragic ending of this death.

Ultimately, if there is a theme at all here, it’s probably a condemnation of Athens, or at least of any city/society that would act that way and allow such things to happen.  That’s the only thing that connects Timon’s tragedy to Alcibiades’ quest for justice, and the only thing that would justify the ending with Athens submitting to Alcibiades.  That’s also the only way any of Timon’s false friends get any payback for what they did.  However, we also don’t find out enough about Athens itself to justify it, and the event that triggers Alcibiades’ crusade seems a relatively minor one.  Athens pays the price in the end for the events of the play, but there’s no real reason why it should.

That being said, Shakespeare still retains his playwright abilities, and so the play itself does move and the dialogue works well.  It’s just a shame that neither the plot nor the characters are as memorable as the ones in some of Shakespeare’s other works.  As I noted, it’s very similar to the so-so “King Lear” and yet doesn’t even rise to its level.

Up next is “Pericles”.

Some Quick Thoughts

December 20, 2022

So I’ve been poking around with some stuff and have some thoughts on what’s happening there.

I started watching “Babylon 5” as per my December/Christmas tradition, but I found that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I usually do.  And the reason is that it turned into an obligation to me, and as I discovered at times during the pandemic with “Dark Shadows” if I feel that it’s an obligation I don’t enjoy.  Now, you might wonder how I can enjoy some of the shows that I watch in the evenings and talk about because, well, aren’t all of those shows obligations, things that I’m going because I want to get them done so that I can talk about them?  Well, yes, but I realized that the issue here is less with it being something that I’m trying to get done and more with my feeling that I have a deadline.  I wanted to watch “Crusade” all one shot after finishing “Babylon 5”, and wanted to make Fridays — since I was off — my days to watch marathons, and so felt like I needed to get it done by the end of the first week of my vacation so that I could just jump to “Crusade” and be done with it.  That made me feel that I was on a deadline, which made me feel rushed, which made me enjoy it less.  I don’t have such deadlines with new shows, as the plan is to get them done not get them done by a certain time.  Thus, I can enjoy them despite them being an obligation, because they don’t feel like the same sort of obligation as they do when I feel that I have a deadline.

I’ve also finished off Trunk’s story in The Old Republic and started a new one based on Corran Horn.  For that character, though, I want to do a lot more with the character, as for the longest time all I had been doing was the Class and Planet stories since that was all I needed to hit the max levels, but since TOR is now the game that I play the most and the most consistently I decided that I should really get more involved in the game.  So I’m going to start with doing more sidequests, and then also getting into the space combat portions if I can still do them solo.  It will take me more time, but on the plus side I will definitely be overleveled for all the later story and planet portions.

I also started playing Star Trek Online a bit again, and was hit by the same feeling:  I like the game as the space combat is fun and the ground combat inoffensive, but the game seems to lack something.  I think the issue is that there are a lot of conversations in the game, but there are pretty much no choices you can make in those conversations, even to the extent of choosing what your general attitude will be.  Now, I like Dark Age of Camelot a lot better, and it hardly has any conversations, so why does STO disappoint me so much with this?  I think the reason is that DAoC doesn’t have any roleplaying options most of the time, but when it does give you real conversations you do tend to get to make some meaningful choices, while STO has a lot of things that seem like they’d lead to roleplaying choices but they usually don’t, which makes me wonder why they even bother.  I could be missing something and maybe more of the choices matter, but STO always strikes me as missing something whenever I play it, despite my generally enjoying the gameplay.

Speaking of Star Trek, one of the things I did early on during my vacation was get in another session of “Star Trek Scene It!”.  I played three games against myself (what I do is take all the ships they give me — TOS, TNG, DS9 and Voyager — and play them all out in order of when the series ran) and TOS, TNG and Voyager all each won one game.  I really regret that I never really played it until after the Scene It! games went out of stock because those games are incredibly fun to play.

And on that note, I had picked up the “Ultimate Horror” edition of Trivial Pursuit and played it, although with some trepidation because I was worried that it would prove that I didn’t really know anything about horror at all.  I played with two tokens against each other, and each token won a game, but as it turns out I was actually not too bad at the game.  I did miss a number of questions, but a lot of the time I remembered the show or movie in the question but couldn’t remember things like specific names, and more importantly on a number of occasions I got the question right because I was able to think “What would a horror movie do in that case?” and come up with the right answer.  For example, one question talked about how two characters killed themselves in a movie that had “Bay” in the title and so I came up with “drowning” because, well, what else would a movie like that do?  Also, I probably should have shuffled the questions because there were a number of cards in a row that had questions from a specific series, like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “Supernatural” or “American Horror Story”.  It’s not that big a deal with Trivial Pursuit because you aren’t that likely to get that many questions in a row from the same category, but if things had been shuffled better I could have come across more Buffy questions when I needed that category instead of getting Supernatural ones that I didn’t really know the answer to.

Anyway, those are some quick thoughts that I’ve been pondering over the past week or so.