Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The One Thing Worse Than Miley Cyrus' VMA Performance

I am shocked and appalled by what took place on MTV the other evening. Can you believe that such a reputable institution as this, one that has given such shows as Pimp My Ride, Yo Momma, and 16 and Pregnant, would countenance such moral ugliness. OK, but enough with the feigned disgust already! Sadly, I just discovered that even the photo with Will Smith and his children appearing to be shocked at the before mentioned events- it turns out- are completely unrelated. There goes the last bit of my innocence.

At any rate, it has been at least fifteen years or more since I myself would dare go anywhere near this awards show, and I am proud to say that what I know of this one has come to me primarily through media accounts. But let's stop pretending. The sad and pitiful person that Miley Cyrus has become is nothing compared to the pitiful population of people who pretend to be offended by it, only to sop up every last bit like a biscuit to gravy. Please, I don't want to hear anymore about how disgusting it was as many continue to gorge themselves on the beatitude of this train wreck, and then repeat it over and over again like some Sports Center highlight, or rather like some gruesome sports injury.

There is plenty of blame to go around. For instance, what must Billy Ray Cyrus (and his formerly magnificent mullet) have been thinking when he watched this spectacle? Keep in mind it was he who first went along with Ms. Cyrus to that scandalous photo shoot for Vanity Fair when she was fifteen. If his reaction was anything resembling that of a real father, he must have wept and begged God for forgiveness. How sad is it that this young woman is so far gone that she would do something that would forever expose her to the worst kind of glances (pity, disgust, and lust). Publicly speaking, she will never be able to walk down the street again without being remembered as the one who degraded and demeaned herself in front of a world wide TV audience. But hey, at least she stole the spotlight from Lady Gaga. If they dance the limbo in hell, this dubious competition between she and Gaga would no doubt be what it looked like (how low can you go).

Yet what is even more nauseating are all the pundits, the Hollywood reporters, and the regular folks who ingest this stuff like its part of their regular diet. Ms. Cyrus doesn't do this because no one will pay her the slightest bit of attention- she does it because she knows quite well that this is the best way to get it.  It doesn't take a genius to know that in our culture the cheapest and easiest way to turn a head is to show some skin. The problem is since everyone is "showing some skin", you really do in every way have to throw your self-respect out the window and descend to the very bowels of indecency with the rest of the fallen angels from the Mickey Mouse club.

The fact that a woman would sell herself in order to be worshipped is something that I can wholly understand, even if I find it tragic. What I find far more reprehensible is a society that not only encourages young girls to do this, but one that feigns surprise and indignation when they do it, only to invite them to do it again. Miley is our train wreck; she belongs to us. Yet we tell ourselves over and over again that in spite of our bizarre fixation with young girls losing their innocence, as well as the fact that we facilitate their undoing by paying them well for it, we really have nothing to do with it. "Did Miley Cyrus Go Too Far?" blares the headline. "Why yes, and how awful that is, isn't it? I watched the whole thing in an unending loop, and it made sicker each time I watched... I think I'll watch it again!"

Save your disgust and your feigned outrage and actually do something about it. Indeed, if you are really so appalled by what unfolded the other night, then for God's sake, stop feeding this infernal beast. Do all the many Twitter followers mean what they say when they regard her behavior as shameful, or do they just enjoy feeling superior? If we are genuinely interested in expelling this vile little demon of excess, then let us starve it like it nobody's business. Sure it may convulse, foam at the mouth, plead, and make a lot of noise in order to get our attention, but it will eventually slink away if we truly will it. So let us put our disgust to the test by denying it the attention the beast so craves, and let it "twerk" its way back into that God-forsaken abyss from whence it came, along with Robin Thicke, those gigantic demonic teddy bears, and that foam finger that had no business being so far from a football stadium.    

Friday, August 23, 2013

If "Sprockets" Had a Soundtrack...

I ran across this little gem as I was listening to First Wave on XM radio this evening. If you remember the Saturday Night Live skit "Sprockets" (a parody of the West German art culture in the 1980s) then you will immediately know what I mean when I say that this song would fit perfectly on the soundtrack... if there were one.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Budweiser, Zombies, and the Angel of Highway 19

In an age of mediocrity and low expectations, certain cultural phenomena become flash points for the spirit of the times. When I was growing up it was Al Bundy and Beavis and Butt-Head (I didn't have the heart to throw in Homer Simpson, for there is much redeemable about his character). However, at least in the those days, these characters were more or less a satire and a parody of what was wrong with our culture. The problem wasn't so much the characters themselves as the fact that there really wasn't much of a positive alternative. Men were little more than farting, burping, smelly, lusting, overgrown adolescents, or as C.S. Lewis once called them "Men without chests."

What has changed since then is not so much the behavior of the characters as our own attitudes towards them. Once upon a time these characters were considered to be negative satires- now they have more or less become our heroes. A decade or so ago people would watch a show like "Jackass" or "Jerry Springer" and think "Hey, my life isn't so bad after all. At least I am not like some of those losers on that show!" Today, being a loser is incredibly lucrative. Simply hop on YouTube and behold how the "last have become first". Mediocrity and the art of shaming one's self (and/or one's own family) is no longer regarded as something immoral, provided that one can make a buck in the process. Indeed, it is no wonder that zombies have become such a symbol of our social decay, especially when you consider how little real intellectual thought is valued these days.

A few years back (about ten to be exact) there was an advertising campaign that really captured this medley of mediocrity quite well. The name of the campaign was Bud Light's "Real Men of Genius", and the idea behind it was to have a little ironic fun at the expense of men who either do ridiculous things, or invent them. Here are a few of my favorite examples; "Mr. All You Can Eat Buffet Inventor", "Mr. Foot Long Hot Dog Inventor", "Mr. Putt-Putt Golf Course Designer", "Mr. Pickled Pigs Feet Eater", "Mr. Nudist Colony Activity Coordinator", "Giant Taco Salad Inventor", "Mr. Fancy Coffee Shop Pourer", "Mr. Tiny Dog Clothing Manufacturer", "Mr. Reality Show TV Star," and many more (below is a link that features all of the Real Men of Genius spots). Most of these commercials were obviously just for fun, but nevertheless they do highlight the type of "genius" that we tend to regard in our consumerist and self-serving age. And what better way to express this ode to mediocrity than by making a beer commercial advertising a mediocre beer.


The backstory to these commercials, which actually turns out to be the "front story", is the fact that originally this spot was called "Real American Heroes". Nevertheless, as a consequence of the events that happened on 9/11, Budweiser felt that this would be an insult to the memory of police officers and firefighters who lost their lives on that day- who were, incidentally, the "real American heroes". Perhaps an over-reaction, but better that than the yawn that you would inevitably receive these days if you had the same ethical dilemma. But to give credit where credit is due, Budweiser really did demonstrate the right instinct here (whatever their motivation). First of all, the goal of good satire is to expose a fraudulent way of thinking in such a way that all can recognize it as such. By changing the name of the commercial, Budweiser really did seek to make a distinction between the heroic ideal and the phony version of it. Secondly, by doing this they also demonstrate that there is a clear line between what the world regards as "genius", and the genius that generally accompanies true heroism.

By today's standards, a genius is one who is able to grab your attention, make headlines, gain notoriety, and make lots of money. And they accomplish this, not for anything that will actually elevate humanity, but for something that may actually make you stupider, lazier, and more indifferent simply by coming in contact with it (think Johnny Knoxville of Jackass). The saint and hero are quite the opposite. Much like the now famous priest who was recently in the news after appearing [out of nowhere] to anoint and pray with a young lady trapped in her vehicle, so also the saints of heaven. It is no doubt an interesting paradox to point out that the priest who helped console and bless the girl in the overturned vehicle would just as soon have gone as anonymous and uncredited as an angel- while an angel would no doubt have been content to be mistaken for an ordinary man (or as in this case, an ordinary priest).

Amidst the din of entertaining nonsense that surrounds us, how much more difficult is it then for a man to come to appreciate this kind of holy anonymity? Vocationally speaking, men are generally given two narrow options today. The first option comes to us from films like The Hangover and Road Trip (and practically every sitcom on the air today). According to this orthodoxy, men are little more than stupid, adolescent, morally inconsequential place fillers. The other option comes to us from just about every entertaining action movie, where the male character plays a bit of a lone ranger, who is interesting- not for any thoughts in his head- but for his ability to kill and not be killed. Obviously among the two the latter is preferable, but after a while both characters become rather boring and one-dimensional. Few videos exhibit this laughable machismo better than Lonely Island's "Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions" (see below). The point is men can either be wimpy little narcissists, or brave (if mindless) hunters, what they cannot be is men of conviction who bravely devote their lives day by day to what is good, true, and beautiful.  

What TV and movies are too often lacking is the man of quiet conviction and courage, the one who is capable, not only of "blowing stuff up", but one whose primary vocation it is to show his strength by elevating others. I, as much as anyone else, like to see a hero either use or de-fuse some sort of gigantic explosive device, but there is more to true heroism than a singular act of bravery. The every day hero accomplishes his feats of strength, not in one fell swoop, but in the long-suffering and endurance that is highly characteristic of any true love or devotion. None of this may seem like a very dramatic thing by Hollywood standards, but from the perspective of heaven, holiness is always dramatic. Why? Precisely because holiness is usually hidden from the eyes of the world. Yet for one moment last week everyone caught a glimpse of that heavenly drama, everyone saw what holiness always looks like through the eyes of God. For we all got to witness that "angel on highway 19", that ordinary priest who managed to capture the attention of the world precisely because he wasn't trying to capture anyone's attention at all.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

16 Bumper Stickers That Made Me Think

I would be lying if I didn't say that I had a love-hate relationship with bumper stickers. On the one hand I despise the kind of shouting, self-serving, rhetorical non-sequiturs that are so frequently represented in them. On the other hand, I can never seem to resist reading them, even when I probably should be more focused on the task at hand. What is it that makes them so irresistible? Perhaps it is for the same reason that many individuals enjoy browsing random Facebook pages (a curiosity the other party seems all too willing to indulge). For me, the primary motivation for reading these messages is my curiosity about the opinions of others, combined with the pleasure that one derives from seeing those opinions expressed pithily. Thus, if I see a bumper sticker that piques my interest- I use it as an opportunity not only to consider why it has effectively communicated its message, but also how I might respond if I were in a conversation with that particular person. Just as the bumper sticker messages I have listed below are necessarily pithy and to the point, I too will try my best to do the same when explaining why each one both provided me amusement and an opportunity to think:

1. Darwin Loves You              

Obviously intended as a kind of ironic riposte to the "Jesus loves you" bumper sticker, there is another irony that this message brings with it. When I read it, I am not reminded of Darwin's love for me. To the contrary, I am reminded of the fact that neither Darwin nor evolution do love me (being that one is an abstract principle and the other is dead), which then reminds me of just how bleak and cold life would be if biology and Darwinian evolution were the only laws that governed the universe.

2. Much to the Terrorists' Surprise...

This one is funny first of all because the last thing that you would expect nuns to be doing is packing heat. But it is also funny and thought-provoking because it very cleverly points out the difference between the way Catholics view women and the way a Muslim terrorist would. For the Muslim terrorist there are indeed virgins in paradise awaiting them, but only for the sake of satisfying the "martyr's'" libidinous fantasy. As for the nuns in the above picture, they exist for their own sake and not like some sexual object to be used up by some blood thirsty terrorist who boasts a boundless sex drive.

3. The Truth Will Set You Free... But First It Will Piss You Off

When I first saw this bumper sticker I immediately appreciated the sentiment. The truth is a beautiful thing, but if it were as easy as all that we would all be enjoying heaven here on earth. Alas, such is not the case. The truth is oftentimes the most important things that we learn in life come to us not like a kiss on the cheek, but like a slap in the face. Remember, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, while salvation came to us through a cross. All that said, when I first saw this quote, little did I know who was responsible for it. Needless to say, Gloria Steinem and I probably have a very different idea of what the truth is, though I am quite certain that were I presented with her "truth", and she mine, the adage would still apply. This just goes to show you the danger in bumper sticker theology and how these clever little aphorisms can be so easily co-opted (like some impressionistic painting) to suit our own ideology.

4. What If the Hokey Pokey is What It's All About?

Other than the phrase "question everything", this particular gem is most in keeping with a skeptic's view of the world. But considering just how heavy-handed most bumper stickers messages tend to be, this playful retort is nothing if not a refreshing way of saying "stop taking yourself so seriously for a moment." Anyhow, in spite of the glib way in which the question is posed, it is nevertheless a fair one to consider. And if one day you find yourself dancing the "hokey pokey", much like the gentleman in the above photo, you too may be in a bit of an existentialist crisis, wondering if life really does have any meaning, or if much to your horror, the hokey pokey is what it's all about.

5. You Can No More Win a War Than You Can Win An Earthquake 

Sometimes war happens whether we want it to or not, but if someone is attacking you, I can hardly envision this phrase being of much use to you. Check that, it may be helpful if you are attempting to justify your motives for surrendering. But the real problem with such a statement at the level of analogy is that it is lacking the basic requirements to make it one. It is true that both wars and earthquakes are catastrophic, but that is precisely where the similarities end. What is lacking is any kind of subtle irony or deeper logical connection between the two ideas. Indeed, the analogy serves more as an assertion than as a way to compare two things. "War is always wrong and no good can result. Why? Because war is destructive and useless like a sinkhole." That explains why war is unpleasant, but it does not speak at all to the question of what you do when someone unjustly attacks you. By this logic, if someone is being threatened and/or attacked, the only thing you are permitted to do is to tell the wicked party to cease and desist. Do you really want to imply that defending the defenseless is as futile as an "earthquake"? If that is the case, then chivalry is truly dead. "Sorry you're getting raped, but at least I've committed myself to peace at all costs!" A real analogy on this subject might go something like this; "You can no more win a war than you can win a car accident." Or my personal favorite; "You can no more win a war than you can win an argument with your wife... and still win an argument with your wife." At least in these examples you have two people colliding in such a way that one may technically "win", though not without enduring a major loss.                

6. Ironic Evolutionary Man

Presented as a parody of the logically sleek and appealing image of the evolution of man, in this version you have man breaking out of his prison of flawless logic. But that's precisely why the image is so thought provoking. In spite of science's attempt to reduce man to little more than a function of natural selection and random mutation, he really does "break out" of the chart. Among ways in which he does so? Well, simply observe the humor displayed on this bumper sticker and then you will immediately see the disparity between the man with the gun and everyone else who follows him. Incidentally there is another amusing example of this meme wherein the guy turns around and says "stop following me, I'm a creationist". On one side of the spectrum you have people that deny that man is anything more a glorified monkey, and on the other you have those who want to completely deny the evidence for evolution.

7. Science Flies You to the Moon and Religion Flies You into Buildings

Just because I disagree with a conclusion does not necessarily mean that I do not think it presents a good rhetorical challenge. In this instance we have a very pithy way of presenting an idea that on the surface seems rather difficult to refute. After all, in the name of religion, terrorists did fly a plane into the towers in New York City. And in the name of science and cosmic curiosity man did fly to the moon and explore space. However, selectively picking out one shining moment for one set of ideas, while intentionally selecting the worst moment for another, is not proof, but rather cherry picking. For example, let's present it the other way around; "Science invented the atomic bomb (insert mushroom cloud), while religion invented the hospital (insert nun caring for a patient). See how it works? The other bit of intellectual dishonesty here is to present a Muslim terrorist as somehow indicative of the goals and spirit of all religion. Would it be fair for me to single out Josef Mengele, the famous Nazi geneticist, and use him as a panacea for all scientists? "Religion will get you into heaven, science will get you into a concentration camp." Catchy isn't it? The bottom line is- either one can be potentially destructive. What determines the outcome is the particular philosophy of the "pilot" and what he believes that things like planes and people are to be used for.

8. Guess Which One of These Is Not Protected?          

There are quite a few pro-life and pro-choice bumper stickers out there that simply preach to the choir. On the pro-life side of things you have; "abortion is murder". Well, that's certainly not changing any one's mind. On the pro-choice side of things you have; "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries". I haven't even met you yet and already you are completely hostile to me. All the same, it is possible to say something challenging without coming across as confrontational. For example, the above bumper sticker with the accompanying phrase; "which one of these is not protected?" is very effective. Anytime something is posed in the form of a question it tends to be far more intellectually engaging. And even when the conclusion is pretty clear (like it is here), due to the fact that there is some element of a riddle, most will at least appreciate the artistry, even if they reject the evidence. What makes it so satisfying from my point of view is the fact that it points out the blatant concern we demonstrate for sub-human creatures, while deftly exposing the aloofness we demonstrate towards our own.

9. Karma Happens

Recently I was driving down the road a few miles from my house and I saw a car stopped in the middle of the intersection who had just gotten into a fender bender. As I passed the car on the back of the bumper I read; "Karma Happens". Indeed! Of all the bumper stickers about karma, I thought that this was perhaps the only one that got it right. Karma is simply the law of physics as it applies to human activity. Every cause has an effect. What comes around goes around. Justice. Indiscriminate. Cold. Exacting. Impersonal. The cross without the resurrection. What is completely lacking from the principle of karma is anything resembling forgiveness, grace, and mercy. It is true there is such a thing as good karma, but even that has very little to do with being good for goodness sake. What is most ridiculous of all is the fact that if you were to ask a devout Hindu whether or not they thought karma was cool, they would look at you like you had two heads. After all, those who believe in the idea of an impersonal justice do not regard it as something to celebrate, but rather something to transcend. So the question is why do we Westerners prefer karma to the idea of grace and mercy?

10. Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers

When I see a message like this I cannot help but to think that (rhetorically speaking) it must be quite effective, especially for those who have only a superficial understanding of what the Church teaches on chastity. And the reason it is so effective is two-fold. First, it is an alliterative play on the old expression; "absence makes the heart grow fonder". Secondly, it is effective because it uses that play on words to offer a clever and quick explanation for why priests molest children. There is no denying the cleverness of the initial alliteration- the only question is whether or not the second part is fundamentally true. Obviously there is no denying the fact that priests have abused children. Sadly, statistics show that they have done so at the same rate as the rest of general society, though it should be noted that the highest rate of abuse occurs in the home. That said, it is nevertheless unacceptable that these men have behaved in such an abominable manner. Catholics expect their priests to be holy, and apparently so does the guy who created this bumper sticker. Why else would he go out of his way to demonize all priests for sexual abuse, while ignoring the fact that this is obviously a larger problem in our society today? In any case, if we were to honestly follow his logic (i.e. argue that abstinence makes you want to molest children), then we would have to assume that anyone who is not presently involved in a sexual relationship is under suspicion for child abuse. Yet if we accept this premise, then how does one explain the large number of instances of child abuse perpetrated by those who are already married and/or already in some sort of adult sexual relationship?      

11. Thank God I'm an Atheist!

The author G.K. Chesterton once mused that the most lonely moment for an atheist must be when he realizes that he is truly thankful, but has no one to thank. In the same way this bumper sticker slogan bespeaks this natural inclination to give thanks. Indeed, so powerful is this instinct, that at times we might even find ourselves grateful to God for not having to to believe in Him at all. But isn't this a contradiction? Perhaps. Yet what it rightly acknowledges is the fact that whether we choose to give glory to God or not, he is nevertheless the source of our freedom to do so. On the other hand, this apparent distaste for the divine, may have less to do with God, and everything to do with many of his followers. Or as Gandhi so aptly put it; "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike Christ." The truth is such atheists may just hate religion altogether, and if my view of it were based on the picture above, I too might be on their side.    

12. "God is Dead"  -Nietzsche       "Nietzsche is Dead" - God

Leaving aside the original context of this infamous "God is dead" quote, we will instead go with what is generally meant when it is employed; namely that religion has lost. In response to those sentiments, we have the above bumper sticker. And however unfair this rhetorical jab may seem, it does serve as a powerful reminder that God is God and we are not. But more importantly, it speaks to the resiliency of the Christian faith, and in particular the resiliency of the Catholic Church; "At least five times, with the Arian and the Albigensian, with the Humanist Skeptic, after Voltaire and after Darwin, the Faith has to all appearances has gone to the dogs. In each of the five cases it was the dog that died." (G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man) One may sit around and dispute the existence of God all day, but the resiliency of His Church is historically irrefutable.  

13. If There's One Thing I Can't Stand, it's Intolerance.

Once upon a time in a magical fairyland there was a place where people imagined that tolerance meant that you could live in a world where everyone did whatever they wanted and everyone lived happily ever after. Needless to say, unless you are in complete denial, you realize that that particular fantasy world never actually existed. Ironically, it is those who started the rumor, and who claim to be the most "open-minded", are the least tolerant in all the kingdom. You would think with all of the rainbows and "mean people suck" bumper stickers they would at least try to hold themselves to a higher standard. Alas, they were not able to keep up the sunny facade. Now the smiley face has a self-inflicted bullet hole in its head, the prancing unicorns release only poisonous glitter from their respective horns, and the leprechauns shout magical expletives from the end of the rainbow. When people believe in things, no matter what they believe, those beliefs ultimately have an effect on the rest of society. Call it karma if you like. The only real question is not whether our actions actually effect others, but rather who's philosophy allows for the most wiggle room for those with whom they disagree.

14. Environmentalism: The Crazy Idea that We Should Clean Up After Ourselves

Whenever students clean up after themselves in the lunch room I often say in jest (but only partly so) that if only each individual would clean up after themselves, world peace might be attainable. Setting aside the whole obnoxious debate about global warming, the above message is a practical and reasonable way of putting this lunchroom philosophy into a mature context. I/we should clean up after ourselves, whether it means not cluttering up the landscape with garbage, or not becoming something of a consumption hog. If we pollute a river for some reason, then we should clean it up. If the air is becoming too disgusting to breathe, then we must necessarily change our behavior. Period. Attempting to turn the thermostat up or down on the earth's temperature is something beyond my pay grade (and by the way who decides what the temperature should be, I'm sure the dinosaurs have very different opinion of what it should be). What I can do however is to demonstrate enough gratitude and regard for the goods of the earth to avoid contributing further to monumental mess that some have made of it.

15. Be Kind to Animals or I'll Kill You

Probably meant as a satire of PETA or those highly sympathetic to it, this bumper sticker paints a portrait of an individual utterly devoid of compassion for human beings. As a matter of fact, these individuals, seem to care so much about the animal kingdom that they actually become utterly misanthropic (i.e. human haters). Such individuals will often boast about their decision to forego child-bearing, while simultaneously looking askance at anyone who chooses to "litter" the world with a big family. What is scariest about this bumper sticker is the fact that I am not a 100% sure that it is meant to be a joke. Indeed, for all I know it is the bumper sticker of an activist. This should tell you just how strange and absurd things are getting, when you can't even make fun of somebody's position because they have already made the joke for you.  

16. If We Can't Marry Then You Can't Divorce

There are many reasons to disagree with advocates of same-sex marriage, but this indictment of Christians who at once condemn same-sex marriage for Biblical reasons, and then turn around and treat divorce as if it were perfectly acceptable in the eyes of God is not one of them. This may not be an argument for same-sex marriage, but it sure is a scathing commentary on the hypocrisy of heterosexuals who should take the mote out of their own eye before they go about telling others how to do the same.

A few bonus examples that didn't necessarily make me think- but they did make me laugh:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How Atheist Bill Maher Convinced Me That the Resurrection Probably Happened

As so often happens when I go on Youtube I begin by searching for one thing and wind up watching something entirely different. What caught my attention today was a semi-recent clip of comedian Bill Maher's movie Religulous, a film which attempts to reveal the stupidity and credulity of the majority of religious people. And while that's an easy enough thing to do (especially when you can edit everything and interview people who cannot intelligently defend their faith) that is not what initially caught my attention. What I found most interesting was the discussion that Mr. Maher had with several people about the parallels that can be drawn between the stories of the Bible and those found in other ancient mythical tales. In the video below he provides several examples of this:    

Thus inspired by this cleverly cobbled together video, I decided to investigate a little further on my own. Yes, anyone can say anything, and these poor unsuspecting souls clearly could do little in the face of these kind of anti-Christian polemics. Yet even as I discovered a website that so scrupulously and carefully went out of its way to detail the fact that the Christian story was little more than a kind of ancient plagiarism, I felt strangely sorry for the people (or person) who put this website together:


So much time devoted to proving that the Easter bunny doesn't exist. So much passion and research into exposing the Tooth Fairy as a fraud and a phony. So much effort into revealing that Thor is not the primary conduit of the thunderbolt. My point is if all of this is truly a bunch of "religulous" nonsense, then what an utter waste of time it is to go about meticulously demonstrating that the "elf on the shelf" is not really watching over our children after all. On the other hand, if there is some truth in Christianity, what a profound tragedy it is to waste your entire life trying to refute the very religion whose main purpose it is to make you eternally happy. Clearly this man believes in an objective truth or he wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to make his case. Unfortunately, the kind of truth that he believes in is ultimately self-defeating. For what value could there be in winning this intellectual feud? What virtue could be achieved by demonstrating via reason that there is no reason for anything at all? Indeed, this must be the strangest of all desires- the insatiable urge to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that all of humanity is little more than a bag of glorified meat.         

But the title of this post is not the strangest desire in the world, but rather how Bill Maher convinced me that the Resurrection "probably happened". Speaking of arguments that are not original; the method that he uses in his mock-umentary has been around since the dawn of Christianity. In fact, many of the Church Fathers grappled and debated with pagan philosophers on this very subject (see aforementioned website). My goal in this post is not to address every single parallel that can be drawn between one religion and another. We are talking about religion, after all, so there are bound to be parallels. When once you attempt to explain the meaning of existence, you are no doubt going to have some overlap. For instance, should we really be at all shocked that water is used in more than one religion to signify cleansing? But for argument's sake, let us assume that all of the parallels that he makes are indeed there.

The argument goes something like this: because different cultures/religions share similar “myths,” we can therefore assume that those myths are completely false. We might just as well say that something is verifiable if no one has ever heard of it, or “where there’s smoke, there’s absence.” Or better still, where there's consensus, falsity is proved. It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that the doctrine of the virgin conception may be false, especially if one can prove that the story was inserted later on in an attempt to create mystique around a particular historical figure (or an a-historical one for that matter). What is outrageous is the vacuity of an argument that essentially states; “It doesn’t exist because we have countless stories about how it did.” I am quite aware of the fact that these myths are out there. Nevertheless, I certainly would not conclude that Mr. Maher did not exist based solely on the fact that there were reported sightings of him. Hence, why would it be a persuasive argument to say that there is no resurrection due to the fact that there is also a legend of an Everlasting Firebird? Or that Christ is not divine because the ancient world often spoke of the appearance of a “god-man”? Is it possible that the Christian Faith is all a bunch of nonsense? Of course! But it is perhaps one of the strangest arguments in all of history to conclude that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead simply because every civilization known to man has a story about someone (or something) miraculously rising from the dead.