February 28

In Memory

Leonary Nimoy. Source: ABC News
Leonary Nimoy. Source: ABC News

We have seen the passing of one of my personal heroes this week, Leonard Nimoy. To honor him, I watched the first five Star Trek movies. The funeral scene in Wrath of Khan made me cry, as did several of the other scenes related to death. I told my oldest that he was one of my heroes, and I realized he was. His views on life, both in and out of character, helped me through some dark times in my life. I mourn his passing.

I have already seen people speaking of him in Heaven, and some dismissing him as an atheist. From all of the information I can gather, he was a lifelong Jew. So, yes, he may be in Heaven, but he is not hanging out with Saint Peter. Sorry to dash your hopes of playing pinochle with him. To be honest, I don’t know if that was a game he liked or not. I could see him enjoying many different types of games. Maybe that is my own projection.

I’m sorry that it has been a long time since my last update. My heath has been an issue; I got a pretty severe head cold, and, with Multiple Sclerosis, it makes everything more complex. When the fever one is running makes it hard to move or think straight, blogging sometimes takes a hit. Thankfully, I survived it, although our finances have taken a hit, with my lovely wife having also been sick and having to take some time off. So, to cover some of my ongoing medical expenses, I have had to resort to a Gofundme fundraiser. Links are to the right.

Yesterday, I woke up and my right hand had gone all pins and needles. It is a new symptom, a departure from the slow decline of my left side, and something quite worrisome. It will probably take me some time to get used to the way my right hand feels now. My typing has slowed, and I am considering teaching myself touch typing with the new condition to improve my speed. Coding will be difficult, but I have too many projects to be slowed down by something silly like a disability.

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February 11

Justice Theology vs. Forgiveness Theology

Justice, source Morguefile

There are two basic viewpoints on how sin is dealt with by a deity. Either the deity is just, and sin is treated like a crime against the deity, and punishments are meted out in a judicial way. In some cultures, this meant each person went before the deity or their chosen arbiter, and possibly plead their case, or were at least a witness to their case being plead. Those whose evil deeds outweighed their good were punished, and those who had done good were rewarded.

It was a simple, elegant system. Of course, different cultures added different embellishments. Some reflected the justice systems they knew, others the systems the desperately wished for. Some people, however, end up in the Not So Nice Place, whatever that particular religion calls it or describes it as.

At some point, someone came up with the idea of forgiveness in the face of this justice. Whether in the form of someone else standing in for the sinner (as in Christianity) or the deity just outright forgiving the misdeeds of the sinner (as in Islam) the concept is basically the same. The deity forgives all crimes, no matter what they are, given that the sinner does something specific. In Christianity, the basic act is to believe in Jesus (John 3:16). In Islam, it is to become Muslim, which has a host of things associated with it, from daily prayer to eating specific things to this that and the other thing (depending on the branch of Islam).

The problem with justice theology versus forgiveness theology is that forgiveness theology turns what is effectively a “perfectly just” system into a perfect system of bribery. Imagine, if you will, a judge who hands out nothing but death sentences. However, if you go to his son, before your trial, and tell him you love him, the son will go to his dad and tell him to go easy on you… but that is the only way not to hang. That’s the flip side of the coin, the nasty little secret that forgiveness theology carries along. You cannot just “be good” and expect to be treated well in the after life. No, in forgiveness theology, if you have not greased the right palm, into the fire you go. It makes all actions on Earth, save the bribery, completely meaningless. An evil person can kill and eat children, and end up in heaven, given he has accepted Jesus into his heart, and his victims, all Muslim and Jewish children, will burn in Hell. Some Christians talk about how God is “infinitely just” but the whole idea behind forgiveness theology throws justice out the window. True justice does not bow to bribery. Absolute mercy and absolute justice are absolutes that cancel each other out. If someone deserves death, and gets no punishment at all, then where is the justice?

The concept of a stand in taking the punishment for the sinner in some forgiveness theologies is an adaptation of the older sacrificial justice theologies, such as Judaism, which had a complex system of sacrifices. This concept goes back into the misty pre-historical record period, the idea that the deity or deities are just like humans and, when angry, can be soothed in specific ways. In a very real way, Christ as a human sacrifice is just a slight adaptation of the same ritual source as the Aztec ruler autosacrifice on the feast of Huey Tozoztli.

If your parent is angry, or not giving you what you want or need, you give them something they want, or something to get their attention.

What we are left with is a very powerful, and dangerous, concept. First, a theology based on the concept that one can be forgiven for any crime (nearly; most forgiveness religions have something that is unforgivable, usually something along the lines of “talking bad about the religion/our deity/our holy man”) which means that the leaders of these religions can commit atrocities, and even ask others to commit atrocities, even acts that their religion expressly forbids. This means that spreading faith by the sword, although possibly embarrassing later, can be psychologically excused by the believer. You would be hard pressed to find a Catholic who is truly angry at the Holy Roman Church for the acts committed during the Crusades or the Inquisition. Most merely wave it off as “Oh, well, that was another time, another culture”. The same thing happens with modern Muslims and horrendous acts committed by ISIS, Osama Bin Laden, and others. Some blame others for driving them to do it, others merely say, “Oh, well, they don’t represent my faith!”

Second, it allows for hypocritical behavior on a smaller level as well. Loving Christian parents feel justified in throwing their homosexual children in the street, ignoring certain commands of their faith in favor of others. Muslims who hurt or kill other Muslims, while other Muslims declare that Islam is a religion of peace.

I think one problem with forgiveness theology is that it has to assume that people are born bad, or it loses part of its power. Judaism is a culture as well as a religion; a Jew is a Jew from birth because of culture, not necessarily because they were born bad. Christianity teaches that the sin of Adam and Eve is a stain on every human (ignoring Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:20) and therefore we must seek forgiveness from birth.

Finally, although religion was already an extension of tribal “us vs. them” mentality, moving from one tribe/religion to another under justice theology was difficult. That meant that wars fought between groups were for land, wealth, slaves, power of the group. This meant that peace could be brokered if there was a balance of power, which happened more often than not. With the change to forgiveness theology, conversion became not only possible, but desirable, and, in some religions, strongly suggested or ordered by the deity. This added another reason for war, one that pushed peace off the table. When god wants souls, who can stand in his way? This began bloody warfare that lasted thousands of years and only settled down once believers were so horrified by the industrial slaughter of the infidels that they finally settled down.

One of the short list of good things Hitler did that was good for the world was to end most Christian conversion by blood. And, like every other thing on the list, he didn’t set out to do it.

We are now faced with a religion that has the same idea, Islam. How we deal with it will determine the shape of the 21st and probably the 22nd and possibly later centuries. I sincerely hope it will not take another holocaust to disgust the common Muslim enough to forcibly put a halt to the extremist clerics.

February 9

Down the Orange Rabbit Hole

Ubuntu Logo
Ubuntu Logo, owned by http://www.ubuntu.com

I have had an on again, off again affair with Linux, and Ubuntu to be specific. Sure, I’ve tried other flavors, such as Mint, Suse, Mandriva, Fedora, and Debian, with a few smaller distros thrown in for fun. I’ve done some neat things, like set up an enterprise level Asterisk system, pissed off a former employer by hobbling together a workstation for a client out of spare parts and Linux because all they needed was a web terminal (So sorry you could not sell them on a full, new computer), pushed versions onto all sorts of devices, and even used actual Unix on a laptop.

But, the time has come to once again try to install Ubuntu on my desktop machine.

One of my favorite games, Kerbal Space Program, will be finally releasing a full version. Alas, they are cutting off the 64 bit version on the Windows branch, because the 64 bit version of Unity is horribly unstable on Windows. I have a lot of plugins, and it crashes a lot in Windows due to the effective 3.5 GB memory limit for 32 bit programs.

So, it is time to try and get everything working on Linux, yet again.

Last time, it tried to eat my RAID array, being a hardware based RAID 5. Linux didn’t like the partition, and tried to “fix” it. Bad idea.

Not to mention my main drive is a bit, well, “special”. This could go well, or go spectacularly wrong. We shall see which it is, very soon. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Three hours later, and my system is now a dual boot.

The only major issue thus far is that Windows and Ubuntu handle BIOS time differently. Going to have to work that out. Ubuntu adjusts the time at the software level and sets the BIOS to GMT. Windows sets the BIOS to Eastern. Here’s the fix!

Minor issue is that Linux does not recognize the RAID. No biggie. Don’t need much on the RAID when I am in Linux anyway, so I can put that project off until a later date.

Graphic and sound drivers work. Installed Steam and KSP without issue. It looks like I am going to have to recode for my messy mouse buttons myself. Well, no one said using Linux would be easy…