Film Review

Film Review – Samsara

IMDB Samsara link

Amazon Prime Samsara link

Netflix Samsara link

There never was a more perfectly photographed, perfectly soundtracked film than Samsara, by Ron Fricke.

When the human species goes extinct, and another intelligence arises in the distant future, will humans have left any trace behind of who we were, of what it was like to share our planet for this brief moment?

I would choose this film as the record of humanity, the travelogue of the planet’s power, diversity, and sublime richness and beauty.

All the weirdness and wonder of our human condition and this, our habitat, is expertly captured by this masterwork of cinematic art and technology, and inspired musical accompaniment. Not a single spoken word of dialogue or narration interrupts the reverie, which makes it an even more universally accessible experience.

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Counter-apologetics

Moderates Become Extremists

When I was a religious extremist, I embraced every teaching of the Bible as if it could be none other than directly from the mind of a loving God to his lost children. One year of college, then one year of missionary service, only made me more extreme. Meeting and marrying my wife, having our first child, returning to the mission field, and then returning to college to complete my teaching degree were all life events which eroded away my extremism. By the time I was a seasoned teacher, I was religiously and politically liberal. I had become a moderate, using the current terminology.

My definition of a religious moderate is one who ignores the bad ideas in their scriptures; extremists embrace the bad ideas. Some extremists move away from the bad ideas, and toward moderation, like I did. This phenomenon is healthy for open discussion across political and religious boundaries, and results in progress for international and ecumenical relations.

However, nothing prevents moderates from becoming extremists; all they have to do is stop ignoring their scriptures’ bad ideas, and embrace them. This is unhealthy for society; it generates friction between fellow citizens, creates animosity toward the ‘other’, and at its worst it engenders violence toward innocent people. This is why public criticism of the bad ideas generated by religion is so important– keeping the moderates moderate, and drying up the recruiting grounds of extremists.

From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/an-open-letter-to-moderat_b_5930764.html “When people see moderates insisting that Islam is peaceful while also defending these verses and claiming they’re misunderstood, it appears inconsistent. When they read these passages and see fundamentalists carrying out exactly what they say, it appears consistent.”

If you are religious and agree with my definition, you are a religious moderate. If you are offended by and disagree with my definition, you are not moderate. I think there is a spectrum of extremism, from simply very conservative, to fundamentalist, to extremist. But those on that far right end of the spectrum are pushing back the hardest against public criticism of their religious ideas, and they are succeeding in most parts of the world.

The dynamic of the moderates being the recruiting ground for extremists is a dirty truth about religion that the larger society ignores. People like Sam Harris or the late Christopher Hitchens or others who expose it are branded Islamophobes, and dismissed as racist. Liberals in general tend to be unable to see it happening. But when I was a Christian I spent twenty-five years observing this dynamic relationship between Seventh-day Adventist moderates and extremists.

There is a strong flow from extreme to moderate, as young people educate themselves and turn away from the more conservative practices. But there is also a flow in the opposite direction, from moderates to conservative. This happens because the extreme conservative embrace of all the ideas in scripture, bad and good, is the most consistent. And they know it. And they use that as a hammer to verbally attack the moderates and liberals in their sermons, using guilt and shame to ‘bring them back to the Bible.’

UPDATE 1/12/2015: “I searched the internet and discovered that Jenny’s rabbi didn’t act alone but rather, he was part of a concerted, worldwide effort to recruit non-Orthodox Jews to ultra-Orthodoxy.” From kveller.com/how-i-lost-my-daughter-to-religious-fundamentalism

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Personal statements

The Dickish Driver

UPDATE 02/05/2015: A brave group of youthful activists in Russia is taking dickish driving in their neighborhoods very seriously, and documenting it online. Have a look at some translated vids: https://www.youtube.com/user/Lomak1581/videos

A dickish driver’s manual must be genetically encoded into human DNA, because I see it so often these days, and it’s not just one age group, gender, or nationality. 

Let us see if we can’t parse the instructions which are instinctively followed by dickish drivers:
  1. Those yellow and white marks on the road don’t apply to you; ignore them. Road signs are optional, too. Why? Because those lines, arrows, and symbols are for novice drivers, and you leveled up past them as soon as you got your license! And you’re a dick.
  2. You are the one who gets to drive the fastest in whichever lane you’re in, because you are more important than everyone else, and a dick.
  3. You should alert drivers directly in front of you to your priorities by remaining as close to their back bumper as possible, swerving side to side because they might not see you, and you’re a dick.
  4. If a space the length of your car exists in a lane beside you, treat that lane as if it were empty, moving into without signaling, since you’re too busy to signal, and you’re a dick.
  5. Technology is more important than anything, everyone knows this. If you make yourself late to wherever you’re going due to devoting more time to your devices (computers, mobile phones, TV, video games, etc), no one can blame you for that, because you’re DEVOTED (and a dick). Just take whatever devices are mobile with you along for your race to wherever you’re going, and keep the devotion alive.

Comments invited! Can you add to this list? Please do in the comments section. If I like it (and you’re not a dick), I’ll add it to my list crediting your contribution. Someday, this may get expanded and published and become an international bestseller, leading all of us contributors to get massively rich*.
* Okay, it may not happen that way, because publishers, the reading public, and bookstore owners can be, well, you know….dicks.
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Ethics, Politics

Easy Solution to Middle East Conflict

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, I offer the following quick-fix, simple, easy solution to that persistent problem of war in the Middle East (currently flaring up between Israel and Palestine, for the xx time in xx years/months/weeks).

To solve this pesky problem of constant war between Israel and its neighbors, all you have to do is:

  • make the international news conglomerates accurately report all legitimate stories
  • allow all displaced peoples a homeland and nationhood
  • eliminate racial bigotry on both sides
  • turn the mutual hatred from their mutually exclusive religious doctrines into ecumenical brotherhood and love
  • confiscate their heavy weaponry and bomb-making materials and get them to promise not to make any of their own
  • make them cease all boycotts and embargoes against each other
  • put leaders over them who will root out corruption, religious fundamentalism, and greed, and who will prioritize creating a secular, representative government over all other goals
  • tear down all walls separating them, including historical ethno-centrism, exceptionalism, ancient feuds, contradictory scriptural bragging rights, and the literal concrete, militarized walls
  • promote international trade with all nations, and international alliances with all nations
How hard could that be?
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Counter-apologetics, Facebook discussions, Seventh-day Adventism

Why I Doubt Daniel 2 Is True

Daniel 2 Doubts Wrapped Up in Daniel Book/Doctrine Doubts

The relevance of the second chapter of the book of Daniel to a believer in Seventh-day Adventist doctrine is entirely dependent upon that church’s twin doctrines known as “The Sanctuary” and “The Investigative Judgment”.


Both of those doctrines depend heavily upon a view of the whole book of Daniel which has largely been abandoned by modern liberal scholarship, as noted below. Both of these doctrines build upon that abandoned interpretation of Daniel 2 which relied upon it as prophecy written before the events it predicted rather than as history written after the events it pretends to predict (the modern view). Both of those doctrines are unique to a single denomination within Christianity, the Seventh-day Adventist Church; but even within that church, there is no agreement as to the reliability of those very doctrines! The best summary of the controversy over those twin doctrines is found in three parts:

  1. Part One is here: truthorfables.com/Sanctuary_Cottrell.htm (If not available there, try http://www.webcitation.org/6Qcfg7Rgu;)
  2. Part Two is here: truthorfables.com/Sanctuary_Cottrell2.htm (If not available there, try http://www.webcitation.org/6QcfhFSQG;)
  3. Part Three is here: truthorfables.com/Cottrell_IJ_Recollection.htm (If not available there, try http://www.webcitation.org/6QcfjoZU9.)

The Modern Scholarship Problems with Daniel Must Be Answered

“Perhaps the most infamous case of misdating and misrepresentation is the book of Daniel. It is a hotchpotch of stories, some in Aramaic, some in Hebrew; some (retrospectively) describing visions, some incorporating known Babylonian tales; some regarded as canonical, some apocryphal. It purports to have been written during the Babylonian Exile, but scholars now accept that it was written about 400 years later, between 167 and 164 BC, at least partly in Aramaic. It is propaganda compiled to encourage resistance to the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, who was then trying to crush the Jewish religion. It tells how Daniel and his associates refused to compromise on matters of faith during the Babylonian Exile, but displays ignorance of the period, and of the Persian succession, and uses Macedonian words that were unknown at the time it was supposedly written.” (Beyond Belief: Two Thousand Years of Bad Faith in the Christian Church, Garnet (UK, 2011); Garnet, (USA, 2011) ;http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/aa0_ot.htm#authorship)

“Old Testament authors often failed to appreciate that times change. They frequently projected titles, rituals and customs from their own time into the distant past. The author of Chronicles (third century BC) did it writing about the time of David (tenth century BC). The author of Esther (third or fourth century BC) did it writing about ancient Persia around the fifth century BC, and the author of Daniel (167-164 BC) did it writing about events 400 years earlier. In each case the author was trying to present his work as being much older than it really was.” (Beyond Belief: Two Thousand Years of Bad Faith in the Christian Church, Garnet (UK, 2011); Garnet, (USA, 2011); http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/aa0_ot.htm#errors)

“The introduction to the Prophets concludes that Daniel was not written by Daniel, but by a much later writer (167-164 B.C.) who wrote of things past as if they were yet in the fututre [sic].” (The Jerusalem Bible, http://www.bible-researcher.com/jerusalem-bible.html)

“One of the chief reasons of the obscurity which surrounds the interpretation of Dan., ix, 24-27, is found in the imperfect condition in which the original text of the Book of Daniel has come to us. Not only in the prophecy of the seventy weeks, but also throughout both its Hebrew (Dan., i-ii, 4; viii-xii) and its Aramaic (ii, 4-vii) sections, that text betrays various defects which it is easier to notice and to point out than to correct. Linguistics, the context, and the ancient translations of Daniel are most of the time insufficient guides towards the sure restoration of the primitive reading. The oldest of these translations is the Greek version known as the Septuagint, whose text has come down to us, not in its original form, but in that given to it by Origen (died about A.D. 254) for the composition of his Hexapla. Before this revision by Origen, the text of the Septuagint was regarded as so unreliable, because of its freedom in rendering, and of the alterations which had been introduced into it etc., that, during the second century of our era, it was discarded by the Church, which adopted in its stead the Greek version of Daniel made in that same century by the Jewish proselyte, Theodotion. This version of Theodotion was apparently a skilful revision of the Septuagint by means of the original text, and is the one embodied in the authentic edition of the Septuagint published by Sixtus V in 1587.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Book of Daniel”; http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04621b.htm)

“Briefly stated, the following are their principal arguments:

  • As it is now found in the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Daniel contains historical references which tend to prove that its author is not an eyewitness of the events alluded to, as would be the case if he were the Prophet Daniel. Had this author lived during the Exile, it is argued, he would not have stated that “in the third year of the reign of Joakim, king of Juda, Nebuchadnezzer, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem and besieged it” (Daniel 1:1), since this conflicts with Jeremiah, xxxvi, 9, 29.
  • He would not have repeatedly used the word “Chaldeans” as the name of a learned caste, this sense being foreign to the Assyro-Babylonian language, and of an origin later than the Exile; he would not have spoken of Balthasar as “king” (v, 1, 2 3, 5, etc., viii, 1), as the “son of Nebuchadnezzer” (v, 2, 18, etc.), since Balthasar was never king, and neither he nor his father had any blood-relationship to Nebuchadnezzer;
  • he would have avoided the statement that “Darius the Mede succeeded to the kingdom” of Balthasar (v. 31), since there is no room for such a ruler between Nabonahid, Balthasar’s father, and Cyrus, the conqueror of Babylon;
  • he could not have spoken of “the Books” (Daniel 9:2-Heb. text), an expression which implies that the prophecies of Jeremiah formed part of a well-known collection of sacred books, which assuredly was not the case in the time of Nebuchadnezzer and Cyrus, etc.
  • The linguistic features of the book, as it exists in the Hebrew Bible, point also, it is said, to a date later than that of Daniel: its Hebrew is of the distinctly late type which followed Nehemias’ time; in both its Hebrew and its Aramaic portions there are Persian words and at least three Greek words, which of course should be referred to a period later than the Babylonian Exile.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Book of Daniel”; http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04621b.htm)
From a very conservative scholar (one who ultimately argues for a view very friendly to the SDA interpretation), we find the admission that: “the book of Daniel is one of the most contested portions of the Old Testament, perhaps second only to the early chapters of Genesis.” (http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_daniel.html)

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