Category Archives: Philosophy

Religious Videos That ‘Incite Violence’

I just saw that YouTube Bans Videos That Incite Violence based on criticism from stupid Joe Lieberman (who is pretty censorship-happy, if you ask me).

Lieberman claims that al-Qadea can use YouTube to recuit new members.

But what about Christian videos on YouTube that incite violence? I’m sure there are videos on YouTube created by fundamentalist Christians that incite violence against gay people/muslims/athiests/etc. Is Lieberman also going to call for YouTube to remove those videos? I doubt it.

The Asteroid Plummeting Toward Earth That Will Destory Humans

I sent this email to a bunch of my friends earlier today and figured the rough form was worth sharing:

i think i’ve mentioned this zizek-ian idea to some of you about how right now most people cannot even fantasize about world peace or an end of capitalism or something like that (i believe he specifically mentioned an asteroid in the movie zizek!). i’m feeling punchy today for some reason and managed to find some very interesting things…

first, the next book i am going to read is: archeologies of future by fredric jameson.

second, oddly enough the stranger (of all papers) intelligently and engagingly reviewed said book:

third, the author even paraphrases that idea!

As the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek puts it, we find it easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. We are scarcely able to envision a tolerable and pleasant world without money, advertising, and brand names, and without the vast inequities that characterize a competitive economy. We are missing what Fredric Jameson terms “the desire called utopia.”

point of the story: when you think i’m spouting some crazy idea that is totally impractical and unrealistic and what you consider to be a waste of time, consider the fact that i might be trying to, if nothing else, at least establish that such an idea can at least be imagined and discussed and in doing so that might plant a kernel somewhere in your mind (or someone else’s) and that if we can at least HOPE for it that some aspect of it might come true.

oh and also: i thought i wrote a blog entry once (or maybe i emailed it or im’d it to someone?) about how dystopic movies/stories often have a very socialist aspect to the “big brother” idea and that bothers me too and i think it’s another way to keep the status quo (despite some of these dystopic things often being critiques of capitalism, normality, etc… so i guess i need to do some sort of counter-counter reading?)

Across the Universe

Across the Universe
The film Across the Universe accomplished something that I’ve been playing around with in my head for a long time: Create dialogue that constantly references pop music lyrics. While Across the Universe took the idea a step further and turned that dialogue into a musical format, I still love the idea and was impressed with the execution.

That said, I’m not sure that the reason for doing it in Across the Universe stems from my inspiration. Across the Universe is a complete homage to the Beatles — from the psychedelic song numbers to the ’60s themes of peace, love, and war. Even the characters names (Max[well], Jude, Lucy, Sadie, JoJo, Prudence, etc.) and events (“she climbed in through the bathroom window”) come from Beatles songs.

I am more interested in the way that popular culture (such as pop music lyrics) permeates into language and somewhat dis/replace everyday language.

I remember reading something in one of my classes that asked whether saying the phrase, “I love you truly and dearly” (or something like that) has lost its value since the phrase had been so overused and cheapened by cheesy romance novels. And further, whether when someone says that, they are saying it because that is the most accurate language to describe or whether they are saying it because they have heard it said so many times in movies/read it in books that the phrase is just expected.

So basically what I am trying to get at has to do with whether the commercialization and constant repetition present in pop culture can void language of its original meaning and/or make it seem too cheesy and disingenuous that even something that is intended to sound sincere cannot anymore.

For some story I was writing at some point (I don’t recall what year I wrote it…) I used Pixies lyrics in place of actual dialogue:

“Hold my head,” he said to her. “We’ll trampoline.” Personally, I don’t think that hold his head would help much, nor did I understand the trampoline thing – that’s how they acted like all the time though, very random.
“No, my child. That is not my desire.” And then she said, “I’m digging for fire.”

and Coldplay:

I spilled my guts for hours. “I came here with a load,” I explained. “I could never go on without you,” I stuttered. “You’re the one that I wanted to find,” I claimed.

But back to the movie — which was awesome. Great songs, great singing, amazing special effects (and done tastefully), compelling/emotional story, etc. etc. etc.

The only thing I didn’t like about it was the feeling I get whenever I watch movies about the ’60s: I get this sense of nostalgia (for a time during which I wasn’t even alive) and disappointment at the same time: “we” were so close really revolutionizing thought and culture but it didn’t quite work. In the end of Across the Universe love wins, blah blah blah but that’s about it… society didn’t change. Just like at the end of Velvet Goldmine: “We set out to change the world, but in the end we only changed ourselves.”


The Atomic Bomb
It never occured to me that the US bombing of Japan during World War II probably resulted in the most people dying simultaneously (or within a rather short amount of time) in the history of humanity.

I just watched the documentary White Light, Black Rain. Despite knowing “about the bomb” and “about the situation,” I never really knew what happened immediately after and hear first-hand from survivors what it was like. It’s difficult to imagine or put into perspective the deaths of 210,000 human beings, but this documentary does a an excellent job trying to capture such an ineffable situation.

Final Step of Evolution = Creating a New Reality?

The television show Heroes got me to thinking about the evolution of humans. At one point in the unaired poilot, Mohinder talks about constant minute changes in the human genome and suggest that teleportation, etc. might not be that far off.

But really, so far as I know, the “biological” aspect of a living organism doesn’t really have the ability to affect things at that sort of (I don’t know if this is the correct term?) sub-atomic level. Teleportation, if scientists ever figure it out, is, I would imagine, extremely complicated and will probably involve lots of machines and whatnot to accomplish. I somehow doubt that if we ever do learn how to teleport, that it would involve any sort of manipulation of DNA or something of that sort.

What I am wondering is what if the definition of “evolving the ability to teleport” actually means that humankind creates an artifical world and basically wires everyone into that world (a la The Matrix) and so that new world where the laws of science and physics allow humans to teleport replaces the “old” world.

This idea also came to me via an interview on Countdown With Keith Olberman the other week. Basically, this philosopher/scientist named Nick Bostrom supports this idea (and it’s nothing new, of course) called the simulation hypothesis which suggests that our entire reality could be a “game” or “creation” or something of that sort of a creature who may in turn have multiple worlds and/or lives in a society where others may have multiple worlds.

So my question is: What if the final step of evolution is evolving out of the need to evolve? That is, instead of progressing our human mids/bodies we replace everything we know and create a world where we can continue to evolve without the constraints of the universe we inhabit. For all we know, our existence right now is the evolution of previous beings whose universe had sub-atomic particules with completely different traits than those in our current reality.

Something to think about, eh?

I Am No Longer An Atheist

Anyone wanna guess what I now consider myself?

Okay, fine. I still don’t believe in any sort of god or religion or have any ambiguous feelings about either. In a way, I have upgraded from being an atheist to an anti-theist!

What does this mean? To me, an atheist is someone who just doesn’t believe in the existence of god. After talking to a bunch of friends (religious and atheist), I realized that not only do I not believe in god, but I actually think believe in god and/or religion is bad and I am against it.

Sometime in the future I’ll probably elaborate on why I feel this way. It’s more than “religion has caused a lot of bad things to happen” and “science is better than religion”-type arguments, I assure you.

(And yes, I was introduced to this term via Christopher Hitchens and his book [which I recently read] God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. And no, I do not think the book brainwashed me. If anything, it gave me a better vocabulary to explain how I feel about religion.)

Zizek! (take two)

After seeing Zizek! in the theatre for a second time I had some additional thoughts I wanted to talk about, but I only got so far as writing the basic ideas down…

I watched Zizek! again last night (see my first post about Zizek! the movie) with Molly and Shannon. I gotta say that seeing it for a second time gave me a chance to pick up a few more points a bit more lucidly.

— universe and creation = mess
— love as a way to get through that mess
— philosophy as a heuremtic question
— zizek on that tv show

My Other Big Complaint About Religion

I know I just said that I had one favorite argument from the Christopher Hitchens piece, but I forgot the second one that is closer to the end:

For this reason, I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could. Very generous of me, you may say. But will the religious grant me the same indulgence? I ask because there is a real and serious difference between me and my religious friends, and the real and serious friends are sufficiently honest to admit it. I would be quite content to go to their children’s bar mitzvahs, to marvel at their Gothic cathedrals, to “respect” their belief that the Koran was dictated, though exclusively in Arabic, to an illiterate merchant, or to interest myself in Wicca and Hindu and Jain consolations. And as it happens, I will continue to do this without insisting on the polite reciprocal condition—which is that they in turn leave me alone. But this, religion is ultimately incapable of doing. As I write these words, and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments that I have touched upon.

(emphasis mine)

Whenever I get all hot-headed and pissed off about conservative politics, I often have more than a few friends say, “Jason, you sound just like they do.” And while this may be true (and I loved it when someone called me an evangelical athiest once), although I may sound like them, in the end I don’t act like them.

Conservatives and the religions behind them want to say, “Jason, as a gay person you cannot married and if we had our way (those damn courts!!), having sex would be illegal and we might even kill you.” I would never do that. While laws outlawing homosexuality are not uncommon or even that “extreme” in today’s politics (a city manager in Largo, Florida was fired for wanting to have a gender-changing operation), I would never think of or suggest that Christianity or any opposite-sex marriages should be outlawed or punishable by the law.

A goal of religion is to create more religious followers. They are always going to be trying to do things to convert people like me. Athiests don’t do that. Sure, I get in a lot of heated and maybe offensive debates with people, but I honestly and truthfully believe the situations are different. Am I wrong?

An Athiest Manifesto?

I’ve never been a fan of Christopher Hitchens. He’s always seemed a little too old-fashioned and conservative to me. While his columns do include far more reflection and arguments I can try to understand than most conservative pieces, he still irks me in the end. I think, “Why, Christopher, do you make so many good points and apparently see the larger picture but still fall-back on old assumptions?”

But now, he might be my new hero? Slate has posted an exclusive except of his new book, God is Not Great.

Originally I was going to cite passages I agreed with, but in the end, I pretty much agree with the whole damn thing.

If, however, I had to pick one thing he says that highlights one of my largest problems with religion, it would be:

There is no need for us to gather every day, or every seven days, or on any high and auspicious day, to proclaim our rectitude or to grovel and wallow in our unworthiness.

(emphasis mine)

I really hate the fact that religion makes so many humans feel worthless and petty.

My favorite argument against religion was in one of the many Zizek books I’ve read. He suggests that if God exists, then he is impotent because he requires humans to exist/feel empowered. If God exists and is so great, then why does he need to be reminded by humans on this tiny planet so often. And if some of us humans don’t believe in him, does that really make him feel so bad that he needs to damn us to hell or suggest that his believes kill us? It’s just stupid.

So yeah, as much as it pains me, I think I am going to go ahead and order his book God is Not Great and see what else he says about religion.