Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shades of Grey

I'm a big fan of Sinfest.

(P.S. Clicking on the image will take you to Tatsuya Ishida's site for a larger view.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On This Tisha B'Av...

...hundreds of thousands of Jews commemorate the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples and pray for its restoration.

From an old news article:
Saudi court rejects plea to annul 8-year-old girl's marriage to 58-year-old man

A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty. The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 220 kilometres (135 miles) north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.

"She doesn't know yet that she has been married," the lawyer said then of the girl who was about to begin her fourth year at primary school.

Relatives who did not wish to be named told AFP that the marriage had not yet been consummated, and that the girl continued to live with her mother. They said that the father had set a verbal condition by which the marriage is not consummated for another 10 years, when the girl turns 18.

The father had agreed to marry off his daughter for an advance dowry of 30,000 riyals ($8,000), as he was apparently facing financial problems, they said. The father was in court and he remained adamant in favour of the marriage, they added.

The mother's said he was going to appeal the verdict at the court of cassation, the supreme court in the ultraconservative kingdom which applies Islamic Sharia law in its courts.

Arranged marriages involving pre-adolescents are occasionally reported in the Arabian Peninsula, including in Saudi Arabia where the strict conservative Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam holds sway and polygamy is common. In Yemen in April, another girl aged eight was granted a divorce after her unemployed father forced her to marry a man of 28.
OrthoFundie: An arranged marriage of an 8-year-old to a 58-year-old man? Does the girl's mother have no say? Does the girl have no say even when she comes of age? What is it with these strict Wahhabi Muslims?

SkeptoPrax: What's the problem? It seems eminently practical and just!

OrthoFundie: Wha??

SkeptoPrax: Well, you went through tractate Kiddushin. Sound pretty close to the practice of yiud.

OrthoFundie: Sure, based on Shmos [Exodus] 21:7-11 where an impoverished father sells his minor daughter as a maid-servant...

SkeptoPrax: ... and the master has the option of marrying her - or having his son marrying her - when she comes of age at 12-1/2.

OrthoFundie: But she has the right of miyun [refusal], and can refuse to be married at that time!

SkeptoPrax: Sorry, you must have dozed off a bit when learning. I know that those late nights at the yeshiva can really take a toll. First, we have a general presumption that the father is acting as his daughter's agent and is only doing what is in her best interest; therefore his da'as [knowledge, thoughts] becomes a substitute for his daughter's. Second, what 12-year-old girl has the wherewithal to defy her father??

OrthoFundie: OK, granted. But that was a different time. This is no longer an acceptable practice and all of the poskim would agree to that.

SkeptoPrax: Don't you recall the notorious "kedusha ketana" incident in Boro Park a number of years back, in which Israel Goldstein did this as a way of punishing his agunah wife?

OrthoFundie: You can't bring a proof from one wacko. Besides, this was widely condemned by Agudath Israel. R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach invalidated such unions even though he didn't write up the opinion before he died. R. Moshe Sternbuch concurred with this opinion.

SkeptoPrax: But certainly you agree that the law is still "on the books" as it were? And don't you pray three times a day that there is a restoration of a Jewish theocracy? Are you saying that some Torah laws will not be reinstated?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why I Am Not an Atheist

I believe that when "set and setting" are rightly aligned, the basic message of the entheogens - that there is another Reality that puts this one in the shade - is true. There is no way that the prevailing view of the human self (which depicts it as an organism in an environment that has evolved purposelessly through naturalistic causes only) can accept that claim, which means that its Procrustean anthropology must go. That it will go, has been the critical (as distinct from constructive) burden of all my writing, for it rests on assumptions that are too arbitrary to escape scrutiny indefinitely.

... I do not see how anyone can deny that the traditional, theomorphic view of the human self which the entheogens endorse is nobler than the one that common sense and modern science (misread) have replaced it with. Whether the theomorphic view is true or not cannot be objectively determined, so all I can ask of the opposition is that it not equate noble views with wishful thinking...

I believe that there is a spiritual dimension to reality that we are not normally able to perceive or understand. Call it YHVH, call it BrahmaN, call it Einstein's God, or call it the Great Cosmic Muffin. From the rarest and briefest experiences of "it-ness" (no affirmation or denial of entheogenic catalyzed experiences is implied here!), I have come to believe this as much as I believe anything about existence. I simply cannot agree with the uber-skeptical-materialist-atheist approach that "this is all there is". That there is no purpose to existence beyond what each of us makes our individual purpose. SOMETHING goes beyond all this.

Maybe this belief actually originated subconsciously as a coping mechanism for the existential horror of the void (tho' the belief does not completely immunize me against the random intrusion of thoughts of nothingness, and not in a good Zen-like way.) Maybe it is a very deep need to believe that both for those who commit evil acts and for the victims of evil (including the victims of "Acts of God") it will all eventually make karmic sense. And while this belief is almost certainly not a result of any early childhood influences, maybe it is explainable on a purely physical (biochemical/psychological) level as just an ingrained proto-memory from our collective evolution as self-aware beings. A God gene?


But it seems that a thinking person can take two (forgive me for creating a false dichotomy of choices here) main approaches when considering what a believer might refer to as "miracles" of the universe. One can consider the so-called anthropic principle ("miracles" of the Planck, gravitational and other physical constants, properties of water), consciousness and other aspects of human-ness (and I must include the experience of music), etcetera, etcetera, and certainly respond "in an infinite of universes anything can happen". And the non-nihilistically inclined may get deep satisfaction at the amazing dance of evolution or experience an almost mystical exhilaration at studying the music of the spheres from the quantum to the cosmic, even in the absence of the belief in any higher power. But this perspective - while appealing - ultimately leaves me wanting.

The other approach - "it makes more sense to me that it's not the luck of the cosmic lottery - that there is some higher power and purpose to it all" - the approach in which one maintains at least one eye focused on God, and being, and purpose, and morality, and what is a meaningful way to live with spiritually infused structure and context, this seems to have the potential of paving a far richer path for the 80 or 120 years that one is (hopefully) privileged to experience during this sojourn upon the planet.