The Argument from Suffering

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A misplaced Google search hijacked my mind for almost twelve hours; even the internet has a disturbing Christian undertow – an undertow in which Aquinas is still revered. To my disbelief there are people who still believe the ontological argument to be the final word in any debate regarding the existence of a benevolent chap sat in a cloud armchair. Now I’m going to make something of an assumption, a large percentage, if not every single person who reads my scribblings are atheists – not just this blog, which no one reads; but my essays, short fiction, and stand-up comedy which no one reads or listens to. All those nobodies together could pack a laundry closet with a powerful display of their agreement; on a dull, wet Monday they can reach double figures.

Contact with those of an imaginary-friendship bent often leaves one feeling like the sole rational being in a room full of toddlers, screaming, kicking and crying over the loss of a blue stuffed bear. That only exists in their minds. At these moments it is easy to feel a kinship with Richard Dawkins – shouty defender of reason from people who view rationality much as I view the smoking ban. Dr Dawkins is intelligent, eloquent and so smug looking that I almost wish there was a deity just to wipe the smirk from his Oxonian chops.

Where Dawkins goes wrong, as so many of us do, is by using reason to argue a matter of belief. While reason is the perfect tool with which to crush Aquinas’ rational proofs of existence, it has little impact against cherished beliefs which have no more rational basis than Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and leprechauns. This argument is itself a rational one, but I find it difficult to construct an irrational argument (or to imagine the structure and purpose of one). I’m sure the nearest religious believer will do so for you. All this has been said countless times before, however, I do have a vaguely original point to belabour: the size of the argument is unreasonable.

While reason remains the key in constructing larger arguments against god’s existence, as has been admirably done by minds (e.g. Hume, Mill, Russell) greater than mine or yours. If I’m truly honest, while the large arguments are responsible for my atheism, it’s the small things, the everyday occurrences that confirm it. Today I’ve had a headache for the entire morning and a good chunk of the afternoon: that’s enough for me to deny the existence of a benevolent God. As far as I’m concerned no benevolent creature, be it deity or mollusc, would allow me to suffer from a condition that appears to be worsened by caffeine, nicotine, and music – the three things that make day to day existence bearable, the problem of suffering is much similar to the problem of evil, scaled down to a personal level. If God not only inflicts headaches upon me, but also denies me coffee, tobacco and music; then he either cannot rid me of headaches (is not omnipotent), does not know I have a headache (is not omniscient), and/or is willing to let me suffer (is not benevolent).

To those who think it a sign of self-importance to write an entire blog about my headache, I must say I think you look rather silly now. My headache is not just a problem for me; major theological issues hang in the balance. The fact that it refuses to shift is sufficient to convince me that God does not exist, or is a cruel bastard. Unless Rowan Williams makes me jam sandwiches with hot whiskey and lemon. Maybe God can use his supposed omniscience to find the remote.


Coops x

Killing In The Name Of

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For the first, and one would hope the only time, I shall base this blogosity on something found in tabloid headlines: The arrest of a handful of “Satanists” on charges of child abuse, torture and murder over a period of, roughly speaking, a decade. The victims of this “cult” run into dozens. Inspired by “The Great Beast”, Aleister Crowley, their bizarre “occult” rituals included rape, torture, murder, and who knows what other gruesome acts. One can only hope that lengthy prison sentences are the punishment for each & every individual involved.

Up to this point I find myself in complete agreement (a confusing & somewhat disheartening experience) with every Daily Mail reader. However, we must inevitably part company over the use of the terms “Satanist” & “occult”. Many of the articles written on the subject so far, along with any “readers replies” have been written by people who would describe themselves as Christians, in the interest of a fair & balances debate this blog is written by a Satanist. A card-carrying, blaspheming LaVeyan Satanist. As such, I have a public service announcement to make:

The rumours are almost true; there is a worldwide cult with a history of child abuse, torture, degradation of women & murder on a truly massive scale. The wealth accumulated by this cult runs into not millions but into hundreds of billions of dollars, and many of its members hold respectable positions in society – in fact, it is overwhelmingly likely that they have a “church” and even a school in your local area; where they will perform their occult rituals such as cannibalising their founder who died around two thousand years ago. The Catholic Church, for that is what these cultists call themselves, are responsible for untold suffering & their victims run into millions over hundreds of years.

The previous paragraph was, to a great extent, satirical but as with all satire the underlying points are serious & true. No one denies the torture & murder carried out in the name of Christ, the sexual molestation of children by priests who were “above suspicion”, the wars fought in the name of a deity & (in the case of the Catholic Church) the pact signed with Adolf Hitler & the Nazi party. Why is it “unfair” to point out these crimes & label them “Christian”? Why are those who murder because Jesus told them to never described as “Christian killers”? What reason is there for singling out minority religions, in this case Satanism, & apportioning blame on the basis of a few individuals? The argument may run that these criminals weren’t acting in a Christian fashion.. Not only is that debatable – Christians appear to have acted in such an abhorrent fashion on numerous occasions over the last two millennia – but the fact is, the criminals arrested in Wales broke one of the rules given in the Satanic Bible: “Do NOT harm little children”.

Wherever I read a newspaper report on “Satanists” or “Occultists” or “Witches” I wonder if any progress was made through the Enlightenment in terms of tolerance. Not only does Christianity stand in defiance of scientific progress, but, it would appear, the hardly un-Christian (if we take the term “Christian” to mean “Christ-like”) virtues of tolerance, love & understanding are to be ignored in favour of the ignorance & blind prejudice which continues to cost human lives throughout the world. From now on I suggest Peter Sutcliffe, who killed on orders from God, is to be referred to as a “Christian killer”, those who live in horrific conditions or perish due to American foreign policy are not “underprivileged” or “collateral damage” – they are victims of “Christian terrorism”. The frankly staggering number of children abused by priests are victims of Ritual Christian Abuse. If religion is to be used to categorise crimes as “Satanic”, “Occult” or “Islamic” then it is only reasonable that all religions are held to account.

Or, and I’m aware of the rifle cross-hairs on my forehead as I write, we could apply Satanic thought (yes, Satanists think – it’s what sets us apart as a religious group) to the problem of hysterical reporting of this type. “Responsibility for the responsible, rather than concern for psychic vampires.” One of the principle aims of Satanism, in both Crowleyan & LaVeyan forms, is to improve oneself as an individual, to become self-reliant, to take responsibility for your own actions. My suggestion, Satanic or merely logical, is that we cease dividing humans into groups of them and us. Instead we treat each human being as responsible for their own actions, good or bad, and punish/praise them accordingly. Although this would appear to push against out “clique” mentalist, to negate our need for an enemy-group, for outsiders; I would suggest that evolutionary theory tells us that change is possible. My Satanic brand of concerned nihilism informs me that change is necessary.

A quick note on the idea that texts such as Crowley’s “Book of the Law” or LaVey’s “The Satanic Bible” advocate such acts as rape, murder, torture, etc. These volumes are freely available, buy or borrow them, read them at your leisure; The Bible has been interpreted as justifying slavery, rape, murder, torture, genocide, & countless other acts – its support for some of them is fairly irrefutable. As for the texts mentioned, engage with them in a truly Satanic fashion: THINK FOR YOURSELVES.

This particular blogette was crafted in a shed while smoking Peterson’s De Luxe Mixture & listening to Nirvana’s “Incesticide” via the new-fangled medium of compact disc.

Existence, Essence and Dunhill

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This blog is somewhat overdue as I aimed to produce one of these tree killers a week. The reason for this was not that humanity as a whole would become sterile and bereft of purpose without my outbursts of creativity – rather I become so when denied a creative outlet. Unfortunately creative urges have been in short supply for the last week as my decision to attempt life without a prescription began to seem mistaken. My mood swings accelerated and for the moment the spiritual tapeworm is gnawing away with gusto. Medication would, in all probability, slow down the swings and take the edges from the pain. But, and a huge but it is, medication takes far more besides – creativity, enthusiasm and the indescribable, un-named thingymabob which convinces me to interact with human beings occasionally.

The human race as a whole is of no great interest to me, however the small number of homo sapiens I have become fond of deserve some sort of mutual interaction from time to time. While medication removes emotional turmoil (to some extent) and dilutes the majority of negative thoughts to a manageable level it fails what I shall dub the ‘Nurofen test’ – it does not go to the site of pain. An ideal name for my pills might well be ‘Ignorital’ and ‘Fuckital;’ rather than solve the problem they make it easier to pretend it does not exist – the psychological equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” Having said that I will return to a lithium prescription within six weeks, as any port in a  storm would appear to be preferable to no port at all. This is how Bobbu ended up being a father, or at least on Jeremy Kyle.

I may not have been entirely honest so far, truth be told I am as relieved as one would assume it is ‘normal’ to have the sharp edges of depression, self-loathing and paranoia smoothed out. My real objection comes from the smoothing of my energy and enthusiasm. But, worst of all, the strangling of my creativity. Creativity comes as an outburst, an explosion, a… (well, overkill is imminent but you either understand or not). Essentially the urge to write, draw, play music or jump up and down in paint pots is an outlet for emotion; in particular intense emotion. The very sort of emotion mood-stabilisers et al are designed to prevent, but the sort of emotional responses which provide a major reason for continued existence. In a mechanical sense the life cycle of homo sapiens is no more complicated than that of the housefly currently orbiting my light switch – eat, reproduce, die. A touch misanthropic it may be but if, as some cretin once said, a chicken is merely one egg’s way of making another egg, then this equally applies to humans. Homo sapiens is, in essence, a particularly successful and destructive species of parasite. A virus in shoes.

The existentialist turn in continental philosophy pointed out that only in humans does existence occur prior to essence; other things and creatures simply are, it is us alone who are and choose to be. It makes no sense to speak of a stone’s desire to be a tree, or a cow, or a hedge – it is what it is, or as the existentialists would put it, it’s essence and existence coincide. A person exists, and only then chooses what to be; as a child I wished to be a writer, then a palaeontologist. While at college I decided to be a lawyer, while at university a human rights advocate and later a philosopher. My desires now have come full circle, but all these detours have had their effect. Rationality is often felt to be the defining attribute of a ‘person’. I have my doubts; somehow emotions and desires seem to predominate throughout my existence. My rationality may lead to the reasons for my continued existence, but those reasons are entirely based on emotions and desires.

As a philosopher my belief in rationality was (is?) great; the more I examine the things that make existence palatable – creativity, my relationships with others, cheese and nicotine – the more I feel them to be based not on rationality, but emotion. In many cases they seem to be irrational, and nonetheless valuable for that. Rationality appears to follow from emotion, in some cases to keep emotions in check and in others to rationalise decisions I have already made on the basis of emotion. My ethics appear to be a rational choice, however as a utilitarian their basis is in the minimizing of pain and maximizing of pleasure; surely my preference for pleasure over pain has an emotional rather than rational basis. An entirely rational life may be a possibility but, given that much of what I have identified as providing life with value, with essence remains without rationality, it appears to fall short of an ideal existence.

Once again creativity, something I remain convinced has curative properties far beyond those of medication and which finds its basis in emotion rather than rationality, has banished the tapeworm. At the very least it lies dormant. Medication is the rational choice and will, I have no doubt, continue to play its part but for now I choose not to be numbed, to allow my emotions (both negative and positive) to result in creative outbursts. Existentialism, in seeing existence as a given but essence as a choice often used the metaphor of life as a project with goals freely chosen by the individual. Many existentialists, in particular Sartre and Camus found creative outlets beyond philosophy. As pleasure is paramount I shall end this blog post with a mention of the return of Dunhill pipe tobaccos – a smoking pleasure like no other!

My current goal in life is to become a lert. Not a day goes by without someone telling me to ‘be alert’; I’m not sure what a lert is but clearly there is a chronic shortage.

Revd Dr Cooper

P.S. I am aware that referring to blogs as ‘tree killers’ may seem bizarre, as no paper is required in the formation of an internet page. As a confirmed neo-luddite I actually write these things with a device known as a pen on real paper – how frightfully archaic!