Why Avatar 2 sucks

I saw Avatar 2: The Way of Water yesterday.  Sure, it was way too long, by maybe two hours.  But that’s the least of its problems.  Plenty of spoilers follow, but I don’t care.

First of all, the alien life looked great; the flora and fauna were truly alien.    But the alien people (the Na’vi) looked nothing short of ridiculous.

They look like poorly drawn World of Warcraft cat people.

This is a pet peeve of mine.  In science fiction movies and TV shows (here’s looking at you, Star Trek and Star Wars) almost every alien race looks human.  It’s so dumb: two eyes, above one nose, above one mouth, on a head, with two arms above two legs.  Evolution doesn’t really work that way.  What are the chances that these things would evolve to be humanoid?  It breaks the 4th wall for me, takes me out of the moment.  Where are the truly alien aliens?

Unless H. R. Giger is helping you with creature design, the truly alien aliens are found in science fiction novels: see Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir or Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky for two very recent examples.

Oh, I know—I know why directors do this.  It’s so we can relate to the aliens.  We can root for them as characters.  It humanizes them.  But why should we be able to relate to aliens?  Why should we humanize them?  That seems—rather humancentric to me.

The answer, of course, is that we’re not watching true science fiction at all.  We’re watching unsubtle allegory.  The Na’vi could be talking teapots for all it matters to the “lesson” being beaten over our heads.

Now, it’s not just physical appearance.  The aliens don’t act alien at all.  They act like a high schooler’s ideal of what indigenous (human) people act like, except with a little bit of ululation, because… tribal societies always do that?  What the fuck is with the ululation?

Why can’t aliens in science fiction movies look and act… differently than humans?

As an aside, the “secret” behind the whale-hunting is a total rip-off of the 1981 Hugo and Nebula award-winning The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge.  Listen:

The Hegemony’s humans’ interest in Tiamat Pandora lies in mers the Tulkun, a species of sea-dwelling creatures whose blood contains a smartmatter virus a goo that halts the aging process. Mers Tulkun are hunted as frequently as possible…the “water of life” goo produced from their blood allows for virtual immortality.  [Yoinked from Wikipedia]

I have other complaints. The score was about as interesting as an Andrew Garfield Spiderman movie.  The choice to transition from subtitles to English was… distracting.  (Speaking of subtitles: Papyrus font?  Really?)  Everyone’s English-language accent was completely different.  Jake Sully sounds like he’s about to challenge Apollo Creed to a boxing match.  The spooky girl sounded like Emily Dickinson.  I think Vin Diesel was in there somewhere, maybe?  And Wes Studi?  Because, of course, native American.  It’s not like anyone has any name I could remember.  I think Jake’s wife was played by Zoe Saldaña, but who knows?  She only had maybe five lines in the movie.  And how many kids does Jake have?  Two boys (maybe)?  One or two daughters?  They don’t have names, certainly.  And the two sons are indistinguishable except for size.

Oh, and the feral kid from The Road Warrior is thrown in there, for some reason.  Yee haw.  His story arc makes as much sense as a latter-day Star Wars movie.

Making Colonel what’s-his-face the villain (again) was lazy writing.  I thought we had a cool new antagonist when General Nurse Jackie showed up… but no, she was quickly forgotten.  It’s back to Colonel Quidditch, again.  It’s insulting to the viewers: we don’t think you can handle a different bad guy.

Which is why everything is in black and white…like a middle school Disney novel.  Phil Hartman’s Frankenstein’s monster saying Humans BAD.  Natives GOOD.  Everyone is a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out of a character.  There’s not only little nuance…there’s no nuance at all.  You can predict the ending two (long) hours before the end—based solely on tropes.  But I guess that’s what people want.

The plot has the intellectual depth of a choose-your-own-adventure.

Which beings me to the so-called movie’s greatest sin: it’s supposed message.  For let’s be clear, the movie doesn’t pretend to be science fiction, or even space opera.  It’s not even ordinary allegory, but more of a medieval morality play.  Written for third-graders.

On top of that, the message is muddled.

On the surface, the message is as subtle as an elephant farting during a performance of Ave Maria.  And it is, of course, the same message as the first Avatar:  Indigenous peoples I mean Na’vi are good.  Europeans I mean humans are bad.  Yay, environment.  Fern GullyDances With WolvesThunderheart.  I don’t even necessarily disagree with this “message”.  But…

Was the moral of the story really what you thought it was?

The message I get is: violence is the way.  The only real method of achieving anything is through killing.  (In this, the message is a lot less liberal granola than people think it is).  Consider: the only Tulkun (whale-alien) character we get to see in any meaningful way is the outcast—the whale who was ostracized for fighting back.  The other whales are dismissed as jokes because of their pacifism.

What a missed opportunity!  What an interesting species!  Why not focus on them?  What sort of philosophy and culture must they have had, to let themselves be slaughtered?  It reminds me of the Wheel of Time’s “Way of the Leaf”.  At least Robert Jordan showed the Tuatha’an in a more respectful light.

But no, James Cameron’s Titanic-sized ego demanded that he make the film some sort of allegory, even if he couldn’t decide on what he wanted to say.  But here I must quote Tolkien on allegory:

“…I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned – with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”   [Bogstad, Janice M.; Kaveny, Philip E. (9 August 2011). Picturing Tolkien: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy. McFarland. p. 189.]

Ultimately, I left the theater thinking: what is the “way of water”?  Violence?  Environmentalism?  Lowering your heart rate?  Forgiveness?  Slitting your adopted feral kid’s throat?  Family?  Racism?  Screaming?  Ululation?  I have no idea.  At one point Rocky Balboa narrates what the “way of water” actually entails­—but at that point I wanted to see more evil New Zealand scientists being ripped in half.


              I continue to be fascinated by the RGB color scheme, and extra-spectral colors in particular.  And the NFL football season starts tonight.  And so I ponder: are there any patterns/trends in the official team colors of the 32 NFL teams?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

              First of all, here are the “official” colors of the teams with their exact RGB ratings.  You will notice that there are a few teams that, perversely, have more than two team colors.

LocaleTeam nameColorRGB
Green BayPackersgold25518428
Green BayPackersgreen244840
JacksonvilleJaguarsdark gold15912144
Kansas CityChiefsgold25518428
Kansas CityChiefsred2272455
Las VegasRaidersblack000
Las VegasRaiderssilver165172175
Los AngelesRamsyellow2552090
Los AngelesChargersgold25519414
Los AngelesRamsblue053148
Los AngelesChargersblue0128198
New EnglandPatriotsred1981248
New EnglandPatriotsnavy03468
New EnglandPatriotssilver176183188
New OrleansSaintsblack162431
New OrleansSaintsgold211188141
New YorkGiantsred1631345
New YorkJetsgreen188764
New YorkGiantsblue13582
New YorkGiantsgray155161162
New YorkJetswhite255255255
San Fran.49’ersred17000
San Fran.49’ersgold17315393
Tampa BayBuccaneersorange2551210
Tampa BayBuccaneersred2131010
WashingtonFtbl. teamburgundy631616
WashingtonFtbl. teamgold25518218

I’ve already had to make a few judgement calls.  For example, most teams have three team colors: two typical colors, and then either white or black.  In most cases I’ve thrown white or black out, unless they are one of the two main colors (in my opinion).  For instance, the Cincinnati Bengals are orange and black.  I’ve only held onto three colors if I feel they are crucial to their color scheme.  The Dallas Cowboys are particularly meretricious in this regard.  They claim no less than five colors: white, blue, navy blue, royal blue, and silver.  Based on my own aesthetic color sense I have pared this down to three.

              Also note that I have renamed the colors in most cases.  Many of the teams copy one another, using the exact same colors, but call those colors by different names.  The most egregious example is the color (0,34,68) which is used by four different teams.  Dallas calls this blue, Denver calls it Broncos navy, New England calls it nautical blue, and Seattle calls it college navy.  I just call it blue.

              Only one team has a “pure” RGB color: the San Francisco 49’ers have red (170,0,0).  You gotta give ‘em props for going all-in on red.  I guess (255,0,0) was too “bright” so they darkened it a little, but hey.

             So, is there a way to visualize this data in a graph?  The problem is displaying 3-tuples in two dimensions.  Luckily, there is a way to do this.  It’s called a chromaticity graph.  Define three new variables thus:

r = R/(R+G+B)

g = G/(R+G+B)

b = B/(R+G+B)

You can think of these variables as indicating the relative percentage of each core color, without regard to brightness.  So magenta (255,0,255) has values r = 0.5, g=0, b = 0.5, indicating that magenta is half red, half blue.  Similarly, chartreuse (128,255,0) has values r = 0.333, g=0.666, b = 0, indicating that it is 1/3 red and 2/3 green.

              Now consider plotting r vs. g.  You might think you’ve “lost” information about the value of b, but that is not the case.  Since r + g + b = 1 is necessarily true, you could always recreate the value of b if you needed it.

              Here is a plot of r vs. g, which is a chromaticity graph:

Where you have lost information is in the value of “brightness”.  For example, white (255,255,255), gray (128,128,128) and black (0,0,0) are all plotted at the exact same coordinate (r,g) = (0.333,0.333).  And blue (0,0,255) and dark blue (0,0,128) look very different, but again they map to the same point (r,g) = (0,0).

              Note that most of the “standard” colors we have names for appear on the outer edge of the triangle (since one of the three variables R,G,B is zero).  The exceptions are the grayscale colors (white, gray, black) which are at the center of mass of the triangle, and other extra-spectral colors like tan or hot pink.

              Speaking of extra-spectral colors: there are two main ways to “construct” them.  You can either:

  • mix all three colors R,G,B in roughly equal measure, or
  • mix R and B with very little G.

With this in mind, we see that the extra-spectrals occupy the middle portion of the triangle, as well as the bottom edge:

              OK, so back to my original goal…visualizing the NFL team colors.  Here is a chromaticity plot of all the team colors in the above table:

What trends do you notice?

  • There are plenty of reds, of all varieties.
  • All the blues have a major element of green as well.  That is, there is a cluster of colors around azure and cyan, but no true blues.  The blue with the least green is Buffalo Bills blue, at g = 27%.
  • There are no true greens.  In fact, there are few greens at all.  The maximum green is g = 57% for the Seattle Seahawks.
  • There are no pinks: nothing anywhere close to magenta.
  • There is almost a “main sequence” like in an H-R diagram, running from cyan to gray to yellow.  Why do so many NFL colors have g ≈ 33%?
  • There is a huge cluster of colors around “gold”.

I’m sure you can find other patterns.  Here is a map of the “under utilized” colors for NFL teams:

The pink/magenta thing makes sense.  For some reason, people think these are not masculine colors.  (This was not always the case.  Pink used to be associated with boys.)  But what about the lack of green?  And the lack of true blue without green?  I have no idea.  Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Your dog thinks you’re a wizard.  After all, you can do so many things that seem like magic to them.  But what level wizard?  Let’s investigate:

(I will use D&D 5th edition in what follows.)

Control flames.  (Cantrip) Your dog sees you light candles at will.  Impressive.

Create bonfire.  (Cantrip) Your dog is even more impressed when you light a bonfire in the back yard to make s’mores.  Can I have a s’more?

Dancing lights.  (Cantrip) Ever mess with your pets with a laser pointer?  Or even just a flashlight?  Apparently you know the spell dancing lights.

Light.  (Cantrip) You turn off the lights in your house instantly, with the flick of a switch.  But dogs don’t know about light switches.  You’re a friggin wizard!

Find familiar. (Level 1) Out of the blue, you get a new dog, or a new cat.  What’s up, hooman?  Didja summon a new familiar?

Alarm. (Level 1) I like how you wave your fingers in the air, hooman, and make beeping noises— and suddenly a magical alarm system is set!  Clever!

Sleep.  (Level 1) Remember that time you drugged Fido before that long car trip?  You know the sleep spell.

Silent image.  (Level 1) Ever turn on your TV without the sound?  What does your dog think of this?

Knock. (Level 2) Mysteriously locked doors are all just open to you.  Dogs don’t know about doorknobs, or keys.  They think you know the knock spell.

Phantom steed. (Level 3) It’s incredible how you can just animate that hrududu (i.e. car) and ride inside its belly, and then de-animate it when needed.  Might not be “phantom steed” precisely, but it’s at least a level 3 spell.

Summon fey/lesser demon/shadowspawn. (Level 3)  Argh!  You’ve invited a strange hooman into the house!  You’ve summoned a shadowspawn!

Scrying.  (Level 5) This is just turning on your TV.

Contact other plane.  (Level 5) The most impressive spell you can do: talking on your cell phone.  To other people.  Sometimes with pictures.  This is some high level wizard shit.

Conclusion.  You know at least two 5th-level spells.  If I am not mistaken, this means you are at least a 10th level wizard.  At least, to your dog.  No wonder your dog is so impressed.


Is there a word in English for a banal epiphany? While walking today it struck my like a bolt from the blue: 2/3 of every Saturday Night Live episode occurs on a Sunday.

I just had an epiphany! – FORWARD IN CHRIST

[Note: I actually dreamed this poem the other night, in its basic form. That is, it was 75% composed while sleeping. The other 25% was tweaking the grammar and so forth. Unlike Samuel Taylor Coleridge, no opium was used.]

Your story is a trilogy,

3 ponderous volumes, really—

The 1st just a farm, and a knife,

The 2nd the slag of your life.

But the 3rd.  Alas!  It appalls. 

Therein you stare at waterfalls

And so then with sheer force of will,

You attempt to stop and distill

Permutations of molecules,

Holding them immobile, as jewels,

The entropy stagnant but blurred:

Just so you can consume the 3rd.

Writing about Literature Revisited (Coleridge) | The Orthosphere

I’ve been playing a lot of internet chess lately: you know, Covid.  I play on Lichess.com, mostly, but also on Chess.com, where I play in an international team league.  Compared to the average player, I am decent, with a rating that fluctuates between 1900 and 2000.  I have drawn a National Master (NM) in over-the-board chess, had a postal win (!) published in ChessLife, and beaten a grandmaster (GM) in a simul online (Jacob Aagaard).  But of course I am nowhere near the level of an NM, much less an IM or GM.  Nonetheless, I have a lot of experience with chess players.  I estimate that I have played upwards of 50,000 internet chess games in my life, much of it bullet chess (with a 1 0 or 1 1 time control).  I have a LOT of experience with blitz and bullet.  And there are 10 main kinds of internet players that ANNOY THE CRAP OUT OF ME.

1. The Fred

Sometimes you play a game and crush someone.  They want a rematch.  You accept.  And then, as White, they open with 1. f3 followed by 2. Kf2.  (The Fred defense 1. e4 f5 has a similar feel to it.)  Basically these players are saying, “You’re not any good, that win was a fluke, look, I can beat you with this garbage.”  It’s an insult.  Such players have no self-awareness, and aren’t willing to admit that they are fallible.  They’re sociopaths.  I usually just resign when people do this.  Why bother playing these fools?  [Caveat: If you’re with friends, it’s OK to goof around and play such things.  The bong cloud opening (e4 followed by Ke2) or its derivatives have been played by Nakamura and by Carlsen against other GM’s.  But as far as I know they don’t play such things against peons like me.  If they did, they would be punks.]

May be an image of chess and outdoors

2. The “Idiot”

Maybe this belongs with the “Fred”, I am not sure.  Every once in a while you’ll encounter some joker who plays a3/b3/c3/d3 etc. moving all the pawns up one square.  This infuriates me.  It’s like starting a pickup game of basketball with someone, and all they do is shoot underhanded.  No thanks.  Why are you playing chess?  Go back to playing Halo in your parent’s basement.

3. The “Sacker”

I sense a theme here.  A lot of people can’t handle losing, but on the internet there’s not really any way to BE a bad loser (especially when, as I do, chat has been disabled).  Without an outlet for poor sportsmanship, internet chess players get creative.  They play the “Fred”, or the “Idiot”, or….just sacrifice every piece on the board.  Ever win a knight in a blitz game, only to have some fool subsequently “sacrifice” every other piece?  What does this prove?  I suppose they could argue that they’re going for stalemate, but it really just means that they’re having a tantrum.  To see what I do in such situations, see the next note…

4. “People who don’t resign”

If you’re playing in a tournament, or for money, or for some other stakes, then fine…play it out.  Or if you’re up 45 seconds in a bullet game, play it out.  But in an unrated game, if you are down on time, AND down a Queen, AND the position is dead, with no possibility of a tactic…then RESIGN.  Not doing so shows an utter lack of respect not only for your opponent, but for the game of chess itself.  In these situations I usually try to recreate the opening position (by promoting pawns to Knight, Bishops, Rooks, etc.) against the opponent’s bare king.  It’s an attempt to shame the opponent into resigning.  It never works.

You Resign Now! |  YOU RESIGN NOW! | image tagged in queens gambit,queen's gambit,netflix,chess,chess opening,you resign now | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

5. The “Time Adder”

This is a weird one, but common on Lichess.  I’ll get a winning position, and instead of resigning, the opponent does not move, but instead keeps incrementally adding time to my clock.  (Some chess servers have this option so that if someone is about to lag out, you can have mercy and give them more time).  Is this some form of protest?  What’s going through these people’s pea brains?  My favorite thing to do is go eat a sandwich, taking advantage of the time they’ve given me….then coming back and delivering mate with less than 10 seconds my clock.

6. The “No Move” gambit

Another annoying way to have a tantrum is simply…not to move.  I don’t mean disconnecting in a lost position (which probably happens 20% of the time in any game I play) but to let the clock run down.  In bullet this is meaningless, but in a 10 minute rapid game, when I get a winning position against someone and they have 9 minutes left, it’s a real childish move.  So in this unrated, meaningless game, which is supposed to be just for fun, you are really going to make me wait 9 minutes, staring at my +11 position, just to get the “win”?  Nope.  I will just resign and play someone else.  And maybe that’s their point: they can say they “won”.  Good for them.  I’d rather play chess.

7. “Asking for a takeback”

This one just shows that the player has no online chess experience.  If you’re playing a stranger, then you NEVER ask for a takeback.  Ever.  It’s that simple.  Drop a piece on move 3? Then you RESIGN.  Maybe if I am playing a friend and we’re contesting the same opening 30 games in a row, and my friend makes an obvious mouse slip, OK.  But if I don’t know you?  And it’s a bullet game?  Mouse slips are a PART OF THE GAME, especially in bullet.  Sorry.  Resign, biatch.

8. “The absurd draw offer”

I don’t mean when a player in a lost position offers a draw…after all, we might evaluate the position differently.  I actually mean something much more specific.  It’s like when you’re up 8 minutes to 1 minute in a 10 minute game without increment, in a roughly equal position, and…they click DRAW?  No, you imbecile, you’re going to lose on time.  Play it out.  You might even win…you’re a daisy if you do.

9. The “’Good game’ robots”

Bad sportsmanship isn’t reserved just for losers.  Winners can do it too.  To whit: automated “Good game” messages are as annoying as popcorn kernels stuck in your teeth.  Now, I get it.  They’re TRYING to be nice.  But when you lose a piece on move 7, and then resign (as you should in a non-bullet game), no one wants to see “Good game! :)” or “Well played!”  It comes across as condescending and insincere.  If you really want to be a good sport, type an ACTUAL message after the game, that proves you’re a human being.  Of course I disable chat, so never mind.

10. The “Obvious blunder!” morons

My final category is the worst of all, and doesn’t even involve PLAYING online chess.  It has to do with WATCHING online chess.  Nowadays, you can watch any major GM tournament from the comfort of your home, on sites such as chessbomb.com.  And of course, everyone now has a computer engine on their smartphone that could crush a GM.  It’s like this: Svidler is playing Aronian.  And Aronian makes a move that swings the evaluation bar from +0.4 in favor of Svidler to +1.7.  Someone comments, “Obvious blunder!”  Of course all they’re doing is looking at their engine.  They have no idea WHY the move is a blunder.  It boggles the mind.  It’s a form of trolling.  If you’re going to spectate, watch GM commentators that know what they’re talking about:  Tania Sachdev and Peter Leko, for example, or the team of Seirawan, Shahade, and Ashley.  Even when they consult the engine, they put the move(s) in context.  If Aronian’s move was so “obvious”, dude, why aren’t YOU a GM?   

Macbeth on 2020

The unicode number for a dagger (†) is 2020. How appropriate:

Macbeth- dagger soliloquy. Macbeth, Act II, Scene 1 | by Cory Howell |  Bites of Bard | Medium

“Is this a 2020 which I see before me?” –Macbeth

Green Raven

In the era of Covid-19, everyone has to get their side hustle on.  My amazing wife has started selling artistic thingys here:


Meanwhile I have made a goal to post more often this fall.  See you soon!

Common Raven | Audubon Field Guide

There’s something strange about Mounds bars and Almond Joy bars (both made by Mars. Inc.)

For those not familiar with these candies, Mounds is dark chocolate over coconut, whereas Almond Joys are milk chocolate over coconut and almonds.  But it seems to me that there are two permutations that are missing.


Consider this table:

Type of chocolate Almonds? Name
Dark No Mounds
Dark Yes ?
Milk No ?
Milk Yes Almond Joy

Is there something about milk chocolate that makes it preferable if almonds are present?  Do almond-haters prefer dark chocolate?  The logic of having only two choices (not four) escapes me.

Now, it turns out there actually is a milk chocolate candy bar with coconut and no almonds: the Bounty.  So the table should be:

Type of chocolate Almonds? Name
Dark No Mounds
Dark Yes ?
Milk No Bounty
Milk Yes Almond Joy

But Bounty bars are hard to find here in the USA; I have found them at World Market.  They are common in the UK and Canada.


I prefer dark chocolate and love almonds.  So c’mon, Mars Inc.  Get with the program and offer Dark Chocolate Almond Joys!

I’ve been watching BoJack Horseman lately.  (Great show.)  Recently, a quote from Diane Nguyen struck a chord with me: “I don’t think I believe in ‘deep down’.  I think all you are, are the things you do.”  (The exact quote may be slightly different.)  It dawned on me that this quote encapsulates everything that is wrong with Far-Right Christianity as practiced in the world today.

Here’s the thing.  Many Far-Right Christian devotees (let’s call them, arbitrarily, “Trumpers”) claim to believe in Jesus.  That wrap themselves in self-righteous armor of their own device, and act as if a simple declaration of belief makes them immune to criticism.  “God this, Jesus that, blah blah blah, therefore I’m right and you’re wrong.”  No religion is immune from this sort of one-upmanship, but Trumpers have honed this sort of argument to a very fine point.  And therein lies a festering immorality.

They claim to believe in Jesus.  But do they agree with him?

I can’t read minds (not yet, anyway).  So the only way I can verify their “belief in Jesus” is to see how they act.  And I don’t think there can be any doubt among rational people that Trumpers don’t act like they believe in Jesus.

If you say you believe in Jesus but don’t act like it, do you really believe in Jesus?

Do you?

Image result for corrected jesus painting

Now you might think I’ve fallen into a version of the no true Scotsman fallacy.  “Real Christians would behave in this way, not that way…”  Actually, no.  I am using a radical definition of what it means to be a Christian.  And that radical definition is this:

A Christian is someone who emulates Jesus.

That’s it.  Notice that there’s no mention of belief, or of worship.  By my definition an atheist who leads a humble, caring, loving, honest life is more of a Christian than someone who “believes” in Jesus and pays lip service to the worshiping of a deity, while at the same time lying, cheating, and stealing their way through life.  As Diane Nguyen would say, “you are the things you do”.

Maybe it’s a language problem that is the root of all this confusion.  I’m not sure about other languages, but in English “to believe in” and “to believe” are two very different verbs.  The first means “to have faith in the existence of” something or to “trust in the value of” something.  In both cases, saying that you “believe in Jesus” isn’t really a high bar.  You’re just saying you think Jesus was a good guy, or maybe even that he was divine.  Why should that be a barometer for how moral you are as a person?  The idea is laughable.  In contrast, “to believe” means to have confidence in an assertion (if you’re brave, consider my essay on belief here).  So in the starkest terms:

To believe in Jesus is to think that he existed, or exists, or is a god.

To believe Jesus is to think his words and teachings were (are) true.

Which of these sounds like a better recipe for moral living?  Which of these is more likely to produce good, moral human beings?  Which sounds more Christian?  I bet you know my answers to these questions.

I guess the problem that Christianity has had, of late, is that the first kind of belief is easier to do, so people gravitate to that (people are, if nothing else, lazy).  Want to go to heaven?  Just believe in Jesus.  No need to do the hard work of actually acting like Jesus, trying to be a decent person, turning the other cheek, administering to the needy, forgiving others.  Fuck no!  Do what you like—and at the end of the day, just believe in Jesus, and poof, just like Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time, you go to heaven!  Yay!  Belief in Jesus is like a get-out-of-jail-free card, a kind of cosmic scratch-off that promises eternal life rather than $50 at the Stop-and-Go.  No wonder it’s popular.  They’re lovin’ those scratch-offs in the deep South…

Image result for scratch off

Where does this mentality spring from?  Mostly, from the Bible (a book worshiped more fervently than Jesus himself).  Consider:

John 3:16     For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [Emphasis added]

Sigh.  There’s the get-out-of-jail-free card, right there!  No need to do the hard work!  The Bible tells me so.  And yet…

What if we tweaked the Bible?  It was written by flawed humans, after all.  It’s rife with contradictions.  (Here’re a few juicy ones.)  Let’s make one little correction and save the world:

John 3:16     For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [Emphasis added]

There.  Fixed it.

I don’t care if you believe in Jesus.  More importantly, do you believe him?  Are you willing to do the hard work?  Are you willing to follow the tenets of the Sermon on the Mount?  What’s more important to you, going to heaven with all the other in people, or being a decent fucking human being?

Do you believe Jesus?  Then prove it.

Act like it.

O, oracle, tell me: how much has this believe in/believe business contributed to shitty behavior through the ages?  How often have people just done whatever they wanted, secure in their sinecure, acting immorally or at least amorally, not worrying at all because hey, they have a scratch-off to heaven in hand?

As Judas says in Jesus Christ Superstar, the in people, the Trumpers, have too much heaven on their minds.

And don’t even get me started on the whole concept of blanket forgiveness…the whole idea that someone else’s suffering can somehow wipe your slate clean.  (That is a topic for another day…maybe even a book, perhaps?)  Suffice to say, why should a Trumper even worry about doing good, when the sin(s) will be forgiven?  What’s the incentive?  If Jesus died for my sins, why do I need to be good at all?

Of course, the Trumpers don’t have a monopoly on this kind of thinking.  The Catholics have confession, which acts as a sort of spiritual toilet paper, after which your sins are wiped clean, like shit from between your ass cheeks.  But the Trumpers—a particularly noxious cult of Protestantism—go a little deeper, because in their liturgy one needn’t even confess.  Praise Jesus, just confess in your heart!  Get out of jail!  Scratch-off!  Why go through all the bother of talking about your failings to another human, who might be tempted to admonish you, or give you pesky unwanted advice?


So: do whatever you like!  Pay lip service to Jesus, it doesn’t matter, you can always confess later, even if it’s just confess to yourself!  Yay!  I mean, why do I even need to be good?  We’re all sinners, so fuck it.  I’ll just be bad.  Why not?  There’re no consequences.  Jesus was the good one.  Plus, he suffered for me.  That makes me happy.  I’ll go to heaven soon enough, yippee!


So where does that leave us?  What do I, personally believe?

I don’t believe in Jesus.  I don’t think he was a supernatural being.  But I consider myself Christian—precisely because I believe him, believe what he had to say.  For the most part.  No one’s perfect.

It’s not enough to have good in your heart.  You have to act like you have good in your heart.

You are as you do.

Image result for trump humping the american flag

I’ll end with this observation: Trump recently kissed and hugged the American flag.  This wasn’t a one-off—he’s done this kind of childish thing before.  Why childish?  Because, like most Trumpers, in his childish brain Trump takes this kissing and hugging as proof that he loves America.  This is telling.  You are as you do.  Trump dry humps what he loves.  But Trump doesn’t really love America.  His actions demonstrate a breathtaking disregard for America.  If that’s not obvious to you, then I’m surprised you’re still reading this essay.  I’m surprised you can read at all.

But anyway.

This is what I want to say: stop worshiping Jesus.  He’s not an idol.  He’s not a symbol.  He’s not a rock star.

He’s an example.

Stop worshiping Jesus.  Start following him, instead.