Sunday, December 26, 2010

Juche's Ill

I would love to do fewer stupid things. If it were simply a matter of choice I could even prioritize the genera of foolish actions I would like to eliminate first. I picture the prioritization as a pyramid-shaped tiering system. At the wide and stable bottom of the structure are paralyzingly embarrassing statements; above that horrifying miscommunication. Somewhere near the top are those actions which involve ignoring dangerous circumstances, and causing potential harm to myself or others.

Nowhere on that pyramid do I picture any members populating a category I could call “mishaps with nuclear weapons”. This is because the only foolish thing I could ever picture myself doing with nuclear weapons is living in a world where people install them onto the tips of missiles, and then point them at other people.

My foolish tiering system is obviously risk-based; the more harm the higher up the pyramid the foolish activity goes. I assume that the structure gets smaller as it goes up because I assume I pay more attention to the more potentially harmful activities and reduce the likelihood of the action taking place. I mitigate the risk more effectively when the consequences become increasingly unacceptable.

Even if the consequences are not phenomenally extreme (like what is possible with nuclear weapons) I will sometimes ask for assistance in deciding on a least-foolish course of action. Since I am an atheist the fact that I do not ask my invisible friends for advice should not be shocking. I might not be an atheist if my invisible friends insisted on giving advice despite the fact that I did not ask.

Some of my corporeal friends give advice that I have not asked for, but most not only wait till asked, but require tenacity to pry it from them. I sometimes appear picky about who I ask for what kind of advice. I have a friend who has been married four times. I would readily ask her for advice on dating, but I might shy away from asking her thoughts on marital harmony.

I have a tendency (that is common amongst academics) to appreciate authority in those whose advice I am receptive to. I like quoting great thinkers and admirable personalities. I have quoted many people whose specific tastes I may not prescribe to, but whose take on a particular topic I find illuminating. I have caught myself quoting “spiritual” leaders when I thought their ideas were worthy with no thought of atibuting them to their flavor of invisible assistants.

Separating the person from the quote is not always easy. Quotes from serial killers sound like they are stained with the blood of their victims; they can suffer a menacing tone lurking in a mundane utterance.

“See you in Disneyland” – Richard Ramirez

Those who are nutso are difficult to use as authorities on anything that is not just nutso. There was a guy who lived in Queens and said he was 700 years old and could fly. This guy was nuts, and it would be very difficult to use his advice on anything.

I'm sitting in a cold basement while I'm writing this, and I've wrapped a blanket around my shoulders for some warmth. When I walked upstairs a couple minutes ago to get a cup of tea AOD remarked: “Look at Dad's cape; maybe he's going to fly!”.

Some claims would be so outrageous that they are dismisable despite the trappings of authority (like a plaid cape) or a history of reasonable thought (you'll just have to take my word on this one). And yet history is littered with people whose claims alone should have made a mockery of anything else they did.

Hong Xiuquan believed that, despite being born over one thousand and eight hundred years after his older brother, he was Jesus Christ's younger brother. He used this as justification to proclaim himself “Heavenly King” over a "Heavenly Kingdom of Transcendent Peace" which included the perks of money, power, and concubines. Like many peaceful kingdoms Hong's needed to generate an armed conflict; they did so against China's Qing dynasty emperor. The resulting 20 million dead people made Hong's one of the bloodiest conflicts in history, but they did not make his claims of family connections any less ridiculous.

A little less than half a decade or before Hong ended his life by poisoning himself another heterodox spiritual man by the name of Choe Je-u received some holy instructions. Choe was on the Korean peninsula and his peaceful paradise on earth was to occur there, and they needed to kill some folk to make their peace. So, despite differencing in geographic and genealogical details, Choe and Hung had a contemporary similarity about their divine missions.

I'm not saying that talking to god is bad (though I might allude to this type of delusion being less than productive at times) but taking instructions from god -especially those that involve killing- is a bad idea. I don't care if god talks with voices in your head, golden plates, funny symbols, holy e-mail, or a staticy telephone call; look for where the message is coming from. If someone you know thinks they have a message from god...well historically this is usually not a good thing.

The reason for not believing in what messages from god tell you is more basal than simply not believing in god. It is motivated by more than just atheism. If someone explains that god came to them in the form of their neighbors dog and told them to kill people I'm going to think that is bat-crap crazy without ever saying something like: “but wait...that can't be true because there is no god”.

It is worse when someone suggests that they are god, or even some divine godish creature. If someone claims that weather is influenced by their own or someone else's moods, I'm not going to be able to hear them very well. Even if thousands of people sing how important and magically divine someone is, I'm just not going to be that into it. Unless they have a big bomb.

The official ideology of North Korea is called “Juche”. There is an official calendar for North Korea called the Juche Calendar, and it was started (Year 1) on April 15th 1912 when Kim Il-sung was born. Kim Jong-il is now lead deity of the Juche cult. Jong-il can apparently change things with his feelings; he certainly can imprison people with his words.

The only other significant religion in North Korea is an offshoot of Choe's divinely-inspired stuff.  In at least one of his autobiographys Kim Jong-il describes in detail how much he admires Choe's Donghak movement.

People call Juche an atheist ideology. This is the problem with identifying ones self in a “not that” category. Some people who are not brain surgeons are gynecologists. More people, like me, are neither (and if I have ever told you I was a gynecologist -for whatever reason- I apologize).

I like to take the higher ground. I am a reasonable person, not just an atheist. I reason through things. I look at sources of claims, and make informed decisions. Atheists simply are not something, and I am something.

So when Kim jong-il announced that he was going to wage a nuclear “Holy War” against South Korea I was not the one you may have heard shouting “See...He Is SO NOT An Atheist!!!”

No comments: