Where Exactly in Hell I’m Going

InfernoYou all know how much I love tests. Well, Andrea—as Nice Atheist Girl—sent me to the Dante’s Inferno Test. Now, being one of the few people I know who has actually read The Divine Comedy, I feel I should point out that it is not what we in the Jesus biz call canonical. Dante was just having a bit of fun with the Catholic ideas of hell, purgatory and heaven.

What’s more, the writers of this test don’t seem to have read The Inferno themselves. I say this because the results of the test include the category, “Virtuous Non-Believers.” This was the ultimate Christian apologist’s get-out-of-jail-free card. Christians at the time loved the Greek Philosophers, most especially Aristotle. These were noble men. But they couldn’t go to heaven, now could they? Can you say “Original Sin”? I knew you could! Jesus wasn’t around to cleanse their sins. So the “Virtuous Non-Believers” circle is for virtuous people who were around before Christ. Or, I suppose, people who have never heard the word about Jesus. But for a person like me who has heard that Jesus washes away all my sins and still says “What a crock of voodoo!” will not make it into the “Virtuous Non-Believers” circle.

Here’s a little aside. Don’t you think that it at least kind of sucks that God waited all that time to send Jesus down to save us? And don’t you also think that it would have made a lot more sense to send Jesus down somewhere really populated and well-documented like China, perhaps? Even if you are a Bible literalist, God waited 4,000 years to let people just rot without the saving grace of Christ’s blood. And if you aren’t a biblical literalist, he waited at least 100,000 years before it occurred to him that he ought to do something to save men’s souls. There are only two possible conclusions. Either, God is an idiot, who certainly doesn’t deserve to be worshiped. Or God is evil, in which case he, I don’t know, doesn’t deserve to be worshiped.

I know what my good Christian friends will say about this. “I’ve given up trying to understand him; I just accept his love.” But I don’t think I want to accept that kind of love. As Richard Carrier said in The God Who Wasn’t There, he couldn’t be happy in heaven, knowing that his non-believing friends and family members were being tortured forever in hell. So my take on the Christian God, should he exist, is that he’s like Santa Claus: he talks tough, but in the end, all the kids have been good enough. Or, he’s an evil mother fucker who is going to torture us all for eternity, so why even try?

But these are minor issues! What could be more fun than to find out which level of Dante’s Inferno one will end up in! So I took the test. Of course I took the test! I believe in tests! I believe that if you understand a test, it will tell you something about yourself. For example, I think the IQ test might tell us something about ourselves, if only we understood the tests. And we do not understand the tests! And whether we understand the Dante’s Inferno Test, is an issue that I will come back to. But first, here’s how I came out on the test:

The Dante’s Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell – Limbo!

Level Who Are Sent There? Score
Purgatory Repending Believers Very Low
Level 1 – Limbo Virtuous Non-Believers Very High
Level 2 Lustful Moderate
Level 3 Gluttonous Low
Level 4 Prodigal and Avaricious Very Low
Level 5 Wrathful and Gloomy Low
Level 6 – The City of Dis Heretics Moderate
Level 7 Violent High
Level 8 – The Malebolge Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers Moderate
Level 9 – Cocytus Treacherous Low

Take the Dante’s Inferno Hell Test

Let’s be clear here. God is not going to look at my list and say, “Well, he scored highest on ‘Virtuous Non-Believers’ so let’s send him there!” He’s going to say, “This man has some real violence issues!” If he’s at all reflective, God will then wonder if that doesn’t sound like someone he knows really well. And then he will say, “To the 7th level of hell to you!”

But I’ll take the first level of hell! Frankly, I’d much rather be there than in heaven! It would be interesting to hang out with Aristotle. I’ll admit, Socrates might be a bit hard to take. And the fact that Dante put Julius Caesar in this level does not speak well of middle-age thinking on spiritual matters. But whatever. Dante talks about how wonderful the first level of hell is and the only thing that makes him want to leave is how grand it will be in heaven. Having read the Paradiso, I can tell you: he was wrong. Hanging out with Socrates sounds much better.

As for the test itself: I really couldn’t figure it out. I spent a lot of time putting in answers that I thought modern Christians wanted to hear. And I did indeed get an “extreme” score on “Purgatory,” a “very high” on “Virtuous Non-Believers,” and a “very low” on everything else. Except: “Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers.” On that, I only got a “low.” And try as I may, I could not come up with a combination that would give me a “very low” score. Now it is possible that the coding for the test is just screwed up and there is no way to get a “very low” score on that. But it is just as likely, that I don’t understand the modern Christian mind. And that means that I don’t really understand this test.

And look at the results anyway. I don’t think this is a good representation of me. I don’t think a low score for gluttony is right for me. I like food a lot and when I did drugs, I like them a lot and in large quantities. I’m certainly not wrathful but I’m very gloomy—on many days anyway. But how the hell did I get a high score on “violent”? I am absolutely not violent. Similarly, I don’t think that I’m malicious and I am certainly not a panderer. But I am a fraud. So there’s that.

If anyone else wants to take the test, please let me know. I realize that my readership is made up of a bunch of people who this test will think belong in hell. But if you are very lucky (and I think that’s about all it is), you may get to hang out with Socrates and me. And if that’s the case, you can hold him down. And I’ll put the muzzle on him!

The Love of Albert Schweitzer

Albert SchweitzerLots of birthdays today. And I was so tempted to just leave the whole article at that last sentence. But there are some really great people who were born today. But I’m going to have to get through this in pieces. Are you ready? I’m not. Hang on a second… Okay. Here we go.

On this day in 1841, the great impressionist Berthe Morisot was born. I don’t think she gets enough credit as an important member of that movement. Her style is quite distinct from the others of the movement. I think people tend to dismiss her because of her close association with Manet. But as far as I can tell, she influenced him at least as much as he influenced her. Regardless, her work is incredible. I remember when I was very young going to the impressionist show that was touring the country (and probably the world), The New Painting. And it was Morisot that most impressed me—especially in the early years. Since that time, I’ve come to appreciate other people more, but there is no doubt of the quality of her work and her importance.

The great singer-songwriter Maury Muehleisen was born in 1949. He is best know as Jim Croce’s side man. But before he was, Croce was his sideman. And Croce learned a great deal from Muehleisen. Basically, he allowed Croce to move from the pure 3-chord folk songs he was writing to more classical and jazz based chord progressions. Anyway, to give you just a small taste of Muehleisen, here is the first song of his I ever heard sung by him (really, it’s a nice song; listen to it):

Other birthdays: the great French painter Jean-Baptiste van Loo (1684); polymath Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806); French painter Henri Fantin-Latour (1836); creator of Dr Dolittle, Hugh Lofting (1886); anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemoller (1892); great film producer Hal Roach (1892); feminist writer Tillie Olsen (1912); “humorist” Andy Rooney (1919); musician Allen Toussaint (76); actor Faye Dunaway (73); musician T-Bone Burnett (66); actor Carl Weathers (66); film director Lawrence Kasdan (65); generally over-rated film director Steven Soderbergh (51); actor Mark Addy (50); probably liberal, probably gay Fox News host Shepard Smith (50); actor Emily Watson (47); musician LL Cool J (46); and actor Jason Bateman (45).

The day, however, belongs to the great Albert Schweitzer who was born on this day in 1875. There is so much to say about Schweitzer. What I like about him is his theological writings. But the truth is, I just don’t have the energy to look the stuff up. But the main thing I remember about him was his belief that if you were being good so you could get into heaven, then you weren’t really being a Christian. That wasn’t what it was about. If you have Jesus in your heart, then you simply want to do what is right. And this whole modern idea of being “born again” would have repelled him. As did the idea that all you had to do was “believe” in Jesus as though he were the Great Pumpkin. (It is of note that Schweitzer also believed that Jesus and St Paul thought the second coming was coming real soon—like in Paul’s lifetime. I’m not sure quite how you believe that and still continue being a Christian. Humans are amazing animals.)

Schweitzer is probably most remarkable for doing what imperialists always say they are doing: going to help the people. He was a doctor and he did what he thought was best for the people of Gabon. I know that like all of us, he was a man of his time and place. He no doubt was paternalist toward the natives. On the other hand, he was against imperialism. He worked to help the people, not exploit the people. He was a great and a good man.

Happy birthday Albert Schweitzer!

The Anxiety of Never Being Good Enough

John William KeedyThe combination of depression and anxiety is really great. A powerful combination! Recently, I came upon, John William Keedy’s Anxiety-Themed Photo Series. Mostly, I think the photos are kind of lame—at least from the perspective of my anxiety. I don’t think that Mr Keedy really gets the kind of anxiety that I suffer from, but look at him: I’ll bet he has his own personal hell of anxiety. One of the photos, however, sure did sum up my anxiety. This is a detail of it and it pretty much sums up my life.

Of course, I wouldn’t put those on the door that goes out of my house. I try to avoid that. Anyway, there I would put post-it notes that said things like, “Go Back!” The outside is just one big anxiety producing machine. And in addition to everything else, there are thousands of people driving cars who are clearly trying to kill me. Regardless, this kind of sums up my life:

Be Better - John William Keedy

It’s Credit One Not Capital One

Well, the world of banking and credit is indeed a scary place.

Somewhere I stumbled across a credit offer—think it came to my business email—for a new credit card. Since I have been cleaning house lately, credit wise, I thought it might be a good opportunity to consolidate some small debt under a new account. Usually new accounts offer a short period to opt for fee-free or reduced fees on balance transfers with a reduced percentage or 0% introductory interest rates.

In this case, I was especially feeling good about my option since I already had credit with Capital One and was understanding this to be an offer to consolidate my two smaller cards into a single account, with room to grow. (Yikes… With better terms and perhaps a second shrubbery, to create a two-level effect.)[1]

Wrong!

This was not my old friends at Capital One. No. This offer, as it turns out, came from Credit One, which is not only a sound alike company, but also a look-a-like company, since their logo (which is what I really had noticed) is damn close to that of my current creditor. Check it out:

Capital One vs Credit One

Well, the new cards arrived (one for me, one for the espousa). I was shocked to find the offer was only for a $1,000 line of credit and carried a truckload of fees. The paperwork enclosed stated that if I did not activate the cards, the account would be terminated. So, I let things rest as-is.

Today I got a statement from Credit One Bank with a balance of $100.95 and $25 minimum due. Yikes again. The fees included an account initiation fee, a second card fee and a fee for choosing the card design I wanted. Now, I don’t have a totally cuddly relationship with Capital One Both my accounts have relatively small yearly fees, but I do know they will allow me to pick a damn card design and a second card for no extra charge.

Anyway, the good news is they actually did allow me to cancel the account prior to activation, and owe nothing. I called Capital One and gave them a heads up on my mistake. They said they are well aware of the common error but its clearly deceptive name and logo are considered different enough to be legal.


[1] In case you don’t get the reference:

GOP Charges $11 for Process “Survey”

John BoehnerA friend of mine sent me the “2014 Speaker’s Priorities Survey.” It is typical of such things. It isn’t a real survey. To begin with, the questions are all leading. It contains things like, “Do you believe that Obama is the Antichrist or just an evil communist?” Really! Here is the actual first question, “Do you want Republicans in the House of Represenatives to continue doing everything in our power to protect families and small businesses from the ObamaCare disaster?” And, “Do you believe House Republicans have a duty to expose the truth about why the IRS spent years targeting conservative and religious groups for harassment?”

Now, I really like those questions and the six others because they are themselves lies. What ObamaCare disaster could Mr Boehner be talking about? The IRS did not target conservative and religious groups for harassment. They were just doing their jobs and it has been well documented that it wasn’t partisan. In fact, if anything, it was the liberal groups who got the worst treatment.

Of course, the Speaker’s little survey is nothing of the kind. As we know from political science research, pretty much the only people that politicians of either party (but especially the Republican Party) care about are the concerns of their big money donors. And it isn’t about pandering to the prejudices of people on Republican mailing lists nor is it about contributing to the Fox News and hate radio mission to misinform all conservatives. The survey’s real purpose is presented on the second page.

That is where we find that Speaker Boehner wants the survey participant to contribute anywhere from $35 to to $1,000. But I can go along with that. The Republican Party is flattering their supporters by asking their opinions and then they hit them up for contributions. It’s like those free online tests that you take. After they give you the score, they try to sell you stuff. I have no problem with that. But that isn’t all that this “survey” is.

Underneath the “Sure I’ll give you a thousand bucks” section, there is a single check box. Next to it reads, “I cannot send a campaign gift today, but I would still like to include my views in this survey project. To pay for the printing, mailing, and tabulation costs of my SURVERY DOCUMENT, I am enclosing $11.” Get that? “We are only interested in your opinions if you pay us $11.” Assuming they even tabulate the results, the form can be scanned by a computer, with a total cost of about 1¢ to pay for the electricity and the person to dump the thousand surveys into the feeder tray. The survey does come with a postage paid envelope, but printed on it is, “Your first-class stamp will save us much needed funds.” Assuming the idiot who sends in $11 doesn’t put a stamp on, that would cost the NRCC perhaps half the cost of a first class stamp, so maybe we are looking at another 25¢. The tabulation costs are basically nothing.

I’ve seen a lot of amazing conservative scams before—I’m on a number of conservative mailing lists. But I’ve never seen this. I’m sure if you send in the $11, it does go to a different account to pay for office expenses, thus meaning that regular contributions don’t need to pay for such things so that that money can go to television ads that spread the misinformation that is found in their survey. So regardless of how you look at it, paying to have the survey “processed” is the same as sending in a contribution.

The amount is interesting too. Why $11? That’s certainly not what it costs. But it is so exact, implying that they worked out how much money it really does cost to process their fake survey. “Do you think the Republicans should try to maintain control of the House of Representatives rather than allowing the Hitler-loving Democrats to take over control?” I am aware, of course, that Democrats (and all groups for that matter), send out these kinds of highly leading surveys as a way to raise money. But the processing fee strikes me as over the top. But I’m sure if it isn’t in widespread use, it will be. The Republican Party has been leading this country in the worst way possible for decades. Why would they stop now?