Pot Stickers and Cervantes’ Six Teeth

Pot StickersI was frying up some pot stickers. Why? Well, I don’t feel well. And steamed pot stickers, while doubtless much better for me, are edible but hardly delightful. And as I was frying these things, I had to flip them each two times. That’s because they have, roughly speaking three sides. And every time I flipped them, I was lightly splattered with very hot oil.

Now before anyone starts writing comments about how I can flip my pot stickers without burning my hands, let me tell you: I know. Feel free to send in your best tips, but don’t think me such a fool that I am unable to do so. The reason that I don’t take precautions is the whole point of this article.

Pot Stickers Aside: Facebook Rant

(Well, the actual point of this article is to see if the ridiculous amount of work I did trying to get my posts to display automatically on Facebook worked. I’m not that hopeful. I find it interesting that in a day, I’ve received 9 “post engagements” on Facebook but not one single click. This, I take, as an indictment of Facebook and humanity as a whole. As I’ve long said, Facebook is just a photo sharing site, and that’s quite right. I’m amazed that people post images with statistics that don’t go along with links to the actual data. But I digress.)

Thicker Skin and Cervantes’ Teeth

So there I am frying up my pot stickers and having my hands lightly burned and not caring. In fact, I hardly even noticed. But it occurred to me, if I had been doing this when I was 8 years old, I would be crying. Over the years, physical pain has doubtless dulled my senses as well as my perception of the pain. And so we come to what I think of as real men, like my father, who seem to deal very well with pain. It must just be that over time, these men had gradually grown what is, in the pot sticker case, a thinker skin.

This reminds me of Cervantes. In the prologue of Exemplary Stories, he mentions that he had only six teeth “in bad condition and worse placed, no two of them corresponding to each other.” The great writer was doubtless exaggerating. But I’m sure that he did have rather bad teeth and had a number of them pulled without benefit of Novocain. Is it possible his last tooth extraction bothered him as much as the oil splashing on my hands? I suspect so.

I’m not concerned that people will consider me a wuss. One of the greatest pleasures of old age is learning not to care what people think of you. But it makes me feel better about the people who came before me who suffered so much. I want to think that it wasn’t as bad for them as it sounds to us.


It worked! It worked!

Atheists Need to Understand Theology

Stephen Hawking

I joined Facebook recently. I did it in a moment of panic because I saw that FranklyCurious was available. So if you are on Facebook, you might friend or like or whatever the hell it is one does on the damnable thing. Here’s my account: FranklyCurious.

A guy named Steve Hall posted the image above. It’s quite well done. At the same time, it made me bristle. The quote is from Stephen Hawking and it reads, “What was God doing before the divine creation? Was he preparing hell for people who asked such questions?” It appears to have been said during a talk at Cal Tech three years ago. And I’m sure he said many smart things during that talk. But these two sentences are stupid.

Fundamentalists’ Frame

Although amusing, this kind of statement puts the discussion in the fundamentalists’ frame. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas well understood that such a conception of God was both facile and heretical to the Catholic Church. This is a good example of why I find myself a very lonely atheist. How can I be part of the atheist community when the vast majority of people in it think about God and religion with as limited a frame as the most backward fundamentalist? If atheists can’t address eight century old thought, what good are they?

“What was God doing?”!

Really?! That’s what Hawking thinks the nature of religious belief is? Would he ever ask the similarly silly question, “What was the universe doing before it sprang into existence?”?! Yet he seems to have taken spiritual guidance from people who know even less about theology than Pat Robertson.

Negative Theology

The only kind of theology that I’ve ever been able to get my head around is negative theology. This is a form of theology where people try to understand God by determining what God cannot be. And the most basic idea in negative theology is that God cannot be a thing in the sense that the Sun is a thing or even the multiverse is a thing. Such a conception of God denigrates the concept. God is simply something powerful. “I am God to my pet rat,” for example.

This is also why atheist proofs are so silly. “Could God create something so heavy he couldn’t lift it?” Such paradoxes are based upon the conception of God as we see it in cartoons: a white bearded man on a throne in the clouds. I understand: this is indeed the way most theists look at God. One of the biggest problems with religion today is that most believers would not see a problem with the question, “What was God doing before divine creation?” But that is their problem, not mine. I am no more interested in arguing with them about such theological caricatures as I am in discussing Bigfoot.

Atheists Need to Learn

But here is a very big problem with the atheist movement. They’ve been pretty good at converting fundamentalists to atheists. But I don’t consider these new “atheists” as believing anything but that their former religious beliefs were silly. What happens when they get a clue? What happens when they learn that there is more to religion that the dogma of a controlling and power hungry church?

One day, atheists will have to sit down with serious theists. As for now, they mostly ignore them. And when they don’t, the atheists are so ignorant of theology that they can’t even understand what the theologians are talking about. And the atheists — with great hubris — take this to mean that the theologians must be wrong. It’s pathetic.

One can’t be an atheist without knowing what it is to be a theist. And most atheists don’t seem to even know what God is supposed to be. What they seem to be against is ignorant people with childish beliefs. If that’s the case, we should call such people areligious. They don’t know or care enough to have an opinion about God, and thus don’t deserve to be called atheists.