Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

I’ve been having a bit of a tiff with a poster on a list of late. Yes dear reader, I know you are shocked by this. I’ve been arguing with a professed christian about the origin of the phrase Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child and the nature of the proper disciplining of children.

As for the first part, the phrase originates in a satirical poem concerning the Puritans by Samuel Butler. The poem, Hudibras goes like this:

If matrimony and hanging go
By dest’ny, why not whipping too?
What med’cine else can cure the fits
Of lovers when they lose their wits?
Love is a boy by poets stil’d;
Then spare the rod and spoil the child.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I doubt that the average fundamentalist would be comfortable repeating the phrase if they knew that it’s origin was in a poem that lampoon’s their ideological forebears. (editor’s note: a close reading of the poem results in the observation that the final word of the final verse has to be pronounced ‘chilled’ rather than ‘child’ in order for the rhyming to work properly. I wonder if that represents language drift over the centuries or poetic license by the poet?)

On the subject of corporal punishment, I’ll say this; I don’t do it. It never taught me anything as a child, other than to mask my behavior so as to avoid punishment, and to spend hours trying to figure out how to get back at those who punished me.

I was taken out in the hallway on a daily basis in first grade, and given ‘licks’ (application of the paddle to the posterior) because my teacher was convinced that it would make me work faster. According to my mother, what it got her was fired. I never noticed any motivational improvement, myself. I’m reasonably certain that it made me more of an introvert than I already was, and insured that I would never draw attention to myself during class time for the rest of my term of imprisonment in government school.

It probably has something to do with my complete unwillingness to conform to any imposed standard as well. But I digress.

The few times that I have ever attempted to use corporal punishment on my children, it has backfired, with one exception. Both of them, as toddlers, attempted to wander out of the yard and into the street near our home. A quick smack on the behind was all it took to keep them from ever trying that again. The unfamiliarity of the pain is the key. If I had smacked them every time some little transgression had occurred, they wouldn’t even have noticed when I was trying to warn them away from a life-threatening action. Every other time I’ve given in to the urge, I’ve regretted it. It just doesn’t work.

Rather than punish, the wife and I attempt to impress the consequences of the improper action upon the child (Faber and Mazlish have a bit to say on the subject) It’s not always easy, and it’s not always effective. But I’ve never regretted taking the time to try something other than lashing out at the offending child, which is more than I can say for the alternative.

Of course, I said something a little more inflammatory to my opponent. Something like this:

I’m glad they aren’t allowed to beat my children. I don’t beat my children, and I’m the only one who should be allowed to beat my children. I was the target of choice in school for bullies (students and teachers alike) for most of my school life. My children are in school because I want them to learn rather than be forced to dodge bullies on a daily or hourly basis. You have to earn respect, not beat the students into submission in order to get it.

…and it’s a knee slapper, the idea that beating children is something Jesus was in favor of. I pity your children. Hopefully they’ll find good recreational drugs to ease the pain of their existence.

In hindsight, I think I was too easy on him.

Codes and Jesus the Superstar

I was reading a review of the Da Vinci Code movie over at the Atlasphere (The Da Vinci Code: Fighting Faith and Force) the other day, and noticed one of the links at the bottom of the page labeled the U.S. Catholic Bishops Brown-bashing site” I found the link intriguing, so I clicked on it.

The actual title of the page was the funny part. “Jesus decoded“, it proclaims.

That’s a great idea. Maybe they can explain the trick with the fishes and the loaves of bread, or perhaps the walking on water. That would be good to know. The most important trick, of course, would be the changing of water into wine. Very popular at parties, I would imagine.

Too bad this sort of insight wasn’t available to Judas ‘back in the day’. Might have saved him a lot of missteps. “Who are you, what have you sacrificed?” One of the most memorable lines of lyrics from Jesus Christ Superstar. Judas, as one of the disciples, should have known how to ‘decode’ Jesus. Obviously it isn’t as easy as the Catholic Bishops would have us believe.

A fondness for Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the few things that remains constant from my days as a ‘born again’ to my current ascribed atheism. I picked up the DVD recently and watched the movie for the first time. Alamo Drafthouse aired snippets of the movie between showings of The Da Vinci Code (I have written about the movie and the book before) and it intrigued me. I’ve listened to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack since the early eighties, but I’ve never had the occasion to watch the film made from the play. Little did I know that the soundtrack was in fact the original version, created before the play even took shape.

That makes it all the more interesting to me that they chose to alter some of the lyrics from the soundtrack in making the play and the film. One of the most telling lines, for me, has always been Jesus’ despairing declaration to the lepers “Heal yourselves!” which is the last line in that song on the soundtrack. The movie uses a much more ambiguous “Leave me alone!” to end the song.

I prefer the more empowering declaration, myself. More fitting in describing what is wrong in the world today. The vast majority of people seem to think that what they need to fix themselves is external to their selves; when, obviously, the answers lie within.

Judas fails to comprehend were the answers lie as well. The movie, album, etc. ends with Judas still asking questions of Jesus (which still plays quite well) when the real question is why Judas would turn in the man he professes to love. Jesus Decoded, indeed.

Auto Exorcism

Driving the kids to school this morning, the car stalled out as I went to make a turn. Didn’t realize it until I looked down at the dash and noticed the warning lights were lit. I also noticed that the odometer read 66.6, the Trip Meter of the Beast.

I wonder if having the car exorcised would be cheaper than having it serviced and repaired? Well, actually the question is, would an exorcism performed on a car actually make it run better? I know a service call will. And, of course, on an entirely different level, will the exorcism save it’s immortal soul and get it into car heaven one day?

These are the questions one asks when operating on 2 hours of sleep and 3 cups of coffee. I think I need more coffee…

Da Vinci Court & Opus Dei

Noticed on news today that the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail are looking for a slice of Dan Brown‘s Da Vinci Code pie.

Maybe they should have written a fiction novel instead of trying for the non-fiction label themselves. They would have needed more of a plot, though.


Read this defense of the antagonists faith from the novel, Opus Dei the other day. I gotta tell you, he doesn’t convince me that the behavior makes sense, or that I would want to sign up for that kind of self abuse. What he does convince me of is why the church is so desperate to retain membership that they would do some of the things that they’ve been accused of doing of late.

“You want me to inflict pain on myself so that I can experience some spiritual growth? Uh, no thanks, dude.”

I would suspect that, if you believed that inflicting pain on yourself lead to your long term benefit, you might come to believe that inflicting pain on others might be to their long term benefit. Sounds pretty sick to me.


Looking forward to watching the movie. Don’t know if I can quite picture Tom Hanks in the lead role, but the clips I saw on the news story seemed pretty interesting.

Beyond the Da Vinci Code

I read the Da Vinci Code; I thought it was a good bit of fiction, a gripping who-done-it with a clever twist at the end, as good as any of the mystery writers that I’ve enjoyed over the years, with just that bit of ‘what if’ that stirs the mental soup even when you’ve finished reading it.

I’d like to stress the word fiction again, just for those jumpy christian types who keep thinking that it is possible to disprove something that is published as fiction.

Seriously, three hours, and counting, of material on the “History Channel” (which gets confounded sometimes as to whether it’s actually supposed to be the PTL or the militarism channel) attempting to prove that a work of fiction is in fact, fiction.

“Yeah, it’s says it right on the spine of the book, thanks for caring, though.”

Not that they didn’t have some interesting sources during the course of the three hours. Sources that lent more credence to the thought that the story was a bit more than fiction, than to the blatant attempt to discredit the book as, once again, fiction.

So, just for grins, here are the sources:

Dr. Deirdre Good – General Theological Seminary
Dr. Karen RallsThe Templars and the Grail
Richard Leigh – Holy Blood, Holy Grail
Timothy FrekeThe Jesus Mysteries
Margaret StarbirdThe Woman with the Alabaster Jar

A heartfelt encouragement of ‘good reading’ I give to you all. May you find it as intriguing as I found the History channel programs frustrating, with the exception of the insights from the sources listed above.

People should question their most firmly held beliefs. Every day. If your beliefs cannot withstand your own questioning, then are they really your beliefs?

It’s called ‘Philosophy’

This was an open letter to a local Talk Show that was being guest hosted by a local State Rep. (whose opinions I generally agree with, but not that day) who kept wondering, on air, how anyone could get by without religion to shape their moral fibre; and what a shame it was that the importance of religion in American society was failing, since we are a ‘Christian nation’ after all.

[three guesses what set me off in the first place. Bet you don’t need two of them]


Dear XXXXXXX,

The word you are struggling to find is ‘philosophy’. Philosophy, even amongst the religious, is where morals come from. I say this as an Objectivist, Americans ignore the importance of establishing and maintaining a personal philosophy at their own peril.

It is the short-cutters, who turn to religion and superstition to answer their metaphysical questions, that are to blame for the degradation of the morals in our society; not a lack of ‘faith’ or ‘prayer in schools’ or whatever imagined slight the Christian Right wants to whine about today.

Contrary to popular opinion, the founders where not christians, they were Deists.

From EarlyAmerica.com:

“The Founding Fathers, also, rarely practiced Christian orthodoxy. Although they supported the free exercise of any religion, they understood the dangers of religion. Most of them believed in deism and attended Freemasonry lodges. According to John J. Robinson, “Freemasonry had been a powerful force for religious freedom.” Freemasons took seriously the principle that men should worship according to their own conscious. Masonry welcomed anyone from any religion or non-religion, as long as they believed in a Supreme Being. Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Hamilton, Lafayette, and many others accepted Freemasonry.”

One of the most religious men in the continental congress was John Adams, and he was a Unitarian.

This is my answer to the question you posed. I only wish I could have called in to set you right in your confusion. Religion is a curse that will betray America to ruin; and that very soon. Philosophy needs to be taught to children as a part of their school curriculum. It is every bit as important as the 3 “R’s”. (so does economics need to be taught, but that is a different subject) Only with the mental tools for judging and abiding by morals of their own, will our children be able to stop the moral decline that this country is in.

I too had to turn off the program today. One more holier than thou phone caller trying to tell me how I needed to go to church would have sent me over the edge.


These days I just point people who ask these types of questions to the study published in the Journal of Religion and Society titled Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, that shows the impact of fervent religious belief on society as a whole is negative. Don’t know what else needs to be said on the subject.

Christmas, day Two

I keep getting comments on the “Lists” post, and I also get comments in my e-mail from people too bashful to comment publicly…

[I’m apparently breaking some rule or other by letting the little voices in my head out; they’re supposed to be my secret or something]

…Links directing me to sites detailing the “History of Christmas” and the like. Good natured people trying to make sure I understand the Christian intent of the holiday. I seem to have opened a can of worms here.

So I guess I’ll offer further explanation. For What It’s Worth, I’m a purist on the subject of religion…

[and not much else. I figure religion is one of those types of things where you can afford to be a purist or idealist. After all, if your own beliefs can’t be your own beliefs, what’s the point of claiming anything as being your own]

…either I agree with the main tenets of the faith, philosophy, whatever, or I don’t. If I don’t, then I don’t claim to agree just to put myself in the ‘right’ group. It’s one of the reasons I’m no longer a (practicing or otherwise) Christian. In my experience, most people who call themselves Christian do so because it’s expected of them, and go to church for ‘fellowship’ (What those of us in SF circles get from a good convention) not because they have a ‘belief’ in god. Few of the remainder read the bible, or attempt to find out what it really means to be Christian.

At one point in the past, I was one of ‘the few’. I took the teachings of the church to heart and tried to make sense of what was expected of me as a Christian. I have read a majority of the Bible (can’t say I’ve read it cover to cover) and I’ve read the scriptures of other religions as well. I was one of those ‘born agains’ once; I consider myself fortunate to have fallen off of that wagon.

So, please harbor no illusions about ‘saving’ me (I’ve got a GOOHF card for that) or thinking that perhaps I just don’t get it.

As I pointed out before; Christmas, as a religious holiday, is a Catholic creation. I’ll defer to them as to what that means within a religious context (I ran across an interesting site discussing the twelve days of Christmas while looking around for that site) Yule is also a religious holiday, with it’s own customs.

I celebrate the secularized solstice holiday referred to in the US as ‘Christmas’, which involves a jolly fat guy who delivers presents dressed in a red suit. We spend the holiday with family and friends, giving gifts and trying to brighten the ‘Winter’ (Winter in central Texas is a frame of mind more than anything else; it certainly doesn’t have much to do with the weather) I also spend time reflecting on what the passing of this year means to me, and preparing to celebrate the New Year.

I guess, in a way, I still hearken back to the original ‘holiday’, the classic 12 days. But mine is more like 7 days (or 10 days, from the actual solstice to the end of the year) Maybe I’ll have to make up my own mnemonic song…

Christmas lists…

“Dear Buddha, I would like a pony and a plastic rocket…”

Malcolm Reynolds

I have a different kind of list in mind. A list of standard rants that I just want to get off my chest. The opportunity for them occurs nearly every “Holiday Season”. So let’s just get to it, shall we?

First.

Every year, I hear the same thing. “Holiday this” and “Holiday that” and the counter mantra “they’re taking god out of Christmas”. There seems to be some confusion about the origin of ‘Christmas’. Let’s see if we can clear this up, eh?
Christmas is a ‘bastardization’ of “Christ’s Mass”, which is a Catholic celebration. The Catholics, being the earliest example of ‘admen‘ on the planet, realized that they could more easily sell their religion if they simply adopted the holidays in the areas that they wished to convert. When they moved into Northern Europe, they took on the holiday known as Yule and incorporated it into their religion as the day of Christ’s birth (even though it’s considered most likely that the date would have been in spring) ergo, “Christ’s Mass”. (Mass being what a protestant refers to as a ‘sermon’) What I’m getting at is, if you are calling the holiday ‘Christmas’ and you aren’t a Catholic, you are referring to the secularized holiday formerly known as Yule. There is no need to further secularize it by calling it a “Holiday”.

(I was at a charter school the other day that is hosted at a Catholic Church, and they actually used the phrase “Holiday Party” to describe the Christmas Party. If there’s one group that should be using the word “Christmas” it’s the Catholics)

So, if you hear me wish you a “Merry Christmas”, it’s because “May your feast of the Winter Solstice be enjoyable” is too cumbersome to say repeatedly.

Second.

“Jesus is the reason for the season”. See the above rant. Axis tilt (22.5 degrees) is the reason for the season. Lack of sunlight causing depression is the reason for the celebration. Marketing is the reason that Jesus is associated with the season.

Admen everywhere should give thanks for their unique heritage; and I really don’t understand a protestants insistance on associating Jesus and the Holiday formerly known as Yule. I thought they wanted to get away from Papal edict?

Third.

For some reason, the last few Christmas seasons have occasioned messages in my inbox exhorting us to rediscover our ‘Christian roots’, telling us to hold tight to our language and our culture. Most of them have declarative statements similar to the following:

“…Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented.”

Anyone who has done more than a cursory hours worth of work on the subject KNOWS that this is incorrect. If you are talking about the ‘Founding fathers’, then you are talking about educated men for whom the dogma of organized religion represented the belief system of the past. True men of the enlightenment age (most of them) while they still professed a belief in god, they were not ‘Christians’. Fully half of them were acknowledged ‘Deists‘, which is the belief system of the true ‘father’ of the philosophy that is enshrined in the founding documents, John Locke, who first wrote the famous phrase as life, liberty, and estate (Jefferson changed the last to “Pursuit of Happiness” for various reasons)

But, the basis for this (country and philosophy) is not Christianity!

If, however, you are talking about the average people who founded this country…
…Then you would also be mistaken. From Buddhism to Zoroastrianism America has been host to every religion known to man, and those who came here weren’t told to “check their religion at the door”. We don’t even “Speak English” as some of the posts assert (the British would attest to that quite readily) walk into any major city and see how many languages you run across.

While I despise the word “multiculturalism” as much as the next guy (the next guy probably being blissfully ignorant of Postmodernism and it’s adherent’s dismissal of objective reality and reason. Reason being the basis for Humanism and the Enlightenment, this country’s REAL foundations) the “Melting pot” that is America isn’t something that happens instantaneously; and as with any alloy, the base material is changed by what is added.

Yes, I know, I’ve ruined Christmas for you. I’m sorry but, the world isn’t as simple as you want it to be, it won’t change just because you think it should, and like those toys you bought for the kids, it won’t go back in the !@#$%^&*! box so that you can return it to the pimply clerk that sold it to you so that you can just get the preassembled one that has all the pieces in the right place! The kid will be happy for the gift anyway, he probably won’t notice the missing parts, and the world will continue to spin on it’s (tilted) axis whether we will it or not.

Just relax, sit back, and have some more eggnog (or whatever your beverage of choice is) it’s just a few more weeks and then we’ll have a whole new year of problems to deal with. Now isn’t that a refreshing outlook?

…Oh, and Merry Christmas!