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Excellent review of the Star Wars movie. I haven't seen it but what you wrote is pretty much what I expect. Yeah - you HAVE to go if you were in a movie line for the first one back in 77, but you pretty much know that this is kind of like a Kiss Farewell Concert... a whole lot of "Hey remember when..." and not a lot of "hey wow this is great". Shame.
Degenerate BH

It was with a (slightly) heavy heart that I realized that I would not be seeing LucasFilms latest. For you, the first Star Wars "was as close to a religious experience for me as I ve had."
For me, it actually was my first memorable religious experience. I went with my church's youth group and after we saw it, we went back and talked about the larger implications of some of the themes presented. Since that day I have done this with a lot of movies. Especially since I became disillusioned with Christianity (as it is taught these days) back in college. I love finding bits and pieces of insight into our souls and The Mind of God in movies (and in pop culture in general.) Now that my spirituality is fairly quantum physics based, and quantum physics has become so popular recently, I find good stuff everywhere.
When I saw Episode I, I was so disappointed that I swore, "NEVER AGAIN!" as I left. (The Force is a virus that you catch? puhlease!) But of course, I saw Episode II, hoping against hope- only to want to scream at Natalie Portman, "ARE YOU KIDDING?!! You were the queen of a planet, you can do better than that simpering, whiny little boy!" among many, many other things that were just so wrong with that movie, that I also felt like even I could fix.
So I say the same thing about Episode III as I said about the third Matrix, "HELL NO!!" Especially 'hell no' at $8.75. The more money we give them just encourages shitty, schlocky crap. George Lucas fucked up a beautiful (flawed, but beautiful) thing. AND he fucked with my childhood, I was 12 when Episode IV came out.
All that being said, the Salon article suggests something else that is becoming more well known lately. . . Christianity should just go ahead and change its name to Judgementalism, and religious fundamentalism of any kind is probably more related to mental illness than to anything approaching true spirituality.
Degenerate ES

Editor’s note: hey great segue! Here’s a response to last week’s Blasphemy:

Your last Blasphemy disappointed me. I could cut loose on you full-bore (but I won't as I would then be fully boring) for taking the side of such extremism as Dawkins shows -- the quote shows a beautiful example of black and white, all-or-nothing "thinking" which he himself would not tolerate in his own profession, biology.
Which brings us to a primary problem here: When we want to know what the problem with our broken refrigerator might be, do we consult a professional ditch digger? Well, no, as the ditch digger probably has little expertise with the topic. So why in the world would we consult an evolutionary biologist to diagnose and propose solutions to the ethical, religious, and political questions of our day? I'll grant you, within his narrow field of specialization, the man is doubtless a genius. But, as most specialists show, once they step beyond that narrow boundary line of their specialty, they begin to utter exactly the same sort of buffoonish nonsense as every other person without proper training in a subject -- even if Dawkins can utter his buffoonery in an intelligent and persuasive fashion.
I will make this single pass at the subject -- science does not offer us ultimate truth about anything. When science talks about reality, first off, it strains the reality we live in through a sieve of concepts that leaves only certain phenomena -- measurable phenomena, repetitious phenomena. It uses concepts like "matter" which is every bit an object of faith as something like "spirit"; if you don't believe me, ask yourself, when is the last time I saw matter? If I look around me, I do not see matter, I see a window and trees, this wall, and a computer screen. Other people. "Matter" is a concept that allows me to talk about all of these things "as if" they were nothing but their measurable aspects. However, this is nothing more than a useful fiction as science and its methods are incapable of talking about anything except the measurable; which is why, when scientists foolishly go looking for God or the soul with scientific methods, they cannot find Him, as God, by any worthwhile definition is infinite, immeasurable, and generally unknowable. So many like Dawkins pronounce Him a "delusion" on the grounds they didn't even use the right method to look.
I have a pencil. I have a unit of measurement I call a centimeter. I measure my pencil with a ruler and it says the pencil is 15 cm. The pencil is also a sort of blue green I find beautiful, the eraser was gnawed on when I was nervous about an inspection, and it reminds me of being in the third grade and an abusive teacher. A pencil could be a symbol for creativity. Historically, it represents a stage in the development of communication. None of this latter stuff that is also a part of my experience of the pencil matters to the measurement. Your experience of the pencil could (and would) differ from mine but the measurement will be the same, 15 cm. So observations like "the pencil is 15 cm" can be the basis of science and the others can't. But does this mean the pencil is only "15 cm"? Is everything that is 15 cm and my pencil interchangeable? Worse, is the pencil really 15 cm long? The abstract "15 cm" in my mind, the ruler that reads "15 cm" and the pencil are three entirely different things and they, at best, only approximate one another. Even the measurement of the pencil involves a subjective element, the judgment that the thing is "more or less" 15 cm. On the basis of this we decide to treat the pencil "as if" it is 15 cm, and so long as this provides useful results, we will continue to do so. But notice: we are then really talking about a fictitious pencil, an ideal, abstract one that the real one is "sort of" like. This is the maneuver that allows scientific thought -- it no longer talks about reality but symbolizes it and treats the symbols "as if" it were reality. Is this useful, does it provide the basis for technology? Yes. Does it provide knowledge? Yes, of a sort and to a degree. Is this knowledge absolute in any way and does science talk about reality as reality actually IS? No, it does not and it cannot and for it to claim that it is doing so is ridiculous.
Even when science talks about the existence of noncontroversial things such as humans or chimps or trees or rocks, in the end two different and related lines of reasoning inevitably emerge: 1) The "reality" of these beings is their repetitious. measurable aspects and 2) they are really nothing but differing stages in one process, each stage more complex than the former, but, in truth, reducible to "matter" and "energy" working themselves out in an aimless fashion. Which, in order to do science, is pretty much the fiction one has to accept in order to get useful results; but good scientists generally do not confuse the fact that their basic assumptions about reality are hypothetical and held only on condition of their fruitfulness, with some faith that science is the new religious truth, capable of supplanting all others, philosophical, religious, artistic, historical -- whatever.
In philosophy, we call such a faith that science is THE TRUTH positivism; its history is as unfortunate and non-productive as every other form of religious fundamentalism one could care to mention, because, I am sorry to inform you, positivism is a religion, a religion that deifies matter and physico-mathematical thought, and it is a fundamentalism because it only takes its findings as literally true and not metaphorically, symbolically, or pragmatically true.
Science, at best, can speak of probabilities, and probabilities are always a matter of "more or less," and matters of more or less are always matters that one could be mistaken about. Which is not a flaw in science but one of its strengths when scientists recognize it and do not suddenly pretend they have solid enough ground to roll over every other perspective on truth. Science, when practiced aright, is a humble pursuit -- but then again, so is religion, philosophy, and art; fundamentalism in any of these pursuits is simply an aberration, not a necessity; it is a failure of reason and humility, not a failure of science, religion, philosophy, or art.
Degenerate RVI

Editor's note:
Or, as Garrison Keillor wrote in an article for The Nation discussing the state of modern radio:
Once, on the Merritt Parkway heading for New York, I came upon The American Atheist Hour, the sheer tedium of which was wildly entertaining--there's nobody so humorless as a devout atheist.


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