The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

Despite Appearances

June 21, 2006 | 26 Comments

“Indians by the thousands are descending on a remote village in eastern West Bengal to worship a man who scampers up trees, gobbles up bananas and has a ‘tail’ . . . [t]hey believe he is a reincarnation of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman and that his 13-inch tail has healing powers,” reports today’s New York Post.

Similarly, a few years ago a Nepalese village hailed a girl with four eyes, two mouths and two noses as the incarnation of the goddess Bhagawati. At the time I noted that the ability to “see God’s image” in such people was touching, certainly an improvement over the “lookist” tendency of many cultures to stigmatize disability and difference. But observe that in both the Bengalese and Nepalese cases, looks are still the basis for adoration: what matters is the visual resemblance to a particular deity. Those with deformities not corresponding to the features of any god (or perhaps features shared by demons) might well receive uglier treatment.

Preferable is the Biblical ideal — “[t]he LORD does not look at the things man looks at . . . [m]an looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Even so, the LORD is not portrayed as completely insensible to looks. He recognizes physical beauty, which implies he perceives “ugly”, too, and all the gradations in between. His talent, then, is apparently in disregarding it in favor of each person’s moral worth.

One of the benefits of the internet is that we are often unaware, and thus undistracted, by the appearance of those with whom we interact. Even when this is not the case, participation in the Blogosphere compels an intense focus on the pure essence of an individual person — on the human mind as expressed through words. So like the Biblical God, we are able to form a greater appreciation for the inner aspects of a person than the outer. The lesson often learned is that the plainest people may be the most plainly good, and that the most hideous evil may lurk behind a pretty face.

Comments

26 Responses to “Despite Appearances”

  1. Some Guy
    June 21st, 2006 @ 2:22 pm

    I’ve read that attractive (as well as tall) men and women might be more likely to be selected for certain high-paying, high-status jobs because others mistake the attractiveness for talent, competence etc. I think this is called the Halo Effect. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I’m sure we’ve all had experiences though where we might have been talked into doing something or buying something (or not) just because the person presenting an idea or product had a certain appearance.

    I think it’s funny how this could work in reverse in some cultures.

  2. Jahrta
    June 21st, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

    “Preferable is the Biblical ideal — “[t]he LORD does not look at the things man looks at . . . [m]an looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Even so, the LORD is not portrayed as completely insensible to looks. He recognizes physical beauty, which implies he perceives “ugly”, too, and all the gradations in between. His talent, then, is apparently in disregarding it in favor of each person’s moral worth. ”

    Actually, if I’m not mistaken, I seem to recall a passage in the bible where god supposedly says that men with deformed genitalia are not worthy to offer up their prayers. There are other passages saying that people of diminished mental capacity and with other visible deformities are not welcome in god’s kingdom. Yep…god sure is love.

  3. Tenspace
    June 21st, 2006 @ 4:17 pm

    Jahrta, it’s all in Leviticus. Start with 21:16 –

    [i]Lev 21:16 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
    Lev 21:17 Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever [he be] of thy seed in their generations that hath [any] blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.
    Lev 21:18 For whatsoever man [he be] that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,
    Lev 21:19 Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,
    Lev 21:20 Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, [b]or hath his stones broken[/b];
    Lev 21:21 No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.

    Lev 21:22 He shall eat the bread of his God, [both] of the most holy, and of the holy.

    Lev 21:23 Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.

    Lev 21:24 And Moses told [it] unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel. [/i]

  4. Thorngod
    June 21st, 2006 @ 4:19 pm

    I think I recall an instance in the book of Jeremia where WHWH expresses his revulsion and inacceptance of a deformed subject, probably where he was giving Jeremiah the voodoo-style prescription for cleansing himself and making himself worthy of the assignment he was about to receive. Lily can probably provide a number of these.

  5. Tenspace
    June 21st, 2006 @ 4:25 pm

    Sorry for the bbcode above… TypePad is being a little bitch, won’t let me edit.. y’all will just have to live with it.

  6. Dave
    June 21st, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

    “The lesson often learned is that the plainest people may be the most plainly good, and that the most hideous evil may lurk behind a pretty face. ”

    Plain people may also be evil, of course, and moral behavior may “lurk behind a pretty face”.

  7. Lily
    June 21st, 2006 @ 5:44 pm

    Oh, you had to invoke me, eh? Well this is my last message until next week. I should be packing.

    Re: Ten’s Leviticus quotes and assorted references to deformity… the answer, in one word, is ritual. It is known and practiced in all societies.

    What is up here is the way to avoid offering to God an acceptable offering. It is really tacky to offer the Lord of creation anything less than what is perfect. That’s why the animals used ritually had to be without blemish.

    So when it came time to offer up the one sacrifice to free the people from sin for all time, it had to be the only sacrifice that could do it, Jesus, perfect God and perfect man.

    If that is too religious for you, try this experiment: buy a bouquet of flowers for your girlfriend and/or wife. Leave it in the car in the heat all day til limp. Then offer it to her.

    If she lets you live, go buy her a fresh bouquet and 5 lbs of chocolate.

    While not perfect, that is a rough analogy. You do not offer garbage to someone you love and respect.

  8. qedpro
    June 21st, 2006 @ 9:40 pm

    good and bad have nothing to do with pretty.
    Hitler, Manson – not exactly chippendales

  9. interior designer
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 8:36 am

    Even so, the LORD is not portrayed as completely insensible to looks. He recognizes physical beauty, which implies he perceives “ugly”, too, and all the gradations in between. His talent, then, is apparently in disregarding it in favor of each person’s moral worth. ——————> hmmm… if a man sees everything beautiful, can “ugly” have a place in his sphere of consciousness?

    Another way of looking at it is to think that God simply sees beauty in all. It’s the heart that we carry that makes the difference. And that’s what counts to God.

  10. Jahrta
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 9:05 am

    “Another way of looking at it is to think that God simply sees beauty in all. It’s the heart that we carry that makes the difference. And that’s what counts to God.”

    Another way of looking at it is to think that Harry Potter simply sees beauty in all. it’s the heart that we carry that makes the difference. And that’s what counts to Harry Potter

    Do you see how nonsensical all of that actually is?

  11. Thorngod
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 9:09 am

    Sounds cozy, but I have strong doubts. I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that he’s a magician and a grafitti artist, and spends most of his time causing marble statues of Mary and Jesus to weep human tears, and making images of them appear on rusting water towers and dank culvert walls.

  12. Michael Bains
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 10:11 am

    RA, that was a beautiful post.

    Thanks

  13. Nightfly
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

    Interesting theory there from Leviticus – but entirely mistaken, I’m afraid.

    For one thing, it demonstrates the error of clerisy. Just because a particular person is excluded from a particular role does NOT mean that they are unwelcome in the kingdom or among the people. A church is more than its priests, just as a company is more than its board of directors or a team is more than its coaching staff. And in this case, there was a good reason to make an exclusion based on physical infirmity: this role involved offering the symbolic sacrifice of the people to God in expiation of sin, and that sacrifice had to be as close to perfect as possible, both in what was offered and in who offered it – not because God is picky or too demanding, but because of the nature of sin and of atonement. (I’d personally want someone as well-qualified as possible, since that someone is offering the sacrifice for me.)

    For example, if you wanted to make up for something you did wrong, you’d apologize. But if it was something spectacularly wrong – wrecking someone’s car, putting someone in the hospital – you wouldn’t leave it at that. You’d pay for the damage and replace what was lost in some way. And if it was your car, who would you say had atoned for wrecking it, the one who replaced it with a newer, better model, or the one who sent a “Condolences” card and a skateboard?

    Finally it’s worth noting that God didn’t set aside this requirement for Himself. Christ, God made man, became our sacrifice and died to redeem the world: prefect priest and perfect victim. Before He did this, He spent a good deal of His time healing those who were infirm and sick (or even dead). And this salvation established the Kingdom forever, for the pretty or the homely or the disabled.

    And of course replacing “God” with “Harry Potter” is nonsensical, primarily because Harry Potter didn’t create all things seen and unseen. But don’t fret – “God sure is love” was, at least, correct.

  14. HappyNat
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

    I think god sees ugly in all, have you seen some of the people he has come up with? All loving, indeed!

  15. PhalsePhrophet
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 9:30 pm

    India has long battled the religious scammers. Those not born with deformities often mutilate themselves to further their scams and those with deformities simply take advantage, albeit sometimes not of their choosing. India has way too many people with precious little resources looking for an edge just to survive. They already have multiple Gods of their own, throw in the Great Creator and still you have -WTF?

  16. Thorngod
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 11:39 pm

    India is indeed a very peculiar society, and Hinduism is probably the prime example of religion run amuck. I feel damned fortunate that I’m a citizen of the U.S.A., even if half the inmates insist on styling it “the most religious country in the world”!!!

  17. Joe
    June 23rd, 2006 @ 12:24 am

    John Holmes had a 13 inch appendage on the opposite side of this guy. He was worshiped as a god by some. Some called him the elephant man. Some called him a fucked up good for nothing coke head. What purpose did his cock serve in reality, how did it further the will of god?

  18. bernarda
    June 23rd, 2006 @ 5:11 am

    Lily, “So when it came time to offer up the one sacrifice to free the people from sin for all time, it had to be the only sacrifice that could do it, Jesus, perfect God and perfect man.”

    The use of sacrificial victims, human or animal, is found in many ancient cultures around the world well predating judaism or christianity. They are known as scapegoats. The evils or misdeeds of the tribe or village were transferred to the sacrificial victim to be able to start a new year washed of “sins”. The bible stories don’t add anything new to that tradition.

    “the employment of a divine man or animal as a scapegoat is especially to be noted; indeed, we are here directly concerned with the custom of banishing evils only in so far as these evils are believed to be transferred to a god who was afterwards slain. It may be suspected that the custom of employing a divine man or animal as a public scapegoat is much more widely diffused than appears from the examples cited. For, as has already been pointed out, the custom of killing a god dates from so early a period of human history that in later ages, even when the custom continues to be practiced, it is liable to be misinterpreted.”

    James Frazer in “The Golden Bough”.

    That is just a very short summary. As his book is 700 pages, I suggest you read it for more details.

  19. Jahrta
    June 23rd, 2006 @ 12:01 pm

    “Finally it’s worth noting that God didn’t set aside this requirement for Himself. Christ, God made man, became our sacrifice and died to redeem the world: prefect priest and perfect victim. Before He did this, He spent a good deal of His time healing those who were infirm and sick (or even dead). And this salvation established the Kingdom forever, for the pretty or the homely or the disabled.

    And of course replacing “God” with “Harry Potter” is nonsensical, primarily because Harry Potter didn’t create all things seen and unseen. But don’t fret – “God sure is love” was, at least, correct.”

    All we can gather from this brainless drivel is that you’ve become quite good at parroting the brainless drivel of others. There isn’t an original thought swimming about in your head, and you have absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support your absurd assertions and allegations. You can substitute any god figure from any culture the world has ever known into your previous statement and it would be just as ridiculous and empty of meaning to us as it would be for me to subsititure “Harry Potter” in the fashion i did. This is primarily because atheists understand the difference between fantasy and reality, and theists do not.

    You can have all the education in the world and have the capacity to write eloquently, but if your entire reason for believing in invisible supernatural entities and retarditaire notions from the stone age is that “my preacher/priest/parents/rabbi/shaman/mulah told me,” then as far as I’m concerned you’re a fucking idiot.

  20. Nightfly
    June 23rd, 2006 @ 12:47 pm

    You ARE refreshing, Jahrta – but I note that you didn’t actually rebut anything I said; you merely insulted it. If it’s ‘brainless drivel’ it ought to be easy to refute; instead you choose to think of your contempt as all the proof you need. Even if I agreed with you I wouldn’t find that convincing.

    Of course I can tell reality from fantasy – that’s how I can tell that a statement about God can make sense, while the same statement about Harry Potter is nonsense. Making the substitution doesn’t automatically prove that the term you substituted is equivalent. I mean, I could do the exact same thing: “if your entire reason for believing in materialism and ancient heresies from the stone age is that ‘my cabbie/buddy/parents/fellow bloggers/Neitsche told me,’ then as far as I’m concerned you’re an idiot too.”

    I’d like to give you more credit than that. I mean, if you’re promoting a certain worldview, of course you’re going to sound similar to others who agree with you – you’re going to quote famous athiests and read books they’ve written. You’re going to provide evidence why you prefer them to alternatives. Why is your agreement “sensible” while someone else’s is mere “parroting”? Describe the difference.

    Theists don’t believe things only because they’ve been told, and the proof is easily evident – in fact, one of the arguments AGAINST theism is the disagreements between the major religions, and even within each religion on points of theology and practice. Obviously we’re not parrots.

  21. Jahrta
    June 23rd, 2006 @ 1:26 pm

    “You ARE refreshing, Jahrta – but I note that you didn’t actually rebut anything I said; you merely insulted it. If it’s ‘brainless drivel’ it ought to be easy to refute;”

    One cannot refute something that cannot be ascertained one way or another. You cannot refute my claim that there are invisible spiders attached to your back a la “Dr. Who” that can control you at whim. The fact that you cannot refute my assertion does not lend any credence to my absurd assertion.

    “instead you choose to think of your contempt as all the proof you need. Even if I agreed with you I wouldn’t find that convincing.”

    I don’t think of my contempt as proof. My contempt for you and those who think like you (if such an overtly emotional handjob can be considered “thinking”) is an inescapable byproduct of your idiotic assertions which you would have the gall to present HERE of all places as irrefutable fact. We mock you because you are worthy of our scorn and derision. That is not to say that we always mock theists – only when they would dare to present a self-referential book as somehow “holy,” “special” or “the word of god.” I know a lot of respectable theists. Markedly few of them post here. I suspect one of the reasons why the truly learned theists choose not to post here is that they realize that faith in its purest form is ridiculous and cannot be successfully defended in a debate. Debates and discussions have a defined form to them, and are ruled by logic. Faith and religion fly in the face of such things. Science and logic are nothing but trifling matters that must be brushed away for the concepts of religion to survive the coming days. Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening, because religious people outbreed us.

    “Of course I can tell reality from fantasy – that’s how I can tell that a statement about God can make sense, while the same statement about Harry Potter is nonsense. Making the substitution doesn’t automatically prove that the term you substituted is equivalent. I mean, I could do the exact same thing: “if your entire reason for believing in materialism and ancient heresies from the stone age is that ‘my cabbie/buddy/parents/fellow bloggers/Neitsche told me,’ then as far as I’m concerned you’re an idiot too.”

    Man made god – and not just your particular flavor of god. Man has been in the god-making business for thousands of years. There are gods I’m sure you’ve never even heard of, with a variety of characteristics attributed to them. The one thing they all have in common is that they’re all made up. Oh, and to clarify, the reason I don’t believe in the supernatural has nothing to do with what Neitsche, my parents, or teachers have told me. If anything, it has to do with the fact that there’s not one single SCRAP of supporting evidence for anything you assert to be undeniably true. There’s actually a considerable tide of evidence to suggest that Jesus Christ was actually Julius Caesar (as seen through the lens of a burgeoning cult that was power hungry and seeking an iconic martyr symbol to latch onto – see Cal for further info on this one). Whether you want to consider the evidence for that one or not, the fact remains that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You have presented us with anecdote and emotion. That does not pass for evidence of any kind.

    “You’re going to provide evidence why you prefer them to alternatives. Why is your agreement “sensible” while someone else’s is mere “parroting”? Describe the difference.”

    I don’t “prefer” atheism to being religious. Atheism is merely the assertion that there is no such thing as god or the supernatural. The reason we do this is because we realize that talking donkeys, global floods, people living to be 900, a 6,000 year old earth, et al, are ficticious and ridiculous (I could really go on forever…and I don’t mean to simply pick of the Judeo Christian faith here – there’s a myriad host of equally idiotic things in every other religion out there). I make the distinction between quoting from reliable expert sources and “parroting” because religious people regurgitate what their pastors/priests/mullahs/rabbis tell them about the world and the nature of things beyond their comprehension without giving pause to consider the validity of the “information” they’re receiving. Such is not the case when quoting someone who has published an article in a peer-reviewed journal, for example. There’s a REASON to trust someone when their work has been independently verified by an expert source/board on a given topic. I don’t treat religious “boards” similarly because they often get into discussions as idiotic as “how many angels can dance on the head of this pin” – they’re blowing smoke out of their collective ass (new pope?). I’d also like to add that I’d prefer to live in a world with a god, but I’m intelligent and honest enough to realize that it’s simply not the case. As an atheist, I am more socially responsible because I realize that 1.) when bad things happen, it’s pointless to ask favors of my ceiling, 2.) life won’t last forever, so i better make the most out of this one, and 3.) the world will only come to end if we adopt the notion that such a thing is inevitable (and will come with a one-way ticket to paradise for the “righteous”).

    “Theists don’t believe things only because they’ve been told, and the proof is easily evident – in fact, one of the arguments AGAINST theism is the disagreements between the major religions, and even within each religion on points of theology and practice. Obviously we’re not parrots.”

    Please don’t confuse being a free-thinker with being someone who simply chooses to blindly follow a slightly different set of equally-unsubstantiated beliefs. What you said is equivalent to someone telling me “not all soda lovers agree! if anything, the fact that some of us choose to drink Pepsi or Dr. Pepper instead of Coke proves that drinking soda is good for you!”

  22. bernarda
    June 23rd, 2006 @ 2:22 pm

    nightfly, “I note that you didn’t actually rebut anything I said; you merely insulted it. ”

    Heaven forbid that a jesus freak would do such a thing. Nightfly had nothing to say about my post on the long human tradition of sacrificing gods. Jesusboy was just one in a very long line.

    “Obviously we’re not parrots.”

    That is true. Parrots learn faster.

  23. Jahrta
    June 23rd, 2006 @ 2:26 pm

    Parrots are also pleasant to look at and are amusing (at least for a time). If you would prefer, we also refer to religious people as sheep, or “sheeple.” This, too, is an insult to sheep the world over: sheep offer us their meat to sustain us and their wool to clothe us. Theists offer us high blood pressure and migraines from our repeated efforts to hammer some sense into them. not a fair trade at all.

  24. Nightfly
    June 23rd, 2006 @ 5:01 pm

    I didn’t reply to your comment, bernarda, because it was not addressed to me. Since you ask now, my opinion on this also touches on Jahrta’s observation of “man making gods”. All of these diverse cultures over time and geography have come up with stories about gods dying and rising (700 pages worth of stories in the account you mentioned), and they are startlingly similar even though the people that produced them varied greatly in their social structures, ethics, language, and so on – and even though the cultures often had no communication with one another. Why would they all have such similar gods, and all hit upon the same idea of a substitutive sacrifice? If they were all complete fabrication I’d expect more variety. It sounds to me much more like they were trying to describe something real, rather than invent something fake.

    Jahrta, I appreciate your clarification on preference. I took as granted the reason why you prefer certain sources over others – you find them to be true (“reliable expert sources” and “published … article in a peer-reviewed journal” to use your own descriptions). I did not mean “prefer” in the sense of “free choice between equally-valid alternatives.”

    But reviewing the whole conversation step-by-step, I still don’t see how I’ve been overtly emotional, nor how I’ve had any gall at all to present the Bible as my sole proofs of anything. The existence of God wasn’t the topic of converstion, so I didn’t think that anyone would mistake my contribution as an attempt to convert anyone. I only mentioned Christ in response to a specific statement – that the quoted passage from Leviticus proved something about the Judeo-Christian God. I simply said that there was an alternative explanation to the passage, and that the alternative was described by the Gospels; which is how the whole “Christ established the Kingdom forever” bit came in: He did this in accordance with the Levitical guidelines. In other words, it was all consistent.

    And that’s what sent us off to the races, I suppose. I still think a lot of what you’ve accused me of stems from an initial overreach of what I wanted to do – I could hardly avoid talking about a “self-referential book” when that book was the actual topic at hand, and I used the salvation imagery from long habit. (I should have realized that it would raise a million red flags.)

    At every point, I’ve only tried to demonstrate that I do have reasons for what I think is true, the same as anyone else here. Of course, if you think the whole thing is a howling pack of lies, consistency isn’t going to count for much. As you say, the rational implications of a god in one’s life are needless complications if one rejects the god in the first place.

    In any case, I do have my reasons. I share them with a good many priests, but I can’t help that – we, like every other culture in history, are simply trying to describe the same thing. The very thing that you think disproves theism was the thing that made me wonder if there might be something to it after all. What I think about my faith is rational, but I understand just as well as you do, Jahrta, that the starting point is in the heart, not the mind.

    Given all that, there is no way for me demonstrate that I’m not a sheeple or a blind follower – at the very least, I’ve tried to be civil in disagreement. My very presence seems to have whipped everyone into a fine froth, and since you know better theists than I, I’ll leave the discussion of the possibility of a god to them and return to my former lurker status.

  25. June
    June 25th, 2006 @ 6:23 pm

    There is a simpler explanation for the fact that many societies independently developed god-as-man legends.
    As the human brain evolved self-awareness, with awareness came fear and the urge to control the environment.
    From childhood on, the brain protects itself by pleasing the humans that protect it and feed it and keep it warm.
    And as the brain matures, it projects these parent figures onto a wider scope around itself, first simple events,
    then forces of nature, heavenly bodies, and finally a supernatural force that controls everything.

    It’s not hard to see how these idealized parent figures turn into gods that promise an eternal life of milk and honey
    for good behavior. It is also natural that societies would encourage such beliefs, since good behavior is in the interest of society.

  26. Brian Macker
    June 26th, 2006 @ 5:53 pm

    People have attractive and unattractive writing styles also that could be impediments to seeing their true inner beauty on the internet also. So the problem remains. Do people who use english is a second language have less inner beauty than native speakers? I doubt it.

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