Conservapedia has apparently launched a new initiative to correct some ‘liberal’ elements of the Bible. Yes, they want to correct the Bible, the book that most of their members seem to regard as divinely inspired. The arduous task of unknotting just what went into the Bible (and more importantly, why) is a worthy scholarly endeavor, particularly for those who are into ancient history or the evolution of new languages and cultures, but I somehow doubt that many scholars would consider it appropriate to use ‘liberalness’ as a benchmark for what should be considered canonical or not.
Here’s a short list of some of their goals:
Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning:
- lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts of Christianity
- lack of precision in modern language
- translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.
Of these three sources of errors, the last introduces the largest error, and the biggest component of that error is liberal bias. Large reductions in this error can be attained simply by retranslating the KJV into modern English.
- Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
- Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
- Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
- Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
- Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”; using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
- Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
- Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
- Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
- Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
- Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”
Just how late are these ‘later-inserted’ passages? Because I’m pretty sure the modern meaning of the word ‘liberal’ didn’t come into force until, oh, the 20th century, and last time I checked, most of the Bible was a little bit older than that.
Of course, there’s a good chance the whole thing is a joke, or a ‘Poe’, as they say. Conservapedia has been hit hard by moles and trolls since its inception, and this sounds like something a smart but not terribly mature atheist would try. (I say atheist because of the strong religious element, but I guess it could be a liberal theist as well. Or, hell, a conservative who’s just irritated by the site’s blatant stupidity.)
Potential Poe-ness aside, the rest of the article has some real gems. Observe:
Socialistic terminology permeates English translations of the Bible, without justification. This improperly encourages the “social justice” movement among Christians.
For example, the conservative word “volunteer” is mentioned only once in the ESV, yet the socialistic word “comrade” is used three times, “laborer(s)” is used 13 times, “labored” 15 times, and “fellow” (as in “fellow worker”) is used 55 times.
What the hell is a ‘conservative word’, anyway? I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the kind of thing that would make a linguist want to murder somebody. Or possibly several somebodies.
What say you, internet? Is this real, or is it just a very elaborate ruse? And for what it’s worth, the associated discussion page seems to be genuine enough…
Why the hell does everybody keep referring to anyone in the US government who’s even remotely connected to Obama a ‘Czar’? If anybody is going to get slandered by the term (I’m assuming it’s meant to be perjorative, since…well, look at the people using it) wouldn’t it be Obama himself? You know, given the connection the word has to emperors and all of that?
Or am I just missing something really obvious here?
You may have heard about the religious right ‘Take Back America Conference’, which sought to break the world record for the number of hysterical claims made in one venue per hour take back American from the Liberal Hordes. There’s a recap over here, which, if accurate, is utterly terrifying. Some highlights:
- [T]he fervent belief that America is at a tipping point between freedom and fascist power: President Obama and his congressional allies are on the verge of delivering America into Socialism, Communism, and/or Nazi-style tyranny, and that government is therefore to be feared and resisted
- hostility not only to same-sex marriage but also to any legal protections for LGBT Americans and same-sex couples
- a new push to use “abortion as black genocide” as a wedge between African Americans and pro-choice progressives built around a new “documentary” portraying abortion as 21st century genocide
- American exceptionalism – the belief that America’s founding was divinely inspired and the nation has been uniquely blessed by God – is alive and well, though America is now living under a curse for having elected Barack Obama
I was really starting to think that, as a species, we had moved beyond believing in curses and arbitrary bouts of divine protection for certain countries. (Although then again, I also thought we were beginning to move beyond believing that gay and transgender people need to be ‘cured’ of their hideous afflictions. My rapidly blossoming misanthropy is apparently more justified than I thought.)
I love speculative fiction of all types. (Except paranormal romance and most urban fantasy, both of which I loathe with a disturbing passion.) Some of the best stories, characters, ideas and yes, ‘literary’ writing are to be found in the works of Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke, among many many others. Ender’s Game absolutely blew me away the first time I read it, and when I was younger I wouldn’t touch anything that didn’t feature some sort of mythological being brought to life. There are, however, some things about the genre (is speculative fiction a ‘genre’?) that annoy the crap out of me, and most of them are firmly in the domain of the ‘fantasy’ end of the spectrum.
If the following list moves you to start a ‘Science Fiction vs. Fantasy’ flamewar in the comments…well, go ahead, actually. That sounds kind of entertaining.
#7: The focus on nobility. All right, I can see why people do this. In the kind of society that most fantasy novels are set in, the king or queen is unquestionably the one with the most power and the most ability to act on that power. Sure, it might not make sense in terms of actual history, where kings and queens certainly couldn’t go dicking around in the countryside looking for magic artifacts every three months, but in the land of fiction it makes sense. I get that.
It doesn’t mean I have to like it, though. I always find it very difficult to empathize with a fictional example of the nobility, for the simple reason that I’ve never had the same worldview as them. Outside of the elaborate fantasies constructed by my raging ego, I don’t live in a world where I hold the lives of thousands of people in my hands, or where I can move entire armies against my enemies with a single command (as much as I’d like to be able to sometime). Any writer who’s going to bring me into that kind of character’s head is going to need to do a damn good job of it, and most fantasy author’s I’ve read just weren’t up to the task. Sure, I might have enjoyed their books for other reasons, but I never really felt connected to the core cast. (George R.R. Martin is the exception here, just as he is in so many things.)
Unfortunately, characters of noble birth will probably always be a staple of the fantasy genre due to the near-ubiquitous medieval Europe settings. Which brings me on to my next pet peeve…
#6: The near-ubiquitous medieval Europe settings. Before somebody jumps down my throat, I’m well aware that not all fantasy books are set in Pseudoshire, Arcadia. But I still think way too many of them are.
What’s that, fantasy author? Your epic story of epic kings is set in a pastoral land inhabited by short mountain people, beautiful forest people, and strangely bland people-people? Thanks, but I’d rather not read yet more poorly disguised Lord of the Rings fanfiction. Actually, now that I think about it, I’d rather not read Lord of the Rings either.
Do me a favor: go and get an Atlas, or a globe, or Google Maps, or something that displays a reasonably accurate depiction of what the Earth looks like. Got it? Okay, now throw it out the window. (Er…unless you’re using Google Maps, in which case I guess you could just close the window.) This is fantasy we’re talking about, people. You don’t need every location in your fictional world to correspond neatly with something that exists in real life. I’m not saying that every fantasy novel should be filled with terrain so outlandish that nobody will be able to picture it, but at the very least, please don’t ape real places and real countries unless you’re certain you can pull it off. Which segues nicely to my next point (let’s see how long I can keep this up)…
#5 The Obvious Ethnic Stand-In. Also known as the Fantasy Counterpart Culture, only mine tosses race into the mix for added controversy. It’s difficult to come up with a believable culture completely from scratch, which is why so many authors use bits and pieces from real cultures in order to lend authenticity to their creations. There comes a point, however, when the resemblance starts to get a bit too strong, and that point is when your brownish-skinned people with narrow eyes and Japanese names start describing their rigidly honor-based society that features a colorful pantheon of minor and major deities. Unless your story is set in some sort of weird multiverse, it might behoove you to vary things a bit more than that.
Even worse are authors who seem to think that people who look Asian have to correspond to modern (and Western) Asian stereotypes, or that fantasy people with dark skin all have to live in tribal societies in a desert. They don’t, and if you bungle things here you’re going to look at least mildly racist on top of everything else.
#4: Absolute Good vs. Ultimate Evil. I’ll explain this one with an example from the Wikipedia page for Robert Jordan’s inexplicably popular Wheel of Time series:
The Creator imprisoned its antithesis, Shai’tan, at the moment of creation, sealing him away from the Wheel. However, in a time called the Age of Legends, an Aes Sedai experiment inadvertently breached the Dark One‘s prison, allowing his influence to seep back into the world.
In The Wheel of Time books, Verin Sedai says the Dark One is the “embodiment of paradox and chaos, destroyer of reason and logic, breaker of balance, the unmaker of order, and the opponent of the Creator.” Shai’tan (Arabic word for ‘Adversary’, related to Satan) is the godlike figure of the creatures of darkness.
‘Shai’tan’? Wow, that’s subtle. Those of you haven’t read the book will probably not be surprised to learn the The Creator has almost no presence in story – he’s implied to be doing something vague in the background, but unlike the ‘Dark One’ (blergh) he never seems to communicate with anybody or even act directly on the world. Yes, I get that it’s awesome to have some farmboy discover that only he can stop Mr. Evil, but you know what would be even more awesome? If Mr. Good actually got up off his ass and did something for once. This isn’t an issue of whether or not The Creator exists, since he (or it, or whatever) is the only thing stopping Mr. Evil from escaping from his can and killing everybody. There just seems to be this pervasive idea that evil gods should explode onto the scene with much fanfare and sulfur, while good gods should float in the ether and maybe give the main characters visions every now and then. (I could start making some point about monotheism here, but I’m not going to because that would be boring.) If the evil god is sealed away but still capable of taking over the world, why can’t the good god be similarly powerful? Wouldn’t it make more sense for our hero-farmboys to release the good god and have him deliver some righteous ass-kicking, rather than try to kill something orders of magnitude more powerful than themselves on their own?
Related to all of this is the common idea in fantasy novels that there must be a grand battle of absolute good and ultimate evil. The main characters, although they may make mistakes or have to work against their own consciences, are almost always certain that what they’re doing is totally right. There is never any hint that their conception of Mr. Evil might just be clouded by their culture’s prejudices, or that Mr. Good, seemingly impotent though he may be, is just manipulating everybody to fulfill his own goals. If this was how the real world worked, there would be exactly two religions: the Good One and the Bad One, which people would join based solely on how much of a dick they liked to be.
Here’s an idea: toss out the omnipresent systems of right and wrong and have fantasy heroes struggle in a world that seems to have no solid moral reference points, just like people in the real world.
#3: Always Chaotic Evil. Do I really have to explain why I hate this one? You know all about it already: some species, race or other group is always irredeemably evil. There are almost never any exceptions to this. Very often they will even brag about how evil they are, even though almost nobody in the history of the world has ever actually described themselves as ‘evil’ unless they were insane. If things are very bad, they will dress in black and live in big pointy fortresses and murder children for fun. If things are even worse, they will have some name for themselves that positively screams ‘I’m about to kill you” (‘The Forsaken’ springs to mind) and will speak in a language that just ‘sounds evil’. (Actually, Harry Potter is pretty bad about this, now that I think about it.)
I could understand this if the species in question was simply alien to us, and thus considered ‘good’ what we might see as unspeakably cruel or evil, but that’s almost never how it works. More often, they’re fully aware of whatever objective morality that governs their particular fantasy universe, and actually mold their identity around the fact that they fall way over on the ‘dark’ side of the spectrum. This, of course, gives our heroes a good excuse to slaughter them in their hundreds over the course of the novel(s).
#2: Never-Ending Series Syndrome. (I’m going to pick on WoT again here, because I just hate those goddamn books.)
The Wheel of Time series currently consists of eleven published books, all of which are well over 200,000 words long. Hell, some of them are close to twice that. The last volume is now being split into three books, presumably because Brandon Sanderson’s contract stipulated that he must have at least one of the characters say or do something stupid enough to derail the plot every three paragraphs. (Those of you who have read the books will know exactly what I’m talking about here.) If your story takes that long to tell, something has gone wrong.
I can understand why writers, readers and especially publishers love a long-running series, but I’ve always felt that it allowed for some mild…excess, shall we say. Subplots breed like rabbits because the writer knows he can always ignore some of them for entire books if he needs to (I’m looking at you yet again, Robert Jordan) and characters proliferate way beyond what’s necessary to get to the end of the story. I have yet to read a book that convinced me it’s a good idea to dump an entire extended family into an already complex story, especially if every single member of that family ends up creating a fractal-like nightmare of parallel storylines.
A closely related problem to all of this is Universal Character Immortality, but I’m not going to go there for now because it would mean hitting on WoT again, and I’m already going to do that in the next entry. (For the record, I actually did enjoy the series until the whole ‘strong women dominate men’ theme got so pervasive that I thought I was reading very long-winded erotica.)
#1: Prophecies. Oh, how I loathe them. I could write a doctoral thesis on how much I hate prophecies as plot devices.
I actually wouldn’t mind them so much if they were handled well, but very often they’re not. Take our literary punching bag for the evening, the Wheel of Time series. Almost every event in the series happens because of an ancient prophecy, one which is literally inescapable. There are numerous points throughout the series where the characters (all ten billion of them) are literally incapable of choosing to act in a certain way, because doing so would go against what Destiny has proscribed for them. Do I have to point out that this sucks all of the tension out of the story?
For example, we know from the beginning that Rand Al’Thor, the savior (or possibly destroyer) of the world, will not die before close to the end of the series. He starts out as the main character, but there quickly comes a point where things could easily continue without him…except they actually couldn’t, because then The Prophecy wouldn’t be fulfilled. We know that he can’t die, which means that every confrontation he has with the legions of evil are always going to end the same way – with him winning. The only question mark over his fate is whether he’ll save the world or give in to his encroaching madness and destroy it, and even then you can be pretty sure that he isn’t going to go nuts and blast away the planet’s atmosphere in the middle of book 5 of 14. Nothing kills interest in a character faster than knowing that he or she will definitely do A, B, C and D before they die, and in the Wheel of Time virtually every major character has such a checklist to work through.
Prophecies (or prophetic dreams, or magical-artifact induced trips to the future…) also seem to inevitably lead to clumsy writing. These things always seem to take the form of ‘cryptic’ (cough) poems or songs, which means we get treated to crap like this:
Twice dawns the day when his blood is shed.
Once for mourning, once for birth.
Red on black, the Dragon’s blood stains the rock of Shayol Ghul.
In the Pit of Doom shall his blood free men from the Shadow. (Source)
The first time I tried reading the series, I started skipping the poem-prophecies once I realized they weren’t going to go away. The story still made perfect sense. 1+1=…?
Thus ends my needlessly confrontational list of pet peeves. Feel free to tell me what makes you mad enough to throw a book across the room in the comments section. But before I go, and in the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I’m currently writing a fantasy novel involving a medieval Europe-ish setting, at least two noble main characters, a ‘Lord of Darkness’ type character and a prophecy (which, in my defense, I’m trying to be creative with). It just goes to show, some things are popular for a reason. And also that I’m a massive hypocrit, but then you probably already heard about that.
I’ve occasionally felt uncomfortable when reading Islamic articles or transcript of speeches by Muslims that have very ‘militaristic’ overtones, for lack of a better term. You know the ones I’m talking about, where there seems to be this general feeling that spreading Islam throughout the world is all-important and that all of the ‘false’ religions (and atheists) should just get out of the damn way. For some reason, that kind of talk always makes me think of the many defenses that were written in favor of European colonialism – there’s a perverse sense of entitlement there, a kind of ‘We can take over because we’re right‘ that just makes me extremely annoyed.
You can imagine my sense of disgust, then, upon reading this article from the Baptist Press:
INDIA (BP)–The Hindu god who removes obstacles was no match for a tree limb.
Southern Baptist representatives Brendan and Alyson Strizek* watched from a balcony as celebrating Hindus tried to navigate a trailer-mounted image of Ganesha through a narrow alley. A low tree limb soon blocked the 10-foot idol’s progress. The crowd, unable to back the trailer out of the alley, tried in vain to sever the tree limb so the idol could proceed.
“It took them about 45 minutes to figure out what to do,” Brendan Strizek said. Finally, a child removed the top of the makeshift temple covering Ganesha, barely giving the idol enough room to pass under the tree limb en route to a time of worshipping the idol, also known by the names Ganapati and Ganesh.
“If that’s not the perfect picture,” Alyson Strizek said. “They’re expecting this god to remove obstacles in their lives, but he can’t even remove a tree limb.”
I have no idea who ‘Alyson Strizek’ (it’s a pseudonym) is or what she’s like in real life. She could be the nicest person alive, for all I know. But the quote above makes her sound condescending in the extreme. Here we have a group of people who worship statues of a man nailed to a cross; who, if pushed, could almost certainly provide no evidence whatsoever that their own god has ever done so much as physically move a tree limb, and yet they have the nerve to belittle another religion for being ‘false’? Look, I think Hinduism is a great big sack of crazy as well, but this whole ‘Poor heathens, we just need to show them real religion!’ attitude makes my stomach turn.
The article goes on to get even more surreal when it starts describing aspects of Hinduism that the Christian audience is presumably supposed to find bizarre or quaint:
“There’s a lot of disappointment that they would devote so much of themselves, so much of their time and money, to something that is just clay,” Brendan Strizek said. “It’s obvious it’s not living, and there is no response back from this clay statue — but they are still devoted to it.”
Each fall, Hindu families and communities celebrate the Ganesha Chaturthi festival in Ganesha’s honor, crafting idols in Ganesha’s image from clay and plaster. Many compete to have the largest, most ornate Ganesha idol possible, with some communities pooling their resources to make 30-foot statues.
Hindus take the idols into their homes for up to 10 days, where they follow a set of rituals in caring for and worshipping the idols.
“They provide food for it when it’s in the home, and they treat it like it’s a person,” Brendan Strizek said.
On the 11th day of the festival, with great fanfare and celebration, the Hindus take the Ganesha idols to rivers, lakes or the ocean where they submerge and leave them to symbolize the cycle of creation and destruction in nature.
I’m not sure if the forced inclusion of the phrase ‘the idols’ twice in one sentence is just bad writing or an attempt on the author’s part to drive home a point.
The first quote up there is just ridiculous. ‘It’s just clay’? ‘There is no response back from this clay statue’? Do I really need to point out what’s so weird about this?
The whole thing reminds me way too much of that Islamic attitude I mentioned, but with a healthy dose of European superiority thrown in with it. Quick, bring Jesus to all the misguided Asians and save them from their silly elephant statues! Here’s a super idea: how about we all realize that a person’s beliefs are their business alone and only interfere if they ask us to? No proselytizing, no superiority complexes, and no trying to convert the foreign heathens.
I shouldn’t need to introduce Peter LaBarbara, so I won’t, mostly because I’ve already had a shower today I don’t want to feel the need to run for another one. Some people seem to like him, is all I’ll say:
So far the referendum effort looks like a marketing campaign for marriage. Smiling couples appear in virtually every ad, some male and female, some of the same gender. But as we get closer to November 3rd, the ads are sure to become more hard-hitting. The pro-family side will point out how same sex marriage will harm our religious and civil rights, and gays will scream bigotry. But both sides, if they are honest, will admit they are eager to hide the unpleasant aspects of the homosexual subculture.
Enter Peter LaBarbera, the one figure in the pro-family movement who fits the definition of a hero. LaBarbera is not a man of the cloth, nor a politician. He is a journalist whose mission is to find the truth, without fear or favor. Had LaBarbera chosen another profession, he might have been a policeman walking a beat in a tough neighborhood in Chicago, or a fireman rushing into a high rise to save a screaming child. Instead, LaBarbera goes undercover to expose the harsh realities of the homosexual rights movement. LaBarbera’s heroic efforts have been rewarded with fierce opposition from the homosexual rights movement, and disfavor from many on the Religious Right.
LaBarbera travelled from the Windy City last week to a cozy fireside reception at the League’s main office in Augusta. Ample tea, coffee, and refreshments put everyone in a relaxed and happy mood – but some weren’t prepared for what they were about to hear.
During his talk, LaBarbera told his audience about his undercover activities investigating the homosexual rights movement. What he found at many public gay pride events is not suitable for publication here. Those who need first hand proof of the depravity of the gay rights movement can visit his website, AmericansforTruth.org. There can be no doubt that if the public had the information LaBarbera offers, not only would same sex marriage come to a quick end, sodomy would again be a crime throughout the U.S. (Source, emphasis mine)
LaBarbera’s tactics are as shameful as they are dishonest. Those of you who have been unfortunate enough to visit his website will know that he collects photographs and information from sex parties, S&M clubs and (in particular) the weirder side of gay pride parades in order to demonize gay people everywhere. His ‘reasoning’, if it can be called that, goes something along the lines of ‘I have found gay people who engage in sexual acts which I find disgusting, therefore gay marriage should be outlawed (and more besides)’. Never mind that nothing he shows is illegal, that quite a bit of it would only offend somebody with as fundamentalist a mindset as LaBarbera and his followers, or that I could easily obtain pictures of straight people engaging in the exact same acts and thus ‘prove’ that heterosexuals are depraved; as far as he’s concerned, he has constructed a knock-down argument against all things gay.
The anti-gay contingent who actually want to make ‘sodomy’ illegal is small, but I have no doubt that it would expand rapidly if given half the chance. Kooks like LaBarbera are too dangerous for anybody who values freedom from religiously motivated tyranny to ignore, whether you be gay, straight or neither.
I think fossils are pretty neat. Do you think fossils are neat? You do? Fantastic!
Say hello to Ardi, an Ethiopian find of indeterminate relation to good old Homo sapiens. There are two really notable things about the fossils (for someone like me, anyway; I’m sure a paleontologist could list a lot more than just two); it was actually discovered in 1990, and the media has dutifully commenced misrepresenting it. Hopefully we won’t get anything like the cringe-inducing coverage of the Ida announcement, but the signs are not good. The Guardian article about seems to seriously overstate its relation to modern humans, and the comment thread over there is filled with the usual Creationism insanity as a result. There’s also a pervasive idea that the actual research scientists are somehow involved in the media coverage of a new fossil announcement, which they aren’t. (Well, okay, apart from the damn Ida thing…) If you actually read something written by one of the scientists involved in these things, or somebody else in the field who’s commenting on it, you’ll find them constantly warning their readers that any proposed direct link between fossil X and humans is tenuous at best. Somehow, that never seems to stop the media from loudly declaring that ‘We’ve found the missing link ZOMG!’
And I’m going to cut this one short before it turns into a rant on mass media stupidity. Consider yourselves lucky!