Introducing a new podcast, Chat for God

This is not a pivot of my entire project in a Christian direction, quite the contrary: It's one specific time and place where I can develop that dimension of my thinking, without all the caution and apology required in typical intellectual fora. The rest of my project will remain in the modern rational civic tradition, because the reality is that in some non-trivial sense God has in fact been killed, and I have no illusions about that. But I am a believer, so in some sense God lives, eternal. How does this make sense? No fucking clue, which is why I decided I really need to spend more time thinking and talking about it.

There's also a market wager here because I have a strong sense that the entire "Christian" genre is in need of some serious disruption. And it's a huuuuge market, because still a majority of Americans identify as Christians.

So my big idea here is to try what the 'Dirtbag Left' did to the Normal Left, but to religion and Christianity in particular. The Dirtbag Left is really just normal leftists being honest and funny about real things the Normal Left hides for reasons of public-image management. So my thesis for disrupting the infamously, sinfully cringe "Christian" genre is to just be honest and funny about all the things Normal Christians never talk about. And avoid all the ridiculous stuff Normal Christian content contains: lame proselytizing, saying ridiculous things like "Christ loves you" — like bitch I am a believer but I'm just not willing to sound that gay. Perhaps that is because my faith is weak, perhaps that is because I’m a sinner ashamed of my faith, or perhaps it is because normal Christian content producers are gay.

I think a lot of Christians perversely enjoy sounding stupid to heathens because it accentuates their feelings of in-group belonging and also tolerating contempt from the out-group proves the strength of their faith so this actually incentivizes people to express their faith in the gayest way they can, to increase their social status within Christian communities. So which one is it? Do I suffer from a shallow and perhaps even opportunistic kind of faith? Or is all currently existing Christian content hopelessly gay? I take this to be an open question, and I’m open to the former answer. But I’m not fully convinced the latter answer is not the correct answer, so I’m just going to say everything I think about the matter, with a loving spirit, in good faith, and I’ll let my interlocutors, time, and reality adjudicate. And by time and reality, I mean God.

I proposed the idea for this podcast to my Twitter friend @Christlover2000 (Ashley from Girls Chat) because I believe she embodies the vibe I want (genuinely devout but not proselytizing, funny, able to talk about anything, and not corny); she is very unique with a bizarre and intriguing story and identity; I've enjoyed the two or three podcasts we've done in the past; Girls Chat proved she could do a podcast consistently and from that she already has a fan base, probably more Christian than mine; and she happens to be in a tough spot right now after some severe personal health challenges and an unfortunate divorce from Girls Chat. So I thought this could be good for her, and for all the reasons above I thought it might be a good first attempt at building out the Other Life podcast network.

Just like I always tell people in IndieThinkers.org to design their projects as limited-run experiments, with end dates and measurable goals, we've agreed to do 10 episodes and then re-evaluate if we want to really invest in continuing it. For me personally that means I would like to see about 500 downloads per episode averaged across the ten episodes. If we don't hit that it's not the end of the world, we may still want to continue, I just think it's good to set goals at the outset of creative projects.

You can listen to the trailer and first episode at chatforgod.com. From there you can subscribe wherever you prefer. If you follow my work in any part for the weird, typically unspoken Christian dimension, I feel confident saying that I really think you should subscribe. After recording the first 4 episodes, I really think we might be on to something.

If you like it, send it to a friend and leave a review on iTunes—these are the most important factors that get a podcast off the ground in the early days.

Cath-Pilled Shoplifting Theory with Dasha from Red Scare

Dasha Nekrasova is co-host of the podcast Red Scare https://www.patreon.com/RedScare We discussed the One Holy Apostolic Church, Simone Weil, the best and worst drugs, prayer, Pussy Riot, Zizek, shoplifting, abortion, Deleuze, accelerationism, and many other things.

They just shut down Google Hangouts so we're still adjusting to a whole new recording setup — the audio is a little wonky, sorry!

Big thanks to all the patrons who help me keep the lights on.

If you'd like to discuss this podcast with me and others, suggest future guests, or read/watch/listen to more content on these themes, request an invitation here. This conversation was first recorded on August 8, 2019 as a livestream on Youtube. To receive notifications when future livestreams begin, subscribe to my channel with one click, then click the little bell.

Click here to download this episode.

The Cybernetic Trinity

The Trinity is one of the more vexing doctrines in all of the Catholic tradition. God is one, and yet God is three: the father, the son Christ who walked on earth, and the Holy Spirit. To make matters worse, God even has a mother, to whom one prays quite like one prays to God. My understanding of this vexing system is that it encodes the concept of “auto-production” or “bootstrapping,” the paradoxical capacity of systems to generate themselves ex nihilo.

The Trinity provides an impressively intelligent counterpoint to the naïve creationist tendency, in which the Gospels sometimes sound as if some magical kind of person created the universe by himself. There's nothing evil about such a linguistic device, but it is obviously naïve and inadequate technically. Any half-educated atheist can tell you, correctly, that such a model cannot plausibly account for who or what created the conditions for the creator; that such a naive model merely halts an infinite regress by brute force. More realistically, as cybernetics and the study of complex systems have shown, systems can very well bootstrap themselves from random perturbations among a few initial elements or particles. Which particular element or particle moved first is often impossible to determine, for it is their interaction that kicks off the systems’ dynamics. Auto-production is at work in the cosmological model known as the Big Bang, for instance.

The Catholic Trinity, plus the strangely important figure of Mary, is an intuitive approximation of a complex-systems model. God is one, the one name for that which created everything, but the nature of this one is to be a set. It is the circulation and mutual-stimulation of the elements in this one set that is the essential miracle of life.

Virtues of the Desert

Here is Joseph Ratzinger, formerly Pope Benedict, on St. John the Baptist.

He was not ordered to deny Jesus Christ, but was ordered to keep silent about the truth” (cf. Homily 23: CCL 122, 354). And he did not keep silent about the truth and thus died for Christ who is the Truth. Precisely for love of the truth he did not stoop to compromises and did not fear to address strong words to anyone who had strayed from God’s path…

The entire existence of the Forerunner of Jesus was nourished by his relationship with God, particularly the period he spent in desert regions (cf. Lk 1:80). The desert regions are places of temptation but also where man acquires a sense of his own poverty because once deprived of material support and security, he understands that the only steadfast reference point is God himself.  

Martyrdom of St John the Baptist by Benedict XVI

Hat tip to Aria.

Hallow be thy name

To say that one believes in God is to be stupid and wrong by the definition of these words in modern secular culture. And yet I believe that I believe, so how? The word “God” does not mean what modern people mean when they deploy it. The word is ambiguous to the extreme, for good reason. In the Our Father, also known as the Lord’s Prayer, Christians pray to God: “hallowed be thy name…” Hallow — which means to sanctify — is in the passive voice and future tense. The word or name God is supposed to recede from profane access. To say one believes in God is not to advance any mundane empirical claim whatsoever, it is to hallow the name — to push it further and further “off limits” from exactly the mundane political jostling in which modern people intend to ensnare you by asking about it. There is no need for Catholics to affirm the empirical reality of a discrete creator-agent — a guy in the clouds — or any particular image or empirical conception that someone might wish to pin on the name God, so long as one believes in God. Neither am I endorsing pantheism, which also says too much, but in the opposite direction. What the word “God” means is not for me to explain, let alone argue about — to believe is only to believe that it makes sense, somehow, despite one’s admitted incomprehension. Anyone who requires additional affirmations regarding the existence of God, affirmations that are positively inconsistent with scientific rationality, is a heretic who calls for lying.

Religion, guilt, and creativity

One feature of religion a lot of secular people do not understand is that, although religion can make one feel guilty at times, it also prevents one from feeling guilty about trivial matters. Secular people think that by avoiding religion they avoid feeling guilt, but often they end up overwhelmed by guilt, because they attribute to all their mundane earthly projects an inflated moral significance.

One of the best examples is creative or intellectual work. Or career advancement. If I publish a blog post that everyone hates, or if I fail to get a promotion, or one of my silly hypotheses turns out to be wildly wrong, I really don't care because none of these things matter too much for better or worse. I believe they constitute a meaningful and honorable calling, and my dedication to this calling I believe to be Good in the long-run, in a way that matters. But failure on any particular project causes me no shame, because it reflects no sin. Shortcomings on such earthly diversions simply never take a moral tone for me, because they are orthogonal to morality as I know it with the help of my religious tradition. For a good Christian, creative and intellectual work is beyond Good and Evil. But for people who don't believe in sin, for people who think they can simply free themselves from guilt by ignoring it, then a failed writing project or a career setback can feel like a moral failure. It can, and often does, produce feelings of shame, for instance.

If one of my personal intellectual efforts fails, I would never think to bring this to the confessional! Which means I would never experience compunction or shame about it. For the arrogant, modern, secular type who thinks himself too good for the confessional, some little practical shortcoming that hurts nobody can affect their body like a real sin would affect mine. Not only does secular guilt accumulate more heavily (given the frequency of practical shortcomings), but the secular person suffers from guilt far longer than the Catholic, for the secular person admits no mechanism of absolution. This is one of the least understood reasons why modern secular minds are sometimes unable to create, despite deep yearnings to create. And why — when they do create — it is often superficial, instrumental, and ephemeral. They conflate their earthly, mental creations with an eternal, ethical plane they neurotically deny and desire. Finding their finite abilities not up to the task, they decide never to begin, or sell themselves short.

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