A Webzine of Meaningful Contrasts

Spring 2019

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So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. See how the whole world has gone after Him!"

- Gospel of John, 12th chapter, 19th verse

 

Two possibilities exist: either we're alone in the universe, or we're not. Both are equally terrifying.

-Arthur C. Clarke

The tease quote from an October 26 2018 New York Times story "A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge from Silicon Valley" was quite revealing.

"I am convinced the devil lives in our phones."

The words are those of a top Facebook officer, and the full quote appearing in the text of the piece ends with the words "... and is wreaking havoc on our children." The Times noted that the story originally appeared in the print edition with the title "Silicon Valley Wary of the 'Devil' Living in Our Phones."

The folks at Facebook themselves have come under tremendous scrutiny as much as they have engaged in criminal abuse of user data, yet they've still managed to perpetually wiggle out of their predicament. But because of the monolithic social media power it wields Facebook cannot escape a profound dilemma: Regulate nothing but then permit anyone to upload whatever horrifically ugly material they may for all to behold, or regulate some and risk being politically consigned to what they select comes across the screen.

Ah the travails of those administering a lucrative media platform for Cain's vast promotional extravaganza.

As I grow and observe and gain wisdom as God graciously provides, I am becoming more convinced that the devil is behind so much more than we know. I look at someone behaving very badly and where I once became a bit piqued, I now settle back and remember what Scripture says. "Our battle is not with flesh and blood." "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." This doesn't mean I don't have something to think and say about it I'm engaged in addressing all that here in this writing. It is my ministry.

But look at the ironic contrast. These people in Silicon Valley, the ones who govern the overarching social media milieu, they themselves transparently confess that the devil is indeed in our phones. They see it and they know it. They astutely recognize there is something palpably evil that resides beyond but still claws on our souls.

It definitely invades the material. How courageous, really, to say this when the World sneers at such insights. The Times even confirms this truth, but then cops out by putting quotes around the word devil, just to let us all know that, well, be assured there really isn't a devil after all, it's just what they say.

I happened to come across an NPR radio show one Saturday a few months ago, one of those weekend morning Here-Are-Some-Really-Crazy-Items-We'd-Like-To-Share-With-You kinds of things, I don't remember what the program was called.

The featured item was about a local radio call-in show in which the participants could leave recorded phone messages about what precisely they'd like Satan to do for them. The NPR show replayed some of the calls, each with the caller adding at the end "Hail Satan." While most were pretty tame, one of note was a quite seething "Put a [EXPLETIVE] hex on my [EXPLETIVE] friend who [EXPLETIVE] did this [EXPLETIVE] thing to me, I want something really [EXPLETIVE] awful to happen to this [EXPLETIVE]! Hail Satan!"

Ow. That sounds really painful.

The narrators of the NPR show spoke dismissively about it, and mentioned that the founders of the radio show hadn't expected it to last and they themselves didn't believe in Satan but that they were fine with sustaining the show as long as there were those who got some thrill from it.

Turns out they have had a lot of patrons, and they have been directly addressing the devil no matter how much show business is involved. I don't think anyone can treat this lightly no matter how much the NPR and radio show hosts let on that they're convinced it's all hokum.

This authentically diabolical activity pales, however, in comparison to a critical component of the widespread belief that the supernatural is a big joke. Portraying Satan as some silly cartoon character generating fine amusement whenever the Saturday Night Live Church Lady spits up the name makes the ruse that much more powerful.

I came across the immense breadth of that influence in a thoroughly engrossing book called The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt. It tells the viscerally compelling story of how Epicureanism became the preeminent philosophy of those whose devotion to Cain and his city building is quite delightfully regnant.

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who simply asserted that there is no supernatural, and the more you accept that fact the happier you will be. He went so far as to insist that it was perfectly fine for you to believe in supernatural things, as long as that makes you happy. Just don't go around thinking any of it is actually true, or you'll suffer the penalty of ridicule by the more enlightened set around you.

Lucretius was a Roman epic poet who idolized Epicurus, writing De Rerum Natura ("On the Nature of Things") as a hypnotically eloquent treatise essentially using over 7,000 hexameters to say "Atoms and void and nothing else." Really, this is the actual phrase that has been thrust into the collective psyche in order to convince people that God is a really super-nice fairy tale.

This was the message to be repeated over, and over, and over every attempt to showcase an idea requires this, added here after watching the splendid film Brexit in which the line was expressed by the protagonists starting the campaign to get Brits to vote to leave the European Union. What is that message that can repeated over and over and over so it can't help but get into everyone's cranium?...

The Swerve gets deep into how Lucretius' words were so seductive that even when sensible people through the ages zealously railed against it, it still had the strength to ravage entire civilizations leaving dead, rotting souls strewn everywhere.

Thing is, none of the provisions and effects of Epicurean entrenchment are new at all what is intriguing is The Swerve lets us in on a little secret about its propagation, something about which devoted World inhabitants may not have the faintest idea.

It is that the Roman Catholic Church was the true force behind its wide dissemination.

For you see, a kindly mild-mannered scribe named Poggio Bracciolini engaged in an extremely industrious campaign to get the work reintroduced into the mainstream. Poggio was no ordinary seeker. He was deep in the well-respected company of a number of pontiffs serving as apostolic secretary. This is no small role, as he pretty much ran the communications office. Mercury would be so proud.

He was addictively steeped in the humanist spirit of the times, as were most members of the eminently regarded courts throughout Renaissance Italy. His job came with the highest classified security clearance allowing him to go anywhere in the farthest reaches of Vatican enterprise, and from The Swerve, "he had access, as the very word 'secretary' suggests, to the pope's secrets. And the pope had a great many secrets."

His significance did not stop there. "Sophisticated and highly skilled, he had long moved in the circles of the great. The armed guards through at the Vatican and Castel St. Angelo let him pass through the gates without a word of inquiry, and important suitors to the papal court tried to catch his eye."

Poggio was the very definition of World Operative, charged with the task of ensuring the Church's authority is perpetually legitimized through any means imagined. What better way to do that than to release upon the world the very antipathy of what it publically advocates, in order to present ordained mandarins the ready opportunity to return fire with a rigorous barrage of condemnatory vitriol that could benefit Rome for centuries.

Not only was Lucretius' work regularly burned on the steps of every ecclesiastical edifice eliciting maximum gratification of righteous indignation, but its promulgation made for the widest expression of ridicule possible.

It was marketing genius. All Poggio and other Lucretius rediscovery handlers needed to do was extensively fertilize the popular culture with it so it'd first be vigorously reviled, then furtively considered, then neurotically embraced mostly from fear of being subject to the protracted mockery squarely directed at those who still believed in that silly religious stuff.

I'd like to transcribe a paragraph to give you an idea of this operation.

 

By the 1490s, then, some sixty or seventy years after Lucretius' poem was returned to circulation, atomism was sufficiently present in Florence to make it worth ridiculing. Its presence did not mean that its positions were openly embraced as true. No prudent person stepped forward and said, "I think that the world is only atoms and void; that, in body and soul, we are only fantastically complex structures of atoms linked for a time and destined one day to come apart." No respectable citizen openly said, "The soul dies with the body. There is no judgment after death. The universe was not created for us by divine power, and the whole notion of the afterlife is a superstitious fantasy." No one who wished to live in peace stood up in public and said, "The preachers who tell us to live in fear and trembling are lying. God has no interest in our actions, and though nature is beautiful and intricate, there is no evidence of an underlying intelligent design. What should matter to us is the pursuit of pleasure, for pleasure is the highest goal of existence." No one said, "Death is nothing to us and no concern of ours." But these subversive, Lucretian thoughts percolated and surfaced wherever the Renaissance imagination was at its most alive and intense.

 

Sure enough, today, here now in bright brand spankin-new so-very-progressive year-of-perhaps-no-lord-at-all 2019, how many brazenly shout these things off the rooftops as gospel truth. Go to any university, listen to most any professor, any of his/her underlings even, you can't miss it. A few may say they're keen to religion, but scratch them, turn your ear in, and you'd hear Lucretius' voice whispering "Don't be a fool," shedding doubt on the whole thing.

Look at what the mainline media pour onto all of our viewing screens, it really is the basis of any prominent journalistic venture: "Look at the fine works of this peculiarly religious person. How cute! How precious! How much good can come from such a fantasy!" Or probably more common: "Look at the evil that this religiously motivated individual wreaks upon humanity! Oh that they would know it's all so fake, then they could be enlightened like us!"

De Rerum Natura is truly one of the greatest ruses in the history of mankind, and it has achieved so much misery. To the genuine credit of Epicurus and Lucretius, neither was likely ever acquainted with Jesus all around them were fanciful stories of flawed gods extraordinarily useful for crowd control. Their quite rational response: Nothing is supernatural at all. Rome has either devised grand religious drudgery for most of the world to obsess over, or it has fomented Epicureanism in any number of variations as the perfect foil for the religiously captivated.

Another film getting lots of cred right now is Vice, a whimsical portrayal of the tyrant that was Dick Cheney and bumbler that was George Bush. More instructive is Tupper Saussy's short piece, Sympathy for Mr. Cheney, one of his last published works in which he writes cogently about the standard deep politics machinations. The "Commander-in-Chief" here is not exactly the one you may think it is.

 

Every general knows that winning, whether in war or the jungle, requires exceptional skills in deception. A well-designed and executed ruse, aimed at an enemy or the general's own men or nation, can confound, instill fear, provoke to fruitless extremes, tap precious resources, sap energies and ultimately make the general a conqueror with very little actual combat. The ruse is, by far, the most economical weapon in the Commander-in-Chief's arsenal.

 

The devil is in our phones all right, but only because he is first in our hearts. Social media and other such scathingly prevalent avenues just make it more visible now it isn't as hard to see what he's doing all around us, particularly in our children.

A seminal point in the film Brexit is when lead campaigner Dominic Cummings (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) is discussing strategy with a smart young borderline Millennial-Generation Z'er, and he directs his attention to the massive immersion in The Phone.

Comes the dawn. He recognizes Internet technology is the way to get what he wants, to get that idea into that mainstream psyche. "It is not about the left or the right," Cummings is told. "It is now between the old and the new." The old is De Rerum Natura, but just as old is the devil's work. Look at how much he has his grip on the new today the young and old through those media.

One of the most attractive sells of Epicureanism is this notion that you are experiencing true liberation, because you now have a buoyant rationale for pursuing pleasure and happiness without all that fear of the nonsensical transcendent getting in the way or those expectations from some burdensome morality mucking things up.

Hmm, pleasure and happiness.

Well, there is something better than that, really, and it comes from beyond. It is indeed the only place it can come from. No better place to see the contrast than at the very end of Brexit.

Cummings is being grilled at a hearing after the successful Brexit vote, and the inquisitors simply don't get it. Thing is, Cummings doesn't get it either. He'd thought he'd been successful, he'd thought he'd achieved what was supposed to make everyone's life better. He'd even spent the last several months swimming in the data, overloaded with it, so much knowledge now about what's right and true and real. Yet all he's feeling is exasperation. He says at one point, "We are adrift without a vision or a purpose." Eventually he storms out of the hearing with the words

"We're done. We're all done."

That's the very end of the film, by the way.

The vanilla-frosting-smothered disconsolation was propelled to the most destructive ends hundreds of years ago by a dutiful well-connected scribe on behalf of the Roman hegemony for the purpose of keeping billions in the devil's grip. Sure happiness and pleasure are fine things, but they are pointless if you're dead. Of course the Epicurean exclaims, "That's what makes it okay! You're dead dead dead, so don't worry about it!"

I cannot see how that is supposed to be of any comfort, and I truly believe even the most seasoned Epicurean deep inside knows it is one of the most heinous lies of all. Sadly I think most ill-versed to grasp the impact on them just absorb it by a sort of spiritual osmosis and haven't even a clue as to how to seriously contemplate how absurd it is.

This is especially true of young people today, young adults just children really. Adrift. Purposeless. They know it in their hearts but tied to the World's philosophy they cannot see an out. As such they go crazy trying to convince everyone they're not in a state of abject despair, and they struggle so much because the only thing that governs their ethical constitution is the stultifyingly superficial glitter and glam splashing from their mobile devices.

It's all they have, the devil keeping them desperate for more and telling them over and over again there is nothing beyond that. They try to find assurance in that ever-so pervasive rule Make your own way with your own lifestyle standards and that's just fine especially when it's fun and flashy, but I can't believe many can't see through it. It can be discouraging, however it seems millions and millions more are given over to it, never introduced to The One Who Is Life, intractably adopting one of the grandest deceits of all time to their relentless anguish and crushing subjugation.

For those who consider this a bit too melodramatic, that's cool, I understand. Before you dispatch this for the last time, I'd like to invite you to take a quick look at a compilation of the Epicurean assertions I've assembled on this page. There are so many each meriting a response that I've made this special page for it please, consider continuing the discourse there.

 

The devil is the father of lies and as nasty as the fruit of Poggio's work has been through the ages, rampant information dissemination today makes it just that much more easy for him to do his work. Indeed it is true as the New York Times says: the devil is speaking through our phones, to our children, to individuals with no protection from The Ruse. It is just another major implement in the armory belonging to the Prince of the Age.

Please be assured of this, however:

He still can't do a thing against the King.

That's because while the Kingdom is also about happiness and pleasure very much so! Jesus is way more interested in something else

Way better...

Something truly eternal...

That is love and joy.

You may only get them from Him.

 

***

Notes:

  • Here is that link again to the page with the most significant Epicurean assertions, robustly challenged.

  • The biographical passages in The Swerve related to Poggio Bracciolini are from page 19. The pull quote on the absurd Epicurean things people proudly do confess today is from page 220.

  • A page with links to other works of Tupper Saussy is here. For the exposition on the formation of Cain's domain, check out the fourth chapter of Genesis. The actual Commander-in-Chief is described here.

  • Too much to write here, but I'd like to add that at the end of the film Brexit they mentioned Cummings' funding connection with Robert Mercer, none other than a major player in the telecommunications industry.

  • Another home page piece in which I address the Epicurean mythology is here.

  • Last summer I blogged a bit more about Facebook's dilemma, that is here.

  • Jesus' exposition of the devil, particularly his role as the father of lies, is in the eighth chapter of John. Take a peek at the third chapter of Mark for the truth of Jesus' authority over the devil, and the first chapter of Ephesians for His authority over the strongest temporal potentate.

  • The One Who Is Life.

***

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The Latest in the Webzine (March 2019): I have decided that it is time to do fewer home page pieces over the course of a year because they simply take too much of my time. I'm planning one every three months now, next up then will be in June, for Summer 2019. Thank you for your faithful readership. I've added a page with responses to what I see is the reigning philosophy of the age, Epicureanism. My (so-far) signature video is up and has a page of its own, here is the reference page, and the link to YouTube is here. I invite you to let me know what you think, here is my email address. I blog sometimes at Wonderful Matters. Several of us ROEders have a "Tupper Saussy" group on Facebook, you're more than welcome to ask to join. Mention this webzine. I'd love to expand the breadth of this endeavor, so if you know of someone who is well-versed in computer systems, web design, or web marketing, please let me know. Thanks.

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The website The Catholicist Nation at  yourownjesus.net was originally uploaded by David Beck on August 3, 2004

The home page essay above was written by David Beck and was posted on this site on February 26, 2019