2005-01-15 : Archive 154

"An atheist. You haven't done much magic then? Just fooling around or whatever? Any kind of you know tradition or anything?"

"I'm in your hands," I say. "Well, hold on. I was raised, let's see, I was raised with a magical tradition after all I guess. My folks were Mormons, but like uh mystical Mormons."

"Mystical Mormons," she says.

"Yeah. Very superstitious, very magical-minded. They cast out demons, did healings, um. Divinations."

"So like Christian magic, are Mormons Christian?"

"Yeah, I guess so. I mean, whatever. They say they are, Christians say they aren't, it all looks about the same from here."

"Right," she says.

"It's based on nineteenth century American folk magic, I guess. Dowsing, whatever. With some like Masonic ceremonial stuff thrown in."

"Really? Like what?"

"Secret names, occult handshakes and gestures, that kind of stuff."



"So do you still practice?"

"No, not at all. I gave it up with the rest of the religion."

"Hm," she says. "Anything left over from it? When did you give it up? Any like outstanding obligations, anything like that?"

"No. I mean I can't imagine. It was like eight years ago and change, Halloween time eight years ago. I assume that since my obligations were to something that doesn't exist, I'm not bound to keep them."

"You would," she says.

It's a throwaway bit of my novel but the question's real. Those obligations I had? Those commitments I made? Am I bound by them?

When I promised as a child to serve and love God forever, I meant it, and nobody made provision for His nonexistance.

1. On 2005-01-15, Chris said:

Depends on if you believe in a wise God, an All powerful God, or a vengeful God.

Wise God would know that you're just a kid, and kids say all kinds of things. Even full grown people make lots of promises they don't keep. God knows that people are people, just the way they were supposed to be made, so God can't be surprised when people fail to keep promises or say things they don't mean.

All Powerful God doesn't need anything from anyone. So promises only really matter in terms of the intent-"It's the thought that matters", but other than that, God is cool either way.

Vengeful God holds you words, even those mumbled while drunk, not to teach you a lesson, but for the sheer cruel joy of making you face your weaknesses, and suffer forever for them.

Personally, I have found, and continue to find, that happy, effective, and mature people lean towards the wise side, and can only imagine that an all powerful, all knowing, sentient being could only be more so. Otherwise, as Maltheists believe- people are better than God. Which would make God a rather sad thing, without any real power at all.

Of course, that's if you believe in God at all. :)


2. On 2005-01-16, Matthijs said:

Well, there are different practices in different cultures. However, since my memory has never actually worked, I can't give any specific examples, so take the following for what it's worth.

As I understand it, in times/cultures when keeping your word was important, it didn't matter who you gave it to - the person you promised something didn't even have to know you existed. You'd still be bound. In some cultures, I believe they wouldn't even be able to relieve you of the oath if they _wanted_ to. The promise would be solely your own responsibility.

So yeah, in those times and cultures you'd definitely still be bound, no matter what God might think of it. But we don't live there. We live in times where it doesn't really matter all that much what you promise to anyone (except if it involves money and they have a good lawyer). People promise they'll be loyal to their company, stay together 'til death do them part, and arrive on time for gaming sessions. You know?


3. On 2005-01-16, ethan_greer said:

I don't think you're bound by them.

Here's why.

Reason #1: They were promises and commitments made on the basis of (hopefully unwitting) lies, deceit, and misinformation. Therefore they were never binding commitments.

Reason #2: Once a promise is broken, you have two valid options: Reaffirm the promise, or choose to live life without it, and without reference to it. So, what you need to do is evaluate the choice you made to break the promise. Was it the right choice? If so, recognize that you have chosen not to be bound by the promise for good and correct reasons, and live your life without guilt. If breaking the promise was the wrong choice, reaffirm the promise and endeavor to live by it again. What you precisely shouldn't do is break the promise for the right reasons but then still feel guilty about it, or somehow still bound by it.


4. On 2005-01-16, C. Edwards said:

What's changed, Vincent? God is just a word. A word with different meanings depending on who you ask. Your obligation is to YOUR meaning of the word, not anybody elses.


5. On 2005-01-16, Meguey said:

C. Edwards - "Your obligation is to YOUR meaning of the word, not anybody elses"

Yeeess, but if you know that the meaning it held when you made the promise was A, and now you belive B, how can you hold the promise made to A? If I say "I promise to always love chocolate" (meaning love eating it)and then I become alergic to chocolate, can I change my promise to mean the dark brown color of chocolate? Shouldn't I more rightly either make a new promise - "I will always love the color chocolate" and/or acknowledge that I have broken my old promise, do whatever I need to do, and move on?


6. On 2005-01-16, C. Edwards said:

Well, little things first. You can love chocolate without eating it. It would be tragic, sure, but doable.

As for the other, how can you have a promise to something that doesn't exist? That mental construct (in this case a particular meaning of God), while still occupying the same brain space, has been transformed into something else.

I say the promise should apply to the position that construct holds in your heart and mind, not to what you consider to be an outdated version of that construct.

But then, I've got a sort of quantum-animistic view of existence that really is not compatible with the need to create a fiction for some big How? and Why?.

In the end, only what Vincent feels that he needs to do will matter.


7. On 2005-01-16, Clinton R. Nixon said:


Hate to toot my own horn here (who am I kidding? No I don't):

Pvt. Benjamin Cooper, 3rd Platoon, 1st Company, Raphael?s Roughriders

I tried to explore the same question, and I thought the answer was pretty funny.


8. On 2005-01-16, Weeks said:

You're never bound by any commitments. How would this be any different? If you _feel_ bound by something, then you'll act in one way, different than if you don't. That's all there is. I mean, what? Is God taking you to court for breach?

But, because I think the world is a better place the more we teach people to honor commitments and not make them trivially, I think it's really messed up to have kids take oathes and recite pledges and make promises. The Pledge of Allegiance isn't antithetical to The American Way because of "under God" (well, OK, it is, but it's no biggie) but because the unknowing indoctrination of legions of future citizens cheapens the nature of a pledge. Any pledge. A promise is merely a tool for manipulation.


9. On 2005-01-17, Vincent said:

...And I should have thought of this before I posted: I have discharged my obligations, not to say fulfilled them. I have a letter from God's representatives telling me that I am to no longer consider myself in His service (and I know where to find them if I decide to get right).

They even specifically point out to me that I can't do healings or battle demons any more! Not in exactly those words, but there it is.

Pretty funny.

And Clinton, that is wicked funny.


10. On 2005-01-17, C. Edwards said:

You can still like battle demons as a sideline on your own time, right? Or is it some sort of union thing?

Hella sweet story, Clinton.


11. On 2005-01-17, Meguey said:

Great story, Clinton. I love the soap bubble ponchos and the swords. :)


12. On 2005-01-19, Vincent said:

C. - nope. My demon battlin' rights are revoked. Now I have to just put up with demons like every other civilian.