Superstition Is Fun

Humanity has always needed superstition to teach lessons and maintain order in our societies. Superstition can be fun. We are innately drawn to them. Even today, the use of superstition starts young. Using Santa as a fable for children to understand the consequences of being good or bad is commonplace. An omnipotent god rewarding us in heaven or condemning us to hell based on our actions on Earth is not all that different.

Even before the existence of societies as we know them, superstition was necessary to quell our fear of the dark and the unknown, and though we learn more and more each day, unanswered questions still plague us. For millennia, the existential crises that arise when we question our place in a seemingly endless universe was not something that humans could afford to spend time dwelling upon. We needed answers so that we could focus on the tasks at hand: Feeding ourselves, keeping ourselves safe, keeping ourselves sane. (See: “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~rbrokaw/maslow.HTM)

More recently, advances in technology and government have allowed many of us to stay safe and fed without significant work on our own part. Never has there been a safer time an place to be a human.

Do not misunderstand. This does not underestimate the dangers that still lurk for people who differ in looks, gender, or sexuality here in America. I do not take for granted the safety we experience here when there are atrocities being committed against humans in other parts of the world on staggering scales every day. I do not want to overlook those in our very neighborhoods who do not have food or shelter. But for many of us alive today, we face little threat to our safety in the short term.

For the majority of humanity’s existence, each day has been a fight to stay alive on an individual level. This has been the case for over a hundred thousand years. Only extraordinarily recently (especially on an evolutionary timescale) has a significant portion of the populace had the luxury to not worry. However, we have not had time to adapt and so our minds remain willing and capable of accepting superstitions as truth. Even ones we know are false—Santa Claus, for example—make us happy. Ones that we truly believe make us far more than happy. They make us feel safe. They protect our minds from overwhelming questions. They give us the purpose our minds desire.

This makes religion powerful. Historically, religious leaders have been some of the most powerful people in our societies. But that power only remains when people are in a position where they are willing to believe in superstition. Take away the fear of the unknown, and you take away the power from the powerful. Give people the opportunity to be educated and face the existential questions of life from a place of safety, you give them power.

That concept flies in the face of the Puritan Work Ethic, something that many say is what has allowed the USA to thrive. It tells us to keep our heads down, do the work, and go to church on Sundays. That is all you need to do to be happy. It keeps the power in the hands of the powerful and emphasizes acceptance of superstition.

It is no surprise that politicians have long intertwined their politics with religion. It is also no surprise that many politicians do so little to put their people in a place of security. Even those who do not explicitly rely on fear to motivate their voter base—even some of the more progressive politicians—support so-called “free markets” that continue to place more power in the hands of the powerful and encourage corporations to monopolize. These politicians espouse ideals like the American Dream that revolve around the Puritan Work Ethic and a goal of being moderately financially successful. In many ways, those who follow these ideals find themselves comfortable and happy.

It remains true, though, that the American Dream has only ever been accessible to certain people. There have been and still are power structures in place that keep the working class in its place. Even as the working class grows and diversifies, the powerful clamber for more power and continue to steal security from those who support them.

Many political positions are about keeping the working class insecure and workers loyal to their work and efficiently productive. A few of these political positions in particular come to mind: Opposition to universal healthcare and the idea that healthcare is a basic human right, opposition to social safety nets, and opposition to immigration.

Would-be immigrants who stay in their county ensure a workforce that is paid less and has fewer protections.

When the only healthcare a worker can get is through his or her employer, quitting a job can become practically impossible. When having a benefits package could mean the difference between life and death, people will give up a lot to keep it.

Opposition to a social safety net arises out of fear of what people may do when they have no fear. They may become less productive. They may no longer work themselves to the bone for the one who signs their paycheck. A social safety net restores power to the working class. It allows people to pursue art and other careers without fear of failure. It sets people free to learn and experiment with what makes them happy. It allows them the freedom to examine and question the existential fears that keep them willing to believe.

Of course, superstition is fun, though. Santa is pretty cool, right?

Huazhong SFJ-3 Results

Shooting film always involves a bit of uncertainty. Old cameras are prone to shutter problems, light leaks, and myriad other things that can go wrong. All this, in addition to user error, which is always more likely when shooting with an unfamiliar camera, can lead to poor results.

When you add in the factor that this particular camera is a somewhat rare knockoff with extremely limited information about it online, waiting for the results on this roll was nerve wracking.

However, upon seeing the results, I am very pleased. The images are surprisingly sharp and contrasty. I used a roll of Ilford Delta 400 film that was a few months expired, but that did not have any significant effect on the results.

The only problems were user errors, including overlapping frames and an inadvertent double exposure.

The Huazhong SFJ-3 is a Chinese-made twin lens reflex (TLR) camera made sometime from the 60’s to the 80’s. It is modeled after the Seagull 4B, and more generally the Rolleiflex.

It has shutter speeds up to 1/500 sec. and a maximum aperture of f/3.5. The focal length of the lens is 75mm. It’s simple, with few bells and whistles, but it seems solidly built. I’m looking forward to taking it for a spin.

It is a standard TLR with a waist level finder. It shoots either 6×6 or 6×4.5 size negatives thanks to a removable mask. The simple cocking and firing mechanism of the shutter still appears to be working at all speeds. The self timer also works.

It may not be fair to put the Huazhong side by side with the Rolleicord, but in many ways, I think it holds its own. You can obviously see similarities in construction. You can also see the differences. Considering the difference in price point, I am pleasantly surprised at the quality and appearance of the Huazhong. I am very interested to see how the images they make compare.

Once I am able to get a roll of film shot and developed I will post the results.

Just Over the Fence

Behind my house, just over the fence, is Sherwood Forest, where I will steal from the rich and give to the poor with Robin Hood.

Behind my house, just over the fence, is Fangorn, where I will travel with Treebeard and battle the forces of Saruman.

Behind my house, just over the fence, is Oz and Wonderland and Endor.

I will explore strange new worlds with Captain Kirk, fight off hordes of evil alongside Aslan and feast with the elves and fairy folk who live behind my house, just over the fence.

Behind my house, just over the fence, there are boundless worlds to discover full of the most improbable people and impossible places.

All I have to do is get over the fence.

ZENZA BRONICA ETR-SI

The Bronica ETR-Si is a modular SLR. With interchangeable backs, lenses and viewers, the ETR system is versatile. It is a fully manual camera that shoots medium format (120) film. The camera can be found at considerably lower prices than many comparable cameras. While it does not match the quality or style of the high end medium format cameras, the ETR-Si makes an excellent budget conscious choice that can produce professional quality images.

It requires a battery to fire the shutter at any speed other than 1/60 frame per second, and there is no built-in exposure meter. However, the batteries are inexpensive, and metering can be done easily with a handheld meter. The AE viewfinder could also be used. What the camera does do, it does consistently well.

Sample images:

Bad Faith

DISCLAIMER: I am not writing this to try to convince you that what you believe is wrong. I am not going to attempt to debunk any claims. I am not a science communicator. I am not an evangelist. I am writing this for myself more that anyone. I don’t really care if you agree with me or not. I am not trying to start a debate (Though, I am open to questions or friendly discussions).

There are many reasons why I no longer consider myself a Christian. I had actually stopped calling myself “Christian” long before I left the church. It was a decision that was not made suddenly or lightly, and it is not one I expect anyone else to make. It was a long time coming and there were a lot of factors that all came together and built to a tipping point. For me, when the tipping point came, everything went. Not just a disownment of the more radical parts of the Christian religion, but a disownment of every aspect of belief in God. At this point, I hold no religions beliefs because I am not able to justify faith in anything to myself. To some this may sound like a dark place to be, but I’ve never felt more clear in my mind or my purpose. I have found that joy, love and peace still exist without faith in God.

Growing up in Baptist churches means being taught to believe that the Bible is true in its entirety. This includes the creation story. There are entire organizations devoted to spreading Creationism. There are Creation Evangelists who travel the country teaching Creationism. There are programs to teach children Creationism. The creation story is being taught as fact in private Christian schools. As a child, I trusted the people behind the pulpit or at the head of the classroom to be telling me the truth. And so I believed the creation story.

What has had the largest impact on my faith is realizing that much of what I was taught about the origin of the universe, the earth and humanity is simply not true. Realizing that I had been provided with incorrect or partial information was a revelation. I do not know if these people that I trusted were lying or if they actually believed what they taught, but in my mind there is no denying that they spoke in bad faith.

Any child should be able to trust that people in a position of leadership will give them the most accurate information available, but information is regularly twisted or omitted in the teaching of Creationism. Truth is dismissed as biased conjecture in favor of biased conjecture passed off as truth. Reality is distorted shamelessly. If contrary theories are introduced, they are merely straw man arguments—built up with half truths only to be knocked down by falsehoods.

While this has been my experience with Creationism, I am not asking you to just trust me and forsake everything that you believe. I am asking you to do this: If you encounter a Creation Evangelist or are confronted with the teachings of Creationism, listen with an open mind. Then, with an open mind, consult trustworthy sources. Explore what is being claimed and what the latest scientific research says about it. Examine the motivation of all your sources, and evaluate their veracity. Acknowledge your own biases and know it is OK to question what you believe and why.

I believe that a Christian can have an honest and open mind about science and hold onto their most vital religious beliefs. Many questions answered by the Bible are not answered by science, and in many ways they are not contradictory. When you do encounter a contradiction, though, the best thing you can do is search for the truth and be honest with yourself.

If you are able to do that and remain devout, good for you. Literally, it probably is good for you. There was a study published recently that indicates religious people live longer than atheists on average. (Source: The Independent )