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Culture War Roundup for the week of January 8, 2024

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The Dawn of Everything, The Pop-Tarts Bowl Mascot, Joseph Campbell, and the Importance of Play

The Pop Tarts Bowl was played between North Carolina State and Kansas State. From my limited understanding, it is a second or third tier bowl game, well below stuff like the Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl, on the fringes of something that makes national TV. The colleges are relatively unimportant schools. But it took over my Twitter for a while, because of the edible mascot. And dammit, they delivered didn’t they Canonically (I have been informed) within the advertising universe personified Pop-Tarts want desperately to be eaten, it is their favorite thing. Tweets exploded at the sheer absurdity of the spectacle. It produced absurd quantities of earned media and was the most watched bowl game to that point. Other Mascots got in on it. There were infinite comparisons to Christ and the birth of Christianity: "This my body, that is being given up for you, and for many." And I can’t find the tweet anymore because I rarely save them, but I saw one in the midst of this onslaught of content that went something like “Archaeologists will unearth this and say that Americans engaged in mass sacrifice in college football stadiums. What if the Aztec temples and the Roman Coliseum weren’t sites of brutal slaughter, but intense silliness and play acting?” I don’t endorse those interpretations of Roman and Aztec history, and certainly not of Christianity…but let’s consider another possibility.

The Dawn of Everything (hereafter DoE) is a magisterial work. It endeavors to cover a great deal of ground, from meta-critique of European historiography and ethnography to straight historical storytelling, from absurd theorizing about Rousseau secretly plagiarizing indigenous authors to interesting interpretations of obscure cultural and historical forms.

((A brief aside on that Rousseau bit: ACX featured an extensive review of the book. The reviewer criticizes the idea of indigenous thought influencing European political thought as absurd then compares the Dawn of Everything view of power to the film Mean Girls…without realizing that he is himself participating in exactly the dynamic that the authors of DoE are talking about. Mean Girls quite explicitly compares the tribalism of High School cliques to a silly view of African wildlife and native life. The main character of the film is explicitly created as an outsider to American middle class norms, by way of making her the child of researching professors raised abroad in darkest Africa. The entire plot is, at some level, deeply influenced by and in conversation with the Western view of indigenous African cultures. To turn around and offer it as a pure and naive example of what hunter-gatherer tribal culture would have looked like is precisely what the Daves are talking about in DoE.))

But the real focus of DoE is in my view twofold. The first goal is recapturing the idea of humans as universally self-aware political actors, even in primitive societies. The second is an examination of how political forms radically different than our own interact with human freedom, and the authors view of the “Three Fundamental Freedoms” and how to measure them. I have no interest in going over the many examples offered in DoE to support the first point. They offer numerous examples of humans engaging in political thought, debate, and reorganization. They make what I find to be persuasive arguments that rather than a straight line from a pure state of nature, through intermediate steps growing progressively more complex and controlled, to the modern capitalist surveillance state, itself an intermediate step leading towards the singularity/the Federation of Planets/True Communism/Whatever. DoE makes a compelling argument that in many places over time, peoples have gotten something resembling early civilization and soundly and consciously rejected it. That through the resulting institutions and traditions primitive successor nations specifically built strategies to prevent the formation of tyrannies. This is obvious, if only by evolutionary means: only societies that have formed strong traditions against the formation of more strictly organized control and tyranny will remain free. We can examine societies that built cities and monuments in Cahokia, then abandoned them, to see how a society can be built to resist such further authoritarianism.

DoE frames this view of anti-authoritarianism in the Three Freedoms. The freedom to move away, the freedom to disobey, and the freedom to reorganize social relationships along new lines. The first is the most fundamental, underlying such post-modern futurist visions of freedom as the Archipelago and the Patchwork. As long as people are free to flee, building a new tyranny is impossible, people will simply leave. What if they had a pogrom and nobody showed up? The second is obvious, can people disobey orders given to them? What are the consequences of doing so? Interacting with the first freedom, can you just leave town if you don’t want to listen to orders, or will you be restrained? The third is more subtle: how can people change the organization of their social relationships? Are the hierarchies handed down to me, or can I build my own? Are we allowed to form our own religion, our own secret society, our own fan club, freedom of association? Can I marry who I choose, and structure that marriage how I choose? While the other freedoms are purely the freedom to assert oneself (to move under one’s own will, to act as one chooses) this freedom also involves a strange freedom: the freedom to submit. Am I free to bind myself to religious doctrines? Am I free to structure a covenant marriage? Am I free to run my family how I choose? Am I free to sign contracts to work as I see fit? By the very act of granting rights to parties that are irrevocable, modern governments impinge on the right to transform social relations: I have the freedom of association, but not to bind myself or others to promises beyond what the government chooses to recognize. Beyond that limit, all can escape.

Much of the work is devoted to examination of different bases of power, and how they interact in primitive societies. But one of the interesting insights is how, looking at societies that are seemingly on-the-verge of developing into more complex polities, there seem to be play-powers, carnival-kings whose power is temporary or farcical, and are obeyed with a giggle but have no real power. DoE compares this to play-farming, typical of hunter-gatherer cultures, who will often cultivate a plot for fun but not as a primary means of subsistence. The authors theorize that play-kings develop into real kings over time. But they also assert the importance of play-relations as a way to model, to experiment, to grow into new forms of real relations, an assertion of the third freedom. Play can be an important means of building civil society, of creating new forms.

In talking about the first freedom, DoE talks about the Clan system of Amerindian tribes. Each tribe contained a cross cutting system of Clans, within the Algonquin there were Bear, Wolf, Hawk clans and then among the Haudenausee there would equally be Bear, Wolf, Hawk clans, and so on in tribes across the plains to the canyons. The clan members were putatively all relatives of each, clan descent was matrilineal, and clan members must marry someone from another clan. Clan members owe each other hospitality, travel was facilitated across long distances. The authors note that much of the long distance travel and trade seems to be for fairly frivolous purposes, minor luxuries or curiosities rather than necessities. Much of the long distance trade and travel was itself play, a frivolous means of achieving status. But at the same time, the preservation of these networks of trade and travel enabled the freedom to move. It was impossible to tyrannize citizens when they have the option to move from place to place easily and freely. So while the networks may be frivolous in application, they have a serious impact. It's these kinds of cross-cutting identities that can offer freedom against the polity. The combination of all identities into a single coinciding nation-state is the opposite of this, a totalizing identity: an ethnic identity that coincides with a political monopoly on violence which coincides (often) with religious identities which coincides with linguistic identities. Maybe we need to disentangle the identities from each-other.

Think of all the ways that frivolous things can become serious. Everything I learned about leadership, I learned from either youth sports or the Boy Scouts. My wife and I use joking ironic pet names for each other, that slowly become the only names we refer to each other by, the sappy irony becomes sappy reality. We have seen “meme-magic” turn an ironic joke into a president, and then into a number of people who may or may not have been in on the jokes going to prison. On this very forum, I learned about the Doge system, and I really would consider implementing it in other organizations I am a part of in the future. The Nika riots are a great example of play civil society coming to the fore, albeit to a tragic conclusion. Much of the glue of civil society is in ball leagues, in reading clubs, in sewing circles.

This all reminded me of a quote from a Joseph Campbell lecture that has stuck with me for a long time:

There is a curious, extremely interesting term in Japanese that refers to a very special manner of polite, aristocratic speech known as “play language,” asobase kotoba, whereby, instead of saying to a person, for example, “I see that you have come to Tokyo,” one would express the observation by saying, “I see that you are playing at being in Tokyo”— the idea being that the person addressed is in such control of his life and his powers that for him everything is a play, a game, freely and with ease. And this idea is carried even so far that instead of saying to a person, “I hear that your father has died,” you would say, rather, “I hear that your father has played at dying.” And now, I submit that this is truly a noble, really glorious way to approach life…That is the attitude designated by Nietzche as Amor fati, love of one’s fate.

The field of play can encompass everything in life, all the world’s a stage and whatnot, but it is also important to create fields of play to experiment, to create spaces of mastery in which to learn.

Which brings us back to the Pop Tarts Bowl. It’s comical, it is silly, it is a corporate goofball advertisement. But it can also be the start of a tradition. Maybe this is how traditions start, with something so ridiculously stupid that it captures the imagination. These kinds of imaginary games, ceremonies, meanings, can be used to start to build to cross-cutting identities that will help us imagine and reproduce a new universe of freedom, outside the modern totalizing worldview.

It’s important not to take things so seriously. Treat life as a game, and you’ll build something real.

Note: DoE dislikes the use of terms like “primitive.” For all the typical reasons of judgment etc. I still find it a useful conceptual anchor, and for lack of a better term that isn’t dripping with euphemistic political correctness I will use it here. I do not indicate, in general, that these are not sophisticated societies, or that they are not organized. The whole point of this is that they have political thought! But they don’t have the maxim gun, as it were.

On this note, ancient city discovered in the Amazon. Probably less exciting than the headlines make it out to be, but yet more evidence that the Amerindian experience of history was cyclical, with civilizations developing and disappearing, rather than progressive.

Probably less exciting than the headlines make it out to be, but yet more evidence that the Amerindian experience of history was cyclical, with civilizations developing and disappearing, rather than progressive.

Was it any different in the Old World until around the time of the Columbian conquests? Was 11th century Italy significantly more advanced than the Roman world of a millennium prior?

On a large enough timescale, I'm not sure anywhere in human history doesn't fit in to some degree or other.

But conflating the middle ages in Italy with the total disappearance of organized urban life for centuries seems a bit broad.

It is accepted now that America before Columbus was no pristine wilderness, but densely populated and higly developed land. "High counters" are more vindicated every day.

More evidence that being hit by epidemic with 95% death rate is not good for civilization and progress. As Gregory Cochran pointed, it was just matter of dumb luck that nothing worse that syphilis (and possibly typhus) came back to Old World (and early syphilis was very bad).

Obviously, we need to fund science of virology much more generously and speed up gain of function research to be safe!

Was the issue for Amerindians not that the bottleneck of the Alaskan crossing made them even less genetically diverse than the rest of the out-of-Africa population, ensuring the highest possible death rates?

There were infinite comparisons to Christ and the birth of Christianity: "This my body, that is being given up for you, and for many."

As someone with a very high view of the Eucharist, I now want to kill everyone involved with this 🤦‍♀️

DoE compares this to play-farming, typical of hunter-gatherer cultures, who will often cultivate a plot for fun but not as a primary means of subsistence.

I wonder about this; sure, it could be the hunter-gatherer equivalent of window-boxes, where people in apartments will plant a few herbs or something as a fun adjunct, but their primary sources of food are "go to the local grocery store". But for people not living in 21st century urban environment, this is time and effort invested in something that they could use for other purposes. Definitely not the main means of subsistence, but not just 'fun', either; the extra touch of luxury like home-grown herbs from your own garden/window box to add to your meals and make them tastier. Unless they're growing flowers/ornamental plants, it's not simply 'for fun'.

As someone with a very high view of the Eucharist, I now want to kill everyone involved with this

I am afraid that this ship sailed long ago (it was early 19th century sailboat).

The last time when death for blasphemers and abusers of Body of Christ was seriously tried in Western civilization was during the Bourbon Restoration in France, and it was not tried very hard.

The Anti-Sacrilege Act (1825–1830) was a French law against blasphemy and sacrilege passed in April 1825 under King Charles X. The death penalty provision of the law was never applied, but a man named François Bourquin was sentenced to perpetual forced labour for sacrilegial burglary;[1] the law was later revoked at the beginning of the July Monarchy under King Louis-Philippe.

As someone with a very high view of the Eucharist, I now want to kill everyone involved with this

Fifth Commandment! You can't accept just the Eucharist, you need to accept the less-fun parts too.

As someone with a very high view of the Eucharist, I now want to kill everyone involved with this 🤦‍♀️

I'd be very curious to read your view on the Eucharist. I haven't read much about it, but am definitely impressed by the sheer symbolic weight of the ritual.

I'm one of those knuckle-dragging, science-denying, embarrassment to the family Neanderthals that believes transubstantiation and that the consecrated Host really is the body and blood of Christ.

Cue Flannery O'Connor: "If it's a symbol, then I say to Hell with it"

I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. . . . She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. We went at eight and at one, I hadn't opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. The people who took me were Robert Lowell and his now wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them. Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the "most portable" person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, "Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it." That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest is expendable."

It's not a symbol, it's not a birthday party, when the words "This is my Body" are said, it truly becomes the body of Christ. I'm irredeemable, I'm deplorable, I'm mired in peasant superstition 😁

when the words "This is my Body" are said, it truly becomes the body of Christ.

What does this mean? I hear Catholics saying it all the time, but they’re just guessing the magisterium’s password. The Council of Trent said it, so you say it. If you take the literal phrase, “when the words ‘This is my Body’ are said, it truly becomes the body of Christ,” and interpret it using the norms of 21st century English, one would come to the conclusion that if you take a consecrated host, grind it up, and run a polymerase chain reaction on it, you’d end up with a vial full of Jesus DNA instead of grain DNA. Someone has claimed to have done this experiment. Maybe you think such trivialities are missing the point. I invite you to tell me, what is the point? Does the process of transsubstantiation change the host on the molecular level? the subatomic level? the quantum field level? If there are no physical effects, then in what way is this not a purely spiritual change?

Maybe you think such trivialities are missing the point.

Pardon me for laughing, but yes, I do. Anyone who got their hands on a consecrated Host and did this is engaging in (technical) blasphemy (see our good old pal PZ Myers), and if they managed to get an unconsecrated host, it wouldn't be any different than ordinary bread. But even back when I was younger (not dumber since I've never been very smart) I knew that putting the consecrated wine through a HPLC machine wouldn't show anything up, and it wasn't meant to do so. There's little other testing of the sort that science (or perhaps I should say instead, Science!) does; take the notion of testing if someone is in love by measuring hormone levels and so forth. You could indeed do it, but I think most people wouldn't find it a very satisfactory way of determining the question.

To quote Chesterton:

"The method," remarked the other, "has been guaranteed by some of the greatest American men of science."

"What sentimentalists men of science are!" exclaimed Father Brown, "and how much more sentimental must American men of science be! Who but a Yankee would think of proving anything from heart-throbs? Why, they must be as sentimental as a man who thinks a woman is in love with him if she blushes. That's a test from the circulation of the blood, discovered by the immortal Harvey; and a jolly rotten test, too."

Next point:

If there are no physical effects, then in what way is this not a purely spiritual change?

The theology has been much argued about, and the formal language is an effort to use Aristotelian logical terms of the time. Luther, for instance, didn't like such because he felt it wasn't mystical enough, and his attempt at a formulation wasn't much better, as the fall-out between the Reformers over what was going on and was it a sacrament or only an ordnance and so forth demonstrated.

I can only give you the unsatisfactory "the accidents remain the same, the essence changes". It's certainly much easier and seems much more sensible to regard it as a ceremony or a symbol, and if you really need to be mystical about it that something 'spiritual' happens to the recipient who takes it in faith.

But that's not good enough. Yes, I know it sounds crazy and ignorant and science-denying and superstitious and all the rest of it. But if you strip the mystical out of religion, why are you even bothering with a religion? You just want - and end up with - a nice, polite, New England Transcendentalist debating society and ethics club.

I’m not Catholic, don’t know one whit of Catholic theology, and what I am about to say is therefore pulled directly out of my ass. But one possibility — to me — is that when the Eucharist is consecrated, Jesus consciously experiences sense data through Eucharist in some way analogous to how normal humans experience sense data through their bodies. So when you touch the Eucharist, Jesus feels it as if you’re touching his body. This concludes my exercise in developing what is most likely a new brand of heresy.

I’ve dabbled myself in theorizing about whether pantheism is a valid subset of omnipresence, so this didn’t come across as heretical so much as edge-case theoretical.

It's based on Ancient Greek philosophy that was ignorant of all of modern physics and chemistry. There is no point trying to analyze it rationally it is an attempt by smart, but ignorant, people to make sense of an irrational dogma. At some point you have to just give up. The Christians, Buddhists, Muslims or whoever will just make up knew more elaborate excuses on command. They have the truth of their dogma as a fixed prior and can always reason around any objection to it's truth.

Acerbic but pithy summation! 😀

I think context of Jesus and his disciples as Jews needs to be considered too. Ancient Jewish laws on blood follow strict guidelines (you cannot consume the blood of an animal or you become like an animal) and figure prominently in covenants (the blood of Abraham lives on in his descendants). So when Jesus says these words at the last supper, he is initiating a new covenant on the basis of his blood. So even though it has the appearance of ordinary wine, spiritually it must be transformed into the blood of Jesus to be part of this new covenant with God.

So when these words and this ritual are repeated (Do this in memory of me), this new covenant of Jesus continues.

I'm pretty sure that this isn't the ordinary belief. I know Aquinas, at least, thought that Jesus was substantially, but not locally present.

I think they have to believe that the whole Christ is in every part of it.

No need to beat yourself up so much. It’s perfectly legitimate to believe the Eucharist to be Christ’s literal blood and body. Many modern ‘rational materialists’ believe things just as ridiculous on their face, like the Big Bang or the origins of life.

We silly materialists also “believe in” things like quantum theory which, to quote Feynman:

[…] it is often stated that of all the theories proposed in this century, the silliest is quantum theory. Some say that the only thing that quantum theory has going for it, in fact, is that it is unquestionably correct.

Big Bang

Theory of expansion of universe was formulated by Catholic priest and met, at first, with very strong opposition from "rational materialists" who saw it being too similar to biblical story of creation.

"Big Bang" name itself was coined as derogatory nickname.

Nevertheless, rational people, whether materialists or idealists, accepted it because the evidence is overwhelming.

The point of the Eucharist is that it's not symbolic. Filthy Protestants like me think that the bread and wine are merely symbolic reminders of Christ's physical sacrifice. But for actual Catholics, partaking in the Eucharist means eating Jesus' actual body and drinking his actual blood, and it's kind of a big deal.

Well, following the Calvinist/Reformed view, I'm kind of in both boats, in that I think that we are actually nourished with Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper, but not that the bread and wine are Christ.

Some Protestants (mainly Anglo-Catholics and Lutherans) also hold to the real presence. Luther himself once said he’d rather drink blood with the pope than wine with Zwingli (a rival reformer who rejected the real presence).

Technically speaking Lutherans and high anglicans believe in consubstantiation where the body of Christ is present in the bread of the Eucharist, and Catholics believe in transubstantiation where the Eucharist is no longer bread but is the literal flesh and blood of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine(yes, the Eucharistic host is literally both body and blood, it’s a condemned error to hold that only the flesh and not the blood is the substance of the host).

If we’re getting technical, Lutherans actually reject consubstantiation for much the same reason they reject transubstantiation. In their view, both are attempts to cram the square peg of New Testament theology into the round hole of Aristotelian philosophy. Instead, they profess belief in a “sacramental union,” which basically takes the stereotypical Eastern Orthodox approach and declares the mode of the real presence to be a mystery. Some Anglo-Catholics have an almost identical theology, while others (notably including many of the Tractarians) profess(ed) belief in consubstantiation.

Either way, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and some Anglicans all share a belief in the real presence, even if they don’t agree on the precise method whereby it happens.

It can have multiple dimensions to it, being both 100% true and also 100% symbolic, just like Christ is 100% Man and 100% God (it’s a mystery, duh).

I like to think how this worked for the early church: by requiring the believers to believe it is truly the flesh of a man, you are forcing them to commit to a shared social taboo (cannibalism), which works as a strong signal of commitment to the brotherhood and also as an emotionally-powerful way to bond together. It’s noteworthy that cannibalism is a charge against the early Christians, not because they ate the flesh of any man besides Christ, but likely because they refused to deny the charge in reference to this mysterious but real body of Christ. You can make a parallel to early metalhead culture where the bands would have grotesque names and the shirts had grotesque imagery; it creates a strong tight knit affiliation specifically against popular norms. If I recall some Buddhists did something similar but I’m too lazy to look. Another thing you’re doing is testing the initiate’s faith, whether they can see physical bread yet truly believe it is physical flesh, and whether they love God enough to engage in the taboo. So the “literalism” serves a neat psychological purpose. If I had a church I would over-emphasize the cannibalism dimension, maybe even styling the bread as flesh and the wine as blood.

Symbolically it’s rich. For one, breaking bread was the way social connections were formed in the ancient world, shared meals. So Christ is the shared central bond of the community. Bread is the staple crop that contained all necessary nutrients. (When Christ says “man cannot live on bread alone, but every word of God”, he is counterintuitively alluding to the fact that man can physically live on bread alone, and then creating an association between Word and Bread which the discerning reader ought to notice). So bread was had by everyone, signaling the commonality of God to every man. That the bread is eaten is a metaphor for the sacrifice of Christ (which nourishes), and thus becomes a standard for the community sort of like in the book the Giving Tree. There’s an interesting juxtaposition between Christ’s cannibalism where he allows himself to be eaten, and the cannibalism charge against the Pharisees, who “devour widows” — theirs is a cannibalism of self-gain against the poorest members. Blood in the ancient world was considered a kind of life force and elixir, so associating Christ’s blood with wine is also telling, saying that Christ’s life force is conviviality and mirth (the effects of alcohol). And then of course it relates to the miracle of the loaves and (mysteriously) the parables on farming…

I like to think how this worked for the early church: by requiring the believers to believe it is truly the flesh of a man, you are forcing them to commit to a shared social taboo (cannibalism), which works as a strong signal of commitment to the brotherhood and also as an emotionally-powerful way to bond together.

Gorsh, those clever priest-types and their innate understanding of human psychology! That Jesus guy really was smart social scientist with His knowledge of taboos, huh? Didn't work on them all, but enough of them were big enough rubes to be fooled and stick around:

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

The passage isn't about the Lord's Supper. You had people like Cajetan (the preeminent Thomist, maybe ever, though Thomas himself did not agree) acknowledge this (Four Lutheran Errors, 1531. Six years earlier he thought that it was about the Eucharist, but he changed his mind.).

I have an enormous email chain that I was a part of, where I laid a lot of this out, if you like.

Some of the major points:

John 6:35 sets up a correspondence between believing in him and feeding on him as the bread of life. You can see this repeated when you compare verses 40 or 46 and verse 53, or 47 and 54, and more similar comparisons. It makes sense, then, to interpret this passage as referring to his feeding us through faith, and many throughout church history have recognized as much.

The manna comparison leads to some difficulties when connected with 1 Corinthians 10: he seems to be pushing there manna as sufficiently equivalent to the sacraments, which demands interpretation in light of the distinction to be found in John 6, namely that, I don't think he's talking about sacraments in John 6, but something stronger still.

Following that point, the language of John 6 is too strong, saying that anyone who eats of it has eternal life (in the present), and will live forever (unlike the fathers, who ate manna, who, note, many of them are living forever). See also how in verse 39, there's the reference that no one would be lost. Now, that isn't strictly said there referring to the Eucharist, but given the parallels of language, and the guarantee of resurrection in verse 54, that seems not unreasonable to carry over. But many who partake of the Eucharist do not have eternal life (e.g. those who partake unworthily), and many of those do not end up in heaven.

I'm sure there were other arguments I've made at some point or another. John 6:63 need to be dealt with, for example, but I haven't looked at that adequately to know what I make of it.

I see you in another comment mention that the church believed this for 1500 years. That is somewhat of an exaggeration. There were earlier precedents of disagreement on the matter of the eucharist. Berengar of Tours is famous, Ratramnus of Corbie was earlier, and the resurfacing of his writings played were influential in the English reformation, quite possibly John Scotus Eriugena, and Augustine himself seems not to believed in the real presence, exactly, either (and Calvin thought he was following Augustine).

I am familiar with the text. Which part of it are you using in the implied disagreement? Unless I am misreading the sarcasm.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Notice how immediately after telling them to eat the flesh to obtain eternal life, he clarifies that the flesh is no use and that it is spirit which gives life, and that the words spoken are spirit. That’s not words spoken in this discourse exclusively, that’s all the words that Christ speaks, hence why the apostles say “you have the words of eternal life” and not “you have the flesh and blood of eternal life”. (Cf “God is spirit and must be worshipped in spirit”.) In my comment I mention how Jesus specifically sets up an association between bread and the word of God during the temptation. For what purpose would Jesus say “eat this flesh for eternal life”, and then in explaining the saying, say “the flesh is no help, the spirit gives life”? This would be nonsensical and contradictory from a strict literalist. But instead there’s a point that he is getting at. Throughout the epistles, “the spirit” is contrasted with two things: the letter and the flesh. Eg the letter kills and the spirit gives life, the flesh avails nothing, etc. That’s because spirit is meaning and significance and understanding; flesh and “letter” are the external appearances of what actually matters which should not be actual spiritual focus.

I don’t think there’s any “innate understanding of psychology”; it’s not as if there weren’t priests and centers of learning in the ancient world. But if you’re a strict literalist I would ask how you interpret such passages as “I come in the sign of Jonah” and “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up”.

Look, I shouldn't even be let cast my shadow on this place, I'm so distant from rationalism (in religion).

I'm not convinced by proof-texting, especially from denominations which hammer home that every word must be taken literally - except this one bit here, and there, and whatever the Catholics say.

It's entirely possible the Church was mistaken on this for fifteen hundred years until Zwingli and Calvin came along to set us straight that "ha ha, no, it's only bread!" but I'm not Reformed or Calvinist, so I'll stay bogged down here in the mire of Papist idolatry of the bread-god.

so I'll stay bogged down here in the mire of Papist idolatry of the bread-god.

You are an i-dough-lator!

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Thanks for the explanation. I mean, I tend to agree with mister @coffee_enjoyer that the symbolic impacts of the Eucharist can be discussed and thought of alongside the literal reality.

I have come to believe in the divinity of Christ, and the Eucharist being the literal flesh and blood of Him as well. That being said, the symbolic interpretations were crucial to my understanding of Christianity while I was still early on in the conversion process, and I find symbolic or allegorical readings of Christian Truth fascinating still.

I understand that many atheists and rationalists use the symbolic interpretation as a bludgeon against true believers, but I don’t see why Jesus couldn’t be the Son of God and just have an inherent mastery of symbolism. If He is divine, it would stand to reason his actions and decisions would be packed full of meaning. The tradition of symbolically reading scripture came out of the church, after all. Even the early Christians did it if I remember correctly.

Anyway, what’s the problem with having both the literal flesh and blood while still acknowledging there are symbolic resonances?

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As Flannery O'Connor said-

"If it's just a symbol, then to Hell with it"

Which is a bad sentiment. If you turn out to be incorrect, that is no reason to have contempt for a sacrament that Christ himself instituted.

There's no chance now but I wish college football could have adopted the European soccer system with conferences that were explicitly tiered and a major bowl playoff with all the minor bowls being promotion relegation games. Imagine the national interest of the Liberty Bowl rather than being a meaningless exhibition between two 6 win teams was Florida St. playing Vanderbilt winner goes to the SEC loser to the ACC.

3 conferences, each with 20 teams split in half. You play 9 games against your conference half plus any creampuff games you wish to schedule.
The top teams from each half go to a 2 game playoff championship. The 4 second place teams go to two rivalry games with each with a travelling trophy that grows like the Stanley cup with the entries color coded based on the half that wins (Big10 vs SEC could be blue and grey or red and blue). All the other bowls are promotion/relegation games between the top middle and bottom conferences' winners and losers.

Probably plays hell with in state rivalries and travel plans but no worse than super conferences are doing now, and it makes many bowl games meaningful to non alumni/diehards.

Why make the rules so complex? NCAA has three divisions already, make them pro-rel. Imagine losing so hard you're relegated to Division III and your athletic scholarship is voided. If that's not enough levels, Power Five and Group of Five can be their own subdivisions.

There's literally hundreds of colleges in each division. Plus each team is completely replacing its roster every 4-5 years

I think this can be helped with a larger pro-rel margin.

As an example:

  • you split FBS into FBS1 (P5) and FBS2(G5), with pro-rel relationships between the matching conferences (e.g., Big 10 <-> MAC)
  • then there's FCS, which is currently a mess and can be combined with Division II. Right now there's 36 conferences, we can probably collapse them into 30, six per conference in FBS1/2
  • and something something Division III, eight per conference in FBS1/2

Then the system looks something like this:

  • each team plays two games (home and away) against every team in their conference to determine the conference champion
  • there's a big playoff cup between the top teams of each FBS1 conference. You can't play with just five teams, so three more teams are determined by random choice from the five second best teams
  • champions of each FBS2 conference are promoted to the corresponding FBS1 conference, while losers of each FBS1 conference are relegated to the FBS2 conference
  • the second best and the third best team in every FBS2 conference play pro-rel matches with the second worst and the third worst team in the corresponding FBS1 conference
  • champions of each FCS conference (six teams) play a round of knockout games against each other and the two biggest losers of their parent FBS2 conference. When four teams are left, they all play against each other to determine the two best teams that are promoted to or remain in FBS2
  • who cares about Division III?

With 14 teams in every conference, it's 26 weeks of regular championship and then a month of cups and pro-rel games. Depending on what NCAA wants, they can stretch out the cup season.

All the other bowls are promotion/relegation games between the top middle and bottom conferences' winners and losers.

Probably plays hell with in state rivalries and travel plans but no worse than super conferences are doing now, and it makes many bowl games meaningful to non alumni/diehards.

While I wouldn't exactly call myself a die-hard (he says glancing nervously at the 'roll tide' poster hanging above his desktop PC) as a genuine fan of the sport I heartily agree, and feel that college football would actually benefit a great deal from such a system. If (and yes that's a laconic 'if') we're going to do away with the regional conferences I believe that a system of promotion and regulation a la soccer is the most logical and ultimately healthiest for the sport. As you say, I feel like turning existing bowl games into "winner gets promoted to the next division up" would help rating by adding stakes for the otherwise uncommitted and if some small scrappy school is able to use their promotion(or prospect there of) to raise their profile and draw new fans/funding/recruits to their program then Mission Fucking Accomplished.

Edit: link

I do feel like it's tricky for CFB since, aside from the perennial bluebloods with infinity $'s, the transitory nature of college players means that promotion & relegation could mean a lot of awkward yo-yoing.

If some random no-hoper team happens to get a super prospect for a few years and gets promoted 2 or 3x times due to having that incredible player... then the next decade of the team's existence is likely gonna be depressing and downward focused.

An excellent point

Doesn't the same thing happen in EuroFootball leagues? Leicester had a good run, they got some added money and ability to recruit fresh players, and then you see if you can keep the project moving forward. Some teams will use the added ability to recruit to become a top tier program, some will fail.

You see that in NCAA basketball all the time. A team makes a cinderalla tournament run, and the attention allows them to pull in top recruits for the next season, and they're able to build a program that becomes top-tier.

Treat life as a game, and you’ll build something real.

If you haven't read Bernard Suits' The Grasshopper, then... do, I guess.

It's hard to describe, but the thesis is something like "in utopia, all that will be left to us is games." But along the way he defines games (the consensual pursuit of a lusory goal through the overcoming of unnecessary obstacles) in a way that has been extremely influential on the philosophy of games, even though when he originally published the book in 1978 the world of board games, video games, etc. was much smaller than it is today.

Canonically (I have been informed) within the advertising universe personified Pop-Tarts want desperately to be eaten, it is their favorite thing.

New EA cause area: Selectively breed chickens so that they enjoy being factory-farmed and eaten. Only half joking. Why wouldn't this work?

See, I've thought about this a lot and I've come to the conclusion... yes this is fine. But its not endgame.

See, those chickens, no matter how badly they want to be eaten, only have one lifetime to master the craft of being eaten, the poor dears. They're going to reach a cultural cap in the art of becoming tasty. What you really want is to preserve their knowledge and best practices across generations. What you really want is to make them a hive mind, so they can learn to be even tastier.

And now we're no longer really talking about something that sounds dystopian. The chickens are just a single distributed immortal meat farmer that keeps their chicken breasts... close to their hearts.

Douglas Adams, Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the cow which has been genetically bred to want to be eaten.

Also Shmoo

Someone needs to find the mutations that predispose human fetishists to be into vore, and then put that into all livestock animals ASAP

then, people would eat humanized animals?

Hell yeah, I've always wanted to try some long pork!

Why can't people just leave good enough alone? Nyet, Steak if fine.

2099 The Consumption Wars are finally dying down as all the cows and chickens who want to eat humans and humans who want to eat cows and chickens die out - now begins the anti-consumption wars, as the humans who refused to eat cows and chickens are beset by the cows and chickens who refuse to not be eaten. The cows and chickens revolutionise the war with their new artillery tech, capable of firing, then flash frying, soldiers directly into the enemies' mouths.

I awaken, from half a century of cryogenic preservation following an aneurysm gained through going the mod queue, inside a rebuilt model of a KFC, get a perfectly fried and juicy chicken leg stuffed in my mouth by a cock rocking a doctor's badge.

Yeah. It looks like the future worked out, as far as I'm concerned. Happy to be here!

"My gift to industry is the genetically engineered worker, or Genejack. Specially designed for labor, the Genejack's muscles and nerves are ideal for his task, and the cerebral cortex has been atrophied so that he can desire nothing except to perform his duties. Tyranny, you say? How can you tyrannize someone who cannot feel pain?"

Equally jokingly: you wouldn't be able to get them to grow large enough, they all want to be eaten before they're grown appropriately.

I would be stunned if this was the actual bottleneck. Adolescence brings on major changes in internal psychology. It should be possible to make the “eat me now”-response a reaction to adulthood hormones.

Rewiring the genes that lead to puberty such that instead of causing horniness and awkward body hair they cause an insatiable (sexual?) desire to have someone consume your flesh.

I guess vore fetishes already exist, but holy cow (pun intended) that's a dystopian image.