Book Review: The City of God by St. Augustine (4 *’s)

I’ve been wanting to read St. Augustine’s City of God for quite some time. At the same time, I’ve been dreading it as well. I was expecting a book in philosopher-speak. Those who have studied philosophy, or those who have tried to read a philosophy book without having studied philosophy will know what I mean. Normally, a philosophy book is a pretty tough slog. I earned a B.A. in philosophy when I went to college, but that was years ago. These days, my philosophy brain has pretty much gone to rot.

Yet, as far as philosophy books go, Augustine’s City of God was pretty mild. I didn’t have to work too hard to understand what he was saying most of the time. Mine was an abridged edition so it was largely cohesive in nature; I understand that the unabridged version has numerous “discursions” into ancillary topics—a common practice at the time Augustine was writing.

Anyway, the book is a defense of the Catholic faith. More specifically, the stated purpose of the book is to describe two different types of humanity/lifestyles or, as he calls it, cities. On the one hand, is the City of Men. This basically describes the lives of those who are attached to earthly affairs. The other city is, of course, the City of God which describes the lives of those who are focused on spirituality and the divinely sanctioned life. Naturally, he lauds the latter of these two cities while condemning the former.

Was it well argued and supported? I guess so. I sometimes have difficulty concentrating when I’m reading stuff these days—especially philosophy—so, I may have not absorbed as much as I should have.

The things in the book that struck me as the most interesting, though, were the details he gave concerning pagan deities (Jupiter, Mars, etc…); more specifically, how it is the Church’s position that these “deities” are really demons in disguise, as evidenced by the depraved practices involved in their worship. I just found that curious. I also liked his commentary later in the book about the various mysteries of the world, mysteries we, 1700 years later, have explained or disproved. It’s just interesting to contemplate his wonder … and his errors. For example, at one point he claims that goat’s blood can dissolve diamonds. I mean, that’s kind of a curious myth (I assume it’s a myth—actually my antichrist stuff might have something to say about that, but I’ll leave that discussion to another day) and I wonder where it came from. He also claims that peacock meat does not decompose like human flesh does. He claims that he even verified this with an experiment, and that even after several months the peacock meat only dried out—it did not decompose. Very curious. If that truly did happen, how does one explain it? I can … but only with a theory that has earned me a number of psychiatric meds.

Anyway, I found the book to be decent overall, but not fantabulous. I’ll give it four stars out of five.

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Killing in the Name of God, and Satan

Let us begin this brief discussion with a fact: Members of different religious sects have killed each other in the past using the justification of moral or religious superiority. It is my contention that this blunt fact pleases Satan far more than any other. Indeed, according to me, Satan wrote the religions for the express purpose of watching zealots slaughter each other (Yes, I just offended pretty much every person on the planet. Sorry. But that is what I believe).

Any time men kill other men, the devil is pleased, but his delight is greatly amplified when such killing is performed in the name of God. God is Love. Acts of Love please God. Acts of Hate, He understands, but does not condone. Some might claim that God is merciful to everyone except the infidel, or the pagan, or the heathen, or whatever other unbeliever there may be. I find such discrimination on God’s part to be odd and out-of-character.

To further the point, let us consider what kinds of things might please the devil, but not God. Blasphemy, impiety, cruelty, murder, fornication (although most in the West no longer agree with that), lying, theft, etc… Are such things listed above uniquely Christian standards (As I, the author of this post, claim to be a Christian—roughly Catholic to be more precise)? I’m inclined to say no, but others may disagree. Of the infractions listed above, to my mind, the worst is murder. However, combinations may yet be even worse. Consider the possibility of impious murder or blasphemous murder. Is this not killing in the name of God?

Does God value Life? Or Death?

What is an impious murder? Does the term not suggest that there is a pious manner for committing murder? Are we that far divorced from morality? In other words, are we now going to justify human sacrifice because it is murder committed in a pious manner? I hope not. So, what do we make of blasphemous murder? Is it murder done in direct contravention to God’s will? Anything else? Murder done with the specific intent to violate God’s spirit, will, and commands—that seems to sum up the meaning. To me, the clearest example is killing in the name of God. Also, human sacrifice fits the bill as well.

In my view, the ultimate blasphemy is the ending of another’s life, so killing in the name of God is a blasphemy heaped upon a blasphemy. Satan rejoices when man kills man for any reason. Satan rejoices in death and killing, most especially, as I said, killing in the name of God. Although there may be such a thing as a “just war,” which, regardless of its justice, is regrettable, there is no such thing as a “holy war.” Creeds which endorse such are tragically mistaken.

Yes, I’m talking to you, you followers of Isis … not that I expect you to give my words a moment’s thought. You should. But you probably won’t.

Chi, Hellfire, and Witchcraft

Readers of this blog are likely aware that I believe I had an encounter with Satan a few years back. During that encounter, I was exposed to hellfire, or so I believe. It felt like a hot, burning fire in my chest that threatened to consume my soul, erasing my very identity from existence. Basically, it promised the oblivion that atheists associate with death, but with a much more painful exit from existence.

A number of years ago, I earned a black belt in the martial arts. In the studio at which I studied, black belt is the rank at which you begin learning about chi. According to Eastern philosophy, chi is the life force that animates all things. You have your chi. I have my chi. In martial arts, one learns first to feel one’s chi, and then control it. If you can control your chi, you can learn to do a variety of curious feats with it, like, strike a stack of six bricks and break the fifth one in line, hit harder and faster, etc….

Back in August of 2016, I had a mild relapse in my “antichrist” condition. I say “relapse” not because my beliefs about the matter changed—I have believed that I am the antichrist for about five straight years now—but because my condition changed to an extent that it seemed my mental “illness” was amplified: my mental faculties became a little more erratic, and I became a little more “hyper.” Anyway, the point I was getting to was that during these times of “hyper”-activity I sometimes feel hellfire again. Usually, it is not as powerful as that first experience, but it is very pronounced; I feel it coursing through my body. Fortunately, it doesn’t do any damage but it is recognizable. During this last episode, I came to a stunning realization. What I experienced as hellfire was actually/also chi. The hellfire I experienced was just like chi, just amped up to an incredible degree.

That’s really not too surprising if one thinks about it. If the universe consists of yin and yang, or fire and light, chi could very well by a form of the fire-like energy. What is worth stressing is that knowing that the universe is evil (because it is Satan), and chi is hellfire, Satan’s greatest, most destructive power, Satan can manipulate hellfire far better than we can as it is a part of him. So, basically, I’d like to warn people that it seems likely to me that he can take your chi away, manipulate it in any fashion he likes, on his whim. I know that sounds kind of extreme-fundamentalist-ish, but that’s where I am today. Not only can he do such a thing with chi, I suspect he can do the same with witchcraft (though I have never made a prolonged study of witchcraft—all I’ve done is read a few books on the subject out of curiosity). Lastly, I think he can do the same with science. The scientific principles we have discovered are not as reliable as we think. Satan can change them on a whim (I don’t know how that should alter someone’s behavior, though, because we can’t get along without assuming science for our daily lives. It’s not like I expect someone to walk to work instead of drive a car. Just consider the above a warning.).

Anyway, as I said, I know that sounds a bit too fundamental-ish, but that is where I am. Satan is a Liar, and Jesus Christ is the Lord.

Relativism and the Path Forward

Moral relativism. My personal nemesis. What is it? Generally speaking, relativism means that the truth of a belief is relative to the culture of a group of people (cultural relativism) or just to an individual alone (individual relativism). I think it was Shakespeare (I could be wrong) who said something like “Nothing is true or false, except that thinking makes it so.” And that is something I wholeheartedly disagree with.

The strongest case for relativism is usually associated with religion and the sacredness of something. For example, a relativist might argue that the 25th of December (Christmas) is sacred to Christians while cows are sacred to Hindus. I’m kind of of the mind that neither one is truly sacred; at the very least, I do not think anyone should be put to death for violating either tenet. Call me silly. Additionally, I don’t think celebrating Christmas should be grouped together with the practice of human sacrifice. Call me silly. That all said, relativists do have a point.

It is a strange phenomenon of war that, often, in a conflict between two parties, both parties usually regard the other as the aggressor. It is this phenomenon that has led to an embrace of relativism (in this case cultural relativism) in our modern society. In other words, there is a vast causal web that forms our cosmos. Our position in this web determines how we react to causal influences (you know, cause and effect); so, at that level our position is kind of relativistic (as in relativism, not relativity). The challenge is to get beyond our own relativistic limitations and seek to understand others from their own point-of-view. And the same should be said for these others. That is, both sides should flip-flop from point-of-view to point-of-view to gain knowledge (not truth; truth is a separate animal; knowledge is relative, truth is not). It is a process I will call, in fancy-shmancy language, reverse relativism or relativistic flip-flopping.

The problem with the Left is that they get hung up on their opponent’s point-of-view. They seem to apply relativism to one side and one side of the debate only. They say that the Right should look at their enemy’s point-of-view (at the present time, Isis’). And they stop there. They don’t seem to realize that if we are going to flip-flop into Isis’ point-of-view, Isis should flip-flop into ours. They don’t seem to realize that “talking” is a two-way street. They think we can have peace with an enemy just by being willing to talk to them. Yes, talking is the way forward (a.k.a. reverse relativism) but only if both sides are willing to talk. One side being willing to talk doesn’t get you anywhere when the other side is crucifying people with whom they disagree.

So, is there a way forward? I, in my vast cosmic wisdom (:)), would hesitantly suggest reverse relativism to the sane parties on the planet in their international correspondence. As for the terrorists like Isis … I just don’t know. In other words, diplomacy is preferable to war; but, we all knew that anyway.

I kind of meandered a bit, but I hope this was a useful post.