God Is The Ultimate Terrorist!

Left_Behind_film_posterLast night I watched the 2014 movie Left Behind starring Nicholas Cage. The film is based on a mega-successful series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins about the so-called Rapture and what happens to those who Jesus has left behind. According to their website over 63 million copies have been sold.

The Rapture is a concept that first appeared in the early 20th century. It’s based on a very selective and highly interpretive reading of the New Testament Book of Revelation. In this modern reinterpretation, it is said that the book foretells a time around about now-ish when Jesus will suddenly take all of his faithful followers up to Heaven leaving behind the rest of us to face all sorts of horrors perpetrated by his archenemy the Anti-Christ.

The Nicholas Cage film is a remake of a movie of the same name made in 2000 starring Kirk Cameron. The Kirk Cameron version spawned two sequels.

One would assume that the makers of Left Behind are Christians and that their intention for the film was to make audiences eager to accept salvation through Christ, Jesus. In an interview about why he chose to be in the film, Cage explained that he did it for his brother Mike who is a pastor and a believer in the books and their message.

If that’s the case this movie fails miserably as far as I am concerned. Because Jesus, as portrayed in this film, is a total asshole. More than that, he is a true terrorist. spreading fear and horror across the globe. God is scarier than Godzilla. He’s more terrifying than any outer space aggressor from any alien invasion film I’ve ever seen. Freddy Krueger, Jason and even Chucky have nothing on Jesus Christ, at least as he is depicted in Left Behind.

Here are a few of the things Jesus does in the film. He steals people’s children away from them — a seven-year old disappears in middle of hugging her aunt and babies disappear from their mothers’ arms causing them to panic. Pilots vanish from airplanes leaving them to crash into cities below. Drivers go poof! and disappear from their from cars leaving them to careen wildly out of control maiming and killing pedestrians.

This opens up a lot of questions for me. For example, Jesus takes all the children. “No one’s seen a single kid since it happened,” says one character. So at what precise age does sinfulness become possible? Does it vary from person to person? Is the same action that is sinful when performed by an adult not sinful when performed below a specific age?

Would, for example, a 12 year old who has committed murder ascend to Heaven during the Rapture? If you found an 12 year old alive you’d just know they must have done something really bad, right? Would you be able to solve unsolved murder cases by checking to see which of the suspects have not been taken up? Is there a certain number of sins one must accumulate in order to be damned for eternity? What if you’re just one sin over the limit? Or does everyone who repents get taken up no matter what terrible things he has done?

The film does not answer these questions. But I’ve got even more.

Most of this movie takes place on an airplane in which Nicholas Cage portrays the co-pilot Captain Ray Steele. On board is a devout Muslim who doesn’t get a name in the script. The guy is not portrayed as a terrorist or anything like that, but a righteous and pious follower of the teachings of Islam.

Of course, the Muslim is left behind. But why? He is portrayed as being very devoted to God and is the first one to suggest that the survivors on the plane say a prayer together. From his mode of dress, I tend to assume this character grew up in an Islamic country. He probably knew about the existence of Christianity but, I’d assume, knew about as much about what the Bible says as I do about what’s in the Koran. In spite of his apparent goodness and devotion to God, Jesus refuses to take him up because he was unlucky enough to have been born in a part of the world where his message didn’t get through.

That’s cold, Jesus. You’re like some heartless Tarantino character.

The fact that the Muslims got left behind raises another set of questions. Since Islam is the second most popular religion, if Jesus took away all the real Christians, then Muslims would easily dominate the planet in numbers alone, followed by Buddhists. Is this really what the Christian God wants to happen?

A bit later in the film we find that the local church Cage’s character’s grown-up daughter goes to is empty except for the pastor. The pastor tells Captain Steele’s daughter that he was not taken up because even though he could quote the words of scripture chapter and verse, he did not truly believe. Are all the churches empty or just the ones where people believed exactly the right things? We are not told.

Which raises yet another set of questions. In my own life I’ve seen many of my own various beliefs wax and wane. For a while there I deeply believed in punk rock, but later on I questioned that belief and lost it. I’ve been in relationships wherein I believed, for a time, I had found true love that would last forever only to later conclude I’d been mistaken in that belief.

So perhaps our preacherman believed deeply in Jesus when he joined the ministry but lately had been having doubts. If the Rapture had happened during a moment when his belief returned briefly, would he have been taken up?

Captain Steele’s daughter asks the preacher, “You expect me to have faith in a God who took my mother and father? A God who crashes planes?” This, to me, is a key question and one that the film bravely raises but then never adequately answers.

To me, the answer is definitely negative. If a God as nasty as the one depicted in Left Behind existed, if Jesus was as evil as he appears to be in this movie, it seems to me that any truly ethical person would be compelled to fight as hard as possible against them, even if it meant spending eternity in Hell.

Had I somehow managed to get chosen by God to ascend to Heaven on the Day of Rapture there is no way I could condone what he did to my friends, family members and the rest of humanity after taking me away. Imagine a small child seeing the torments her mother had been condemned to suffer. How could you possibly love Jesus after he crashed a jumbo jet into the apartment building the rest of your family lived in? There’d be a rebellion in Heaven!

The ending of the film is well staged and exciting in spite of a few pretty dodgy computer generated effects sequences. But it brings up another set of somehow even more disturbing questions. (Spoiler alert)

After Captain Steele bravely manages to land the plane with no help from God who keeps doing shit like lobbing another jet airliner whose pilot and copilot have both vanished at him, there is a tense moment in which it appears that the plane might explode before all the passengers can escape. Is God really that awful he would allow them to land and then just blow them up? Or is he so entertained by their plight that he lets it seem like it’s going to go ka-blamm-o just for the jollies it gives him to watch everybody scramble for safety?

Or is the God depicted in Left Behind powerless against such things? He seems to have some quite strict limitations on his supposedly limitless powers. Which, I suppose, can at least give us hope that a weakness might be found that those left behind can use to defeat him.

It also had me wondering, how many Christians believe in a God like this? The books have made authors LaHaye and Jenkins mega-millionaires. Their popularity means that someone out there must believe this shit. That’s kind of scary.

Watching the film reminded me of my own struggles with Christian doctrine as a teenager. I didn’t come to Zen Buddhism as a sneering, snarky Sam Harris/Richard Dawkins type atheist. I actually wanted to believe. I went to several churches with the full intention of one day devoting my life to Christ and his teachings.

Yet when I started to hear stories of the Rapture and the Anti-Christ and all the rest of it, I decided that Christianity was hopeless and made no sense at all. Much, much later I learned that lots of Christians reject the kinds of ideas of God portrayed by folks like those who wrote Left Behind. But by then the damage had been done and there was no turning back for me.

As a film, Left Behind was not that terrible. It was compelling and had some genuinely exciting moments. But as a propaganda piece it fails miserably. I cannot see why anyone would ever want to believe in a God like that. Perhaps those who already do believe in that sort of God feel somehow vindicated at seeing those who they feel malign their faith suffer. But is that something a loving God would want to encourage?

So many questions.

But for real horrors, watch the video for the movie’s theme song:

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44 Responses

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  1. Khru 2.0
    Khru 2.0 December 17, 2015 at 6:19 pm |

    “But is that something a loving God would want to encourage?”

    Maybe he has his own standards for love and justice; we just don’t understand it from our mortal perspectives. But that’s the rub with Christianity- it relies on faith, no matter if it makes little logical sense. A Christian might tell you that God is testing our hearts and faith, to see if we’ll obey him, even with all of our doubts. Abraham is revered as a man of faith; and he was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar because Yahweh told him to…the mental gymnastics of the Abrahamic religions can make you crazy. I was raised as a preacher’s kid, I still live with that conditioning every day-it’s not easy.

  2. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer December 17, 2015 at 7:29 pm |

    I am struggling to understand the point of this post. It just seems gratuitous and borderline mean.

    Maybe I’m missing something?

    1. leoboiko
      leoboiko December 18, 2015 at 4:27 am |

      I am struggling to understand the point of this film. It just seems gratuitous and borderline mean.

      Maybe I’m missing something?

      1. Khru 2.0
        Khru 2.0 December 18, 2015 at 9:12 am |

        Well played, Leo.

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot December 18, 2015 at 6:05 am |

      The point is that this is a set of beliefs held by a large number of people with political power, representing large constituencies with the same beliefs. Thus these beliefs have the power to affect us in our everyday lives

      With our thoughts we make our world. This is the tie-in with practice. Beliefs are not necessarily harmless.

      The scariest thing is that our born-again, militaristic politicians and friends, relatives, and neighbors share this belief with the Salafis/Wahabis and DAESH.


      I don’t feel bad about the post seeming mean. The doctrine it addresses is mean in itself, and pointing out the that the implications of the beliefs implicit in the movie seem inconsistent with a loving God may be useful.

      1. Alan Sailer
        Alan Sailer December 18, 2015 at 8:41 am |


        I agree that a large part of our national discourse is ruled by people who have a rather interesting worldview.

        So how is putting up a post calling their god a terrorist going to help anything?

        1. senorchupacabra
          senorchupacabra December 18, 2015 at 10:14 am |

          The movie portrayed their God as a terrorist. Brad’s calling a duck a duck.

        2. minkfoot
          minkfoot December 18, 2015 at 11:20 am |

          Brad is no stranger to theatricality. It got my attention, and I see it got yours.

          If you feel it causes unnecessary offense to otherwise benign Christians, I think the post is clear that it’s entirely within the context of the movie. The movie depicts the eschatology of a rather odd subgroup of American Christians of less than 150 years ago, which has become standard theology for a large number of American Evangelicals. I find their concepts of their God and their Jesus rather offensive, being tribal and superstitious rather than compassionate, so anything that might cause them to pause and wonder at Brad’s choice of words is to the good.

          My opinion, of course. Which I state as a Buddhist who started off life as Russian Orthodox, then Catholic, then neoGnostic with ties to the Syro-Chaldean Church, which might have been exterminated by now. But I never renounced the Gospel, as I understood it.

  3. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara December 17, 2015 at 8:31 pm |

    Left Behind sounds truly god-awful. I can’t wait to see it 🙂

    I’ve been a recovering Catholic since puberty. After I noticed that the religion didn’t work in any literal way, I tried to figure it made sense as metaphor. Couldn’t figure it. So then I got angry: the priests were just conning simpletons with tales of a weird,feared, bearded sky-goblin.

    My attitude has softened since… Santa Claus teaches kids about generosity and gratitude. The Tooth Fairy teaches dental hygiene. Jehovah teaches shit happens.

    Just from an early education point of view, the Almighty Beard may be as good an explanation of morality and suffering as Dharma and Karma. But don’t base your life on a fairytale.

  4. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara December 17, 2015 at 8:52 pm |

    The Rapture. 1000s left behind with flesh dripping off their buttocks.

    1. Cygni
      Cygni December 18, 2015 at 3:46 am |
  5. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 17, 2015 at 9:59 pm |

    ‘In 2 Corinthians 13:5, the apostle Paul asks the Corinthian believers a question: “Or do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?”’

    And now, a deep dive into it:


    where we read:

    Christians, according to Roman Catholic theology, are united to Christ through the sacraments.

    … In Reformed theology… John Murray observes; “Union with Christ is a very inclusive subject. It embraces the wide span of salvation from the ultimate source in the eternal election of God to its final fruition in the glorification of the elect.”

    … Eastern Orthodox theology emphasizes the incarnation as the starting point for our union with Christ. “In Christ God becomes one with us in order to make us one with him; he stooped to take our nature, in order that we might be restored to become partakers of his nature.”

    Sounds like reformed theology is the source of “Left Behind”.

    The Christians whom I’ve spoken with left me with the impression that only if Christ acts through them, can their action be anything other than sinful. Wonder where they got that.

    “Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable may not be readily apparent.” – Dogen, “genjo koan”.

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara December 17, 2015 at 10:58 pm |

      The Christians whom I’ve spoken with left me with the impression that only if Christ acts through them, can their action be anything other than sinful. Wonder where they got that.

      I hear they got it from some guy with a bad grasp of Greek. http://www.gentlewisdom.org/246/augustines-mistake-about-sin/

  6. french-roast
    french-roast December 18, 2015 at 1:27 am |

    Why do we need doctrines? Why do we need beliefs systems? What would be our life without weltanschauung? They kind of gives us some illusory sense of direction, purpose and meaning. They are kind of grids which are once and a while, more or less useful at interpreting the ‘apparent’ world in which we also apparently live into. We (subjectively) live in a world which rest entirely on words, they are the what by which we see the world, without these what by which we see, what kind of word is there? What is water without the word water? I have read a few times that the real cannot be known and or that reality has no name, does that means that all beliefs systems are all illusory? I would tend to say that they are, including Buddhism. But, can we participate fully in ‘the’ world without beliefs systems? Without world ideas made up of words? I do not think so. Dam if we do, dam if we don’t. We are already like rats caught up in a bamboo tube with both end closed, the problem is that we think otherwise, we think we are free, or can be free or saved if only this or that. We sense the heavy weight of the walls of our jail, but contra-buff this feeling with imaginary freedom which is attainable, achievable.

  7. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon December 18, 2015 at 7:38 am |
  8. Harlan
    Harlan December 18, 2015 at 8:34 am |

    It would be wrong not to fear God. It would also be wrong to assume things about him. You don’t argue with him or think you know him.

    He will handle things along the way. These things are non-negotiable. Staying silent is the best way to answer him unless you are a musician.

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 18, 2015 at 9:26 am |

    So, according to Augustine all sinned “in Adam”, which he understood as meaning that because Adam sinned every other human being, each of his descendants, is counted as a sinner. This is his doctrine of “original sin”, that every human is born a sinner and deserves death because of it. …This teaching is fundamental to most Protestant as well as Roman Catholic teaching today. For example, it underlies the Protestant (not just Calvinist) teaching of total depravity, that the unsaved person can do nothing good, a teaching for which there is little biblical basis apart from Augustine’s misunderstanding which was followed by Calvin.”

    …For the far more likely meaning of the Greek text of Romans 5:12 is that all are counted as sinners because each person individually has sinned. On this view there is perhaps some kind of tendency to sin passed down from Adam to others, but there is no actual guilt. This is consistent with the Old Testament teaching of Ezekiel in which

    The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.

    Ezekiel 18:20 (TNIV)

    …It is almost impossible for a translation to be precise and unambiguous in its rendering of little words like prepositions. Augustine’s Latin translation was not really inaccurate, it was just excessively literal and introduced an ambiguity which wasn’t in the original, like many translations into English and other languages today.

    (from the blog post linked by Shinchan O. above)

    Very interesting to me, thanks Shinchan. That would explain the helpless sinner part, although for that either translation/interpretation of Augustine’s preposition would apparently suffice. Not covered in these assembly instructions is the notion that Jesus acts through a person who has realized his abiding presence, am I right?

    Ok, here we have “Lesson 1: The Church: Continuing What Jesus Began (Acts 1:1, 2)”:

    The title, Acts of the Apostles, was probably added sometime in the second century, but it is a bit of a misnomer. “Acts” fits, since there is plenty of action. But “apostles” isn’t quite right, since the story does not tell of the deeds of most of the apostles, but primarily of Peter (chapters 1-12) and Paul (chapters 13-28). The book actually describes the acts of Jesus through the Holy Spirit in His servants.”

    (from bible.org)

    Dum dum de dum. That tells us that indeed, there is a belief that Jesus acts through the believer, but doesn’t actually provide me with a reference as to where in the New Testament or subsequent writers such a belief emerged.

    Meanwhile, what is to be done about the Radical Christian Extremists (all Christians?):

    Cambridge New Testament scholar C.H. Dodd has summarized the Christian good news as taught by the apostle Peter in the Book of Acts:

    The Age of Fulfillment has dawned, the “latter days” foretold by the prophets. Acts 3:18-26

    This has taken place through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:22-31

    By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel. Acts 2:32-36

    The Holy Spirit in the church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory. Acts 10:44-48

    The Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ. Acts 3:20-21

    An appeal is made for repentance with the offer of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and salvation. Acts 2:37-41

    (“The Gospel”, Wikipedia)

    Let’s see, caliphate-new israel, latter days, our prophet at the right-hand side of god, “Holy Toledo, Bullwinkle” our proof- not sure what’s returning in the case of the Sons of the Desert, but I’m guessing something.

    I like the “helpless to do good” and “Jesus acts” part. At least in Christianity anybody can be saved, whereas in Gautama’s teaching it was only “any intelligent person” that could attain to Gautama’s way of living. A stuck-up member of the intelligentsia!

  10. minkfoot
    minkfoot December 18, 2015 at 12:25 pm |

    Mark sez:

    The Christians whom I’ve spoken with left me with the impression that only if Christ acts through them, can their action be anything other than sinful. Wonder where they got that.

    That’s foreign to me with my Orthodox/Catholic background. If Christ is the source of all non-sinful acts, who is it that decides to take Christ as Lord and Master? That makes the Christian a puppet from the beginning, no? And throws free will out the window.

    Of course, a Buddhist view is that the idea of free will is descriptive of just one angle of karma, and is just an apparent faculty. Your karma is to think you have free will, when you are really the expression of all forces and conditions throughout space and time, in this place and moment.

  11. Nicole
    Nicole December 18, 2015 at 12:46 pm |

    Sounds almost like this world could become a better place after all the devout believers are gone?

    There’s so many things about the church I find utterly inacceptable. It starts with this feeling of ‘us vs. them’, which to me is just the beginning of all sorts of mistrust, hatred, and abuse. Then you’re supposed to worship a God who’s willing to let his own son die about the most horrible death of his time for some diffuse general feeling of ‘sinfulness’, which he isn’t even guilty of himself? That’s no love, that’s just perverse. And why should we belong to a ‘better world’ if we can’t even cherish all the wonders in the one we have? But we’re supposed to control it, i.e. exploit it, run it down the best we can. But the worst piece of it all is that we’re supposed to feel permanently bad about ourselves, shameful, guilty. None of these feelings will help you become a better person, no matter how much you try.

    So, yes, maybe the movie is just being honest about it, even if that’s not intentional.

  12. sri_barence
    sri_barence December 18, 2015 at 5:15 pm |

    Brad Warner would be excellent at CinemaSins!

  13. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 18, 2015 at 7:47 pm |

    Slow fun!

    Minkfoot, among the folks I’ve met who surrendered to Christ, as it were, it was like kensho, it was life transformative, and came about in the “dark night of their soul”. Not like they chose anything; they got hit.

    “Christians, according to Roman Catholic theology, are united to Christ through the sacraments.”– seemingly another ball game. To intentionally choose to surrender through the sacraments, explain that to me!

    If I understand correctly, a Mormon with the right underwear gets their own planet to populate in the afterlife (is that right?).

    I do think choice is an illusion, or maybe offering people a choice is like “the gate of the secondary meaning” (of which Yuanwu said, if (one) were to cut off complications straightaway, it would be impossible for late-coming students of elementary capabilities to find a resting place). Cutting off complications straightaway, a person dies the noble death, cuts off the breath, and returns to life standing on the fundamental ground. Dead people tell no tales, the self upon the Absolute (Completed Infinity ™) makes no choices, but among choices white longjohns is one.


    1. french-roast
      french-roast December 19, 2015 at 1:45 am |


      ‘Minkfoot, among the folks I’ve met who surrendered to Christ, as it were, it was like kensho, it was life transformative, and came about in the “dark night of their soul”. Not like they chose anything; they got hit.’

      I have met a lot of those who ‘surrender’ to Christ, and you are right, their lives were transformed. But as far as I am concern, they transformed into Zombies, their allegiance to Christ and the bible became absolute, unquestionable. I would say that the transformation comes from the surrendering itself, not from Christ or god. The way I see those, are shifts from one highly felt dysfunctional perspective to another equally dysfunctional perspective, but one which isn’t felt as dysfunctional yet. What is trans-formative are the shifts (or gap) themselves, not the content of the perspective itself. It is the instant or moment (now) in which it is neither this one nor that one. The surrendering comes from the letting go of the obsessive holding on to a felt and known highly contradictory dysfunctional perspective (or fictional entity such as I). In Zen, you do not leave one (let go, surrender) in order to adopt another one, Gautama said that we need a raft in order to cross the river, but once we have cross that river, we do not need to carry on our shoulders the heavy weight of that raft with us anymore.

      When you see into your own absence, this is complete freedom, no need to fight anymore, no need to push oneself to appear as such and such. No need to hold on desperately to any functional or dysfunctional perspective, no need to attain buddhahood or becoming a child (or soldier) of Christ, no need for any of those ‘selfies’! The misery of our lives are in the effort, wasted energy and time we spend in doing something so futile.

      1. Andy
        Andy December 19, 2015 at 3:38 am |

        The Straw M’n Wishes Yawl A Happy Afterza

        no need to push one
        self to appear as such and
        such no need to push

        o n e s el f t o a p p e a r
        push ones elf to ap

        pear tree dish and
        bugs and such appear as such
        non eed to pus h one

        less is moor Finbar less is
        pun Sinbad Saunders

        top errorist cock
        relling atop the snoWbLOwN
        toe of Yesterzen

  14. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon December 19, 2015 at 4:54 am |

    All Mysterons are terrorists.
    The War on Martian Terror.


  15. Duke_PA
    Duke_PA December 19, 2015 at 6:30 am |

    Has anyone seen the HBO show the Leftovers? Its about the folks left behind in a rapture-like event only it seems pretty random who disappeared and why. Its a pretty deep and well done show that isn’t batshit insane like Brad’s xtian cult movie.

    I haven’t watched season 2. Fair warning.

  16. Sue
    Sue December 19, 2015 at 6:54 am |

    I like this post because it’s true and it raises really good and intelligent questions.
    What makes me sad about stuff like this and it’s thruths: all those who label themselves “Christians” that way do it in the name of a person (the Nazarenian), who – according to Christianitys own scriptures – included all supposed sinners. Like in that time whores and tax collectors. He did not leave someone behind.

    As the scriptures written in his name can also be understood (how I understand them): he did not devide, leave behind. He forgave, even his horrible suffering before his dead, which is still beyond my comprehending. His message is completely contrary to the way his so-called followers (in the above described way) live and act out.

    For me this above described “faith” only shows individual and collective ego running wild in a horrible way.

    And in that these persons (“believers”) have everything in common with others that label themselves Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhist (yes, also Buddhists) or whatever. We see everyday when open the newspapers.

    It’s what we all have in ourselves, do we not?
    Clearly to be seen during daily practice of sitting still and shutting up (call it Zazen, Contemplation whatever)- which (for me) can be done in Buddhist Tradition as well as in Christian ones. Which I do in that way inspired by a teacher who is a great down-to-earth person. That might be also Christianity -luckily faraway from this movie or it’s examples in daily lives – but quite near to the Soto-Zen-Buddhist ways Brad describes here on the blog and in his books.

    Hopefully ever more of us see that ego-running-wild, excluding others, in ourselves while managing not to act it out. Although it’s nearly unbearable pain to do so (sometimes not to manage). Doesn’t matter what we call ourself in so-called “religion”, what label we give ourself in matters like that. Not acting out meaning, never excluding anyone from whatever just because of some written or otherwise invented stuff.

  17. Mumbles
    Mumbles December 19, 2015 at 9:12 am |

    Nicolas Cage? He’s never topped this one..


    &He hasn’t done anything good since Leaving Los Vegas.

    (If I could add another link it’d be Blondie’s “Rapture”)

  18. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 19, 2015 at 10:20 am |

    Burn ’em, I hear that.

    snoWbLOwN toe of Yesterzen, I feel that.

    I read Sargent’s “Battle for the Mind” in the sixth grade- 11 years of age, I guess. A big takeaway from the book for me was the notion of catalyzing a shift between belief structures through stress and hardship. Those who experience religious conversion or political conversion (in the case of the Korean war, for example) are generally exposed to a number of deprivations, and extreme psychological pressure. Sargent studied accounts of religious conversion and the methodology of North Korean brain-washing, and concluded that in the case of those who had been brainwashed, they had not simply accepted the logic of communism that was proposed to them, but they had awakened one day with a complete reversal of their belief structure which had nothing to do with their conscious choice. The religious conversions, in Sargent’s view, pointed to the same shift. The more people struggle against this kind of conversion, evidently the more likely it is to occur, and the only people who are immune to this kind of mental manipulation are people who are clinically insane.

    So, yes, some folks just go from one belief structure to another, with an experience of the “dark night of the soul” in-between (to my way of thinking, deprivations and psychological pressure along with suggested belief structure are the source of the experience of “kensho”).

    Nevertheless, there are people who are Christians who persist in love out of context, whose actions can be felt as love but can only be seen to be love after the fact. They actualize the fundamental ground, just as the masters of any faith. I don’t know if they would report their actualization as a choice, I doubt it.


    I have spent the last several years in an American Zen temple that by our standards is strict and intense, but my training, I am finding, seems moot here. I have labored for years to open out my meditation—which is, after all “just sitting”—away from reliance on heavy-handed internal or external concentration objects, and toward a more subtle, broad, open awareness. Roshi-sama is said to be a master of this wide practice of shikantaza, the objectless meditation characteristic of the Soto school. But he insists, again and again, weeping at my deafness, shouting at my stubbornness, that hara focus is precisely shikantaza. That it makes no sense makes it no less inspiring; it is his presence, not his words, that I believe.

    “No grasping—only point here.” He rested his fist on his belly. I had nothing to say.

    (Jiryu Mark Rutschman-Byler,
    “TwoShoresofZenExcerpts.pdf”, pg 4-5)

    If there’s no grasping, then where’s the point? And why doesn’t the ox-tail pass through!

    Everyday the same landmarks, in the white-out.


    The raft, curious that- Gautama didn’t say why the raft wasn’t carried on, nothing about weight do I find, just that the raft was made of various sticks and twigs and it should be buried under a bush or submerged under water rather than carried on. My conclusion is that it’s sort of liking seeing how the sausage is made, best not revealed to those not already acquainted with it.

    1. french-roast
      french-roast December 20, 2015 at 3:22 am |

      The great wheel of life and death turns not, but if it turns, it turns simultaneously in antagonistic (opposite) directions!

      Where/when is that moment of maximum tension? When two mutually exclusive but equally valid frame of reference meet each other. It is when the whole situation is felt as a complete impossibility. Those two equally valid frame of reference progressively start to alternate, they alternate because they cannot co-exist within one’s mind at the same moment, because they are mutually exclusive. Perceiving with this one then that one, then again this one, etc.

      Every time I read that there is a shooting rampage, it simply does not fit in with my own mental framework, I am thrown into a ‘mental state’ of impossibility and despair. That such a thing happens is to me felt deeply as an impossible situation. Those are situations which contains two mutually exclusive frame of references. Those should not happen in my world view, but they do, although I cannot have those kind of situations fit into my mental framework. But I do not see those as being equally valid, although they are mutually exclusive.

      What happens when we have similar situations in which both are perceived and felt as being equally valid and mutually exclusive? They alternate, and as they do so, they alternate faster and faster, until it reach a point of complete impossibility.

      Here, we are not talking only of paradigm shifts, in a paradigm shift, at one time or the other, one is seen as having more validity over the other, even if there is a lot of struggle before accepting this validity. Here, there will be a shift, a passage between old and new, there is an ‘instant’ of ‘ease’ as the two alternate. It is kind of a third state or center, possibly being generated by the alternation. This is where I think some reported kind of epiphany experiences. And I personally do not think it has much to do with Kensho.

      When ‘reaching’ a point of complete impossibility, a few things can happen; a creative insight which will generate an idea which will unified the two previously mutually exclusive framework and if this creativity fails as is most often the case, a sudden burst of violence. And then there is a third or middle way, the whole thing simply collapse with a sudden burst of laughter, and/or joy or light, whatever. There is kind of a seeing into (insight), but not a seeing into something, it has no form, it is not a shift into another mental framework, paradigm, worldview, quite possibly a seeing into the seeing into itself.

      ‘……it’s sort of liking seeing how the sausage is made, best not revealed to those not already acquainted with it.’ 🙂

  19. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs December 19, 2015 at 11:33 am |

    If we are not our bodies, then why would God take them to Heaven? To drop body and mind, that is the rapture. We Buddhists know that. God needs to straighten out his lazy metaphysics.


  20. Mumbles
    Mumbles December 19, 2015 at 2:12 pm |

    Life? God needs to learn how to take a joke. But meanwhile, if you want to hear God laugh, just tell him your plans.


  21. Fred
    Fred December 19, 2015 at 6:14 pm |

    “The more people struggle against this kind of conversion, evidently the more likely it is to occur, and the only people who are immune to this kind of mental manipulation are people who are clinically insane.”

    It pays to be insane

  22. Fred
    Fred December 19, 2015 at 6:24 pm |

    “The Straw M’n Wishes Yawl A Happy Afterza

    no need to push one
    self to appear as such and
    such no need to push”

    floundered the rocky wash
    no need, just surrender
    the waves washed over
    the foamy wash
    pushed one self no need
    and such no need to
    push against the Void’s
    briny surrender
    the concrete moment
    of what is
    those foaming breakers
    where emptiness lies.

    1. Fred
      Fred December 19, 2015 at 6:29 pm |

      “Alan Sailer
      December 18, 2015 at 8:41 am | Permalink | Reply


      I agree that a large part of our national discourse is ruled by people who have a rather interesting worldview.

      So how is putting up a post calling their god a terrorist going to help anything?”

      There is nothing to help. Life spins onward. An illusion you have that your efforts alter the world. Brad calls the shit out. Facing the concrete reality of what is.

      1. Mumbles
        Mumbles December 19, 2015 at 8:08 pm |


    2. french-roast
      french-roast December 20, 2015 at 5:52 am |

      Terrorist ultimate the is god.
      Dog si eht etamitlu tsirorret.
      God is the ultimate terrorist.
      Tsirorret etamitlu eht si dog.

  23. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara December 20, 2015 at 5:02 am |

    Let’s see, caliphate-new israel, latter days, our prophet at the right-hand side of god, “Holy Toledo, Bullwinkle” our proof- not sure what’s returning in the case of the Sons of the Desert, but I’m guessing something.

    … wrote Mark.

    The endgame for Qur’an-kissers, is much the same as for Bible-bashers. It’s Jesus H. Christ who’s returning – and this time he’s pissed. There will mega-war and horror, centred on Jerusalem, they all agree. The sons of Abraham, natural and adopted, are all just itchin and twitchin to start WWIII in the Middle East, because it’s a great validation for their looney belief systems. Homo Sapiens will die of confirmation bias. Shucks.

    I suppose when you think your nature is fallen, and the world is an unsatisfactory interim arrangement, it makes sense to get to the punchline asap.

    The Indian eschatology seems a bit saner. Everything comes out of beginningless ignorance, and gradually approaches cosmic enlightenment … but on timescales that make geology look like lightning. Optimism without urgency, that’s what we need.

  24. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 20, 2015 at 12:23 pm |

    Yes, I did know that about Jesus leading the final battle for the jihadists- forgot it, temporarily, likely due to the cognitive dissonance of it all.

    ‘s funny, French Roast, but you are indeed describing my experience as well. Recently the alternation is between a feeling for activity with regard to the fluid ball of the abdomen and the comprehension of the long or short of inhalation or exhalation for me. There is no doubt in my mind that I return to market in the latter.

    The four that, “of mindfulnesses of the body, are one” in Gautamid’s way of living:

    “Mindful [one] breathes in. Mindful [one] breathes out.

    Whether [one] is breathing in a long (breath), breathing out a long (breath), breathing in a short (breath), breathing out a short (breath), one comprehends ‘I am breathing in a long (breath), I am breathing out a long (breath), I am breathing in a short (breath), I am breathing out a short (breath).’

    Thus [one] trains [oneself] thinking, ‘I will breathe in experiencing the whole body; I will breathe out experiencing the whole body.’

    [One] trains [oneself], thinking ‘ I will breathe in tranquillizing the activity of body; I will breathe out tranquillizing the activity of body.’

    (MN III 82-83, Pali Text Society III pg 124)

    “I will breathe in experiencing the whole body; I will breathe out experiencing the whole body”– sometimes translated as “I will breathe in, experiencing the breath go through the whole body; I will breathe out, experiencing the breath go through the whole body”. Which makes no medical sense, but with a little awareness, the involuntary activity throughout the body that plays with pressure in the fluid ball comes forward, in inhalation and exhalation. Particularly, the involuntary activity generated in the stretch of fascia and ligaments, for which a focus on the resile of these tissues helps me avoid a tendency to act:

    “[One] trains [oneself], thinking ‘ I will breathe in tranquillizing the activity of body; I will breathe out tranquillizing the activity of body.'”

    The last four, in the sixteen of Gautama’s way of living:

    [One] trains [oneself], thinking: ‘I will breathe in… breathe out beholding impermanence… beholding detachment… beholding stopping (of “voluntary control… concealed from the consciousness by habit”) … beholding casting away (of “latent conceits that ‘I am the doer, mine is the doer’ in regard to this consciousness-informed body”)’.

    (parentheticals added, from Feldenkrais and from MN III 18-19 Pali Text Society III pg 68)

    And regarding impermanence:

    “Whatever… is material shape, past, future or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, mean or excellent, or whatever is far or near, (a person), thinking of all this material shape as ‘This is not mine, this am I not, this is not my self’, sees it thus as it really is by means of perfect wisdom. Whatever is feeling… perception… the habitual tendencies… whatever is consciousness, past, future, or present… (that person), thinking of all this consciousness as ‘This is not mine, this am I not, this is not my self’, sees it thus as it really is by means of perfect wisdom. (For one) knowing thus, seeing thus, there are no latent conceits that ‘I am the doer, mine is the doer’ in regard to this consciousness-informed body.”

    (MN III 18-19, Pali Text Society III pg 68)

    No latent conceits, as to who sits zazen- “zazen sits zazen” (Shunryu Suzuki, Hartman interview on cuke.com).

    Enjoying the house painters, thanks flying-rugs.

  25. Jinzang
    Jinzang December 20, 2015 at 5:22 pm |

    “You expect me to have faith in a God who took my mother and father? A God who crashes planes?”

    If the Rapture had happened before motorized transport, the damage would have been minimal. A few untended fires burning out of control, maybe, but horses would be too smart to crash into one another. And likewise in the hypothetical future of computer driven cars and airplanes.

    You’re just blaming God for the inherent safety risks of our current forms of transportation. This is not just a philosophical point. Every year planes and cars crash because their pilots and drivers have medical emergencies. We don’t blame God for not delaying the heart attack until the driver has parked, so why blame God for the chaos created by the Rapture? We have chosen to use risky forms of transportation and to ignore the carnage that our choices have resulted in,

  26. barong
    barong December 20, 2015 at 10:27 pm |

    I am working on experiencing compassion for other, struggling beings. Studies have consistently shown that fundamentalists are considerably more fearful than non-fundamentalists. The idea behind these books is that the terrified “Christian” will have no more reason to be scared, and that the awful people who frighten the “Christian” will have horrible things happen to them. It must be awfully attractive for people with that mindset. It is very sad that these people are so frightened all the time – and that their religion apparently does nothing to alleviate all that fear. Unfortunately, frightened people who believe that an enemy is out to get them can be very dangerous.

    I am working on experiencing compassion and at the same time do not want to get caught up in either excuse making for people who commit acts against others or anger against such people. I am working on doing what is necessary, without attachment. It is not easy.

  27. Michel
    Michel December 21, 2015 at 12:04 am |

    Anyway, it is quite obvious that the god of Terah and his son Abraham, besides the fact that it is the Moon god, is a psychopath. Its worse variation being the muslim one.

    Indeed, in the latter case, one could agree with those muslim theologists who contend that only the Mecca sirats are inspired, and the Medina ones are not; it seems more to me that the latter are inspired by a suffering demon. But then, is the overall behaviour of that divinity not that of an Asura trying to ensure absolute power?

  28. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon December 21, 2015 at 4:44 am |

    This is one of the most fucktarded comment threads that has ever occurred on this blog.

    1. Le Petit Canyon
      Le Petit Canyon December 21, 2015 at 5:33 am |

      Right Behind

  29. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 21, 2015 at 8:38 am |

    It’s wonderful that Khru and GC now speak with one voice at times.

    This morning I’m contemplating this:

    “Breath enters and reaches the tanden, and yet there is no place from which it comes. Therefore it is neither long nor short. Breath emerges from the tanden, and yet there is nowhere it goes. Therefore it is neither short nor long.”

    (“Eihei Koroku”, Dogen, vol. 5, #390, trans. Okumura)

    The lack of symmetry in Rujing’s statement was on my mind. He has a two-step on inhalation, “enters” and then “reaches”, but on exhalation it looks like a one-up (“emerges”).

    “Reaches”, the act of comprehension, to me. My excitement today, that on exhalation, it’s not “emerges” that is the act of comprehension, just as it’s not “enters” (but “reaches”); it’s “beyond the boundaries of the senses” (“nowhere it goes”) that is the parallel to “reaches”, and catalyzes comprehension.

    Not so much the hara, but something to do with the natural breath, one of sixteen such.

    “…as a skilled bath-attendant or (bath-attendant) apprentice, having sprinkled bath-powder into a bronze vessel, might knead it while repeatedly sprinkling it with water until the ball of lather had taken up moisture, was drenched with moisture, suffused with moisture inside and out but without any oozing. Even so… does (a person) saturate, permeate, suffuse this very body with the rapture and joy that are born of aloofness; there is no part of (the) whole body that is not suffused with the rapture and joy born of aloofness. While (such a person) is thus diligent, ardent, self-resolute, those memories and aspirations that are worldly are got rid of; by getting rid of them, the mind is inwardly settled, calmed, focused, concentrated.”

    (MN III 92-93, PTS pg 132-134)

    “Don’t be a brittle pillar, or a feeble lamp. Don’t bat around your little clean ball of inner mystical experience. You may have understood for yourself, but what good does it do?

    … You are a master of Buddhist teaching methods only when you can recognize junctures of times and patterns of causal conditions and manage not to miss real teaching opportunities.”

    (“Zen Letters: Teachings of Yuanwu”, trans. Cleary & Cleary, pg 28-29)

    Dirk Dirksen speaks! (& 13:45?)


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