Friday, February 28, 2014

The Bible, Pt. 27: Leviticus, Chapter 21 - 24

This follows Part 26 in my Bible reading series. (As if you couldn't figure that out, huh? I'll bet you even figured out that Part 28 comes next! I sure can't put anything past you, can I? Heh, heh.)

Note that all quotes are from the King James Bible.

Chapter 21:
1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them, There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people:

2 But for his kin, that is near unto him, that is, for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother,

3 And for his sister a virgin, that is nigh unto him, which hath had no husband; for her may he be defiled.

4 But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.

OK, I must admit that I don't know what this means. This whole chapter is about rules for priests, and I'm guessing that this has something to do with funeral rites. Dead people are 'unclean,' but priests are exempt from that, unless it's a member of their own family?

That's my best guess, but that's all that it is. Sorry.
5 They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.

Um, God already prohibited these things, in Chapter 19, for everyone, so why would priests need a separate prohibition? No shaving your head (in Chapter 19, it was no haircuts at all, seemingly), no trimming your beard, and no tattoos. Got it.

(Note: This is why, when I was ten, my public school teacher - who also taught Sunday school in a Christian church - told me that tattoos were "pagan." Yup, it's right here in Leviticus. But we see a lot of Christians with tattoos these days, don't we?)
9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

Luckily, tattoos aren't the only thing Christians ignore in Leviticus. At least they're not burning girls alive for having premarital sex! No, they just ignore this. So why do they still cling to the gay thing, then? Pick and choose much?

Also, note how there's no punishment specified for the man - it takes two to tango - and no requirement that the priest's sons stay virginal, either.
13 And he shall take a wife in her virginity.

14 A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.

Priests have to marry virgins. No widows or gay divorcees for them!
17 Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.

18 For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,

19 Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,

20 Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;

21 No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.

And no handicapped person - or a man with any 'blemish' at all - may be a priest, on God's direct command.

This was a big deal in Christian churches, apparently, when they finally allowed handicapped people to become priests. From what I hear, there was a lot of opposition to that - and it wasn't all that long ago. (Unfortunately, I can't find anything about this online. If you've got a link about this issue, one way or another, please leave it in the comments.)

Chapter 22:
9 They shall therefore keep mine ordinance, lest they bear sin for it, and die therefore, if they profane it: I the LORD do sanctify them.

10 There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing.

11 But if the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house: they shall eat of his meat.

More of God's commandments, specifically to priests. Earlier, we saw God kill two of Aaron's sons for using the wrong incense when they were worshiping him! Here, he threatens them again. Screw up and you'll die.

Priests - and everyone else in the priest's household - get to eat the 'holy' offerings left for God. Note that that doesn't include visitors, but it does, specifically, include the priest's slaves. (As we saw previously, he just has to circumcise the male slaves.)

Chapter 23:
9 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:

11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

12 And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.

13 And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.

14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

Priests eat quite well, apparently.
17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.

18 And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD.

19 Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.

20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.

Very, very well.
26 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.

28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.

29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.

30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.

31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

But most of this chapter is about the holidays God commands that people celebrate forever (by worshiping him, of course) - holidays which Christians ignore completely. Of course, they also ignore that part about killing anyone who works on the sabbath, so it's just as well, I guess.

Chapter 24:
10 And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp;

11 And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:)

12 And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them.

13 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

14 Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.

15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.

16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.

Yup, death for blasphemy - by the direct order of God. It's sure a good thing that modern Christians don't believe in their own Bible, isn't it? (Note that a lot of people were killed in the 2,000 years or so it took them to start ignoring the most insane parts of their holy book.)

And note how this passage is careful to explain that the blasphemer's father was Egyptian. Yeah, of course he was no good - he was just a half-breed, right? Really, is there any other reason for that detail? What difference did it make, after all? This was just bigotry, don't you think?
23 And Moses spake to the children of Israel, that they should bring forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stone him with stones. And the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.

Luckily, these last few chapters have been quite short. Even so, I've been skipping a lot. Honestly, this has been the only interesting thing in all of them, and the repetition in the book has been killing me. As I said last time (yeah, I'm repeating myself, too, aren't I?), I'm sick to death of Leviticus.

And so,... I'm going to stop here, for now. Yes, I know that there are only three more chapters in Leviticus, but they're a little longer than these last few. Also, there's actually more to talk about in the next chapters (more to think about, too).

So I'll see you next time.

Note: This entire series is listed here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Bible, verse by verse: Take my wife - please!

Yeah, I already posted one of these previously, and I don't intend to embed all of them, but I really like how he's done this.

After all, I've just read this part of the Bible myself, and blogged about it. This video is in reference to Genesis, Chapters 20 and 21, which I talked about here and here. But although his take is similar to mine, he picked up on a lot of stuff I'd missed.

Of course, there's a limit to how much I can say about the Bible, if I ever want to get anywhere. There's just no choice - I have to pick and choose. But I'm glad I gave my impressions first. That's kind of the whole point of my Bible series.

Four years

So, today is the fourth anniversary of my blog.

Yup, this is it. February 27th.

Um, I guess I don't have anything else to say about it, though. I'm still enjoying writing these posts, but I don't even look at reader stats anymore. (Maybe if they were better, I would. Heh, heh.)


OK, back to Cataclysm then, I guess. :)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

There's nothing new about this - there really isn't, although it might be worse than ever these days - but it's a wonder America ever accomplishes anything, isn't it?

Here's another one:

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

And don't get me started on the power of wealthy organizations - insurance companies, car dealerships, real estate agents, gun manufacturers - in politics these days, especially when it comes to pushing laws at the state level.

Forget capitalism, forget free markets, forget even patriotism - these guys are looking out for their own bottom line, nothing more.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to survive one day in Cataclysm: DDA

Note: This map is for illustrative purposes only. Do not use this as a guide to your own particular locality.

Please note my previous two posts about getting started in Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead (here and here). I still plan to continue with that story - it's winter now for my character, and I do have more tips for beginners - but that's not this post. This is for my readers who are struggling to survive the very first day in the game. (You know who you are. :) )

Welcome to the Acme Model 700 Evacuation Shelter, the finest such structure on the market! With any luck, the U.S. Army will be standing by with helicopters to whisk you to safety. Remain orderly, please. There's plenty of room for everyone.

It's possible, in truly exceptional circumstances, that there might be a slight delay until the next wave of transport choppers arrive. Just in case - as unlikely as that might be - we've developed this little guide to surviving your first day (and night) in a zombie apocalypse. After the shock wears off, you should have no problem at all, especially since you can remain confident that rescue will be coming soon.

For now, it's time to take stock of yourself. What are you wearing? Do you have anything in your pockets? [Press 'i' for inventory.] You've been living in a society of abundance, but that's not the case anymore. Now, you must scavenge for everything, so don't throw anything away. If you don't need it right now, place it neatly in a corner of the evac shelter for possible future use.

Look at everything you own. [While in your inventory, press the letters corresponding to your clothing and other gear. Read everything. It's all important.] Clothing won't just keep you warm, it will - to some extent - protect you from attack, as well. Make sure you keep it in tip-top condition.

Clothing often has pockets, too. You're going to need some way to carry the stuff you'll be scavenging. After all, you'll probably need to leave your hands free for some kind of weapon. Don't have a weapon? Ah, you haven't been listening to the NRA, have you? Too bad.

No, no, don't beat yourself up. The truth is, though a gun would undoubtedly make you feel better, it would probably be counterproductive right now. Guns, after all, make a lot of noise. The secret to surviving in a zombie apocalypse is to draw no unnecessary attention to yourself. Remember, you're prey now, not predator. You won't be stronger than the creatures trying to kill you, so you must be smarter.

Still, you do need a weapon - just in case. Note that we don't stock such things in Acme brand shelters. Weapons and panic-stricken people aren't a good combination, you know. But if you happen to have a hammer and screwdriver with you, you could always disassemble the furniture [from the construction menu (press '*')].

No? Well, if you look outside, you can probably find a rock. Keep your eyes open, and don't go far from the shelter. But grab a rock [wield it] and bring it back inside. (Close the door behind you. It's probably a good idea to close the curtains on the windows, too - just in case.)

Now, we at Acme pride ourselves on the quality and the beauty of the furnishings in our shelters. But sometimes,... well, desperate times call for desperate measures, right? If you smash ['s'] a locker or a bench with that rock, you'll be able to disassemble it into its component parts - not as neatly as you could with tools, but... desperate times. Depending on your strength, it might take several attempts, but it will work, eventually.

Note that we build our evac shelters away from the cities, so it's unlikely that the noise of smashing furniture will draw unwanted attention. But you definitely shouldn't get into the habit of making that much noise!

What then? It's up to you, really. If you've got a pocketknife, you might be able to sharpen a two-by-four into a makeshift spear. Or pound nails into it with that rock, creating a studded club. Best of all might be a metal pipe, especially if you beat it into a makeshift crowbar with that rock - thus giving you both a weapon and a useful tool. You won't be able to carry much, so it's really handy when you can double-up like that.

[I covered this in my second post. Make sure you wield the stone, then smash apart either a locker, for metal components, or a bench or counter, for wood and nails. You can wield the resulting pipe or two-by-four if you want, but you can make better weapons/tools from such things in the crafting menu ('&'). As I noted, I'd especially recommend making a makeshift crowbar.]

Wield your new weapon, but hang on to that rock, too. Put it in your pocket. You can always drop it later, if necessary, to make room for other stuff. After all, rocks are very common. But it's always nice to have a rock in your pocket, so you can throw it at an enemy - especially since you don't have to worry about picking it back up again (unlike more valuable throwing weapons).

Now, before you leave the shelter, check out the basement. It will be dark down there, and there could be something dangerous which has gotten in (unlikely, but possible). It's always best to find out for sure, though. You don't want something sneaking up in the middle of the night! Also, someone might have left some gear down there. Again, it's unlikely, but possible.

OK, now what? Keep in mind what a human being needs for survival: food, clean water, clothing, shelter. You're already wearing clothing suitable for the season, hopefully. (Note that, if it gets cold at night, try gathering up a pile of unused clothing to use as a blanket.) [Sleeping on or near a pile of even ragged clothes will keep you warm at night. Sleeping underground might help with that, too. Eventually, you're going to want to find or make a bedroll or a bed, but that will take awhile.]

Our Acme brand evac shelter will keep you protected from the elements, too. After exploring, come back to sort through your loot, and to store it securely, and to sleep without worrying about rain and wild beasts. So now all you need is food and water - and some way to carry what you find back to the shelter.

Food is usually the easiest, because you don't necessarily have to go into the towns for food. Note: Cities are very dangerous in a zombie apocalypse. When most people have been turned into zombies, the last place you want to be is where there were lots of people. Remember that!

Often, you can find strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and other fruit in the fields which usually surround our evac shelters. Pay attention to the bushes you see as you travel around. If you think they might be fruit-bearing, look more closely. [Press 'e', then the direction, while standing next to them.] Sometimes apple trees can be found in the forests. Wild vegetables, too.

You can hunt, of course, but most small creatures will flee from you. And you should be very careful of larger animals - wolves, cougars, moose - even if they seem to be ignoring you. Stay well clear! However, you can probably expect an explosion in the rat population during a zombie apocalypse, and rat meat is surprisingly delicious. (Or so I'm told.)

Rats are vicious enough to come to you, but easy enough for even the least experienced to kill - assuming you're not unlucky enough to encounter a swarm of them. Throw rocks at them while they're still out of melee range. And if you can lure them into a bush, or onto other rough terrain - while you're staying on flat ground yourself, of course - you can slow them down and make them easier to hit.

Unfortunately, raw rat meat isn't delicious. In fact, we at Acme highly recommend avoiding raw meat in general. Now, you can easily grill a rat steak on a sharp stick, or create a makeshift pot out of rocks [crafting menu '&'], but you're still going to need a lighter or matches in order to light a fire. Most likely, you'll need to raid abandoned homes for those items.

Please note: Do not build a campfire in or near your evac shelter! Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, should they somehow happen to survive the experience.

Build your campfire somewhere safe, where the fire won't get out of control. With a little effort, you can even build a stone fireplace. That probably won't be necessary for just a 24-hour stay, though. [Note that you can build a fireplace with 40 stones. That will keep a fire from spreading inside a building and won't smoke up the place, either. I highly recommend it. You don't want to be standing out in a thunderstorm - or worse, acid rain - trying to cook supper over a campfire.]

Even if you do have matches on you, so you don't have to raid abandoned homes for that, water is going to be the big problem. (Acme Model 700 shelters aren't equipped with modern plumbing facilities, because customers aren't expected to be there long enough to need them.) Even if you can find a source of water elsewhere, you shouldn't drink directly from it. Stay safe. Boil your water!

And, of course, you're going to need some way to carry the water - and any other supplies you find. So you're going to have to chance the edges of civilization - but only the edges, mind you. The further you get into a city, the more dangerous it will be. If there are parks, libraries, shops - places where people would commonly gather in large numbers - stay well away from such places. They'll almost certainly be infested with zombies.

Check the map at the start of this guide. That's just an example, of course. Your own locale will be different,... but not too much different, perhaps. Note the position of the evac shelter. [It's that white plus sign near the center of the map.] That's a typical location for an Acme Model 700 shelter - outside of town, near a road, surrounded by fields - and although it won't necessarily be safe, it will likely be about as safe as you're going to get in a zombie apocalypse.

Now, see that city to the south and west? Stay out of places like that! What you want to do is just creep up to homes in the suburbs, where the zombies might not be so thick. Note those houses on the edges of town, both northwest and southeast of the shelter? (Those closest homes to the southwest probably wouldn't be bad, either, if you were careful, though it would probably be easier to get surrounded there.)

What you want to do is approach a house from behind, so that the house itself will shield you from the sight of any zombies which are further in towards town. Note that this will be your escape route, too. You'll be returning the same way you came, through the open fields you'd already crossed. (You don't want to be running away into an unknown area filled with unknown dangers.)

However, in an emergency, a forest is a great place to lose zombies. Note how that spur of forest to the southeast extends almost to the homes there? That could be useful, especially if you checked the area first. Likewise, a large field of rubble, like that patch [those red 0's] far to the northwest, will greatly slow any zombie - and likely damage them, too. That would be a good place to retreat - around, not through - in an emergency, provided you've first checked that the way is clear.

Zombies normally can't see as well as people, so you'll probably see them before they see you, if you're approaching from the open. [If not, use 'X' (shift-x) to peek around corners without being seen, so you don't walk right out in front of a bunch of them.] If you see too many zombies nearby, or some of the particularly dangerous variants, just back off and try somewhere else.

If you only see one or two 'ordinary' zombies, though, you might let them see you and then lure them back out into the fields, the way you came, and kill them there. Ordinary zombies shouldn't be a big problem if you can fight them one at a time. Pick up rocks from the ground and use them as missile weapons as they approach. Lead them into bushes, which will slow them down.

If you're standing on the other side of a bush, you should be able to strike twice with your weapon and then back away before the zombie can strike at you. Lead it into another bush - avoiding the bush yourself, of course - and repeat. If you have a fast weapon, you probably don't even need the bush. Let the zombie walk up to you, strike it once with your weapon, and retreat. Repeat until it's dead.

Ordinary zombies will only be a problem if they trap you, or if they come at you in bunches. If you encounter the more dangerous variants, run away - preferably before they've spotted you. (Zombies use sight, if they can see you. Otherwise, they'll move towards noise. Finally, if you spend too long in one place, they'll smell you - and they can follow a scent trail, too, if it isn't too old.)

When you can get up to a house without any zombies seeing you - or any that you haven't already dispatched, at least - try to open any doors or windows on that side of the house. Most doors will be at the front of houses, but a few have back doors, and some of those might be unlocked. It's harder to find an unlocked window, but not unheard of.

Don't go around to the front of the house. Don't even go to the sides - not without peeking around the corner first, certainly. If there aren't any open doors or windows, try to pry one open with your crowbar. (Press 'a', then the letter which corresponds to your makeshift crowbar, to use - or 'activate' - it. You'll have to indicate the direction then.)

Prying open a door or a window makes a little bit of noise, but not much. If you attract a zombie, it will probably be only one. There's a pretty good chance that you'll smash a window when you attempt to pry one open, and that makes a little more noise. But not too much, usually. While you're clearing the broken glass from the window [use the construction menu '*' for that], any zombie that heard you will likely show up. Well, just lure it off and kill it. One ordinary zombie shouldn't be a problem at all.

Note that a windowsill is also a good place to kill zombies, since it will slow them down. (It will slow you down, too, of course, so keep that in mind.) But you're probably going to want to escape the same way you entered the house - and back across the fields the same way, too - so make sure you don't get trapped inside.

Still, houses are full of things that will slow down zombies. You'll want to be careful at any windows - close the curtains, if you can - but even if zombies do spot you, it will take them time to bust in. (Of course, they'll make noise doing it, which might draw other zombies.) Search the back rooms of the house first. If you're noticed, and it gets to be too dangerous, close doors behind you as you escape back the same way you came. It should be safe in that direction, after all.

Now, what are you looking for? Well, lots of things, but you won't be able to carry most of them. Make a note of what's there [press 'N' on the map screen to leave a note] and keep looking. If you find food you can't carry, eat it - especially if it's perishable. Drink any fruit juice you find in the refrigerator, since that won't last long. If you can't carry this stuff any other way, carry it in your stomach!

But you really need to find a backpack, purse, messenger bag, duffel bag, fanny pack - something which will allow you to carry more items without encumbering you too much. Look for clothing you can wear, too - especially if it's in your size. Cargo pants, for example, have a lot more pockets than jeans. If you find a pair in your size, switch clothing.

Some things are small enough to fit almost anywhere, and those are often very useful items - like matchbooks, lighters, aspirin, thread, etc.  Other things might be very nice to have, but if you don't have room to carry them, make a note and come back later. Of course, we at Acme Shelters are confident that you won't have to wait long for rescue. But just in case...

Fresh water is critical. You can live longer without food than without water, and tainted water can easily make you sick. But you can't carry water in your pockets. So look for plastic bottles. Fill them at any convenient water source - don't be too squeamish - but don't drink it until you've boiled the water. Of course, this implies that you've found a pack - or even just a purse - which can hold the plastic containers.

Don't spend too much time at this. The longer you spend in an area, the more easily zombies will be able to smell you - even if they don't see you or hear you first. If you don't find what you need in the first house you try, it still might be wise to escape with what you can and try somewhere else later (after you've dumped off your loot at the evac shelter). It just depends on the situation.

You may think you're a tough guy or a tough gal, but you're prey to almost everything in a zombie apocalypse. Zombies have no fear, and they can easily swarm you - even if you don't encounter any of the especially dangerous variants. If no one else is alive, no one is going to call you a coward for running away. Do you care what zombies think? Zombies have no minds. They can't think anything.

When you get back to the evac shelter, sort through your stuff. Do you have time to try again? Yes, you probably do, if you took my advice to make it quick. Choose a different location and do the same thing. If it's too dangerous, back off. You can be hungry and thirsty and still live - especially if you've gorged yourself once already.

When it gets late, pile your extra clothing somewhere in the evac shelter - maybe in the basement, if it's especially cold outside. Sleeping on the floor won't be much fun, but you'll at least stay warm that way. Remember, you can confidently expect rescue by morning - two days, tops. [Or never. :) ]

But if something does happen, and you need to survive another day - or several other days - keep this advice in mind. Keep your eyes open as you travel - both for useful items/food and for dangerous creatures. Plan your raids on the map. Choose what looks like the safest approach, then get in and get out quickly, using the same path.

Don't be afraid to change your plans if it looks too dangerous. A failed raid is better than being dead. If you do make it inside a house, you won't be able to carry everything you find - not even close. Get what you most need now, and come back another time, if you want. If you haven't attracted notice, and the way is still clear when you leave, it will likely stay clear. Of course, if it wasn't critical the first time, it might make more sense to try somewhere else first.

Whatever you do, do not go into the city. The city will be a deathtrap for you. Probe the edges. Look for opportunities. But don't take any big chances if you want to stay alive.

Of course, it's likely that no one will ever need this guide. Our fine shelters have been designed for ease of rescue. Should you be unlucky enough to need our services, you'll almost certainly find a well-trained, welcoming military force waiting to whisk you to safety. It's almost inconceivable that you might have to wait even a day for rescue.

But we at Acme are determined to cover every eventuality. No, no thanks are necessary. Your safety is all that matters to us.

Note: My other posts about Cataclysm - and other games - are here.

Rewriting history with the Fox Business Network

Crazy, isn't it? But faith-based people just make up whatever 'history' they want to believe (witness David Barton).

Slavery was the reason the South seceded from the United States. That was what they said themselves. It's in their own documents! I've heard right-wingers claim that the Civil War was really about the South's desire for 'small government' and other stupid things like that, but that's not what the Confederates themselves said. It was about slavery, period.

And note that they seceded before Abraham Lincoln had done anything at all. Lincoln hadn't even taken office when the first seven states of the Confederacy rebelled (sort of like modern Republicans agreeing to oppose anything Barack Obama might propose - whatever it might be - before he'd even taken office, too).

Note that the Civil War actually began when the Confederacy attacked the United States, not the other way around. And the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln's executive order freeing the slaves? That wasn't issued until nearly two years later, two years of war - and even then, it didn't apply to the slave states which hadn't seceded.

But according to right-wing apologists like Andrew Napolitano, and many others, now that the GOP's 'Southern strategy' has filled the Republican Party with such people, the Civil War - excuse me, the War of Northern Aggression - was all Abraham Lincoln's fault.

This kind of revisionist history makes me want to vomit! Three-quarters of a million soldiers died in the Civil War, along with untold numbers of civilians. Abraham Lincoln himself was one of the casualties. Let's not forget why.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

No such thing as porn addiction?

Does porn addiction even exist? From Religion Dispatches:
Transgression as Addiction: Religiosity and Moral Disapproval as Predictors of Perceived Addiction to Pornography,” published February 12, 2014 by Archives of Sexual Behavior, concludes essentially that people diagnose themselves as addicted to porn and suffer from the belief that they are addicted, even when they are not, because their churches so pathologize porn consumption.

As the report puts it:
“religiosity and moral disapproval of pornography use were robust predictors of perceived addiction to Internet pornography while being unrelated to actual levels of use among pornography consumers.”

Joshua Grubbs, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in psychology at Case Western University, “became interested in the topic after observing fellow students in distress because they thought something was terribly wrong with them after watching online pornography.”

Another study, “The Emperor Has No Clothes: A Review of the ‘Pornography Addiction’ Model,” which appears this month in Current Sexual Health Reports, suggests that there is no such thing as porn addiction—despite “a large, lucrative industry [that] has promised treatments for pornography addiction.” It also “found very little evidence – if any at all — to support some of the purported negative side effects of porn ‘addiction.’”

Get that? The reason people self-identify as porn addicts is because religion makes them feel so bad about getting aroused by pornography that they think there must be something wrong with them - even when they don't actually watch a lot of pornography and it doesn't cause them any problems.

But this is very typical of religion, isn't it? Religions tend to hold people to unrealistic standards of behavior, especially when it comes to sex - premarital sex, masturbation, homosexuality, pornography, etc.  So when their members violate those standards - as they all do - they feel guilty. They feel like they've sinned, so they think they need the church even more.

It's a nice racket for the church, manufacturing guilt over things that no one should feel guilty about, just to wrap the chains a little tighter. But it just one of the techniques religion has used so successfully to dominate human societies worldwide.

PS. If you think that's bad, check out this article about sexual assault at a Christian college. A few excerpts:
When Claire Spear arrived at Patrick Henry as a freshman in 2009, she, like all new PHC students, affirmed a statement of faith saying the devil is real, the Bible is without error, and “Jesus Christ literally will come to earth again in the Second Advent.” It was a great comfort to both Claire and her parents knowing PHC was a bubble unto its own: On campus, only good, moral Christians would be found—their kind of people, people they could trust.

“I figured nothing bad could happen to me,” Claire says. ...

[Michael] Farris [the founder of Patrick Henry College] has said a main drive behind the founding of PHC was the demand from homeschooling parents for a college that promoted courtship culture, in which male students ask female students’ fathers for permission to “court” with marriage in mind. About 85 percent of PHC students have been homeschooled, and all students pledge to “reserve sexual activity for marriage, shun sexually explicit material, and seek parental counsel when pursuing a romantic relationship,” according to the PHC student handbook. ...

The self-policing that courtship culture requires, however, is not egalitarian. Responsibility falls disproportionately to women, who are taught to protect their “purity” and to never “tempt” their brothers in Christ to “stumble” with immodest behavior. “The lack of men’s responsibility or culpability for their own actions and the acceptance of male ‘urges’ as irresistible forces of nature is the understructure of Christian modesty movements and their secular counterpart,” the journalist Kathryn Joyce wrote in Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. These movements, she noted, see “women’s bodies as almost supernaturally perverse and corrupting.” ...

Last September, the school chose Dr. Stephen Baskerville, a professor of government, to deliver a speech that the entire student body was required to attend. He argued that feminism and liberalism have transformed the government into “a matriarchal leviathan.” The result, he said, according to a copy of the speech, was a society plagued by politically motivated “witch hunts” against men—while “the seductress who lures men into a ‘honeytrap’ ” was really to blame. “Recreational sex in the evening turns into accusations of ‘rape’ in the morning, even when it was entirely consensual,” Baskerville explained. “This is especially rampant on college campuses.” ...

Researchers estimate that one in five American women is sexually assaulted in college, and Patrick Henry College’s unique campus culture has not insulated the school from sexual violence. In fact, it puts female students, like Claire Spear, in a particular bind: How do you report sexual assault at a place where authorities seem skeptical that such a thing even exists?

Yeah, it's that kind of article. It's pretty sad. And then there's this:
With just more than 320 current students and 590 graduates to date, Patrick Henry is a tiny school with an outsized influence as a training ground for the religious right and a pipeline to conservative jobs in Washington. The Bush-era White House had about as many interns from PHC as Georgetown, the journalist Hanna Rosin wrote in her 2007 book, God’s Harvard. Students in the school’s Strategic Intelligence Program can graduate with security clearances from their summer internships, making PHC a feeder school for the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, various branches of the military, and intelligence contractors.

More guns makes us safer?

Cenk Uygur gets worked up here, but it's understandable, isn't it?

Cenk describes it well, but here's the article in The Raw Story, if you're interested.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Gospel of John Doe

This is Scott Clifton again, "Theoretical Bullshit" on YouTube. I really like how he does these, so I've been slowly working my way through his video archive.

What struck me about these two videos was how much they sounded like my review of Forged by Bart D. Ehrman, which I posted a few days ago. In this second video, especially, Clifton really makes the same points I did, and which Ehrman did in his book.

Yet these videos were posted in 2007, while Forged was first published in 2011. Of course, Forged wasn't covering new ground, but it was a New York Times bestseller and certainly new to me (and to many other people, apparently). But Clifton makes the same case - briefly, but well - four years earlier in these videos.

Well, coincidence is funny. But Scott Clifton is clearly not just a smart guy, but very knowledgeable, too.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

God wrote the U.S. Constitution?

I'll bet you thought that our Founding Fathers wrote the U.S. Constitution, didn't you? Nope. According to Tom DeLay, who was House Majority Leader during the Bush years, it was God.

Don't you remember that part about "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"? How about "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image"? No? Well, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" must be in there, don't you think?

How did we "allow our government to become a secular government" after 'God' wrote our Constitution? Gee, maybe he should have signed the thing. After all, the word 'God' isn't even in the Constitution.

Of course, it's full of those well-known "biblical principles" like democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. And it starts off just like the Bible does, with "We the people," huh? Heh, heh. Is there anything less biblical than that?

But DeLay is a right-wing Republican, so to him, reality is whatever he wants it to be.

"Forged" by Bart D. Ehrman

(cover image from

Forged: Writing in the Name of God - Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (2011) by Bart D. Ehrman is, in many ways, a followup to his previous book, Misquoting Jesus. As I noted in my review of that book, early Christian beliefs were even more diverse than they are today, and all of them were backed up by their own gospels and other 'holy' texts.

The Catholic Church suppressed competing views when it gained the power to do so, and for a thousand years or so, it was even more eager to burn books than to burn people, so most of those competing documents don't survive. (Ironically, we mostly know about the others because of Catholic documents written in opposition - documents which sometimes quote what they found objectionable.)

But Christians back then were all over the place in their beliefs, and they all were justified in their beliefs by documents which assured them of what Jesus and the apostles said, did, and believed. Those documents just contradicted the documents of other sects - including the sect which eventually became mainstream Christianity.

In Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman noted the lack of original manuscripts of New Testament documents and the variations in the manuscripts we do have, which were copies of copies of copies of copies. As I said in my earlier post, he noted that there are more variations in New Testament manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament. And he pointed out examples of both accidental and deliberate changes to the texts.

Forged focuses on... religious forgeries - deliberate attempts to pass off a work as written earlier and by another author. Why? Well, unlike forgeries today, money wasn't the usual motive. Usually, it seems to have been a way to promote a person's own religious beliefs by pretending that someone in the past who was recognized in Christianity as being authoritative - Jesus, the apostles, Paul - thought the same way.

Forged starts out by contrasting Christianity with paganism, the most widespread form of religious belief back then:
As strange as this may seem to us today, ancient religions didn't require you to believe one thing or another. Religion was all about the proper practices: sacrifices to the gods, for example, and set prayers. Moreover, because religion was not particularly concerned with what you believed about the gods and because all of these religions allowed, even encouraged, the worship of many gods, there was very little sense that if one of the religions was right, the others were wrong.

In Christianity, however, it mattered what you believed. Christians claimed to know the Truth. If you didn't believe exactly as they did, you were simply wrong.

But Christians themselves were all over the place when it came to what they believed. It wasn't just that Jews and pagans disagreed with them, but that they didn't even agree among themselves:
But the hottest early Christian debates were with other Christians, as they argued over the right things to believe and the right ways to live. These internal Christian debates were often filled with vitriol and hatred. Christians called one another nasty names, said ugly things about one another, and pulled out all stops to make their Christian opponents look reprehensible and stupid, denying, in many instances, that the opponents even had the right to call themselves Christian. Anyone perceived as a false teacher was subject to verbal lashing; outsiders to the faith - pagans and Jews - were treated with kid gloves by comparison. ...

This was a problem for a religion that claimed to stand for "the" truth. If the followers of Jesus represented the single, unified truth of God, why was it that the Christian church was not single and unified? In fact, it was anything but that, not just in the days of Paul, but throughout the entire first four centuries. Just in the second and third centuries, for example, we know of powerful and influential Christian teachers like Marcion who maintained that there is not just one God, but two Gods. Some Gnostics said there were 30 divine beings, or 365. These Christians claimed that they were right, and that everyone else was wrong. Had one of these other groups won the debates, the world would be a very different place today. ...

Early Christians were nothing if not radically diverse. Yet all of these Christian groups claimed not only to be right, but also to be uniquely right - their view, and their view alone, represented the one and only divine truth. As a corollary, they each claimed that their view of the truth was the view taught by Jesus himself and through him to the apostles. And all of these groups had books to prove it, books allegedly written by apostles that supported their points of view. [my emphasis]

Fascinating, isn't it? It's amazing what centuries of burning 'heretical' texts - and burning heretics, too - can do. When one particular group of Christians gained the power to suppress the others, it did - and very thoroughly. But if a different group had gained power, we might easily have a vastly different idea of Christianity today.

And the current New Testament? Those books likely wouldn't even exist, having been burned as heresies a millennia ago. The texts which survived would be those of the surviving sect, whichever one that ended up being. Maybe they could have been Gnostics, for example:
There were a large number of Gnostic groups with a mind-boggling array of different teachings and beliefs. ...

So the material world we live in is not a good place; it is a place of imprisonment. The God of the Jews is not the ultimate divinity, but is inferior, ignorant, and possibly even malicious. The goal of salvation is not to be put into a right relationship with the creator God, but to escape his clutches. Salvation does not come when this fallen creation is returned to its original pristine state (a return to the Garden of Eden); it comes by escaping the material world. The end of time will not bring a salvation of the flesh; it will bring a deliverance from the flesh. ...

Because Gnostics who taught such views denigrated the material world and the God who created it, they were seen as a serious threat by other Christians...

So what does all this have to do with the title of the book? Well, all of these groups - including what is now considered mainstream Christianity - produced documents to back up their own positions, and many Christians were not averse to lying in order to advance their own particular religious beliefs.

Some of this was covered in Ehrman's previous book, Misquoting Jesus. That story in the Gospel of John about the adulterous woman (just the woman, naturally) brought to Jesus for judgment? You remember that famous line: "Let the one without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her"? Too bad that story isn't actually true, isn't it?

I mean, it's certainly questionable whether anything in the Gospel of John is true, but that particular story was not originally a part of the New Testament. It was added centuries later.

And the Gospel of Mark, the first of the New Testament gospels to be written?
The man at the tomb instructs the women to go to the disciples and tell them that Jesus will go before them to Galilee and that they are to meet him there. But instead of telling the disciples, "the women fled from the tomb . . . and they did not say anything to anyone, for they were afraid" (16:8). And that's where the Gospel ends.

That's a great ending, isn't it? For fiction, I mean. If you were writing fiction, you might very well end there. It makes a great story. But if you're imagining that this is history, that this was real, then this kind of ending poses a huge problem for you. If the women didn't tell anyone, then how does the author - how does anyone - know this happened?

So later Christians simply added to the story, making up a different ending which would back up their own beliefs. (Note that this later addition includes those famous words, supposedly by Jesus, about speaking in tongues and snake-handling. That was all a deliberate fake.)

That's lying, but is it forgery? Well, it is if the author thought that Mark actually wrote the rest of the gospel - and if he expected that other people would accept the later addition as being written by him, too. But this kind of thing is not the main focus of Forged.

Neither is the fact that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John weren't actually written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Those aren't 'forgeries,' because the authors never identified themselves. They were all written anonymously.

Centuries later, Christian leaders imagined that they'd been written by people with first-hand knowledge of what they were writing about - or else it was just hard to teach that anonymous documents were authoritative about anything - so they labeled them as we know them today. It wasn't true, but these weren't exactly 'forgeries.'

But there were tons of other documents which were forgeries. There were documents produced by Christians in every sect in which the author deliberately pretended to be someone else - someone writing much earlier, someone whom his fellow Christians would accept as an authority.

Ehrman points out a number of these which ended up in the New Testament of today's Christians: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 and 2 Peter, etc.  He notes that, of the 13 New Testament books supposedly written by Paul, at least six are later forgeries.

Acts, too, could be considered a forgery. It was apparently written by the same person who wrote Luke, but although he never claims to be Luke, he does claim to have been a person who was an eyewitness to those events, even though he was writing much too late for that.

Of course, there are Old Testament books which could be considered forgeries, too. And there were tons of other forgeries which never made it into the Bible, for one reason or another. (Obviously, the forgeries of other sects were destroyed, not because they were forgeries, necessarily, but because they contradicted the Catholic Church.)

Some of the neatest stories Ehrman relates were apparently widely believed by Christians of the Dark Ages, even though they weren't actually part of the Bible. But as opposed to those 'heretical' documents which were rooted out and destroyed, these were widely distributed - and as fact, not fiction.

Here are some brief excerpts as examples:
Surely Jesus's mother was no ordinary person! And in this story, Mary is anything but ordinary. Her own birth is miraculous. ... As a young child, Mary is inordinately special. Devoted to God from birth, she is taken by her parents to the holy Jewish Temple as a three-year-old and is raised there by the priests, who do not need even to feed her, since she receives her daily food from the hand of an angel.

Among the more interesting accounts of this narrative are the miracles Jesus performs when the Holy Family flees to Egypt after his birth. We learn, for example, that en route they stop to rest outside a cave. To the terror of Joseph and Mary, out of the cave come a troop of dragons. The two-year-old Jesus, however, is not the least bit afraid. He waddles and stands before the fearsome beasts. When they see who he is, they bow down in worship before him. The author tells us that this fulfilled the predictions of Scripture: "Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet in Psalms, who said, 'Praise the Lord from the earth, O dragons and all the places of the abyss,'" a reference to the Greek version of Psalm 148:7.

If Jesus was the miracle-working Son of God as an adult, what was he like as a child? The Infancy Gospel contains stories about Jesus between the ages of five and twelve. ...

Another child who is playing beside Jesus takes a branch and scatters the water he has carefully gathered together. This angers the young Jesus, who tells the boy, "You unrighteous, irreverent idiot! What did the pools of water do to harm you? See, now you also will be withered like a tree, and you will never bear leaves or root or fruit." The child immediately withers on the spot.

In the next story, Jesus is said to be walking through his village when another child runs up to him and accidentally bumps him on the shoulder. Jesus is irritated and says to the boy, "You'll go no farther on your way." And the child falls down dead.

OK, I just thought those were neat. But people did believe them. More importantly, people believed the forgeries - both those which ended up in the Bible and those which did not - when they agreed with what they already thought.

And people wrote those forgeries - attributing their own words to Jesus, to the apostles, to supposed eyewitnesses who lived in earlier times - in order to promote their own particular religious views. After all, if you really believed in your faith, was it such a sin to pretend to be someone else in order to convince others to believe as you did?

A skeptic, like me, would ask how they knew that their beliefs were true, since they didn't have any evidence of that? Well, they had faith, right? So they simply manufactured 'evidence' which would help convince others.

The obvious question is... how far back did this practice go? We don't have any of the original manuscripts from Christianity, or even any of the earliest copies. We have no idea how the later copies which do exist correspond to the originals.

But even if we did have the originals, we'd still have no idea if they were true or not. The earliest to be written don't even claim to be eyewitness testimony (though many later writings falsely claim so). Even the earliest gospel wasn't written until long afterwards, and as I noted above, it actually read like fiction until someone centuries later changed the ending.

Anyway, like Misquoting Jesus before it, Forged is a fascinating book that's both entertaining and thought-provoking. This isn't the sort of thing you'll hear in church! I never heard it, certainly. But even if you're already a nonbeliever, it might surprise you.

I'll close with another excerpt from the book:
In sum, there were numerous ways to lie in and through literature in antiquity, and some Christians took advantage of the full panoply in their efforts to promote their view of the faith. It may seem odd to modern readers, or even counterintuitive, that a religion that built its reputation on possessing the truth had members who attempted to disseminate their understanding of the truth through deceptive means. But it is precisely what happened. The use of deception to promote the truth may well be considered one of the most unsettling ironies of the Christian tradition.

Note: My other book reviews - mostly of fiction, admittedly - can be found here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Two down, seven to go

My apologies for the title, because this is not funny:
Herbert and Catherine Schaible are being sentenced Wednesday in the death last year of their 8-month-old son, Brandon. At the time, they were under court orders to seek medical care for their children after their 2-year-old son, Kent, died of untreated pneumonia in 2009.

The Schaibles are third-generation members of a small Pentecostal community, the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia. ...

"We believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil's power," Herbert Schaible said in a 2013 police statement. Medicine, he said, "is against our religious beliefs."

A jury had convicted both parents of involuntary manslaughter in Kent's death, and they were put on 10 years of probation that included orders to seek medical care if any other child got sick. ...

Their pastor, Nelson Clark, has said the Schaibles lost their sons because of a "spiritual lack" in their lives and insisted they would not seek medical care even if another child appeared near death.

The problem here is faith-based thinking. Oh, you may argue that you don't believe anything this crazy, that your faith wouldn't cause you to fly passenger planes into buildings or let your children die of easily-treated diseases.

But if you believe by faith, how can you argue that you're right and someone else's faith is wrong?  These people have already let two of their nine children die. Are you really going to claim that their faith isn't as strong as yours?

Evidence-based people can demonstrate why they're right. That's why scientists come to a consensus about what's true and what isn't. Indeed, that's why we have effective medical care in the first place. If we still believed by faith, children would still die like this in every family.

Evidence-based people can build on knowledge which has been demonstrated to be true, thus science advances. Thus medical care advances. Evidence-based people come to a consensus on what's true and what isn't. Meanwhile, faith-based people believe whatever they want (almost always based on whatever they were taught as children). That's why religions can't come to a consensus.

If you believe by faith - even if you believe in reasonable things - you're part of the problem. Faith is a vice, not a virtue. Faith is no way to determine the truth of anything.

Slippery slope


Monday, February 17, 2014

Idaho doctors and cops could refuse to help... anyone

Crazy, isn't it? This is an actual proposal! Here's the story:
Rep. Lynn Luker outlined a proposal Tuesday backed by his conservative Christian allies to shield religious people from the threat of losing their professional licenses for refusing service or employment to anyone they conclude violates their religious beliefs.

“This is pre-emptive,” said Luker, a Boise Republican. “The issue is coming, whether it’s 10 years, or 15 years, or two years.”

Idaho requires professional licenses for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, attorneys, social workers, firefighters, police officers, real estate agents, and insurance providers.

It's "pre-emptive," because Luker admits that he "can’t think of anyone in his state who has been forced to render aid to a gay or lesbian person against their will."

But look at what this means. It means that cops wouldn't have to protect gay people, or even investigate crimes against them. It means than firefighters could just let a gay person's house burn to the ground. It means that a doctor could just let a gay person die.

And it's not just gay people. This bill would mean that they could refuse to help anyone, as long as they claim it's against their religious beliefs. And yet they could keep their professional license!

So, could rational people refuse to help bigots, then? I doubt it. For one thing, this gives religious people special rights. An atheist couldn't get this exemption.

And for another, rational people wouldn't refuse to help people, whatever we thought of them. No, for that degree of bigotry, cruelty, and self-centeredness, you need religion.

Shining a light on dark money,... much too late to do any good

Here's an interesting article at TPM about the Koch brothers' "dark money man" in 2010 and 2012, Sean Noble:
Plucked from obscurity by libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, Noble was tasked with distributing a torrent of political money raised by the Koch network, a complex web of nonprofits nicknamed the Kochtopus, into conservative causes in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Noble handed out almost $137 million in 2012 alone -- all of it so-called dark money from unnamed donors -- from his perch atop the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a group run out of an Arizona post office box. ...

Noble appears to have lost his central position in the Koch empire, undone by poor election results and a California investigation that shined an unwelcome light on some of the Center's inner workings, insiders say.

But his story shows how the Supreme Court's landmark 2010 Citizens United ruling has given rise to a new breed of power brokers who control a growing pool of money raised in secret and spent to influence politics in ways that voters can't always trace.

Much of Noble's work in 2012 remained invisible to the public until the Center and dozens of other Koch-backed nonprofits released their tax returns late last year. ...

Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group that has written extensively about the Koch network, said disclosures from nonprofits come far too late to help voters and regulators.

"What we're ending up with is information which is almost entirely useless to the voters," she said. "Because it's come so far after the election, so far after the fact that voters can barely remember what these organizations were doing and on behalf of which candidates or parties."

Yup. It's 2014. What good does it do us to find out now how the Koch brothers were trying to buy elections in 2012?

You have to know they're already spending secret money on this year's elections, but thanks to Citizens United, billionaires can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections in secret.

This is dark money. It's raised in the shadows and spent in the shadows. It's bad enough that politicians can get bought off by this legalized bribery anyway, but voters don't even get to know who's doing the buying or for what reason.

It's a long article at TPM - interesting, but focusing more on Sean Noble himself. The Koch brothers themselves are secretive in the extreme, and so are most of the other billionaires trying to buy America's politicians at nearly all levels of government.

Note that, to a large extent, this is still the fallout from electing Republican presidents in the past - presidents who appointed the right-wing fanatics who still dominate on our Supreme Court. Mistakes like that don't end when the president leaves office. We'll be paying for a lifetime, even if we don't make such a terrible mistake again.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Christian pastor rants about biracial babies

Remember two weeks ago, when the Republican Party had a conniption fit about this, getting an MSNBC employee fired for daring to suggest that maybe "the rightwing" (not, note, "Republicans") would hate a commercial featuring a biracial family?

The week previously, of course, the right-wing had gone insane about this commercial, and a week afterwards, they'd had a collective meltdown about this Superbowl ad. But no, you couldn't dare suggest that they might be racist. Why, the very idea just hurt their little feelings!

So now watch this, if you've got a strong stomach. Of course, this guy's no racist, either, right? He loves those beautiful black women, himself. Come on, is it his fault that his god is such a racist jackass?

And speaking of racist jackasses, just listen to his congregation cheering him on in the background. Man, I'm sure glad we need religion for morality, aren't you?

Cataclysm: DDA - tips for beginners

The evac shelter is that white plus sign at the center of the map. The town is south and west. That large structure to the SE is the mansion I discovered and cleared.

Note: This is a sequel to my previous post, which also combines the story of my current play of Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead with information on how to get started in this free, rogue-like zombie-survival game.

In my first post, I explained how to install the game, choose a graphics pack, and set the window size. In this, I'll give some starting tips. Note that I'm not an expert myself, far from it. But often, I think that beginners can better understand the problems that fellow beginners face.

Now, on with the story:

I looted the bodies of those scientists, though I couldn't carry everything I wanted - not even close. Then I chopped their heads off. Yeah, that wasn't much fun, but I wanted them to stay dead. [Butcher corpses when you can, because that increases your Survival skill. But if you don't have time for that, be sure to smash them, so they don't get up again.]

They had a lot of neat stuff, but I had to leave most of it behind, because I just couldn't carry everything. I had water, at least, and I took a lab coat in my size from one of them (lots of pockets!), but I still needed supplies of all kinds.

So I mentally flipped a coin and headed south on the highway. There was forest on both sides, and more of those weird fungal creatures. I kept my distance and they didn't bother me, but I saw a fungal tower off to the east. Had this stuff escaped from a research lab? I had no idea what it was.

Eventually, I arrived at the edge of town again, and although I could see zombies in the distance, I was able to smash a window and sneak inside a house without attracting their attention. It was a lucky break, made even luckier when I made it across the street to find an unlocked door at the neighbor's.

But by then, I'd been spotted. Well, I couldn't carry any more stuff anyway, so I opened a back window and ran.
[You can open most windows from the inside, though you have to pry them open or smash them open from the outside. Once inside, you can also close drapes, which will keep zombies from seeing you inside the house.]

As I headed northwest, making a beeline for the evac shelter, I came upon a huge mansion standing all alone in an empty field. For a moment, seeing figures inside, I thought I'd found survivors... And then zombies started crashing through the windows.

Well, maybe I'd just had enough of running, I don't know. But these were just... ordinary zombies, not the really dangerous types, and they were spread out. So I threw rocks at them until I could lure them into a bush, to slow their movement, then beat them down with my studded club.

OK, there were only five of them, and they'd happened to attack separately, one at a time, but I felt pretty good after that. And as I stood looking at that mansion, I had an idea.

It's the nature of rogue-like games that you die frequently, especially when you're first learning to play. There's no save-game feature, so when you're dead, you're dead. Start a new character and try again.

Or you can manually backup the save-game folder. :)  I'm not going to tell you how to play the game, because I don't care how you play the game - any game. I usually keep a backup of my save-game folder, myself, though I almost never end up using it. But I like having the option.

If you find the game too difficult, you can also increase the number of points available in character generation (from the initial screen, go to Options, then tab to the Debug menu), though I'm not sure how much difference that will make.

That's where you can select from various skill rust options, too. (Skill rust makes you lose levels in skills if you haven't used them for awhile. I don't like it, myself, but you can set it however you like.)

I should say a little more about the World Defaults tab, too. Originally, Cataclysm started with no zombies (although you could still encounter dangerous animals, right from the start). When you began the game, you'd make a mad dash to the nearest town, so you could grab equipment in relative safety.

When zombies did start to spawn, after a half hour or so, they'd be the ordinary versions, the least dangerous zombies, at first, so you could get out of town before it got deadly. However, zombies would continue to spawn throughout the game - more zombies the more noise you made - so you could never clear out an area.

Static spawn, which is now the default option, is quite different. All kinds of zombies are present in Cataclysm right from the start, so towns are very dangerous for a new character. However, zombies don't respawn (although they will get back up, eventually, if you don't Butcher or smash their corpses), so you can kill all the zombies in an area and it will stay relatively clear (except for anything wandering in from a neighboring area, of course).

Static spawn makes the beginning game much harder, but the later game, if you make it that far, easier. I prefer it because it just makes more sense to me. (Why would zombies just 'spawn' out of nowhere? And why would the towns be empty at the start of the game?) But it's your game, so decide for yourself.

There's also an option under World Defaults to choose only "classic zombies" and natural wildlife, rather than the bizarre creatures you get by default. I imagine that that would be a lot easier than the default game, but I've never actually tried it, myself. I do plan to,... sometime.

Oh, and I'd recommend leaving NPCs off, which is the default in Cataclysm. It would be great to have human NPCs in the game, but apparently, that's still buggy.

A garden area to the south side of the mansion, with all my stuff piled up in the corridor to the west (looks kind of like my real home in that respect :) )

The mansion looked more like a department store or a modern museum than a home, since the exterior walls were composed almost entirely of plate-glass windows. It must have been like living in a goldfish bowl (and not exactly the safest design in a zombie apocalypse).

On the other hand, it was out of town a ways, set off by itself on a huge expanse of lawn. So there wouldn't have been anyone to look inside anyway, I guess. It was that last part which intrigued me. If I could clear the mansion of zombies - and I had no idea what was inside - I might be able to make a stronghold out of the place.

[With a little construction skill and enough two-by-fours and nails - which you can get by deconstructing benches and other furniture - you can board up windows. Or you can Grab bookcases and refrigerators and drag them to block off the windows.]

I suppose it was foolish, but I was in luck - there were only ordinary zombies in the place, not the really dangerous types. There were a lot of them, true, but I took my time. Towards the end, I got a bit too eager and took some damage - indeed, my jeans and my new lab coat were totally destroyed - but I had myself a new home. And, although bruised, I hadn't been bitten. As I say, I was lucky.

There was a lot of food in the house, and a lot of books. So I spent the next week just loafing and reading, trying to learn the skills I'd need to survive. I ran out of food before I ran out of books, so I tried to do some hunting. Well, I stayed alive, but that's about all. (Someone had set traps on the west side of the house, and they'd caught a deer. But I discovered it too late, so the meat was rotten.)

There was a lot of drizzle and even acid rain, so I couldn't do as much hunting as I wanted. And then I got sick. Yeah, it was just a cold, I suppose, but it hit me hard. For several days, I couldn't do anything much but sleep (when I could sleep, with all the coughing). And when I finally recovered, there was more acid rain to deal with.

By the time that cleared up, I really needed supplies - especially food. (There was a swimming pool in the mansion full of water. It didn't taste very good, but after boiling, it was perfectly safe.) So I headed southeast again.

There were fungal creatures everywhere. Apparently, all that rain was causing a population explosion. They weren't especially close to the mansion, not yet, but they seemed to be spreading rapidly. Heck, they were a long way from where I'd seen that first bunch. There was even a fungal infestation in the town - among the zombies. I couldn't tell for sure what was going on there, but it certainly wasn't safe for me.

So I went west, instead. As I got near some suburban homes, I was spotted by zombies almost immediately, but I pried open a window (I'd found a crowbar in the mansion, so I'd left my club behind) and gathered up some loot before escaping again. On the way out, I killed a shrieker, but not before it made a lot of noise. But I still made it home OK.

Unfortunately, as a food run, it was nearly a bust. And would that fungal infestation keep spreading? Would I lose my new mansion, and all the stuff I'd found there? It seemed likely, and I didn't have a hope in hell of carrying everything away with me.

I won't say too much about traits and skills, since it's fun to experiment. But note that zombies - and most other enemies - can detect your character by sight, hearing, and smell. (They can follow a scent trail, if it's not too old, and your scent will balloon out from you if you stay in one area for long. Thus, I would definitely not recommend the Smelly negative trait at character creation, especially for a measly -1 points.)

One tactic is to raid towns at night, which drastically lowers an enemy's sight range (yours, too, of course). So, if you plan to do that, it's very handy to take the Night Vision trait, which doubles your sight range at night, and the Light Step trait, which muffles movement noise, too.

You can still get into trouble, of course, especially if you spend too much time on your raid. Thus, it can be handy to have the Fleet-Footed trait, so you can move faster (and escape more quickly). But that's just an example of how these might work together.

When it comes to skills, they're all useful, except for Bartering and Speech - especially if you have NPCs disabled (zombies aren't known for their conversational skills). You can learn most of them from books - if you're lucky enough to find the right books - and all of them through practice.

Still, some would be particularly handy for a new character. Survival, for example, helps you get useful meat after butchering an animal. As critical as food is, it's extremely frustrating to ruin the meat when butchering with no, or low, Survival skill!

A beginning level of Dodge is nice, too. You're going to get into situations where enemies try to hit you, and, obviously, it would be really helpful to dodge some of those attacks. But Firearm skills would be less useful at the start, because you first have to find a gun and the right ammunition for it. Also, guns are noisy, so they'll likely cause more problems than they solve.

One of the handiest weapon skills - but one that's very easy to train, so don't start with it - is Throwing. Many things can be thrown, but rocks are everywhere, so you don't even have to worry about retrieving them afterwards. Throwing is also quiet, and rocks have a pretty decent range. You won't often kill an enemy by throwing rocks at it, not until your skill is higher, but you can still injure it before it gets near enough to injure you.

Note that Tailoring is also a very useful skill. You need a needle and thread (or make bone needles from bones), but you can practice on the clothing every zombie is wearing. At low skill levels, you're likely to damage what you're trying to repair, but once you get a little better at it, you can keep your clothing and your backpacks in tiptop condition. That's very important, since it affects not just your armor, but your ability to carry stuff, too.

Cooking macaroni & cheese over a campfire. Look at the recipe list! And this is just one of eight tabs in the craft screen.

The next morning, I headed north, away from the city. I had fungus to the east and zombies in the city to the south and west. There were forests and fields to the north, but what else? If I had to escape, that was going to be my only option.

I cut through a spur of the forest and came out on the same highway that ran past the evac shelter. But this time, I went north. And at the end of the road was some kind of scientific research station.

The door was locked, but a scanner took one of the ID cards I'd scavenged off those dead scientists and let me inside. There was a short hallway, ending in descending stairs. Two doors led into rooms on either side.

The first room was filled with,... well, pools of goo. I didn't like the looks of that, so I tried the other. There I found beds. That would work fine for a storeroom and temporary base as I explored further.

It was dark underground, so I needed my flashlight, but there seemed to be power to the computer terminals I found (all password-protected). Unfortunately, there was power to the defensive turrets, too! I tried to be careful, but those turrets were fast. I couldn't even peek around a corner without getting sprayed with submachine gun fire.

I was hit a couple of times, but not too bad. I found some first-aid kits and patched myself up OK. All I had was aspirin for pain-killer, but that was better than nothing. And most of the rooms seemed to be safe enough to explore.

It appeared to be a huge underground complex - perhaps a cloning facility, though I only explored a small part of it. I found two dead bodies and a bunch of clothing, plus some large bottles of cleaning supplies, but not much else. Still, I hauled most of it topside, so I could sort through it at my leisure.

This wouldn't be a bad bolthole, if I were forced to leave the mansion. As far as I could tell, there was only one entrance, so it wouldn't do to get trapped in there. But who knew? There was a lot I hadn't explored yet - that I didn't dare explore until I could take care of those defensive turrets.

So I figured I'd return to the mansion and study some books on computer science. Perhaps I could learn enough to hack the system here? Well, what else could I do? So I headed back, encountering nothing but another sewer rat on the way.

The funny thing is, after turning up my nose at it the week before, I was pretty much living on rat meat by then. In my travels back and forth, I'd seen a lot of wildlife - deer, turkey, rabbits - but I could never get close enough to hunt any of it. There were a lot of rats around, though, and they would come to me.

I'm sure they'd be dangerous if I encountered them in large numbers, but not so much one at a time. And although it wasn't the tastiest meat around, rat meat would keep me alive. If I could kill a deer, I'd eat venison. But by then, I was glad enough to get rat.

OK, you've created your world and your character, and you're standing in the evac shelter. What now?

If you call up your map, you can see a small part of your world. There's lots more, but you'll have to explore to see what it's like. Every world is different, since it's all procedurally generated. But your evac shelter should be the only building around, far enough from the town that you won't see zombies from the windows (and they won't see you).

There might be dangerous animals outside, though. And you do have to go outside. That's the first thing I'd do, in fact. Be careful - try not to go too far from the shelter - but get yourself a rock. Then come back inside. (Close the doors behind you. Some creatures will crash through the windows or break down the doors to get at you, but many won't.)

I suggest wielding that rock and smashing apart one of the metal lockers. Yes, it will make a lot of noise, but if there aren't any zombies nearby, that should be OK. It will take a few tries, but you should end up with some pieces of metal, including a metal pipe. Well, by using the crafting screen (&), you can make a crowbar by beating that pipe with your rock.

Alternately, you can beat apart a wooden bench and make a weapon from the two-by-fours (and maybe nails). However, a crowbar is not just an effective melee weapon, but a very useful tool. You can pry open locked doors with a crowbar (making a less noise than smashing them down), and often windows, too (although you do have a chance of breaking the window).

And you really can't carry much but what you can put in your hands. So a combination weapon/tool is ideal. Once you've made a weapon, wield it and go downstairs. It will be dark down there, but there probably won't be any enemies (probably no loot, either, but it's important to check).

The first thing you need - the really critical thing, at first - is a backpack, duffel bag, messenger bag, fanny pack, purse - anything which will increase your carrying capacity. Certain clothing will work for that, too - cargo pants, trenchcoat, lab coat, clown suit, etc.

You can find such things in houses, but you can also find them on zombies, after you kill them (admittedly, their clothing is usually badly damaged). But you need to avoid zombies unless you can take them out one at a time. Be careful. Be cautious. Be sneaky.

There are three things to keep in mind. Storage capacity is the first. You need to be able to carry stuff, or it's not going to do you any good to find things. (Note that damaged items will carry less. Keep your stuff repaired, if you can.)

Every item has a volume and a weight. The total weight you can carry depends on your strength, but the total volume depends on the storage capacity of your packs and your clothing (plus one item which you can carry in your hands).

Encumbrance is the second. Clothing will often burden your character, slowing him down. Clothing that "fits" is better in this respect, but if you wear multiple layers, it can still be a burden. Check your character screen (@) when you Wear a new item.

Finally, clothing works as armor. Often, your clothing or your packs will be hit instead of, or in addition to, you. As it's damaged, you can lose storage capacity and armor coverage, so keep your stuff repaired, if you can. (This is where that Tailoring skill comes in handy.)

Of course, you need far more stuff than just backpacks and clothing, but you won't be able to carry much stuff without containers and pockets to hold it. Keep a note of things you've left behind (Note those on the map).

Once you can carry stuff - and even when you can't - food and water (fruit juice, soft drinks, etc.) are primary requirements. Eat and drink the perishable stuff first. It won't last long. Drop aluminum cans and empty cardboard boxes, but you need those empty plastic bottles, because you can fill them with water at toilets, swimming pools, rivers, etc.

But you need a fire, a pot or a pan, and an empty bottle in order to turn them into fresh water. (If you drink out of the toilet, or from any other unclean water, you'll get sick.) Note that you can make a stone pot out of rocks in the crafting screen (&).

Good luck! You're alone in the zombie apocalypse (worse than the zombie apocalypse, in fact, because there are far bigger dangers than just zombies out there). You start with almost nothing but the clothes on your back and with hardly any skills. You're considered prey by almost everything.

So watch yourself. Be careful. Run from danger. If you get injured, that will slow you down, and if you can't run away, you'll likely end up dead. (Note that some things are faster than you, anyway.) You have to be smarter than your foes, because you probably won't be tougher than them - certainly not at first.

You'll probably die. Well, everyone dies. So try to have fun before you go. :)

PS. I've got more tips for actually playing the game, so I'll probably write another of these, eventually. Meanwhile, note that most of my other posts about computer games are here.