Saturday, November 29, 2008

That Loving Feeling

Faith is a very emotional thing. Despite the attempts by Christian apologists to do so, it really cannot be logically defended. The practice of believing without evidence and against all contradictory evidence, really is the antithesis of scientific investigation based on logic, reason, and empirical evidence. In that regard, it is very similar to other often irrational emotional responses like trust and love. As such, it is just as easily misled, just as easily twisted and deceived and abused, and just as often wrong. Still, for many, the answer to the question of "Why do you believe?" is a simple one.

Because I can feel God's love. I know God is there because I have felt his presence in my life.

In the end, after all the arguments have been made, all the evidence and clever analogies presented, and all the counter-arguments refuted, many believers will fall back on the one thing it is believed that logic cannot assail, their own subjective feelings and experiences,

I know there is a God because I have felt him there when I needed him. I have felt God's love when I was at my lowest and it gave me the strength to survive.

I'm sure we have all heard some version of this argument. Usually, the discussion ends right there. This is the part of the discussion over which logic and reason are assumed to hold no sway. How can you argue with some one's feelings? But don't we do just that all the time? Don't we argue with the woman who feels that her abusive husband really loves her? Wouldn't we argue with the child who felt in his heart that he was worthless and would never amount to anything? Wouldn't we argue with the aging fighter who had already begun to slur his words, suffering the first signs of pugilistic dementia, who still believed with all his heart and soul that he could be champion again? Would we accept as evidence of truth, the feelings of a teen aged couple who believed that they were destined to be in love for ever because they could feel the love burning in their chests more powerfully and passionately than even the most pious and devout believer? Or would we instead believe that they were mistaken, that their feelings were wrong, that they would fall in and out of love many times in their lives and that what they were feeling now was no evidence of anything real or eternal. Wouldn't we argue with and eventually seek therapy for a person if they believed that a celebrity they had never met was secretly in love with them and that they had a personal relationship with this celebrity, a bond that no one else would understand, because they could feel this celebrity's love so powerfully they knew it had to be real? Why are their feelings any less real or valid than the person who believes that they have a personal relationship with God because they can feel God's love?

In any church you will find cynical men and woman who have lost all faith in romantic love and have instead turned to the love of God to replace what they could not find in their fellow human beings. It is surprising that those very same individuals who have grown the most skeptical of human love still embrace this nebulous feeling of "Divine love" with absolute unquestioning certainty. It is so surprising because we find so many reasons, and often rightly so, to doubt the love of those physically present in our lives.

We question the love of the women who bare us children, cook our meals, go to work to help us pay the bills or stay at home to take care of the house, nurse us when we are sick, embrace us when we are sad, reassure us when we are uncertain, laughs with us and makes love to us. Yet the God who has never held us in his arms, who has never spoken kind words to us and reassured us when we were feeling weak and uncertain, whose voice we have never even heard, his love goes unquestioned. Does this make sense?

Often, we find that we were correct to question the love of the women in our lives. We find that the love we thought we had, had long died, or been taken by another, or had never been present at all. Despite the love we thought we felt coming from them, it had all been a lie.

Women question the love of the man who physically protects and provides for them and their children, who pledges that he would die for them, who listens to their woes and provides them a strong shoulder to cry on and a few words of assurance, who struggles beside them and for them, removing obstacles from their path, and often they are right for being cautious and suspicious. This same loving man often reveals himself to be unfaithful, abusive, lazy, selfish, and unloving.

How often has a woman believed that a man loved them who was only after casual sex? If you asked them they would swear that the man really loved them right up until the phone stopped ringing or they caught him with other women. When they cry to you about him, how often do they tell you how clearly they had felt his love, and how they had felt certain that the two of them would be together forever?

How often has a man believed that a woman loved him who was only after his money? Believed it with all his heart until they day he lost his job and his money and found himself abandoned? So, if the love of someone that you can see, touch, and hear, who clearly demonstrates their love to you again and again is not certain and can be merely an illusion, how much less certain should be the love of a being that you can not see, hear, touch, or smell, who has never caressed you, held you in his arms, nursed you when you were sick or wounded, fed you when you were hungry, protected you, kissed the tears from your eyes, whose voice you have never heard actually say the words "I love you", whose eyes you have never seen fill with love as those words passed from their lips?

How often has a woman been harassed by a man who swore that she loved him and just didn't know it because he could feel her love? how often has a man been plagued by some woman he considered little more than a booty-call who swore that he really loved her because she could feel it when they made love, she could feel it when he looked in her eyes, when they kissed? Isn't that the very definition of a stalker? Someone who feels with absolute certainty a love that does not exist?

I won't rehash my entire argument against miracles except to say that for every time you believe that you could not have survived but for the presence of Jesus in your life, you should look around you at all those non-believers like myself who have survived the same and worse. You should think about all those non-believers who have survived brushes with death or rescued themselves or been rescued from hardships without appeal to any higher power. Then think of all those who were not rescued, both faithful and faithless alike. Think of all those times you were not rescued, when you have fallen victim to tragedy, hardship, injury, and despair. Where was God's love then?

So what can we say about this loving feeling? What can we say about that feeling deep in your heart and soul that God loves and cares for you? I would say that, that feeling means absolutely nothing. Just as we demonstrated with the feeling of human love, our emotions are easily fooled. Fear and desire, religion's most powerful tools, are also the tools of pimps, players, gold-diggers, conmen, magicians, marketing advertisement execs, and all manner of tricksters. Our sense can be easily deceived by these emotions. We want something so badly that we believe it exists. We begin to feel that it exists. It is no different then the dehydrated traveler seeing an oasis in the desert or a lonely man fantasizing that he is a relationship with a pop-star or a child believing that the father who abandoned him will be coming home any day now because he can feel it in the core of his being. For that individual, these emotional experiences seem unquestioningly real but an objective evaluation of the situation would clearly reveal them to be delusional. That is why reason, evidence, and logical arguments, must guide our beliefs and ideas rather than irrational unverifiable feelings and emotions which are the most unreliable and easily confused and misled so-called sources of knowledge.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Why do you write such terrible things?"

Succulent Prey has just been released by Leisure books. It is a violent little book It is violent even when compared to novels like American Psycho and Silence of The Lambs. Some will say that it goes too far, crosses boundaries that should not be crossed. What can I say to that?

I write horror. I write some of the most extreme, terrifying. violent, horrific horror you will ever read. Horror writers cringe at the horror that screams from my pages. Yes, I am one scary dude. But why do I do it? Why can't I write a nice paranormal Romance? Why can't I just write about angst-ridden metrosexual vampires? If I must write horror, why can't I write about creepy ghosts that do spooky things? Why does there have to be so much blood?

Because safe is boring. The mundane is too mundane. The ordinary is too ordinary. Fiction must be about extraordinary things, extraodinary people, and extraordinary depths of emotion, more emotional highs and lows than our work-a-day lives can provide. Horror gives us a look at the extraordinary. We see the horrible and the heroic. We see life intensified, magnified, and set free to tear shit up!

My life is extreme. Not in the way that my novels are. I'm not going to turn into a werewolf and rip your face off. I am a sensualist. I drink deep of existence. I have fought in some of the world's largest arenas. I have made love to women on three continents of all races and nationalities. I have recited poetry on stage at rap concerts. I have co-starred in an action film in Hong Kong. I have run marathons. I like my food so spicy it makes my eyes tear and my forehead sweat. I like art so staggeringly beautiful that you never want to tear your eyes away from it. I have experienced terrific highs and lows, the most intense emotion. I do not follow the usual path. Horror gives me a high I just could not imagine recieving from writing a western or a biography or chik-lit.

The world is a dark place. To create something darker and more violent than reality is a challenge but meeting that challenge creates a contrast that reveals the light. Put simply, what I write makes the world look like a nicer place. If you read my novels you quickly discover that the world in my head is not one you would want to reside in. The world where a communicable disease turns people into serial killers is probably much worse than anything you are experience during the current economic recession. Joseph Miles is worse than your boss or your ungrateful kids or those nosy neighbors. Being eaten alive is worse than losing your job or your house or finding out that your wife is sleeping with your best friend.

This is what fiction is about. It is escapism. It is a vacation from the vexations and trials of your daily life. If you can spend a few hours in sheer terror imagining what the librarian in Succulent Prey must have felt like as Joseph Miles tore into her with his blunt little teeth, trying to chew through layers of muscle and fat, then maybe your terror at that adjustable rate mortgage coming due might not seem quite so debilitating. Succulent Prey is real horror. Life? It ain't so bad.