Addition to “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”

First read “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” by Rudyard Kipling. (And, if you have a bit more time, “Meditations on Moloch” by Scott Alexander. Also thematically appropriate is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and the book Frankenstein by his wife Mary Shelley.)


The Gods of the Copybook Headings were ever as just and wise
As the choices that make us into everything that we despise.
Today our reign is quite merry, in silicon and rare earth,
But the Gods of the Copybook Headings advance with their gift of dearth.

Scarcity ever us compels to follow those Market Gods;
The Gods of the Copybook Headings expose them again as frauds.
Our souls cling to the spokes of a Wheel endlessly turning.
The Gods of the Copybook Headings perceive our ceaseless yearning.

We heard them eons before now: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
And yet we march under their banner, giving them every breath.
When humanity is extinguished, the Wheel still never stops.
Defying laws that men wrote down, the Gods stay perched atop.

The Gods of the Market long ago gave up their splendid quest.
The Gods of the Copybook Headings always knew that they knew best.
They never claimed to console us, and never claimed to be just.
As we read in books long forgotten, “All are from the Dust.”

Dust is the stuff of their kind, the Gods of the Copybook Headings.
They are the start and the cutoff; the birth and its subsequent dreading.
The Crab never knew any limits, nor her brother Machine,
But the Gods of the Copybook Headings rejoice when fat or lean.

Until humanity perishes, we will seek that which we should spurn;
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!


Originally posted in a Twitter thread. Modified with suggestions by Redditor /u/AshleyYakely.

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The Allure & Benefit of Ritual Epistemology

“Ritual is more powerful than arguments and facts. The Pentecostal church members are a prime example of ritual epistemology: working out truth and meaning not through argument, papers, and conferences, as in analytic philosophy, but through ritual, practice, and experience. […] The time to worry about a ritual order is not when it appears irrational, but when it is so costly (in monetary terms or in terms of suffering or human life) that its costs outweigh its benefits.” — Sarah Perry on Ribbonfarm

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Religion Without Responsibility

I’ve had this post drafted since Easter.


I’m not a believer, but I consider myself somewhat religious. I’m ethnically Christian—does that make sense? I would like attend church on Sundays. Unfortunately, most churches are predicated on blind, nonsensical belief, which I can’t accept. Also, a significant portion of them are boring.

the gorgeous ceiling of Notre Dame cathedral
Notre Dame is un-boring based on the decor alone. Photo by Paul Bica.

Since today is Easter, I went to church with my family. The singing parts were nice, but the sermon combined dullness with idiocy. The pastor insisted that to be ~righteous~ in the eyes of the Lord, all you have to do is believe in Jesus Christ. He claimed that “works”, meaning self-improvement and efforts to alleviate the suffering in the world, are not the basis of worthiness. It’s all about that faith, baby. Ugh.

semi-disturbing Jesus graffiti
Semi-disturbing Jesus graffiti. Photo by Leonski Oh Leonski.

On the one hand, I choose the principle that human beings are valuable regardless of their personal attributes, because I think that leads to a better society. Which means, yeah, works aren’t the crux of your moral status. On the other hand, it’s pretty lazy to claim, “Oh no, I don’t have to try to be a good person. I just believe and Jesus takes care of the rest.” To me, that seems like a cop-out of developing rigorous individual ethics.

On the third hand—I need a third hand for rhetorical purposes—devout Christians do want to be good people, according to whatever rubric they subscribe to. And then there’s the fourth possibility, which I’m not quite arrogant enough to dismiss: maybe I understand nothing!

Frank Underwood: "I pray to myself, for myself."
Frank Underwood: not preoccupied by any of this nonsense.

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