DT and the Cat5’s

So weird.

This is just plain weird: Trump doesn’t think he’s ‘ever even heard of a Category 5’ hurricane. Four such storms have threatened the US since he took office.

“We don’t even know what’s coming at us. All we know is it’s possibly the biggest. I have — I’m not sure that I’ve ever even heard of a Category 5. I knew it existed. And I’ve seen some Category 4’s — you don’t even see them that much,” Trump said at a briefing with officials at FEMA’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

“But a Category 5 is something that — I don’t know that I’ve ever even heard the term other than I know it’s there. That’s the ultimate, and that’s what we have unfortunately,” he added, in reference to Hurricane Dorian.

This is such a strange thing to say that one is taken aback. Is this just his carnival barker/hype-man style coming to fore? Does he really not remember the previous ones during his administration, not to mention those in recent history, such as Katrina? Is this mental decline?

In regards to the last two years:

In September 2017, nearly eight months into Trump’s presidency, Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest Atlantic basin hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, affected at least nine US states. That same month, Hurricane Maria devastated the US territory of Puerto Rico, leaving behind an island that is still struggling to recover.

Last October, Hurricane Michael, which was originally designated as a Category 4, barreled into the Florida Panhandle as the third Category 5 hurricane to blast the US since Trump.

But, you know, who ever talked about Maria and Puerto Rico? It was barely in the news, dontcha know.

And, weirdly:

Trump has previously indicated several other times that Category 5 hurricanes are unprecedented weather events that either he or others had never heard of or witnessed.

In the days between the landfalls of Hurricane Irma and Maria, he said he “never even knew” they existed and said days later that “people (in Puerto Rico) had never seen anything like” the storm.

In October 2017, Trump claimed “nobody has ever heard of a (Category) 5 hitting land,” and earlier this year, he again said he had never heard of a hurricane of that intensity.

Here’s a video montage: President Donald Trump, On Category 5 Hurricanes.

I do think part of it is his weird hype-man style, but it also shows a strange disengagement. If he can’t be bothered to keep the knowledge of category 5 hurricanes in his head, no wonder he thinks that trade wars are good and easy to win, among other things.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Jen says:

    It really is strange. Even using the “oh it’s his carnival-barker style” as a rationale feels like a stretch.

    I know Cult 45 doesn’t like to acknowledge it’s a possibility, but he really does seem to be declining. More slurring evident when he does talk. Slow and deliberate sounding out of words. Strange pacing. This sort of weird nonsense–combined with the total lack of complete sentences–just doesn’t seem right. He speaks almost entirely in disjointed phrases.

    I challenge anyone who doesn’t think this is strange to go back to interviews 20 years, or even 10 years ago. He. Is. Deteriorating.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Yeah, never seen anything like a Cat 5. That thing is so strange and so strong it will stretch the whole length of the Florida Panhandle and destroy Alabama.

    The spaghetti plots all run up the Atlantic coast except for one weird outlier that turns left, crosses the whole Florida peninsula to south of Tampa, does a sharp U turn right over me, and retreats the way it came back to the Atlantic. I’d laugh at it, but Irma was the same. Spaghetti plots all running up the Atlantic coast except one outlier turning left, running through the Keys, and then up the Gulf Coast. Which is what it did. Fortunately it hit land well south of us and weakened considerably.

  3. @gVOR08: There’s the whole Alabama thing as well.

    My guess is that he remembers seeing some plots from earlier in the week that hard the storm possibly crossing the peninsula and turning north in the gulf. I think he pays more attention to the TV than he does his briefings.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    I think he confused Alabama with Virginia. But trying to make sense out of what he says is a fools game. As Shakespeare said, “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying mothing.”

  5. gVOR08 says:

    I think he confused Alabama with Virginia. But trying to make sense out of what he says is a fools game. As Shakespeare said, “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

  6. CSK says:

    I’m sure one of our resident Trumpkins will be along shortly to spin this.

  7. @gVOR08: Indeed.

    @CSK: I doubt it, actually.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @gVOR08: Sorry about the duplicate. The system usually blocks me if I accidentally do that.

  9. Kathy says:

    It may be he’s doing it on purpose, both the Category 5 and the Alabama thing, because then the news will talk about him, rather than shove him aside completely while they focus on the Hurricane.

  10. liberal capitalist says:

    The guy prolly can’t remember breakfast yesterday.

  11. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I was being sardonic. Though I would love to read Guarneri’s explication.

  12. @CSK: Gotcha/indeed.

  13. SenyorDave says:

    DT and the Cat5’s. I think I saw them a few weeks ago, weren’t they the opening act for Smashing Pumpkins?

  14. CSK says:

    Well, Trump acts and speaks as if he has DTs.

  15. Stormy Dragon says:

    Similar montage on Trump making people cry

  16. CSK says:

    I do wonder how the truly dedicated Trumpkins deal with statements from Trump such as these. Oh, I know how they deal with them publicly: by ignoring them or dismissing them as fake news. But privately? Surely even the real dullards amongst them must sense something is very wrong.

  17. Kari Q says:


    I do wonder how the truly dedicated Trumpkins deal with statements from Trump such as these.

    This is a good question. I fear the answer is “as long as the libs are complaining about it, it’s great” and they don’t give it any further thought. At best, maybe they just think he’s trolling the media?

  18. CSK says:

    @Kari Q: That could be it–owning the libs–but it doesn’t account for Trump’s genuine-seeming befuddlement in these remarks.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    Surely Squeaky Fromme knew there was something wrong with ‘Charlie.’ Surely Roman Catholics knew there was something wrong between priests and altar boys. Surely those people in Guyana knew there was something wrong with the Kool-Aid.

    People want nothing more than to turn off their brains and become sheep. They are capable of believing anything.

    For 2000 years Christians have convinced themselves that a story involving a father torturing his own son to death in order to allow himself to ‘forgive’ his own creatures for doing things he knew perfectly well they’d do when he designed them to do it, is a happy, happy story. Yay God!

    2000 years and no one thought to ask why God couldn’t forgive without the blood sacrifice of his own child. People are idiots.

  20. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m not sure about Squeaky, but I’ll buy the rest of what you’re positing.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I suppose that it’s possible that a significant number of MAGAots are just like me and never actually listen to anything Trump says. I get all my info on Trump from the news, such as it is. I suspect that most MAGAots get their information from Faux News, such as THAT is.

    Under those conditions, it’s perfectly understandable that neither I nor the MAGAots have any real idea of, for example, what people are talking about when the conversation drifts to Trump/dementia and such. In my case, I don’t find myself needing to get worked up about a condition I have no control over (Trump’s dementia or lack thereof). In the case of others, the never actually see or heat actual evidence of his deterioration, gaffes, what not, because Faux probably doesn’t show that kind of stuff. (For whatever this is worth, when I go to the gym, Fox News in on about 1/3 of the TVs in the cardio area. I never see Trump footage on Fox News. No matter what time I go there. Lots of talk about, but no actual.)

  22. Andrew says:

    I honestly do not know if Trump is mentally ill. Frontal lobe Dementia. Or possibly is so stressed out, he’s just screaming SQUIRREL! while spinning in circles as much as he can to distract from how sh!tty things are getting around him. Possibly both.

    Without passing election protection measures or allowing the FEC to do their jobs. Which Moscow Mitch is impeding…
    If Trump wins a second term, he will go full Slim Pickins and figuratively ride that bomb straight to WWIII.
    No one will think he won by legit means. And his fragile ego will only get worse the longer he stays in office. If you think this is bad, now, just imagine a mentally ill, psychopath, with no bar too low to prove how strong he is * 100.

    Without the Democratic Party taking the Congress…holy sh!tballs.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    Hah! I forgot for a moment what you do for a living. Of course you’d have a more complete view of Squeaky who, of course, was her own POS even without Manson.

    BTW have you seen Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time? I found it way overlong, badly in need of editing, self-indulgent. Once they introduced the dog (Chekov’s dog?) I knew the ‘surprise’ ending, so it was all just a bore.

  24. charon says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Surely those people in Guyana knew there was something wrong with the Kool-Aid.

    They had no choice, they were compelled to drink at gunpoint.

  25. charon says:


    If Trump wins a second term, he will go full Slim Pickins and figuratively ride that bomb straight to WWIII.

    Can’t happen, his neurological issues are progressing too rapidly. I think there is a real chance the GOP nominating primaries will be bitterly contested. Nikki Haley is in Iowa for a reason.

  26. Andrew says:


    Possibly, yes. A primary challenger could take over the nod. The Republicans could push for a cleaning crew to come in.
    However, Trump has the Republican base. If you want to try and run a left of Trump candidate, how are you supposed to sell that?

    Trump could resign…Ahahahahahaha!
    He called the election he won “rigged” against him.

    Are FoxNews and conservative media loyalists that brainwashed they could be swung to a Trump = Bad narrative by next November? Yes. If the producers and talking heads and “opinion shows” start soon.
    …Maybe you have a point.

  27. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Same for me. I try to get the bike closer to the one tube with CNN. And it’s the same in every restaurant and sports bar, FOX on every wall. They claim their news coverage isn’t slanted, but they sure seem to emphasize different stories, and have a different slant, than anyone else.

  28. dazedandconfused says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s not stupidity, it’s faith. Specifically absolute faith. There is no stronger drug. Absolute faith is love. I know of no other word to describe it, and love is ecstasy. Only those who have experienced the joy of absolute faith can understand. Many very intelligent people have succumbed, so many in history that we must accept that intelligence is all by itself a most imperfect shield against ecstasy.

    Would the Jonestowners have lined up for their Kool-Aid for anything less? The odds they were all retarded are prohibitively low. James was obviously out of control…so what is the answer to this riddle? I honestly don’t know but suspect in this self-brainwashing for charismatic leaders eccentricities can actually re-enforce the process. They lift the object of their love above the conventions, even morals, which bind us normal folk.

  29. Kathy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    2000 years and no one thought to ask why God couldn’t forgive without the blood sacrifice of his own child. People are idiots.

    Well, yes. But at the time it might have made more sense. Religious worship involved animal sacrifices, votive offerings (money or goods), and prayer, in that order. I’m sure Jews at the time sacrificed animals in the temple. The Romans sacrificed animals to the various gods, including the deified dead emperors (the cult of the Caesars).

    The point is, back then, if you wanted to obtain favor from the gods, you had to sacrifice an animal, or a big number of animals, in that god’s temple. So it might have made sense for one god to offer his son as a sacrifice for some special religious purpose. There was even precedent, of sorts, in Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, which got stayed at the last moment (allegedly).

    Of course, another common way to obtain a god’s favor then was to build a temple in their honor. One wonder why Jehovah did not simply ordered his people to sacrifice a hecatomb (one hundred oxen), or three, in his name, and then he would build the world’s most magnificent temple ever on the site of that yuge sacrifice.

    That sounds far more sensible for an allegedly merciful, all-loving, all-powerful deity. If he’d used electric lights, escalators, a sound system, nicely padded seats, structural steel, etc. there’d have been no doubt on anyone’s mind this god is for real and above all others, maybe even the only one.

    But the primitives of that time could not have conceived of such things. Their gods were necessarily limited by their imagination and experiences.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: Yeah. As a teenager that’s pretty much where I lost religion, when I realized what my Lutheran pastor was preaching was some weird bronze age blood ritual. That, and that He did it for forgiveness for my sins. Not only had I not been born then, I wasn’t very sinful. It seemed excessive.

    I’ve also read that the Pentateuch was largely a fable of conquest, conquest being the only legitimate claim to territory at the time. Last I heard there’s a significant lack of any Egyptian records of Hebrew slaves or an Exodus.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    Faith? So memorably defined by Mencken as an irrational belief in the occurrence of the improbable? Yes, I suppose that is it. It’s not an emotion or state of mind I identify with, being whatever the diametric opposite of a person of faith is. Even growing up Lutheran I never really had faith. The first time I looked seriously at the issue (age 16, Youngstown OH Greyhound station) it just came apart like a badly built toy.

    I wonder how many people have died because of faith? Faith in the Catholic Church, faith in the Reformation, faith in Islam or faith in Quetzalcoatl, faith in kings and queens and great leaders, faith in ideologies like fascism or communism. Faith should be classified as a mental illness. On rare occasions it’s useful. More often it’s burning heretics and gruesome wars and death camps.

    I could never trust a person of faith entirely. If you’ll swallow one bucket of bullsht, what’s to stop you swallowing a second and a third. A healthy mental immune system protects against faith.

  32. Moosebreath says:


    “That, and that He did it for forgiveness for my sins. Not only had I not been born then, I wasn’t very sinful.”

    As the old joke runs, Jesus died for our sins. Should we make his sacrifice unnecessary by refusing to commit any?

  33. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: From my Lapsed Christian upbringing (I was raised as a Lapsed Christian, never having been to church or having god mentioned, but with something’s absorbed through osmosis), I thought that Jesus wasn’t a blood sacrifice as much as God having to send his son down to understand His own creation, and why they keep screwing everything up, rather than just drowning everyone (again).

    The sacrifice wasn’t specifically the cross but the mortal life. The gruesome death on the cross was just an added benefit.

    The Adventures of Jesus on Earth (presumably including his missing years, where he lived in a flat in Rome with two women, took drugs, and learned to play the lute) recounted to the Father, ultimately leads to the Father having a softer heart and changing the compact from “here are fifty thousand things to do and not do, don’t screw it up or I’ll drown you fvckers again” to “if you believe in God and Jesus and all his mercy, you’ll probably try to emulate him, and that’s going to be good enough.”

    My Lapsed Christian Upbringing and bits of Christianity absorbed by osmosis is a less terrible story.

    Unfortunately, not having been raised in any particular tradition (there was a fake Christmas tree) and having picked up the rest here and there, I have no idea where it comes from.

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: Years ago, at the top of the hour, I surfed through 3 or 4 stations just before they went to break:

    CNN: When we come back, more on Whitey Bulger

    MSNBC: Top of the hour: Whitey Bulger’s memoirs go on sale this week

    CNBC: Whitey Bulger when we return…

    Fox: Why is President Obama forcing Catholics to quit their jobs? We’ll have the details when we return.

  35. de stijl says:

    The turning point for was thinking thru the eucharist.

    If you’re Catholic it’s literal cannibalism; if you’re Protestant it’s symbolic cannibalism. Either one is super creepy and not my cup of tea.

    That and a bunch of other things made me an atheist by 13 or 14. A big challenge is to what to say about that and to whom. My family were regular church goers and said grace before meals, but not thumpers by any means.

    I chose not to share my lack of belief with anyone except a few friends. To share would have been a scene and drama and tons of bs. So I just shut up and bowed my head when expected because I knew I would be out of there soon.

  36. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Of course the lamestream media will highlight the misdeeds of a guy named “Whitey”. It fits their preferred narrative!

  37. CSK says:

    @de stijl: Whitey Bulger was evil incarnate.

  38. Teve says:

    I’ve also started to think that Trump was deteriorating, so the scientist in me tells me that this could be confirmation bias and we need to look for the best possible disconfirming evidence. Some recent footage of trump in public acting as capable as possible.

  39. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    Mine was partly my growing interest in science, which painted a picture very different than that of religion, and which could be tested and proven. And partly the accident of understanding the prayers in the Sidur at the Synagogue.

    I say accident because we happened to attend a “conservative” (more like liberal) synagogue, which had prayer books (Sidurim) with a Spanish translation rather than being solely in ancient (ie Biblical) Hebrew. The prayers were mostly, as I call them now, kissing God’s ass (or should that be Ass?). This made little sense to me.

    And do we get something in return for all the flattery, or following the dietary laws(*), or all the other laws(*)? Not that I could see. What about the Holocaust? Where was Jehovah then? What about widespread antisemitism in Europe and the Middle East for centuries?

    That said, if I ever get religion for some reason, I’d pick Reform Judaism. It seems like the lesser evil.

    (*) Not that I or my family did, but many people do and for what?

  40. de stijl says:

    I remember one time in Sunday school saying to the teacher that perhaps the Christian God and the Hindu Gods and the pagan Gods where different faces of a one true God and different forms of worship and faiths were more akin than different. That did not go over well.

    Curiosity, openness, and inventiveness had strict boundaries in Sunday school.

    Later, when it was my turn to day a blessing before a meal, mine tended towards the humanist and secular. I would wish for good fortune for the unfortunate with nary a mention of a deity.

    It was in a way fun to see what I could get away with.

  41. Mister Bluster says:

    Good food, good meat
    Good god let’s eat!

  42. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: Yeah. That was also a part of it for me. He is omnipotent and omniscient. He created the entire universe with billions of billions of stars, billions of humans, and only He knows how many other sentient beings. And He’s so insecure He’s going to get pissed if I don’t show up Sunday morning and sing his praise?

  43. gVOR08 says:

    @Mister Bluster: My brother, the Reverend Bruce, does one in which he suggests we all say a silent grace, folds his hands and looks down, and sits silently until muttering “eight…nine….ten” then looks up smiling.

  44. Jax says:

    @gVOR08: Your brother is much cooler than mine. Everybody waits in fear for the 10 minute “grace”.

  45. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Atheists discussing religion usually falls in the same category as Xenophobes discussing immigration or Conservatives discussing liberalism.

    To be fairer to the theological concepts of Christianity than the caricatures in this thread–for those interested in understanding– The seminal pillar is Substitutionary Atonement. This is commonly explained as Jesus Christ died for your sins to pay the penalty of Sin required by God the Father. That is the indirectly true but not actually true.

    What Substitutionary Atonement actually explains, is that Jesus Christ, a human manifestation of the Creator God of Earth, became Sin (Big “S”) the one thing that that separates this Creator from Creation. By becoming Sin (the dark side of Human Nature) and dying, this Creator, itself, destroyed the power of this Sin nature over the consciousness of all those who desired to received this gift of liberty. Of course many layman would disagree but until they learn some Hebrew, study’s Rabbinic techniques/idioms, and other extra biblical books for context….all they know is what their Pastor told then. They mean well but are ignorant.

    THAT SAID, there are many many issues when we go from theology to religion…primarily that your religion has to resonate with people. Nothing quite resonates with people quite like fear and guilt which is how you get hatchet job concepts that get taught to the masses. It keeps the pews full however. This is exacerbated by translating an eastern Semitic text into English text for readers with Western viewpoints. Some things don’t quite translate.

    What most of you have beef with…are people I like to call “Churchians”. They sound like Christians…but they don’t look or act like them. Frankly, the modern Churchian understanding of the Bible is less than 250 years. Many of the current teachings would be unrecognizable to Christians before the 18th century. But hey, pews have to be filled and with that comes the whole business of church that is doing lasting damage in the current generation to this Institution.

    I write this not as a defense of Christianity but to maintain the standard of good faith argument in the blog. I study world theologies for enjoyment and certainly have my own tenets and conclusions about the human experience and its meaning/non meaning. Most of which would be incongruent with Western thought.

  46. Gustopher says:


    That said, if I ever get religion for some reason, I’d pick Reform Judaism. It seems like the lesser evil.

    Universal Unitarian has a nice sound to it — ostensibly Christian, it hones in on God’s infinite mercy, and then concludes that everyone is saved whether they believe in God or not. That matter taken care of, it’s just a social group that does some charity work, and goes through some of the motions of Church.

    Western Buddhism also has some positive features, including god or gods being entirely optional.

    But, I’m pretty sure Lapsed Jew is a valid religion.

  47. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    I remember one time in Sunday school saying to the teacher that perhaps the Christian God and the Hindu Gods and the pagan Gods where different faces of a one true God and different forms of worship and faiths were more akin than different.

    I’ve had thoughts like that when I bother trying to rationalize religious belief.

    More interesting, I heard a Catholic priest make that argument, only as something that was true in the past. His notion was that the Christian god had manifested in carious guises as all the other gods, as he saw it was required by different people. Ultimately he revealed his true self as the trinity or whatever it is Christians believe now.

    Sounds good, until you ask, “Well, then, why did your god in the guise of Tlaloc, Huixilopoxtli, Baal, and many others, require human sacrifices, often by very awful means like being burnt alive?”

    The answer is that this wasn’t their god, but, well, who knows. The devil maybe?.

    How conveeenient!

    We can go deeper, too. There are many creation myths as performed by many gods. Why would the true god spread misinformation like that? or did they create the universe many times? What about the Greek myths involving gods? Did the true god kill Odysseus’s crew in one guise when they slaughtered (or tried to) his other guise’s cattle?

  48. de stijl says:


    I was maybe 10 or 11 at the time. It was not a well thought through hypothesis.

    I mainly remember it because of the teacher’s reaction.

  49. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    It makes far more sense than to assume an immortal deity wants the exact same ritual from everyone all the time. Doesn’t he get bored?

    On the other hand, an omnipotent being needs nothing from others. He can get what he wants, when he wants, as he wants, as often as he wants. The whole notion of gods makes little sense.

    I’m more puzzled as to the seemingly built-in need for religion in humans. We know there has been religion from the start. There are many hypotheses about it, but nothing really definitive.

  50. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: Religion made sense when it was the only answer available when your kid asked “what is lightning?” That’s why the founders, well educated, rational products of the enlightenment, were Deists rather than Atheists. They still needed a creator to explain lightning, or anything else. Although Franklin’s kite was an effort to find a better answer.

    Now that we know what lightning is, a lot of people seem to still have a deep psychological need for religion of some sort. Some years ago I read Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind”, which is supposed to be the great formative book for modern conservatism. In term’s of finding an intellectual basis for modern conservatism it’s a deeply disappointing book. But I found it clarified my thinking no end, just not in any way Kirk intended. It turns out to be several chapters which all say X was the only writer of his age who understood the great truth. However Kirk fails to quote X explaining that great truth, or identify it himself. Trying to make some sense of it I came to realize the common thread was faith. It didn’t matter so much faith in what, but faith itself. George Lakoff explains at some length that for conservatives “freedom” means free to do their duty. What defines their duty? Faith. Not necessarily religion, but faith in something. Lakoff also says conservatives are well able to think through complex causation, but they don’t, they go straight to simple moral explanations. People in general, but especially conservatives, need faith in order to make sense of the world.

  51. michael reynolds says:

    There is no God. Faith is a deliberate decision to believe in something that does not exist. But not to really believe, rather to pretend to believe, to assert belief. Then, when some other person has a different magical faith, or no faith at all, Believer A almost invariably decides to ram his faith down the throat of Believer B.

    Why? Because both A and B know their faith is bullsht. They’re trying hard to believe, but they don’t really. They really believe in gravity, which is why they don’t ignore gravity but constantly ignore God. Because they only assert faith, they don’t actually have it.

    People of faith need to universalize that faith and enforce rigid conformity precisely because they know their beliefs are tissue paper, easily torn, impossible to glue back together. They will imprison, torture, kill anyone who casts doubt on their faith, because that faith is mere self-deception.

  52. Kathy says:


    Religion made sense when it was the only answer available when your kid asked “what is lightning?”

    I’m sure that’s part of it.

    BTW, I don’t think there is one single reason. Not for something so complex. Why people have sex, which is far simpler, contains multiple reasons, like reproduction, satisfaction of biological urges, bonding, dominance, control, etc. So I expect something even more complicated for religion (including dominance and control and bonding, too, coincidentally).

    About the one constant thing in most of the world’s religions, is a trade-off for control of the physical world. Mortals are instructed, required, obligated, ordered to do something the deity wants, like a sacrifice, and in return the deity will show favor and make sure you get enough rain for your crops, or your animals won’t die of disease, or your child will recover from illness, or you’ll defeat the nation across the river, etc.

    As far as I know this is still current in many religions, even if the focus, or mission statement, has changed. Like salvation being the end of the trade-off today for Christians,

  53. de stijl says:

    Old God’s were interesting. They had flaws and foibles.

    Ever since Zoroastrianism, things got boring. One God omnipotent, omniscient, eternal. It must be extraordinarily boring. What are going to do with your day?

    The Hindu and Nordic pantheon are chock full of super bonkers deities. They have fun, get into scraps, and routinely screw up.

    Even the Old Testament Christian God was cranky and prone towards anger and violence actually kind of a dick – think Job and Abraham’s son and Sodom and Gomorrah.

    A omnibenevolent deity’s existence would be boring. A least a trickster gets to have fun.

  54. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: So your claim is that the vast majority of people throughout recorded history are deliberately deluding themselves? That they profess to believe bullshit, and they know it is bullshit and this makes them profess to believe it all the more?

    I don’t think you understand religious people, or how faith in anything affects people. And you’re completely ignoring the elements of community that a shared faith creates, and how that reinforces it.

    Even BernieBros have a stronger faith in their Cranky Old Savior than you give religious folks credit for. Bernie might not be a literal religion, but he serves a lot of those functions for his ardent supporters.

  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Atheists discussing religion usually falls in the same category as Xenophobes discussing immigration or Conservatives discussing liberalism.

    I’ve been looking for a way to express this idea for a looooooonnng time. Thanks! Interesting and accurate description of Substitutionary Atonement, too. Unorthodox, to be sure, but interesting and enlightening. Overall fruitful post. Again, thanks!

  56. michael reynolds says:

    I’m not sure why you think Bernie Bros undercut my assertion. And yes, I am saying that down through history people professed beliefs that they didn’t actually hold.

    To claim that you believe an all-powerful God is watching your every act, and then to defy that God not once but constantly, suggests very strongly that people don’t actually believe in said God. Let’s say you’re at a stoplight and a cop pulls up beside you. How many people will then burn rubber and jackrabbit as soon as the light turns green? Pretty much no one. Why? Because they believe the cop is there. Really believe.

    How often do people ignore gravity? How often do people touch a hot stove? How often do people decide to ignore the lack of oxygen at the bottom of a pool? How often do people try to walk through walls? Pretty much never to all the above, because people actually believe in gravity, and pain, and in the need for air, and the solidity of matter (at the macro level.)

    God? They ignore him all day every day. You carefully obey gravity, and casually disobey God.

    People are afraid so they tell themselves little fairy tales. Others may die, but not them. No, they have a magic sky fairy who’ll save them. The oxy of the masses.

  57. de stijl says:


    Probably, I am the wrong person to respond as I lack that religious, spiritual brain desire / predisposition. I am panatheist – they’re all crap, not just the one I was “supposed” to follow.

    I have zero antipathy to any person of faith unless they try to inject their faith principles into laws, or if they criticize and impinge upon someone who does not follow that religion. Then I get uppity.

    But faith, religion, spirituality doesn’t bother me. It’s just not how my brain works.

    There are benefits. It cements you into the core group. It is a handy metric for deciding who is in or out of the group.

    It provides solace and guidance when life is hard. Yeah, it’s store-bought solace, but it works for those that believe.

    The immortality of the soul is troubling to me. We want our loved ones to be there even after they’ve died because they were our keystones.

    But immortality would be horrible eternal torture. I do not want to be conscious forever. Life is boring and sporadically exciting. More than half the time, the exciting period effing sucks.

    The persistent soul and immortality comfort us during *our* lives when we think about people we loved who died before us. After we die, believe me, no one cares about your gran who smelled like old time perfume and gave you cream soda and had wrinkly eyes.

    Your kids never knew her and she’s just a picture. She is still alive to you, but dead to them. We only care about a persistent soul to those we knew I’m life.

    Have you seen a dead body? Any animating force that made that person Kate
    utterly left the premises once the brain shut down. What was Kate is now a decaying biohazard. Kate has left the building.

    I have a small insight into spirituality. When I’m in the back of beyond and looking at the stars I feel both immense and infinitesimal. That is very moving and profound. It also doesn’t mean some deity made it so. It just is.

    I’m yammerimg.

  58. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    But immortality would be horrible eternal torture. I do not want to be conscious forever. Life is boring and sporadically exciting. More than half the time, the exciting period effing sucks.

    I sometimes give serious thought to such things (really). I often conclude immortals would get sick and tired of living, and would seek a way out or an end. This leaving aside such practical problems as how many years of memories your brain can hold.

    But being tired of leaving and wanting to die might be two different things. and few of us are in a position to judge. those who might be, or who want to die, cannot come back and tell us if they are satisfied with the choice they made.

    The Egyptians imagined an afterlife very much like their current lives, only better (like even the poor would have a supernatural servant, an Ushabti, to do some of their work for them).

    Christians, as far as I can tell, imagine an eternity of torture or an eternal church service (leaving obvious jab unsaid).

    The Greeks imagined a dreadful, barren existence with little awareness and no real “life” except on rare occasions; but also eternal torture for some heinous people like Tantalus, and perhaps an idyllic existence for some specially pious people, like Cassandra (who wasn’t even Greek). But even great heroes like Achilles suffer among “the breathless dead.”

    And you have the Struldbruggs, as imagined by Jonathan Swift, who are immortal but continue aging forever (an impossibility, but a good narrative moment). Swift says the lucky among them reach a state of dementia that prevents them from really being aware of anything. I suppose it would be torture to retain all your faculties while you grow blind, deaf, frail, and infirm.

    I don’t believe anything, or anyone, can be immortal, not even the universe. But I do believe in the soul, as a non-tangible component of every person and many animals, not unlike personality or mood or intelligence, and pieces of it live on, or exist on, after one dies. Partly in the memories of others, partly in what one leaves behind, like works of art, political legacies, etc (yes, this means a big chunk of Stalin’s soul is still in existence, but also those of Asimov, Sagan, Beethoven, Marie Curie, Vera Rubin, and many other wonderful people).

  59. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: Gravity responds every time, immediately, in the here and now. There is no faith required. You don’t enter into a community of gravity believers. You don’t have to work to attain gravity. The number of songs about gravity is small. The culture is not awash with artwork about gravity.

    It’s a terrible analogy for religion.

    Meanwhile, there is an absolute crapload if stuff that you believe without direct, incontrovertible evidence, and which makes you part of a community. You take global warming on faith, because you respect the authority of climate scientists and scientists in general, and you get to be part of the whole reality thing and look smugly (and rightly) down on the idiots who think it’s a Chinese inspired hoax and conspiracy to pursue those inadequate research grants.

    And you’re a firm member of the Trump Haters. Understandable, because the man is hateful. If you were to discover his administration doing something good, you would twist yourself in knots to find a way that it’s not good, or that it would have happened anyway.

    Actual example: changing the dialog with North Korea. He’s not failing with North Korea any more than previous presidents, but he’s an idiot rolling over for Kim. He was smart enough to recognize that the previous approach wasn’t working and we needed to try something different. His approach is also a failure, to be fair, but at least it’s a new set of mistakes rather than continuing to repeat mistakes.

    (A lot of his presidency is like that, actually — a mixture of Republican Orthodoxy and an identification of things that haven’t been working… along with new approaches that are ineffective … and white supremacy … perhaps a hatred of Trump is more like gravity than religion)

    But, you make a distinction between these articles of faith based on whether there is some kind of Sky God involved. The folks who get snagged by the Right Wing Misinformation Complex are just as awful — more so in many cases.

    Re: BernieBros — they believe. They believe more than your straw man church goers, or most actual church goers.

  60. de stijl says:


    I would wager that They Might Be Giants likely did a song about gravity without bothering to check the back catalog.

    Maybe 2 to 3 odds for. Those dudes wrote about everything. John and John and TMBG kick butt.

  61. michael reynolds says:


    you would twist yourself in knots to find a way that it’s not good, or that it would have happened anyway.

    I’ll just grab that one quote to make the point that you are flatly wrong. That is exactly how I do not see the world or respond to it. In fact, my rejection of that kind of party line thinking is why you get so upset at my analysis of Sen. Gillibrand. I know the party line, and I reject it and argue a different position. In my own little writing world I’ve been attacked for various non-conforming positions – in fact, it’s probably cost me some money. How many professionally/financially risky positions have you taken just because you wouldn’t just nod along with the consensus?

    Don’t extrapolate from your thought process to mine. I’m not you, and you understand nothing about my mental discipline. I am ruthless with myself when it comes to what I believe. I believe absolutely nothing without solid evidence. I don’t ‘believe’ in climate change, I believe that the scientific consensus is likely to be largely correct. Big difference.

    Put it this way: you will never find an example of me believing something absent convincing evidence. If you ever do find such an instance, I will happily confess, thank you for pointing out a lapse in my mental hygiene, and re-examine. I have no fixed positions that I’m unwilling to re-examine. I’m not on the team, Gus, I’m never on the team.

    And actually, gravity is an excellent analogy. Because it’s true. Belief in gravity is absolute, belief in God is aspirational at best, and WTF do songs have to do with it?

  62. dazedandconfused says:


    I say accident because we happened to attend a “conservative” (more like liberal) synagogue, which had prayer books (Sidurim) with a Spanish translation rather than being solely in ancient (ie Biblical) Hebrew. The prayers were mostly, as I call them now, kissing God’s ass (or should that be Ass?). This made little sense to me.

    And do we get something in return for all the flattery, or following the dietary laws(*), or all the other laws(*)? Not that I could see.

    The pay-off is in the ecstasy of absolute belief, but you’ve raised a very important point about the Judaic/Christian god. The key demand is subservience, is it not? The one truly unforgivable sin is to not worship, indeed fear, God. This aspect I believe makes us easier marks for charismatic leaders who demand essentially the same thing….and thereby the nastier they get the more the devoted believe they really do have a messiah. It’s a twisted concept, but the devoted have even been conditioned to view God’s (Trump’s?) brutality as a demonstration of His love.

    We wonder how the Evangelicals support a Trump?

  63. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: You may be better at understanding other people than I am, but you are terrible at applying that understanding to yourself. Epically terrible.

    I’m as much of a grumpy misanthrope as you are, but I can see those common human failings in myself.

    And songs have everything to do with everything. It’s part of building community. “Amazing Grace” pulls people together and that shared knowledge, which they can gleefully sing, creates a shared experience.

    Or, more divisively, Woody Guthrie’s “Jesus Christ”.

    Gravity doesn’t have that. A belief in gravity meets exactly one need — it explains why things fall. That’s lovely.

    Religion meets so many more — community, companionship and probably some other things that start with c.

    I’m enough of a grumpy misanthrope that I see religion as bunk. But I’m smart enough to see that I meet those needs elsewhere, and that I am as blind as the true believers, just in different spots.

    And on Gillibrand, I think our disagreement comes to this — you would rather be wrong than agree with cancel culture, and I would rather be wrong than agree with misogynistic douche nozzles. If you believed you had the one great truth, you wouldn’t be basking in the agreement of the WaPo comment section.