Both theories view human beings as essentially good, but warped by outside influences -- government or hunger, as the case may be. I'm tempted to throw in a Biblical view of original sin, but that might be going too far. :-)
I'm not sure I understand what you're writing here, so bear with me, please. If you meant that Biblical views of original sin were one of the warping factors on essential human 'goodness,' I'd have to strongly agree. The organization of religion has been one of the worst things to happen to humans that I know of. I'm emphatically not speaking of religion itself or spirituality per se -- I'm speaking of what happens when a religion becomes part of the status quo in a society. It's usually at that point that the (often inherent) kindnesses the religion espouses are conveniently forgotten in attempts by those on top to keep the strong in power and the weak accepting of their miserable lot.
Think about it -- Christian original sin means without Jesus we're all doomed. Period. Furthermore, we're doomed because of a woman. Isn't it natural to revile that which has condemned you to hell? Thus, in one fell swoop, original sin gives half the human race (males) justification for the oppression of the other half of the human race (females).
Do your own research into the origins of the belief in original sin. May I recommend the following authors: Elaine Pagels, Karen Jo Torjeson, Ute Ranke-Heinemann (a Catholic theologian excommunicated for questioning strict Church interpretation of scripture), and Bishop John Shelby Spong (an Anglican [I think] who is one of the most truly "Christ-like" men I've ever had the fortune to stumble across -- I would consider it a great privilege to actually speak with the man). In regards to 'original sin,' you will discover that it was originally used as a justification to scare people into Christianity. Original sin means that if you wish to be saved, you must submit to the priests' interpretation of scripture. Therefore priests became the only path to redemption. The early Church fathers didn't just want people to live pure and righteous lives -- they wanted to be the only authority responsible for interpreting religious morality.
Please don't take this bald statement of facts as an exact indication of how the Church Fathers (Illuminati #306 ;-) of the time thought. By no means did they all sit around at their secret lodge meetings, grumbling about how folks were getting nicer and nicer and leaving them with nothing to do. It is ludicrous to imagine they consciously decided that controlling people's lives was what they really wanted, nor do I wish to imply that they consequently agreed to lie to the people in order to more effectively control them.
I'm not saying they didn't, either... ;-)
Instead, the Church fathers of the time probably truly believed they were spelling out the actual Word of God(TM). It just so happens that the beliefs of the Church fathers closely mirrored the beliefs of the society they were in -- a not-unsurprising occurrence. Unfortunately, these well-meaning men laid the groundwork for millennia of horrific oppression, mass destruction, and pointless, bloody wars -- all in the name of an apparently gentle man that preached tolerance and honesty.
Just for fun, I'll indulge in a little more vanity press. This is a paper written for an Old Testament study class. Comments in  are inserted for clarity. Enjoy or disagree -- I'll cheerfully reply to rational commentary! ;-)
Regarding your comment to David Dunham re: Soothing Touch (Couvade): you mentioned that you'd heard women have greater stamina and tolerance for pain than men. I thought you might find the following interesting (from Sex and Gender: the Human Experience, by James A. Doyle and Michele A. Paludi, pg. 48-52):
Boys are more vulnerable to most every type of physical disease, environmental insult, and developmental difficulty (Jacklin, 1989). Approximately 125 boys are conceived for every 100 girls. By the end of the prenatal period, however, there is a significant loss of male concepti: The ratio of boys to girls is 106 to 100 (Strickland, 1989).
In addition, females experience fewer difficulties during the birth process and consequently, fewer birth defects. Carol Nagy Jacklin and Eleanor Maccoby (1982) reported that even in unproblematic deliveries, the births of girls take an average of an hour shorter than the deliveries of boys. This shortened length of labor has been correlated with fewer problems in infancy. Girls are thus more viable than boys.
Research has supported this greater female viability even after birth. For example, women have an overall life expectancy that surpasses men at every decade of life, regardless of race (Jacklin, 1989; Strickland, 1988). Girls have fewer congenital disorders, are less likely to succumb to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (the death, while sleeping, of apparently healthy infants who cease breathing for unknown medical reasons) and less prone to hyperactivity (Rathus, 1988). All of these findings suggest genetically determined strength.
Infant girls are more mature at birth than are infant boys. Girls have more advanced skeletal and neurological systems (Hutt, 1978; Rathus, 1983). Girls continue to mature between two and two-and-a-half years faster than boys. Their skeletal development at birth is approximately one month ahead of boys. ...
While as a group, boys are physically stronger and weigh more than girls after puberty, there is considerable overlap -- many girls are physically stronger and weigh more than the average boy.
In early and middle childhood, boys are overrepresented among children who have speech, behavior, and learning disorders. ... In addition, the incidence of reading problems is almost five times more prevalent in boys than in girls (Knopf, 1979). Mental retardation is higher among boys than girls. And, more boys than girls are autistic and hyperactive.
... Adolescents' weight nearly doubles during pubescence; girls weigh 25 pounds less than boys as a result of their lower proportion of muscle to fat tissue.
... Men's greater vulnerability holds true from conception to old age, and the death rate for American men is higher than that for women in every decade of life.
... Approximately 33% more boys than girls die in their first year of life. An equal sex ratio does not occur until eighteen years of age, when 100 men are alive for every 100 women (Strickland, 1988). ...
In adulthood, the mortality rates for men exceed those of women for most disorders, especially heart disease, malignancy, accidents, and chronic pulmonary disease (Strickland, 1988). ...
The highest male-to-female death ratios occur for AIDS (approximately eight times more men than women), suicide (approximately four times more men), homicide (three times more men), accidents (twice as many men), and chronic liver diseases (twice as many men). ...
Research does point to the negative effects of socialization practices of boys and men. Anxiety associated with conforming to the masculine gender role, including the emphasis on competitiveness and achievement, may lead to the development of compensatory behaviors that are hazardous to men's health: exhibitions of violence, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, drug abuse, risk taking behavior. ...
Strickland (1988) pointed out that across many cultures with different stressors men still die earlier and have a greater incidence of chromosomal abnormalities than do women. A biological predisposition seems to interact with cultural factors to make men more physically vulnerable than women... Research does suggest that female hormones may be protective (Rodin & Ickovics, 1990; Travis, 1993). Girls' and women's ability to withstand infection may be transmitted via the X chromosome or their lower metabolic rate may contribute to their viability.
I have found information such as this both fascinating, and an inspiration for interesting and different cultures for games. Hope you also find it of use!
I realize that different people have different perspectives. However, I still don't understand why some people seem to think the central point of Comes the Inquisitor, the "Jack the Ripper" Babylon 5 episode, was that Sebastian was Jack. To me, the episode was marvelous for a variety of reasons. The use of lighting and sound to imply menace was fascinating. I used those very techniques in a game recently: the unseen menace in the shadows; the slow, measured tapping; the quiet, implacable footsteps gradually getting louder, coming closer, closer...
A player later told me that use of that technique added immeasurably to his appreciation of the game I ran. I love getting compliments -- and I'll always happily credit whomever inspired me! ;-)
Also, the episode was (to me) not about Jack the Ripper, but about the Minbari, Delen. To quote another fictional character, Lord John Worfin, "History is made at night. Character is what you are in the dark." Most people know that it's easy to be a hero, surrounded by the cheering crowd, backlit by the sun and with a light wind ruffling your cape -- but darkest night is when the old, atavistic fears rise from your subconscious, and you lose the courage of your convictions.
In this episode we find that Delen believes so passionately in the correctness of her cause that she is willing to die, alone and forgotten, to accomplish what she believes is right. Such dedication both frightens me and inspires my deepest respect. I'm not sure I could do something that selfless, although I'd like to think I would. It is (for example) that kind of passionate conviction to do what is morally right that caused people to risk their lives to help Jews in W.W.II. So yes, for me the episode was quite moving: it wasn't about Jack the Ripper -- it was about courage under pressure.Virgil Greene
If you haven't read Phil Foglio's comic XXXenophile, I highly recommend it! It's a delightful book where he tells stories where mutually pleasurable sex is shown to be a very fun (and funny) thing!
I found your speculations on the definition of science fiction interesting. I am reminded of what Orson Scott Card wrote in his introduction to Cruel Miracles (which I also highly recommend. ;-). To him, science fiction is "the last American refuge of religious literature." Not inspirational tracts -- literature that "explores the nature of the universe and discovers the purpose behind it." Check it out -- it's well worth it.
Regarding your comment to Gilbert Pili and sacrifice, it would seem to me that sacrifice has a long and "illustrious" religious history. What are religions but an alternate form of magic? A beautiful and glorified form of magic, if you will. Both have complicated rituals that have been lovingly composed over time, both seek to influence the environment to the "caster's" favor, both inspire awe and majesty, both seek to make some "compact" with a supernatural entity. Hmm... I like that image -- magic and religions as lovely and wondrous performances to the glory of life. It inspires some rather beautiful visuals in my head. I'll have to use it in a game sometime!
Agrarian and pastoral societies have always offered of the season's bounty to whomever their deities were, in order to encourage fertility the next year. That sounds like magic to me. When the earth itself is perceived as the goddess, and her consort is her son/lover/sacrifice, then the worshippers have in a sense moved from sacrifice of vegetable matter or domesticated animal flesh to sacrificing the consort/deity himself. This could easily be done symbolically, of course, by using a bull or some other appropriate representative instead of a real human being.
Also, we do know there were religions where actual human sacrifice did occur, -- the Aztecs leap to mind. Imagine the magics they could have summoned in a different world; the fury of such a blood-thirsty god unleashed.
Then again... maybe I'm glad we don't have true magic...
Indeed, Christianity simply follows a long pagan tradition of sacrifice of the god for the good of the people. True, Jesus was not a consort to a goddess, but Christians still symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood each time they take the sacrament which symbolizes their closeness to their god. Such a ritual, again, is a way of manipulating god in their favor -- they are "chosen" by their actions. From that point of view, Christians are still practicing sacrificial magic today! :-)Timothy E. Emrick
Strong agreement on your decision to work on character creation with your players! From a player viewpoint, I'd have to say that games where the GM didn't give a damn about how my character was created were games where I never felt my PC was truly a part of the game. Also, encouraging the players to develop some connections before the game starts means you have a group that is a team from the very beginning, and that has a reason to stay together past the first story arc, rather than a group desperately trying to come together under stress. Good luck!Elizabeth McCoy
Beth, I wouldn't ordinarily comment on a typo, but I think you'll find this one amusing. You talk about Virgil Greene's chupacabras (chupa = suck, cabras = goats), but you typed chupacaras. Caras is Spanish for faces! :-)Kiralee McCauley
I occasionally read a zine and find a single statement or phrase that strongly rings true for me. In your zine I found one such, and I'd like to both point it out, and commend you on it. I couldn't agree more, regarding children and censorship! As far as I'm concerned, you're right on the mark -- and your comment is well worth repeating.
...I've always thought that distinguishing between material meant for children and adults is at best condescending. Surely, children are capable of deciding what they like. And so often the adult cry, 'We must protect children,' is used not to provide material appropriate for children, but to control and censor adults. The result is that material of both kinds is less interesting and of poorer quality.
I do not ordinarily watch much TV, although my roommates like to have it on... a lot, she said with gritted teeth... ;-) After using the remote to surf through the channels, one of my roommates finally settled on a program on public television. Unfortunately a pledge drive began soon after he settled on that channel. He thought about changing it, but decided to wait for the program he wanted, since the alternatives were insipid sitcoms.
It was a moment later that he thoughtfully said, "You know, Collie... everyone keeps saying that the crappy sitcoms and mindless violence are on TV because it's what we the people want... but I don't think I believe that. This-" he gestured at the pledge drive on the public TV station, "-is TV that people really want. It's democracy in action. If not enough people are willing to pay for a program, it doesn't appear. How much more clearly can you say what you want to see?"
Oddly enough, I'd just been reading about a University of Pennsylvania study that demonstrated that contrary to what we are sometimes told, violent programs do not get the highest ratings, and therefore are not, as their broadcasters claim, merely "what people want." This study was presented at the annual convention of the National Television Program Executives in Miami Beach, Florida, on January 24, 1994. It showed the average Nielsen ratings during the past five seasons were higher for nonviolent programs than for violent ones, and the audience share for such programs was also higher. Go figure...
Last Updated: Sat May 17 1997