Uncommon Sense

December 3, 2022

Science and Truth

I was reading a work of philosophy and the author objected to the categories of writing: fiction and nonfiction, in that “fiction” implied imaginary and so not true and non-fiction implies fact-based and therefore true. He had many interesting things to say, but they were mostly based upon this false interpretation.

When I read a work of non-fiction, I accept that the author tried to get the facts straight but I know how bleeding hard that is, so I don’t expect it to be 100% “factual” and certainly not a “true account” whatever that is. Writers of fiction often display more insight into things like the human condition than “fact-based” writers. When I read a work of fiction, I don’t expect it to be fact-based, so if a dragon shows up, I am okay with that. The two categories say something about how the authors went about creating their work, but nothing whatsoever about their veracity.

The problem here is with the word “truth.”

Truths are absolutes, and therefore, as far as I am concerned, they are mythical. I have written about absolutes before, so I won’t dwell on that topic, just to say they are extensions of things we see beyond any evidence for their existence.

I have often read that science cannot discover “the truth,” often by religious apologists, and this is obviously true as a statement. Science, in fact, is not looking for truths and never pronounces things as truths. We are smarter than that because what we think might be true today can be found to be false tomorrow. This is why all scientific findings are provisional. Scientists know this as it is beaten into them, but the lay public, looking over scientists shoulders, is often disturbed when scientists change their minds. What scientists think is a virtue, adapting to new data, the public finds alarming. This is because the public believes in the existence of absolutes, like truths, and when scientists announce a “discovery” the public think it is pronouncement of a new truth.

The best thing we could do educationally is to drum this into the minds of all citizens. Scientists are looking for what might work now so that they can continue to learn things, even though those new things may contradict what they have found previously. We in science call that progress. Religionists call that heresy. The public needs to learn to distinguish their religions from scientific “reality.”

As to what is “real,” just don’t get me started.

December 1, 2022

Democrats are Pro-Labor . . . Aren’t They?

Not for the last 40 years or so, no. I remember when Mr. Obama was elected. A piece of legislation dearly sought by unions had been stalled and when he was elected, well, it would be pushed through by the Dems, right? The legislation was to go back to the labor law when a union could essentially gather membership cards from a majority of a workplace’s workers and that would give the union standing to represent those workers in negotiations. Card campaigns were cards that stated that a worker wanted a union to represent them, just as a lawyer has a client sign a contract that states that they are representing them as a client. That was the law for many, many years. Mr. Obama ignored that legislation and it died on the vine.

Many other instances of labor being ignored have occurred, I am sure, but most recently President Biden showed the Dems true colors by forcing a labor settlement to avoid a railroad strike. The railroad workers were negotiating to get paid sick leave. Do you have paid sick leave? Can you imagine what your life would be without it? Railroad workers were told they could use paid vacation time if they needed to see a doctor or had to go to hospital. How would you feel if that were the case in your job?

President Biden, along with all of the other Dems, has stated clearly that the Dems, like the Repubs, are behind their rich donors and not you and not me.

As one wag put it, the Dems look union people straight in the eye and say “You’ll never get anything you want if I don’t win; but once I win, I can’t do the things you need, because then I wouldn’t be able to win again.” (Hamilton Nolan in The Guardian) Gosh, they couldn’t possibly offend the rich, now, could they?

* * *

Last year, adjusted operating margins for the five largest US railroads were 41 percent. Ten years ago, they were 29 percent. Two decades ago, they were 15 percent. Even compared with other transportation companies (which are doing extremely well)— trucking, parcel, air freight, maritime shipping, airlines – today’s railroad profits are humongous. (Robert Reich)

Railroad workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in fact, railroad employees are approximately twice as likely to die on the job as the average American worker. The risk is shared by conductors, signalmen, track laborers and others, and even non-fatal injuries can be serious, leading to chronic pain and other debilitating issues. (Arvin J. Perlman)

Just Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Master and . . . Wait

The Christian religion was created mostly by Saul of Tarsus (who changed his name to Paul). It is now called Christianity as if it had something to do with the teachings of the character Christ in scripture. It does not.

Evangelical Christians are fond of saying that “if you accept Jesus into your heart as your Lord and savior, you will be saved.” That is saved from the eternal torment invented by Christians and latter day Jews, Hell.

But if you read scripture, a different tale is told. For example in Matthew 25:31-46, it says:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Wait, where is the accept Jesus into your heart as your lord and master?

In fact, this seems to contradict a basic precept of Paul, that “faith” is all you need, not blindly following the commandments of Yahweh to do things.

Faith, Not Acts?
If you look at what Jesus listed in Matthew as the things that must be done, acts not faith alone, Jesus’s standard of judgment requires you to be:
Feeding the hungry
Giving drink to the thirsty
Taking in strangers and caring for them
Clothing the naked
Caring for the sick
Caring for those in prison

Nothing on that list requires faith at all, does it?

And Paul also stated, “They that do not work shall not eat.” Can you possibly winkle this precept out of Jesus’s list of acts needed to be “saved”? I can’t.

It is almost as if Paul had a different master than Jesus. It seems that Paul wanted us to obey the authorities (even pagan authorities, like the Romans!), pay our taxes (especially Roman taxes), get a job so we wouldn’t be a burden on the state, and you needn’t do all of those things that Yahweh and Jesus said, those are yucky . . . eww!

Oh, and be sure to vote Republican when voting is invented.

<Voiceover: “I am the Apostle Paul and I approve this message.”>

November 29, 2022

Sacred Places

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:14 am
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I ran casually across a reference to sacred places, you know temples, shrines, pyramids, monolithic circles. And I had an interesting emotional response. The comment was just that such “sacred” places, buildings, whatever are often built on top of previous temples, etc. This triggered a memory of something I read that when European conquerors took over yet another people, they tended to build Christian churches on the same sites that pagan temples used to be (often the pagan temples were razed to prepare the “building site” but not always).

So, those spaces were sacred to pagan deities and to Christian deities? Why would that be? It sounds more like dogs marking their territories. A dog comes along and pisses on a tree, leaving some of its scent as a marker, then another dog comes along and pisses on top of that saying “my place, no yours”).

So, I remember images of such sites with ceremonies being performed: censors of smoke, fans and feathers used to splash the smoke around, hands held up to the sky in supplication while chants were being performed, etc. The emotion I felt was, well, embarrassment. What would happen if aliens showed up?

I understand why these ineffective ceremonies and practices are performed year after year, decade after decade, and century after century. Priests told people that if they didn’t perform the ceremonies, their crops would fail, animals die, or children and elders die, so people performed those rituals, chanted those prayers and often enough the harvest was good and the animals and relatives were healthy. Years in which the harvest was spotty, or animals were born still, blame was laid on the people who did the rituals because they must have done something wrong. (I call this the ceremony trap or the ritual trap—damned if you do and damned if you don’t.)

People dressed up in funny capes/robes, wearing odd hats, speaking archaic languages and splashing wine, smoke, or even blood around. It is just embarrassing for the human race.

And if aliens do show up, these nut cases will be in line wanting to talk to the aliens, to explain how only they have the valid sacred knowledge and the rest of the people are heretical know nothings. How would the aliens be able to tell who the nut cases were?

Embarrassing, I say.

And what if the aliens come wearing funny outfits (their leaders anyway) and funny hats. Will they identify with those of us with equally odd garb as being more likely to understand them, rather than those who might represent all of humanity? Is great puzzlement.

Tradition is doing things the ways we always have, so that we don’t lose important knowledge. But, what if that knowledge was bogus in the first place? What good are the traditions supporting it then? Don’t we see most crafts and practices evolve away from the old ways to “new ways”? Sometimes the new ways are better and we stop doing things the old way. We save some of the old ways for historical interest as hobbies, so we still have blacksmiths, even though more modern methods of making metal objects have been proven to be far superior.

Unfortunately religions and other sacred practices have no way to find new ways to do things and are wedded to the past, often as not the very deep past and so we get embarrassing practices like heads bobbing at an ancient wall, prayers being muttered, and specific shawls and hats needed to be worn, because we all know how much a fashion nitpicker that god is.

Embarrassing. I hope the aliens don’t come . . . for a while.

Wow, Just Wow

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:28 am
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Altogether, the top 25 richest Americans had a collective net worth of $1.1 trillion, for which they paid $1.9 billion in federal taxes (that’s less than 1%). They pumped $1-billion of that into the recent federal election. It wasn’t to protect your interests. (Barry Gander)

The Education Voucher Program Scam

Filed under: Business,Education — Steve Ruis @ 9:04 am
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There is a rule of thumb I apply when researching over-the-counter drugs and medical devices. I do an Internet search basically asking “does XYZ really work?” or the equivalent. If the top ten hits are mostly websites clearly sponsored by the creators, I know it is a scam. Those sites are part of their marketing plan. If the reviews by the general public are largely negative, these “positive” reviews dilute them down. They basically are guaranteeing that positive “reviews” are the first thing that comes up in such a search.

If you do a similar search for information on educational voucher programs, you will get a similar response, all heavily positive data and reviews. Unfortunately, the vast bulk of the “data” and reviews are bogus, paid for by the rich assholes taking financial advantage through such programs. (It sure isn’t the students because independent research shows that students using vouchers perform more poorly that students who do not. “There is credible research on one side—that vouchers are largely a negative force for student outcomes—and politically oriented reports on the other. That’s it.”—Josh Cowen)

If this is a topic that interests you, here are the specifics:

Josh Cowen: A Citizen’s Guide to the Researchers and Funders Behind Vouchers

November 28, 2022

Farming Was Invented to . . .

In breezy accounts of human pre-history, agriculture was invented for all of its myriad benefits (or list of other bogus benefits to the farmers). And then . . .

But, really, people started farming in at least 14 different places, independently of each another, from about 10,500 years ago. And that story isn’t complete, since no stories founded in archeology are complete (or possibly even can be).

The best guess is that hunter-gatherers planted small plots of a number of plants that could be harvested before they packed up and left. And most hunter-gatherers didn’t stay in one place for long, so whatever was grown had to reach maturity rather quickly, so forget apple trees, grape vines, and other long duration efforts. Experiments quickly determined which crops could be both grown and harvested quickly and then utilized quickly. Soft fruits would spoil as would soft vegetables. Some roots would last longer, but grain turned out to be the superfood. It grew fast, could be harvested, and then dried and stored.

I can’t imagine any hunter-gather troop going “all in” on grain growing, though. These people were often in quite temperate or tropical environments, without harsh winters with their food acquisition difficulties. They were often on or near rivers which provided both food and transport. And, the hunter-gather diets was quite varied. Why trade a rich diet that included fish and shellfish, small game, fruits, nuts, and vegetables  for one that was almost all grain. (Archeologists have pointed out that as large scale farming took hold, humans shrunk in size and had worse health that before.)

The advantage of farming is that by farming storable surpluses of food could be set aside to provide sustenance in times of need, but that was the primary feature. The primary feature was that agricultural produce could be taxed! And, an “elite” class of people could do the taxing and so not have to do the work associated with food acquisition. As farming became more productive, labor became more specialized with some making clothes and little else, others making wood utensils and furniture and little else, etc.

But farming is labor intensive and farming is far more laborious that hunting and gathering. Many did not want to do the work, so the elites found “ways” to make it so. It is no coincidence that large scale slavery took root around the time of large scale agriculture.

To a hunter-gatherer the idea of plants to be harvested right outside of your hut’s door, rather than miles away, was attractive, hence the small plots and hence the multiplicity of times agriculture was “invented.” But only elites wanted large scale agriculture. It seems to me they go together. No large scale ag, no elites. No elites, no large scale ag. It is interesting the number of stories I have heard about Polynesian cultures in which the “king” could be ignored if he spouted nonsense. Food was available in abundance all around and in the sea. The “king” had no social leverage. For a starving people, an elite with stored grain has a lot of leverage. (Coming up—a look at how this played out in the Roman Empire.)

Postscript Shakespeare stated in Henry the VI, Part 2 “The first thing we do is kill all of the lawyers.” He should have said “The first thing we do is kill all of the elites.” But at that point that ship had sailed, the “kings” had stored up so much grain that they had wealth and armies and mini-me kings galore and Shakespeare needed patrons, so he couldn’t afford to offend those who possessed wealth, and thus the modern world was created.

November 26, 2022

Creating Christ

The above title is a book title (didn’t read) and a documentary title (saw a couple of nights ago on Prime).

In this documentary, the evidence that Christianity was a Roman construction was presented, again. When I taught I used the rule of thumb that to really teach something you needed to address it three different times and, preferably, three different ways. This time, a great many aspects of this conjecture really clicked. The conjecture being, of course, that the Romans shaped Christianity to be a Rome-favorable choice of a religion for rowdy Jews.

I didn’t see a great many new pieces of evidence, just the same things presented as a coherent whole. And, things in my knowledge clicked into place as the doc proceeded. I was not impressed by the quality of the visual presentations as they would use the name of one Roman emperor while showing a statue of another, that kind of thing (the visuals were eye candy way too often, something I dislike). But the arguments were dispassionate and well structured.

A clear distinction was made between the Jews who were the insurrectionists and the Jews who were the cooperative sort (they were all Jews, whether subscribing to the Christian cult or not as far as the Romans thought). The insurrectionists were mercilessly suppressed. The claimed martyrdom of the early Christians is a propaganda tool, Christians per se were not suppressed, but the trouble making Jews were, and it was to the advantage of the Christians of the time to claim they were persecuted for their beliefs. They were not, insurrectionist Jews were punished for their actions.

One thing that had always bothered me is the Romans, taking the lead of Alexander the Great, developed a highly successful approach to pacifying conquered peoples. Part of that process was folding in the local gods with the Roman pantheon. Every school child has noticed the one to one correspondence between the Greek and Roman gods, e.g. Zeus = Jupiter, etc. Well, that approach was made general and performed over and over. The Romans had an “Office of Cults” that kept track of these things and checked to make sure that all of the peoples of the empire worshiped “the gods.” They didn’t particularly care which gods. The Jews of the time, however, were very stiff necked about the Imperial Cult in which emperors were worshipped and refused to do so. At one point the pragmatic Romans, trying to keep the lid on the volatile Middle East region, absolved the Jews from that requirement! Ah, such persecutions!

So, in contrast to that keystone of Roman empire administration, in the fourth century CE, Christianity became “an” official religion of Rome (and so was favored, rather than ignored/disfavored) and then a few decades later became “the” sole official religion of Rome. Rome ditched its very successful approach to governing conquered peoples to become monotheistic rather than polytheistic.

This cannot be considered a whim on the part of an emperor. The Romans were far too pragmatic for that, there had to be something in it for them, and that something had to be big, really big. The argument is that Christianity was shaped into a religion that was as pro Roman as a religion could be, and actively so, not just passively accepting as the various mystery religions of the time were. So, this religion was created to be a unifying support for the Empire and it got to be that over time.

Many things are explained by this. For one, why the gospels and Acts of the Apostles were written in Greek, rather than Hebrew, the Jewish language. Why slavery was accepted by an all-powerful entity who could have looked at it as a government usurping the slave’s free will. Why taxes were promoted as well as governments (aka rulers, even pagan rulers) as instruments of “God’s will.”

There is no group of people portrayed more favorably in the New Testament than the Romans. Even the cruel and vicious Pontius Pilate is portrayed favorably.

The Romans took actions to wipe out the insurrectionists/rebellious (John the Baptizer and Jesus were two such) and later attempted to convert the others to a pro Roman religion.

Many people point out that Paul, more than any other, was the creator of Christianity. Who was Paul? Paul claimed to be a Roman citizen and he played that card often and well. He must have had some sort of proof of that citizenship since otherwise, just a casual claim to citizenship would have been made by every miscreant. The Romans saved his life, protected him, treated him well, and for his part, Paul claimed o have many friends in Rome, including in the Emperor’s palace. The Book of Acts leaves Paul’s story when he was in “custody” in Rome, a very comfortable custody, as it is described. So, Paul, he wouldn’t have, would he? I mean he was a persecutor of Christians and claimed to have seen the light, no? He couldn’t have been serving the Romans, could he?

So, fast forward to the present time and we see Christianity is a formidable aspect of the current power structure in the U.S. supporting the status quo, keeping the same people (stand-ins for the rich and powerful) in power. In other words, still supporting the “empire.” The message is still “keep your head down, don’t complain, do your job, your reward will come after you die.” And people still swallow this clearly false message.

Has Modern Physics Lost Its Way?

The title of this piece has been a common topic for physicists to comment upon for the past few decades. I am not a physicist, but during my training to be a chemist I took a great many physics courses and have continued to be interested in developments in physics over the past 50 years or so.

Here is a list of the things I find, well, questionable.

Space-Time This invention by Albert Einstein is passing strange. On one hand, time is claimed to be an illusion or to not exist and on the other time is not only real it can be blended with spatial dimensions to make something more than real.

Cosmic Inflation and the Expansion of Space-Time Erwin Hubble discovered a key relationship regarding the spacing of celestial objects in the universe and their redshifts. All stars produce light and that light has built in patterns. When those specific patterns are shifted towards the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum, they are said to be redshifted. When shifted the other way, they are said to be blue-shifted. For example, the galaxy of Andromeda is blue-shifted, but most are redshifted. The original interpretation of these shifts were likened to the Doppler Effect, you know, the cause of train whistles sounding different when the train is moving toward you from when it is moving away. From this we jumped to the idea that the universe is expanding, an idea Einstein originally rejected. But this is not the only explanation of those shifts. In fact, Hubble recanted that analysis.

(If the redshifts are a Doppler shift) … the observations as they stand lead to the anomaly of a closed universe, curiously small and dense, and, it may be added, suspiciously young. On the other hand, if redshifts are not Doppler effects, these anomalies disappear and the region observed appears as a small, homogeneous, but insignificant portion of a universe extended indefinitely both in space and time. (E. Hubble, Roy. Astron. Soc. M. N., 17, 506, 1937)

It should be pointed out that Hubble himself was not convinced that redshift was exclusively due to Doppler effect. Up to the time of his death he maintained that velocities inferred from red shift measurements should be referred to as “apparent velocities.”
(Mitchell, 1997)

There are, in fact, quite a number of other interpretations of the data that are in play. For example, currently the shifts are assumed to be happening to the light traveling through empty space. We now know that “empty space” is an extreme condition, almost impossible to find in nature. So, what would be the effect of light traveling through space that had some dust in it? An example, would be the typically red colors of sunset. Traveling through the atmosphere at an angle, rather straight(ish) down, causes the light to be read in color. Now this strictly is not directly applicable to the galactic light, but it is analogous. There is a distance-redshift relationship because the farther light travels through space, the more distortion happens via the mechanism causing the redshifting. If the red shifting were entirely due to the Doppler Effect, the greater the effect, the faster the speed, no? So, why should galaxies be moving faster, the farther away from us they are? If all such matter originated from one point, the faster galaxies should be farther away in space and time and not farther back toward their origins. The Webb telescope is showing us light emitted by the very earliest stars/galaxies and they are heavily redshifted, more so than much closer objects. That would indicate that those galaxies were moving faster then than the galaxies are moving now, which means things are slowing down. But we are told the nonsensical thing that the “expansion of space-time is speeding up.”

To explain these things we are told that in the beginning, there was even more rapid expansion of space-time, called “Cosmic Inflation.” So, the expansion of space-time sped up to be really, really fast and then slowed down. Right.

I was taught that the more nonsense that was postulated to make a theory work, the greater likelihood that theory was on its last legs.

There is a coherent explanation for everything, if we assume the universe was infinite and not expanding. In Hubble’s words “a universe extended indefinitely both in space and time.” Have you heard much about that “other” possible interpretation of the data? No? Neither have I.

Dark Energy and Dark Matter WTF? The bulk of the matter in the universe is invisible and we never new it was there. Okay, uh. . . . And Dark Energy is a form of energy we never knew existed. It is making the universe expand faster and faster. Okay . . . WTF? How does this energy affect pace-time? Has there been a form of energy that has been determined to affect space-time? These are cockamamie concepts that were cooked up to explain new observations. Note that the old concepts were insufficient to explain the new observations, so we don’t question the old concepts or our interpretations, we just pile new whatchamacallits on top of those. Sheesh.

The Failure to Find a Unifying Theory of both Gravity and Quantum Mechanics Physicists, for the last 100 years or so, have been trying to create a theory that incorporates all of the major forces of nature. The history of physics sort of leads to this conclusion, as when forces were identified (basically the creators of new motion in matter) we were just trying to catalog them. But there turned out to be just a few of them were fundamental, those explaining all of the others. Then electric forces (attractions and repulsions) were unified with magnetic forces (attractions and repulsions). Then nuclear forces were discovered and we had a list of just four fundamental forces in nature, which explained all of the others: the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, electromagnetic forces, and gravity.

But gravity wasn’t playing well. As quantum mechanics was developed, using quantum field theory, everything seems compatible, except gravity. So, the search for a theory of gravity compatible with quantum mechanics, quantum gravity if you will, went  on . . . and on . . . and on.

My question centers on the fact that gravity is the force that dominates in the cosmos. Yet, for us puny humans here on earth, chemistry and physics seem to be dominated by electromagnetism and nuclear forces. And if we peered down, down, down into matter, we encountered the strange behavior of quantum-level objects. Gravity plays almost no role in biology and chemistry and quantum phenomena and only a small one in earthly physics. Quantum effects exist where we live, but they are few and far between compared with what is going on in the realm of fundamental particle interactions, which don’t show any role for gravity at that level at all.

So, what is the basis for the expectations that a theory (which is just an explanatory description of some set of physical behaviors) would apply to encompass both of these realms—the very, very, very large and the very, very, very small. The only driving force for this search is “well, it worked in the past.” Maybe, just maybe, they are separate, only slightly overlapping realms of behavior and a single theory just cannot be stretched to cover both.

String Theory An ugly baby only a mother could love is the only analogy for string theory. Maybe we need a theory for why physicists would be attracted to an untestable conjecture. (Can’t really call it a theory when it cannot be tested. Theories have passed tests, many of them.) I suspect those who dove into this quagmire early on are now thinking “Have I wasted my career studying something of no merit whatsoever?”

My background, as I have said, is in chemistry. In that subject, there seems to be a life-cycle of theories which also is apparent in early physics. When a new theory is created, there is much enthusiasm, hope and excitement. The theory is built up, tested and becomes stronger. Then flaws appear. In some theories these flaws are tiny or irrelevant and don’t undermine the use of the theory in many, many situations. Other times the flaws widen and threaten the confidence people have in that theory. At that point proponents apply patches. These tend to be context specific and apply to just those instances in which the flaw makes serious problems. But over time, such theories can accumulate a great many patches and at that time, others create new theories that require no such patches. And theories do “fade away” and cease to be used. Some get resurrected in that they produce short-lived progress in new situations, but usually that zombie-like theory will also soon fade away.

Too many of these Big Bang patches seem to deny common sense and seem to be patches to make the damned thing work like we want it to. Dark energy, dark matter, cosmic inflation, the expansion of space-time, the existence of space-time, all seem to be unsupportable reaches. Time will tell.

All You Need is Love, Wait . . .

Christians of the evangelical sort are told frequently that all they need is faith, but actually that is not true. They are also told that they need to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior — that if they didn’t they weren’t “saved,” and they would go to hell. (Someday I am going to have to write about accepting someone as one’s “lord.”)

Then I ran across this statement on my Quora feed:

Christianity is a set of incentives that erode our own internal resources. And minimizes our access to them. In return, the only “resource” we are provided with is faith. Faith to me is something much more toxic even than a faulty epistemology. It is a gateway drug to an addiction to being right. (Vincent Downing)

Wow! “Christianity is a set of incentives that erode our own internal resources. And minimizes our access to them.” I should have realized this before, that Christianity of the evangelical sort is a system that makes people dependent upon the religion by reducing their own abilities. The phrase “Jesus take the wheel” sums up this belief. Jesus never passed his driver’s test, so this is not meant literally. It is meant that Jesus is to take control of one’s life and steer it, brake it, speed it up, etc. It means that control over one’s life is to be placed elsewhere. (Of course Jesus is nowhere to be found, so the church steps in as his general factotum.)

If you look at the skills a modern adult needs to thrive in our culture, they are myriad. One needs patience, resilience, grit, persistence, intelligence, intuition, reasoning ability, logic, . . . , compassion, love, empathy, hand-eye coordination, a sense of direction, etc.

But these Christians are taught that when then need a little help that they are to trust in God/Jesus for that help, and they need not learn and practice the life skills needed to thrive.

It is all about creating a dependence upon the church.

The church, of course, cannot be seen to be unreliable or untrustworthy, or even incorrect, which is why they deny vehemently any wrong doing, even when caught with their pants down (literally), and this is where the second part of the above quotation comes in “It is a gateway drug to an addiction to being right.”

So, churches need to emphasize why they are “right” and the others are “wrong” otherwise they could lose adherents, aka paying customers. They just cannot say that other faiths/religions are okay as that would be marketing suicide. This explains why there are between 30,000 and 40,000 different sects of Christianity. Each one has to insist that about some point, be it minor or major, they are right and the others, all of the others, are wrong.

For example, evangelicals have a hard time calling Catholics “Christians.” According to them, Catholics aren’t “saved.” Apply this thinking to the vast number of Christian sects and you arrive at only one of them being “correct” and all of the others are leading their congregants to Hell. Imagine that, the vast majority of Christians are going to Hell, and that is according to other Christians.

Outside of theological matters, we can see what this level of thinking is doing to our (American) politics. Rather than seeking out compromises as was done for generations, modern pols insist they are right and that the others are not only wrong, but they are evil and should be destroyed. Egad! Where did this extreme political rhetoric come from? (You know now, don’t you.)

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