Class Warfare Blog

December 13, 2018

Dichotomist Nonsense

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:58 pm

I ran across a Harlan Ellison quote today: “I know that pain is the most important thing in the universe: greater than survival, greater than love, greater even than the beauty it brings about. For without pain, there can be no pleasure.” He is an author whose work I have read a lot, although he is not necessarily one of my favorites. (He is a brilliant and fabulous writer.) I plucked out this quote because it demonstrates erroneous dichotomous thinking. Dichotomies are two “opposites” such as pleasure and pain, good and evil, smart and stupid, etc. And a common argument is if you didn’t have the one, you wouldn’t also have the other. An example is that we all can’t be rich, so “the poor will always be among us.”

This is bullshit of course.

Let me give just one example: eating an ice cream cone. Is it good? (Assume it is your favorite ice cream, favorite cone, etc.) Is it good? You bet your ass it is good! How do you know? Must you compare that pleasurable sensation with poking yourself in the eye with a sharp stick? (Doesn’t that sound silly?)

The reason these dichotomies are stupid is that the argument only works if there are only two possible states, that is they are alternatives. Either you have one or you have the other. But most things are not like that; in fact, very few are. Most things are parts of continuous ranges of values. So, the good of a favorite ice cream cone is immediately comparable with “normal” meaning “no ice cream cone.” Pain is not necessary to make a definition of pleasure. Everything can be compared to the “norm” or the status quo. So pain is not necessary as a framer of pleasure: non pleasure does that quite well.

This false thinking is behind all kinds of foolishness, such as happiness quotients. “Happy” and “Sad” are not two states. In between are unhappy and unsad in large manifolds. And happiness is not something to pursue. At best it is a marker. Short stints of feeling happy are a good sign that you are well balanced. The rest of the time things like contentment, gratitude, etc. are much more worthy states to be in.

False dichotomies are rampant in political argumentation. I have written often enough about the false dichotomy of “moral” and “immoral.” The vast majority of the time we are amoral, that is we act in ways that do not impinge upon morals or ethics. So, washing your car, driving to work, making the kids lunches: are these moral acts? And aren’t many of our actions a tiny bit immoral, even though we claim to be moral actors, by and large? Have you ever driven over the speed limit in a school zone, endangering members of the next generation? Have you ever been a scofflaw by walking against the pedestrian traffic lights? Have you ever been given too much change for a purchase and not returned the excess? Do any of these make you immoral or even the acts immoral? They are all matters of degree. They are all on a wide spectrum of behaviors. So why do we always pursue the false dichotomies that litter our thinking: liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, capitalists and socialists, believers and atheists? I suspect that it is because thinking is hard … and slow … so we would rather take the shorter, faster route to a position. I wonder of our democracy (being different from other democracies) can survive such laziness?

“The majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.” Alex de Tocqueville (observing U.S. citizens)

 

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December 8, 2018

The President Has an Opinion (Breaking News?)

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:20 pm
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The President has opinions. He shares them mostly through social media channels, primarily Twitter. Because he is President, people pay attention and discuss his opinions … but, should we?

There was once a series of commercials for a financial advice firm (E.F. Hutton). The basic trope involved two business types discussing their investments and one of the two would say “Well, my advisor is E.F. Hutton and he says …” which was a cue for everyone nearby to be quiet and lean in to hear this advice because “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” The message was that that firm’s particular opinion was valuable.

So, what makes an opinion valuable? The good ones seem to help us understand the topic, in its context, and see it for what it is. They explain, clarify, and help us make decisions about their content.

So, are President Trump’s opinions considered, well-reasoned, based upon basic truths, helpful, clarifying … ?

No.

Mr. Trump seems to understand very little. The helpful questions he has advanced came from others and he shows no ability to actually do anything regarding those topics. He seems to have no depth of understanding of even simple issues, let alone complex ones and seems to be addicted to lying frequently. He seems to be unaware and uninterested in how our government is structured and how it works.

So, why would this person’s opinions be of any note at all?

Just asking.

December 5, 2018

The Rich, They Are Not Like Us

The Republicans like to frame the rich as “job creators.” Well, one of the very rich, Alice Walton, reclaimed the crown as the richest woman in the world, as her fortune leapt from $33.8 billion to $46 billion over the past year. In September 2016, she was reported to own over US $11 billion in WalMart shares alone.

So, did she earn that money? Did she make that money? What did she contribute to society that so much money came to her? Is she creating jobs?

Owning stocks and investing in stocks has been shown to be the sham it really is. We are taught in school that selling stock is a way for businesses to finance their growth. This is clearly poppycock. Stocks are purely speculative instruments. The Apple corporation acquired $95 million in its initial stock offering. It hasn’t issued stock or gotten money from a new sale since. It has paid out billions to its stock holders in dividends. Imagine a bank load for $95 million that required billions of dollars to be paid back and the loan is still out!

Alice’s father, Sam Walton (founder of WalMart) made the money, she has simply played money games to expand the quantity.

The Founding Fathers comment often and long, as have many other prominent Americans since, that allowing accumulated wealth to accumulate by inheritance is un-American and counter to democratic principles. Yet, our inheritance taxes have been reduced to pure vapor under the guidance of bribes from rich people to Republican and Democrat politicians. This is what the rich like to call a “good investment.” They offer bribes of a few hundred thousand dollars here and there and they benefit by the many millions, if not billions.

Did you notice that Alice Walton’s net worth went up $12.2 billion in just one year? The Republican tax cuts played a big part in that. And, in case you are wondering, to spend that additional $12,200,000,000 in one year, she would have to spend $6,500,000 every hour of every work day of the year! How much money is enough? Apparently in a capitalist system there is no upper limit.

December 2, 2018

The Real War on Christmas

I play on the Quora website from time to time and the number of questions trolling atheists is truly astounding. Here is just one of them: “If atheists don’t believe in God or Jesus, why do they celebrate Christmas and Easter, the day Jesus Christ was born in the day he rose from the dead … ?” This brought to mind the War on Christmas promoted by Fox (sic) News and leads me to this post.

Which Christian saint is this?

Both the holidays mentioned in the Quora question were highjacked by Christians, that is they existed before and Christians took them over. This was a part of their strategy to obliterate other religions. Christian church buildings were constructed on the foundations of pagan temples, Christian calendar dates were moved to coincide with dates on pagan calendars, and pagan holidays were supplanted by Christian holidays by highjacking the festivals associated with them.

If you look at the iconic aspects of Christmas (feasting, decorated trees moved indoors, gift giving, Santa Claus, etc.) or Easter (egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, May pole dances (archaic), etc.) none of them are associated with Christian practices. Those two holidays were associated with the winter solstice and spring equinox festivals of antiquity. The eggs and rabbits of Easter were fertility symbols associated with the beginning of a new growing season. The word Easter is derived from the name of a fertility goddess (Eostre) and has no Christian roots.

Christmas is supposed by Christians to be a celebration of the birth of the Christ even though the dates do not match up nor do the celebrations. And think about it. If the creator of the Earth and the Heavens and Adam and Eve wanted to create a human representative to spread the good news, why would he impregnate a human girl and make his new “creation” go through diapers, puberty, school, deprivation, hunger, disease, and all of that for a mission that wouldn’t start until the guy was 30 years old? Is that how you would expect an all-powerful, all-knowing god to behave? Nothing that Jesus is claimed to have done prior to the age of thirty has anything to do with the so-called salvation plan. When Yahweh wanted humans in his garden, he made them post haste, as fully formed adults. So, the Christian claim that Christmas celebrates the birth of a god, it is celebrating a 30 year waste of time by a assumed to be perfect god.

So when Christians harp on “remembering the reason for the season,” please do. It had nothing to do with Christianity, so much so that the Pilgrims in America would have nothing to do with it. This should be meaningful to all of you original intent constitutionalists. And it takes a lot of chutzpah for those who highjacked such a celebration (not a holy day) to criticize those who celebrate it the way it was originally intended.

 

November 26, 2018

Meaning, Schmeaning

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:10 pm
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Atheists have to deal with a great many accusatory questions from Christians. One of my favorites is: how can there be morality without God? (Implication: I am an immoral asshole.) I always the questioner ask for a clear, definitive statement of Christian morality and I usually only get a “mumble, mumble, Golden Rule” response.

Another question is” How can there be meaning in life without God? (Implication: my existence is meaningless and, hence, worthless.) Well, we now have an answer! Pew Research has done a survey asking people where they derive “a great deal of meaning” and “the most important source of meaning” in their lives. So, our 70% Christian nation has spoken! Here are the top sources rated from most to least (with the percent responding “provides a great deal of meaning”):

Spending time with family … 69%
Being outdoors … 47%
Caring for pets … 45%
Listening to music … 44%
Reading … 37%
Your religious faith … 36%
Your job or career … 34%

So, what do you think? Is this just additional proof that Satan is in charge “down here?” Is the placement of people’s religion as a source of meaning in their lives right in being between “reading” and “your job or career,” and well behind caring for one’s pets? (Keep in mind Americans notoriously hate their jobs.)

Here’s the article I read (https://religionnews.com/2018/11/20/for-most-americans-new-research-says-family-comes-first/).

Addendum Before you write back to tell me that religion was ranked very high as the “most important source of meaning” in people’s lives religion still came in at 20% (one out of five), half of what “spending time with family” pulled down. And that survey asked about religion and not god. Since there are more than a few atheists who are members of churches (and churches which welcome atheists with open arms) and it is well noted that religion has a significant social component, I wonder where “god” would have ranked? (Basically, you cannot ask that question, because it will encourage people to lie. It would be like the “Does this dress make me look fat?” question.)

November 24, 2018

Ancient Aliens: Declassified!

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment — Steve Ruis @ 12:54 pm
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I can’t stop watching these shows from time to time. It is like watching a train wreck or spectacular car crash, except it is intellectual. Last night’s episode was about, well, here’s the blurb from their website: “Ancient relics, including the Ark of the Covenant, that have been lost for centuries and whether they were purposely hidden and protected by an extraterrestrial source.”

Since this “show” went on for hours (I didn’t watch the whole thing.) it is clear that the “Declassified” aspect is they included material that they had previously edited out to either make the included episodes the correct length, or they felt that the bullshit purveyed was just too extreme. (As if any of this bilge would actually be classified in order to be declassified.) This is what we get by having hundreds of content channels spewing their wares 24 hours per day, seven days per week—“episodes including all of the stuff we cut out at first!” (An Aside I remember when “cable TV” came around and it was promoted as being a fount of new material. What we actually got were hours and hours of re-runs of material already “in the can,” mostly TV shows like “I Love Lucy” and “My Mother the Car.” Well, we now have all of that original content that was promised and I am starting to pine after the “good old days” in which the content was primarily re-runs.)

So, the main thread of this “episode” (actually material from several episodes stitched together) was the Ark of the Covenant. This is the worst kind of religious pandering, that of treating scripture as if it were real history.

They talked about how the Ark was ordered to be built by Yahweh himself. Really? An all-powerful god (who is now beyond space and time) is going to have someone else make a wooden box to tote him around in the desert? He couldn’t, like, create it himself? Then the box is ordered to be decorated with gold leaf (thank goodness the Israelites managed to grab their gilding materials and tools as they ran form the King of Egypt’s chariots). And then after all of the decoration, it was to be covered so that no one could see the decoration. Is this how an all-knowing, all-powerful god would behave? Couldn’t He have just created a tour bus worthy of a rock star and wowed everybody with the ability of that ‘ark” to move itself. And when the Levites attended to Him in the air-conditioned splendor of the bus, imagine the stories they would tell!

But, Yahweh gets His box. The Ark then performs all kinds of magic. If anyone sees the Ark or, God forbid (actually) touches it, they die. What? Yahweh couldn’t have put up a force field to give himself a little privacy (and air conditioning)? The AA gang actually stated the belief that the Ark contained a nuclear device in it that emitted lethal radiation! Great present for the escaping Israelites!

Not only is there no mention of the fact (yes, a fact) that no such wandering in the Sinai desert of 2-3 million Israelites ever happened. If there was no Exodus, then the entire Ark story, being an integral part of the exodus story is also fictional. The Ark exists to plug a hole in the exodus narrative, that of how does one feed 2,000,000-3,000,000 people in a barren desert for 40 years! The Ark causes “manna” to rain from the heavens and so they were fed! (It is a miracle!) Why everyone isn’t falling down with laughter at his point in this story is amazing in itself.

We atheists often ask where ordinary folks get their idea that the “histories” in the Bible are true. Well, here is a taste. At one point they are addressing the fact that the Ark disappears from the Bible. (They go on to consider whether it might have ended up in Europe, England, or even Japan or North America. Sheesh.) One of their talking head “experts” then intones: “(The Ark) disappeared from the literary history in the same way it disappeared from the material history.” Hello? The Ark only exists in a literary history. There is no historical trace of any such creation, so there is no “material history.” But that statement clearly claims that “material history” is just being reported in the literary history. So, gosh, I wonder where people get the idea that the “history” in the Bible is valid?

I also wonder where Americans dropped their common sense. Since this show began airing, the percent of people who believe that we have been visited by aliens has doubled. Well, if I guess they are willing to accept Biblical “evidence” for their faith, this isn’t too far removed.

 

Was the Universe Created Recently?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:52 pm
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There is a long standing disagreement between scientists and Christian literalists over the age of the Universe. Scientists say that the universe is some 13.8 billion years old while “Young Earth” Christian literalists, who take the Bible as being literally true, claim that it is roughly 6000 years old. (According to one Biblical accountant, the Earth and I share a birthday, but it is 6000 years older than I.)

So, the aspect of this debate I wish to address now is: is the Biblical “creation” event of the entire universe?

A close reading of the book of Genesis does not claim that the universe was created as described. What is described is that the “earth and heavens” were created in that story. In a later verse there is a reference to “the heavens, earth, and the seas” being created then. In order to have old Yahweh create the entire shebang in his act of creation, that is the entire universe, one has to interpret the term “the heavens” to be “the universe outside of the Earth.” Is such an interpretation possible or even reasonable?

Well, if you look at the description of “the heavens” elsewhere in the Bible, there are details as to its composition: there is a firmament, a great deal of water, fixed points of light in the firmament, and seven (count’em seven!) heavens. That is what is claimed for “The Creation™” but not the entire universe.

It has not been even 100 years since galaxies were discovered. (The anniversary of that discovery was yesterday in 1924, I believe. Public announcement came about a month later.) So, if the creation story was to include all of the hundreds of billions of other galaxies, it should have said so (an all-knowing god would know, no?). Actually, the creation stories all over the Middle East, in all of the religions came up with the same characteristics for the rest of the universe, that being what was believed to be true by the philosophers of the time (the Iron Age).

So, Genesis claims that the Earth and the atmosphere, and the seas were all that were created in The Creation™ (along with maybe the Sun and Moon) and that seems more sensible.

So, the actual debate is over the age of the Earth, not the universe. Scientists claim the Earth is 4.543 billion years old while “Young Earth” Christian literalists, who take the Bible as being literally true, claim that it is roughly 6000 years old.

Now, some apologists start their defense of their Young Earth position with “the Bible is not a science textbook” which is a red herring argument. The Bible makes claims about physical reality and it is the Biblical literalists that claim it is true in all aspects. So, it is irrelevant what classification one places the Bible into, it is the claim of inerrancy that is being discussed. The problem here is that the Christians in the debate don’t clarify what slice of the Christian pie they belong to. There are many Old Earth Creationists, and there are compatiblists (Science and Christianity are both right, study it and you will see.), and many, many Christians of other stripes. Then there is the human tendency we all have to support our position in inconsistent ways. There are those who claim the science in the Bible is not inerrant, but the history is. (None seem to be able to indicate where that fact is detailed in scripture.) This is because when it comes to the Bible, people feel free to make stuff up. Since there is no arbiter of what is right and wrong, as there is in science, any old body’s position seems valid enough.

Christians Wage War, Lose, Then Claim Discrimination

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:05 am
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The Great Christian Spin machine is working overtime. Yesterday I shared the story of a Christian missionary who broke the law in trying to sell Christ to the indigenous people on an island near India and got his ass killed for his effort. Now a Christian group claims that this is all part of the war on Christianity.

Christian Group Wants Native Tribe “Brought to Justice” for Death of Missionary

Has Fox (Sic) News infected everyone or is this another tail wags dog story that looks as if it were manufactured by Fox? Clearly the Christian Spin machine has been operating far longer than has Fox.

November 22, 2018

Another Reason to Avoid Religion

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:43 am
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If you believe stupid stuff, it makes you do stupid stuff.

Here is the story (Man killed on remote Indian island tried to ‘declare Jesus’ to tribe) of a missionary who couldn’t hear his God saying “You know, I don’t think this is a good idea.”

November 19, 2018

Worse than the Scientologists?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:16 pm

I just watched part of an episode of Leah Remini: Scientology the Aftermath which was about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This was apparently at the request of some survivors of that church. I knew Scientology was a scam before I saw any of her exposes. I didn’t know they were as bad as they were, though, so she really helped clarify the situation. I thought that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were just another fringe brand of Christianity but they may be worse than the Scientologists.

Scientology worked a bit of a scam getting itself declared as a religion by the IRS (I want to be a religion, toooo!) and it has that status legally because of that declaration. (It also profits financially (hugely) because of this.) The Jehovah’s witnesses have been around since the mid-1800s when the IRS hadn’t yet been invented, so I think they got grandfathered in because they survived as a cult.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to be scripture cherry-pickers of the worst sort. They justify abominable practices using any scriptural reference they can find apparently. As an example, along in the 1940’s, they decided that blood transfusions were the work of Satan and forbade their members from having them. They quoted Acts of the Apostles that reiterated the Jewish claim that food should not contain blood. (The effing Holy Bible is full of blood magic, bogus blood magic, of course.) Because of this admonition, JHers die regularly because of refused blood transfusions. It is not just that the member him- or herself refuses, but the churches send out teams to make sure they refuse. This includes children of members, often young enough that their parent’s refuse for them. Those who die from this lack of medical care are considered particularly holy.

Think about what else the JH leaders could have done to reinforce their control over “their flock.” They could have noted that this admonition refers to food and hence doesn’t apply strictly, but since they believe all non-JHers are controlled by Satan, they could have forbidden transfusion from non-church members. Then they could have organized their own blood banks and helped each other to live and grow in the church. There were other options, but it seems they prefer submission of women to men, children to parents, and all church members to the leaders of the church above all else. Of course, they call this submitting to Jehovah (probably should be Jehovah™).

They also had to have their own “translation” of the “Holy Bible” as none of the hundreds already in existence seemed to do what they needed. (Need a blatant sign of a scam?)

If you do not accept my claim that religions do not survive that do not coerce the masses to serve the interests of the religious and secular elites, you need to look at the levels of coercion in both of these “religions.” They both have church members spying on their fellows and reporting any failings observed. When they shun people, families are split up and communication between the fragments is banned. Plus, they have industrialized “blaming the victim.” Anything that goes wrong is your fault, because they represent God, don’t you know, and He makes no mistakes. (Why the Great Flood ever happened is beyond me because “He makes no mistakes.”)

If you haven’t yet read What’s the Harm? Why Religious Belief Is Always Bad by Richard Carrier, I strongly urge you to do so. And do realize some of these “religions” are worse, far worse, than others, e.g. the Australian JH Church knew of over 1000 child sexual molesters in their ranks and reported none of them, zero. They claimed that they couldn’t take action because “scripture” required that there be two witnesses for a crime to be adjudged, which would mean that a child molester would need to bring a couple of adult, male witnesses along to build a case against himself. So, none of the accusations were adjudicated by their panels. They did say, however, that they did believe the children who came forward to accuse their molesters … but their hands were tied, you see, because of the two witness rule. Scum, utter scum of humanity.

 

 

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