Uncommon Sense

April 24, 2016

A Definition of Christian Morality … Finally

Filed under: Morality,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:59 am
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I have asked for anyone to make a clear statement of what Christian Morality is (please). Finally, I found one myself. According to the website http://www.christianityetc.org:

Morality for a Christian is the application of God’s laws regarding a person’s private and public behavior. In his or her seeking to live a moral life, a Christian tries to obey the rules for his or her personal behavior that have been decreed by God and recorded in the Bible. Throughout centuries of history these rules have been proclaimed by God’s prophets, like Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah, taught by Jesus, interpreted by the apostles, like Peter and Paul, established by Emperor Constantine, and proclaimed by various popes, theologians, and preachers, like St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jacob Arminus, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, Billy Graham, and other contemporary preacher/teachers within the Jewish-Christian traditional understandings of what is right and what is wrong.”

Wait, Christian morality requires interpretation? I thought … never mind, let’s get back to the main topic.

This makes Christian morality easier to understand. Let’s see how well it is embraced by Christians. Here are some direct quotes from their god, albeit translated multiple times in multiple ways, and my comments on how well U.S. Christians seem carry out these recommendations from their god:

  1. If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
    Uh, I don’t see this happening, do you? I do see the antithesis in “prosperity gospels” which basically say “God wants you to be rich” which seems to contradict this.
    2. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
    Does that love include carpet bombing Muslims? It seems that the more Christian your political candidate or state is, the greater the support for war.
    3. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
    He didn’t mean to include Muslims, did he? Or illegal immigrants? Or, shudder, atheists and liberals?
    4. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.
    I’m voting for Trump, how about you? Then I am going to send another check into that mega-preacher so he can afford the rent on that mega-church.
    5. I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
    This is why all of those folks in the Top 0.1% are heathens and Jews, I’ll bet. Actually I think they are all atheists. What, you say they are devout Christians? Well they must be doing good with their money because they are just throwing away Heaven for nothing otherwise.
    6. Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
    Welfare? We’re talking about welfare? What, food stamps for the poor? Those lazy shiftless bastards need to go get a job.
    7. Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve….
    The only person I am a slave to is my boss. He just keeps getting richer and I haven’t had a raise in forever. He must not be a Christian. What? He is? Really?
    8. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
    He surely wasn’t talking about Medicaid and Obamacare was he? That’s socialist, un-American and un-Christian.

Doesn’t sound very Christian or moral, now does it? Usually I want to follow-up by asking Christians if they believe in the Ten Commandments. Almost all do, so they are accepting the Old Testament as the word of God also, and there are over 600 commandments directly from God in the OT, now let me see, on page …

I hope you can see that for many Christians, “Christian Morality” is defined as “what I stand for and against, even if I change my mind” and it has nothing to do the Jesus or the Bible or Billy Graham or, for that matter, decent morality.

For those of you who may be wondering why I write about Christianity on a Class Warfare blog, it is because religion is being used as a weapon by our economic oppressors in this war. For example, conservatives have voted to restrict food stamps for the very poor in the name of “family values.”



April 20, 2016

Combating Our Own Stupidity

I was recently scanning a transcript of a podcast featuring Sam Harris, a noted evolutionary psychologist and atheist, and Max Tegmmark, an MIT physicist and cosmologist. Much of what I read concerned the nature of reality and whether we could ever really understand it. Here is a sample (Dr. Tegmmark speaking):

There’s no doubt in my mind that our universe knows perfectly well what it’s doing, and it functions in some way. We physicists have so far failed to figure out what that way is. We’re in this schizophrenic situation where we can’t even make quantum mechanics talk to relativity theory properly. But that’s the way I see it. Simply a failure, so far, in our own creativity. Not only do I guess that there is a reality out there independent of us, but I actually feel it’s quite arrogant to say the opposite.

While I tend to revel in such discussions I find myself getting peeved. Mostly it concerns a lack of pragmatism. Quantum mechanics and special relativity are least in fields that overlap and we can point to small areas in which they seem to conflict. Whether they actually do conflict is yet to be determined. But scientists, like house painters, just tend to use the tool that is called for. A painter encountering a nail to be driven doesn’t insist that he is a painter and painters use brushes and rollers and sprayers, he just picks up a hammer (Gasp, a carpenter’s tool!) does the job and gets back to his painting. He doesn’t bemoan the fact that there isn’t one tool that will both paint walls and hammer nails.

In physics there is a desire for, a desire not a logical indication of, what is in general called “unified theories.” These are theories that cover stuff from soup to nuts. Recently with the discover of the Higgs boson, the so-called God Particle, there was a confirmation of the “Standard Theory” which is a theory designed to explain all of the subatomic particles and their interactions. For some reason, people seem to want this theory to be coupled with the theory of how to make a foolproof Hollandaise sauce.

Science deniers use every failure to “unify” this or that branch of science with another as a failure of a rational material worldview. They understand neither the science nor the rationality but they just know it is wrong.

I wish we would stop playing into the hands of the religious Luddites in this manner. Trying to unify the four forces of nature or Newtonian mechanics and quantum mechanics is great fun, but is hardly necessary. In the case of Newtonian and quantum mechanics, the realms in which each holds sway do not overlap and hence is no problem to any physicist. We did just fine with Newtonian descriptions of speed and energy and momentum and forces when we didn’t even know quantum mechanics existed. The reason quantum mechanics surprised us and seemed weird (still does) is because of our own stupidity. We assumed the laws of physics governing ordinary objects would also govern those of sub atomic size. We had no basis for the assumption, we just had this really good tool (Newtonian mechanics) that seemed to work great in similar situations, so we tried it … and it didn’t work. (Picture our painter trying a hammer a nail with a paint brush.)

We even go so far as to beat ourselves up over why we haven’t been able to unify whole bunches of theories to date. I mean the theories work so well and reality is reality, so … gosh shouldn’t we be able to make all of our descriptions of the universe work together?

So far the answer has been “no” and maybe there is a simple reason for this. There are no universal mechanical tools (It saws, it hammers, it paints, it welds, it sand blasts, it wrenches, it screws,…!). There are no universal electronic tools. So, why should a single physical description of reality have to include absolutely everything?

I know it is worth a try (to find a universal theory of everything physical) but folks, please don’t take it so seriously that not finding one, something you don’t even know exists, is considered a serious flaw. It took 50 years to find the Higgs boson. Considering how much of the Standard Model of Subatomic Particles the HB makes up, the effort to find a theory of everything might just take several thousand years of looking, if it is there to be found.




Destructive to the Point of Madness

Why do Republicans want to promote democracy overseas to the point of even starting wars to accomplish it while they are actively undermining it at home? Do you think, boys and girls, it might have something to do with power?

During the period post-Revolutionary War and pre-Constitution adoption, there was a very (very!) lively public debate regarding the nature and shape of the American experiment in self-governance. One of the most profound elements of that debate was the debate over a feature of republics that was considered most dire: the tendency of men (yes, just men then) to divide into factions and parties and put the interests of those parties above those of the public.

In the philosopher David Hume’s opinion, the most pernicious of such factions were those arising from principle, especially abstract speculative principle. Today we would refer to this as having an “ideology.” These factions/parties Hume considered destructive to the point of madness.

So, I give you the ideological faction of the American public we label the Republican Party … “destructive to the point of madness” seems to fit quite aptly.

April 7, 2016

American News Sucks

My Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who in my opinion is to be much admired, wrote an op-ed piece regarding tax avoidance schemes by the wealthy (If You’re Rich, You Can Avoid Paying Tax; That’s Got to Change, The Guardian Online, April 7, 2016). I got to read this because it was published in The Guardian. In case you are not aware, The Guardian is based in the U.K.

Time and time again, I have to get local and U.S. centric news from outside of our borders. Why is that? There is something very, very wrong with U.S. news organizations. Important news dissemination is taking a back seat to eye candy, so far back that one cannot find important stuff.

This obviously is in the best interests of the corporations and plutocrats who currently own our government. What we don’t know can’t hurt them.

Interviewing a Christian Apologist

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:22 pm
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This is merely an intellectual enterprise, not a “real” interview, but it might be interesting (as well as self-indulgent) to actually carry it out. (Note I said “interviewing” rather than debating because debate is largely impossible.)

  • Do you believe the Earth was created?
    So, the first thing I would ask was whether the Christian Apologist (hereafter called CA) believed in the biblical creation account. CA would generally answer “yes” and go on and on about “because how the Bible tells me so,” etc. which is fine by me.
  • Was magic used to create the Earth?
    In science “what” is not always as important as “how.” Causation can only be determined by following a step by step chain of events, one thing inexorably leading to the next, so if the Earth was created as opposed to having an origin steeped in nature, what was the mechanism of this creation, magic? The answer most assuredly would be “no” but unless the words used are completely redefined to mean something they do not to ordinary people, the answer should be “yes.” Magic is a supernatural agency, period. In other words, magic is a cause that does not involve nature.
  • The philosopher Nietzsche declared that God was dead; can your god die?
    Then I would shift gears: I would ask “the philosopher Nietzsche declared that God was dead; can your god die?” The CA would have to answer “yes” because his god was “undying,” “existed outside of time and space,” etc.
  • Since you are a Christian, I suppose the Resurrection is the cornerstone of your belief, no?”
    Again, Christians almost have to answer “yes” because the three pillars of Christianity are prophecies, miracles, and the resurrection.
  • Do you believe in the Trinity?
    The question asks whether CA is a Trinitarian, the odds are high that the answer is “yes.” Basically, this belief indicates that Jesus is one and the same as Yahweh. Not all Christians have believed this with the two largest non-Trinitarians sects being the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Unitarians used to be more popular but it is hard going against the mainstream.
  • If you believe Jesus is God and God cannot die, how could Jesus have died, let alone be resurrected?
    Assuming CA is a Trinitarian the trap laid has been sprung.

You can see how this goes. I could ask who resurrected Jesus. I could ask why God chose a forbidden practice, human sacrifice, for His saving us from our sin. I could ask why God created sin in the first place? I could ask why he forbade Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, knowing full well they would disobey Him. I could ask why He made Adam and Eve that way? I could ask is there were free will in Heaven, which is, of course, impossible, and if there is none in Heaven, why was it so important for us to have it on Earth?

I went through this exercise to show why this line of argument is counterproductive. No sane person would maintain the set of beliefs being challenged rationally. This is why believers do not allow rational challenges to their beliefs. Their belief is quite impervious to reason.

This is why there needs to be emotional arguments to free people from the grip of irrational beliefs, but more importantly there need to be replacements for the social supports their religions provide. We may snicker at terms like “fellowship” and “surrender” but these are powerful social forces. Until we start making more emotional arguments and coming up with secular supports that rival those offered by churches it will be a long uphill slog prying loose the grip religion has on people’s hearts and minds.

Or we could just wait until the generations coming get so involved in their smartphones that they won’t notice anything going on off of them. That may work, too.

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