Class Warfare Blog

August 28, 2017

Put a Fork in It … Forever and Ever, Amen

Just as I was falling asleep last night, my bedroom was brilliantly lit by an actinic flash of lightning which was followed closely by a titanic blast of thunder. I was instantly awake with my heart beating a tattoo in my chest. I do understand why primitive people created a thunder god (which they eventually lost, which makes them Thor losers … sorry, I’ll get back on point). I do understand why we created invisible creatures to take responsibility for the epic natural forces that seemed so vast compared to our puny existences.

I have a harder time understanding how we got to where we are now with an incomprehensible god explained through a series of incomprehensible narratives. At least I was until shortly ago. The book I put down just before being flashed awake last night was “Jesus: Mything in Action, Vol. III” by David Fitzgerald—the author of “Nailed: Ten Christian Myths that Show that Jesus Never Existed”) has worked a small miracle; it has shown fairly conclusively how Christianity came into being without the messy details of actually needing an historical character named Jesus. That’s right, the reason the search for “the historical Jesus” has come up with so many different results is that since there was no such person, the results simply reflect the needs and wants of the searchers.

Most people, including myself, assumed there was a real person at the core of all of the narratives, but these books, written for lay people, but referenced for those wanting to follow up on references, seal the deal, slam the door, close the book, end the discussion. It is finito; put a fork in it.

The primary source of the ammunition used to bring down the tottering edifice which is modern Christianity is NT scripture itself, with a bit of OT scripture thrown in.

Even after finishing the first two volumes, in which the case was made that the narratives in the NT cannot possibly support a real person at the core of the fairy tales, I was still wondering, well, how the heck did it come to be so widespread, then? Here is a sketch of what might have happened. I wish to point out here that in a court of law, if one prosecutes a legal case based upon a theory of how things must have happened, that a defense can be made that provides a competing theory that is at least equally probable, thus showing that it didn’t have to happen as the prosecution claims it did. Since the “traditional” narrative surrounding the creation of Christianity has no hard evidence to support it, one only needs to provide a counter narrative to, in effect, win the case. The author admits his counter narrative is fictional, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense out of what facts we do have than the traditional story.

This is just a quick sketch, mind you. The amount of data and arguing points are book-length worthy, so this is just a taste. (Do go read the books, highly recommended if you are into the topic.)

In Judaism, prophecies form a one of the three legs of its tradition. The fulfillment of prophecies is used as evidence for the existence of their god, for example, so they take them very seriously. So, one particular OT prophecy implied that a savior, a warrior messiah, would come and deliver the Jews from their oppressors. Unfortunately this prophecy fell flat and didn’t even come close to coming true. This was actually not a rare occurrence but having literally hundreds of spin doctors working, most of these failures were spun away. But this prophecy seemed so important than another prophecy was made in order to redeem the first. This prophecy, too, fell flat. Instead of a Messiah rising up and leading the Jews to throw off the yoke of Rome, with Yahweh’s help of course, the Romans once again crushed the revolting Jews. The spin doctors went to work immediately to try to salvage what they could. Allow me to quote Fitzgerald here so I do not screw this up.

So Daniel’s prophecy, originally created to 1) salvage Jeremiah’s botched prophecy, 2) explain why Onias III was killed and 3) encourage the Maccabees’ uprising, inadvertently allowed later generations of Jews to re-interpret it again (and again); including certain groups of first century Jews looking for reasons why God failed to send his messiah to save Jerusalem in the War with Rome. The idea that there could have been a secret, spiritual messiah caught on among these Jews. The evolution of this spiritually victorious-in-defeat Jewish messiah is only half the story, however.

The key phrase is, of course, “The idea that there could have been a secret, spiritual messiah caught on among these Jews” (my emphasis). Yeah, that’s the ticket! The Messiah did come and He did triumph, it was just in secret. That’s why we still have Romans climbing up our asses. Really this means that Christianity was a typical mystery religion (the other half referred to). Again, quoting Fitzgerald:

If you were to ask someone in the Hellenistic world, “What would a Jewish version of the mysteries look like?” They’d say something like: you’d have a religion whose savior was a son of Yahweh, whose passion and death atoned for sins, and who now lived in the hearts of his followers, celebrated with typical mystery rituals like baptism and a sacred meal, whose initiates regarded one another as brothers and sisters, born again into a new life here, and awaiting a blissful afterlife in heaven. In short, you’d have Christianity.

All of those aspects are typical of the myriad mystery religions in the surrounding regions, promoted first by the Greeks and later by the Romans.

All of the early literature of Christianity, the letters of Paul, etc. do not mention an earthly Jesus. They do not mention a “second coming” but a “first coming.” Paul does not name or mention any disciples. He refers only to apostles, who are people who have communicated with Jesus spiritually, have received guidance (actually quotations from the OT), and proven this by having performed miracles (healings, etc.). Paul does not mention any relatives of Jesus or quote Jesus, or refer to any of his teachings. For Paul, Jesus is a spiritual being who exists in Heaven and who is promised to make a first appearance on Earth.

No actual references to Jesus being on Earth are made until the first gospel, the Gospel of Mark, is written. The Gospel of Mark has the structure of a Greek play as well as all of the markings (no pun intended) of a mystery religion. The subsequent Gospels, written later, bring in additional narratives, and change the tone of Mark until there is enough variation that one can shape any interpretation one wishes.

The observation that Christianity has all the structures of other mystery religions was made long. long ago and immediately denied by church fathers, who were, and are still, selling a completely different narrative. But the denials are weak and tepid because there is no basis for them.

Mystery religions were really popular, for very good reasons; the primary one is they promised a happy afterlife to all believers, not just pharaohs/kings/heroes. And all you needed to get this was an indoctrination into the mysteries, which of course, brings a source of motivation for the spreaders of the doctrine. Just as primitive farmers spread manure on their fields so later they could eat and feed their families, the religious promoters spread a different king of bullshit to support themselves and their families. The support for this “new” narrative is huge. Details such as Mark’s clueless disciples (representing the nation of Jews) stand in for people who do not understand the mysteries. How could his disciples be so daft when they had Jesus right there to explain things (magically, if necessary); plus things in that other narrative are rather simple, are they not? Well, the disciples could be so daft because there was no Jesus and they are fictional characters, providing a Greek chorus of those who do not understand the mysteries.

It all holds together, it makes sense of most of the NT scriptures, and since Christianity has all of the trappings of a mystery religion and all Christians know that the “other mystery” religions were made up, fictional, foundationless, etc. each of those religions (The Mysteries of Isis, the …) is further proof you can make up a religion and promote it with no factual basis whatsoever.

Oh, and why did Christianity triumph over those other mystery religions? Irony of ironies, Christianity got fortuitously adopted by a Roman emperor who made it the state religion of Rome, by imperial order. As we all know, it isn’t what you know but who you know that determines whether you succeed or fail.

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August 27, 2017

Correct Religious Belief … or Not?

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:31 am
Tags: , , , , ,

All three Abrahamic religions seem to be worshiping the same god, just in different ways, so why is there strife between them? Why doesn’t one see any “Isn’t that cute?” attitudes or attitudes of “Isn’t that interesting, they do it differently.” Such attitudes abound in cooking, fashion design, home design, and myriad other endeavors such that “cultural appropriation” has become a topic being discussed because people borrow so much.

Why do religions condemn other practices as incorrect beliefs? On the surface they seem to be warning others that (a) those beliefs are wrong and will get you in trouble and (b) our beliefs are right and will lead you to salvation. But even fundamentalist Christian sects who believe that all you need to be saved is to “accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior” and voila! you are saved have this same behavior. Those sects have differences with other sects making the same claims.

These differences have led to and continue to lead to wars and war-like attitudes and activities. Wars broke out between Catholics and Protestants (kind of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance of Christianity) in the sixteenth century and the Sunni-Shia battles continue to this day and have lasted for over a thousand years. (The Catholic-Protestant wars lasted only a paltry century and a half for comparison.)

These facts seem to suggest that the differences between disputed are really important, but are they? If such differences were something other than the squabbles of small-minded people, that is they were really important, would not modern churches have education programs explaining the differences and why they are important to their own parishioners as well as to prospective new ones? I do not see a whole lot of “why we are different” or “why we are better” campaigns being voiced by churches. At the other end of the spectrum, I don’t see a lot of local programs addressing how “we are all one” or “we are all in this together” either. It is as if, all of these religious sects were in … wait a minute …

… it seems as they are all in competition with one another.

Competition for membership, competition for wealth, competition for political power. As in advertising, you never mention the name of your competitors (although that rule is breaking down a bit now) because you don’t want to bring other options up in the minds of potential customers. These sects don’t make comparisons, at least not often, with other sects because one would have to explain who they were, what they believed, how many of them there were, etc. Usually the are just dismissed out of hand (They are not True Christians™!). The goal is definitely not to convince others of what the right beliefs are so that we all will be saved, their goals are much more parochial.

I suggest that if these myriad religious sects were to actually try to convince people openly of the rightness of their beliefs, the differences being focussed upon would rather quickly become equivalent to the discussion regarding how many angels might dance on the head of a pin. They would appear silly and small-minded. It would bring ridicule into play and rather quickly.

The religious sphere seems to be drifting inexorably into postmodernism in which all beliefs need to be respected because they are all “sincere” and equally valid thereby. Each sect has it’s market share and the promise, false or true, of more membership in the near future.

If actual competition for “who has the correct beliefs” were to occur, who knows how that would go? Better to stick with the safe present rather and a possibly dim future, they think. (This thinking is the same as the thinking of the churches debating whether there should be separation of church and state during the debate over the U.S. Constitution. The evangelicals, including the ones calling for a Christian Nation designation now, were all for the separation because they could see themselves being losers in the battle for state recognition as the “official religion” of this or that state or the U.S. as a whole.)

Currently, the religions in this country enjoy tax relief (even the fucking Scientologists!), they are mostly respected (why I am not sure, other than it is traditional), and the know the rules of the game they are in. It would be a hard sell to get them to shove “all in” to try to win the biggest hand they would ever play.

Anybody can open a church with little forethought, and if they can garner enough support from those who live nearby, can make a go of it. Some of these entrepreneurial churches then seek affiliation with larger bodies for the same reason unions and other collective efforts affiliate with “parent organizations.” But a quick trip to perdition awaits those who do not play by the rules. They will be hassled to death by other sects and by the governments we have created. There is a definite “don’t rock the boat” message implying a “we have a good thing here, don’t mess it up” attitude. Even so, there seems to be a lot of room in the Abrahamic god’s tent, because otherwise, how does one explain “prosperity gospel” churches. (“Sure, Jesus said rich people don’t have a hope in Hell of making it into Heaven, but join us and we’ll explain what He really meant!”)

But it is key to note that to open a new church, you have to be offering something different from the competition, so this current system encourages increasing diversity in the religious message, so rather than bringing us all to the same correct belief, it is expanding the possible number of beliefs, each of which is almost guaranteed to be at least partly wrong.

Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if a church or denomination were to announce a conclave to determine which beliefs are indeed correct and lead to salvation? Who would get a seat at that table? How many representative voices would each entity get? (Giving one seat to the Catholic Church and one seat to the Church of What’s Happening Now would seem to be not balanced.) How would decisions be made? (Voting doesn’t seem very religious. Maybe on each item each stakeholder could light a candle and the one that burned longest would indicate God’s will? This is a tough one.) And, the really big one: if this conclave actual determined what the correct beliefs were, how many regular people would be convinced? I suspect there would be a wholesale retreat to the hills by guerrilla churches to continue the war. (Imagine them ending up going: “Dang, Islam was right all along.”)

Even if the correct beliefs have already been listed somewhere, what is the chance they would be recognized as correct? Since every danged sect has its adherents, it seems that there is no set of beliefs that will get some people to sign on to. There seems to be no way out of this trap, except for a lucky few, who I am sure when they got to Heaven would say, “Hey, where is everybody?” Maybe this is just another reason not to believe at all: there is no way to determine if what you believe is effective. In most cases, we don’t even know why it is we believe what we believe, so going the next step in correcting our beliefs, that is to make them more correct until one has perfected them, seems a hopeless task. (Hint: it is.)

August 25, 2017

Aliens … and Dinosaurs!

Having covered all of the ground possible … and a lot more, the Ancient Aliens TV show has hit a new high, or low, depending on your point of view. They kept many of the same people on staff, introduced some new folks, and they kept their normal whirlwind pace, one that doesn’t allow much time for consideration of the fabulous things they propose, such as aliens being the cause of the demise of the dinosaurs.

The main thrust of this episode is indeed that it might just be possible, maybe coulda been, that aliens eliminated the dinosaurs so we could thrive. I won’t comment on the “evidence” they present but there was one point at which the idiocy achieved new heights. They were developing a line of argument challenging the facts that humans are 2-3 million years old at best but “all” of the dinosaurs perished 65 million years ago, in what was considered an extinction level even involving a rather large meteor, landing in Mexico, but clearly dinosaurs and humans lived alongside one another … well, and aliens, too, of course.

They trotted out the éminence grise of this generation of unbridled thinkers, Erich von Daniken, to ask the question: If this was an event large enough to kill “all” of the dinosaurs, why did it kill off just the dinosaurs? (Apparently enquiring minds want to know.) Well, the event in question is called the Cretaceous-Paleocene mass extinction event and it resulted in about 75% of all species on the planet being wiped out, not “just” the dinos. And, it didn’t even kill off all of the dinosaurs! Many of the smaller theropods (what most of us think of when we think of dinosaurs), that is those under 25 kg/55 lb in mass, survived. Of course, the big beasties died.

The show then went on it’s merry way establishing that dinosaurs and human beings could possibly have lived together (mighta coulda). They didn’t mention Alley Oop in their arguments but they did throw in the Loch Ness monster and coelacanths. Right in the middle of this a talking head I didn’t bother to identify started bad mouthing radiocarbon dating, saying things like it was based on the production of carbon-14 in the atmosphere by cosmic rays (true) and that the rate of production may have been different millions of years ago (also true) and that these things could affect the dates on early human and dinosaurs remains (uh, not so much). If you want to know why I was puzzled, Dear Reader, read on.

Carbon-14 Dating: A Primer
All radioactivity-based dating methods are based upon a factoid of radioactive isotopes (kinds of elements): they all decay in a pattern involving a half-life. A half-life is an amount of time in which a radioactive sample loses half of its radioactivity. Interestingly, the next halving of that sample’s radioactivity takes the same amount of time, as does the next even though there is less and less to lose. This creates a situation that is summarized in a rule of thumb: a radioactive isotope can be used to date object as much as 10 half-lives back in time. The amount of radioactivity in a living animal cannot be very high in the first place. Comic books aside, radioactivity in high doses is typically lethal. So, all living plants and animals start out with only tiny amounts of radioactive elements in their bodies. Then after one half life, half of it is gone (unless it is replaced which in the case of carbon-14 happens because we eat carbon atoms in all of our food and plants absorb carbon dioxide—this, of course, stops when the plant or animal dies). After two half lives, only a quarter remains because half is lost in the first period and half of what is left was gone after the second. After the third half-life one eighth is left, after the fourth, one sixteenth is left, etc. After ten half-lives 1/210 is left. As a percent that is a little less than 0.1%. Since very little was started with, at this point close to zero is left, so there is basically nothing to measure.

So, what is the half-life of carbon-14 you ask? (You’d better!) It is 5730 years. Ten times this number is 57,300 years. This is the time span that radiocarbon dating can be used. That won’t get you back before Homo sapiens begins (200,000-300,000 years) let alone back to the large theropods getting killed off 66 million years ago. This is a classic smokescreen tactic, used often in this show. Throw anything you got against the wall and see if it sticks.

The Problem With All of This
As you are probably aware, Americans are not the most scientifically-literate people on the planet. As more and more of this bushwah is passed off as some sort of legitimate argumentation (It is not!), people are going to more easily believe the bullshit our governments peddle us. Global warming? That’s a hoax perpetrated by greedy scientists looking for grants. Dumping mine wastes laced with toxic heavy metals, not a problem. The Earth cleans itself. Lead in drinking water? A little bit is okay; go ahead and drink it.

The Exxon Corporation has released documents showing that 80% of the studies they undertook or analyzed showed that global warming/climate change was real and had real negative consequences. At the same time, 80% of its marketing budgets on the topic went to casting shade on the topic (for decades). Their problem is that one of the greatest sources of the climate change problem is the burning of petroleum products, which is what Exxon is in business for.

 

August 24, 2017

Why is Colin Kaepernick Still Unsigned?

The Guardian summed up the situation thus:

The NFL season begins in two weeks and the quarterback who took the San Francisco 49ers to within seven yards of winning the Super Bowl four years ago does not have a job. His absence isn’t difficult to explain. His refusal to stand for the national anthem last year as a way to draw attention to racial inequality in the US has apparently made him toxic to the league’s owners who fear a backlash from white fans and corporate sponsors offended by a perceived lack of patriotism.”

So, the obvious question is why is “patriotism” symbolized more by a mindless participation in a ritual than in the actual exercise of rights of citizens as defined by our constitution? In a similar vein, why do people equate support of our military as support for our country? Are we not more than a support system for a mighty fist? How was Colin Kaepernick being “unpatriotic”? How possibly could exercising one’s rights as a citizen be unpatriotic? Is the argument one of balance? Is overt and vicious racism no good reason for disrupting the jingoistic symbolism surrounding a football game?

I wonder how this would all have gone had Kaepernick been white? I am sure team and league officials would have huddled with a star white quarterback and figured out a symbolic way to “address the issue.” which typically would be a grant of some money to a symbolic organization, the quarterback would then have been hustled in front of some microphones to read an apology written by his publicist, and then everyone would be back doing what made this country great: making money, for fuck’s sake! That’s patriotism!

August 21, 2017

Yeah But What Does It Mean?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:19 am
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Today is the big (view one from the U.S. for the first time since the late 1970’s) solar eclipse day, so I might as well blog on it!

Historically…,

  • The Pomo, an indigenous group of people who live in the northwestern United States, tell a story of a bear who started a fight with the Sun and took a bite out of it. In fact, the Pomo name for a solar eclipse is Sun got bit by a bear. After taking a bite of the Sun and resolving their conflict, the bear, as the story goes, went on to meet the Moon and take a bite out of the Moon as well, causing a lunar eclipse.
  • According to the legends of the Batammaliba, who live in Benin and Togo, an eclipse of the Sun meant that the Sun and the Moon were fighting and that the only way to stop them from hurting each other was for people on Earth to resolve all conflicts with each other.
  • The ancient Greeks believed that a solar eclipse was a sign of angry gods and that it was the beginning of disasters and destruction.
  • The Tewa tribe from New Mexico believed that a solar eclipse signaled an angry Sun who had left the skies to go to his house in the underworld.
  • In Vietnam, people believed that a solar eclipse was caused by a giant frog devouring the Sun, while Norse cultures blamed wolves for eating the Sun.
  • In ancient China, a celestial dragon was thought to lunch on the Sun, causing a solar eclipse. In fact, the Chinese word of an eclipse, chih or shih, means to eat.
  • According to ancient Hindu mythology, the deity Rahu is beheaded by the gods for capturing and drinking Amrita, the gods’ nectar. Rahu’s head flies off into the sky and swallows the Sun causing an eclipse.
  • Korean folklore offers another ancient explanation for solar eclipses. It suggests that solar eclipses happen because mythical dogs are trying to steal the Sun. Traditionally, people in many cultures get together to bang pots and pans and make loud noises during a solar eclipse. It is thought that making a noise scares the demon causing the eclipse away.

Look, Mom, the sky has a zit!

And Now?
Many people around the world still see eclipses as evil omens that bring death, destruction, and disasters.

  • A popular misconception is that solar eclipses can be a danger to pregnant women and their unborn children. In many cultures, young children and pregnant women are asked to stay indoors during a solar eclipse.
  • In many parts of India, people fast during a solar eclipse due to the belief that any food cooked while an eclipse happens will be poisonous and unpure.
  • Not all superstitions surrounding solar eclipses are about doom. In Italy, for example, it is believed that flowers planted during a solar eclipse are brighter and more colorful than flowers planted any other time of the year.

But What Does It Really Mean?
Well, it doesn’t mean anything, but it is a sign, a sign that all is right with the solar system. Scientists have calculated the orbits of all of the planets and plantesimals and have determined the times and places solar and lunar eclipses will occur for centuries. It means that the orbits of these objects are dependable. We should only worry when they no longer become dependable.

And We Can Count On?
Some idiot Republican will point out that solar power is just not dependable, as dependable as oil and coal, for instance.

And Need I Say…
That all of these, uh, traditional “beliefs” about eclipses, which are rather mundane astronomical occurrences, have been incorporated into local religions to make sure that these superstitions are preserved: Religion … working to make people’s lives less understandable since the dawn of time!

August 18, 2017

Apologists: Making Stuff Up (Poorly) for a Living

I am still making my way through “Philosophers Without Gods” (Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life by Louise M. Antony, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition.) and last night I was struck by yet another comment in that book. The author of one particular chapter (which one isn’t relevant this time) was writing about the role Hell played in his life and shared a comment made by C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity.” Here it is:

The fear that engendered these types of thoughts was deep in my psyche. Lewis expresses it well when he talks about the idea that God is going to invade the world again: ‘Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. … God will invade …. It will be too late then to choose your side.’”

Once you die, you see, there is no more repentance; you are screwed … for ever and ever, amen. What C.S. Lewis is addressing additionally is another common problem for apologists. In their scripture Jesus promises to return (The Second Coming) before people then alive had died. Well, so far he is late by about 2000 years. So, did Jesus lie? Was he mistaken? Why the delay? According to Lewis, “He” is waiting “to give us the chance to join His side freely.” Other Christian apologists have taken up this argument and delivered it to nodding heads in church pews, but on its merits it … makes … no … sense … whatsoever … (logically, scripturally, theologically, etc.).

Consider the simple fact that the entire Earth’s population in the first century CE was about 300 million people, so only that many people’s lives were in jeopardy of not being saved. That was also the maximum number of people who could be saved. Plus, after “The Return” the “game” is over and no more babies have to burn in Hell. Currently the Earth’s population is over 7500 million people, 25 times more people, so while we were “waiting” for Jesus to come back, for every one person in jeopardy of Hell, there are now 25. Sheesh!

But wait, there’s more!

Of the current world population, 2200 million are Christians, which means that 5300 million people of the 7500 million total Earthlings are non-Christians, all of whom have a guaranteed ticket straight to Hell. (I won’t argue at this time, which of the many thousands of versions of Christianity is indeed correct, all the rest being losers in “the game,” and so too end up in Hell.) This number alone is almost 18 times as many people as were alive in the first century! Waiting to give us time to “join His side,” my ass. The only argument one can make using this apologetic is that their god is expanding his herd to increase the slaughter come harvest time.

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors and he came to apologetics late in his game, and he was not a man of limited intellect. But the allure of apologetics is subversive. Say anything, no matter how stupid, that reassures those sitting in pews on Sunday, and you will receive many, many (many) positive comments and thank yous for confirming their faith (and, well, there are those book sales).

This has not changed. I see many amateur apologists making the same lame, incorrect, and untrue arguments (now on YouTube, so you don’t have to go to church to be subjected to such thinking). The goal of these people is not an examination of “why” but a reassurance that Christians are on the right path. Repeating hoary old arguments, long debunked or completely contradicted by their own scripture, is still reassuring to those people needing reassurance. There is a new generation of rubes every 25 years or so. These constitute fresh audiences who haven’t heard the old arguments, or didn’t realize there were such arguments, and each generation gets larger, so the audience for such tripe gets larger, too.

The flock really needs to be concerned over the quality of its shepherds, as the wolves are real … if you believe in them.

August 17, 2017

Moving from Making War For the People to Making War On the People

As the Republicans are busy shrinking government until it is left with just two functions: making war/protecting borders and protecting contracts (especially corporate ones, but not labor ones), we would do well to understand how they got to their current position.

In 1994 John Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and a Watergate co-conspirator, confessed this to the author Dan Baum:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

The strategy, particularly of locking up Black people for drug offences, continues to this day. Convicted criminals lose the right to vote in many states. Convicted criminals lose most if not all job opportunities. Convicted criminals lose their voice. All good for Republicans, who are making war on the people, not for the people.

The Republican Party:
Systematically Disenfranchising Black Voters Since 1968

(Actually much earlier, but that didn’t make for a snappy slogan. S)

Indoctrinating Children

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:01 pm
Tags:

As I mentioned in my last two posts, I have been reading a fascinating book (Philosophers without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life by Louise M. Antony, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition.) which has already prompted a number of posts including this one (for now). All were prompted by ideas read in that very book. (I recommend that book to you if you are inclined to read philosophy/philosophers.)

This post comes from my response to a statement in Chapter 6: Overcoming Christianity by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Obviously this snippet is only a small part of a much larger essay but I found it striking. Here it is:

My point is just that Christianity was so pervasive that any child who grew up in such an environment would be susceptible. Religious thoughts would become automatic. If someone had asked me if I believed in God, I would have answered, “Of course,” not because I had thought about it, but because I had not thought about it.

The author is describing his upbringing in one of the more Christianity-steeped regions of this country, one in which Jesus is woven into the culture down to the phrases people use when speaking. He points out that every child wants to please or appease these immensely powerful beings who are his/her parents and their adult companions. He describes a religious indoctrination that assumes what his beliefs will be because a religious instruction, unlike a secular one, is not designed to teach a child to think for himself, it is designed to instruct what one is to think, not how.

So, when such a child goes off to get schooling in even a different Christian community, well, things get learned and things get unlearned. In this case a great deal was unlearned.

Why do we allow children to be subjected to such indoctrinations? I tend to believe that even apostates and atheists have been trained not to speak up and the push back on these practices. It isn’t “nice” or “civil.” It is rude and an attack upon people who do a lot of good. (I have written separately on how little charity is done by religious institutions, much of which occurs in mundane circumstances, e.g. is a Catholic hospital a charity when they charge for services just like any other hospital?) Think about any nasty cult you have in memory: Moonies, scientologists, the People’s Temple and Jim Jones, etc. Would you want your children subjected to their indoctrination? Do you want any child subjected to such? Why are some indoctrinations acceptable but others are not?

I suspect fundamentalist Christians would disapprove of all Muslim or Hindu indoctrinations, socialist or communist indoctrinations, but be okay with Christian and conservative political indoctrinations. It all depends on whose scared cow is on the barbecue.

A Musical Interlude

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:52 am
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We interrupt our usual string of diatribes to bring you the inevitable, being The Atheist’s Song so many have clamored for (not). Enjoy and improve upon it if you will.

Atheist’s Song (to the tune of the Monty Python Lumberjack Song)

I’m an atheist and I’m okay,
I live my life hum-ble-lee.

Chorus
He’s an atheist and he’s okay,
He lives his life hum-ble-lee.

I read some blogs, eat my lunch,
I go to the lavatory.
On Wednesdays I may go shopping but no buttered scones for me.

Chorus
He reads some blogs, eats his lunch,
He goes to the lavatory.
On Wednesdays he may go shopping but no buttered scones for he.

I do not rape, or pillage, I obey all of our laws,
This is so theists
can see their ideological flaws

Chorus
He does not rape, or pillage, he obeys all of our laws,
This is so theists
can see their ideological flaws

I am kind to other people, and was good to my dear mama,
I have a moral compass I learned from my own papa;
I didn’t need no silly church to tell me how to be.

Chorus

He’s an atheist and he’s okay,
He lives his life hum-ble-lee.
He didn’t need no silly church
to tell him how to be.

August 16, 2017

God and the Imagination

I have been reading a fascinating book lately (Philosophers without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life by Louise M. Antony, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition.) which has already prompted a post and my next three posts will be prompted by ideas read in that very same book. (I recommend that book to you if you are inclined to read philosophy/philosophers.)

This post comes from my response to a statement in Chapter 5: Life without God: Some Personal Costs by Daniel M. Farrell. You can tell from the book title that this is a series of writings by philosophers regarding their lives now that they have given up their god habit (or having never had one). This one is both poignant and informative in that the author was pursuing an avocation as a priest when he lost his belief. At one point he says this:

At this point, though, I want to briefly address the second question above: how might someone try to deal with the decision problems we’re concerned with here without having recourse to help from God, or religion, and what sorts of problems and challenges might he or she face? Begin with the question of how such a person might proceed, leaving difficulties with her procedure until later. Even this is not an easy question, and it would of course be ludicrous to suppose there is only one plausible answer. I can think of one answer, though, that strikes me as not only plausible but also as an answer that might help us with the question of why answers that are not based in some way on belief in God do not work for all of us. This is an answer that tells us to address the questions that concern us here by engaging in a certain kind of imaginative enterprise— by engaging in what we might call “thought experiments” of a certain sort. Specifically, it suggests that we should deal with the relevant questions— about how to arrange or “order” the things we value into some sort of life or life plan— by addressing such questions in a way in which many people in fact actually address them in everyday life: namely, by picturing or imagining one’s life as it might go, if one were to make certain choices over others, and then tentatively settling on the one that feels best.”

Here was someone who was in the habit of consulting his god whenever he had to make any kind of important decision. He commented that he also had more than a few spiritual advisors volunteering to tell him how their god wanted him to decide. (Apparently we can know the mind of God?)

My visceral reaction to this was that an intense religious upbringing was crippling. By offloading his decision-making process onto his religion, he did not develop what I would call a normal decision-making process until he lost his faith and then he was way behind the rest of us in that skill.

Many secular people think that we make most decisions through a concerted intellectual effort. We weigh the pros and cons and then pick the best option from among those we have carefully identified. Uh, … no. This is rarely the case, if ever. This is a fiction we tell ourselves about being rational people. Consider a mundane but important decision: buying a car. If one were to go about it intellectually, one would collect data that was important to us: costs, maintenance, safety statistics, cargo space, features that provide comfort to passengers and driver, etc. Then, … yes, what then? What you find is that one model of car is cheaper but another you are looking at has a higher Consumer Reports rating, while a third gets better gas mileage and has lower maintenance costs. How are these to be played off against one another?  Nobody, absolutely nobody, comes up with a rating system for each of these measures of values important to you. In addition, nobody works out a system by which each feature is rated as to its importance and then weighted as to how it affects the final decision. (Nobody.) I would especially like to see somebody evaluate how the color of the car gets factored in. People react very strongly to the color a car is painted (not the quality of the paint job, just the color). And what affect does the color have on anything of value? (Answer: none … but it does affect us.)

What we really do instead of this laborious, exhausting procedure is use our imaginations. (This is what they are for.) One’s imagination may even be running in the background while we are dabbling at data collecting and sifting. We imagine ourselves in that car, as driver or passenger, and imagine scenarios around that imaginary situation and then check out how it makes us feel. Feel? Yes, feel.

If we are a safety freak, we might imagine the car going into a skid and then you correcting that skid easily and safely. If we are into being noticed, we may imagine driving up at our high school reunion in our new convertible, oozing a picture of “success.” I think you can imagine more of these. (See, it works.) Basically we have to be comfortable “seeing” ourselves in that car doing our ordinary car things. This is what the test drive is for. Surely you do not think you are doing anything like a real test of anything with a test drive? You are trying it on for size and feel.

We learn how to use our imaginations to help us with decisions as we grow up. This is why we daydream of having a new bike (I did.) or some new gewgaw. But, in reality most of this is done sub rosa; we are not even aware of it as it is done subconsciously. Our author was used to praying for “guidance” from his god and seeing how his god “felt” about the situation. If you are like me, you can probably see where this is going. The “guidance” was supplied by his own imagination in the channel he had created for it. When he lost his belief in his god, he also lost this channel of help for making decisions. He had to learn how the rest of us do it.

My second “Aha” moment came right on the heels of realizing that his religious education had partially crippled him was that his imagining faculty, a faculty that I believe distinguishes us as human beings (having a highly developed ability to imagine, not that we are the only one’s who can) … invented his own personal god to consult. Obviously, his education promoted what he ended up imagining, but if you desperately wanted a god to help you, your powers of imagining would help you create that being … in your imagination … including powerful religious experiences, that is feelings, that seal the deal for you.

The irony is that an imaginary god can cripple the use of imagination for mundane purposes.

An Addendum Most of our “important decisions” are probably not that important, they are probably just vexing. Regarding my “career,” the most important decision I anguished over was whether I would teach chemistry in a high school or community college. This is not like deciding whether to be a burger flipper or a brain surgeon or whether to have a dangerous surgery or not. Such decision happen only rarely in our lives. Most decisions are much more mundane. The distinction in my decision between the two options was not exactly big and whichever I decided I could be happy in it (unless I chose not to be). I used to joke that I chose college rather than high school because if I got frustrated I could swear at adults in a college. For all I know, that might have been the deciding factor. More likely it was the fact that it was easier getting qualified to teach in college.

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