Class Warfare Blog

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.)

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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.

 

 

Culture Signaling

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:11 pm
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There are myriad ways of signally where one stands in our culture(s). One of my favorites is the middle class grunt. This can be observed in any bar in which a middle class man takes a stool at the bar. Often the taking of a seat is accompanied by a slight grunt, as if the climbing thereupon were strenuous. This signal tells all of those nearby that you, too, work for a living and that you deserve the respite of a pint with your friends.

There are myriad ways in which the signal “I Believe in God” is made. While leaving a hotel recently at a too early hour, I was making a cup of coffee to go in the lobby when a cheery staff member asked how I was doing. (I hate perky, by the way, but that’s something else.) I grumbled back that “I was alive.” She responded with “Thank god for that,” and smiled her way away. I did not respond as that would have been unkind.

People often use phrases in ordinary language that identify them as a member in the god-fearing culture. You will hear such way more often in the hinterlands than in big cities but you will hear such everywhere in this country.

Signally that one is religious is a way of signally that you are a trustworthy person, and that you are not a threat. Basically, you have morals. The cost of this is to the people who do not signal back. Atheists are not to be trusted and signally is one way to identify these amoral threats to a good Christian life.

Maybe we need some atheist signals to show the religious crowd that we are amongst them. Maybe “As Daniel (Dennett), Richard (Dawkins) and Sam (Harris) say …” or ‘What would Hitch do?” (WWHD). I don’t think we need a secret handshake or anything but recognition for the Atheist Headquarters in the Colorado mountain bunkers would be nice. Publication of Atheist Statements of Disbelief and the posting of them in public spaces would help, I guess, but I will start with culture signals. What do you think?

The Mass Media Are Giving Capitalism a Bad Name

Last night on television, one could watch a couple of documentaries. One was The Clinton Affair, an account of a presidential impeachment from 20 years ago. The other was an MSNBC “special” called Betrayal, The Plot That Won the White House, an act of treason by a GOP candidate for president from 50 years ago. Apparently we now have red and blue entertainments.

Other than treason being a mainstay in GOP national politics, both of these seem to be aimed at making money off of our political divide. There are enough Clinton haters to acquire a substantial audience for the first and enough Nixon haters to acquire a similar audience for the second.

This, of course, is as we are undergoing a major challenge to our fundamental system of government and there are topics galore that the public needs to become informed about. I do not see what benefit rehashing either of these stories has for people now. Nixon’s treason was undermining the Vietnam peace talks as a private citizen, is of a pattern. Ronald Reagan committed his treason in the Sandinista Affair and earlier in undermining Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free our captives in Iran (in order to get elected). The details of Mr. Trump’s treason(s) have not been elucidated as yet. (I also have my suspicions about G.W. but that is another story. None of these have stopped or even slowed down people voting for these or other candidates from that party.

And, clearly, the more our “mass media” are asked to conform to the “standards” of capitalism, the more they become rootless seekers of profit. At one time the head of CBS News said something alike to “The news division doesn’t need to make a profit; I have I Love Lucy for that.” Today’s “news media” are scrambling for “revenue streams” to stay afloat and under such conditions will succumb to the dictates of survival of the profitable. Pandering to “red” and “blue” audiences comes natural as does ignoring the role a free press plays in holding our leaders to account. (Doing it after they are dead is a tad late.)

November 15, 2018

So There Are Still Prophets!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:06 am

November 14, 2018

Marks and Con Men in the Religion Con

I just started reading The Evolution of God by Robert Wright and, as is common with accommodationists, he is very kind in his interpretations. For example:

However diverse the forces that shape religion, its early impetus indeed seems to have come largely from people who, like us, were trying to make sense of the world. … But they didn’t have the heritage of modern science to give them a head start, so they reached prescientific conclusions. Then, as understanding of the world grew—especially as it grew via science—religion evolved in reaction.

With regard to “religion evolved in reaction,” I do not think it evolved so much as changed so as to not be subject to ridicule. But that aside, I want to address this part: “… religion, its early impetus indeed seems to have come largely from people who, like us, were trying to make sense of the world.” This seems like quite a benign motivation. And it brings those ancient people and “us” into the same room, but is this a valid supposition? I do not think so.

Allow me to finish quoting from the book, specifically, a couple of descriptions of the relations hunter-gather people have been documented to have with their “gods.”

By Klamath reckoning, the west wind was emitted by a flatulent dwarf woman, about thirty inches tall, who wore a buckskin dress and a basket hat (and who could be seen in the form of a rock on a nearby mountain). The Klamath sometimes asked her to blow mosquitoes away from Pelican Bay.

For example, Karei, thunder god of the Semang hunter-gatherers of Southeast Asia, would get irate if he saw people combing their hair during a storm or watching dogs mate.”

Think about this: what person trying to make “sense of the world” would come up with such bullshit? These sound more like the work of a bullshitter than a contemplative proto-philosopher.

I think a more likely scenario is that these stories were crafted by sly members of a tribe in an effort to acquire status they could not otherwise acquire. Imagine a gamma or even delta male who has been getting the leavings of the stronger males: poorer food, less access to the tribe’s women, what our President would regard as a “loser.” If he tried to grab a women by the pussy, he would find himself roundly cuffed into better manners by a higher status male.

But one day, a solar eclipse occurs (or any other natural phenomenon that you think they would think was rare and threatening). It gets darker and darker and it seems that the sun is being eaten. The tribe is terrified, cowering on the ground. In a moment of inspiration, our delta male jumps up and starts to belittle the spirit that was eating the sun (they were animists, remember) and sure enough, he scares away the eater and the sun comes back. Our bullshit artist becomes a hero, becomes a valued member of the tribe, earns a new title (shaman) and gets better selections of the tribe’s resources from then on.

But the shaman needs more answers. When queried after that point, he can’t just shrug his shoulders, so he has to come up with more stories, and when you read the stories that hunter-gatherer peoples have (the book has quite a few examples) see if they don’t sound to you like they were made up by a drunken frat boy.

Stories are good. They educate and they entertain, and obviously just from the couple of examples provided, they do not have to make much sense (Watch dogs fornicating and the thunder god becomes angry!).

So, while the author of this book addresses the foundations of religion (the hunter-gatherers did not have religions, they had spirits and ghosts as part of their environment) as an intellectual effort to “make sense of the world,” “as we do,” I think that is a sop thrown to the religious. It is far more likely that religion began as part of a con, in instances as described above. My argument is based upon the motivation of the bullshit creators. I think that the sly members of a tribe were far more likely to come up with such stories than any one else.

A con game is short for “confidence game” and is a effort on the part of a con man (or con men) to acquire the confidence of his marks. That confidence enables them to extract wealth from the marks willingly. As far as I am concerned, religion is a Big Con still. The con artists are still spinning stories (I can’t wait for the big Vatican conclave on the sexual predation of its priests; I expect to see big stories created.) and the marks are still believing those stories.

I note that religious apologists pull stories out of their asses in great quantities (e.g. Ever notice how a banana seems designed to fit our hands?), that is they just make things up, often with no support in doctrine or scripture or even reality. They didn’t start the Big Con, but they are going to benefit mightily by keeping it running.

 

 

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