Class Warfare Blog

February 26, 2019

For Want of a Word the Meaning Was Lost

An article in The Guardian was entitled “The Grand Canyon turns 100.” Uh, hello? Just what the creationists want to hear. (They believe the Grand Canyon was carved out by the Great Flood!) The headline should have been “Grand Canyon Nat. Park turns 100.” That’s right, the park was signed into existence 100 years ago on the 26th of February. (Thanks, Teddy!)

I know people have short attention spans and they need headlines that grab people attention, but a lot of people only read the headline, so it should be accurate, don’t you think? And it is not as if these articles are fighting over space in a printed newspaper … sheesh!

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An Establishment of Religion?

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:29 am
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In the religious news today is the “Bladenburg Cross Memorial,” a mammoth 40 ft tall Roman cross erected with private funds as a memorial to those who lost their lives fighting World War 1 (although it was rededicated in honor and memory of all veterans decades ago). At some point or other it became public property and is now being adjudicated as a “government establishment of religion” before the Supreme Court. As someone who advocates that it is a not a good idea to place sensitive body parts on an anvil and handing out hammers, this problem could be solved without making a court case out of it.

Solutions are quite easy to come by. For example, if those favoring keeping such a memorial are earnest, allow them to buy back the monument and place it back in private hands. Selling it to a veterans organization for $1 to maintain in perpetuity would be a nice gesture.

Possibly the reason why a veterans organization would not accept the deal above is the fact that the concrete cross is crumbling, with the government paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair it over the years. Since it is on the verge of collapse, instead of repairing it, it should be lovingly dismantled and replaced with a secular monument to honor the service of all veterans of all religions. This should be less expensive than continuing to pour money down a rat hole for repairs (which haven’t worked by all accounts).

The last thing we should do is make a federal case out of it with the current set of clowns on the Supreme Court, looking to rewrite the Constitution more to their liking and to Hell with the rest of us.

 

February 7, 2019

Finding Meaning in Life

Many theists argue that without their god(s) life would have no meaning. This, of course, belies the efforts of many to establish their bona fides in their lives for themselves.

The current era of plutocracy in the U.S. shows the wealthy over and over acting upon the belief that they are rich for a reason, that their wealth makes them worthy, worthy of providing guidance (by funding philanthropic endeavors … of their choice, of course), and in funding political movements, e.g. the Koch brothers, because they know what is best for us.

All of these efforts bring to mind a quotation from a giant of social commentary: “The fortunate man is seldom satisfied with the fact of being fortunate. Beyond this, he needs to know that he has a right to his good fortune. He wants to be convinced that he ‘deserves’ it, and above all, that he deserves it in comparison with others … good fortune thus wants to be legitimate fortune.” (Max Weber, 1915)

In this I am reminded that for those “fortunate” enough to make over one billion dollars per year (there have been as many as over a dozen in recent years) that making a billion dollars of income in one year equates to making $532,000 per hour for every working hour of the year. This means one of these “worthies” made more in one afternoon than I did in almost 40 years as a college professor. I do not think of this as compensated labor as no one’s labor is worth that much. The only way one can “make” such an income is by scamming the system. If we need a name, we could call it “legitimized theft.”

So, if the theists are right and the meaning of our lives is granted by their god, why are these plutocrats scurrying around “cementing their legacies” or “managing their brand” or all of the myriad things they are doing to legitimize their wealth? These legitimized businessmen all claim that capitalism is based upon competition, but have acted to reduce the amount of competition in their area of business like beavers (think Bill Gates and all of his European monopoly law suits). I guess saying one thing while doing the opposite comes easy to those “of wealth” which is what they seem to have in common with the theists who support them.

February 6, 2019

The Mistake of Monotheism

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
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Prior to the rise of monotheistic religions, we had polytheism, that is “many gods.” During the early “Pax Romana” all of these gods coexisted reasonably peacefully. As long as one made the appropriate sacrifices to any of these gods, one was considered a theist and not an atheist.

But then the idea of there being but one god came along … and then the trouble began.

In order for there to be but one god, then all of the other gods being worshiped must be false gods, that is no god at all. Coexistence between other god worshippers and the monotheists declined to the point of disappearing completely.

This was not the only problem, that is monotheists v. pagans. When Christianity split off from Judaism, the Christians had actual battles with a great many fatalities over the “trinity.” To preserve the idea that there was but one god, the Christians, who wanted Jesus as their god, decided to fold three gods into one: “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Not three gods, just one. (Talk about belaboring a point.)

If you look at Christian scriptures, you will find a full panoply of gods but which were given other names. The demigods who were God’s helpers were called “angels” as if that disguises their character as something not god-like. One has to ask “Why does an all-knowing and all-powerful god need “helpers” or “messengers”? And, if their powers were god-like, how were they then not demi-gods at least?

So the gauze of monotheism in Christianity is really quite thin.

This brings up the question of “Why monotheism?” In the early Bible passages it is clear that the ancient Israelites were not monotheistic, and that they had to be beaten into submission to the idea, to accept the yoke instead of being “stiff-necked” (all ox herders understand these terms better than we do now). So, why indeed?

Clearly what is involved here is ecclesiastic greed. If one accepts polytheism, one accepts the friendly competition for “alms.” There will be no monopolies and there will be winners and losers. By being audacious and claiming a monopoly in the form of “there is but one god” one is making a claim for wanting it all. Only the worship of our god counts, the rest of you are doomed.

Can you think of any reason beyond the purely pragmatic to claim that there is but one god, all “evidence” to the contrary? (I am using the word “evidence” as theists use it. If you accept their kind of “evidence,” it is clear there are many gods, not just one.)

A classic example against a monotheistic viewpoint in Christianity is the elevation of Hell and Satan under Christianity. Satan in the old testament is shown making prop bets with Yahweh (poor old Job being the target). This doesn’t exactly sound like the Prince of Evil, now does it. Under the influence of Zoroastrians and other Persian cults while in Babylon, the Jews came back to Israel prepared to write weapons grade scripture but actually refrained until the Christians came along and had to distinguish themselves from the Jews (for market share).

What is Satan, other than a god? Satan is claimed to have been created by Yahweh but that is normal. Most gods are created by other gods. Satan is said to have opposed god’s will to the point of rebellion (Now, that’s a sin!) … and survived to tell the tale! Who could survive the wrath of an all-knowing, all-powerful god but anther god? Satan is so powerful, he can actually, according to scripture, hide things from Yahweh (making the claim that Yahweh is “all-knowing” a bit hollow). So, Yahweh doesn’t seem to me who he is claimed to be and Satan is a comparable power, aka god … a lesser god, but still.

So, what do you think? What is so all-fired important about monotheism, other than its marketing aspects?

February 3, 2019

More on Stolen Gifts

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:10 am
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In my recent post, Stolen Gifts, I pointed out that religions have hijacked ordinary abilities and declared them to be gifts from their god, which has a number of consequences, one being we are expected to feel grateful for our “gifts.” Another is that we are to see their god at work in our lives and not as some distant, removed supernatural superhero.

Giving this psychological sleight of hand a bit more thought I realized that it is a double edged sword for the religions, cutting both ways, not just to their benefit.

As a child I was fairly successful in youth sports. Largely this was due to the fact that I was substantially taller and stronger than my educational classmates. As we grew up, these advantages diminished and almost disappeared. I was confronted by others whose athletic “gifts” were far greater than mine. I specifically remember turning up for the first day of basketball practice as a sophomore in college only to find roughly 60 guys in the gym, at least three quarters of whom were better players than me. On day two of practice, we were down to 30-35 guys left, again, most of whom were better players than I was. By day three we were down to about 18, the normal number of players who would practice and I was still there (hadn’t been cut or quit). Basically I was willing to pay the price (there were hours and hours of conditioning drills in those early practices) and was stubborn enough to not quit (I had been cut from teams before but had never quit). What I could have done had I more “talent” I can only dream of.

The same could be said for my intellectual gifts. I had a high IQ but either didn’t get the guidance I needed or I didn’t make the effort needed to expand upon that “gift.” I saw many, many other students who seemed far brighter than I was. I persevered by didn’t light any fires.

So, if these were my “gifts from God,” what should a child think who was born into a flawed body or was starved as a child until they were physical or intellectual derelicts? Why them? What should children think who were born infected by AIDS, or as a foster child of ours was, born with seven illicit drugs in her blood? The usual answer is “God works in mysterious ways” or “No one can know the mind of god.” These are spoken without irony by people who will turn around and tell you exactly what their god thinks and why it is clear as air what you should be doing.

But why indeed? Why are some showered with gifts and others starved of them. Why does god play favorites? Why would god “choose” a people to favor? Are we not all “God’s children”?

Obviously I tend to over think these things … but someone has to to point out the sheer mendacity and silliness of these concepts. The brilliance of Christianity is its design to have its practitioners take over the task of acquiring fresh, new believers, while reinforcing the beliefs of people already in the flock. If all of this required professional religionists, then we would be much less subjected to this religion. Small armies of ordinary people, often through unthinking meme transmission are doing much of this work. Having ordinary people going around saying things like “what extraordinary gifts your child has been given” makes parents glow, while lowering any suspicion they might have of vested interests in the comment. Thus these memes get passed around like a disease vector.

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