Uncommon Sense

May 29, 2022

I Sure Am Glad the Bible Never Contradicts Itself

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:35 pm
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Well, there is this, spoken by Yahweh himself:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

Which flows directly to this, spoken by the prophet Ezekiel:

“Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

“But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. (Ezekiel 18: 19-21)

All emphases added.

So, which is it?

I know that the evangelicals want it to be the first situation, because without it there is no Original Sin, no need to be “saved,” and therefore no need for Jesus or Christianity. But the first is Yahweh being quoted directly, and the second is someone claiming that he speaks for Yahweh, so which is the real Yahweh?

Will the Real Yahweh™ please stand up.

May 26, 2022

Signposts on the Way to Oblivion

Filed under: Art,Culture,writing — Steve Ruis @ 10:54 am
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I just read this year’s (2021) list of winners of Nebula Awards. Of the writings listed I discovered that I had just bought one of them (at a great discount, which I assume will disappear now the book is a Nebula Award winner).

I have been reading science fiction and fantasy books since I was 13. I am now 75, so it has been 62 years over which I have read myriad such books (all of Edgar Rice Burroughs, all of the Wheel of Time, all of Andre Norton, all of C.J. Cherryh, Tolkien, Jules Verne, all of Isaac Asimov, most of Robert Heinlein, all of Robert Silverberg, all of Michelle Sagara, All of C.S. Friedman, much of Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey, all of Jack Vance, all of P.K. Dick, much of Katherine Kurtz, and on and on . . .) and I still read dozens and dozens of such books every year. The interesting thing to me is that when I looked at the Nebula Award works, including the runners-up, I did not recognize a single author’s name, not one.

I have officially been passed by.

May 24, 2022

Why Does The World Hate Christians?

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:45 pm
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The above question appeared upon Quora, the question and answer site. I suggest that the world does not and should not hate Christians as it is Christianity and what its various versions ask their congregations to do which they should hate.

When addressing Christianity, atheists like me often bring up problematic aspects of it, such as the Crusades, support for slavery, male domination of women, Hell and infinite punishment, etc. But all of that, while true, misses the big mark. Here are three quotes from a book I am reading now (Atheism: The Case Against God) that I will be reviewing when I finish reading it.

“The misology of the Bible is its most repugnant trait; there is a constant demand that one must believe without evidence or thought, and that one must regard absurdity as a desirable aspect of Christianity. To accept faith in the biblical sense means to believe in defiance of rational guidelines; it is blatantly anti-reason, and the biblical writers make no effort to conceal this fact.”

“This tie between faith and virtue is responsible for the Christian equation of doubt and disbelief with immorality. One is not morally free to investigate the truth of the Christian doctrine by means of reason; instead, one must believe uncritically or be condemned as immoral. A man is thus forced to choose between morality and truth, virtue and reason. The paragon of virtue, according to this view, is the man who refuses critically to evaluate his ideas—and one can scarcely imagine a more vicious form of irrationalism.”

“The threat of punishment for disbelief is the crowning touch of Christian misology. Believe in Jesus—regardless of evidence or justification—or be subjected to agonizing torture. With this theme reverberating throughout the New Testament, we have intellectual intimidation, transcendental blackmail, in its purest form. Threats replace argumentation, and irrationality gains the edge over reason through an appeal to brute force. Man’s ability to think and question becomes his most dangerous liability, and the intellectually frightened, docile, unquestioning believer is presented as the exemplification of moral perfection.”

Here is the definition of “misology” for those of you who do not know this word (I did not): (noun) distrust or hatred of reason or reasoning.

In my humble opinion, this is the greatest failing of Christianity, which shows it to be a population control mechanism and little else. Obey or suffer the consequences is the clear threat being made.

In the Bizarro World of Christianity, faith is touted as a way of acquiring knowledge that is superior to that of reason. A more blatant lie cannot be uttered. I challenge anyone who claims this is true to list all of the things they have learned through faith. I know many will immediately respond that when they read their Bible, they have faith that what they are reading is true. But that is not knowledge you acquired through faith. That is knowledge you acquired through the writings of others. How is it that you acquire knowledge through faith? Honestly.

When works of science are read, they are not to be believed or disbelieved. In fact, published scientific papers are required to list the procedures and equipment used so that if a skeptical reader wants to confirm the findings, they can. Doubt is hard-wired into the process.

Reason has all kinds of rules regarding how one acquires knowledge and sifts out error, e.g. the scientific method, the rules of logic, the laws of mathematics, etc. Faith has no such mechanisms, in fact, Christians are not allowed to question faith as they are immediately told they are in error should they do so. So, faith cannot have an epistemology, because it would involve looking at how faith discovers knowledge, and that is not allowed.

Solutions to Republicans Concerns

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:05 pm
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Instead of sweeping their problems under a rug, solutions to the societal ills claimed by Republicans don’t seem to be so difficult, but I guess that they have given up on trying to solve problems. Maybe this will get them started again.

Critical Race Theory
For parents concerned with critical race theory distorting their children’s sense of patriotism, well CRT is only taught in law schools, so—Solution: Don’t send your child to law school.

Voter Fraud
For GOPers worried about the effects of voter fraud, the usual solutions are available—Solution: make voter fraud a capital crime subject to the death penalty. Since GOPers think the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, that should about reduced voter fraud to a small enough size that it can be drowned in a bathtub.

The Great Replacement Theory
This “theory” asserts that the Democrat Party is working assiduously to replace white voters with black and brown voters. The solution is obvious—Solution: Most corporations are run by old white guys who are typically Republicans. To make yourself irreplaceable, you just have to please your corporate bosses. They have a long history of avoiding hiring black and brown employees, plus why would people trained as field hands be comfortable in a corporate environment anyway?

Abortion
Clearly abortion is just murder under a different name and contraception is second-hand murder, but there is a solution well within the grasp of any GOP member—Solution: Stop having sex. No sex, no pregnancies. No pregnancies, no abortions. This is absolutely foolproof.

If that is not acceptable, then legalize abortion, but only for black and brown mothers. The banning of abortions largely results in more black and brown babies, so this must be reversed. Contraception for black and brown people must also be kept legal, maybe even made mandatory.

The War on Christianity
It is also clear that Christianity is under attack. Some solidarity is needed. Even though Catholics are not True Christians™, they are tolerable in the form of Supreme Court Justices who vote the evangelical line. Solution: Then above and beyond that, all atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. must surrender their rights as citizens. Clearly they are un-American and form a threat to American Democracy. At best they should be tolerated as legal aliens (with no voting rights, of course).

Prayer in Schools
You will be shocked at how easy this problem is to solve! Solution: train Christian children to go to school and pray silently. Soon, the schools will be brimming with prayers. We can do the same for all local meetings of town councils and school boards, etc. Christians just need to show up and pray silently. The Lord will hear your prayers and overrule the Libtards!

Socialism
This solution may be a tough pill to swallow but it is clear that—Solution: All forms of socialism need to be banned. Social security, gone. The post office, gone. The fire departments, gone (except the for profit ones, of course). Charity hospitals, gone. The military, all branches, gone. Public schools? Way gone! These changes must be implemented as soon as we construct replacements for these programs that are capitalistic.

Feminism
This has gotten out of hand. Women don’t know their place anymore and it is creating anxiety. Solution: All women need to ask the man closest to them in their life for guidance. The men so asked, need to consult the Holy Bible (King James version, none of those false ones) and then make up the rest.

Morality
Since it is a well known fact that only Christians are moral (all the other religions can’t consult Jesus), all moral discussions must be centered upon Christian morality, and as soon as we can find a clear statement about what that is, we’ll be good to go.

Sex Education
This should be a graduate level university course (not taught in puny colleges), open only to Ph.D. candidates in the appropriate fields, of which currently there are none. Ignorance was good enough for our grandparents and parents, it should be good enough for us. You don’t see a shortage of people around now, do you?

Same-Sex Marriage
Since this is officially an abomination, mentions of it should only show up in the penal codes.

Bi-racial Marriage
Since this is officially an abomination, mentions of it should only show up in the penal codes. Exceptions will be made for Supreme Court Justices who will be grandfathered in.

Transgender Rights
Since God, He made them male and female in his own likeness (why god is such a strange dude is part of the mystery) there should be no such special treatment for people who are confused about their gender. Do we give special rights to people who were confused about high school algebra? No. So, same here.

Creationism/Evolution
We are not sure the controversy needs be taught. Creationism covers all of the bases so we see no need to include evolution, the fact or the theory.

School Choice
Vouchers and charter schools, especially if they aren’t run under government interference, are sure to be superior to the government schools we are now burdened with. If you can’t make a profit at something, then it is un-American, in this case Socialism! Extracting profits from school budgets just has to make them better! (Has to, has to, has to. . . .)

Drugs
We need to double down on the War on Drugs, except those that are making fortunes for Big Pharma, of course. If we included those all of their donations to the GOP would dry up. Same for all of those donations from the private prisons we have been locking up those weed-smoking drug fiends for the last twenty years. Try to be sensible in discussing this emotional topic.

There, all solved. Wasn’t that simple?

May 19, 2022

Faith v. Reason

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:01 am
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And in this corner . . .

I have been reading a fascinating book, one full of fascinating arguments (George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God (The Skeptic’s Bookshelf)) and last night I started a chapter that that compares and contrasts faith and reason. The two are linked, says the author:

The Christian who postures as an advocate of reason is often quite subtle in his attack on reason. Yes, he says, reason provides man with knowledge of reality; yes, reason is vital to man’s existence; yes, man’s rational capacity is his distinguishing characteristic—but some aspects of existence cannot be comprehended by man. Some facts are closed to rational understanding. Reason is fine as far as it goes, but it is limited.

Again, I have to ask “how could anyone know that reason is thus limited.” It sounds like a self-serving “fact” that isn’t really in evidence. If reason, a human activity is limited, is faith, another human activity, also limited? No one seems to address this question.

Theists seem to appeal to Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) a great deal, especially Catholics. According to Aquinas, a man may first believe something on faith which he later comes to know through reason, or a man may accept as an article of faith something which other men can rationally demonstrate, or a man may use faith to acquire a certainty that reason is impotent to give.

Once again, this prince of Christian apologists is conflating two varieties of “faith” or “belief.” There is “faith” based upon repeated observation/reasoning, e.g. I believe the Sun will come up tomorrow or I have faith that the Sun will come up tomorrow and there is “religious faith” which equates to “I believe this even though there is a complete lack of evidence for it.”

Aquinas pounds this home in his book, The City of God, when he claims that “Christian beliefs should not be rejected as false or nonsensical.” In support of this, Augustine points out that there are many “marvels” in nature that reason cannot account for, that “the frail comprehension of man cannot master.” If one were demanded to give a rational explanation of these phenomena, one could not do so—except to say that they are “wonders of God’s working” that “the frail mind of man cannot explain.” This is a God of the Gaps argument. Just because you cannot explain something rationally doesn’t mean that no one can or that no one will eventually. Rational inquiries require time and interest and some subjects just do not interest the people who have the time and the reasoning ability to come up with a rational explanation. God does not get all “ties,” that is cases in which there is no rational explanation for an event and no actual theological explanation either. (“God did it” is not an explanation; it is merely a claim that needs to be proven, a very problematic claim as it is.)

So, “religious faith,” a mechanism to acquire knowledge that does not involve reason, is actually completely incompatible with reason. To quote Smith again: “Faith depends for its survival on the unknowable, the incomprehensible, that which reason cannot grasp. Faith cannot live in a natural, knowable universe. As Pascal observed, ‘If we submit everything to reason, our religion will have no mysterious and supernatural element.’

I will be reporting more fully on this wonderful book! (I have read enough to recommend it to all atheists who might want to understand the playing field we share with theists better, and to theists for the same reason.)

May 16, 2022

How to Resolve the Abortion Issue

Filed under: Politics,Reason,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 2:16 pm
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It appears that the SCOTUS is going to return the power to make laws about abortion to the states. In this, they will not have gone far enough. They need to return that power to the people.

Since the nation’s citizens are so widely divided on the topic, no federal or state can say that it is representing its people with any particular legislation. In other words, the states have no compelling interest in the topic, certainly not any interest that imposes any particular viewpoint upon millions of people.

So, whether to abort a fetus or not is a decision to be made by a woman, in consultation with others of her choosing (husband, doctors, friends. clergy, relatives, etc.). The only role for government is to ensure that safe practices be followed in any such procedures.

In the Bill of Rights it says “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” (Amendment IX) which indicates that the people do have powers in our system of government.

My recommendation is based upon “government of the People, by the People, and for the People.” Who better to adjudicate an abortion question than the only people who it affects, the pregnant woman and her advisors. No one else should have any say in the issue because they have no stake in the game. Anyone who claims to support “freedom” should support this, otherwise they claim to support freedom, except when they use the government to take away the freedoms of others. Those exercises of governmental power don’t count.

As to those who claim the fetus has a stake in the game, that may be true, but all current laws support total bodily autonomy of the mother in such matters. The government cannot force someone to donate part of their body, even blood, even in extreme cases. It can only ask or beg. Government cannot demand a kidney for transplantation into another person, or any other organ either. So, the government cannot demand that a women’s uterus be used to their ends, either.

Power to the People, baby!

Addendum
. . . the full scope of the liberty guaranteed by the Due Process Clause cannot be found in or limited by the precise terms of the specific guarantees elsewhere provided in the Constitution. This ‘liberty’ is not a series of isolated points pricked out in terms of the taking of property; the freedom of speech, press, and religion; the right to keep and bear arms in the United States; the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; and so on. It is a rational continuum which, broadly speaking, includes a freedom from all substantial arbitrary impositions and purposeless restraints. (Emphasis mine.)
—Justice John Marshall Harlan writing in Poe v. Ullman, 367 U.S. 497, 543 (1961)

Oh, but this SCOTUS is no longer interested in stare decisis.

There Are No Contradictions . . .

If I had the energy, I would make this a weekly or daily activity, namely pointing out the egregious contradictions in the Bible. Because, if you can support a contradictory source of authority, you can claim anything. So, for those who believe in the inerrancy of the “Holy Bible” I submit:

“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the Devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister” (1 John 3:10).

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

So, Jesus is a child of the Devil?

God, Really?

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:42 am
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He is a vengeful god. He is a loving god. He is an angry god. And so on. But if you ask any of the “experts” for a listing of their god’s attributes, this is what you get:

“A thorough, yet incomplete list and summary of His attributes:
Eternality
Mercy
Goodness
Omnipotence
Grace
Omnipresence
Holiness
Omniscience
Immanence
Righteousness
Immutability
Self-Existence
Justice
Sovereignty
Love
Transcendence”

The seem to have left off a number of his attributes that He claims for himself, such being:
the God of Wrath
the God of Vengeance
the God of Jealousy
the God of Righteousness.

“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  (Exodus 20:5-6)

The proponents of this god, mainly Christians here in the U.S., have fallen into a trap. By applying human emotions to their god, they limit it.

Ask any Christian, “Is God alive?” Many will stammer “Y-yes!” even though they haven’t even considered such a question before. But being alive infers certain limitations. Ask them, “Is your god a person?” If they answer yes, being a person implies certain limitations.

In fact, implying that their god has human biases, emotions, and attributes all limit their god, but the worst limitation is the claim that their god is a supernatural entity which exists beyond space and time. Of course, they also claim their god is “omnipresent” (see the list above), so it is beyond space and time and everywhere within space and time at the same time. Is great puzzlement!

I have written a number of times explaining how omnipresence is a bullshit god power made up by priests to keep people in line. No god possessing omnipotence and omniscience needs omnipresence as they already have the same thing. They already know what you are going to think and say and do in the future, so why would they have to hang around eavesdropping to hear or see you do it?

(Of course omnipotence and omniscience are contradictory in that you can’t have both powers. Why? If you are omniscient and have perfect knowledge of what the future will bring, then you are powerless to change that future. If you did have the power to change things, then your knowledge of the future would be imperfect. Just saying.)

One of the things left off of the list above is “ineffability,” which means an inability to describe that god in words. Also, they left off “incomprehensibility” which is the ability to even comprehend this god. These “attributes” are often sprayed around by Agnostic Theists, that is those who believe in a god, even though they admit there is not and possibly cannot be enough information to prove its existence. The problem of this stance is “how do you (or anyone else) know this”? Without some pretty complete knowledge, how would one come to that conclusion?

The problem with Agnostic Theism is that all of its claims also belong to “nothing.” God is eternal! So is nothing! God is invisible! So, is nothing. God is ineffable! So is nothing. God is unchangeable! So, is nothing. And so on, et cetera, und so weiter. . . .

So, these people have fallen into the trap of “Well, He is indescribable, but He is definitely male and He cares about us, He loves us, and He hates sin (Oh, boy, He really hates sin!) etc., etc. Love, hate, revenge? An awful lot of human emotions from an entity that is so far from being human as an entity can get. Note—I guess I should remind you that revenge means “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.” So, vengeance, revenge, etc. imply that their God can be inflicted with a boo-boo that he lashes out in retaliation for. And for those who claim that their god is taking revenge for pains inflicted upon His people, He becomes the Eternal Bill Clinton in that He “feels your pain.”

We should be studying these religions as to how they get people to believe utter and total nonsense and then extend that hold over generation after generation of people. Psychologists should be flocking to the topic because these religionists have raised mind control to a high art, far beyond what any psychologist would think possible. True Believers™ will claim that this longevity is due to their religion being the one true religion (Finally!). But history tells us that in the past there have been many, many such religions, whose believers were taught that their religion was true and all of the others were false. And, where are they now? And are the ones we have now any different from those religions now buried in history?

May 15, 2022

Intelligent Design Goes Boom!

Can’t let a Sunday go by without a post about religion. I seem to do this religiously. Does than mean . . . nah! S

The theory of intelligent design has been promoted as a serious competitor to the theory of evolution to explain the current mix of biological species here on Earth. It hasn’t been taken seriously by scientists, however, because it isn’t a scientific theory, etc. But that is not the point I wish to make here (as it has been made over and over and over . . .). I have even made jokes that “intelligent design” might be something a sufficiently powerful alien might pull off because there is nothing in the “theory” of intelligent design that indicates the Christian God did it. The authors of the theory of intelligent design, of course, make no bones about this being the work of a god, specifically their god, the god of fundamentalist Christians. But I wasn’t aware that John Stuart Mill destroyed the theory of intelligent design 150 years ago! Here is a quote displaying Mill’s position:

. . . what is meant by design? Contrivance: the adaptation of means to an end. But the necessity for contrivance—the need of employing means—is a consequence of the limitation of power. Who would have recourse to means if to attain his end his mere word was sufficient? The very idea of means implies that the means have an efficacy which the direct action of the being who employs them has not. Otherwise they are not means but an encumbrance . . . if the employment of contrivance is in itself a sign of limited power, how much more so is the careful and skillful choice of contrivances? Can any wisdom be shown in the selection of means when the means have no efficacy but what is given them by the will of him who employs them, and when his will could have bestowed the same efficacy on any other means? Wisdom and contrivance are shown in overcoming difficulties, and there is no room for them in a being for whom no difficulties exist. (John Stuart Mill, Theism, pp. 33-34, 1874 Edition)

And to summarize Mill’s point, I offer another quote:

As Mill points out, there can be no obstacles to divine omnipotence—no difficulties that God must overcome—because God’s “will” is sufficient to produce any effect. The necessity of employing means to accomplish an end is the consequence of limited power; therefore, God cannot be said to employ means in any sense. Extending this argument, we also realize that God cannot be said to act in any manner, because actions are required only of a being who must resort to some means in order to accomplish a given end. Nor can God be said to have any kind of purpose, because “purpose” entails unfulfilled desires or goals—and these concepts cannot apply to an omnipotent being. (George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God (emphasis mine)

So, can an omnipotent Creator God design anything? Apparently not. And, accordingly, He makes no plans as plans are a contrivance to accomplish something that couldn’t be accomplished without them. So, “God has a plan for you,” uh, not. No purpose, no plan, no designs . . . or omnipotence is off the table. I think maybe it is more than IDT that has gone “boom.”

Postscript I have made this same argument against the existence of angels because an omnipotent being shouldn’t need “messengers” as it would take more effort to explain a task to an angel than to do it itself.

May 12, 2022

Roe v. Wade Politics

I say fuck the GOP, and fuck the current SCOTUS. I also say fuck the Democrats because they decided that having a woman’s abortion rights in play was too important of a political football to be fixed, which they could have done long ago.

Lodging the Roe v. Wade decision in the privacy rights vaguely attested to in the Constitution was a mistake. They should have been lodged in the 4thAmendment to the Constitution, which begins “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

The states considering laws making anyone who leaves their state pregnant and returns not so to be a criminal will be violating the 4th Amendment. “Alright, lady, turn out your uterus.” Similarly any search of a woman as to their pregnancy is protected from government intrusion. Any ban on abortion pills involves the same problem. To prove their case, they would have to search for a pregnancy before and after the event, which is not allowed. People are to be “secure in their persons.”

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