Class Warfare Blog

May 10, 2019

You Need to Respect Our Beliefs!

Part of the War on Christianity™ (Fox News) is the much reviled and disdained severe atheistic/humanistic disrespect for the beliefs of Christians! This is abominable! We are told that we should “respect their beliefs.”

Uh, no, just … no.

I accept their beliefs. I even acknowledge them. But respect them, no. Respect is something that is earned. How is it that just because they believe something, it automatically has to be respected? Especially when it comes to batshit crazy notions like the fundamentalists have that the End Times™ are just around the corner (time wise). Really? The forces of good and evil are going to duke it out? On the plain of Armageddon in the Holy Land? Really?

Entities with supernatural powers are going to a place to meet up, a flat place where they can deploy their forces? This is about as realistic as having modern jet fighters having firefights while confined to the ground. (Okay, you can taxi around all you want, but you can’t take off; got it? Go get ’em, tiger!)

And on one side is a god who is “beyond space and time,” which means he cannot be found by his enemies, who can create whole galaxies with mere thoughts, and already knows the plans of all of his enemies, who he can unmake with a mere thought. Uh, who wants to be on this guy’s side? (Me, me, me, me . . .) How can such a battle take place, except in the vivid imagination of an iron age drug addict?

Respect that belief? No, ridicule it, maybe, but not respect it. And please do not think that these are ideas that have been set aside. There are fundamentalist groups currently acting on a political agenda toward Israel, based upon this very scenario. Some Jewish groups are complaining about the activities of some of these fundamentalist Protestant groups, so apparently they are being taken seriously.

Social tools are tools we all use to moderate bad behavior in society. If a member of a social community acts poorly, people talk to him about his behavior. If he persists, then ridicule and public shaming take place. If he still persists, shunning and banning take place. We have talked to theists about their beliefs, but they persist in trying to force those beliefs on the rest of us (We Are A Christian Nation, War on Christmas, War on Christianity, Dominionism, Special privileges for the religious written into law, etc.), so ridicule is next up. Ridicule is appropriate as it is a gentle form of persuasion that no one is immune from. If that doesn’t work, well the tools at hand provide many opportunities to ratchet up the pressure. In more advanced countries, religion is a private matter that doesn’t intrude into the public sphere, happiness results. This state is a worthwhile goal.

 

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May 5, 2019

Social Controls and Religion

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:04 am
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Regular readers of this blog will know that I have stated many times my thinking that if a religion survives and thrives that it has become a mechanism to coerce the labor of the masses to serve the interests of the secular and religious elites, that is they are or have become instruments of social control. A few honest defenders of religions even claim this “feature” is their primary reason for supporting them.

You may have parsed that statement and concluded that I am against social controls, but I am not. Social controls seem to evolve around our needs as a society. For example, gossip is a mechanism to spread information about individuals that is needed to help people make decisions when those individuals become involved. Public humiliation is something no one cares to accept. We all abhor being humiliated in public. (We do not care for private humiliations either, but when those become public, we are doubly upset.)

I lay the current resurgence of racism in this country at the feet of the Internet. We had reached a point that people rarely made racist comments in public because there was a strong and immediate backlash . . . and it wasn’t positive and it did involve shaming and humiliation. But the Internet has allowed people to communicate anonymously or under an artificial persona, thus deflecting any social approbation away from the person making the remarks. More and more of this freedom to spout racist ideas has promoted racist behaviors. (The same holds for religious bigotry.)

Social controls are desirable. In the case of religions, I object to the end result of the controls, not the controls themselves. The object is clearly to promote the interests of the elites funded by the labor of the masses. Were the object to promote the welfare of all, I would be much less critical.

Also, I am not a fan of delusion-based social mechanisms. Religion, happy talk, the law of attraction, etc. contain the roots of other problems in their solutions to problems faced now. For religions, just ask anyone who has lost their faith in the religion, as to the problems that creates for them.

April 28, 2019

The Purpose of Religion: A Follow-up

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:03 am
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Salon.com recently re-published an article that originally appeared on Raw Story. Here is a taste of that article:

Scientists establish a link between religious fundamentalism and brain damage
Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be
by Bobby Azarian

study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.

Now, before all of you snarkmeisters (My people, my people!) jump on the obvious points, the point I want to address is not that. It is “They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.” And it is not the “fixed and rigid” part but the “promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group” part.

When humans gathered together into larger than family groups, society was formed in a process I am sure took some time to hammer out. In all herd animals there are behaviors of both the individual and the group that promote survival. Sometimes they clash but if they clash too much, neither the herd nor the individuals survive. We are not herd animals but we are social animals. “Society” exists to get us to conform to rules that result in greater survivability of both us as a group and us as individuals. Once a society is formed, it is not hard to see that it can be hijacked by individuals who mold society more to their advantage, survivability be damned. Books and movies are rife with such scenarios, where groups are betrayed by individuals to their benefit. These betrayals can be direct or through changing the societal rules to benefit just themselves.

Currently there is a subset of very wealthy U.S. individuals who are reshaping our society for their benefit and their benefit alone, the rest of society left to suck eggs. Religion is a major tool in creating and maintaining a “stable” society. It has lost much of its power in this country over the years and since a power vacuum doesn’t exist long, that power has been sucked up, in this case by wealthy financial types with their own priesthood (economists).

In any society there are those who produce the needs for direct survival (food, water supply, housing, transportation, etc.) and those who produce “other things” (art, politics, music, books, etc.). Those who produce the food, etc. need to have the respect of those who do not and vice versa. In this country, this mutual respect has been lost (not by accident, mind you) as it has been elsewhere around the world. In powerful church hierarchies, the elites offer little in the way of respect for the masses as they “manage their brands” and, they think, husband their power. The same goes on in centers of political power. Studies indicate that a prerequisite for getting any idea through Congress is being rich. If you are poor or middle class your ideas and opinions will be ignored. (Polls? What polls? Polls are “fake news.”) And, monumental issues like climate change are ignored because the wealthy do not want to accept any uncertainty in their wealth accumulation schemes (business opportunities my ass!).

As a consequence, ordinary people, who are engaged in serving the needs of these elites are in various states of rebellion. They are attending church services less. They are voting less. They are paying less attention to those who pay no attention to them or they are attending but responding with anger and resentment.

I thought if we could revive labor unions that they could apply some leverage in the interests of ordinary people, but unions have powerful opponents who have shut that door.

So, what is the way out of this existential problem?

Really, do you see a way out?

April 21, 2019

Jail Birds Fly Free … Well Some Do

One of the parents who conspired to get their kid into an elite college the old fashioned way (cheating, bribery, influence, etc.) has been on trial and that trial is in the sentencing phase. The prosecution wants something a little less than a year in prison and the defense wants something closer to a month in prison.

So, this is the justice system we have. People go to jail for cheating on college admissions requirements, for possession of small amounts of marijuana, etc. but if you do something really big, like bring down the financial system of the U.S. and the world, or defy the orders of a federal judge, you get swept under the rug as being “too big to fail” or, gosh, you get a presidential pardon. I understand that some banks might be too big to fail but are they too big to be broken up and sold off? Are the executives too big to go to jail? Do we need bigger jail cells? We used to send bankers to jail and did so as recently as the savings and loan debacle in the 1980’s. But now, gosh, it would be just so sad to do that, so let’s just give those executives a bonus and let them retire or, heck, just let them keep doing what they have been doing.

Obviously justice in this country has always been predicated upon the color of your skin and your socioeconomic status. If Bernie Maddoff had bilked a bunch of poor people or a bunch of people of color, would he have gone to jail? He had the bad taste to bilk white people who had been rich, so his fate was sealed.

This is sad.

April 6, 2019

Are We Violating the First Amendment?

The first amendment to the Constitution begins with the words “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” and then changes the subject. This “law” has been declared to apply also to state governments.

Currently, the IRS and state taxing authorities generally exempt churches from paying taxes. As a consequence, I must pay more in taxes to make up that shortfall. Therefore, I am being forced by the government to support those churches (even Scientology!). This seems like a violation of the spirit of the First Amendment at the very least and the letter of Constitutional law at the most.

I know some will object and say that churches are charitable organizations and qualify for tax-exempt status thereby. A study I read indicated that just a few percent of most churches incomes (<5%) goes to charity (most going to costs such as utilities, employee salaries, etc.), so that doesn’t hold water. Others claim that churches are non-profits and that doesn’t hold water, either. How is a church, an institution that gives out advice (some for fee, some pro bono) any different from a tax accountant or financial advisor? Granted they may not make much profit to be taxed but they could not sustain continuing losses, so they must make some profit, and some of the large property owning churches make scads of money. And taxes on profits are not the only taxes. Dentists are taxed upon their dental chairs and offices if they own them (property taxes). Financial advisors are taxed likewise. Churches? Not so much.

(And don’t get me started on prosperity churches and their jet plane owning pastors.)

April 2, 2019

And Forgive Us Our Debts

Michael Hudson is writing a series of books on the topic of debt forgiveness as a necessary component for capitalism to work. This topic evoked in me a memory of a conversation I had with my mother when I was a lad. She commented in church that the original version of the Lord’s Prayer included the phrase “… and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” but this was not approved of by the wealthy so it was transformed into “… and forgive us our trespasses as we also have forgiven our trespassers.” (By sixteenth century Anglicans?) There are a number of variations of these “translations,” but whatever was come up with (trespasses, sins, etc.), it was to get debt forgiveness (part of Mosaic law) out of that prayer.

A bit of this history is to be had at Naked Capitalism in the form of:

The Delphic Oracle Was Their Davos: A Four-Part Interview With Michael Hudson About His Forthcoming Book The Collapse of Antiquity (Part 1)

Highly recommended.

Some Enticing Teasers:
• “Rome was turned into an oligarchy, an autocracy of the senatorial families. Their “liberty” was an early example of Orwellian Doublethink. It was to destroy everybody else’s liberty so they could grab whatever they could, enslave the debtors and create the polarized society that Rome became.”
• “That’s why you don’t have any history of economic thought taught anymore in the United States. Because then you’d see that Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and the “Ricardian socialists” and indeed most of the 19th century had a completely opposite idea of what constituted a free market … (o)pposite from the neoliberal idea that freedom means freedom for the wealthy to indebt and destroy the economy. Opposite from the liberty of Brutus to overthrow the Roman kings and establish an autocratic oligarchy.”

March 15, 2019

Blood Magic . . . I Wonder Where That Came From?

In the recent Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre of Muslims, one self-identified suspect posted a manifesto which stated, in part: “The origins of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my philosophical beliefs are European, my identity is European and, most importantly, my blood is European.”

“My blood is European.”

Mate, your blood is red, just like the rest of us.

The role of blood in our cultural imaginings is deep and to its core bogus. For example, in this country’s history, we had laws establishing how African-American people were. We used terms like “octoroon” which now is defined as being “a person who is one-eighth black by descent” or basically having one Black grandparent. But the common people talked about one eighth of a person’s blood being Black. Others said that “one drop” of Black blood made one Black. (This was always puzzling to me because these same idiots claimed that white blood was stronger and better than black blood, so someone with a 50%-50% mix should be classified as white because the 50% white blood was stronger, no?)

Blood magic was borne of ignorance of all but a few basic facts (the primary one being if you lost enough blood, you died). It was promoted through superstition and bias and prejudice (your enemies had bad blood). But what keeps it going centuries after it has been debunked as nonsense?

Ah, culturally blood shows up as a mystical power in religions. Christians and Jews can read about blood magic in their Bibles. They can read about how menstrual blood makes women “unclean” for several days of the month. They can read about how we were all saved “by the blood of a lamb.” They can read about blood sacrifices. They can read about how being born carries sin which resides in the blood. They can read about dietary restrictions involving blood, such as the Torah forbids the consumption of the blood of an animal. (Imagine forbidding the glory which is blood sausage. Amazing.)

So, while us secularists are trying to reduce superstition and ignorance, the religionists are reinforcing it.

Oh, and the manifesto writer which claims “my identity is European” is apparently an Australian. His European language is rooted in the Near East. His DNA is roughly two thirds African in origin and one third Asian in origin. European political beliefs? Really? Is there any political belief you cannot find embedded in Europe? This poor sod is seriously confused . . . but he sure does know how to sling buzz words at a right-ring audience.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. (Anonymous—please do not comment that it was Mark Twain, it appears nowhere in his writings or reporting upon him.)

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!

An Establishment of Religion?

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:29 am
Tags:

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.

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