Class Warfare Blog

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.




November 7, 2018

#7 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #7!

  1. Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection. One of the most historically provable events of ancient history is Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is quite intriguing because he continuously appealed to God the Father to raise him from the dead. For Jesus to have risen from the dead indicates that the one whom he mentioned did what Jesus claimed he would do. The resurrection of Jesus points to a transcendent reality we call God.

Whoa, I wonder what color the sky is on the planet this guy lives on. The only reports of Jesus’ supposed resurrection are found in the New Testament, a collection of writings that have a vested interest in the resurrection being a real thing. Basically: no resurrection, no Christianity.

One of the first rules for the evaluation of “historical sources” is to determine who wrote the text and what were his/her biases. We do not know who wrote these texts (the four gospels), as the earliest manuscripts available have no authors attributed. Author names were added later by the church, so from the get-go these texts are unreliable. The gospels show clear signs of multiple authors and were written quite spread out over time and well after the events they are claimed to witness (the gospels themselves do not claim to be written by witness, but, well there they go again.). They also show signs of being substantially edited, and the editors are neither identified or their biases made known.

So, Premise #1 (One of the most historically provable events of ancient history is Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.) is a flat out lie. We have no evidence of either event. Neither do we have reliable documents attesting to the events. It is a common tactic in dishonest arguments to sneak a premise in that, if accepted, proves the conclusion. Premises are supposed to be readily accepted facts.

The additional claims regarding the written accounts “he continuously appealed to God the Father to raise him from the dead” conflict with theology that also claims that Jesus and Yahweh, the son and father, are one and the same, parts of the Holy Trinity. So, why would Jesus appeal to himself, out loud, so others could hear him?

Even if we were to grant that Jesus died and was resurrected, it certainly does not “point to a transcendent reality we call God.” For all we know Satan was the resurrector and his motivation was to fuck us up for millennia by believing in a false religion. You would need to find evidence that Yahweh/Jesus himself did the resurrecting.

As “arguments” go, this one is pathetic.

Plus, one could ask: what does sacrificing a “son of god” without knowing He was a son of god, have to do with anything? And, is it by blood magic that we are saved somehow? What is the mechanism of being saved? How does belief in a story (because all it is to anyone who wasn’t there is a story) have any affect on anything?

If you are interested in Christian apologetics, reading some of the “learned” opinions on these questions is quite illuminating. Stuff is made up, stupid stuff, but do check it out for yourself.


November 4, 2018

#5 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #5!

  1. Explanation for Data (Information Argument). Why is there anything at all? Even though the quantum world is a strange place, it still behaves according to certain laws. Why are there quantum particles? Quantum fields? Why do physical processes and procedures exist? One explanation: God. For any data to exist, a programmer must exist. That Programmer must be God himself.

Again, this is an old argument wrapped up in new science. (Quantum, My Precious, we hasss quantum.) This argument is based upon the question “Why is there something rather than nothing? People have been discussing this for millenia, so it is not any newer than most of the other items on this list.

Rather than delve into the specifics one can discuss around this question, such as the question can only exist in universe in which there is something, allow me to address the structure of this argument, and really many of the others.

A logical argument has the following structure:

Premises (premise 1, premise 2, etc.)
Applied logic/argumentation

This argument has the following structure:

Premises (premise 1, premise 2, etc.)

So, the premises are stated:
1. Quantum particles exist
2. Quantum field exist
3. Even these strange particles obey “laws” or rules of behavior
4. physical processes and procedures exist

Then the opinion comes: there can be only one explanation, God

Then the argument follows, out of place in the form of a conclusion: “for any data to exist, there needs to be a programmer,” which is not in any way connected to the premises.

Obviously, “God” means the Abrahamic god, but there is nothing in the argument that says why this god is indicated (There is a hidden premise here “We all know there is but one god.”), so it could be Visnu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all we know.

Clearly this “argument” is completely distorted by the presupposed opinion of the arguer. I am reminded of Bertrand Russell’s opinion of Thomas Aquinas as a philosopher (in part):

“He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading.”








November 1, 2018

#3 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #3!

  1. Objective Morality (Moral Argument). Leaving the scientific realm for the philosophical and ethical, objective morality argues for an Objective Lawgiver. God is the best explanation for why objective morality exists. As Brian Manuel, a good friend of mine, said recently, “We can just know certain things to be right and wrong without even being taught.” He is absolutely right! People have an innate sense of morality. That comes from a Moral Lawgiver who we know to be God.

This argument, of course is not new; none of them are, even though the premises refer to things newer. This one is even incoherent. If morals are dictated by gods then they are hardly objective. This is the very definition of subjective (“Behave the way I tell you because I said so … or I will punish you.”)

An obvious argument is there have been so many gods, if the same morals are dictated, then there is some source for those morals higher than the various gods. For those who wish to claim the Abrahamic god as this source, the other gods do not acknowledge that authority, so such a claim is unsubstantiated. We could just as easily claim that morals that evolved naturally from societal structures are that “authority.”

And just what are these vaunted god morals? Many Christians point to the ten commandments, eschewing the other 600 or so from the Old Testament. (There are two lists of the ten to add to the confusion.) And, of course, there are obvious things missing from both lists. Maybe if there had been a commandment forbidding the sexual molestation of children, the Catholic Church might be a less deplorable institution right now. In fact, there are no commandments protecting children and women from molestation. There is no commandment against slavery in scripture. So, where does the general disapproval of slavery now in existence come from? Even if you claim that your god changed his mind about slavery, this is hardly becoming of an entity claimed to be omniscient. Can an omniscient being change its mind, without being perfidious or worse?

This is another argument that has premises and a conclusion, but nothing really connecting them.

October 30, 2018

#2 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

Yesterday I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #2!

  1. Designed Creation (Teleological Argument). Hugh Ross has argued that there are over 180 cosmological constants in the universe so finely tuned that if they were to be changed by the nth degree, life and the universe itself would not exist. Even the theoretical multiverse would need to be designed to such a degree that it would require a designer. I believe wholeheartedly that physicists will eventually find design attributes and constants in the quantum realm if they haven’t already. Design argues for a Designer.

Once again, this is not a new argument, variants of it having been made by Plato and Aristotle and even earlier philosophers. The scientific window dressing is new and also incorrect. (Hugh Ross* was wrong! Gasp!) For one, there are not 180 “cosmological constants.” What are being referred to is a much smaller set of fundamental physical constants. When this “fine tuning” argument was first made, it inspired a number of physicists to investigate if it were true (the criticism of the conjecture and criticism of science). It turns out that a fair amount of variation in several of the parameters is not at all destructive. We also don’t know if these parameters are fundamentally linked somehow that they all influence the others to make them what they are.

The fundamental flaw in the argument is, again, the powers and identity of any claimed designer are not inferable from the design. Arguments like “God must look like us because we were made in His image” are, of course, circular. So, again, our universe could have been created by a powerful alien, like the character Q in the Star Trek franchise, for example. The creation and the design are not necessarily from the same source, either. (Outside of space and time, there may be pre-packaged “Acme Universe Creation Kits” for all we know.)

All of that aside, there is something fundamentally wrong with this argument. The argument for “the existence of God from the evidence of order, and hence design, in nature” mistakes order for design. In fact, the “intelligent design” crowd has never been able to come up with a coherent definition of “intelligent design.”

Clearly patterns abound in nature. Many mineral substances create highly ordered crystals that can be found lying around on or in the ground. Ordinary table salt (sea salt, NaCl, etc.) forms crystals shaped like little cubes. With some encouragement, those crystals can grow to be large, clear, and quite beautiful. The reason those crystals appear and grow as they do is that they are made of sodium and chloride ions (Na+ and Cl–) arranged in alternating fashion in all three cardinal directions. Well, who organizes them this way? They organize themselves by the simple attraction and repulsion of their electrical charges. Each ion has six ions of the opposite charge above and below, to the left and right, and front and back, there is another set of ions that are repulsive because they are of the same charge, but they are 40% farther away and the rule of attraction is an inverse square law, with the distance being the thing both inverse and square, so the repulsions are fully twice as weak as the attractions. If you continue to study chemistry and biology, you will quickly see that nature is self-organizing, no Organizer™ needed. The organizing principles are simple physical behaviors described by simple physical laws. Complexities arise naturally when large numbers of different atoms and molecules get involved.

So, nature is literally steeped in patterns, and along we come. Our brains are clearly designed (by evolution) to see patterns. We see patterns when they are not even there (many optical illusions are based upon this). Why? Because our survival as individuals and, hence, as a species is enhanced by this ability.

So, patterns, patterns, everywhere is the structure of our environment. But patterns and designs are two different things. The touters of the teleological argument claim that all reasonably complex patterns are actually designs. They have established no criteria for how one can tell this, basically they are claiming this “because God.” (Note that the author claims that “physicists will eventually find design attributes.” Why? Because they have not yet been found. So, if “design argues for a designer” and there are no designs yet found, what would you conclude?)  Again, they have a presupposed solution and generate a problem to fit it. If you pick up an ordinary rock, does it look “designed”? If you pick up an extraordinary natural crystal, like a gemstone, does it look designed?

The theory of evolution, on the other hand, shows over and over and over how these patterns form in living things. It also points out flaws in the patterns from nature’s use of already developed genetic instructions that were easily modified and cause what happened, but resulted in actually hazardous designs. The argument from design has no such process other than “God did it.”

* “Hugh’s unshakable confidence that God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. He scouts the frontiers of origins research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what’s being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology.” (Source: A “Just Right Universe” by Hugh Ross, Ph.D.)

It seems Dr. Ross has a bias (“do not, will not, and cannot” aren’t scientific attitudes) he is willing to share.

October 23, 2018

Gosh, What are the Odds?

Filed under: History,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:32 am
Tags: , , , ,

TV shows like Ancient Aliens often point to things that seem very, very unlikely to have happened naturally and claim that help must have been had from aliens. They have this claim in common with creationists who make the same argument except with the help coming from supernatural beings, yet still could have been aliens.

I am reminded that events which most people consider to be very, very unlikely … happen all of the time. What triggered this topic is the fact that today is my birthday. It is also Mole Day. Here is how Scientific American is celebrating this holiday:

Holy Moley, It’s 6.02 x 1023 Day!
Let’s celebrate our chemistry! Or rather, chemistry’s favorite unit of measurement.
From 6:02 a.m. through 6:02 p.m., we’re commemorating Avogadro’s Number.

Avogadro’s number was not found by Avogadro, it was named to commemorate his contributions to chemistry (as slight as they were). His number is the basis for a unit of amount in chemistry, the mole (symbol mol … hardly worth the contraction effort). This number of molecules of any chemical is said to be one mole of that chemical, so it is a quantity representing an amount and a number of molecules simultaneously, which is very handy for chemists as molecules seem to interact in simple whole number ratios.

So, how is this any indication of the probability of an event occurring? Well, I was born, just after 6 AM on the morning of October 23, 1946. (I share this birthday with the planet Earth, according to Bishop Ussher.) So, 6:02 AM, 10th month, 23rd day … 6.02 x 1023! Uh and … ? Well, when I chose a profession, it just so happened to be that of chemistry professor. Wow! What is the likelihood of that happening? Was there something in the stars, guiding my path toward a career? Were aliens involved? Were gods? Surely my path was preordained by something spiritual/ghostial!

What is actually involved is … attention. If one is a chemistry professor, and not born on Mole Day, then we pay that no attention. But there are many, many chemistry professors and teachers, more than the 365 days in a year, so on any particular day of the year, many chemistry people are sharing a birthday. (I share my birthday with Gilbert Newton Lewis, a very prominent U.S. chemist, for example.) Of the people born on October 23rd, there have to be some born right around 6 AM or 6 PM and those of us who were, attend to that fact, once it is brought to our attention.

Many, many improbable things happen every day. One person won a major European lottery twice in a row! (What are the odds?) A creationist asked one time how likely it would be for a molecule of DNA to be created from chance (a silly reach to discredit the role of random mutations in evolution theory). The number he came up with was astronomical. In a quick calculation, I pointed out that if the atoms making up the molecule were selected at the rate at which molecules collide, then the DNA molecule sequence would occur more than a million times per second. Yes, it is an unlikely event … but if the number of participants is large or the process is very fast, that thing will happen and happen frequently.

So, I wish all of my fellow chemists and chemistry professors born on Mole Day (the thousands upon thousands of you) a very happy celebration of your birth day! And, you know what it means, don’t you?

October 15, 2018

Defining Conservatives

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
Tags: , , , ,

A self-defined conservative laid out a number of points why he finds conservatism attractive. These are not all of his points, just some and I respond to these. Here is my truncation of his list, mostly without the supporting commentary:

  1. Conservatives are in favor of less government.
  2. Conservatives are in favor of following the law.
  3. Conservatives seem to support lower taxes. Government can’t really do anything right, companies are much better at getting the right products to the right people at the right time. The higher taxes go, the less well they can do that and the more government will step in and screw things up even further.
  4. Conservatives want people to reach their full potential. They want people to enjoy life and be the most that they can be – without interference from anyone else or from the government – especially from the government.
  5. Conservatives are pro-immigration … but they want legal immigration, not illegal immigration.
  6. Conservatives value life.
  7. Conservatives believe in helping out people who have less than they do. Did you know that 80% of charity money comes from conservatives?
  8. Conservatives believe in the Constitution and that the Constitution is the paramount law of the land. They believe the government should follow the Constitution and the law and not butt into people’s private affairs.
  9. Conservatives will fight for your right to say whatever you please even if they disagree with it.
  10. If you’re poor, a conservative will give you a chance at a job, they will try to help you get an education and a place to live, food and clothing if you need it. But they also expect you to take responsibility for your own life.
  11. The way I see it, is that conservatives want things – like in politics – to work.
  12. Conservatives favor capitalism over socialism because they know that capitalism works better.
  13. Conservatives believe in a strong defense because every country that has dropped their defense has been attacked by some other country.

I don’t know how far I will go with these, but here are some of my responses.

Conservatives are in favor of less government. Well, yes and no. The federal government has expanded under all Democrats and Republican presidents in my lifetime, so no matter what is said, we have gotten more government and not less. The claim that conservatives are in favor of less government is ideological support for their attempts to cut parts of the government they do not like. They tend to follow actions in this vein, for example, with irrational demands to expand military spending (often as a way to support military-industrial corporations, which donate heavily to their political coffers e.g. ordering new tanks when many of the tanks we have are being scrapped because they are unneeded). They seem to be in favor of what they like and not in favor of what they do not. So, there is no position here, just ideological support for “smaller government” in the areas they do not like and larger government in the areas they do.

Conservatives value life. Uh, again, yes and no. Conservatives are frequently anti-abortion. Once you are born, however, you are on your own. And if you make a really big mistake, like breaking the law while black or brown, they are staunchly in favor of the death penalty. So, again, this is a statement meant to portray conservatives in a good light, but really, who doesn’t value life, especially their own? Everyone values life. But being “pro-life” is just ideological cover for what they want to do, like banning abortion, which is a huge government intrusion into people’s private lives. So, here again, their desire for smaller government doesn’t extend to government restrictions on abortion. They want more government regulations in this area, but less in business.

Conservatives believe in helping out people who have less than they do. They just do not want the government involved. They prefer a situation in which the poor know who is giving them a handout. They prefer “charity” as the mode in which we help out our fellow citizens who are struggling. Clearly studies show that “charity” is not up to the task, but still the government, which is really the collective “we” as in “we the people,” should not be involved, say critics. Examples of other countries which have effectively figured out how to provide their citizens with basic supports (healthcare, education, etc.) we cannot copy because well, it would make government effective and the last thing conservatives want is a perception of the government being effective. The government is the only power in play that can rein in uncontrolled capitalism and the richest conservatives do not want that. Government has to be perceived as being inefficient and incompetent … except in the areas they like, such as the military.

Conservatives want things – like in politics – to work. Uh, like everybody else? Actually, they seem to want politics to work the way they want it to and, if it does not, they set about changing how politics works. They recently have been gung ho for voter suppression when historically they have been in favor of the act of voting for everyone. It was just that they began to lose too many elections because the wrong kind of voters were voting.

Conservatives believe in the Constitution and that the Constitution is the paramount law of the land. Well, who doesn’t? It is interesting, however, that whenever the conservatives discover the Constitution doesn’t say what they want, they set about changing it. For example, the Second Amendment right to bear arms was viewed since its writing as a collective right for Americans to bear arms in support of militias. But that wasn’t good enough, so centuries old settled law was changed so that bearing a firearm became an individual right. (With regard to the NRA’s campaign to change the “normal” interpretation of the constitution, Chief Justice Warren Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”) More recently, the Supreme Court’s conservatives have given corporations free speech rights as well as the right to donate as much political money as they want, as if those “powers” of corporations were not just manifestations of their executive officers, giving them super powers as citizens.

Basically, I guess I am arguing that we need to stop using broad descriptive generalizations and, actually, I intend to stop talking about conservatives as people. A responder on Quora who was asked “can conservatives say anything nice about liberals?” responded that he had many nice things to say about people who claim to be liberals but what constitutes a liberal is way too broad for generalizations (epithets yes, generalizations no) so that there was nothing he could say which applied to all liberals. I think the same thing can be said to apply to conservatives.

So, I will try mightily to not talk about conservatives … but conservative ideas and ideology, well, I think there is an open season on those.

September 20, 2018

Our Great Response to the Great Recession

Note The title I wanted and could not create is “Our Great Awful Response to the Great Recession” (mostly due to all of the recent “pat on the back” looks back at our response to the financial collapse).

On the Naked Capitalism website there is a great interview of Michael Hudson in which he simply and clearly points out that our economy is currently still in the tank because of decisions made to bail out political donors and screw average Americans, mostly by President Obama (a corporate Democrat), which were unnecessary and counter to what has worked in the past.

Check it out:

Michael Hudson: 10 Years Since Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy – Did the Economy Really Recover?


September 3, 2018

I Can … Not … Wait!

Filed under: History,Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 9:25 am
Tags: , , ,

I group of enterprising literary researchers decided to apply some modern tech to old problems. The tools exist now to map networks of things, Internet memes, people, you name it. Networks of people and their relationships show some quite common characteristics which can be used to identify them as networks of real people. The researchers decided to apply such a study to The Odyssey. So they mapped out all of the characters and all of their relationships and, well, I’ll let them speak for themselves:

“We found substantial evidence of a ‘real-life’ social structure in The Odyssey. Notably, the characters in each chapter or scene described in the poem’s 24 books corresponded almost precisely to cliques in real-life networks. It led us to wonder: did Homer have a profound understanding of networks, or did he copy key details about his characters and their interactions from elsewhere?

“To examine this more closely, we reran the analysis, this time excluding mythological characters like gods and monsters. The remaining network was even more similar to what you would expect in real life. On the other hand, we ran an analysis that excluded the human characters and kept the mythological ones, and were left with an entirely fictional network. The obvious conclusion is that The Odyssey is an amalgam of real and fictional characters.”

They then went on to say “It is surely only a matter of time, for instance, before someone uses complex networks theory on the Bible.”

Oooh, I cannot wait!

Imagine being able to tell what is hypothetically true and what is assuredly fictional!

August 10, 2018

Why Worship?

Filed under: History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:51 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Not contesting the claims that a god created this planet and sun and everything else and created human beings, why would one want to worship that god? Worship always seemed odd to me, the justification for it weak, and it really, really seemed demeaning. I recall Michael Palin’s “prayer” in The Meaning of Life, “Let us praise God. Oh Lord, oooh you are so big. So absolutely huge. Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here I can tell you. Forgive us, O Lord, for this dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fantastic. Amen.”

Dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. Exactly. To whom else does such flattery go? Only to despots and the like.

I have asked some about “worship,” and the answers all seemed to take it for granted. I see phrases like “Well, he created us and we are grateful.” Really? In the Jewish and Christian tradition, their god didn’t create us, it created Adam and Eve and then Adam and Eve created the rest of us. Granted, according to their scriptures, he created Adam and Even with the capacity to create the rest of us, but they did the work. The story starts to break down when Adam and Eve slough off the high handed restrictions of what they could and could not do in the Garden. The next thing we know, the god curses Adam and Eve and every last person that is to be gotten from them. So, we should be grateful that this god created us and willy-nilly curses us?

Plus, this god was so inept at this human being creation process that he decides to wipe out millions upon millions of people, animals, and plants and “start over.” And for this, worship is appropriate?

I suggest another interpretation. Think of two brothers in high school, one is a freshman and is puny and the other is a junior and humungous. The little brother gets into a scrape and the older brother flies in and not only rescues his little brother but he severely trashes the miscreants that thought that picking on his little brother was a good idea. Now, do you think it entirely out of reason that the little bro might not leverage this situation into a bit of status and power. “Yes, big bro isn’t here right now, but he will find you and thrash you … unless….”

Now, what big brother is more powerful than a god? But, of course the threat has to be made manifest, but this is not hard. Bad things happen daily. To place these at the feet of a god, little bro only has to step in and “interpret” what happened as retribution for not doing what little bro wants. And what does little bro want? Little bro wants control, because he doesn’t know what he might want in the future. For now, it is important to reinforce that control by getting his “flock” to do small things: the more meaningless, the better. Asking people to do things they ordinarily would do for themselves or their community doesn’t show any control being exerted. Instead, getting them to take valuable animals and kill them senselessly to appease the “Big Brother” is very cool. Getting people to throw away their wealth is a real power display. (Thanks for your lunch money; see you next week,” says Little Bro.)

So began, in my humble opinion, worship. It began as a ploy to “appease the gods,” I am sure, at the behest of a wimpy shaman. Strong muscular tribesmen do not need help, they have personal power. Physically underdeveloped tribesmen need to use their wits to get what they want. (It is a common trope in theater to have a small clever character “outwit” a much more powerful enemy or even ally.)

So worship is a manifestation of control. If you can get people to express “dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery” with any sincerity at all, you have reinforced the Little Bro’s authority and control. In theater, again, you never see clerics portrayed as physically imposing. They are, in general, weak and effeminate. As they get older, they get larger but generally by becoming fat, again emphasizing their physical weakness which underlines their actual power.

Getting people to give away their wealth, to destroy their treasured goods, are all things that reinforce the power of the unseen Big Brother. And the reason for doing this? It is only to use that power to serve the interests of the secular and religious elites.

Of what use would an actual god have for “dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery” and the scent of burned animals rising into the atmosphere?

Next Page »

Blog at