Uncommon Sense

August 18, 2022

The Fear of Death

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:01 pm
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Many talks about religion and existential philosophy harken to the fear of death. As someone who is much nearer his own death than might be comfortable I find this puzzling.

Recently I saw a video clip shown on a cable TV show, of a mountain lion walking up a trail toward the camera. The lion saw whoever was holding the camera and lowered its head as it moved forward. Then it raised up on its hind legs stretched out his front legs with claws exposed and rushed the camera running on its hind legs. The clip ended at that point. Possibly the video was recovered from the bloody remains of photographer, I don’t know. What I do know is I had a very, very, (Very!) visceral sense of fear even though I wasn’t anywhere near the actual lion. My heart palpitated, my breathing became shallow, etc. That is what I call a “fear of death.” Imagine being nose-to-nose with a vicious predator about to rip you to shreds. That is fear of death. Hanging from a rope off of the edge of a tall building and you are losing your grip. What you feel is the fear of death.

What these theologians and philosophers are talking about is some intellectual, vague, diluted fear associated with not knowing what will happen when they die. There is uncertainty about whether there will be pain, unlike the scenarios above when pain is guaranteed.

I was a tad shocked when my favorite Medium.com author posted an article with this:

The fear of death isn’t just an emotion or a willed preference to avoid something. Instead, the thought of being dead is impossible to grasp.  (Benjamin Cain)

Gosh, really? I have grasped it quite well and am preparing my affairs for the event. Being dead is identical to what it felt like before you were born. Remember that? Being dead is like dreamless sleep. There is absolutely nothing to worry about because you will lose the capacity to worry or think anything.

To confuse this rather natural state (we all die) we had to invent religion. I suggest that people who have trepidations about death that their trepidations are mostly caused by religion. (Create a problem, then offer yourself as the solution. Sounds like religion to me.)

Realize I am talking about comfortable Western people, not people whose lives are precarious on a daily basis. Not people who are massively oppressed on a daily basis. I am talking about ordinary Americans, here.

We have to stop demonizing dying. We not only demonize it but we have made ridiculous laws about it. I was envisioning dying at home, and then my partner would call up the pre-paid crematorium specialists who would come collect my body and voilà. But in this state, if you die at home, the state requires there be an autopsy, apparently to rule out nefarious causes of death. Gee, I wonder who gets to pay for the autopsy?

At one time, most children were born in their homes. But apparently there was too much money to be made by doctors delivering kids, that it has become almost a requirement that such deliveries be made in hospitals. The campaign to get this instituted was fueled by fear: what if something were to go wrong? I repeat, not that long ago, most children were born at home. In fact, do you know the first year that your life expectancy went up from going to the hospital rather than down? It was 1932 in this country. And in 1932, as a general practice, children were not admitted to hospitals.

We have to stop demonizing dying. We need to frame it as a completion process. A wrap on a life, so to speak. Celebrate the life of that person, if you knew them and honored them, ignore it other wise. I have always envisioned having a wake after my death. All of my friends and relatives would be invited to come eat my food, drink my booze, and tell lies about me. I don’t think that will happen now as it would be a tremendous imposition on my surviving partner, and well, I don’t have many friends and relatives left. (Many have already died.)

So, I will, instead, just enjoy the peace and quiet of being dead. The only trepidation I have about the event is leaving my partner in a stable financial situation. Elsewise, I have no fear of being judged, being sent to a fiery afterlife, etc. Just fade to black, and “That’s all folks!” <fade to Looney Tunes theme song>.

August 15, 2022

Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 10:16 am
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Congressman Paul Gosar, D.D.S. of Arizona is one of those nut jobs we have in office somehow. It seems that Arizona is contesting Florida for the title of The State Having The Most Nut Jobs In Office.

What brought this . . . person . . . to mind was a “tweet” he made which stated “The FBI raid on Trump’s home tells us one thing. Failure is not an option. We must destroy the FBI. We must save America. I stand with Donald J. Trump.

Clearly, describing the execution of a legal search warrant as a raid begins the rhetoric, and it only gets crazier from there.

But this is not my point. My point is the guy who refers to himself in the tweet as “Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS.” He is a member of the federal House of Representatives and a doctor of dental surgery. But what part of a dental education applies to his role as a political representative? Really? Is it the “open wide, now swallow” part?

Back when I was a magazine editor, I had the practice of including someone’s professional or educational status, e.g. M.D., Ph.D., only if that was a qualification for the positions they were presenting in their article. So, if they wrote about something in their field they were Author Name, Ph.D. but if they were writing outside of it, they just were listed as Author Name.

Clearly this “worthy” wants the esteem we give to doctors to help him in his political standing, but does it? Did Ben Carson’s status as neurosurgeon support his claim that the pyramids were built as grain storage buildings?

August 9, 2022

We Need to Get Organized

The oligarchs in this country have stolen our lunch money and we just stood by and watched them do it. They are few and we are many and they have won their class war by distractions and dishonest dealings, and lying through their teeth.

The GOP has led the charge, but the Democrats sold out organized labor and working people in general in the late 1970’s when they decided that they were the party of working professionals, glibly saying “where will the union members and working people go, but to us.” Well they found out. Many went to the GOP.

I was disappointed when Bernie Sanders, whose presidential campaign had been tanked by his own party, didn’t start up a new party. He stayed in, tried to reform from within, and then the DNC tanked his second run for president by propping up a failing campaign of one Joe Biden.

Georgia is showing the way. They are organizing, organizing, and organizing, from the roots on up.

We need to heed the lesson of Georgia.

August 7, 2022

Evil, Part XYZ

Filed under: Religion,Philosophy,Morality,Culture,Reason,language — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
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There is an article on Medium.com entitled The Problem of Evil and Suffering, with the subtitle of “Is There a Solution?” These things usually drift into theological realms but here I want to address language instead. I have used the metaphor of a number line to describe various states of good and bad. Of course, I start from the beginning with “the opposite of good is not evil; it is bad. Since evil is at the extreme, its opposite must also be at the extreme, and “good” just doesn’t hack it as an extreme.

Okay, let us lay out our number line. In the middle is 0, which is neutral, that is neither bad nor good. Running off to the right are the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. representing various states of increasing good, and running off to the left are negative numbers, -1, -2, -3, -4, etc. representing various states of being increasingly bad. Here . . .

Just off center, we have states which we might describe as “fortunate” (to the right) and “unfortunate” to the left, maybe a 1 or a 2 in those directions. We don’t hear a story about how someone got wet on the way to work because they forgot their umbrella and scream “Oh, how evil!” or “So joyous!” We would be looked at very oddly were we to do so. Such responses are not appropriate, but “Oh, how unfortunate.” is just about right, no?

A little further out are things like, “I stubbed my toe and I have to go to the doctor” and “I think I am in line for a promotion at work!” Even further out are “I fell and broke my ankle” and “My company has had a huge windfall and is sharing it with us!”

I assume you can see where this is going. Concentrating on the bad side we go further and further out, getting to natural disasters, like floods, sinkholes in your back yard, forest fires threatening your home, etc. And even further out, you get things like “The police mistakenly thought I was some kind of major criminal and actually fired bullets at us!” And farther out than that are accidental deaths or wars that happen in your neighborhood, a la Ukraine.

So, where does the line establishing a demarcation between a really, really bad happenstance and a truly evil occasion get drawn?

Here is where I think there needs to be an additional element. I don’t think hurricanes are ever evil. Horrible, terrible, awful, yes, but evil, no. Evil requires human intent, in my opinion. Something has to be perpetrated with intent and be really bad to be evil. A baby is snatched to replace one that died. Someone deliberately kills a guard while robbing a store, for the thrill of it. Gangs having a requirement that an aspiring member must kill someone randomly on the streets to gain entrance. Now we are talking evils.

As humans, we are for whatever reason attracted to extremes. It is like fish stories, every time they are told, the fish gets bigger and bigger. We exaggerate everything. We use phrases like “I could have died!” when we were merely embarrassed, or “I wanted to die” when in a merely uncomfortable meeting.

Evil events are really quite rare, but not if you were to take people’s claims at face value. A boss, denying a workforce’s request for a raise might be called evil, or a judge putting your spouse in jail for a crime, the same. We push things to extremes, we think there are things like absolute truths and objective morals when all of human experience says otherwise. We live in a grey world insisting that things are black and white.

So, the problem of evil could begin by using more accurate language. When you don’t get that hoped for raise, you are “disappointed” not “Someone should kill that motherfucker!” When a car splashed water on your leg, it is unfortunate but not an act of evil.

It is hard to have discussions like “The problem of evil and suffering: is there a solution?” when our language is hyperbolic and far from accurate.

Addendum I think lumping evil and suffering together (as in the article mentioned) is somewhat disingenuous, as one can suffer from a cold and it is not an existential thing. It also pulls evil back away from the extremes when you have to lump it together with mere suffering, which stretches over the entire negative arm of the number line, while evil does not.

August 1, 2022

What Can We Learn from NDEs?

Sorry about the length of this post. Some times you just gotta get things off of your chest. S

For the uninitiated, an NDE is a near death experience. I watched about ten minutes of a documentary on NDEs last night before turning it off as I realized it was unlikely I would learn anything new. (I have read a great deal on the topic over the past decades . . . a great deal. Reincarnation, too. I was a teacher and reincarnation is very attractive to teaching mentalities; basically you have to learn your lessons or it is Summer School for you!)

The primary example in the documentary was from a very credible witness, a surgeon, who was convinced that in a kayaking venture she died and then lived again. This included being underwater for “ten minutes.” And when her body was dragged back to the surface, she was grey and her eyes dull.

She recounted a great many experiences that “occurred” while she was dead. And I have no reason to doubt the experiences, just the interpretations of them.

Allow me to segue to a related topics: dreams. I remember one time turning out the lamp on the bedside table and falling asleep immediately. I fell right into a dream state, a complicate long dream which ended so upsettingly that I started awake. I turned on the lamp again, and the bedside clock showed that a grand total of five minutes had elapsed.

I Googled the question just now: “How long do dreams last?” and one of the answers was “The length of a dream can vary; they may last for a few seconds, or approximately 20–30 minutes.” Apparently the Guinness Book of World Records claims one dream lasted over three hours! Dream researchers also point out that our time sense in dreams is much faster than when awake, so a dream that really took only five minutes could seem like much more time.

Now I mention dreams in a post on NDEs because they have been studied and, in essence, are both creations of our minds. My dreams, at least the ones I can remember, seem to be placed in locales that are familiar, so it seems that those locales are plucked from memories. Also, some of the people in my dreams are people I knew or knew of. (In college I had a recurring dream of having phone conversations with Richard Nixon, he in the Oval Office and me in a phone booth (a phone booth in my college dorm with which I was quite familiar).) So, it seems that dreams use imagery available from visual memories.

So, how do we account for the experiences of people surviving NDEs? (Note People who do not survive their NDE never get to report their experiences.)

I am glad I don’t have to study such things in detail because there are a great many difficulties. For example, many of us think that when we die it is like a light switch being flipped. One moment we are alive and the next, we are dead. This is definitely not the case in most cases. It might be the case of a sniper’s bullet ripping through your brain case at 2500 feet per second, but most of us “rich Americans” don’t die abruptly like that. So, how long does it take to die? Well, if that surgeon’s experience is correctly stated, she was underwater for ten minutes. She could have held her breath for probably 2-3 minutes, but since her lungs were not full of water, she apparently did not inhale while submerged. So, let’s say that she began to die after three minutes underwater, and was dead for seven minutes before her body was pulled from the water, then a couple more minutes were needed before the CPR techniques that saved her life could be marshaled, so lets say that she was “dead” for ten minutes. And she was then resuscitated, so apparently, in that one case, dying wasn’t complete after ten minutes of the process had elapsed. (She recovered all of her physical and mental properties (after her injuries healed) and is back on the job as a spinal surgeon, I am glad to say.)

My brain is clamoring, reminding me of the medieval crypt bells. These were bells that were placed above crypt doors so that people who “resurrected” could announce that they were trapped in the crypt. Now, back then people were placed in crypts with no embalming and sometimes in wait of a funeral, but this time period, from “death” to internment, to resurrection, must have been at least several hours. My feeling is that the instances documented in which “dead” people woke up in crypts were cases in which the people were not really dead, rather in a deep coma that led people to think they were dead.

This brings up the topic of “death” both from a legal as well as a medical standpoint. From a legal standpoint we have statements such as “Two categories of legal death are death determined by irreversible cessation of heartbeat (cardiopulmonary death), and death determined by irreversible cessation of functions of the brain (brain death).” I think the key word in these criteria are “irreversible.” So, if their heart stopped or their brain function ceased, if that were reversed, then they were not dead legally. So, that leads us to medical criteria: how do we detect that hearts and brains have ceased to function?

In action-adventure movies, one of the good guys takes two fingers and places them on a body’s neck (feeling for a pulse) and finding none, pronounces the guy dead or alive (this has the cinematic advantage of only taking seconds of screen time). In medical movies, someone is on an operating table and has a heart monitor hooked up (which we can hear beeping). If the heart monitor indicates that the patient’s heart has stopped, they get out the paddles and deliver electric shocks to the heart and sometimes it starts back up. Since the heart stoppage was reversible, the patient wasn’t legally dead. But medically? A medical dictionary states “Death is defined as the cessation of all vital functions of the body including the heartbeat, brain activity (including the brain stem), and breathing.” They go on and use the word “irreversible” just like the legal people do. But what do doctors do to determine that someone has died? Once again, Google has answers!

When their patient starts to show signs of death, it’s common practice to check for a pulse, pupil response, and heart sounds. Using these three indicators will help the doctor decide whether the patient has any chance of survival. Of course, if the doctor or nurses tried resuscitating or reviving the patient, it’s also important to note how long they tried and for how long the patient was unresponsive.

If a patient is in a coma, their doctor will also check for signs of brain death, including irreversible brain and brainstem damage, an inability to breathe on their own, and, again, a lack of pupil response. An EEG, a test that measures electrical activity in the brain, will flatline when all functions in the heart and brain stop.

Again, the only criterion distinguishing the dead from the dying is that word “irreversible” and that means attempts at resuscitation have to occur and fail, for a death to be certified.

It is hard to separate actual science from legal ass coverage procedures, so all we can say is that determining that someone has died is quite difficult.

It can be argued that all of our NDE testimony is from people who didn’t die, their death signs were clearly reversible, so they fit neither the legal nor the medical definitions of being dead. This is why NDEs are called near death experiences, of course.

But what can explain their experiences? We need to carefully separate their descriptions from their interpretations. People are seemingly very ready to invoke the supernatural, but that is not warranted, in my opinion. For example, dreams that take only seconds and seem to last hours are examples of things our minds can do. So, if we become unconscious (which we do sleeping, no?) and we think we have died and claim that we observed the process from above and can describe it in detail; is that “real?” The entire “death” sequence could be created as a dream sequence either before the brain ceases functioning or after it resumes. (Memories seem to persist a long time as the example of the surgeon above reinforces; she apparently lost none of her medical knowledge.) So, the experiences recounted may seem to have taken a long time, but that’s dream time, not real time.

The Air Force did some interesting research when they started doing centrifuge training for pilots. When jet fighters became so fast and so maneuverable that when movements became extreme, the G-forces caused pilots to black out as their blood was pushed out of their brains. This was disastrous for both plane and pilot. So, the AF created flight suits that squeezed the pilot so his/her blood would be harder to move but they also instituted centrifuge training so pilots would become familiar with G-forces and how they affected their bodies. Interestingly, pilots were getting back in line to have another session in the centrifuge. When queried, they sheepishly responded that just before passing out, they seemed to experience a tunnel of white light and had an experience of incredible peace and joy. It was a real high, they said! Apparently when the brain’s optic nerves got starved for oxygen, their bandwidth decreased so that only a central dot of light was sent to the brain, and the brain, thinking the pilot was in distress, flooded him/her with endorphins to block any pain or discomfort that might reduce his/her survivability. Hmm.

The 711th Human Performance Wing’s centrifuge spins with a test subject inside. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

As to “hovering” above an operating table and “observing” one’s own death, as a child I used to play imagining games, one such was pretending on my bed at night that I could see through my knees. Often enough my pajamas had holes in the knees—I was hard on clothes—and I could even see the frayed edges in my kneesight. I could see my whole bedroom from the vantage point of my knees. How hard would it be for one’s brain which observed the operating theater when rolled in (and many others in the movies, etc.) to construct a dream-like movie of what was going on. How much was going on? Were people coming and going or were they all just standing around working on you. And, even if you were unconscious, your ears would continue to function and send signals to your brain, and . . . und so weiter.

So, what can we learn from NDEs?

#1 Dying takes time. Some people die instantaneously (blown to bits by an IED) while others take many, many minutes, if not longer.

#2 Dying is complicated. Even doctors struggle from time to time in making death declarations.

#3 Mental experiences while in the process of dying are about as easy to interpret as are dreams, which means bloody difficult.

#4 The appearances of beings of light, angels, and gods in near death experiences is proof of . . . absolutely nothing. Would you claim that since God appeared to you in a dream, then He has to be real! If you did, would anyone take you seriously?

So, are “beings of light, angels, and gods” real? I don’t know, maybe. But the probability is small.

Christian Anti-Abortion Zealots

So much about Christianity is incoherent, and the anti-abortion stances of many Christians is probably at the top of the list.

Ask yourself what do Christians believe about birth, life, and death. They claim to believe that fetuses are “ensouled” at some stage in their development. I have to say “at some stage” because various Christian groups are all over the place as to when this happens. (The people who say that this happens at conception are undermining their own point. Estimates are all over the place by a typical one is “The proportion of fertilized eggs that produce a live full-term baby (in the absence of contraceptive measures) is not known precisely, but is probably only 40%.” So, if that is the case, then over half of the souls implanted end up being recycled . . . normally! I am sure God wouldn’t make such an inefficient system. Surely ensoulment occurs at a later, less precarious, stage.)

So, we are ensouled, we live and hopefully find Jesus, and then we die, at which point our soul leaves our body and for our body, well, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, discarded like so much trash. Our soul is what goes to Heaven.

So, if one accepts this Christian worldview, what happens during an abortion? If it happens before ensoulment (the old folks called this quickening), what is lost is a small amount of tissue. No harm no foul happens to the soul. If the fetus is ensouled, when the abortion occurs, what happens to the soul? Does the soul die? Apparently souls are immortal, so the soul doesn’t die, just the body being grown for it wasn’t able to full receive the download, so the soul has to go back into storage. (For science fiction fans, this is like stories in which one’s personality can be downloaded into a computer, and then a clone grown and the personality downloaded into it, and voilà, immortality ensues.)

So, that “aborted soul” goes back into storage (or the loving arms of God, whichever is your preference), and gets its chance another time with another mother.

So, where is the harm?

Harm would occur is the soul was forced into a body distorted by disease and disablements. You can argue all you want about all the lessons to be learned by the disabled (think Steven Hawking) but if you were to give them the options of their malformed body and a sound and whole one, which do you think they would choose? How about if the family (were there one) was unable to care for the child, to feed and clothe it and provide medical care, and love? No, these zealots claim that that soul has to go into that body, even if the body is ectopic, that is dead already, though it is still in the mother.

If these Christians were at all the people of the faith they claim, they would see that abortions are in no way damaging to the souls they claim are the real us.

So, why are they so anti-abortion? It all comes down to power. When people who have no observable power, get an opportunity to wield some, they tend to go whole hog and not think about what they are doing. So, “forgive them, they know not what they do” is right on point. They are viciously against abortions, even though their faith says there is nothing wrong with them.

July 30, 2022

Putting Innocent Questions to Bed

Filed under: History,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:32 am
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Note—Okay, this is a Sunday type of post but Jesus honored the Sabbath on Saturday and if it was good enough for him. . . . Steve

On Quora.com we see myriad innocent (I assume) questions concerning gods, for example “Is God necessary for the existence of the universe?” Another vein of questions revolves around ideas like “how can atheists be so sure when they can’t prove that God doesn’t exist?” (Bwah, hah, hah, read on infidels!)

We can put these naïve questions to bed by examining the god claim itself. A quick look at Wikipedia and we get this: “God is usually conceived of as being omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent as well as having an eternal and necessary existence.” Lets break this down a bit.

Being Necessary
What, for example, is a “necessary being?” In philosophy a proposition is said to be necessary if it could not have failed to be the case. So, a necessary being is a being that cannot fail to exist. It is more than a little strange to be debating the existence of a god or god and have one participant claim “My god cannot fail to exist.” How could they possibly know such a thing? Basically they are slipping a premise that says “God exists” into an argument showing that a god exists. This is the simplest way to win a philosophical argument—slip your desired conclusion into the set of premises. This is also dishonest. I think we can set aside the idea of any god being a necessary being as a conclusion masquerading as a premise.

Being Eternal
Now, eternal; we all know what that means, kinda sorta. This “power” claimed for this god is quite unnecessary. But theists had painted themselves into a corner by claiming that this god created the universe out of nothing. (FYI This is not a claim of the Big Bang Theory; the only people claiming this are theists.) In order for this god to have created our universe it must have pre-existed our universe. How much time it must have preexisted the universe by is irrelevant, it just had to have come before. But if the claim is made that this god is “the creator” of the universe, the question then arises “Who created your god?” They didn’t have a pat answer for that question, so their claim became that their god is uncreated, it is eternal, it has existed forever. So, stop with the snarky questions, okay?

But claiming an eternal god has any number of other problems associated with it. For example, how much time did this god wait before creating this universe? If it is eternal, that amount of time is infinite. (You may note that theists argue vociferously against the existence of infinite regressions, but they actually are embracing one here.) What was this god doing during all of that time? Why did it decide it was time to create this universe 13.5 billion years ago? Was it bored? Had it created other universe with which it was dissatisfied? And so on. . . .

Being Omnipresent
I have written extensively about this power, a power made up by religious authorities, one that has no basis in fact, nor is it needed. Since this god is omniscient and omnipotent, it doesn’t have to be somewhere to observe something happening or being said, nor does it have to be someplace to be able to act. This power only benefits priests and other clerics as a method of controlling their “flock,” by giving them a cosmic eavesdropper/Peeping Tom from whom the sheep cannot hide. So, you had better do as they say!

Being Omniscient
I used to pride myself on knowing a lot of stuff . . . typical male, that is me. (I am a human male; I fix things and I know shit!) But imagine knowing everything, and I mean everything, even the events that will unroll in the future. This eliminates some small things right away, for example, Christians are fond of saying that their god is testing them or someone else in various ways, but why would a god test anyone when he already knows whether they pass or fail such a test? Re-read the Book of Job and constantly remind yourself that Yahweh is omniscient. It is even more perverse than when read straight up as a myth or fairly tale.

The big problem that giving their god this power creates is a deterministic universe. God already knows what will happen, so your future is determined, you cannot choose it to be different. In other words, there is no free will. If there is no free will, how can anyone be responsible for what they do, when somehow a script was written that we had to follow?

Uh oh! Doh!

Being Omnipotent
This power is the subject of catechism student jokes for centuries, e.g. “Is God so powerful that He can make a rock even He cannot lift, Father?” Whole books have been written walking back the “all powerful” capability of this deity. “Can God make married bachelors, Father?” “God can do all things . . .  that logically be done,” my son. So, all-powerful isn’t all-powerful because there are limitations, hmm.

This god power has been beaten to death and has been shown in multiple ways to be impossible, so I will leave it here.

Being Omnibenevolent
This claim cannot be made with a straight face, especially when this god is quoted as saying “I am a vengeful God!” (“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is fierce in wrath. The Lord takes vengeance against His foes; He is furious with His enemies.” (Nah. 1: 2 HCSB)) And, one of my favorite Biblical quotes: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV)

It is hard to blame Satan or the Devil for all of the evil in the world when their god is on record making the claim “I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”

And, of course, just who created Satan and the Devil? And who could uncreate them with a mere thought, but apparently can’t be bothered to do so, because it is nice to have scapegoats around. (And, gee, I wonder who invented the idea of scapegoating? Hmm.)

Conclusion
The basic claim is that there exists a being “conceived of as being omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent as well as having an eternal and necessary existence.” All of those powers are either very problematic or impossible. Mostly they are impossible because each of those powers lacks a mechanism for their manifestation. For example, if God wanted a bath he could manifest a cast iron bathtub, full of hot water, soap bubbles and a couple of rubber ducks. But where would the iron atoms to make the tub come from? Would he create them ex nihilo? Would he make them dance their way out of the earth and into His bathroom to assemble themselves into a tub, a la the Sorcerer’s Apprentice? Without a physical mechanism for this to happen, the only possible claim for the mechanism for such a miracle is . . . magic, and Christians really, really hate magic . . . go figure.

None of these powers has any mechanism of their expression. I have always wondered how omnipresence manifests itself. If god is everywhere, why go to church? How is it possible for God’s eyes and ears (to see and hear) in all of those places at the same time?

And because they have no mechanism to be expressed, they do not exist, not in this universe.

Of course, this is where theists claim that their god exists “outside of space and time,” which is a good thing, I guess, because it cannot exist within space and time, and so cannot interact with anything material in this universe, most especially us.

July 24, 2022

Why We Are All in Danger from This SCOTUS

A precept I live by is “assume incompetence nine times before malice.” It applies to most human interactions, but what happens when incompetence is combined with malice? What you get is the current iteration of the current Supreme Court.

For example, in Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion supporting the Court’s decision to reverse Roe v Wade, he claims that the court restores the U.S. to “an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment [that] persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973,” when Roe legalized abortion nationwide. This is daft. Connecticut was the first state to ban abortion (only after quickening), in 1821, which is roughly two centuries after the earliest days of American common law. So what were people doing for those centuries in which abortion had not been criminalized? (You don’t need to guess, it is recorded history.) It was not until the 1880s that every U.S. state had some laws restricting abortion, and not until the 1910s that it was criminalized in every state (in various forms).

How does the actual history equate to “an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment [that] persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.” (Common law existed from roughly the 1620’s onward.)

Was Alito ignorant? Were his clerks incapable of doing valid research? Was Alito trusting the propaganda of “his side” of the issue? Whatever the truth of the matter is, in making one the most momentous decisions in the history of the court, the conservative justices could come not up with a halfway decent cover story. They resorted to either propagating or repeating lies. This is a pathetic performance.

The conservative justices of this Court have an agenda, which equates to a return to the Articles of Confederation our Constitution replaced in 1789. And they don’t have the smarts to “discover” how wrong they are.

We all should be afraid, be very afraid. No one is safe when this SCOTUS is in session.

No, It is Not Just About Abortion

“. . . the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required equal pay for women and prohibited workplace discrimination against women by any company with more than twenty-four employees.

“The Biden administration proposed updating the expiring Equal Pay Act of 1963 with the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2021, which passed the House on a 217–210 vote but is now blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

“In the House vote, only one Republican voted “Yes”; every other Republican in the House voted “No” to reauthorizing and expanding equal economic rights for women, with the GOP providing all 210 of those “No” votes.

“Men controlling and regulating women to maintain male supremacy in this country has a long history.”
Thom Hartman

There is a long history of male domination of women’s rights in this county, longer than the country itself has existed and it is still occurring. I remember when my first wife applied for a credit card and it came back under the name “Mrs. Stephen P. Ruis.” She wanted the card to be in her name so she could start creating a credit history. This was not allowed. This was the norm in the 1960’s.

Earlier, women didn’t even have a right to their own children, they, in essence, belonged to “the husband.” (And children had even less rights.)

This is what the GOP is doing to “Make America Great Again,” subjugating women and racial minorities, like in the good old days.

July 23, 2022

Can You Spell Irony, Boys and Girls?

North Carolina is responding to the gutting of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling with their own legislation, hoping to make abortion punishable by death.

And these are people who call themselves “pro-life.”

Legislation introduced in the state, beneath the subsection entitled life begins at fertilization, is quoted as saying:

It is a matter of indesputible (sic) scientific fact that a distinct and separate human life begins at the moment of fertilization. As such, that new human life is recognized by the State as an individual person, entitled to the protection of the laws of this State from the moment of fertilization until the moment of natural death. Any person who willfully seeks to destroy the life of another person, by any means, at any stage of life, or succeeds in doing so, shall be held accountable for attempted murder or for first degree murder, respectively. Any person has the right to defend his or her own life or the life of another person, even by the use of deadly force if necessary, from willful destruction of another person. The State has an interest and a duty to defend innocent persons from willful destruction of their lives of persons, born or unborn, who have not committed any crime punishable by death…

And these are people who call themselves “pro-life.”

The North Carolina legislature is seemingly now being led by Achmed the Dead Terrorist, whose response to almost everything is “I keel you!”)

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