Class Warfare Blog

April 6, 2021

Another Look at Dennis Prager’s Biblical Values

I am still pondering Dennis Prager’s take on Judeo-Christian values in his column entitled “The American Civil War Is Over Judeo-Christian Values.”

The next thing to strike me are these two: 3. Just as morality derives from God, so do rights. All men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” declares the Declaration of Independence. 4. The human being is uniquely precious.

This idea that their god has given each of us gifts: physical gifts, mental gifts, and now human rights is laughable. This is a bald-faced power play. By claiming I have given you gifts (You can’t prove I didn’t!) then I create in you a sense of reciprocity, implying you should give something back. (They accept cash and credit cards.) If their god has given us all of our abilities, then why are we so broken? Why are we sinful abominations who can only be saved by investing in Jesus Stock. (Really, would you invest in a stock that only paid dividends when you died? Really, would you?)

And Old Yahweh taught that our role is as his slaves and we have no rights as slaves; we have obligations, especially an obligation of obedience to Yahweh and his priests, but rights? No.

And when is a secular document like the Declaration of Independence used by Christian apologists to make their arguments? Has the Declaration of Independence been made Christian scripture?

And “uniquely precious”? Is that why all Christians are against the death penalty? Oh, they aren’t you say? Most are for it? I don’t understand. They think it is fine that we destroy god’s creation and scatter all of his magnanimous gifts before they can be fully employed. Surely such people should be proselytized, not euthanatized.

And if we are all “uniquely precious” we should be making titanic efforts to feed those thousands of children who die from starvation every damned day, right? Am I right?

How is it that people like Dennis Prager can spout such nonsense with no recognition of the apparent contradictions with actual behavior of Christians. Even the Bible tells us to look at what others do and not just what they say.

April 5, 2021

Who Wants to Think? Really!

I have been reading a revealing and fascinating book of late (They Thought They Were Free, The Germans 1933-45 by Milton Mayer). The author interviewed ten ordinary Germans right after WW2 and came to think of them as friends. Many of the conclusions I had come to about the nature of the German people have been severely corrected. And, I have spent more than a little time reading about and viewing works on WW2, particularly about the Germans (I am also reading a new bio of Hitler).

Consider the following quote from a colleague of the author who was a German college professor.

“The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your ‘little men,’ your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There is no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated by the machinations of ‘national enemies,’ without and within that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?”

Who wants to think?

This was an intellectual speaking, right after WW2, so things were fresh in mind.

Who wants to think, indeed?

I was immediately reminded of Richard Hofstadter’s book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (published in 1964, so also not long after the war). In that book, Hofstadter points out that there has been a large streak of anti-intellectualism in American culture from the beginning. (You may observe it in action right now: anti-vax, flat earth, chem trails, climate change is a hoax, etc. All of these are anti-expert and anti-intellectual efforts which find fertile soil to grow in our culture.)

Thinkers, bah, what do they know?

Of course, what I want to write about is . . . what the heck are they talking about? What is “thinking?”

At present we have no idea where conscious thoughts come from, and even less about subconscious mental processes. So, a conscious thought pops into your mind, what do you do? In most people, with most thoughts, we just ignore them and they go away. We need do nothing to make this happen. We don’t have to “shoo” away these thoughts (although I teach my archery students to do just that as there is no time to think non-helpful thoughts while trying to perform at archery). If a thought is important and ignored, it may come back. I tend to think that this is because whatever stimulated that thought in the first place (The house is on fire!) still exists and continues to stimulate that thought. Most thoughts just “go away” and they do not “come back.” And, since we don’t know where they come from, we certainly don’t know where they go to.

So, what distinguishes thinkers from those who do not want to think? Multiple things, I suspect, primarily thinkers are way more likely to grab that thought and examine it, which reinforces its existence, by injecting it into memory, first short-term memory and even long term memory (later). We consider that thought, as I am doing with “Who wants to think?” For intellectuals this is pleasant experience, or failing being that, at least stimulates one’s curiosity. I think it is in this “one thing leads to another” making of connections that much of this pleasure arises. By fitting a new thought in amongst the storehouses of ones memories, one is making that new thought part of what one “knows.” One is learning.

“It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” Albert Einstein

Of course, we are not all alike. I remember a conversation I had while I was in grad school. It was over our backyard fence with a neighbor. She asked what I did and I said I was a student at the nearby college. (One doesn’t volunteer one is a chemist casually. Most people’s eyes glaze over then any conversation begun ends.) She responded with “Oh, you must have read a lot of books.” And I said, just “yes,” not the “thousands upon thousands” that was the truth of the matter (I was an avid reader from age 5.). She looked at me, smiled, and said “I read a book once.”

This natural ability to “let thoughts go” is the core of meditative practices. If you stop accepting thoughts, they come less and less frequently and finally, you get the dial tone of your mind. (I used to think of it as the empty TV screen static but that no longer exists for most people, so that metaphor is now dead/dying.)

Remember this?

If you have a mind like mine, you recover “normal programming” when a meditation is over rather quickly.

So, what do you think? (Do you see how cleverly I worked up to this question; neat, huh?)

PS I had an afterthought! It is clear to me that people who like to think, often have specialties: hobbies, topics, academic disciplines, etc. in which they exert their thinking and then other parts of their lives in which they think as little as possible. So, thinkers are rarely generalists. They choose what it is they will think deeply about, possibly creating a refuge from others. (Intellectuals often have poor social skills and retreat into mental pursuits as a way of escaping the bewildering nature of interpersonal relations. This is why scientists are often considered to be geeks . . . because they are.)

April 4, 2021

Not Quite Done with Prager’s Objective Morality Claim

In the third post in this series I address Dennis Prager’s #1 on his list of Judeo-Christian values: #1 Objective moral standards come from God. In this post, I continue on that topic.

I argued in the prior post that the concept of “objective moral values” was invented as a prop to help define out a god. Otherwise it has no meaning.

In my view, all moral standards and values are subjective. This drives people like Mr. Prager bonkers. Let me explain.

We have collectively come to the conclusion, around the entire globe, that murder is unacceptable. Every culture around the world has a precept or law that says that “thou shalt not murder” and if you do, we will find your ass and if convicted, we will stake it out on an anthill, string it up in a tree, or burn it to a crisp in an electric chair, etc.

So, why is this universal? There are two social tools that all members of a social species need to some extent: empathy and sympathy: empathy being “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” and sympathy being “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune or possessing a common feeling with others.” Any one possessing neither is a sociopath, e.g. Donald J. Trump, and considered “not normal.” (Actually I knew someone who lacked empathy entirely and learned to fake it to get along, so whether real of fake, getting along requires this.) In this manner members of social species are connect emotionally. If someone is murdered, the outrage, pain, sense of loss, rage, etc. are felt, probably to a lesser degree but felt, by everyone on the community. It is not just about how we are hard-wired (by God or evolution) but that we also share such emotions.

Now there are some organizations who have a different “thou shalt not murder” rule, e.g. Murder, Inc., the Mafia, etc. There are rules like, “you don’t hit no one without a sanction from the Capo.” Capisce? In essence, murder is okay when directed by someone high above. This is not at all far from what the Biblical Hebrews experienced. When “hits” were sanctioned, they murdered men, women, children, the aged, goats, you name it. It was sanctioned so, murder away!

And what is objective about a value based upon the subjective god of worship. In the OT is was a god who was, according to Richard Dawkins: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. But if you appeal to Jesus, you are appealing to the gentle God of Love. (And, oh, by the way, Yahweh and Jesus are the same guy, don’t you know.)

Objective my ass.

By having a subjective moral code, it is capable of being upgraded. At one time in this country, human slavery of the most abominable sort was legal and morally acceptable to many, many people. We decided that was not right and made slavery illegal and morally unacceptable. That, I think, is an improvement.

But an “objective,” god-ordained morality is not capable of revision. The Bible says that slavery is fine by God, so it should still be acceptable and legal now, no? So says Dennis Prager . . . no?

I am done for now. Whether I am done . . . done remains to be seen.

Continuing on Dennis Prager’s Judeo-Christian Values Definitions

In this third post, I will address Prager’s first “Judeo-Christian value” #1 Objective moral standards come from God.

Basically, the entire concept of “objective moral standards” comes from people propping up their god concept. If there were no “gods” then there could be no objective moral standards, so if I can convince you that there are “objective moral standards,” I am convincing you that there is a god or there are gods.

This is usually done by offering, as an example, a moral precept everyone subscribes to, like “thou shalt not commit murder.” Everyone taking this into consideration seems to think: “Well, duh, of course . . . who wants to be murdered, so I want the other guy to know about this rule. And since everyone subscribes to this “rule” it must be god-given.” But that doesn’t establish a god source for such an admonition, just that it is a universal feeling amongst human beings to not want to be murdered.

One could challenge this “objective moral precept” by asking “If this was a universal rule, why didn’t Yahweh give this to everyone?” He only gave it to Hebrews . . . to be applied to other Hebrews. Yahweh made it very clear he had separate sets of standards for Yahweh worshippers and everyone else (marriage rules, slavery rules, etc.). So, “thou shalt not commit murder” translates as “though shalt not murder other Yahweh worshippers.” What about the Indians? What about the Chinese? What about the Native Americans? Why were they not taught this “objective moral precept”? This alone, condemned many, many people to Hell out of ignorance of “God’s laws.”

And how is it that Yahweh’s objective moral standards begin with . . .
1. I am the Lord thy God
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
3. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
4. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord that God in vain.
5. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

How is it that these five are listed first and by listing them first implying that they are more important than things like “6. Thou shalt not murder?”

These are also as clear as mud. The whole “graven images” thing was about the common practice of making an idol for placement in a household shrine for worship purposes. So, this was Yahweh (supposedly) forbidding images of itself being so treated and, in so doing, forbidden the worship of other gods or at least worshiping little images of those gods in people’s homes. (This is a theological warfare tactic: out of sight—out of mind.) Number 2 is also odd in that it just requires Yahweh to be at the top of the list of gods, it doesn’t eliminate all of the others. Maybe Yahweh is in first place by a fraction of a percentage point, with Ba’al in second place. That would be okay with regard to Commandment #2. And as long as no image is made of Ba’al (typically represented as a bull) you could still worship Ba’al as your #2 god.

If these are “objective moral standards” (and some argue the “10” are the foundation for the entire list of 613 Commandments) they seem oddly structured. As many have pointed out, shouldn’t “Don’t rape women and children” be on that list? How about “Don’t enslave your fellow many, who was made in my image” or “Be honest in all of your business dealings?” That would solve a lot of problems we face currently (and probably put the Republicans out of business). Even “Wash your hands before eating” would serve better than “don’t take the Lord’s name in vain,” don’t you think? Or if that is too far, how about “Do not lie to, or cheat, or steal from your fellow man?” That would cover the Lord’s name business and a whole lot more.

Clearly these are not “objective” moral standards at all. These are one religion’s moral standards, which do not apply to Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, Shintoists, animist religionists, shamanistic religionists, Druids, etc.

More on Judeo-Christian Values a la Dennis Prager

I am unpacking the statement regarding Judeo-Christian values made by Dennis Prager in his post entitled “The American Civil War Is Over Judeo-Christian Values.” I am not proceeding methodically, just going along with what happens to resonate at the moment (see previous post).

In this case it is “6. Human beings are not basically good. and 7. Precisely because we are not basically good, we must not trust our hearts to lead us to proper behavior.” This general denigration of our physical existence has led to all kinds of misery. Most recently a mass shooter killed a large number of Asian-American massage parlor workers because he was convinced ordinary sexual feelings made him a “sex addict” and that was preventing him for getting into Heaven (or some other nonsense).

Can you imagine what the world would be like if instead they took the approach that our bodies were a gift from God and we must steward them to provide a platform for our own holiness. We must eat right, exercise, and honor our feelings. If our feelings seem to run counter to what people say is acceptable, we should seek counseling from those in our community who are wise about this topic.

The funny thing is the Bible tells us that “8. All human beings are created in God’s image.” Why the heck would a god create us to look like him and be like him but with untrustworthy instincts and being basically “bad” to the core? Plus at the end of the day of creation that God created “man” He, Himself, declared that it was “very good:” (“And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.”). How do you get from “very good” to “basically not good” without criticizing the creation as having been flawed?

I detect people making shit up, don’t you?

Next time I will address #1 Objective moral standards come from God.

Now We Know . . . Thanks to Dennis Prager

There has been much discussion over the years about “Judeo-Christian values” but often this term is just a wishy-washy substitute for whatever one wanted to state as their beliefs. Dennis Prager, of Prager University (PragerU) infamy, has taken this out of the murky and into the clear in a column entitled “The American Civil War Is Over Judeo-Christian Values.”

His context is “the current civil war in the United States and the rest of the West is essentially a battle between those values and the left, which rejects Judeo-Christian values.” Ooh, I wonder who gets the grey uniforms and who gets the blue?

At a minimum, Prager does define “Judeo-Christian values,” which is a step forward. I will quote him so as to not misrepresent him.

“Judeo-Christian values are essentially another term for biblical values.”

And here they are:

“1. Objective moral standards come from God.
2. God judges our behavior, and we are therefore accountable to God for our behavior. Outside of a religious worldview, there is no higher being to whom we are morally accountable.
3. Just as morality derives from God, so do rights. All men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” declares the Declaration of Independence.
4. The human being is uniquely precious.
5. The world is based on a divine order, meaning divinely ordained distinctions. Among these divine distinctions are: God and man, man and woman, human and animal, good and evil, and nature and God.
6. Human beings are not basically good.
7. Precisely because we are not basically good, we must not trust our hearts to lead us to proper behavior.
8. All human beings are created in God’s image. Therefore, race is of no significance. We all emanate from Adam and Eve, whose race is never mentioned. That many religious people held racist views only testifies to the almost infinite ability of people to distort what is good.
9. Fear God, not man. Fear of God is a foundation of morality.
10. Human beings have free will. In the secular world, there is no free will because all human behavior is attributed to genes and environment. Only a religious worldview, which posits the existence of a divine soul – something independent of genes and environment – allows for free will.
11. Liberty. America was founded on the belief that God wants us to be free.”
“When Judeo-Christian principles are abandoned, evil eventually ensues.”

(Source: From the Right column dated 3-30-2021)

* * *

It will take several posts to unpack this, so I will just start by noting that #11 is beyond the pale. “God wants us to be free?” WTF? Fear this god, worship this god, or you will burn in Hell; insists on being called “Lord”—interesting idea of what “being free” is. Elsewhere Prager claims the these values are based upon the Old Testament but the OT is about one thing and one thing only: obedience or rather disobedience. It is even stated that the Hebrews were “stiff necked” a technique used by oxen to refuse the yoke. And the phrase “refuse the yoke,” Yahweh’s yoke, I believe is applied to the Hebrews. This hardly reeks “freedom,” now, does it?

Prager, like many an apologist, picks and chooses where to apply “Old Testament values.” Many of these people also talk about the “New Covenant” of God with all peoples, replacing the “Old Covenant” of God and the Hebrew Yahweh fearers. According to Prager, this wasn’t a replacement covenant, this was a revision, with some new chapters added to the old. Others claim that the OT is “null and void.” Which it is, Christians don’t say, but if it is the second, then they should stop quoting the OT.

And, the “new American Civil War” . . . no hyperbole there <sigh>. At least he doesn’t refer to the “War on Christianity.” According to Mr. Prager’s thinking, the original American Civil War was also fought over Judeo-Christian principles. The South wanted to maintain the Biblically-endorsed institution of slavery and the North, here apparently representing the “Left,” wanted less not more slavery. Why Mr. Prager is not talking about that war puzzles me.

There will be more coming.

March 31, 2021

The Role of Tradition in Culture

Back when I was in college I got my hands on a set of “The Story of Civilization,” then about ten volumes I think, and read them. I then found and read “The Lessons of History” from the same duo. These are brilliant expositions on the “big picture” of human history and, I am sure, full of mistakes and flaws as are all works of history, but glorious nonetheless.

I ran across a quote or summary of a point made in The Lessons of History; here it is:

“It seems arrogant to doubt tradition too much, to think that your supposedly brilliant mind could develop a better solution in 30 or 40 years than humankind has developed over thousands of years of working together. For this reason, it’s quite possible that we discount how useful and powerful religion can be.” (Will and Ariel Durant)

It “seems” arrogant? Hmm. It might if there were tradition minders woven into the scheme of our culture, but traditions happen willy-nilly, especially religiously. (Yes, I am aware of massive convocations held to determine what dogmas and traditions will be in this or that church, but most of these meetings are stage shows for the spectators rather than real working sessions. Most of the decisions of such councils were already made before they convened.)

I often refer to traditions as “the ways we have always done things,” not as a disparagement but as a reminder that traditions are cultural memories. So, that crafts and arts and knowledge not get lost over time, they are made into “traditions,” that is something important to remember. A son learning a traditional craft from his father might be cheeky enough to ask “why” during a training session but was liable to receive a slap for his challenge. A good father reinforced the importance of this knowledge/skill being transmitted and made it “special” in the mind of the son.

So, traditional knowledge was passed from father to son, mother to daughter and from uncles and aunts, too. This was knowledge too important to be left to chance: what plants are poisonous to eat, the hunting grounds for certain animals and the techniques used to hunt them, the techniques used to knap rocks into tools, etc.

Now, these “learnings” were hard to come by and dangerous if lost, but as the pace of change has accelerated, are lost at an ever increasing rate. Why? Because the traditional knowledge became irrelevant. For example, when tools made of metal became commonplace, being able to make cruder versions out of stone became less valuable. The convenience of email and texting has made letter writing a less important skill.

Tradition yields to change over time and that is normal. So, in the phrase “It seems arrogant to doubt tradition too much” the key words are “too much.” So what constitutes “too much?” Discarding useful things has consequences, but sometimes it spurs rediscovery or even invention that betters the whole situation. I suggest that possibly what is being said is that tradition is not something to discard casually.

And that brings me to “it’s quite possible that we discount how useful and powerful religion can be.” I wish they would have said “religion is” because there is a large gap between “can be” and “is.” In any case, religion is the embodiment of tradition. Although these traditions seem to be far much less pragmatic than flintknapping, or basket weaving, or growing the Three Sisters. (Which is why religions horned in on other, more useful, traditions (Blessing the crops, blessing the harvest. marking the changes of season).The Durants (both dead now) were on the whole religious positivists, that is, all in all, religion has been a positive force in human society. I, on the other hand, see religion as a control mechanism to coerce the labor of the masses to serve the interests of the elites, both religious and secular.

In the context of religious tradition, therefore, do we ask: “Has this or that religion become a tradition passed over? Is it time to discard it?” This question is being acted out in American culture right now. The rise of the “Nones,” people who participate in no religion has been accelerating and now the Nones outnumber the most popular religious sect in the U.S. (We’re No. 1!; we’re No. 1!) What few people know is that a majority of the Nones still harbor some sort of belief in a “higher power.” They have not thrown off the shackles of supernatural nonsense, they have just thrown off the shackles of “houses of worship.”

I am one who thinks that superstitious nonsense is not at all helpful as it is all make believe. The comfort religion supplies is based upon being familiar, for example. To get to the place where we can discard the tradition of believing superstitious nonsense, we have to discard religion, a reinforcer of superstition nonsense first, so I guess progress is being made . . . cautiously, as the Durants would advocate. Instead of Shakespeare’s “First, kill all of the lawyers,” we are at the “First, defund all of the priests” stage.

Progress marches on!

March 29, 2021

You Have a Conscience, Right?

I have been writing about the major axis existing for all sentient social species, that of dividing up our collective responsibilities from our individual responsibilities. In science fiction there are species with “hive minds” in which the individuals are totally subordinate to the collective (think of bees or the Borg). There are also species that are total individualistic. These are, of course, fictional, because we do not see these on Earth, where we are basically the only sentient social species.

I had a bit of a revelation when I heard a recent discussion of what we call our conscience. It was referred to as a subconscious function of our minds but I don’t see it that way. It seems to me that our morality is either taught to us or learned by us and so is like any other knowledge that we acquire. Possibly it is tinged with emotion more than anything else. I am sure you can remember occasions when as a child, you had an inner debate that began with the thought “If I do I am going to get in trouble!” (or feelings that amount to those words). Such thoughts/feelings come from where thoughts come from (which we still don’t know) and are conscious, not subconscious. They may be accompanied by emotional affect (tingling sensation, quivering, shuddering, etc.).

So, what is this “conscience thing”? I suspect it is a label we give our thoughts on issues that fall into the category of morality. I don’t think it is a thing in itself, like curiosity seems to be. It is, in my humble opinion, a social construct, the monitor so to speak of our social compact with one another. This is why in some cultures our consciences include feelings of how to deal with witches and in others this is absent.

So, basically, the fact that we recognize that “having a conscience is a good thing” is a recognition of our collective responsibilities to one another. It is rare, I suggest, that our consciences provide any guidance for us when the only person affected by the triggering action is us ourselves. Some claim that individual responsibilities come up in such a context religiously, but I suggest that those are collective feelings brought about by the teachings of a religious community. It is not a god which is the enforcer of our behavior but the approval or disapproval of those in our religious community. This is supported by the wide variations of what is acceptable behavior in various religions.

What this amounts to, if my supposition is correct (that our conscience is a monitor of our collective responsibility of others), is that if a matter impinges upon one’s conscience, then the responsibility is communal, not individual. If you see a child suffering because his/her parents’ cannot afford to take them to a doctor and you “feel bad” about that (empathy) but also pangs of conscience, then you are acknowledging that this is an area that belongs under our collective responsibilities and not just an individual responsibility.

Of course, there is no such thing as complete honesty when sharing feelings, consciences, etc.

February 24, 2021

Powerlessness

Powerlessness is something we all experience. I remember seeing The Incredible Hulk TV show for the first time, as a 30-something year-old man, having read Hulk comics in my youth and I had the thought, seemingly for the first time, that I wished I had the ability to turn into a green monster and trash all of those who oppose me. Powerful people do not, I suspect, harbor such thoughts.

Powerlessness is a hallmark of the religious, which is interesting because in my view, religion exists to control the behaviors of the masses to serve the interests of the elites, both religious and secular. So, powerless people are participating in a practice that guarantees their powerlessness. Religious Irony should be a term.

Another facet of this I read about today was in a post on the medium.com website (The Optimism of Satan by Mitch Horowitz), in which the author stated: “The ethical or spiritual search, not as idealized but as actually lived, is a search for power. That is, for the ability to possess personal agency. We pray, ‘Thy will be done.’ We mean ‘my will be done’ — hoping that the two comport.”

He added “The novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer . . . detected, (that) we are not very different from the classical magician when we strive, morally and materially, to carry forth our plans in the world — to ensure the betterment of ourselves and our loved ones; to heal sickness; to create, sustain, and, above all, to generate things which bear our markings, ideals, and likenesses. All of this is the expenditure of power, the striving to actualize our drives and images.”

Ah, to heal sickness. I am still drawn to fantasy novels, from Marion Zimmer Bradley to L.E. Modessit, Jr. who have characters who heal by mysterious forces, that is they have the “power” of healing. I learned in those books that my name means “the crowned one” and “the hands of a king are the hands of a healer.” I would love, just love to have that power.

We all wish we had more power than we actually do to some extent. This fuels our cooperation with others, for one as a preventative of them being more powerful than us and impressing their will on us and also to acquire the power of the group.

Chrsitianity taps into this, ostensibly for our benefit . . . but not really, by telling us we have an all-powerful friend who will help us, reward us even,  and punish our enemies. This being is all-powerful but for some reason must wait until we die before exerting that power on our behalf. This doesn’t explain, at all, why my enemy, let’s call him Bruce, gets punished when I am Bruce’s enemy and so should not that god be punishing me on Bruce’s behalf? Who gets to be the whipping boy here? Is it determined how much you give when the offering plate is passed around? What?

There is a little mental game we play (at least I do) of: “what I would do if I were in charge.” I have played this game a great many times because I developed a stock line near the end of those discussions of “Well, surely the world would be a better place if we were in charge.” This was almost always followed by laughter, from the knowledge that we do not really want to be in charge, nor would we recognize the right things to do if they bit us in the ass were we in one of those positions. We were just voicing our powerlessness, broadcasting a recognition signal for ordinary citizens as much as the middle-aged grunt is for middle-aged men.

February 22, 2021

I Love Mark Twain

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
Tags: , , , ,

Note I forgot to post this yesterday. I like to post something of a religious nature on Sundays as a Sabbath exercise. Steve

This post was stimulated by the following quotation:

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

This is attributed to Mark Twain but, of course, was never spoken or written by Mr. Clemens. Who actually authored it is unknown, but it seems relatively recent. It has a preachy tone to it which tells you, right there, it is not a Twain quote.

To me the key phrase is “find out why.” A purpose for your life is something you create, not find. The “find” people are all selling a particular brand of snake oil. These are religious creationists who believe we were created by their god for a purpose, for a special purpose, a purpose only they know and you don’t.

Unfortunately, if you ask these people why your or my purpose of life is, you will get wishy-washy ambiguous answers.

Let us take a step backward and ask ourselves, why would a being such as the Judeo-Christian god create a sentient species such as us? Let us set aside for the time being that an incredibly vast universe was created, presumably for a reason and if that reason is so we could be created, then this is more than a spot of bother. Imagine having to build an ant farm the size of the state of California to raise a few dozen ants. (Mind boggling but my analogy erred on the side of caution.)

This god is an asetic god, a being complete and whole in and of itself which needs nothing, so the reason for our creation had to be a want, rather than a need.

So, what purpose could we have been created to serve?

To serve others is often suggested but that makes no sense. If I was created to serve others, what are the others for? To serve me? (My cartoon mind dredges up the Twilight Zone episode with the cookbook “To Serve Mankind.”) To serve god? This also makes no sense as such a god needs no servants. I have wondered why the Judeo-Christian god has so many “helpers.” For example angels. Angels are “spiritual’ beings believed to act as attendants, agents or messengers of God, acting as “benevolent celestial intermediaries between god and humans.” So, God needs attendants? To attend to what? God needs agents? To do what? God needs messengers? Direct revelations weren’t satisfying? This God seems pretty weak if he needs all of these servants to run his business. The Book of Revelations says that there are “myriads of myriads” of angels, so that means 100,000,000 or more of them. No wonder this god’s mansion has so many rooms. (I wonder if there is an upstairs-downstairs arrangement of rooms?)

So, old God doesn’t need company or conversation or someone to make a good beer. So, why did he need human beings? According to the Bible, he must have created humans to learn what it was like to regret and change his mind (both were done in association with the Great Flood, don’t you know). (Both of which contradict His All-Knowingness.)

Now, I am going to take a wild ass guess and suggest to you that many Christians will mumble something along the lines of God created humans to have people join Him in Heaven and to commune with Him. (Does that make God a communist? Just asking.) The more honest sort say that their God wants humans to join Him in heaven so we can worship Him directly. It will be worth it, they say, because we will be blissed out merely to be in “God’s presence.” This, of course, also makes no sense at all because these same people will tell you that this god is “omnipresent,” which means he is everywhere all of the time, so He already is in our presence and we are in His.

Gee, is this making sense, at all? I can see why these religions don’t have question and answer periods after sermons, like there are after virtually every secular speech.

Oh, my point is writing this? Yo, people, stop besmirching Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain’s legacy by attributing things to him he neither said nor wrote. Just stop.

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