Class Warfare Blog

January 8, 2019

Other Ways of Knowing, Part 2

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:46 pm
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In the ongoing war between faith and science a common claim is that science is not the only way to acquire knowledge, that there are “other ways of knowing.” Along with this I see question after question on the Quora website asking atheists about what “evidence” would convince them to believe in God/Jesus (like we tell them and then they produce it … strange question). The number of these latter questions is smaller than the usual ones asking atheists to prove there is no god or asking for evidence that there is no god, but they are numerous enough.

So, many of these arguments center on “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” arguments which are too nonsensical to take seriously but the “other ways of knowing” response is intriguing. Usually they are referring to “revealed” truth or some such thing through “personal experience” (as if there were any other kind). Interestingly enough, in the vast majority of times in which revealed truths have some up against scientific truths, the revealed truths have come out poorly. This lead me to the following line of thinking.

In legal contests, if one side makes an argument that there is only one interpretation of the evidence and that interpretation circumstantially leads to the guilt of a defendant, the only requirement of the refutation of such an argument is that another equally plausible interpretation be made … not proved, just made. So, if the argument is “god did it,” then in spite of the evidence, all that is needed is an equally plausible interpretation of the “evidence.” Well, that has been provided and, obviously, it didn’t work.

So, consider the following hypothetical scenario. A favorite meme of the ancient alien speculators (they are not theorists) is that an alien race came to this planet and “adjusted” our genetic material to make us who we are now. What if that were true?

So, a flying saucer (or any other equivalent space craft) lands on the White House lawn and after a small diplomatic interlude, their representatives claim that they came back to check on how we were doing, because X numbers of thousands of years ago, they “adjusted the DNA of a hominid ancestor of ours to result in … us. They provide more than credible evidence of this deed (videos, tissue samples, explanations of the DNA “adjustments,” etc.

What happens to the “other ways of knowing” at that point? I suggest that all of them are blown out of the water as the hooey they are. The claim that there are “other ways of knowing” is simple a ruse to protect their “knowledge” from critical inspection.

I suggest that this is not the only scenario that results in all of those “other ways” of folding up like a cheap cardboard suitcase left in the rain. (Cheap cardboard suitcases were the ancestors of cheap plastic suitcases.) Another would be the discovery of significant life on another planet, which could come about through contact or communication remotely. If we found that their set of “beliefs” about nature were different from scientific truths and ascribed to “other ways of knowing,” we would know we were talking to their bullshit artists who were part and parcel with our bullshit artists.

Can you think of other such scenarios? Wouldn’t a benign one of these be lovely? Traumatic for some but lovely collectively. (One can empathize with the traumatized (and I would), but you can’t put your balls on an anvil, pass out hammers, and then complain of the pain you suffer.)

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December 2, 2018

The Real War on Christmas

I play on the Quora website from time to time and the number of questions trolling atheists is truly astounding. Here is just one of them: “If atheists don’t believe in God or Jesus, why do they celebrate Christmas and Easter, the day Jesus Christ was born in the day he rose from the dead … ?” This brought to mind the War on Christmas promoted by Fox (sic) News and leads me to this post.

Which Christian saint is this?

Both the holidays mentioned in the Quora question were highjacked by Christians, that is they existed before and Christians took them over. This was a part of their strategy to obliterate other religions. Christian church buildings were constructed on the foundations of pagan temples, Christian calendar dates were moved to coincide with dates on pagan calendars, and pagan holidays were supplanted by Christian holidays by highjacking the festivals associated with them.

If you look at the iconic aspects of Christmas (feasting, decorated trees moved indoors, gift giving, Santa Claus, etc.) or Easter (egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, May pole dances (archaic), etc.) none of them are associated with Christian practices. Those two holidays were associated with the winter solstice and spring equinox festivals of antiquity. The eggs and rabbits of Easter were fertility symbols associated with the beginning of a new growing season. The word Easter is derived from the name of a fertility goddess (Eostre) and has no Christian roots.

Christmas is supposed by Christians to be a celebration of the birth of the Christ even though the dates do not match up nor do the celebrations. And think about it. If the creator of the Earth and the Heavens and Adam and Eve wanted to create a human representative to spread the good news, why would he impregnate a human girl and make his new “creation” go through diapers, puberty, school, deprivation, hunger, disease, and all of that for a mission that wouldn’t start until the guy was 30 years old? Is that how you would expect an all-powerful, all-knowing god to behave? Nothing that Jesus is claimed to have done prior to the age of thirty has anything to do with the so-called salvation plan. When Yahweh wanted humans in his garden, he made them post haste, as fully formed adults. So, the Christian claim that Christmas celebrates the birth of a god, it is celebrating a 30 year waste of time by a assumed to be perfect god.

So when Christians harp on “remembering the reason for the season,” please do. It had nothing to do with Christianity, so much so that the Pilgrims in America would have nothing to do with it. This should be meaningful to all of you original intent constitutionalists. And it takes a lot of chutzpah for those who highjacked such a celebration (not a holy day) to criticize those who celebrate it the way it was originally intended.

 

November 26, 2018

Meaning, Schmeaning

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:10 pm
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Atheists have to deal with a great many accusatory questions from Christians. One of my favorites is: how can there be morality without God? (Implication: I am an immoral asshole.) I always the questioner ask for a clear, definitive statement of Christian morality and I usually only get a “mumble, mumble, Golden Rule” response.

Another question is” How can there be meaning in life without God? (Implication: my existence is meaningless and, hence, worthless.) Well, we now have an answer! Pew Research has done a survey asking people where they derive “a great deal of meaning” and “the most important source of meaning” in their lives. So, our 70% Christian nation has spoken! Here are the top sources rated from most to least (with the percent responding “provides a great deal of meaning”):

Spending time with family … 69%
Being outdoors … 47%
Caring for pets … 45%
Listening to music … 44%
Reading … 37%
Your religious faith … 36%
Your job or career … 34%

So, what do you think? Is this just additional proof that Satan is in charge “down here?” Is the placement of people’s religion as a source of meaning in their lives right in being between “reading” and “your job or career,” and well behind caring for one’s pets? (Keep in mind Americans notoriously hate their jobs.)

Here’s the article I read (https://religionnews.com/2018/11/20/for-most-americans-new-research-says-family-comes-first/).

Addendum Before you write back to tell me that religion was ranked very high as the “most important source of meaning” in people’s lives religion still came in at 20% (one out of five), half of what “spending time with family” pulled down. And that survey asked about religion and not god. Since there are more than a few atheists who are members of churches (and churches which welcome atheists with open arms) and it is well noted that religion has a significant social component, I wonder where “god” would have ranked? (Basically, you cannot ask that question, because it will encourage people to lie. It would be like the “Does this dress make me look fat?” question.)

November 24, 2018

Was the Universe Created Recently?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:52 pm
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There is a long standing disagreement between scientists and Christian literalists over the age of the Universe. Scientists say that the universe is some 13.8 billion years old while “Young Earth” Christian literalists, who take the Bible as being literally true, claim that it is roughly 6000 years old. (According to one Biblical accountant, the Earth and I share a birthday, but it is 6000 years older than I.)

So, the aspect of this debate I wish to address now is: is the Biblical “creation” event of the entire universe?

A close reading of the book of Genesis does not claim that the universe was created as described. What is described is that the “earth and heavens” were created in that story. In a later verse there is a reference to “the heavens, earth, and the seas” being created then. In order to have old Yahweh create the entire shebang in his act of creation, that is the entire universe, one has to interpret the term “the heavens” to be “the universe outside of the Earth.” Is such an interpretation possible or even reasonable?

Well, if you look at the description of “the heavens” elsewhere in the Bible, there are details as to its composition: there is a firmament, a great deal of water, fixed points of light in the firmament, and seven (count’em seven!) heavens. That is what is claimed for “The Creation™” but not the entire universe.

It has not been even 100 years since galaxies were discovered. (The anniversary of that discovery was yesterday in 1924, I believe. Public announcement came about a month later.) So, if the creation story was to include all of the hundreds of billions of other galaxies, it should have said so (an all-knowing god would know, no?). Actually, the creation stories all over the Middle East, in all of the religions came up with the same characteristics for the rest of the universe, that being what was believed to be true by the philosophers of the time (the Iron Age).

So, Genesis claims that the Earth and the atmosphere, and the seas were all that were created in The Creation™ (along with maybe the Sun and Moon) and that seems more sensible.

So, the actual debate is over the age of the Earth, not the universe. Scientists claim the Earth is 4.543 billion years old while “Young Earth” Christian literalists, who take the Bible as being literally true, claim that it is roughly 6000 years old.

Now, some apologists start their defense of their Young Earth position with “the Bible is not a science textbook” which is a red herring argument. The Bible makes claims about physical reality and it is the Biblical literalists that claim it is true in all aspects. So, it is irrelevant what classification one places the Bible into, it is the claim of inerrancy that is being discussed. The problem here is that the Christians in the debate don’t clarify what slice of the Christian pie they belong to. There are many Old Earth Creationists, and there are compatiblists (Science and Christianity are both right, study it and you will see.), and many, many Christians of other stripes. Then there is the human tendency we all have to support our position in inconsistent ways. There are those who claim the science in the Bible is not inerrant, but the history is. (None seem to be able to indicate where that fact is detailed in scripture.) This is because when it comes to the Bible, people feel free to make stuff up. Since there is no arbiter of what is right and wrong, as there is in science, any old body’s position seems valid enough.

Christians Wage War, Lose, Then Claim Discrimination

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:05 am
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The Great Christian Spin machine is working overtime. Yesterday I shared the story of a Christian missionary who broke the law in trying to sell Christ to the indigenous people on an island near India and got his ass killed for his effort. Now a Christian group claims that this is all part of the war on Christianity.

Christian Group Wants Native Tribe “Brought to Justice” for Death of Missionary

Has Fox (Sic) News infected everyone or is this another tail wags dog story that looks as if it were manufactured by Fox? Clearly the Christian Spin machine has been operating far longer than has Fox.

November 22, 2018

Another Reason to Avoid Religion

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:43 am
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If you believe stupid stuff, it makes you do stupid stuff.

Here is the story (Man killed on remote Indian island tried to ‘declare Jesus’ to tribe) of a missionary who couldn’t hear his God saying “You know, I don’t think this is a good idea.”

November 19, 2018

Culture Signaling

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:11 pm
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There are myriad ways of signally where one stands in our culture(s). One of my favorites is the middle class grunt. This can be observed in any bar in which a middle class man takes a stool at the bar. Often the taking of a seat is accompanied by a slight grunt, as if the climbing thereupon were strenuous. This signal tells all of those nearby that you, too, work for a living and that you deserve the respite of a pint with your friends.

There are myriad ways in which the signal “I Believe in God” is made. While leaving a hotel recently at a too early hour, I was making a cup of coffee to go in the lobby when a cheery staff member asked how I was doing. (I hate perky, by the way, but that’s something else.) I grumbled back that “I was alive.” She responded with “Thank god for that,” and smiled her way away. I did not respond as that would have been unkind.

People often use phrases in ordinary language that identify them as a member in the god-fearing culture. You will hear such way more often in the hinterlands than in big cities but you will hear such everywhere in this country.

Signally that one is religious is a way of signally that you are a trustworthy person, and that you are not a threat. Basically, you have morals. The cost of this is to the people who do not signal back. Atheists are not to be trusted and signally is one way to identify these amoral threats to a good Christian life.

Maybe we need some atheist signals to show the religious crowd that we are amongst them. Maybe “As Daniel (Dennett), Richard (Dawkins) and Sam (Harris) say …” or ‘What would Hitch do?” (WWHD). I don’t think we need a secret handshake or anything but recognition for the Atheist Headquarters in the Colorado mountain bunkers would be nice. Publication of Atheist Statements of Disbelief and the posting of them in public spaces would help, I guess, but I will start with culture signals. What do you think?

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 13, 2018

No, I Don’t Think So, Nope

I started reading the book The Evolution of God by Robert Wright last night and right from the start he declared himself to be an accommodationist.

There have been many such unsettling (from religion’s point of view) discoveries since then, but always some notion of the divine has survived the encounter with science. The notion has had to change, but that’s no indictment of religion. After all, science has changed relentlessly, revising if not discarding old theories, and none of us think of that as an indictment of science. On the contrary, we think this ongoing adaptation is carrying science closer to the truth. Maybe the same thing is happening to religion.

He is even more explicit shortly thereafter:

“These two big “clash” questions can be put into one sentence: Can religions in the modern world reconcile themselves to one another, and can they reconcile themselves to science? I think their history points to affirmative answers.

I am interested to see how he pulls this off. He is hinted that the religious will need to modify their beliefs in the process, so I wish him luck with that.

Here I want to address the first quote above, specifically the part “After all, science has changed relentlessly, revising if not discarding old theories, and none of us think of that as an indictment of science. On the contrary, we think this ongoing adaptation is carrying science closer to the truth. Maybe the same thing is happening to religion.”

Uh, no. In this he is overlooking a few small aspects of science that are completely missing from religion. First, scientists are looking for what works and allow that nature gets to decide. A good scientist follows wherever the evidence leads. If one’s thoughts are refuted, one changes one’s mind … period. (Some struggle at this more than others but a scientist hanging on to disproved ideas can expect only ridicule and pity at best from other scientists.)

Scientists arrive at their truths through criticism of their own ideas (it is required not just encouraged).

Religionists, on the other hand, claim to already know the truth, some claim that they are in possession of all of the truths and that there are no more. They do not systematically examine what they believe to weed out error and mistakes; they do not even encourage that. And they only change their minds when they absolutely have to, often never reaching this state. After all, who is going to change their mind for them. Even in the Catholic Church, whose leaders have accepted parts of evolution theory, there are some Catholics who accept no part of that theory. (In addition the Church’s leadership on artificial birth control has been ignored by 90+% of American women.)

So, the idea that “Maybe the same thing is happening to religion.” is impossible. Any change occurring in religions will not be based upon changing “relentlessly, revising if not discarding old theories” so, while religion does change (the gaps that gods used to hide in have gotten smaller and smaller) it will not be due to the “same thing” as happens in science when it changes. Scientists want science to change, want it to get better, want it to work better. Religionists claim that there is nothing to change, nothing to get better, nothing to work better. It is all correct as is. Why would it want to get closer to the truth? They believe there is no “closer” possible.

 

 

 

The Pox of Religious Freedom Whiners

I was reading an interesting article but was pulled up abruptly. The article is Globally and Abroad, Experts Say Religious Freedom More Than a ‘Commodity’ by Inés San Martín, Nov 12, 2018, Rome Bureau Chief for Crux magazine (“Taking the Catholic Pulse”)

Sometimes an opening paragraph is all you need, but wait … there’s more!

SOUTH BEND, Indiana – At first blush, it might seem there’s not much in common between the stark, in-your-face persecution against Christians in regions such as the Middle East, where people are being killed for their faith, and subtle persecution in other places, such as the quiet removal of crosses from the public arena.

Yet what some would say is that in both cases, religious freedom is either an absolute good, as it’s described in the American constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or it’s simply one “commodity” among many in the political marketplace.

Uh, right … WTF? What “absolute good?”

Here’s what the Constitution says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is the vaunted First Amendment to the Constitution.

Stripping out the parts that are irrelevant to this discussion gives us:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ….

Congress and the courts also made it clear that the states are to be bound by this provision also.

So, the Constitution states that:
1. Congress will neither establish a state religion nor adopt an already existing one as a state religion, and
2. Congress will pass no laws prohibiting the free exercise of a religion.

Now, granted, this is the same government that declared Scientology to be a religion, but I think most people support this provision of the Constitution.

Now the snarky comment by the author of the piece above refers to “the quiet removal of crosses from the public arena.” Arena? WTF? What quiet removal? (Can you imagine a secretive cross removal not being whined about by local clergy?) Another trumped up persecution from the champion of persecution complexes, the Roman Catholic Church. According to the author the freedom of religion is an “absolute good” according to the Constitution. Actually the Founders were trying to create a system of government suffering neither from the whims of monarchs nor from religious wars. Europe in the previous century knew almost nothing but wars of a religious kind. If anything they were writing this so religions would not cause trouble fighting over which religion got to be the government-subsidized one, not that they were an “absolute good.” The Founders had no intention of listing any “absolute goods.” They were even leery of listing rights as they felt that anything left off of such a list would be suspect. (This was why the Bill of Rights had to be tacked on after the adoption of the Constitution, sponsored by the Founders who did favor such a list.)

So, granted that freedom of religion (as described) is a Constitutional right what are its limits? Can we erect crosses on public lands willy-nilly? The courts have said no as that would be “an establishment of (government-sponsored or government-supported) religion. Can my neighborhood church erect a cross on my front lawn and claim religious freedom? Again, the courts say no as that impinges upon my free exercise of my religion. Can I erect a cross on my own front lawn? The answer is yes.

So, what the fuck is this guy claiming? In addition, “the quiet removal of crosses from the public arena” is added to the same column as “the stark, in-your-face persecution against Christians in regions such as the Middle East, where people are being killed for their faith.” This is a common tactic of false persecution claimants: lump in ordinary business with a list of foul perpetrations. This is the same as adding the names of atheists to one headed by Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot.

I think this guy needs to go back to childhood and re-read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” a couple of times.

Addendum That the Founders wish to not include a list of rights was overruled by We the People when we adopted the Bill of Rights, shows the folly of using the “original intent” of the writers of the Constitution as a guide for future actions. (This is a shameful and dishonest ruse used by certain people in a base attempt to get their way.) It also speaks to the wisdom of the Founders that they provided a simple mechanism for such alterations of the Constitution and to their belief that the Constitution w as not an unchanging document.

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