Class Warfare Blog

April 11, 2021

The Justifications of Preaching

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:26 pm
Tags: , , ,

In the early days of Christianity it seems that Christians met in houses as there were no church buildings (a congregation is the people coming together, and this was the first meaning of the word church, which had nothing to do with the building in which the congregating took place). To hold even a small congregation took a house of some size, so the houses used for this purpose were usually owned by the more well-to-do members of the community.

The primary activity at such meetings was the reading of important documents. Since the owner of the house was well-to-do, he was also probably better educated and was, presumably, often the “reader” of these documents to the congregation. Since most of the congregation were poor people, it was quite unlikely that they could read themselves, so they paid rapt attention to the readings because it wasn’t as if they could just “look things up” if they were confused later. These documents were precious to these people and were in the form of copied documents. A letter would be sent by some prelate with instructions to copy the letter (for the congregation) and then pass along the original. Of course this soon devolved into a game of “Telephone” and the documents became more and more corrupted. There were complaints as early as the second century that many of their primary documents were corrupted almost to the point of incomprehension.

The task of copying probably fell to the same house owner, he being one of the only members of the congregation who could write. And, as well, the house owner was not an expert at reading, copying, or any of these other tasks that required professionals to do elsewhere, e.g. temple-trained scribes, for example.

So, the first “office” of a congregation was that of “reader, copyist, host.” No one got up in church to “teach” or “preach.” If anyone spoke it was to share testimony, that is share experiences they had in which they felt Jesus influenced their lives.

It wasn’t until the Romans adopted Christianity as the state religion in the late 300’s that they impressed many of their cultic practices on Christians. It was at this time that the office of preacher began to evolve.

If you are a member of the atheist community, you are probably aware of how woefully ignorant many Christians are of their own scripture. Yet, in many of the churches attended by these Christians, a preacher spends much of the assembled time leading songs (a Roman “innovation”) or delivering a sermon. This is how we got speeches decrying the evils of secular music, short skirts on women, and Democrats worship the devil. Most recently we were treated to one “preacher” who claimed that the “Blood of Christ” would protect us from the ravages of COVID-19. (He died from COVID-19, an example of divine displeasure if there ever was one.)

There has been a substantial brain drain acting upon the clergy. It was not that long ago that intellectuals had three choices of profession: medicine, the law, or the clergy. But many a practice has muscled up in the brain department and now scientists, engineers, education, finance, business types, etc. all have drawn people away from the historic professions. In general there has been a brain drain away from all of the Big Three Professions and one consequence is that we now have preachers who are as smart as a sack of rocks.

These people go to “divinity schools” to take courses in how to preach, and achieve credentials that facilitate them seeking jobs in churches. They all pride themselves in being able to write rip-snorting sermons.

So, they stand in front of congregations ignorant as to what their scriptures actually say and deliver lessons on the evils of atheism, abortion, and Democratic politics. In other words, they consider the wisdom they have to “share” is more profound than the scriptures from which they get the backing for their “opinions.”

Consider what would happen if a church leader were to announce that they would be getting rid of their musical program, skip the preaching and group praying, and engage in a studied reading of the New Testament to deepen the understanding of all of the members of the church of their particular variant of Christianity. I will tell you what would happen—attendance would drop like a rock.

From this we can see what sermons really are. They are entertainment, preferably supporting the biases and positions of those assembled. So, people come to church, they get a little entertainment, their position in their community and their thoughts and prayers are reinforced as being righteous, rinse and repeat.

I do not think “sermons” can be defended on the basis of being a form of teaching, supplementing what people can now read for themselves, because it is clear that most apparently do not read scriptures themselves, otherwise they wouldn’t be so ignorant of what they contain. (Yes, I am painting with a broad brush and yes, I have known Christians who diligently read scripture, but I argue that these folks are nowhere near being a majority of most congregations.)

In addition, these “sermons” have no quality controls over them. A pastor writes up a sermon, delivers it on Sunday and his only fact checkers are his audience. There is no peer review, no organizational review of these sermons and many are just woeful, lacking almost any value to the recipients.

Most attenders of Christian services find them comforting in their reconcilability, their mundaneness, and think that they had to have been this way from the beginning. Actually, most of the structure of our “church meetings” are gifts of pagan Romans. Clerical garb is very close in design to the clothes worn by Roman administrators. The elevated pulpits, the choirs and music, all gifts of the Romans and having no counterpart in early Christianity. (If you are interested in learning more, consider the book “Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices” by Frank Viola and George Barna, two practicing Christians.

April 9, 2021

Now I See Where He Was Going (C.S. Lewis on Moral Laws)

I have been re-reading C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and in my first post on that topic (The Moral Law of Right and Wrong) I addressed his claim that our sense of right and wrong was something other than a set of socially transmitted compact rules. Now that I have finished three chapters I see where he is going. In Chapter 4 (What Lies Behind the Law) Lewis writes “When you say that nature is governed by certain laws, this may only mean that nature does, in fact, behave in a certain way. The so-called laws may not be anything real—anything above and beyond the actual facts that we observe. But in the case of Man, we saw that this will not do. The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong, must be something above and beyond the actual facts of human behavior. In this case, besides the actual facts, you have something else—a real law which we did not invent and which we know we ought to obey.”

Lewis, here, is using a bit of legerdemain as well as dishonest language, mixed in with a bit of ignorance. His statement “The so-called laws may not be anything real—anything above and beyond the actual facts that we observe.” confuses man-made laws (e.g. traffic laws,. tax laws, etc.) with natural laws which are indeed “the actual facts we do observe.” When people started looking for the “rules” behind natural behavior, they observed behaviors which were dependable without fail, for example, unsupported objects fall (straight down). These were and still are, only a set of dependable behaviors we can observe in nature and use to make predictions. It is not the case “that nature is governed by certain laws,” there is no governor, and the “laws” aren’t obeyed. Instead of the “laws” of nature, we might well have said the “behaviors” of nature.

Also Lewis’s use of the phrase “above and beyond” as a source for such laws is disingenuous. He is making a case for his god being the source of the law to which he refers and where does this god reside? Above and beyond our experience, is commonly used to describe his location (yet it is everywhere at the same time, hmm).

And why might dependable behaviors in nature “not be anything real”? In order to be observed, they have to be real, no? Again, language is being used to undermine natural laws as possibly not being real, a criticism used against Lewis’s god, but rarely about observable nature. If observations of nature are not real, then what is? Lewis apparently wants to have his cake and eat it too, as he went to great lengths to paint “The Law of Right and Wrong” as a “natural” law, yet he argues that the law comes not from nature. (Is great puzzlement.)

Lewis is contrasting physical laws (law of gravity, etc.) with the moral law of right and wrong. His argument is that a rock dropped from a height has no choice to “obey” the law of gravity, it just drops. But a man, contemplating an action can consider a rule such as “Do not steal other people’s things!” and can choose to follow the law or not. He is building the case that moral laws have an existence separate from whether or not people obey them, which means they weren’t constructed by nature or even those people, otherwise they would follow their own advice. Rocks are affected by gravity, always, no exceptions. They have no choice. But we do. Natural laws are always exhibited. If a “law” is not, then you know you are dealing with a man-made law, not a natural law.

I think there is a fundamental mistake Professor Lewis is making here and strangely enough, it involves language, which is his field of expertise. Professor Lewis is looking at only the short versions of these moral laws, which appear to be commands, and therefore like man-made laws (being full of “shalls” and “shalt nots”), rather than agreed upon observable behaviors.

When these moral “laws” were negotiated, they were in some sort of form like “we will all be better off if we, as individuals, all pledge to not steal the possessions of others.” (Imagine this stated by a wizened elder when a tribe was in convocation, with the heads of all of the others bobbing in agreement.) But for the simple-minded and the very young, longwinded rules don’t stick in their tiny brains, so we shorten the rules. “If I have told you once, I’ve told you twice, don’t steal!” Parents turn an agreed upon behavior into a command for their children to obey. Why? “Because I am the Mom, that’s why!”

To Lewis, moral laws sound like parentally-shortened rules. So, instead of “Don’t be late for supper, son, it really irritates me and makes extra work for me besides” they get “Don’t be late!” And since these moral laws are universal, which parent model is available to all? Why God, of course. Of course, Lewis doesn’t explain why all of the different gods provide very similar sets of rules, almost as if there were just one source, but there is not such a source. There is absolutely no reason Shiva would create the same moral laws as Huitzilopochtli. But human beings are quite the same the world around so the rules they would come up with would be similar, no? Same source: human beings, same result: common moral precepts.

And were Lewis to argue that there is only one set of rules because all of the others are false gods; there is only one true god, then he would have to explain the differences. The Aztecs tore out the beating hearts of human captives and allowed their blood to run down the sides of their temples as a form of worship, but the Hebrews were told (eventually) that human sacrifice was immoral. If there were only one god, why the variations?

Clearly, even sincere apologists use dishonest language and argumentations because of their beliefs. Assuming ones beliefs to prove ones beliefs is circular reasoning, but also a surefire way to get an outcome you desire. An axiom of argumentation is that the surest way to get a particular conclusion is to get its existence stated as one of the premises. Faith can lead one into making such errors.

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 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.

March 23, 2021

Church Research by Ken Ham

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:41 am
Tags: , , ,

If you are unaware of Ken Ham, he is referred to as “ol’ Hambo—the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else” on The Sensuous Curmudgeon website. Ham is the creator of the Answers in Genesis website and much more including the Ark Encounter in Kentucky, with the usual humans riding dinosaurs like horses displays.

In a post on I ran across this interesting tidbit referring to Mr. Ham:

“Now, if you were a child who was brought up in Sunday school, chances are you have also rejected much of what they taught you as fanciful at best and outright lies at worse. Research from Ken Ham and Britte Breemer at “Answer in Genesis” reveals that Sunday School essentially achieves the opposite of its stated aims — to produce adult Christians.

“Ham and Breemer surveyed over 1000 young adults who had attended church as children. They divided this sample group into those who regularly attended Sunday School and those who did not. They found that compared to those who did not participate in Sunday School, those who did were:
• more likely not to believe that all the accounts/stories in the Bible are true/accurate
• more likely to doubt the Bible because men wrote it
• more likely to question the Bible because it was not translated correctly
• more likely to view the Church as hypocritical
• much more likely to have become anti-church through the years
• more likely to believe that good people don’t need to go to church
Perhaps Sunday School is not as helpful as many mainline denominations might think. But that’s not all that surprising, really, is it?”
(Source: The Lies They Told Me in Sunday School by Dan Foster on

The content of this excerpt is not all that surprising but what shocked me was that Ken Ham (Ken Ham!) shared this knowledge. Surely this gives ammunition to anti-religionists like me. Fascinating.

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