Class Warfare Blog

June 4, 2020

Why Science Hasn’t Stamped Out Religion

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:42 am
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I was reading a piece on the Vridar blog site and Neil Godfrey wrote this (in 2013): “Religion has not gone away since the end of the Europe’s religious wars and the ensuing Age of Enlightenment. Indeed, scientific advances and the rise of secularism may even be largely responsible for religious revivals.”

One part of the reasoning behind this statement jumped out at me. As opposed to science, religion puts no intellectual demands on its proponents. Scientists are asked to explain themselves, and argue, and think . . . really, really hard. Religionists, to the contrary, are given warm “There, theres” and are not asked to think. They are not expected to answer or ask questions. They do not have a final arbiter of what is right and wrong as natural scientists have in nature.

As a college professor, I saw a great many students over the years, almost all of whom had selected a major course of study. Since the science courses I taught were not something that other students took to meet a breadth requirement or “for fun,” I tended to see the same types of students. And didn’t encounter students who were majoring in far flung intellectual pursuits. But I did meet and work with colleagues from all over the college. And one could see clear divides in those folk according to their chosen fields of study.

For one, there is a simple dichotomy between scientists and non-scientists that breaks along the lines of, what should I call it . . . social skills (?). Science types, often referred to as “geeks,” often lacked social skills one could observe elsewhere and it is my opinion that science attracts people with poorer social skills because the topic addresses and studies things and not people. (Things can be pinned down, people are inconsistent, variable, and often cantankerous.) Study science and you have fewer people to deal with and more things/facts/etc. (Yes, I know these are broad characterizations. There are many, many exceptions. I myself am a scientist who is suave as hell and comfortable in the company of a wide strata of society. And I need a tongue-in-cheek emoji here.)

Another fault line between scientists and non-scientists is math. To learn math, you must master, to some extent, abstract thinking. This makes a clear line between those who faired well in math (I wasn’t that good, just persistent.) and those who did not.

So, to make an argument or address a problem scientifically, you have to pull non-science types into a realm in which complex arguments, math, and foundational knowledge all are involved in complicated fashions. (Look at how complex environmental issues are often described with simplistic and, at root, misleading explanations. Global atmospheric warming was attributed to the Greenhouse Effect and greenhouses work primarily by not allowing warm gases to escape the house. This is not the mechanism of climate change as we are experiencing it now.)

On the other side of this divide, the religionists are told “There, there . . . all will be well” and other nonsense like “The blood of Christ will protect you in the pandemic.” (The latter led me to wonder where I can get me some of that shit.) It may be nonsense, but it is simple nonsense, making no intellectual demands and offering many reassurances, albeit vacuous ones.

I do not claim that all of this plays out consciously through free will. In general I think most of us drift in the currents of our lives (me, especially). But those unable to accept the complexity of real problems set in a real nature are subject to those more than willing to provide fantasy solutions set in a fantastic nature which are less demanding. All you need is faith and there are no real tests of that any more.

May 29, 2020

The Values of the Western Cultural Tradition . . . Biblically Inspired?

I was reading a book last night and read this: “The implication is that this crisis should be of concern not only to theologians and clerics, but also to intelligent lay folk, and indeed to all who cherish the Western cultural tradition, which in large part derives from values enshrined in the Bible (emphasis mine).”

So, the nature of the crisis aside, have you read something like the italicizes part before? I have many, many times. But right now it seems a sop thrown to the Christians who often form the majority of citizens in Western countries.

So, our cherished “Western cultural tradition” is. . . ? We favor democracies as our governing models. Would a democracy be supported by anything in the Bible? Not at all. In the Bible it is Yahweh or the highway. The only allowed form of government supported by the Bible is a theocracy and a Christian (or Jewish) theocracy at that.

How about . . .
The separation of church and state in the U.S. and elsewhere? Nope.
No religion tests allowed in elections? Nope.
The elimination of blasphemy laws? Nope.
The elimination of anti-abortion laws (on going)? Nope.
The government refusing to support Christian schools? Nope.
Allowing people to get a divorce on their own recognizance? Nope.
Legal same sex marriage? Nope.
Anti-discrimination laws base upon gender? Nope.
Allowing people of different faiths to marry? Nope.
Anti-discrimination laws base upon race? Nope.
Trial by a jury of one’s peers? Nope
Local control of various government functions? Nope
Anti-slavery laws? Nope.

So, what are these “cherished” values “enshrined” in the Bible that are still part of our Western traditions? It seems that we have, step-by-step, weeded out all of those influences as being unenlightened. (Pun intended.)

 

May 11, 2020

Atheists and Good and Evil . . . Again, Still

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:04 pm
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One of my favorite authors on Quora is Barry Goldberg, author of the book Common Sense Atheism. He has the patience of Job and a kindness I cannot address when confronted with incredibly ignorant questions. Here is one of his answers to a question recently posed on the Quora site:

Q: What guides atheists to be good and stops them from doing evil since they don’t believe that hell is real?

A: Wow, what an excellent question! I can only assume that the person who asked it is genuinely wondering why so many Christians who supposedly believe hell is real commit so many crimes and treat their fellow man so badly, whereas atheists generally have a reputation for being kind and law-abiding people. I mean, sure, you could argue that “no true Christian” would ever commit sins knowing that hell is real or that nobody is perfect and Christians are at least trying to avoid sin, but the fact remains that so many supposedly “God fearing” Christians abuse children, beat their spouses, cheat their neighbors, and commit enough crimes to keep our prisons full to bursting, whereas atheists generally don’t do those things (at least not nearly as often).

So how to explain this conundrum? Why do people who supposedly know that hell is real and that they will be punished for all eternity for doing evil actually do evil so much more often than those who do not believe in hell and eternal punishment?

Well, I think it really comes down to basic human nature and the way that organized religion (including Christianity) tends to subvert that basic human nature. Let me explain…

Humans, it can be argued, evolved as social animals to have an innate sense of empathy that lets us recognize other people as fellow human beings and feel sad when we see other human being suffering (as well as feel happy when we see other human beings enjoying themselves). This innate sense of empathy is what lets us work cooperatively in large groups and form societies and has proven to be a very potent survival trait. Which is to say that humans generally don’t do “evil” things to other people simply because we have evolved to not actually want to do evil to other people. Sure, there are exceptions with the odd psychopath, sociopath or politician, but humans in general are like this naturally. If they weren’t, our species would have died out long ago.

And then along comes religion…

Religion does two things. The first is to co-opt that natural sense of empathy that most of us were born with and codify it into various religious laws and commandments. That sounds OK, except for the fact that by doing so religions can therefore claim that these laws and commandments are actually not based on natural principles at all but instead come from some external source that is the sole arbiter of what is “good” and what is “evil.” Humans, religions teach us, are actually inherently evil and need to be told by God that murder and robbery and the like are bad.

And this leads inexorably to the other thing that religion does. Once it has convinced people that they can only know “good” from “evil” by relying on what “God” is said to have commanded, they can then start adding and subtracting from what our natural sense of empathy would otherwise have us believe:

  • “Don’t kill anybody, unless it’s somebody who God really wants you to kill.”
    •  “Love your neighbor as yourself, unless your neighbor belongs to a different religion.”
    •  All life is sacred and must be protected, but the life of an unborn child is more sacred than that of the mother and protection for that child ends the moment it is born.”
    •  All people should be treated with equal respect, unless he or she is gay, in which case they are trying to destroy our way of life and must be discriminated against.”

And, perhaps worst of all:

“It’s perfectly OK if you sin as long as you ask forgiveness afterwards since Jesus died to save you from your sins.”

It’s this last one that I think may be primarily responsible for why so many Christians commit so many sins compared to atheists. Atheists know that they only have one chance at life and know that the only ones who can ever forgive them of their sins are the people they sin against. Christians, however, are taught that all sins committed in this life can be forgiven and even Hitler could be in heaven as long as he sincerely repented on his death bed.

So, it’s a combination of two things, then:

A fear of hell may lead many Christians to perform evil deeds that they have been taught are actually good.

Christian doctrine may lead many Christians to think they have a “Get Out of hell Free” card that lets them sin with impunity as long as they plan to repent later.

Or, to quote Steven Weinberg:

“With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.”

Note: My former Quora blog “Common Sense Atheism” has now been converted into a “Space” at Common Sense Atheism. If you like what I write, please consider following my Space so you can be notified when I add new content.

If you do not current follow anyone on Quora or just want to check it out, Barry’s “Space” is a good place to start.

May 9, 2020

Can Atheists Be Moral?

Note A Sunday-ish post … early! Steve

Being an empiricist, my answer is “of course” as it has been demonstrated over and over that atheists are no less moral than non atheists. But allow me to step away from that and approach the issue differently.

A main approach is that a morality not given by a god is declared to be subjective rather than objective, even worse it is declared to be relative! And I say . . . so?

The declaration of a god-driven morality to be objective is a bit specious in that gods change their minds all of the time, so how is that “objective?” (For people who just gasped regarding my claim that gods change their minds, consider Yahweh’s decision to kill off all of the humans he created by flooding. He basically states that he regretted making us. If that isn’t a change of mind, what the hell is it?)

And subjective and relative are not necessarily bad things. Many of the people who argue in favor of objective morality, that is god-given, politically argue for “local control” of various governmental functions (education, how to run elections, etc.). Local control of things means that local people get to negotiate for what they want to happen. But this would be disastrous when it comes to morality, no?

No.

We are social animals, we negotiate social behaviors on the fly and we are quite good at it. Remember back to when ATMs were introduced? There were no protocols or procedures as to their use, other than the bank’s instructions as to how to operate the machines. But shortly after their introduction, we adopted the general principle that if a line forms, a largish gap was created between the current user and the next user. In this fashion, the current user didn’t have to worry about anyone prying into their business with the bank or swiping their PIN or . . . you know. And who created this process? Who implemented it? Who enforced it? Basically, we did, with absolutely no fuss or muss . . . because we are good at establishing social norms. We have been doing it for millennia and are well practiced at this task.

But moral issues aren’t negotiable, you say. Think again. Some issues are obviously non-negotiable to most people. Just go online and make an argument that murder should not be considered immoral. Do you think you would get any “takers,” serious takers, for your new moral precept? I think not. I think you would get aghast responses from serious people and trolling responses from most of the rest.

And what about the “objective moral code” that said that pre-marital sex would send you straight to Hell? What about the “objective moral code” that said that divorce was an abomination? What happened to the moral code that forbade the mixing of wool and linen in a single cloth to make garments? (Yes, that was one of Yahweh’s 613 commandments.) What happened to the moral code that you should always marry within your faith? What happened to the moral code that you should marry within your race?

If these things are not negotiable, and hence not relative/subjective, how come they are constantly changing?

 

 

May 2, 2020

The Same Old, Lame Arguments

The question is often posited as to why religious apologists, especially Christian apologists, keep using old arguments that have been refuted centuries, if not millennia ago, arguments like Pascal’s Wager, or Anselm’s arguments, or Tertullian’s arguments.

I think I finally understand and it is from a “follow the money” style approach such as serves well in politics. There is a perception that the arguments proffered are designed to convince nonbelievers to become believers, and if any of this actually occurs, I suggest that that is incidental. I think the main audience for such apologetics is not unbelievers, but believers, to keep the faithful in their pews, as it were.

Offering an intellectual argument for why one’s faith is well-founded, even if there is little understanding of the argument by the hearer, lends credence to their faith in the form of “see, this college professor/philosopher/well-educated person believes and he has reasons, even if I do not understand them.”

The re-use of hoary old arguments is based upon some simple facts: one is that the arguments were convincing the first time they were offered (convincing to believers, that it) so if a modern believer hadn’t heard of that argument before, it is a revelation. Young believers on sites such as Quora ask naïve question referring to these arguments as if they were slam dunk conclusive . . . because the people offering them don’t offer a balance treatment when doing so, they only point out the “obvious.” (A balanced treatment would offer discussions of why the argument works at some level and fails at others, such as would be offered in a college philosophy classroom.)

A second reason is that apologists don’t get paid by atheists. They get paid to speak at religious conferences, they get paid because a religious publication accepts their offerings for publication (often professors must “publish or perish”), they get paid to be a guest speaker at a church, they get paid to debate atheists (normal in neutral or churchly settings).

The major admonition in public speaking is to “know your audience.” Most audiences can follow a short snappy argument, but not a long point by point dissection of that argument, for which they have little patience and possibly little understanding either.

Apologists do not often point out that nothing can be “proven” through a philosophical argument. If you have brute facts as premises and a bulletproof argument, then all you have is that “if the premises are true, so too is the conclusion.” In other words, the conclusion is inherent in the premises. If the premises are false or simply are not brute facts, then the conclusions will be also. So, a common method of tweaking an argument is to “tweak” the premises. Here is a common premise used in the Cosmological Argument for the Existence of a God or Gods: “If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.” If this “premise” is accepted, you will conclusively prove that a god created the universe because the only two options are “explanation/no explanation” and we all think there is an explanation. The reason for that conclusion is that the conclusion is buried in the premise. Another way to state that is; “If the universe has an explanation of its existence, the only explanation is God.” So, no other explanation, of the myriad possibilities, is allowed. Well, then, “God created the universe!”

But that premise is not a premise, it is a mere assertion, an assertion of faith in fact. To understand this consider these variations of that “premise?”
• If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is Allah.
• If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is Yahweh.
• If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is Anubis.
• If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is Odin.
• If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Can you honestly argue that any of these is “obviously true,” the normal criterion to be applied to premises in logical arguments?

In fact, one cannot put “God” or “gods” in a premise of a philosophic argument because those are matters of faith and not “brute facts,” that all would agree to. (Another form of religious persecution being directed at Christians, I am sure.)

So, Christian apologists and others, keep trotting out the same old, tired, lame arguments that have existed as zombie arguments for centuries because they have new audiences coming out of Sunday Schools around the country and well that’s what they get paid to do.

April 26, 2020

Why Do Christians Insist that Jesus was a Jewish Messiah?

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:12 am
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I have had this question for quite some time. Christianity is founded not in the slightest on the status of Jesus being a Jewish Messiah. If it were, their scriptures do a horrible job of explaining how Jesus performed that role at all. Instead it sounds like another “god claim” in that he had to be everything . . . because god, you know, and he was an Olympic Champion and won a spelling bee in school, and . . . and . . . just like Yahweh has every god power in the book . . . and he lives beyond space and time . . . and. . . .

In Judaism, a messiah is a human being who is inspired by their god to save the people from oppression. This may be as a war leader or prophet but usually people thought of a war leader who would mobilize the people to overthrow their oppressors.

If Jesus were a messiah in his time, it would be to throw the Romans out, who had been running the show more or less for about a century (ironically enough invited in by both opposing fractions of the reigning Jews of the time; talk about bad judgment). So, did Jesus lead any battles? Not to speak of. The cleansing of the temple probably comes closest but that is probably apocryphal. (Why apocryphal? Ask yourself: Jesus comes in with a “cord” overturning the tables of money changers, but look closely, who is standing behind each of those tables? Answer: a burly guard who would beat the snot out of anyone who came close to his master’s table with ill intent. At least one guard per table would have made a small squad of “corporate muscle” who would have made mincemeat of said Rampaging Jesus™.)

So, shortly after Jesus’ demise, in scripture, the Jews revolt, get crushed by the Romans again, but this time the Temple is razed to the ground, and the followers of Jesus scattered to the winds.

Some messiah. Alfred E. Newman could have done a better job.

A small window on what may actually have gone on there is offered by the book “A Shift in Time” by Lena Einhorn. I am only about half way through but so far she is building up a good case for the scriptures having deliberately placed Jesus 20 or so years earlier in time than the real sources of the story. So, instead of wrapping up Jesus’ life story in the early 30’s CE, they were closer to the early 50’s CE in actuality. Interestingly, during that time, there was an actual insurrection, one involving thousands of participants, etc. and the “magician” who led the insurrection escaped the backlash and so was “at large” and could possibly be “coming back” to cause more trouble in the future.

So, why would this “time shift” be desirable? I don’t know how the author will answer this question but at this point it makes sense to me. If the writers of the gospels (right around the time of the first Jewish-Roman War) are making the foundations of a religion based upon a savior god who will come and whip the asses of Israel’s enemies, and if they told the story as it happened in the 50’s then the Romans would be informed a great deal when the war started up in the year 66 CE. The personages in the stories would be identifiable and could then be rounded up and executed, etc. So, moving the stories back 20 years places them out of recent memory, especially out of the memories of Romans serving in the military.

This explains a great deal about the inconsistencies found in scripture (errors made in making the time shift, probably after the gospels were written) and it established that Jesus was indeed a messiah, having led an insurrection against the Romans, still a failed insurrection, but at least he got a few licks in.

I will provide a more complete book review when I finish the book. (So far, this seems to be a neutral analysis, not having any ax to grind, but like I said . . . ain’t done yet.)

April 14, 2020

The Transmogrification of Donald Trump

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:35 pm
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I saw a bit of an interview with Donald Trump from 40 years ago. He was almost demur; he spoke in whole, coherent, well-thought out sentences. He stayed on topic and the topic was something other than himself. When I compare that performance (he seemed to always be performing rather than just being) with his performance in his “news conference” yesterday, it is hard to claim that this version of Donald Trump is the same man.

I think a fair campaign ad for the Democrats would be to alternate clips of Trump speaking in 1980 and in 2020. Anyone who could ignore the onset of dementia that obvious is not going to be convinced that Mr. Trump is not fit for the presidency by any evidence whatsoever. They are evidence proof, which is why his almost total support amongst evangelicals is so obvious. They have been in training to be evidence proof for most of their lives.

April 5, 2020

Jesus the Miraculous Teacher

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:01 pm
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Writers who touch on the Jesus story often throw sops to believers, one of which that is often prominent is that Jesus was a wonderful, shall we say miraculously good, teacher. But, was he though?

I have even heard atheists throw this sop, but is it true? Actually I think there is no evidence of this and evidence to the contrary. The character Jesus was certainly an apocalyptic prophet, but these were quite common in his era. Let’s look at his teaching. Consider the book we call “Mark,” specifically chapter 4.

The Purpose of the Parables
When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.”

So, here we have Jesus claiming that he deliberately masks what he is teaching so that people will find it anything but easy to understand. If your child were being taught by such a teacher, would you be happy? Aren’t teachers supposed to be finding ways to reach all of their assigned students and to help them understand the lessons?

People who quote from this chapter of “Mark,” often stop here, but let us continue:

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:10-20 New Revised Standard Version)

Here we see Jesus characterizing his students, like President Trump, as winners and losers. For those rootless, there is no hope, etc. But is Jesus not this wonderful teacher? Shouldn’t he be able to reach even those who have doubts, those who have learning difficulties? Those standing on rocky soil?

It is easy to see where the Gnostics came from (Gnosticism has plagued orthodoxy since Christianity began). Scriptures like this definitely imply that there is “hidden knowledge” (Gnosis is “knowledge” and forms part of the word agnostic (= without knowledge), which should be pronounced “a nostik,” the “g” being silent, but is not.) and Jesus sure seems to be making sure everyone knows that such knowledge exists. He even tries to train his disciples on how to pry out the real lessons from the parables, but the disciples are too thick to get the points. (Hmmm, I wonder who would want to portray the disciples as being thick and slow to learn? Why would Jesus pick out such people as disciples? In case you didn’t know, the disciples aren’t mentioned by name anywhere outside of the gospels and Acts in the NT.)

If Jesus wanted to get the message out, wouldn’t he have selected more gifted communicators, the team being a device to amplify the message? Is that a mistake a gifted teacher would make?

I have commented in the past something John Zande pointed out, that Jesus said nothing that hadn’t been said before. So, the only “Good News” (the word gospel means “good news”) that he was proclaiming had to be that the New Kingdom that people had been waiting for for centuries was here . . . now. There is nothing else in his message that is “news,” real or fake.

That there is nothing else new is not surprising as teachers are not people who create the knowledge they teach. (My field required original research to get an advanced degree, so I actually created some “new” knowledge, but that was far in advance of the basic courses I taught so I never got to mention it in any of my classes. Maybe Jesus felt the same way. It is hard to tell with a fictional character.) But clearly the methods employed by Jesus are neither optimal for learning, nor are they egalitarian.

So, if you are inclined to imbue Jesus with other positive traits, please consider them carefully before doing so.

Note In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he refers to Jesus having “appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” This is obviously referring to something organizational, twelve in number. We do not know whether this was inserted at a later date (we do not have the original manuscripts) but this is just three days after the execution, so the “Jesus followers” could hardly have gotten some sort of on-going organization in place, so this may be a reference to said disciples but since this is Paul he may be referring to Jesus appearing before them mystically, not in person, as he did to Paul. (All of the disciples were transformed by Jesus into apostles when he commissioned them to go out and spread the good news.)

This comment in Corinthians, interpreted to mean an earthly meetup, is questionable in my mind as Paul insisted that Christ Jesus was a spiritual being who existed in heaven (and was crucified and resurrected there) and implied frequently that he had not yet walked the Earth, so this is an odd statement when compared with Paul’s christology.

March 31, 2020

The Class War is Over

The Class War is over. What we have left are crumbs tossed our way in a system ruled by savage class-rule capitalism.

Let me ask you this—here is a passage from the gospel we call “Luke” (in Chapter 4):”

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable Year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears.

Do, you know what the Year of the Lord refers to? Isn’t every year a Year of the Lord? (As a child I saw many, many documents dated as such and such a date “in the year of our Lord XXXX.”)

Do, you know what this was?

It was what is often referred to now as a Jubilee year and Jesus just proclaimed this to be one (along with all of the other succor) promised but Jubilee years were usually only proclaimed by kings, often at the beginning of their reign. In the story, this proclamation supports the argument that Jesus thought of himself as a king, which the Romans preferred to exterminate, rather than work with.

In a Jubilee year, all public debts were canceled. This practice came about, not through any largess by the elites but for a practical reason. If private debt was allowed to continue without limit, compound interest, even ordinary interest would result in many people defaulting on their debts. If that debt were held by a private person, the person defaulting was obligated to pay of the debt with their land, and then their labor. well, and the labor of their wives in the bedroom of the debt holder, you know what I mean. But people in debt bondage didn’t pay taxes and they were available to be drafted for public works projects. The elites recognized that the primary debt holder almost everywhere in the region was the central government and the debt was because of unpaid taxes. A crop failure meant someone couldn’t simultaneously feed their family and pay their taxes, so. . . .

So, rulers would start their rule with a debt jubilee, thus making themselves popular and making their economy viable. It was not unusual to need one of these every so often. The Bible even speaks to debt forgiveness.

Now the Pharisees tended to be from the more prosperous segments of Hebrew society, so if Jesus had his way and a debt jubilee were proclaimed, how do you think they would respond? Hmm?

My main point is what Albert Einstein referred to when he was asked what the most powerful force in the universe was and he answered “compound interest.” Our system, however is no longer an autocracy, but an oligarchy. the debt holders are running the country. Do you think for one minute they would sit still for any kind of debt jubilee, even if just for college education debts? Do, you know understand why Bernie Sanders presidential campaign was deep-sixed by the powers that be in favor of a barely comprehendable Joe Biden? (If they would take it from Jesus, Bernie had no chance.)

These idiot oligarchs are acting out the parable of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg and are smiling through the entire thing, reflecting on their own cleverness.

 

Theism in a Nutshell

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:58 pm

Mark Twain once used an analogy involving the Eiffel Tower to address all of Earth’s history. The Earth’s history is roughly four and a half billion years old. Man’s history (modern man) is roughly 100,000 to 200,000 years old, and agriculture dates back roughly 10,00-12,000 years and we didn’t have civilization without agriculture. Most people put civilization back 5000-6000 years.

Some of these estimates were coming available in Twain’s time. And in response to some divine’s claim that humanity is oh, so special that all of history points to our creation was a little like saying the Eiffel Tower is an immense construction, the part of it that would correspond to human civilization would be the layer of paint at the top of its filial and the divine’s claim was like coming to the conclusion that the Eiffel Tower was clearly created to support that topmost layer of paint. (I mean it is obvious, is it not?)

So, inane comments by people speaking outside of their expertise aside, just how did we get from “there” to “here,” theologically at least? Since there are and have been a multitude of religions and gods over that period, and most have some commonalities, it is likely that there are some common human developments that led to these, no?

Here is my best shot at showing where theism came from . . . in the course of human events.

* * *

The Theory of Mind
As social animals we developed ways of “reading” what is going on in other people’s minds from how they present themselves. For example, there is not a three-year old on the planet that can’t tell that their mother is mad at them, without their mother saying a word or do anything.

Agency Detection
We developed the ability to attach an agent to an occurrence. The classic example is a rustling in tall grass a short distance away. Was that due to the wind or is a predator stalking me? Most animals will stop what they are doing, go into a more vigilant state, and if they sense nothing directly, will go back to what they were doing. Humans will think, “it might be wind or it might be a predator, so to be safe, I am just going to move farther away just in case.” The penalty for a false agency attribution is very small if anything. The penalty for ignoring a real agency can lead to the loss of your life, so we became primed to lean toward the signs of agencies being assumed to be real.

Story Telling
Being social animals, good story tellers were and are popular, especially because there was no cable TV when we were hunter-gatherers. When the tribe or a small group was threatened, by a natural phenomenon (flooding river, volcano, earthquake, eclipse, etc.) the natural storytellers, aka bullshit artists, claimed they knew the agent behind that thing (a lightning god, a river god, a sun god, etc.) and might even make up a bullshit ritual to try to placate that god.

Cause and Effect
Our brains are pattern recognizing machines. There is a logical fallacy referred to as “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” which roughly translates as “after this, therefore resulting from it.” Causes have to come before effects, so anything coming before an event is a possible cause and our little pea brains came up with myriad causes . . . even a few that were real.

Death
Primitive humans saw a lot of deaths. In some cases, these were what we call “of old age” or “of natural causes,” meaning there was no obvious cause of death. If a hunter is killed by a prey animal, then they are obviously dead. But when grandma or mother dies when laying on her bed, there is a point just before when she is living (speaking, breathing, etc.) and then shortly after she is dead (not moving, not breathing, looking waxy in complexion, etc. She is still there after (Ten little fingers and ten little toes. . . , yep all there.) but something is missing. What ever was animating grandma is no longer there, but we couldn’t see it before and we didn’t see it leave.

Dreams
You just say Grandma die but while you were sleeping, you spoke to her and she talked to you. She fed you your favorite meal. But when you woke up, she was not there.

From all of these things (there is more I think) can you see where jinns, angels, fairies, and leprechauns come from? Can you see where gods came from? Can you see why these things are mostly invisible or have behaviors that equate to being nearly invisible.

Animism came from our over developed agency detection devices. We saw animals living and dead so what was animating them was invisible, no? So, we have wolf gods, coyote gods, snake gods, etc.

Can you see where shamans came from? Being good storytellers who liked the esteem they gathered in that role and why shamans were reined in because otherwise there was no limit to their powers (other than their powers of imagination).

Can you see where supernatural “causes” came from? We didn’t know what caused rain, or snow, or thunder, etc. so storytellers made shit up. There has to be a cause for every effect, no? (No.)

Can you see where spirits and souls came from? Again, we didn’t understand where our mental powers came from so we must have a spirit like the animals do. This gets changed into a soul by power mongers.

Can you see where the idea of an afterlife comes from? Grandma’s spirit comes to me in my dreams. Where is she? We cannot see her or where she lives any more, so she must be far away. At first we might have thought she was in a cave or on a mountaintop, but after seeing quite a few of those, then dead grandma ends up living in the sky or “another realm.” (Theologians now often state outright that Heaven and Hell aren’t places, so they can’t be found. I gotta buy some property beyond space and time, it’s getting crowded there.)

And can you see why there are so many common elements to supernatural deity worship practices, created by groups of people isolated from one another? We couldn’t borrow such beliefs, because we were far apart, so we made up our own from the same root normal human functions.

When we came together, competition, and the desire to get along resulted in “modifications” to our deities. First we puffed up our own and later we merged “their god” with “ours.” The Romans, rather brilliantly, allowed conquered peoples to keep their gods . . . but also pointed out that their gods and the Roman gods were often the same gods, just having different names. And if they were the same, a few nips and tucks in both made that more obvious. And, of course, the religious powers and the secular powers realized they were better off together than in competition, and so they joined forces. Everyone in a Western civilization, should read accounts of the wars fought over Christianity in its first few centuries. I can recommend the books The Jesus Wars and When Jesus Became God. Both the Romans and later governments became different due to Christianity and Christianity became different due to Roman and other state power. I can recommend the book Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Practices which shows that many current Christian practices were adopted from the Romans and which mirrored pagan practices at the time. (If you want to be a state religion, you have to act like a state religion! And, boy, did Christian Bishops want state power.)

 

 

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