Class Warfare Blog

February 12, 2017

Why Are We Still Legislating Religion?

The talking heads crowd is predicting that we will shortly see new legislation that will expand “religious freedom” in the U.S. This is shocking to say the least since we have had religious freedom for quite some time. Apparently “religious freedom” doesn’t mean what the words say. (Not quite equally shocking is that there will be legislation and not just executive orders.)

My guess is that the “new” legislation will expand the “right” of religious people to discriminate against people who they are doing business with. The highlighted case so far that has become an iconic example is the poor baker who didn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples getting married.

I can understand churches refusing to host gay marriages and I respect their right to do that, but a bakery? It seems now that many “Christians” are claiming that they are running “Christian businesses.” This is a smokescreen at best. I suggest to you that all businesses are secular in nature, that they have nothing to do with religion. And in this I include stores that sell religious artifacts and books, e.g. Christian bookstores, etc. They are not religious activities, they are commercial activities. They offer goods and services for sale in simple commercial exchanges. I have gone into religious bookstores and purchased items. As an avowed atheist, shouldn’t they have refused me service? Actually, the law prevents them from even asking me if I am an atheist, ironically under the religious freedom provisions of our laws, so I suspect they are ignorant to this day that they served a raving atheist. (It is hard to tell us apart from “true Christians,” is it not? They even elected one of us President.)

Any business claiming to be a Christian business had better show me they really mean it. In their incorporation by-laws I expect to see policies like “all debts will be forgiven on New year’s day” and “if we are robbed, we will turn the other cheek,” and “when it comes to paying our business taxes, we will render unto Caesar, that which is Caesars.”

If they can show that their business is truly linked to their religion, then the laws protecting religious activities should be triggered. Otherwise they are just selling cupcakes like every other baker.

It looks, though, that the current administration is seeking to sell indulgences, in this case a get out of jail free card for denying service to customers you do not approve of religiously. This is fascinating in that one of the core causes that resulted in the Protestant Reformation (which was a precursor to the formation of Evangelical Christianity) was the abhorrence for the corruption in the Catholic Church, including the selling of indulgences. The Catholics were selling “get out of purgatory” cards and “get into heaven” cards, which makes the current suggested sale of indulgences seem almost trivial, but it does seem as if we have come full circle.

 

January 12, 2017

Having a Reason to Live, But Wait There’s More!

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

In my last post (Having a Reason to Live, January 12, 2017) I focused on what having a “meaning” for one’s life means. But one sentence in the letter to the editor of that Canadian newspaper from a theist subscriber has continued to have reverberations in my mind. It was the claim that if the letter writer were to subscribe to a secular worldview he would conclude that “I exist on a tiny planet in a minor solar system in an empty corner of a meaningless universe.”

Let me ask a rhetorical question at this point (of you): what do you think would happen to us if all of the other galaxies (200-300 billion by count at this point) were to disappear in an instant? Poof, they are gone and what happens next … to us?

Got an answer? I do.

Basically noting that happens in those other galaxies affects what happens here on Earth. Life would go on quite as it has.

So, why was all of “that” necessary to be created? Why create 200-300 billion galaxies when only one was needed to support life on Earth? It certainly wasn’t to create the conditions to support life here on Earth. In fact, other than the solar system, we could do without the rest of our own galaxy about as well as we are doing with it in existence. Those other 100 billion stars and their planets? Poof, they are gone. Well, that would cause some effect. Other than the Moon and the other planets, the night sky would be black which would be kind of boring, but unless you believe in astrology, those other stars in the sky have no effect on us here, so we can live without them. (Actually the Bible tells us this!)

This Hubble Telescope image shows spiral galaxy ESO 137-001.

This Hubble Telescope image shows spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 plus a lot of meaningless extra stuff.

So, whether or not you live in a created world, the rest of most of the universe is meaningless: meaningless for theists; meaningless for secularists.

Unless . . .

. . . unless, there are “people” on those other planets circling those other stars, in our galaxy and all of the other galaxies, and those people are creating meaning for their own lives. Then … then, the rest of our universe has meaning … just not for us.

 

 

Having a Reason to Live

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:57 am
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It is illuminating to hear from theists what they think “the meaning of life” is. A letter to an editor of a Canadian newspaper from a theist subscriber gives a typical glimpse:
The secular view, which leaves God out of the process, reveals that I am the descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm—the arbitrary product of time, chance and natural forces. … I exist on a tiny planet in a minor solar system in an empty corner of a meaningless universe. I have no intrinsic value beyond my body, and at death I will cease to exist.

“Therefore, I conclude that I came from essentially nothing and I am going nowhere. But, if I am only a dash between the womb and the tomb and I don’t know why, then I must ask if there is any real purpose for my life either now or in the future?

“In contrast, the Christian story offers me tremendous hope. I discover that I am not the result of some cosmic accident but the special creation of a good and all powerful God — His crown of creation. I am created in His image, with capacities to think, love, worship and make moral choices that set me above all other life forms.

“My creator loves me and gave His son to pay the supreme sacrifice for my salvation. I am completely unworthy and undeserving of such love. My salvation is entirely by grace through faith and not of myself.

“Best of all, the fact that Christ died for each one of us and wants to live within us by His spirit in a meaningful relationship makes us incredibly valuable. And when we are willing to accept His gift of salvation, through repentance and faith, we can become children of God and spend eternity with Him.

Okay, so setting aside whether or not this theist’s soul preexisted his life here on Earth, presumably his existence will be spent 99.9% of his time in Heaven where he will … “spend eternity with Him.” Uh, doing what? In order for this person’s life to have meaning it has to be in some sort of context, no? Certainly it cannot have anything to do with “helping other people” as all of the other people in Heaven don’t need help and the people in Hell, well they need help, but … what that’s not allowed?

Apparently the definition of “meaning” being employed here is “something meant or intended.” What is meant here as a “meaning for this person’s life” is that he was created for a purpose and that purpose is to spend the vast bulk of his existence in the presence of his god. Hmm, if I were there, in his god’s presence, I would expect some sort of euphoria, an understanding of all things and why they are the way they are, but then what? Do I just exist with a god buzz for millennia? What good am I at that point? I am not even an example to others because they have no idea as to which “place” I ended up in.

Am I a marker in God’s game? Do He and Satan have a big scoreboard up showing how many souls they have collected? What was God’s purpose in going through this whole thing, and putting us through this whole thing; was it just to have one more “presence” in Heaven? What is life on Earth if it constitutes just a tiny, tiny slice of time in a soul’s existence but determines where the 99.9+% of eternity each of us will spend, either in Heaven or a Lake of Fire? Since wisdom seems to come with age, why are our lives cut off after a measly 100 years or so? What not give us two or three hundred years to figure it out?

“One does not have to be a member of a church to donate time at a food bank
(or even a church, which I have done) or to do other charitable works.”

I am impressed with this theist and the many others who have backed a scheme they know so little about. They make Pascal seem a piker with his puny wager. They have gone all in.

What I find appalling however is the lack of appreciation for the opportunities of life, life on Earth. Unlike rocks, we can do things. Where do the attitudes that generate sentences like “I have no intrinsic value beyond my body, and at death I will cease to exist.” and “I must ask if there is any real purpose for my life.” and “My salvation is entirely by grace through faith and not of myself.” come from? Possibly from theists painting the most dismal picture of secular lives as they possibly can. On the other hand, as a real secularist, unlike the one’s existing in this writer’s imagination, I am grateful for my life. I don’t particularly attribute my life to my parents because I don’t really think they knew what they were getting into. They were responding to the rhythms of life: to live, to cherish, to propagate, etc. I am grateful to my parents for all of the loving care they lavished on me growing up and later in life. I am grateful that I was provided a good education (at least the opportunity for one) and a great deal more. I am grateful to have opportunities to help people, which I do in small ways all over the world. I feel that if my life is to have meaning, then I have to get cracking and make that meaning. If one’s life has a great deal of meaning, then a goodly number of people will remember you positively, so there is a measure of whether or not a good life was lived. People will also tell you whether or not you have helped them, which is very nice direct feedback. Facebook “Likes” and other phony connections do not count and, of course, being remembered for bad actions is not a good thing at all.

One does not have to be a member of a church to donate time at a food bank (or even a church, which I have done) or to do other charitable works. Secularists are not trying to get good grades to get into Heaven, and neither are theists, certainly not the ones who say things like “My salvation is entirely by grace through faith and not of myself.” If salvation comes only by the grace of God, where does the urge to help others come from? Why are theists not participating in an “I am in this for myself” contest with Heaven as the prize? (Maybe they are.) If God really wanted us to be good to one another, why did He not make it clear that we are to do “good works” as a qualification for graduation? Why is the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Why is it not simply “Do good for others, no matter what they do to you”? Now that would be clear, instead of telling us to “turn the other cheek” inviting further abuse, why not do some good for the person who struck you?

December 26, 2016

Holiday BS

At one time there were but three professions: medicine, the law, and the clergy, that is, to be called a professional one had to be a medical doctor, a lawyer/jurist, or a priest/minister/etc. Apparently the expansion of the ranks of professionals has diluted the ranks of these worthy occupations, especially the clergy.

In a N.Y. Times column (Humanizing Jesus, 12-23-2016) by Peter Wehner, the author makes the somewhat offhand remark, quoting a clergyman:
The Incarnation also underscores the importance of relationships, and particularly friendships. The Rev. James Forsyth, the winsome and gifted pastor of McLean Presbyterian Church in Virginia, which my family attends, says friendship is not a luxury; it is at the very essence of who we are. The three persons of the Christian Godhead — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — speak to the centrality of community. When we are in a friendship, according to Mr. Forsyth, we are ‘participating in something divine.’

Now, conflating the Incarnation and the Trinity aside, friendship is not something I would ever denigrate, but “The three persons of the Christian Godhead — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — speak to the centrality of community”? WTF? This is another instance of Christians seeing a parade going by, rushing to the fore, and then claiming they are leading the parade.

The Trinity are not a community. This is not three separate individuals that form a committee/group/barbershop quartet (–1)/etc. This is a little like claiming Batman and Bruce Wayne or Superman and Clark Kent are having a meeting. Is this … clergyperson …. claiming that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are friends? OMG!

This does not speak well of the scriptural erudition of the “winsome and gifted pastor of McLean Presbyterian Church in Virginia.” It also doesn’t speak well for Christianity, peddling such obvious BS. Christianity’s messages are not at all warm and fuzzy. They are not reassuring. They are threatening. We are told to abandon our parents and siblings and to follow Jesus instead. We are told that many priests don’t belong in Heaven (“I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”) We are told that murderers and rapists do belong in Heaven, etc.

And, instead of delivering this core message, clergymen focus on questionable warm and fuzzy occurrences, like the miracle at the wedding in Cana (also mentioned offhand in this piece), at which Jesus is supposed to have transformed water into wine. If you can recall the circumstances, Jesus and his mother were at a wedding and disaster struck, the hosts ran out of wine! The wedding traditions of the time called for a wedding feast for all of the guests, including unlimited food and wine. To run out was very embarrassing. (Why embarrassment was a valid reason to perform a miracle and many other more important events were not, is puzzling.) In any case, Jesus goes around pouring water into the guests drinking vessels and when they taste it they are at the minimum wondering what the heck was going on. Jesus simply looks them in the eye and asks “It is good wine, no?” (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean). All of the guests would quickly figure out what he was doing and go along to prevent embarrassment to the hosts. Any charismatic person could pull this off. Heck, I could pull this off. Yet, a miracle has occurred! (I imagine this started off as a very good story, told sotto voce to one’s intimate friends, but that story had legs and, of course, got embellished. A good story should never be hindered by details.) In any case, this “miracle” was used as an example in this article of “There was joy and purpose to be found in the commonplace.” And, I suppose, great fun in casting demons into a herd of wild pigs, and … oh, well.

I remember at the funeral of an uncle of mine, an avid golfer, that the presiding clergyman claimed that my Uncle Bob was up in Heaven playing golf at that very moment. And, I thought “Wouldn’t the sand traps fall through the clouds?” and other uncharitable thoughts. I understand being a BS artist (I am a bit of one myself) but to do so as a official representative of a very large organization is appalling to say the least. (Are you listening Donald Trump?)

December 25, 2016

… Because the Bible Tells Me So … ♫

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:00 am
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The United Nations Security Council has condemned the building of Israeli settlements on territory captured by Israel in its 1967 war with its Arab neighbors (including the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem). This is quite an unusual occurrence because the U.S., a permanent member of that Council, has traditionally vetoed any such criticisms of Israel but did not this time. Israel, in response, is “re-evaluating its relationship to the U.N.” including a few million dollars it pays to support U.N. activities. That support made possible, we presume, by the hundreds of millions of dollars given to Israeli annually by the U.S.

One news report stated “Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing a biblical connection to the land.

WTF? “… a biblical connection to the land”?

The Israelis are still playing the Bible card? After all Jewish scholars have basically conceded that the Pentateuch and other early “history” books of the Bible are basically fiction and “biblical archaeologists” have found no evidence for the conquest of the “Holy Land” described therein. Without that “conquest” then Israelis have an argument that they have been inhabitants of that region for a long time, but not an argument for being the sole inhabitant or ruling faction in order to support a sole right to possession of that land.

My guess is that the “Bible card,” like the “race card” in this country, will continue to be played as long as it has the desired affect, regardless of whether there is any merit to it. For those who ask “What’s the harm in believing the Bible?” you can add Israel’s intransigence in making peace with their fellow men because they are “special.” Hmm, I wonder if Israelis describe themselves using the term “Israeli exceptionalism?”

December 24, 2016

Yes and No?

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:59 am
Tags: , , ,

A N.Y. Times columnist had a column with the provocative title “Pastor, am I a Christian?” in which the author expressed some doubts about the standard theology of Christianity. The theologian he interviewed on these doubts gave him pretty much the party line so there was little of interest there, but the comments … the comments, now they were interesting.

One such comment said the core of Christianity was Jesus’ mission, basically to sacrifice himself to save all of us from Original Sin. (Basically, He sacrificed Himself, to Himself, to save us all from Himself—Thank you, John Zande!) The very next comment said “Wrong.” Another comment said that the important part of Christianity was not the superstitious mumbo-jumbo but “Jesus’ teachings.”

I have already posted ad nauseum about the “mission” aspect of  Christianity but I have said little of Jesus’ teachings, that is his philosophy. What about that?

It seems that most Christians honor the teachings of Jesus by ignoring them. These “teachings” are relatively sparse, being mostly repetitions of prior scripture, hence not original to Jesus. So, there is little to discuss, as most of that was already in evidence before the Jesus story was written.

Of the new stuff, Jesus told a fellow to sell all of his worldly goods and give what he made from that sale to the poor. I do not see this advice being followed all that much. Most apologists indicate that this advice was only for that man alone and was not meant to apply to every one. I guess they didn’t think he was serious when Jesus said that a rich man had as little chance of getting into Heaven as a camel to go through the eye of the needle. (This term may have been in common use, the “Eye of the Needle” being claimed to be a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed. So, it wasn’t impossible, just quite unlikely.) Since, in this country, the goal of every rich person seems to be getting richer, my guess is none of them are Christians.

Jesus also told people to disavow their families and to follow him, presumably not to the point of becoming human sacrifices, but in this context to follow his teachings, I guess.

He also said that Jewish laws were all intact and were to be followed to the letter. I don’t see any Christians doing this, either.

So, “following the teachings of Jesus” is something almost no one is doing even given the fact that Jesus said almost nothing new or novel. (I say “almost” because right now it is truly nothing new or novel, but you never know when some new document might be discovered.) Basically, Jesus said “Be a Jew and meet me in Heaven.” The rest is quite debatable.

In another piece in the Times a day later (today) quotations and photos of many artists who died in 2016 were offered. One that struck a chord was from Umberto Eco:
I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.
This kind of explains everything. Our brains are pattern recognition engines. We see patterns everywhere and when we do not see patterns, we make them up. So, we are constantly trying to see patterns as they allow us to predict future events and, hence, be safer. If we notice that when a tiger is sneaking up on us through the grass, there is a certain movement in the grass, then we equate “specific grass movement = tiger” and get the heck out of there. There is no penalty if we are wrong, such as when the grass was moved by the wind instead of a tiger, but a severe penalty is possible if we ignore or do not see the pattern and heed it.

So, we run willy-nilly asking “God” (a pattern) to show us a “sign” (also a pattern). And, lo and behold we see them! (Surprise, surprise.) If you combine this very understandable aspect of human brains with a penchant for making shit up, religion is explained quite well, including beliefs in the teachings/philosophy of Jesus when there is really no “there” there.

PS For those of you who wonder why I write about religion in a class warfare blog, religion has been and is being used to oppress those who would oppose the oligarch’s plans for our future. We are told to be meek and mild and that our reward will come after we die. This is so the rich people can have their reward while they are still alive.

 

December 23, 2016

A Time of Year for Worshiping … What?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 2:10 pm
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Creationists seem to think that there is only one process of dating antiquities: carbon-14 dating. Actually the list of techniques that can be used to date materials is rather long, too long to list here (with explanations, names wouldn’t mean much). And the interesting thing is that there is rough agreement between all of these. Realize, though, that all of these do not overlap with one another. Counting tree rings, for example, only goes back a few thousand years, which overlaps with all of the others, but just for a few thousand years. Carbon-14 dating can only go back about the last 50,000 years (modern humans have been around longer). Others go back billions of years which overlap with just a few of the others, so the amount of deep time these techniques covers differs quite a bit.

And what have we learned from these techniques?

If we were to use the age of the Earth as measure, which is about 4.5 billion years, and we were to go back from now to about one sixth of that time, we would find a world containing only single cell organisms. Studies keep pushing the first occurrence of such organisms back and back but let us just say that they first appeared fairly early in this entire time period, much lass than the first billion years of earth’s existence, so “life on Earth” was only single cell organisms for over three quarters of its time in existence.

During that last one-sixth of the Earth’s existence, as we go back from “now” to “then,” life gets simpler and simpler and less diverse, meaning that during this period of hundreds of millions of years, life became more and more complex.

These are just a few of myriad things we have learned about our planet of origin. Once living organisms formed, then the process of evolution mindlessly made life more and more complex. Creationists say this violates the laws of thermodynamics with is incredibly stupid. All the laws of thermodynamics say is if a chemical process involves the creation of more complicated chemicals from less complicated chemicals, then it will cost some energy. And where might that energy have come from? I don’t know … maybe the sun, gravity, lightning, heat from inside the Earth pouring out in volcanic eruptions, etc. There were many sources of energy available to make more complicated things from less complicated. We are still paying this cost. To prevent the collection of very complex chemicals that is each of us from degrading too quickly, we must eat food quite regularly to provide the energy needed to remake complex chemicals to replace those falling apart. This is done by a chemical process called metabolism (scientists have learned about that, too). If we refrain from eating for a month or two, we might die from that (it depends on how much food energy we have stored before we begin).

Creationists, aka Intelligent Design advocates, deny all of this knowledge (from fields of biology, geology, paleontology, etc,) a quantity of denial that is astoundingly large, all because it conflicts with their Bible. The Earth cannot be as old as it is measured to be. Man was created fully formed and all of those fossils of early “men” were really just from apes. The fact that none of these apes show up in our history books or stories is because they all died in the Great Flood of the Bible. They claim that there are “holes” in the scientific story (there are, there always are) but the holes they claim are there were filled decades ago. (Creationists know this, they are just being dishonest, using arguments they think you might buy out of ignorance.)

Basically Creationists/IDers are claiming that God could not have made the Earth … and us … the way we actually demonstrably are because the Bible says differently. They do not believe God is powerful enough to have made the Earth … and us … as our lying eyes show us quite plainly. They do not believe in God so much as they believe in the Bible, a form of idolatry they were warned against by the Bible itself.

A recent blog post asked the innocent question: what if … what if we taught Creationism rather than the massive scientific knowledge that contradicts the claims of the Bible? What would change? Well, I would contend that nothing would change as human beings are pragmatic beings and we tend to ignore and then “forget” nonsense we learn in school. Would people with sick children take them to church to have their demons exorcized or would they take them to the hospital for modern medical treatments? Would people no longer buy automobiles because they contradict the teachings of the Bible? Would cell phones be considered demonic and non-Biblical and hence have to go back to the pit of Hell whence they came? Would we stop exploring space because God gave us dominion over this planet and well, when it is used up, it is time for us to all die?

I think you can answer these questions.

Basically, what the Christian Creationists are denying is that the Bible is man-made, like every other book in existence. The fact that the various books of the Bible were written at vastly different times, indicates that there was more than one author, as does the various viewpoints expressed, the various writing styles, and literally dozens of other facts, etc. Many Christians are unaware that none (zero, zip, zilch) of the original biblical manuscripts are available. Of the earliest copies we have found, there are more differences between those manuscripts than there are total words in the entire Bible. And there were literal battles about what materials should go into the Bible, with people being killed, not just intellectual battles. These, of course, proceeded alongside the battles over how the scriptures were to be interpreted. The book literally screams “man made.”

But Creationists insist that with regard to their special interest, the Bible has no mistakes and is the actual word of god. There are, of course, hundreds of such mistakes/contradictions in their book. These are denied or just waved away with nonsensical arguments.

The real effect were Creationism were to be taught in our schools, either alongside the science or in place of the science, should be the increase of all forms of denial. After all, anything you practice that much should make you good at it. So Climate Change Denial and Evolution Denial would be just the tip of the iceberg, metaphorically.

And, if you get really good at it: denial, that is … why you might just become President of the United States some day!

 

 

December 18, 2016

Theists are Right … But For the Wrong Reason

We all know that the greatest determinant of which religion you will profess is where you are born. For example, if you wanted to find a Hindu, where would you look? India? That would be my first choice. How about finding a Hindu in the U.S.? New York and its environs is a good place to look, as well as San Jose, California and a county out in Colorado that has over 5% of its population comprised of Hindus. The rest of the country? Well, the odds are not good.

Is this a manifestation of “birds of a feather flock together”? Let’s look at this.

I have been reading the book Sapiens recently, which I recommend to you highly, and the author reminded me that gossip may have played a significant role in the development of human culture. The argument goes like this: Homo sapiens, aka modern humans, shared the planet by as many as five or even six other Homo species for tens of thousands of years, then about 70,000 years ago, Homo sapiens took off like a rocket and, well, see any other Homos around (no, not those homos!)?sapiens-cover

The springboard for this rapid growth of human (sapiens, not just Homo) culture has been assumed to have been the development of language, but as this idea has been explored, it cannot have been just language that caused this cognitive explosion. Other hominids had language and modern apes and other animals do as well, so what was it? One idea worth exploring was that it was gossip (yes, that gossip). Small family groups are cohesive because all members of the troop interact frequently. All members are known to all other members and whether they do their fair share of the labor involved is also known. As groups grow and expand to numbers in the 50-100 range, it gets very much harder to keep track of all the members of the troop, especially with regard to trustworthiness, so when bands got to this size, they often split into smaller, more manageable groups. Then some sort of beneficial mutation in Homo sapiens allowed more sophisticated communication via language and gossip was born. Gossip is how a larger community keeps track of the trustworthiness of larger numbers of members.

Interesting, no? It turns out that there are limits to gossip fueling growth in group sizes, though, the common estimate of that limit being about 150 members in a group. Past that point, something else is needed, and that turned about to be fiction. We made up all kinds of ideas that were at best abstract, but were sufficient to keep people working together. Ideas like collective safety, gods, the superiority of the Green Bay Packers, American Exceptionalism, patriotism, etc. These are all at best pure fictions that people repeat to one another until they are accepted as “gospel.”

This is the role gods play in our societies and cultures. When people say they “believe in god,” they are not saying “I believe in a bunch of foolish nonsense” but are saying “I am a useful, moral member of my community.” When people, like me, go to someplace that is god infused like the Ozarks and say “I do not believe in god,” I am basically saying “I am dangerous and not to be trusted.”

This is why religious folk tend to be found clustered together. Their code for “I am to be trusted” doesn’t work if you are the sole Hindu in a Baptist community. The Hindu pass code only works with other Hindus and the Baptist’s code words only work with other Baptists. Actually most Christian sects will give you a pass if you are a Christian, but this has many, many exceptions. Being a Muslim gets you into almost any Muslim community around the globe, one of the strengths of that religion and, I think, a reason it is growing faster than other religions in numbers of adherents.

This “god pass” is a stage away from gossip. One has to live in a community and interact with a fair number of people before there is a body of gossip that indicates that you are a trustworthy member of the community. Even that is fallible, for example, every mass murderer had a neighbor who characterized him (why aren’t more women mass murders, feminists aren’t working hard enough, I guess), who characterize him as a “quiet boy, who seemed polite,” or some other similar characterization.

The “god pass” can get you into a community or keep you out of one. Look at how Muslims are looking for acceptance and often not finding it here in the U.S., even though they profess to worship the same god as most Americans (but apparently not in the right way).

In the absence of such “passes” most people are treated as “others,” that is with suspicion and caution which can expand into hatred and even violence.

The biggest problem with the “god pass” though, is that it has so much baggage with it. There are some here in the U.S. who seem to worship the Bible more than the god it describes and they have definite rules and ideas of how people should behave (that are often not supported by Bible texts, but that’s irrelevant in that their fiction is just supplanting a Bible fiction). If “I believe in god” were just a simple claim of basic trustworthiness and morality, we could find another fiction that could replace it (I believe in the American flag?) fairly easily, preferably one that doesn’t contradict reality so often. But because of the baggage and the links of extraneous things to that baggage, it will be quite difficult.

The only thing I could come up with is I could start selling identity cards that contain a statement that “The Bearer of this card doesn’t not believe in God (or Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, or any other supernatural being) but is basically a good person who wouldn’t hurt a fly unless attacked and just wants to get along with one and all so we can all live good lives.”

We could call it the Good Samaritan Card. Don’t leave home without your God Pass™!

December 6, 2016

The Demolishing of Public Schools for Fun and Profit

Well, not for fun, and I have been wrong about it being only for profit. I have argued that since the plutocrats/oligarchs who really run this country have captured almost all of the major wealth producing activities in the U.S., that they have been more and more attracted to the billions of dollars of public funds spent annually on public education, that the “privatization” efforts going on (Charter Schools! Vouchers! Yay!) were fueled by greed for a share of that pile of money. I still believe that is true but that there is another source of fuel for the fire in the bellies of the current crop of education “reformers.” And, no it is not fun, but religion. And, as usual, it was right there, hiding in plain sight, ignored by the “usual news media suspects.”

“Well, not for fun, and I have been wrong
about it being only for profit.”

There is a long history in this country of fundamentalist religiosity, typically Protestant in nature. Currently, in parts of the country you can see extreme pushback at public schools for teaching mainstream science in the form of the theory of evolution and the phenomenon of climate change. This is understandable. If the theory of evolution is right, then the fundamentalist, “young earth” Christian worldview (and hence the promoting religion promoting that view) is wrong. If they lose the fight over evolution, they will lose the grip their religion has over a large segment of the U.S. population.

In surveys of Americans on the topic of evolution, a significant fraction of U.S. citizens do not believe in it, believing in magic instead, and that disbelief is securely linked to certain religious affiliations. You do not observe anything like it anywhere else in the developed world. The folly of “belief” in evolution is actually preached in their churches, not surprisingly as those pastors preaching it will be out of jobs if evolution is accepted.

The religious right in this country wants control over their school systems to be able to teach what they know is true, and it ain’t evolution. This is the other major force in the current education “reform” efforts. Consider the following:

The religious right has long had the goal of eliminating public education. Candidates don’t need to be closet Reconstructionists to be influenced by the work of Reconstructionists, but it’s worth noting that when R.J. Rushdoony wrote the Messianic Character of American Education in 1963 he argued that education is not a proper function of government. ‘Government schools’ were the vehicle for promoting the anti-Christian religion of humanism and should ultimately be abolished. Few outside his small circle took him seriously.” (“The Republican ‘No Schools Left’ Program” by Julie Ingersoll, August 8, 2012)

Few took Rushdoony seriously in 1963 because we had communists to fight, but now that we done whipped the commies, we have turned to fight the real enemy, the atheists that supported commies all of those years, which when they weren’t eatin’ babies, they was promoting God-less, atheist science in the form of evolution. (“We ain’t no kin to no monkeys!”)

While I poke fun at these folks as being untutored, etc. it really is not that anymore. Their attitudes are not due to a lack of schooling but from the general tendency of us to surround ourselves with other people who think and act as we do. The religious right live in communities dominated by the presence of other religious right people. In their churches they reinforce each other’s beliefs. In their schools, they teach the right way (pun intended), schools in which biology teachers are cowed into teaching something other than the theory of evolution, telling themselves they “ran out of time” to cover it. It is immensely fascinating to me that the religious right has gone all in for the GOP which, while they pay lip service to the religious rights “needs” and “family values,” in general worships only the God of Mammon. But, if a horse is going in your direction, you don’t check its worthiness, you just saddle up.

So, charter schools, vouchers, they are all good as far as the religious right is concerned. They can then set up schools that teach the Real Truth™ and use their own tax monies to pay for it. No need to invoke the Constitution or nuthin’ like that.

November 24, 2016

Religion as a Basis for Politics

I have been writing about religion in the context of a class warfare blog for some time as there are repurcussions to religious beliefs. The article excerpted below by Forsetti’s Justice on AlterNet says it quite well.

* * *

An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America

In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king.

“As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: ‘Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.’”

“ … “

“Because rural, Christian, white Americans will not listen to educated arguments, supported by facts that go against their fundamentalist belief systems from “outsiders,” any change must come from within. Internal change in these systems does happen, but it happens infrequently and it always lags far behind reality. This is why they fear change so much. They aren’t used to it. Of course, it really doesn’t matter whether they like it or not, it, like evolution and climate change even though they don’t believe it, it is going to happen whether they believe in it or not.

“Another major problem with closed-off, fundamentalist belief systems is they are very susceptible to propaganda. All belief systems are to some extent, but fundamentalist systems even more so because there are no checks and balances. If bad information gets in, it doesn’t get out and because there are no internal mechanisms to guard against it, it usually ends up very damaging to the whole.”

“ … “

“What I understand is that rural, Christian, white Americans are entrenched in fundamentalist belief systems; don’t trust people outside their tribe; have been force-fed a diet of misinformation and lies for decades; are unwilling to understand their own situations; and truly believe whites are superior to all races. No amount of understanding is going to change these things or what they believe. No amount of niceties will get them to be introspective. No economic policy put forth by someone outside their tribe is going to be listened to no matter how beneficial it would be for them. I understand rural, Christian, white America all too well. I understand their fears are based on myths and lies. I understand they feel left behind by a world they don’t understand and don’t really care to. They are willing to vote against their own interest if they can be convinced it will make sure minorities are harmed more. Their Christian beliefs and morals are truly only extended to fellow white Christians. They are the problem with progress and always will be, because their belief systems are constructed against it.

“The problem isn’t a lack of understanding by coastal elites. The problem is a lack of understanding of why rural, Christian, white America believes, votes, and behaves the ways it does by rural, Christian, white America.”

 

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