Class Warfare Blog

August 4, 2020

Wha???

When I read a great deal about a topic, I am always confronted with the “the more you know, the less you know” syndrome. This is actualy “the more you know, the more you discover there is to know” syndrome, but I also begin to wonder how must respect should be paid to those scholars I am reading.

Consider the following quote: “[The Gospel of John] is written in singularly poor Greek with a very limited vocabulary; the peculiarities of the Greek suggest that the writer was at least more at home in Aramaic. Hence it has been argued that, since the writer knows little Greek, he cannot have been influenced by Greek ideas.” (Some Hellenistic Elements in Primitive Christianity by Wilfred L. Knox, 1942)

“John” is the gospel that begins “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” The Greek word translated as “Word” here is logos, a concept from . . . wait for it . . . Greek philosophy.

Translating the Greek λόγος as “word” is a bit deceiving if not outright obfuscating. “Jesus is the word;” what the heck does that mean outside of Greek philosophy? Especially since logos is not used for a word in the grammatical sense; instead, the term lexis (λέξις, léxis) was used then.

Inside of Greek philosophy, logos was: a principle of order and knowledge, or reason, or wisdom, or explanation, or an argument from reason (Aristotle), or the active reason pervading and animating the Universe, or an intermediary divine being or demiurge (Philo of Alexandria), or the principle of meditation, and I assume, more things.

It seems to be logical that whoever wrote the gospel we call “John” in his execrable Greek, got his “logos” from Philo of Alexandra. Philo (c. 20 B.C.E.—40 C.E.) was a leading figure of the intellectual community surrounding Alexandria in Egypt, a hot spot in the development of Christianity. Philo was a Jew who wrote prodigiously (and note when he was alive) and his primary topic was . . . wait for it . . . wait . . . the harmonization of Hebrew scripture with Greek philosophy.

So, some scholars think that “since the writer (of “John”) knows little Greek, he cannot have been influenced by Greek ideas.” I don’t know how they support their ideas, but . . . understanding Greek aurally, or by reading is easier than knowing it so well that one can write well. It is perfectly possible for the author to have been exposed to ideas from Greek philosophy as the topic had been hot in the Jewish community for decades. Also, should we assume the writer was a lone wolf and had no organizational support behind him? This may be so, in that such support mostly came from the Jerusalem temple before, but the Jerusalem temple is no more at this point. (Plus I don’t know how much support one might have gotten from Jewish scribes when writing about Jesus.) Did the writer of “John” not have a colleague more learned in Greek who could check over his manuscript? What about all of the redactors, aka editors, who twiddled with every other part of the OT and NT? Did they leave his crudeness alone out of respect or were they just being passive-aggressive?

I wonder if the translators who thought the author of “John” had such bad Greek still felt comfortable translating logos as “word.”

Addendum
Of course, my cartoon mind always gets the last word. What was rumbling in the background of my thoughts as I was finishing this was . . .

A-well-a ev’rybody’s heard about the bird
B-b-b-bird, b-birdd’s a word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, bird is a word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, well-a bird is a word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s a word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, well-a bird is a word
A-well, a bird, bird, b-bird is a word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s a word
A-well, a bird, bird, bird, well-a bird is a word
A-well, a bird, bird, b-bird’s a word
A-well-a don’t you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is a word . . .
(Surfin’ Bird by The Trashmen)

But I was hearing “. . . a bird is the word . . .”

July 28, 2020

Motivations According to Conservatives

Unemployment insurance has been, irrationally, deeply controversial. It has always faced bitter opposition from conservatives who claim that it would discourage workers from seeking jobs.

This is a part of their “those people are lazy” mindset which is joined with the belief that if “those people” didn’t have to work, they wouldn’t.

Let’s see how this belief plays out if taken to heart.

In our “pay as you go culture,” you have to pay for everything: you pay for the food you eat, for the shelter over your head, and you pay for the utilities to keep that space livable, you pay for health care. You pay for all of this by getting a job that pays “enough.”

Let’s do an experiment—one that actually has already been done any number of times, but hey, this might be the first time you thought this through. Let’s offer someone who has one of those “keeping body and soul together” jobs, one that pays just enough to be able to pay the rent, keep the TV on, and feed himself (no family), the same amount of income, but he doesn’t need to go to work to receive it.

The conservatives will immediately see this guy in a hammock sipping a mint julep. He just got his ticket punched to Easy Street! Well, we all now know what “staying home” is like during this pandemic. Does it feel like Easy Street? “Are we not entertained?” So, after lolling about for a bit, this “lazy bum” we are paying to do nothing gets the idea that he could get a good job and really expand his income. After all, the government is covering his nut, but not for vacations, cars, or a family. Do, you think this guy would settle for another boring dead end job like he had before? I tend to think he would aim higher. If he applies for 10 jobs but doesn’t get one of those, what has he lost? He still has food and shelter, so he is not desperate. I think we can count on human ambition being at least moderately high. Having that minimum income to backstop him, he is less likely to settle, not more likely.

And what does this say about the shit jobs people were doing for poor wages? What would happen if people said “Why should I break my back for little more than the basic income I get automatically?” Quite a number of those jobs would go wanting. Consequently . . . if you believe in market forces . . . those jobs are not worth doing, or if they are, higher wages are going to have to be paid to entice people to do them.

And, what would a lot of people opting out of the job market do for those seeking jobs? Hmmm . . . fewer applicants for the same number of jobs means higher employment rates. Conservatives can’t argue this is false because they have been claiming for years that Mexicans, illegally in the U.S., are taking jobs away from Americans. We have argued that there aren’t a whole lot of Anglos seeking work in the roofing business in the Texas summer or in the fields picking vegetables, but the conservatives insist that Mexican “illegals” are taking those jobs away from Americans. If so, it has to work both ways. If poor people stop applying for the shit jobs they have been doing, there will be more jobs for Americans who want them.

Now, small business owners will complain (they have little power otherwise) that if they have to pay higher wages to keep people in the jobs they have on offer, they will go out of business. Again, let’s consider a small thought experiment. So, you Mr. Small Business Owner advertise for an employee to fill one of your shit jobs, and several desperate people apply. You pick one and you train them. They perform in a lackluster manner and quit or get fired after a short stint “on the job.” And so, you are back advertising for a replacement . . . again, which you will hire, train, and . . . well, I think you see the cycle. If, on the other hand, the job pays well, and this owner tells an employee they have to pick up the pace, they are much more likely to do so, because the impact of losing a higher paying job is greater. Many people won’t want to lose such a job and so will try harder. Fewer adverts get put, less time is spent training new employees, less over time is paid covering for employees who got fired/quit, etc. Which process is less expensive to the SB owner? I don’t think the answer is obvious.

Conservatives seem to think the very best motivation for poor people is desperation (you have all seen the drug company commercials showing poor people unable to afford the medicine their dependents need, the problem is not invisible). They, of course, reserve special scorn (“lazy and shiftless”) for the racial minorities who are poor, but all of the poor are painted with their wide brush. (They work out their schemes on the Black and Brown poor, and then they always bring it home on the White poor . . . always). On the other hand, in their lives and the lives of other white, privileged Americans, their salaries are more than adequate to meet a family person’s nut for the whole family, and while it may not be enough to pay for a McMansion, or private schools for the kids, and a Porsche, it is enough for cars, vacations, a paid healthcare plan, and a few splurges, etc., and the motivation preferred by this class is greed, pure and simple. They laud hedge fund managers and other financial fat cats as examples of what you can do if you apply greed to your work life.

So, basically, conservatives have very low opinions of the motivations that move people and I suspect that is because they have a low opinions of people in general, other than themselves and their close associates, of course. And I wonder where they learned to have a very low opinion of people . . . religion!

Such a Deal!

I was reading a blog post on Bruce Gerencser’s web site recently and he ripped off yet another thought-provoking statement. Here it is:

“Cultural Christianity is all about what people say and not what they do. This is the predominant form of Christianity in America. When asked, do you believe in the Christian God? most Americans will say, Yes! It matters not how they live or even if they understand Christian doctrine. They believe, and that’s all that matters.” (Bruce Gerencser)

Here is a key flaw in the fundamentalist/evangelical Christian viewpoint. Basically they say, to be saved from the terrible fate of God’s curse, all you need do is accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. That’s it. Accept Jesus and . . . done deal . . . you are saved.

You don’t have to do anything else. You don’t have to join a particular church, as the Catholics do. There is no requirement to do good deeds. You do not have to donate money to the cause. There is nothing else you need do to avoid the Lake of Fire you were condemned to.

Consequently, many Christians (most?) violate Christian mores/ethics in great number. This is the allure apparently. You need do very little and Bingo! you are saved. Of course, the religions promoting this theological point are really missing the mark. If Christians were, in addition, supposed to do good works to maintain their “Get Out of Hell Free” status, they could be doing a great deal more good in this country, and the world, too. Imagine that churches could put on brag sessions in which members would “share” all of their good deeds done each week. “I helped an old lady to cross the street.” “I mowed my disabled neighbor’s front lawn.” “I visited a sick congregant in the hospital.” “I volunteered at the food bank all day Saturday.”

Natural competition and good, old fashioned one-upmanship would lead to an expansion of such efforts. Who cares if these actions are ego-driven, good things are getting done. But unlike Noah’s Ark, missing this boat apparently is no big deal.

Making Christians by asking very, very little of them is a proven path to success, success in the form of numbers of congregants. But now that people are thinking more and have more access to information and other people via the Internet, it is becoming apparent to many others that there is an even lazier way to avoid that Lake of Fire—become an atheist!

Become an atheist and voilà, you are no longer subject to the curse of a god which does not exist. And, there are no church meetings, no dues or tithes, no required beliefs, no deadly sins, in fact, no sins at all. No singing songs along with a bunch of other people who also cannot sing. No listening to lectures that are boring in the extreme. No effort need be made whatsoever.

Disbelieve and you are saved—saved from a fate worse that death and the myriad things listed above, and that is only a partial list.

Disbelieve and you are saved. Much easier than believe and you are saved.

July 24, 2020

Oh, Wow!

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:17 am
Tags: , , ,

From time to time I like to check in to see what the other side of the god argument is saying, so I bit on this book: God’s Grand Game: Divine Sovereignty and the Cosmic Playground by Steven Colborne.

This chap seems to be taking all of the god claims to heart and looking seriously at the consequences. I believe his viewpoint is: it is all true and you will agree with me if you just follow along.

Here is all of Chapter 4 (This is as far as I have gotten as this is a bit f tough sledding.) I also hope that doesn’t violate fair use regulations but as I am not profiting from this I suspected that it is not.

4
God in Inanimate Objects

It is easy to see how God is active in living creatures, but it is perhaps somewhat more difficult to envisage what ‘God is doing’ in the case of inanimate objects, like tables or books. When I look at a table and investigate its nature, an obvious question arises — is God making the table be, or can the table be without involvement from God?

The table existing without involvement from God would have to mean that there is some part of the cosmos in which God is not present. But this cannot be, as God by His very nature is omnipresent. Therefore, there must be a sense in which the table is ‘in God’, or, put another way, God’s being must permeate the table. It is natural, then, to assume that God is holding the table in existence. The table appears solid and stable, and it is perfectly possible for God to create these qualities in the table. God is, after all, omnipotent, so holding a bunch of atoms in place for a few hundred years does not pose the slightest problem.

Another aspect of God is that He is wholly in the parts as well as the whole. This means that each individual part of the table contains the fullness of God. It should not be hard to imagine, then, that God, in His infinite power, can create subtle change in such objects over time. We are talking, for instance, of objects like the table fading in colour, becoming infested by woodworm, or drying out. If the smallest particle is just as present to God as the whole table, then God can affect change on any level.

One might naturally ask, what would become of the table if God’s involvement were taken away? Could it exist without God? We have already established that God is everywhere, so we would have to conclude that there can be no table without God.

Taking all of this into account, should it not be possible for God to make major unexpected changes in the order of things? For instance, if God wanted my table to vanish before my eyes, is this not possible? Remember, we are saying that God is holding every particle of the table in existence. I would have to conclude that, yes, it is as possible for a table to vanish as it is for a man’s pain to vanish, as I described witnessing in the chapter “How Do I Know God Exists?”. God could remove a table from existence in a flash, if He desired. So why, then, do we not see more instances of this?

Well, it is perfectly possible that God likes order. Perhaps regularity is one of the things that gives God pleasure. This is understandable if we remember that God has all of eternity at His disposal. God might like to make some things appear and disappear (like a flash of lightning), and cause other things to remain for hundreds of years (like a table). Evolution (in objects as well as animals) may well please God, as the unfolding of His will and His plans provide our creator with anticipation and something to look forward to.

Λ Ω

So, if I burn a table on a bonfire, I am burning god? (Throw on a beef steak and burn him at the steak?)

The table is maybe a bit too weird a place to start. How about: “God, in His infinite power, can create subtle change in such objects over time. We are talking, for instance, of objects like the table fading in colour, becoming infested by woodworm, or drying out. If the smallest particle is just as present to God as the whole table, then God can affect change on any level.”

We have to ask, why an omnipotent god would use his powers to stick the atoms of every fricking object in the universe together? This has to be incredibly boring stuff. He is omnipotent and this is what does with his powers . . . hold the atoms of a table together? If he were to get distracted, would the table fall apart?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have such a god create universal rules regarding the stickiness of atoms and use those to hold the atoms of things together. We could call them, I don’t know, chemical bonds, for short. No? I do note that none of the properties of the Christian god is that he is “all-intelligent.” (What would that be in Greekish? Omni-smart? Omni-percipient, Omni-éxypnos?) Maybe he is dull enough that he thinks he has to hold together every damned thing. Why use gravity to hold together stars and planets when . . . you can do it yourself?

As to my question: if he were to get distracted, would those objects fall apart? This is apparently how he makes things disappear or appear out of nothing, as we have all seen happen, like . . . never. Really, this has never been seen in all of human history and you’d think that in one of those “I am the Lord, your God . . .” moments this is a trick that would be really convincing to bystanders, not to say any persons who were disappeared and then reappeared. Imagine the conversations later! “I am telling you Shalom, you disappeared for like a quarter of an hour and then you were brought back. Where did you go? Did you get to see Heaven? (. . . or Hell?)”

Again, it makes sense that all of the sticking together of parts be on automatic and then God can just overrule the rules whenever he wants to make things appear and disappear, no?

Does Occam’s Rule apply to gods?

Amazing, absolutely effing amazing, s    i    g    h   .

July 19, 2020

The “Respect My Beliefs” Campaign

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:09 am
Tags: , , ,

Note What you have come to expect on sabbath days, a religious post! Enjoy!

* * *

Well, maybe it is not a campaign, but it is a trope of the modern Christian movement. I have argued that any one demanding that atheists respect their religious beliefs is wrongheaded. You see respect is earned, not demanded. I acknowledge that people have such beliefs. I actually think that many are sincere in those beliefs, but respect them? No, not in the least. I do not respect anyone who elevates the supernatural, the mythological over the real. I just do not and will not.

And should not this be a two-way street? I firmly believe that sciences, especially foundational science like physics, chemistry, and biology are the best sources we have of information about the nature of reality. Are my beliefs respected? Not particularly, I guess they must be the “false beliefs” the religious rail about so often.

I see preachers telling us that the “Blood of Jesus” will save us from the COVID-19 disease (and then contracting it and dying, which should be a sign from god, but apparently . . . is not). I see people wanting to refuse medical treatment, even inoculations because of “religious beliefs.” These particular so-called beliefs actually endanger the rest of us by keeping a population of the disease ridden alive in our communities.

That other people are claiming that, for instance, being required to wear a mask and distance ourselves minimally from others violates our rights under the Constitution is equally ridiculous but doesn’t make the religious claims less ridiculous. And the religious are claiming special privilege for their beliefs.

Basically, I think you can have any cockamamie belief you want, but once you step into the realm of bad behavior, you lose my respect and you can even gain my opposition.

I just got off of Quora and someone summarized this point this way: “I think that any atheist who respects all god-based religions is a fool. Atheists, in being atheists, have no respect for gods, simply because they do not believe in them. So an atheist who respects god-based religions is respecting other people’s worship of the very thing that he or she does not believe exists, which is foolish.”

And . . . I keep coming up with additional points as I type . . . is the respect I should offer like the respect that Christian fundamentalists extend to Catholics? (They are not True Christians™.) or Muslims? Or any sane theists and Scientologists? Most religions don’t respect other religions because, well, they are just wrong, that’s why. So, we are supposed to respect all of them when they don’t respect one another. Talk about setting a high bar, much higher for atheists than for True Believers™.

July 14, 2020

The Gospel of John Begins With . . .

The gospel we call “John” begins with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

“The Word” has always puzzled me. Jesus was a word? My cartoon mind immediately came up with a scene pasted together from many movies in which a priest with an Irish accent (Pat O’Brien?) says, “Ah, it is a mystery, my son.” I have written recently that should a god want to communicate with us, there should be no mysteries. Such writings should be comprehended perfectly by geniuses and idiots and everyone in between, I mean if the god has no ill intent, in any case. But that was before, for now . . .

The Word . . .? WTF?

As I have mentioned I am reading a book on the roots of Western Civilization (The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas) and a few things were made clear. Here are a couple of quotes, very slightly amended.

“. . . another Presocratic philosopher, the solitary and enigmatic Heraclitus (ca. 540 BCE–c. 480 BCE), introduced a similarly immanent conception of the divine intelligence with his use of the term logos (originally meaning word, speech, or thought) to signify the rational principle governing the cosmos.”

and . . .

“As ancient philosophy progressed, logos and nous were variously employed to signify mind, reason, intellect, organizing principle, thought, word, speech, wisdom, and meaning, in each case relative to both human reason and a universal intelligence. As the means by which human intelligence could attain universal understanding, the Logos was a divine revelatory principle, simultaneously operative within the human mind and the natural world.”

I inserted Heraclitus’s birth and death dates to show that these ideas were being formed many hundreds of years before the writing of the gospel we call “John” (written ca. 120 CE).

Now, what language do you think the Gospel we call “John” was written in, do you think? Most scholars believe that it was originally written in Greek. They think the original (we do not have any copies of the original to study, just copies of copies of copies, etc.) was written in Greek because of the quality of the language, the use of certain terns, the use of the Greek translation of the Old Testament when quoting the OT, etc. So, the Greek word translated by so many as “Word,” was what? If you guessed Logos, you got it in one.

Now, explain to me how someone who writes extremely good Koine Greek would be unaware of the philosophical meaning of the term logos? Any sufficiently educated Greek writer, able to pull off writing the gospel we call “John,” would have to be acquainted with the word logos and its many meanings. A word that stands for “. . . the means by which human intelligence could attain universal understanding, the Logos was a divine revelatory principle, simultaneously operative within the human mind and the natural world,” gets translated in its earliest, simplest, non-philosophical, non-religious meaning: word?

Now that’s a mystery!

Is this just clumsy translation? Is the writer assuming that all of his readers are well-versed in Greek philosophy so they know what logos stands for? It is clear that before Jesus became a character in this story, the Jews were very concerned about the effect Greek culture and philosophy were having upon their youths. So, one could assume that many well-educated Jews would be familiar with the subtle nuances of “logos,” but are we sure that we can assume that audience? And what about the translators? The translators of the Greek texts into Latin were translating for church elites, not the general public. But the educations of ordinary church priests was not deep or wide, so the chances of the wrong concepts being shared with the hoi polloi were quite high, even so. So, again, why deliberately oversimplify a translation? Down through the years, we got translations into native tongues that were intended for lay readers, and logos still ends up being translated as “word.”

Are they deliberately trying to infuse mystery where there is none? John’s implications that the “Word” was there at the beginning led to some minor wars being fought about Jesus being the creator of the universe and co-equal to God (even though he refers to God as his Father over and over and over as do Christians now. (If Jesus and Yahweh were both there at the beginning, how can one be the father of the other? How can this be in a monotheistic religion?)

Ah, it is a mystery, my son. (Thanks, Pat . . . you are dead, you know.)

What if, however, the word logos was shown to convey the meaning of “As the means by which human intelligence could attain universal understanding, the Logos was a divine revelatory principle, simultaneously operative within the human mind and the natural world.” Would we still have large numbers of fundamentalist Christians insisting that their books are more reliable than what one finds in the form of God’s Creation? Would they still insist that the Earth was 6000 years old and not 4.53 billion years old? Would they still insist that the universe was created in six days? These are just a few of those “are you going to believe me or your lying eyes” questions we face today.

I wonder.

July 9, 2020

How to Read the Bible

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:07 pm
Tags: , , ,

As I have mentioned I am reading the book The Use and Abuse of the Bible (subtitle: A Brief History of Biblical Interpretation) by Henry Wansborough, OSB. Since OSB stands for Order of St. Benedict, that might be a tiny hint as to where the author stands, but I am a supporter of the Law of Unintended Consequences, so I push on.

One of the effects repeated when looking at various Church Fathers is that many of them provided new ways to read the Holy Book, e.g. “The way of reading the Bible in the Western Church was radically altered by Jerome, in several ways” and “He (Origen) evolved techniques (for instance, textual criticism and comparison of the four Gospels) which have continued to serve the understanding of Scripture to the present day.”

Add this to one of the philosophical drivers of the Protestant Revolution, namely that the Bible could be read and understood by ordinary people if provided in a suitable language and that we “didn’t need no stinking priests to tell us what it meant.” This has culminated in the Protestant fundamentalist literalists who insist that everything you read in the Bible is literally true.

Whew!

But my point is this. There is almost total agreement amongst Christians that the Holy Bible was written by men inspired to do so by their god, to the point that the words in their Bibles are the “words of God.” This is not the same “inspiration” that you might get at a party to take out your half-finished novel manuscript and begin working on it again. This is really in-spired, that is “breathed in.” The authors breathed in the Holy Ghost and the words that flowed out were from that source, not from the writer’s own thoughts.

If Christians believe that, I have a question for them: why did your god deliberately make the words so written hard to understand? Why are their “hidden meanings” in scripture: allegories, symbolic meanings, and the like. For example, in “Revelations” there is a reference to a “Seven-headed Beast” which actually stands for Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, which was built upon seven hills. Was John, the author of the work he gave no title to, but we refer to as “Revelations” (and various other titles), such a pussy that he feared that Rome wouldn’t like his writings and would proscribe them and lock him up as well, but his god offered no protection? If so, how are these the words of a god. which is supposed to be all-powerful? Couldn’t John have been teleported to safety, taken up into the heavens and dumped out somewhere else? Couldn’t Yahweh/Jesus have made a few hundred copies of his writings and distributed them around? Where’s the effing magic here?

But I digress.

My point is scriptures were created in order for people to know god’s wishes, primarily that they be saved from Yahweh’s curse of mankind. (Yahweh was apparently incapable of just lifting the curse, with a muttered “My bad,” and be done with it.) But Yahweh/Jesus apparently wrote these things so that they would be hard to understand, thus preventing the people they were written for from understanding, doing the right things, and getting saved. Isn’t this a bit contradictory, more than a bit counterproductive, for the God of Love? (Apparently He loves Himself more than His Creations.)

One could argue that the literacy of the common people in that region, at that time, was somewhat limited. (Some argue that literacy was rather quite widespread, however.) Certainly reproduction technology was at a low ebb at the time (no printing presses, no Internet, no TV, telephones, etc.) so it was necessary for these things to be read out loud to “the people.” But this is not what the priestly classes did. Instead, they interpreted them for the people. Why? Because the priestly divines were convinced that if they were to just read the scriptures to the people, the people wouldn’t understand! Heresy, heresy . . . those priests claimed that the Holy Ghost was a bad writer! (I would rent my cloak except it is hot and I am not wearing much and what is being worn isn’t rentable.)

Basically Yahweh’s/Jesus’ narrative goes like this “Okay, okay I cursed all y’all, you know that. But there is a way out! A way to Heaven and an escape from Hell . . . and it is all here in these here scriptures. Unfortunately I wrote them so that they would be hard to understand. Think of it as a test, a really hard one. Good luck! Yahweh

Just when are people going to look at this storyline and say “This isn’t even good enough to make a B movie from! Script!”

 

July 4, 2020

The Good and the Perfect

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:15 am
Tags: , , ,

I am reading a survey of the roots of western civilization and am at the ancient Greek stage.

Socrates focused on living a life of virtue and based it upon a search for the meaning of “good.” What is good? is the question he asked . . . and tried to answer. He felt that any man who didn’t have the exactly correct definition of virtue, would be mislead and make mistakes leading to a life that is not virtuous, at least in some aspects.

And, of course, thousands of years of philosophy have resulted in the following definition of “is good” . . . <cricket, cricket, . . .>.

Plato followed up the idea by extending it to all things, not just “the good.” He felt that it was obvious that there is a realm in which perfect examples, called Forms, of everything existed. Not just chairs and swords and Quiche Lorraines but abstracts like Beauty, Virtue, and Bravery.

This is somewhat understandable as one can imagine a craftsman building some device, a chair perhaps, and if they took their time and worked carefully and kept on improving that chair, either there would be an end to that process, a perfect chair, or there would not be. Plato was, like Socrates, enamored of perfect states, even though no such thing exists in nature. This was swept under the rug by declaring that all real things were but imperfect copies of the perfect Forms available in that other place.

Obviously, some people have too much imagination for their own good.

This ideas of perfect states feeds into the ideas of dichotomies, e.g. good and evil, dog lovers and cat lovers, Republicans and Democrats. The idea was that the other have of the pair is needed to define the first part and without that other part being in existence then we would not feel the first part. This is utter nonsense of course. (And dangerous. We think Repubs and Dems are opposites because they oppose one another when, in reality, you can’t tell which is which from their appearances or behaviors. They are not opposites, they are both defenders of the status quo.)

I have written on the dichotomy of good and evil and the claim that without evil, then good wouldn’t exist. This lame argument is, I suspect, a weaselly argument in defense of the argument from evil, basically “if God is all-good, why does evil exist?”

Good and evil, to start, aren’t opposites. The real opposites are good and bad. I have a rather extensive vocabulary and couldn’t come up with the opposite of evil. Here’s two lists I found:
Antonyms goodness, good, redeeming(a), beneficent, virtuous, redemptive, goody-goody, beatific, sainted, white, saving(a), saintlike, angelic, saintly, angelical. Synonyms malevolent, vicious, malefic, malign.
The antonyms are wishy-washy and the synonyms are vicious. There is no good antonym for “evil,” one that depicts the extreme nature of that word.

And, the silly argument that one part of the dichotomy is needed to define the other is easily disproved, even a baby can do it. Offer a baby (of suitable age) their first lick of an ice cream cone. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, said baby will express pleasure and want more. It will act out the thought, “Hey, that shit is goood . . . gimme, gimme, gimme.” Now does that baby know a definition of evil, does it know evil at all? Is it necessary that it have an innate understanding of “bad” or “evil” to appreciate the goodness of ice cream? Or is it the case that that baby has programmed into it a number of behaviors that lead to its success? Of course, religious apologists will say that the baby has an innate morality as a gift from their god, but that doesn’t explain anything, that is just another baseless claim to add to the stacks of the other baseless claims they have made.

The philosophical “problem of evil” is often explained away that man can do evil because we have free will, otherwise we would just be slaves to Yahweh’s will. And what do they say in other areas? They say, “Be a slave to Yahweh’s will, it will make you happy! And you will end up in Heaven and not Hell.” So, being a slave to Yahweh’s will is a bad thing if it is involuntary but a very good thing if it is voluntary. I think being a slave to Yahweh’s will is . . . being a slave to Yahweh’s will.

Plus, as I have pointed out often enough, the tradeoff is not “evil for free will” it is “evil for the free will to do evil.” Yahweh could have made us lacking in the free will to do evil things but with free will in everything else. Is that a tradeoff you would be in favor of? Hell, even Donald Trump would take that deal . . . well, maybe not.

Dichotomies, like perfect states are stages of thinking, I think, that we had to go through, just like the phases your parent’s talked about when you were young, e.g. “Oh, it is just a phase she is going through.” This was a universal excuse used by parents for inexplicable behavior of their children when I was young. (Is this still the case?)

Unfortunately way too many moderns are still stuck in these archaic, simplistic modes of thinking. Believing in imaginary things and perfections are rife in our culture.

How different things would be if we, as the new age gurus encourage, were to “focus on the journey and not the destination.” If a piece of software had to be perfect before it was sold, we wouldn’t have any software. If a car had to be perfect before it was sold, we would have to cars. If loaves of bread had to be perfect, the shelves of our supermarkets (the “bread aisle) would have empty shelves.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough.

Similarities Exist . . . For a Reason

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:10 am

Definition: Religion
When a small group of people tell a larger group of people how to act for imaginary rewards.

Definition: Politics
When a small group of people tell a larger group of people how to act for imaginary rewards.

I guess it isn’t a great surprise that politicians and the religious found common cause . . . in telling ordinary people how to behave and in so doing control their behaviors (to benefit guess who).

The rewards for the ordinary people are imaginary, the rewards for the politicians and divines are tangible and substantial.

June 27, 2020

Commandments or Not?

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:56 am
Tags: , ,

The included photo I find very touching and couldn’t possibly disagree and, in fact, probably could not find anyone who does disagree with this statement. But . . .

This is, of course, one of the Ten Commandments, actually one of the 605 commandments to be found in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. But I suspect that the person who made that sign was a Christian (odds are in my favor there) and I have to ask: Where in Christianity is this “commandment” endorsed?

Many fundamentalist Christians claim that the New Testament supersedes the OT. So, where in the NT is this commandment?

In the Hebrew Bible, this is a commandment of Yahweh to the Hebrews/Jews. It applies only to Hebrews/Jews, not to any of the other peoples of that time. It wasn’t given to the Romans, the Persians, the Phoenicians, etc. It was for the Hebrews/Jews and applied only to the Hebrews/Jews. And, the implied language is “Thou shalt not murder another Hebrew.”

Some Christians point to the passage in the gospel we call Matthew (5:18) “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” or (5:17) “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.“ Okay, so if the OT is still pertinent, why are not Christians obeying the entire 605 commandments therein? And if not all of those, where in the NT does it point out which are still viable and which are not?

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.