Class Warfare Blog

July 19, 2019

God’s Powers—Omnipresence

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:11 am
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♫ He’s making a list and checking it twice
Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice
He sees you when you’re sleepin’
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

You better watch out, you better not cry
Better not pout, I’m telling you true
God is always watching . . . you! ♪

It seems that all of the powers attributed to the Abrahamic god are based upon what the god-believers want that god to do. Take for example, omnipresence. If this god is to be the judge of all humanity, he can’t be going about staging trials. He needs to be witness, judge, jury, and executioner. So, in order for people to not be able to hide from this god, it needs to know what you are doing all of the time. In order to “see” your misdeeds he has to be where he can see them, so he has to be omnipresent (and awake 24-7, and not distractible, and . . . , and. . . .).

To “explain” this ability, some theists have claimed that their god is “outside of space and time,” aka nowhere, while others have claimed this god is everywhere. In Gordian knot solution mode, Anselm claimed that both of those were true (and also claimed he resolved the conflict between them)!

To be omnipresent, this god is claimed to be a purely spiritual being. Of course, every time such a claim is made, problems accrue. For example, to make us “special,” it is claimed that we are made “in God’s image.” If this god is a being of pure spirit, existing outside of space and time, it has no image, so WTF? Every additional claim for a godly power creates conflicts with its other powers and makes the whole mess less and less likely. And starting from below 1% likelihood, going lower is not easy.

All of these “power problems” stem from one source: an insistence on monotheism. Who is going to be attracted to worship a god which is kinda great and sorta powerful and knows a lot of stuff? Establishing a monotheistic worship in a mostly polytheistic world is asking for a lot of competition.

This results in the social inflation of the monotheistic god’s powers. (Polytheist: My god is so powerful that he can throw lightning bolts at his enemies. Monotheist: Oh yeah, my god. . . .) The only end result for a monotheistic god’s powers is the most, the strongest, the greatest, the hugest, . . . , hmm, maybe Donald Trump is religious.

This all comes back to my basic question: why monotheism? By claiming to worship the One True God™, who is the only real god, means that everybody else is worshiping false gods and are very stupid to be doing so. This attitude doesn’t exactly ingratiate one to one’s neighbors.

Imagine living in a suburban neighborhood and when you moved in, your immediate neighbor to the left, built a tall fence so that he and his family did not have to look at you, forbade his children from playing with yours, gossiped to his neighbors on the other side that you were immoral idolaters and would come to no good. Can you imagine becoming friends with those people any time soon? Can you imagine them being good neighbors?

Imagine these standoffish neighbors, are surrounded by people like you, so there are now tall fences on all four property lines. They no longer gossip with their neighbors, but they continue to write letters to the editor of the local newspaper condemning the immoral, demon worshipers in their community.

A community of people not desiring to blend in, assimilate, or compromise anything aren’t going to be liked. If you think this is an uncharitable portrait, look up the ultraorthodox Jewish communities in New York right now and see what kinds of issues they are dealing with.

So, the Hebrews, situated in a high traffic land between largish superpowers of the day, adopt monotheism, thereby picking a fight with everyone around them. How did that work out for them as a people?

And please, comments that I am “blaming the victim” for what happened to them is not what I am doing. I am trying to get at why there was a push to convert the Hebrews from polytheism to monotheism (and then hand off that hot mess to Christians and Muslims).

For those of you that think “Hebrews? Polytheism? Weren’t they always monotheists? The answer is: not according to their Bible. Over and over again, those pushing monotheism (remember the winners write the histories) warned about worshiping false idols, false gods, building altars in “high places,” etc. If they were all monotheists, then why all the warnings? Israelite monotheism seems to date back to the seventh century BCE, but not earlier.

From the Biblical story lines and other histories it seems that the only beneficiaries of monotheism were the religious elites, the priests. The secular elites, kings and whatnot, inherited grief, grief, and more grief, so they were not all that rewarded by monotheism. The common people? They always were keeping their heads down, trying to avoid the attention of the elites. And, while a few busybodies were always looking to count coup on their neighbors, those people always had ammunition for their pettiness, monotheism didn’t provide any more of that.

So, why monotheism? The downsides were huge and the upsides were few. Any ideas?

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It Pays to Know Some Mythology

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:07 am
Tags: , ,

Many of the aspects of the Garden of Eden myth are puzzling. After reading this, I find them less so.

Yahweh’s Divorce from the Goddess Asherah in the Garden of Eden

 

July 13, 2019

Does This Blog Need a Different Title?

When I began this blog, mainstream opinions regarding there being a class war in the U.S. were little better than scoffing at the idea. It seems now that most people accept this class war as a fact. I began this blog with the intent of just establishing the war is real, but I could continue, focusing on the conduct and disposition of the class war.  Of late, I have been writing more frequently about religion (specifically Christianity as that is the religion I know most about) in that I believe the religion plays a role in the class war.

Religion, specifically Christianity in the U.S., plays a role in our current class war because mainstream religions have always worked hand in hand with secular state power for their own benefit. Religions that do not accrue state power have a hard time surviving. And a religion acquires state power is by exhibiting practices of which the secular powers approve. The example I use often is that Christianity supported the institution of slavery (scripture still does!). Had it not, it never would have been adopted as the state religion of Rome and would not have had Rome’s power to expand the church’s power for over a century. (Does no one else find the name of the Roman Catholic Church ironic? The Messiah (Jesus?) was supposedly coming to remove Rome’s boot heel from the necks of the Jews, then under occupation by Rome. Some actually called them the enemy! Apparently the enemy won.)

Some may argue that the history of the United States belies my conclusion. That in the U.S. state power is forbidden to be used to support or oppose any church. Ah, that explains the tax free status of churches and all of the other laws exempting churches and church leaders from having to comply with state or federal laws. Discriminate against women in your hiring practices? This is fine if you are a church. Discriminate against people of other faiths or—gasp—no faith at all, in your hiring practices? This is fine . . . if you are a church. Discriminate against gays and lesbians in your hiring? This is fine if you are a church. A governmental position of neutrality with regard to churches would mean they would all be taxed the same, not “not taxed at all.” There are many other laws that churches violate with impunity just because they can.

So, I still hold that churches support the status quo when it comes to the secular leaders as they have accrued some political power and they do not want to lose it. And, in reality, some of these churches have gone on the offensive, wanting more power than they have now, trying to make the case that we are a Christian nation, a ludicrous claim. (The Bible does not support any kind of democracy in any way, shape, or form. Nor does it support the forbidding of cruel and unusual punishments or any other of the cornerstone concepts of the Constitution. Sheesh.) They have also arranged to have legislation introduced exempting churches from more and more of our laws.

So, if you have an opinion, does this blog need a new title? (And if you say “yes” do you have any suggestions? I suspect JB would call it “Steve’s Snark” or “Steve’s Ignorance.”)

July 7, 2019

Tying Oneself in Knots for Jesus, Part 2

In Tying Oneself in Knots for Jesus, Part 1, I addressed William Lane Craig’s argument for the existence of his god, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, particularly how it is dependent upon how time works. The argument, goes something like this:

  1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
    2. The universe has a beginning of its existence.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
    4. Therefore, if the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.
    5. Therefore, God exists.

I say “something like this” because there are a great many ways this argument is made.

Most modern philosophers allude to the Big Bang Theory when making this argument as “the beginning of the universe.” Unfortunately they make a whole slew of mistakes in doing so. This is what this post is about.

In capsule form, the “Big Bang Theory” (which was originally a pejorative label designed to cast scorn upon the theory) was formulated by an extrapolation. Up to the last 100 years or so we had no idea that the universe was expanding. Once we discovered it was, an enterprising scientist (who happened to also be a Catholic priest) said that if the expansion rate was consistent, then the universe would have begun its expansion 12-14 billion years ago. Since everything in the universe is moving away from every other thing (roughly), going back that far in time would have the stuff of the universe converging into a very, very small package.

In order to see all of the stuff flying apart as it is now, that beginning bit of stuff must have exploded, hence the Big Bang (actually a Really, Really Big Bang). Note Fourteen billion year extrapolations are rife with error. Consider how effectively we extrapolate weather pattern to predict the weather just a few days into the future.

Now, as you may well know, scientists cannot leave well enough alone and things have gotten a great deal more complicated, but that is the Big Bang Theory in a nutshell. And it did have scorn heaped upon it at its beginning, because just before it was proposed, most physicists thought that the universe was both eternal and static (not expanding). Finding out it was not static was mind boggling enough, but the consequence that the universe could not be eternal because of that was a bit too much for some to take. The nail in the coffin of a static, eternal universe was the discovery of the Cosmic Background Radiation, an actual artifact of the Big Bang, but let’s not get too far afield here.

The more ignorant sort claim that the Big Bang Theory has the universe being created from “nothing” but this is a mistake on their part. They also presume that the primordial universe (sometimes referred to as a “singularity”) was sitting in space when it went bang. According to the actual theory, all of matter and all of space-time are in that bit, so that bit is “the universe” and there is nothing else. This means no “empty space,” people, and no time outside of that bit.

So, these apologists, continuing to argue from ignorance, claim that their god provided the triggering event of the Big Bang, becoming the “cause” of the universe blowing up, in an obvious act of creation.

Again, this is bogus. This triggering is not the First Cause, as they claim their god to be. To trigger an event, there has to be something to trigger. So, what is the cause of the existence of the “singularity universe?” Why does it even exist? The correct answer, apologists, is “We don’t know,” not your god created it. You do not know that.

In “we don’t know” scenarios, one approach to advance is to hypothesize ways that the event could have occurred. One of these “educated guesses” might provide a clue as how to proceed closer to an answer. Here is an example of one such possibility. The “singularity universe” is inherently unstable and will always blow up once they are formed. (Why, we don’t know, but it is a possibility.) They will have to be unstable because there can be no triggering event to cause it to blow (there is no space, no time, outside of the singularity and change takes time, so any change has to come from within the tiny universe). Another singularity universe is created by the contraction of a universe as we see now. This is called the Big Crunch because all of the matter, time and space will necessarily get squeezed back into a much smaller space. I am not saying that this will happen, but that it might. If it did, then there are no “causes” of the universes that are created, they just happen. Of course, people can ask “what set this into being?” And, if this hypothesis were proven, I am sure that question will be asked. To which I answer, the universe is under no obligation to answer our questions.

Afterthought The Big Crunch Theory was originally dismissed for quite a long list of reasons (for one the universe’s expansion is accelerating and we would expect it to slow, stop, and then come back together for this scenario to work), but is currently being revived in a second go around.

An alternative to the BCT is the singularity universe is caused by a leak from another dimension (from the Multiverse, as it were). Another alternative . . .

My request of theists is that if you are going to play the God of the Gaps Card, make sure you actually know what the gaps are.

July 5, 2019

Patriotism 101: Were the Pilgrims Seeking Religious Freedom?

As school children, we were taught that the Pilgrims came to these shores at Plymouth Rock, seeking religious freedom. Is this true? Actually, it is not true, per se. Again, this is a form of soft propaganda. Americans tend to pump the “freedom” aspect whether it is valid or not.

The Pilgrims were a persecuted religious sect in England. In fact, virtually all religious sects in England were persecuted as the kingship of that country changed based upon wars, etc. When the Kings/Queens were Catholic, the Protestants were heretics. When the King/Queen was a Protestant, the Catholics were heretics. This is what you get when the king is also the head of the state church. This is why the drafters of the constitution built a wall between church and state and built a country based upon laws and not royal whims.

Back to the Pilgrims.

Many Pilgrims fled English persecution to . . . Amsterdam. The Dutch had created a haven of religious tolerance in their country. The Pilgrims were tolerated, were not persecuted, and stayed there for some years. But then, some of these Dutch Pilgrims fled The Netherlands to America. The question is why? It wasn’t because they were fleeing religious persecution. In their own words they wanted to escape having to live and work rubbing elbows with all of the non-Pilgrims in their adopted country.

When they arrived here, what kind of society did they build? They built a theocracy that was stern and unforgiving. In other words, they became the religious persecutors. There were laws based upon theological issues. Blasphemy was punishable by death. Not going to church got you put into the stocks.

So, the Pilgrims did not come to the “New World” to acquire religious tolerance, certainly not religious freedom, unless you believe that religious freedom is the freedom of one religion to repress all of the others.

If I may quote from The Founding Myth by Andrew L. Seidel (p. 106):
“The Puritans and the Pilgrims wanted—and got—Christian nations. They established pure theocracies: strongly religious governments able to stamp out heresy, execute schismatics, and banish all but the meekest. Few settlers wanted to permanently join this harsh monoculture after experiencing it. One of the pillars of the Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam (later to become New York when the English took over SR), a young lawyer named Adriaen van der Donck, wrote about an English refugee, a clergyman, who “came to New England at the commencement of the troubles in England, in order to escape them, and found that he had got out of the frying pan and into the fire. He betook himself, in consequence, under the protection of the Netherlanders, in order that he may, according to the Dutch reformation, enjoy freedom of conscience, which he unexpectedly missed in New England.”

“The Puritans imposed the death penalty for worshipping other gods, blasphemy, homosexuality, and adultery. It is out of this society and this mindset that the terrible idea of a Christian nation founded on Christian principles lodged itself in the American psyche. And it is this intolerant legacy that must be abandoned. That is what a Christian government looks like: exclusive, exclusionary, divisive, hateful, severe, and lethal. It resembles modern theocracies in the Middle East. The insufferable Puritan theocracy declined after King Charles II revoked the colonial charter and passed the Toleration Act of 1689.”

So, America was the “Land of Opportunity” the “opportunity to do what” was left blank.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t add the following quote from that same book to address what the “bringing of Christian civilization” to the heathens in the New World looked like:
“The Puritans also waged a holy war on the Pequots, setting fire to a village on the Mystic River, killing 700 Native men, women, and children. The survivors were sold into slavery. The genocide was like something out of the Book of Joshua. And indeed, the Puritans saw it that way. They saw themselves as instruments of their god’s holy will: ‘Such a dreadful Terror did the ALMIGHTY let fall upon [the Natives’] Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished.” According to John Mason, the Puritan militia commander, his god laughed while he murdered: “But GOD was above them, who laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven…. Thus did the LORD judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies!”’

Followup–Same Point, Different Spin https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/why-the-pilgrims-really-came-to-america-hint-it-wasn-t-religious-freedom.html

July 4, 2019

Assuming John Is Right . . .

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:24 am
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I posted recently (in Apparently He Didn’t Check His Notes) that Yahweh forbade the sacrifice of children on pagan altars, but then created a son and sacrificed him to lift the curse He had laid upon Adam and Eve.

To which John Branyan replied: “You ever heard of an adult making a rule for a child that they don’t follow themselves?” (Since John is sensitive to being misquoted (aren’t we all?) I copied and pasted his response to make sure I got it right. Did I get it right, John?)

Now in my response to his response, I argued against this assertion, but maybe that is the wrong way to go. In this post I want to start from an assumption that John is indeed correct and see where it takes us.

Yahweh made a rule (Deuteronomy 18:9-14) that “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, . . .” but that He Himself is not bound by that rule. Okay, that is our starting point. I will not bother to address the difference between burning and crucifying, because that is splitting hairs a bit too finely.

So, why was this forbade in the first place? Did He not test Abraham by asking him to make an offering of his own son? And did not Abraham accept this task (reluctantly, but he was a god-fearing man . . .)? So, at this point (Genesis) human sacrifice was okay by Yahweh . . . and Abraham. So, why does Yahweh forbid this? The point in time is when the Israelites are to enter the promised land and Yahweh is issuing “do’s” and “don’ts.” He doesn’t want His Chosen People to be contaminated by the Canaanites. Of course, we find out later that the Israelites were Canaanites, just those who worshiped Yahweh and weren’t invaders from the outside because they were already there, but warnings to not have the Yahweh worshipers be contaminated by the El worshipers and Asherah worshipers and Baal worshipers seems timely and, I assume, appropriate. I guess since he was pumping up the Israelites to go slaughter their enemies/neighbors, He might be afraid the passion of events could cause some of His worshipers to think for themselves.

So, why was human sacrifice forbidden then? It doesn’t seem that this is a moral pronouncement because Yahweh shows no hesitance to sacrifice people/animals/whatever on his altars. If it were a moral pronouncement, then Yahweh would be exhibiting a state of less than perfection, so that isn’t a good choice for theists.

So, why? Why the rule?

It is part of a screed against the performance of magic, but this is also iffy. Magic shows up over and over in scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments. (Jesus does magic!) Yahweh gets the ball rolling by making Adam out of mud and Eve out of a rib. Hey, didn’t he just create hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars and trillions of planets? He needs mud and a rib to make two paltry human beings? It is an element of magic to transform matter, not so much to create it from scratch. (The Jews played with this topic: see “golems” and related topics.)

The Bible is rife with blood magic. Blood can make you unclean (only if you are a woman, if you are a wounded warrior for Yahweh, all is well). Blood determines your future. Blood transmits sins from father to son, to son, to son, to son, to son, . . . etc. Blood magic is all over the Bible. So, why pick on magic then? Is Yahweh endorsing His magics over those of the other gods? The usual theist response to such questions is “God works in mysterious ways.” Translating that into English gives us “Haven’t got a clue, mate.”

One of the arguments against using a human sacrifice is based upon Jesus being acclaimed as the Messiah. Any Jew would respond with “Then he was a fuck-all Messiah because He was executed and we were still yoked to the Romans.” This is not the way to convince Jews that Jesus was a Messiah. (And there were no Christians at the time, none, only Jews to get the message.)

Wait, this is the best an all-powerful god could come up with to lift a curse that He created by simply speaking it. How about speaking “I now lift my curse, to give all you chaps a second chance, but only if you believe Jesus was my son, er, me. You don’t get a free lunch here.” He could say this so that everyone on the planet could hear him! Not just a small group of ignorant Middle Easterners in the outskirts of Jerusalem. See, even I, a lowly atheist can come up with a better solution to the “lift the curse” task. I gotta believe an all-knowing and all-powerful god could do better, much better . . . and it didn’t.

How many holes in this ridiculous narrative is acceptable? One hundred, a thousand? How many ridiculous claims are people expected to believe?

July 3, 2019

The Enduring Idiocy of The Great Flood Story

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:54 pm
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I still wonder why such an improbable tale holds such sway over popular imaginations. We are still writing books about it, asking questions about it, making movies about it, as if it were a real event. People are still searching for the remnants of the ark (if they can be taken at their word and they aren’t just scammers).

I have been commenting about the “holes” in the Biblical narrative. This story is very “holey” indeed. If we just take a step back and look at the event in broad strokes, we see that the main god character, Yahweh (the most powerful fictional character ever invented by humans), admits he made a mistake making humans, and kills all but eight of them (over a hundred million deaths estimated) and a small sample of animals, by drowning them.

This fact alone blows holes in the “all-knowing” power of Yahweh. He should have foreseen what was going to happen before it reached that stage. This also blows holes in the “all-powerful” power of Yahweh. His ability as a created seems to be really good when it comes to inanimate objects, like stars and planets and galaxies, but every time he creates sentient beings, they rebel against him. (And rebelling against an all-powerful, all-knowing god takes balls.)

A cute toy to celebrate the extermination of 100 million people!

Then the capper that no one talks about much is that Yahweh’s “reset,” or “do over,” or “restart,” didn’t work. By all accounts of the fundamentalist religions, we are still a depraved, sinful lot needing saving. Even Yahweh’s do over is effed up.

Has there ever been a more incompetent deity?

And this is a story that Christians are actively pumping! They make little Noah’s Ark toys for baby christians. They make Noah’s Ark books for toddler christians. And they use “teaching moments” from the Great Flood from the pulpits of churches for Adult Christians. They tell us that Yahweh promised to not do it again, which is a small grace considering how badly he effed it up the first time.

How can any human being with two brain cells to rub together think this is a story worth promoting?

July 1, 2019

Apparently He Didn’t Check His Notes

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:15 pm
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“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord . And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)

Apparently Old Yahweh got a little confused when He decided the perfect way to lift his curse from Adam and Eve and all of their progeny was to father a child and sacrifice him by nailing him to a tree.

I repeat “. . . anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering . . .  is an abomination to the Lord. I guess he forgot to check his notes or maybe he doesn’t equate the sacrifice of Jesus to the burnt offering of some random child. No precedent there, nope: “Move along, these are not the gods you are looking for.”

Come on people, there are so many logical holes in this “narrative,” how can anyone believe this story without being completely intellectually dishonest?

Postscript And I didn’t even bring up all of the acts of magic perpetrated in those scriptures (including by Jesus) that, oh, have been forbidden. How many Israelite kings used soothsayers, astrologers, prophets, and other magic sources?

June 30, 2019

Why and What Questions

In the comments section of one of today’s posts a short discussion occurred over questions we want answers for, with one philosopher preferring to focus on “why” questions. Part of my response to that factoid was that asking “why” rather than “how” questions explains more about us than they do nature. Our need to know “why” is basically a god seeking effort. Our need for a god is the source of our need to know why. Nature is completely impersonal. There are no “whys” which is why science focuses on “hows.”

I remember being in college and studying “modern” physics (50 years ago!), relativity being one part of that course (which was from 50+ years prior). I remember being astonished that if you continuously fed energy into an object in an attempt to make it go faster and faster, more and more of that energy would be converted into mass rather than into faster motion (acceleration). There are equations. In order for an object to travel at the speed of light, it would have to have infinite mass. (Often these equations “break down” at or near the boundaries of their application, and since this cannot be verified near those limits, it is conjecture only, IMHO, of course.) Since the speed of light is the ultimate speed limit, of course the added energy would have to be converted into mass, otherwise where would it go? If the energy just leaked away, then it wouldn’t have been added to the object then, would it? If the object accepts the energy, it gets more and more massive, and less and less faster as it approaches the speed of light.

Gosh, I would sure like to know “why” the speed of light is the fastest any thing or field or whatever can travel in this universe! (Along with “why does quantum mechanics work” and . . . and. . . .)

But this “why question” is just a colloquial way of stating the question. One does not go after “why” if one really wants to know what is going on. Scientists only ask “how” questions for this reason. If you go about asking “why” questions, you end up like philosophers, feeding into pre-existing ideas of nature (and Beyond!). Those philosophers, for example, who make attempts at proving the existence of gods via argument (Foolish, foolish philosophers!) always end up with arguments that do not point to their god. Just like those who claim that their god is what caused the Big Bang, they don’t consider that whatever caused that to occur (if there was a cause) didn’t need to be Old Yahweh or Jesus or Love (God is love, you know) or the property of ineffability, or asitey or <fill in any other god power here>. The philosophical arguments never end up at “God” but all claim that they do, which makes them foolish. Searches for answers to “why” questions only leads to answers that tell us more about who we are and not about the thing being questioned.

So, a scientist wants to know how it is that the speed of anything (or nonthing) is limited to any value at all. (A current TV adaption of a popular Science Fiction universe shows off a slow zone, in which the top speed limit is way slower, restricting the movements of spaceships, even communications. This is caused by some unknown alien technology, because we haven’t got a clue how such a speed limit could be imposed.)

If we can figure out “how,” we get closer to understanding the way things actually are.

And, ultimately, the universe doesn’t care. It has no “whys” so cannot surrender them to our investigations or introspections. That we want the answer to “Why?” indicates we are all closer to being two-year olds than mature adults.

<This concludes the most furious day of posting I have had in a very, very long time. Steve>

Evolution of the Gods—Reason and Faith

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:09 am
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I have written about how it is relatively easy to come up with animistic religions by having a somewhat overactive agency detector, a feature that provided us an evolutionary advantage by making us less susceptible to predation. The roots of religion, therefore, are quite understandable. How we got to “now,” however requires some more consideration.

For example, over time we have reached a place in which “reason” is set in opposition to “belief” and “faith.” I don’t think this can be laid at the feet of reason for why this is so. So, was reason, ever, the enemy of faith/belief?

We only have written records going back some 5000 years or so, which defines what we mean by written history. Those records show that people had religious faith and used reason for that entire time . . . that is, some people, not all people, did this.

History is punctuated with any number of episodes in which religion ran up against faith. For example, Socrates was executed in 399 BCE (given the grace of being allowed to commit suicide) “refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state” and of “corrupting the youth” thereby. Since this sort of prosecution (by secular and/or religious elites) happened a great deal, there was a decided downside of using reason applied to the gods. The Spanish Inquisition (and many of the other inquisitions) kept meticulous records of the numbers of people they tortured, executed, and executed by torture for being “heretics.” Some of the records show ordinary people being naively quite atheistic in their “interviews” with the Inquisitors of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Apparently they had been counseled by their lying eyes and not so much by their incompetent priests.

In the Abrahamic faiths, disdain for reason was hard-wired into scripture. Numerous bits and pieces of their holy books encourage rejection of reason as a guide for one’s life. This, of course, is understandable because religion is a social control mechanism, endorsed by the elites. If a religion is not endorsed by the elites, it doesn’t last long. (Yes, yes, there were folk religions, but did many of them survived the onslaught of the well-heeled, well-organized campaigns for state religions?)

So, the curious thing, in my mind, was how vigorously religious apologists pursued “reasons” why their faith was the One True Faith™ and their god(s) were the One True God(s)™. In the western tradition, the Greek philosophers starting arguing for (and against) gods, well back before the Common Era.

Epicurus (341–270 BC) has attributed to him (it might, however, been part of a campaign to smear Epicurus as an atheist—theists apparently lie a lot) the argument: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Plato and Aristotle, amongst others, both made arguments for the existence of gods. So reason was being applied to faith thousands of years ago if the historical record is to be trusted.

Fast forward over much of the “Dark Ages” and we reach Saint Anselm (1033-1109 CE). Anselm became a Doctor of the Church and a Saint for using reason to support the case for the existence of his god. His go to argument was the ontological argument.

So, rather than there being an antagonism between reason and faith, as it seems is almost always the case now, reason was good if it supported religious faith, bad if it did not. This is much like Republicans being in favor of smaller government, except when it comes to war making, control over women’s bodies, doing favors for businesses and rich people, etc.

Religion was always suspicious of reason because reason required no intermediaries (especially their intermediaries). Reason could go on inside someone’s head and you wouldn’t even know it! This did not contribute to the elite’s control over society, so was looked upon with suspicion . . . except where the tame reasoners could be trotted out on their leashes.

It is the same today. Christian apologists make fair incomes by going around and applying reason to their faith and coming to the conclusions that: god exists, faith is good, atheism is bad, etc. Science is declared to be atheistic because it is based solely upon reason, but the apologists are holy men for doing the same.

 

 

 

 

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