Uncommon Sense

July 2, 2022

Do They Really Know What They Are Saying?

There was an article on ArcaMax, Court Restores Morality Rooted in Biblical Truths, by Star Parker (June 29, 2022), that was gloating about the triumph of “biblical truths” in the recent SCOTUS gutting of Roe v. Wade, the Lemon Test, etc. Here is a taste:

What we call morality, the morality rooted in biblical truths that still influence and guide large parts of the American population and that served as a guide to many more in our past, provides the rules and framework that sustain life and living.

Everyone that knows me knows how I celebrate this court decision that overturns that decision in 1973 that opened the door to the destruction of 60 million-plus pregnancies.

That decision introduced a culture of death to our nation.

When I say a culture of death, I don’t only mean the widespread physical destruction of infants in the womb, which is what the decision brought about.

A culture of death means introduction of behaviors that threaten the future of our communities, of our nation.

I believe Ms. Parker is a Christian, a subscriber to a death cult, and she has the temerity to call Roe v. Wade part of a “culture of death.” I guess this is all psychological projection, but still.

My main point is I wonder if Ms. Parker is familiar with the Biblical Truths™ concerning women’s rights, essentially them being somewhere between slim and none. Were she to actually subscribe to Biblical Truths™, she should not have a job, unless it was approved by her husband, or if not married, then her father. It is a Biblical Truth™ that she, being a female, is owned by her male overlord (father or husband) and is to look at him as he looks at Jesus. If Ms. Parker didn’t faithfully bleed (from a ruptured hymen) on her wedding night, she would be stoned to death by her family (even though a sizable percentage of women do not bleed when their hymen is first penetrated). I wonder how she would feel if her female children were sold into slavery by her husband, without consulting her.

According to Biblical Truths™, Ms. Parker could not vote (there is no democracy in the Bible). She could not drive a car (there are no cars in the Bible). She could not speak up in church (from her reserved spot in the back of the bus).

Do these people actually know what they are saying? I doubt it. More likely it is a manifestation of a Religious Stockholm Syndrome.

I also question her faith in her editors which allowed the word “Morality” to be misspelled in her published article (Original Title: Court Restores Moralty Rooted in Biblical Truths). Misplaced faith to the left of me, misplaced faith to the right of me, valiantly I drove into the valley of Christian Nationalism. . . .)

June 29, 2022

The Toxicity of the Concept of a Chosen People

Filed under: Race,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:59 am
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Recently we have seen pushback on the Black Lives Matter movement, typically by using another meme “All Lives Matter.” It is funny but all of us have some desire for exclusivity, no matter what we claim. In this country underlying all such discussions is the religious idea of there being a “chosen people.” These people have been chosen, by their god they claim, for special treatment because they are “special” some how.

If you are old, like me, you might remember a pop song called, The In Crowd. Here are excerpts from the lyrics:

I’m in with the in crowd
I go where the in crowd goes
I’m in with the in crowd
And I know what the in crowd knows

Any time of the year, don’t you hear?
Dressin’ fine, makin’ time
We breeze up and down the street
We get respect from the people we meet
They make way day or night
They know the in crowd is out of sight

. . .

At a spot where the beat’s really hot
Oh, if it’s square, we ain’t there
We make every minute count
Our share is always the biggest amount
Other guys imitate us
But the original’s still the greatest

. . .

We got our own way of walkin’
We got our own way of talkin’, yeah.

This was written for a high school crowd, I am sure, in which socially evolving young people desperately wanted to be accepted, especially by those who seemed “the coolest.” In high school we invented words that were exclusively ours (ours were words like cool, bitchin’, and boss . . . We got our own way of talkin’, yeah) There was no sense to being “special” if nobody else noticed.

In the U.S. Christianity has broken up into thousands of denominations, each one claiming to be different from the others and, of course “special.” And they exclude. They exclude people who they don’t want to be special like them. Maybe those they exclude are Catholics, or LGBQT people, or . . . ugh . . . Democrats! You can’t be exclusive, without excluding “others.” Of course, we tend to demonize those “others.” Ask any evangelical Christian about atheists, it is unlikely they have never met one, and they will nonetheless have a strong negative opinion. Their religion claims that to be moral you have to believe in their god, their way, and so atheists are automatically immoral and not to be trusted. Exclusion you see.

But in the vein of “All Lives Matter” are we not all “God’s Children?” If we are all god’s children, why did the Abrahamic god “choose” a single people out for special treatment? Why exclude the rest?

Is there any more evident reason to believe that those scriptures were written by men, for men than that? Why would an all–loving god, create a race of sentient animals, and then just select out a small subgroup to educate and ignore (or worse, condemn) the rest?

Divinely inspired scripture, my ass. The word of god, my ass. Rather the Word of Man; scripture inspired by “The In Crowd.”

June 24, 2022

Freedom!! Freedom!!

The GOP advanced their Freedom Agenda today, when their hand-picked Supreme Court Justices overturned Roe v. Wade which established abortion as a valid option for pregnant women everywhere in the country.

By voiding Roe, the GOP’s minions have established their small government, freedom loving vision upon the country. The government is expected to stay out of the private lives of citizens . . . , uh, well, except when a woman gets pregnant and the state steps in and exercises control over that woman’s uterus.

No other organ is thus “protected” by the state. The state (federal or local) cannot require you to accept an organ transplant, nor require you to donate any of your organs to another (even blood). The state cannot require you to protect your heart and lungs by not smoking. But uteruses, well, they’re special, you see.

And while the SCOTUS justices may have been correct that the constitution right to privacy may not be the shield Roe needed, there is this small matter of . . . the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which provides that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” So women are secure in their persons, except when the anti-abortion states step in and exercise control over their uteruses. And determining that a woman is pregnant, how is that not an illegal search? How does that make any sense at all? And what about “equal protection” of the law? The Fourteenth Amendment states that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” but that apparently doesn’t apply to the United States collectively. So, in the United States, a women will get an abortion in one state and be arrested and tried for murder, but another woman, just on the other side of the state line, will get an abortion, paid for by her insurance company. This will happen because the U.S. itself doesn’t provide equal protection under the law.

Clearly the current crop of SCOTUS ne’er-do-wells were just looking for legal-schmegal language cover for what they wanted to do for their religiously inspired agendas.

The Republicans orchestrated this. The only solution is to vote them out, vote them all out.

June 23, 2022

Release the Kraken! . . . Er, the Law of Unintended Consequences!

The Supreme Court of the U.S., hereafter SCOTUS, in a recent decision (Carson v. Makin) made the bizarre decision that the state of Maine was required to fund religious schools because the state subsidizes private schools where no public schools are available.

In other words, Maine (and all other states with similar laws, etc.) has to choose between the separation of church and state and funding secular private schools, but now including funding discriminating religious schools (schools that ban gays, teach creationism as science, etc.)

There are a number of “workarounds” of this ridiculous SCOTUS ruling.

One would make be to pass a state law restricting state educational funding only to those schools which abide by the states anti-discriminatory statutes (and other rules governing schooling). Then the religious schools would have to decide how much they want that state funding. Do they want it enough to not implement their doctrines of hatred?

Another workaround would be simply to abide by the decision: since secular private schools are funded, so must be religious schools, so stop using state funds to support all such private schools. Be fair, be equitable.

Which is more important constitutionally: separation of church and state (first amendment rights) or funding of private schools? Those too far from public schools made their decision to live where they do in full knowledge of the schools issue. So, let their children be homeschooled or remotely schooled from the nearest secular public school.

Actually, I would just like to see what happened in Maine when Islamic schools applied for school funding, or radical yeshivas, heck, a Taliban School for Domestic Terrorism.

June 21, 2022

Ridiculing Jesus? I Would Never . . .

Filed under: History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:38 pm
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I was reading a book last night (Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith by David Madison) which I will report on later but here reflect upon a rather disturbing statement. Here it is:

I can’t agree with strident atheists who ridicule Jesus for not knowing that the Earth orbits the sun, that demons can’t be transferred into pigs or that blindness can’t be cured by smearing diseased eyes with mud and spit. Truly, Jesus was a citizen of his time and participated fully in the superstitions of the day.

The author is a recovering minister and he seems to be taking comments by other atheists personally. This is a common attitude: people claim that as atheists we “hate God,” that “we just want to sin,” and other nonsense. They ignore the fact that since we are not convinced that their god exists, it hardly can whip up strong emotions in us. If I am disappointed in the behavior of a character in a book, a movie, or a play, I don’t get mad at the character, I get mad at the author. And, as to wanting to sin, sin is a violation of god’s laws. If we do not believe that this god exists, how restricted by “its laws” do you think we are?

And to casually call atheists who criticize what has been written about the character “Jesus,” as being strident, that is, well, hurtful. We have feelings, you know.

My good buddy, Merriam-Webster says “Some common synonyms of strident are blatant, boisterous, clamorous, obstreperous, and vociferous. While all these words mean ‘so loud or insistent as to compel attention,’ strident suggests harsh and discordant noise.” This sounds as if the author’s Christian sensibilities are still tender.

As I will report later, this is a book very much worth reading if you are an atheist. But this paragraph shows why we are leery of Christian privilege, the fact that if we gainsay them, we are “attacking” them, waging war on them, e.g. the War on Christianity, etc.

As to the meat of the quote, we aren’t criticizing Jesus for his lack of knowledge, because we don’t accept that Jesus was or is a god, so why would he know such things? We are ridiculing perfectly modern “believers” who believe that kind of thing rather than their lying eyes. Plus you cannot hold the idea that Jesus is part of the Trinity, being omniscient and omnipotent, and “Truly, Jesus was a citizen of his time and participated fully in the superstitions of the day” at the same time. Such cognitive dissonance is quite worthy of ridicule, although I prefer reasoned discourse over ad hominem slurs.

June 20, 2022

What Is In a Motto?

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:14 am
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On July 30th, 1956  we dropped the unofficial motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum (translation “from many, one”) and adopted the motto, In God We Trust.

How has that been working out, do you think?

Well, a recent Gallup poll showed that 81% of U.S. adults say they believe in God, down six points from 2017 and the lowest percentage since the poll first asked the question in 1944.

On the unity front, we seem to be hearing many comments that the nation is more divided now than at any time since the Civil War period (1860-1865).

Gosh, do you think the changing of the motto caused all of this?

June 12, 2022

Theistic v. Atheistic Morals/Ethics

Filed under: Culture,Morality,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:07 pm
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This topic is bandied about continuously. It never seems to end, having become a zombie topic. Kill it and it will rise again. (Zombies often utter the word “Brains!” as they shamble around because if they had one, they would realize they couldn’t possibly exist.) Theists claim that atheists are at best amoral and are typically immoral. Atheists, like me, demure.

Actually this can be put to bed immediately. (I will address Christian morals solely as my knowledge of other theistic moralities is weak.)

Christians make believing in god a basis of their morality. They must do this because the foundation of their morality is obedience. If their god says Jump! the only response is “How high?” Obedience is actually the only moral tenet of Christian morality. In order to be obedient, they have to believe in the god to which they are enslaved. Christians are taught that they are not to run a moral issue through their reasoning capacity because, if they did, they would be doubting the divinity of their god. (And just who do you think you are, doubting god?)

So, from a Christian standpoint, atheists, because we do not believe in the Christian god, are automatically immoral, end of debate.

Here is the iron clad logic:
Only Christians (or god believers, if you wish) are moral.
Annie is not a Christian (or is an atheist).
Annie is immoral.

So, there really is nothing to debate. Atheists explaining that moral and ethical systems are worked out over time by all social species (we have observed such things in quite a few social species) is a waste of time because Christians cannot hear it and are forbidden from even processing the claim.

You cannot debate another over a topic they have defined into existence.

May 29, 2022

I Sure Am Glad the Bible Never Contradicts Itself

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:35 pm
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Well, there is this, spoken by Yahweh himself:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

Which flows directly to this, spoken by the prophet Ezekiel:

“Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

“But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. (Ezekiel 18: 19-21)

All emphases added.

So, which is it?

I know that the evangelicals want it to be the first situation, because without it there is no Original Sin, no need to be “saved,” and therefore no need for Jesus or Christianity. But the first is Yahweh being quoted directly, and the second is someone claiming that he speaks for Yahweh, so which is the real Yahweh?

Will the Real Yahweh™ please stand up.

May 24, 2022

Why Does The World Hate Christians?

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:45 pm
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The above question appeared upon Quora, the question and answer site. I suggest that the world does not and should not hate Christians as it is Christianity and what its various versions ask their congregations to do which they should hate.

When addressing Christianity, atheists like me often bring up problematic aspects of it, such as the Crusades, support for slavery, male domination of women, Hell and infinite punishment, etc. But all of that, while true, misses the big mark. Here are three quotes from a book I am reading now (Atheism: The Case Against God) that I will be reviewing when I finish reading it.

“The misology of the Bible is its most repugnant trait; there is a constant demand that one must believe without evidence or thought, and that one must regard absurdity as a desirable aspect of Christianity. To accept faith in the biblical sense means to believe in defiance of rational guidelines; it is blatantly anti-reason, and the biblical writers make no effort to conceal this fact.”

“This tie between faith and virtue is responsible for the Christian equation of doubt and disbelief with immorality. One is not morally free to investigate the truth of the Christian doctrine by means of reason; instead, one must believe uncritically or be condemned as immoral. A man is thus forced to choose between morality and truth, virtue and reason. The paragon of virtue, according to this view, is the man who refuses critically to evaluate his ideas—and one can scarcely imagine a more vicious form of irrationalism.”

“The threat of punishment for disbelief is the crowning touch of Christian misology. Believe in Jesus—regardless of evidence or justification—or be subjected to agonizing torture. With this theme reverberating throughout the New Testament, we have intellectual intimidation, transcendental blackmail, in its purest form. Threats replace argumentation, and irrationality gains the edge over reason through an appeal to brute force. Man’s ability to think and question becomes his most dangerous liability, and the intellectually frightened, docile, unquestioning believer is presented as the exemplification of moral perfection.”

Here is the definition of “misology” for those of you who do not know this word (I did not): (noun) distrust or hatred of reason or reasoning.

In my humble opinion, this is the greatest failing of Christianity, which shows it to be a population control mechanism and little else. Obey or suffer the consequences is the clear threat being made.

In the Bizarro World of Christianity, faith is touted as a way of acquiring knowledge that is superior to that of reason. A more blatant lie cannot be uttered. I challenge anyone who claims this is true to list all of the things they have learned through faith. I know many will immediately respond that when they read their Bible, they have faith that what they are reading is true. But that is not knowledge you acquired through faith. That is knowledge you acquired through the writings of others. How is it that you acquire knowledge through faith? Honestly.

When works of science are read, they are not to be believed or disbelieved. In fact, published scientific papers are required to list the procedures and equipment used so that if a skeptical reader wants to confirm the findings, they can. Doubt is hard-wired into the process.

Reason has all kinds of rules regarding how one acquires knowledge and sifts out error, e.g. the scientific method, the rules of logic, the laws of mathematics, etc. Faith has no such mechanisms, in fact, Christians are not allowed to question faith as they are immediately told they are in error should they do so. So, faith cannot have an epistemology, because it would involve looking at how faith discovers knowledge, and that is not allowed.

May 19, 2022

Faith v. Reason

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:01 am
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And in this corner . . .

I have been reading a fascinating book, one full of fascinating arguments (George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God (The Skeptic’s Bookshelf)) and last night I started a chapter that that compares and contrasts faith and reason. The two are linked, says the author:

The Christian who postures as an advocate of reason is often quite subtle in his attack on reason. Yes, he says, reason provides man with knowledge of reality; yes, reason is vital to man’s existence; yes, man’s rational capacity is his distinguishing characteristic—but some aspects of existence cannot be comprehended by man. Some facts are closed to rational understanding. Reason is fine as far as it goes, but it is limited.

Again, I have to ask “how could anyone know that reason is thus limited.” It sounds like a self-serving “fact” that isn’t really in evidence. If reason, a human activity is limited, is faith, another human activity, also limited? No one seems to address this question.

Theists seem to appeal to Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) a great deal, especially Catholics. According to Aquinas, a man may first believe something on faith which he later comes to know through reason, or a man may accept as an article of faith something which other men can rationally demonstrate, or a man may use faith to acquire a certainty that reason is impotent to give.

Once again, this prince of Christian apologists is conflating two varieties of “faith” or “belief.” There is “faith” based upon repeated observation/reasoning, e.g. I believe the Sun will come up tomorrow or I have faith that the Sun will come up tomorrow and there is “religious faith” which equates to “I believe this even though there is a complete lack of evidence for it.”

Aquinas pounds this home in his book, The City of God, when he claims that “Christian beliefs should not be rejected as false or nonsensical.” In support of this, Augustine points out that there are many “marvels” in nature that reason cannot account for, that “the frail comprehension of man cannot master.” If one were demanded to give a rational explanation of these phenomena, one could not do so—except to say that they are “wonders of God’s working” that “the frail mind of man cannot explain.” This is a God of the Gaps argument. Just because you cannot explain something rationally doesn’t mean that no one can or that no one will eventually. Rational inquiries require time and interest and some subjects just do not interest the people who have the time and the reasoning ability to come up with a rational explanation. God does not get all “ties,” that is cases in which there is no rational explanation for an event and no actual theological explanation either. (“God did it” is not an explanation; it is merely a claim that needs to be proven, a very problematic claim as it is.)

So, “religious faith,” a mechanism to acquire knowledge that does not involve reason, is actually completely incompatible with reason. To quote Smith again: “Faith depends for its survival on the unknowable, the incomprehensible, that which reason cannot grasp. Faith cannot live in a natural, knowable universe. As Pascal observed, ‘If we submit everything to reason, our religion will have no mysterious and supernatural element.’

I will be reporting more fully on this wonderful book! (I have read enough to recommend it to all atheists who might want to understand the playing field we share with theists better, and to theists for the same reason.)

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