Class Warfare Blog

July 17, 2017

Hulk, No, God Smash!

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:13 am
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I quote Persedeplume (of MyDoorIsAjar):
I’d like to meet the god who isn’t angry, or coming back angry, or about to wreak retribution on some massive scale. I’d like to think we can get along without unnecessary suffering. I’d like to think life is hard enough and the “rite of passage” where we’re all accepted as adults is to have done it with grace, dignity, help from our friends and family, and love.”

We seem to prefer such angry gods, even angry gods with the label “the god of love.” One philosopher points out that we respect power and anytime a god does something massively powerful, we respond to the exhibition of power, even if we bear the brunt of that power.

The dominant religion in this country is basically incoherent … except that the believers believe that their god has immense power to grant boons and to punish. If a boon is granted, then we are supposed to be grateful. If we suffer from some such display of power, then we are being punished for being bad. (Pat Robertson blamed the tsunami in Indonesia on homosexual sinners.) So, no matter what happens to us, it is due to their god’s actions.

This very same religion claims that a son of their god was sacrificed to absolve us of our sins (sins being disobedience of their god’s wishes). Later they claimed that the “son of god” was really their god himself (in disguise?). I have yet to see how this human sacrifice has any effect on anything. Was the suffering of the crucifixion equal to all of the suffering of all of the innocents up to that time? Apparently not. It was merely symbolic. So, how does symbolic suffering of an innocent person wipe away the criminal records of all of us? While the symbology is painted vividly (our sins were “washed away” by the blood of Christ, etc.) it still makes no sense. How did this action pay our fines, or serve our sentences for us?

And, as I have argued before, the god Jesus could not die, only his human wrapper could, and what is one more human sacrifice to the God of Abraham, who once directed King David to take a census of his men and when David did that, his god upbraids him and punishes him for counting what is not his (they were his god’s soldiers, not David’s, don’t you see). So, David is punished by his god slaughtering 70,000 of his soldiers! I suspect David also had to go to bed without supper that night. There seems to be no record of what the 70,000 felt, nor do we know what happened to them in the afterlife. (Are they still burning in the Lake of Fire or shambling around in the dark of Sheol?)

So, if David’s “crime” of following his god’s directives was salved with 70,000 deaths, what could one death do for all of humanity? Especially when you consider that neither the god nor his offspring died, just the human wrapper. Plus, even after this “real death” experience, that wrapper got to live again. What happened to it when the son of god rose to Heaven isn’t explained. Is Heaven air conditioned? Is there food for a human body? Does Jesus have to inhabit the body 24-7 and does it just stand idle when he does not? There are just so many issues not covered by scripture.

July 16, 2017

It Is Put Up or Shut Up Time for the Intelligent Design Movement

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:52 am
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As you may know the “Intelligent Design Theory” is just a second (third, fourth, … ?) generation form of Creationism. The people who created “ID” (it is not a theory by the way, at best it is an hypothesis) are folks who believe that God created the entire universe in only six days, about 6000 years ago or so and the science that says otherwise, aka “God’s Creation,” just has to be wrong.

The ID people spend most of their time criticizing the science of evolution (which claims we evolved and were not created magically), paleontology (which claims there is fossil and other evidence dating animals and humans back millions of years), geology (which claims that the Earth is over four billion years old), cosmology (which claims the universe is much older than our solar system), etc. but they do not seem to be motivated to answer questions on their own. These people are like colleagues who criticize your work but don’t do any work themselves.

So, it is put up or shut up time. Here are a few questions I would like to see the ID people answer. All are based upon their beliefs, primarily that God created everything about 6000 years ago. Also, since they argue that we cannot know the mind of God, I choose not to ask “why” so much as “how.”

  1. When God created all of the stars, how did he create the starlight so that it looks like it had been en route for billions of years? (Humans can start light beams and stop light beams, but not create a beam millions of light years long instantly.)
  2. When God created the Earth, He included the fossilized remains of animals that were not described in the Bible or any other historical source. How was this done, also why? (The answer “it was a test of faith” is specious because that would imply a knowledge of the mind of God.)
  3. There are animals on Earth that cannot be domesticated, nor are they good tasting or nutritious. How is it that they serve man’s dominion?
  4. When the Earth was created, radioactive elements were created alongside large quantities of their daughter products, thus creating the illusion that those minerals had been buried for millions if not billions of years. How was this done?
  5. Since all of the Earth’s creatures were created just 6000 years ago, why does all of the evidence in God’s creation point to them having evolved over a very much longer time period (3 billion years).
  6. Why does mitochondrial DNA point to a common modern human ancestor of all current humans (Mitochondrial Eve) who lived somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 years ago?
  7. If the Earth was created 6000 years ago, why does the Earth exhibit geological layers of sediment that can only have taken place over a very long time. Many of these layers show extreme tilting and folding and contain the remains of plants and animals of bizarre domains (e.g. ferns near mountain tops)?
  8. If all of the Earth’s animals are descendant’s of the animals on Noah’s Ark, why does their DNA point back to common ancestors far farther in the past?
  9. In the Garden of Eden, what did the carnivores eat? If they ate the meat of other animals, then the GOE was a charnel house as all of the lions, tigers, and wolves mowed down all of sheep, cattle, and the rest of their kind. (Death was common in the GOE then.) If they ate grass, how were they converted into carnivores from herbivores in such a short time?

How about we collect a long list of such questions for the ID movement? Help the IDers by asking questions like the above. It seems that they are struggling to come up with a research agenda, let’s create on for them! Now, that’s creationism!

July 13, 2017

Creationists on the Rise!

I have been filling in a few holes in my viewing of late and I decide to give the HBO documentary  “Questioning Darwin (2014?),” another try. I only got a few minutes into the show the first time and this time I must have gotten a whole quarter of the way through. And, truth be told, it seemed fairly even handed. What I was shocked about is the sheer audacity of the cherry-picking of scripture by the Ken Ham crowd (Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, et. al.). When faced with the Problem of Evil, Mr. Ham simply shrugs this off because of all of the changes that occurred because of Adam’s “sin.” If it hadn’t been for Adam’s disobedience of God, we would all be living forever in a paradise … according to those given voice in this documentary.

But is this actually what scripture says? And, I do not here from the fact that the creation story in Genesis is actually a fictional tale meant to make spiritual points with Jews. These people believe that Genesis is historical truth, no doubt about it … even though the Jews, who are responsible for the existence of that book, claim otherwise. I am not starting there. I am working from the viewpoint of the people who believe that Genesis is either first- or second-hand knowledge of what really happened.

Let’s start with Adam’s disobedience of God’s instructions. Going against God’s instructions is the definition of Biblical sin. It is the Creationist’s definition of right and wrong, good and evil. But God’s admonition was: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Clearly neither Adam, nor Eve, understood the difference between good and evil, having not yet eaten from the tree, so what was the basis for the punishment?

The Creationists in the documentary essentially claimed it was Original Sin, although the idea of Original Sin doesn’t occur in the Bible, having been first alluded to in the second century by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, and expanded in the fourth century by Aurelius Augustinus. But even if it isn’t mentioned, the source of Original Sin is God’s curse. God said that “when you eat from it you will certainly die.” But Adam and Even did not die, instead they were banished and their children were condemned as sinners before they were even born … with no way out from under that sentence for thousands of years. So, who created all of that depravity? Looks like “God did it,” is the answer again.

These Creationists also seem to think that Adam and Eve were immortal and that their sin brought death into the world. That is not backed up by scripture, because unless all of the animals were immortal, too, there had to be death. If they thought that Adam’s and Eve’s sin brought death to immortal humans, then why did God say: “22 … ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’” and then “23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

So, the whole point is that God showed no equanimity here. He could have just waved away Adam and Eve into nonexistence and then grabbed some mud to make a new Adam. He could have turned time back before Eve took her bite and strangled that serpent (it was not a snake; it had legs!). He could not have allowed the a serpent access to the Garden until Adam and Eve had had their shakedown experiences. He could have relented, restored them to their pre-bite status and warned them sternly to “Not do that again!” No, he condemns the entire race to depravity, hopelessness, and a Lake of Fire as a retirement home, for ever and ever, amen.

So, the Creationists are saying that the Book of Genesis is the literal truth but they have made up a whole lot of back story that is not in the Bible to support their worldview. In addition they have made up a whole lot of bullstuff about Darwin that conflicts with the historical record. They correctly, though, fully recognize that if Darwin is right, they are wrong. This is the source of their animosity. One commenter stated baldly that if he were not the subject of special creation, then he wouldn’t be “special,” he would be just another animal. He didn’t go on and say “And we all know that isn’t true …” he just left that hanging. Imagine, an argument that God has to exist because … ego gratification!

I just couldn’t finish the documentary because it is just so much bilge. They can indoctrinate their children and preach anti-Darwinism from their pulpits, but in the end God’s Creation will have the last laugh.

 

 

July 5, 2017

Why Don’t Atheists Just Run Amok?

Filed under: Culture,Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:38 pm
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One of the claims of god-fearers is that atheists are dangerous because they have no basis for their morals. Without a god to dictate what “being moral” is, and enforcing that moral code, there is just nothing stopping atheists from raping, looting, and killing, now, is there? I propose to explain why this is not the case, so that the god-fearers can understand.

This is just one point of many that can be made, like “It isn’t any fun,” but the primary reason that atheists don’t just run amok is that is just isn’t safe. Has anyone ever seen atheists run amok, specifically because their is no divine retribution, anyway? I have never heard of such a thing. I have read about numerous cases of bad treatment of people because they weren’t considered real people by the appropriate religious experts, but no amok running, per se.

Getting back to my main point: running amok ain’t safe. Let’s start with a hypothetical situation: a beautiful woman lives on an atheist’s block. If he were to go rape her, I mean, what could go wrong? For one, she may be a martial arts or MMA expert and she may beat the shit out of him. Or she may have a brother, father, uncle or other relative who owns a baseball bat and they may beat the shit out of him. (We have made this an element of society in the form of law enforcement. In Chicago, cops regularly beat the shit out of people, and shoot them, and then drag what’s left in for a trial.)

Obviously there is a great deal of downside to this running amok. When word got around, you could lose your job. Other people would shun you for being an asshole, etc. So, let’s say you embrace the badass nature of amok running, plus you are not a dumb atheist, but a smart one. You realize that to be able to run amok without negative consequences, you need a gang of atheists. There is safety in numbers, it takes a village, etc. So, you gather a gang, all ravening atheists, who form a mutual protection society. You go rape some woman and a male relative of hers takes offense and a baseball bat and comes looking for you and … Bob’s your uncle, you have a dozen guys there to greet him when he shows up. Easy peasey. But the problem with this approach is there is nothing stopping the aggrieved members of society from forming an even bigger gang and beating the shit out of your gang and you, of course.

Such behaviors: bullying, running amok, etc. only “succeed” in the short turn. Eventually you get the shit beaten out of you, or dead. (Ask Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi.)

So, the real reason why atheists just don’t run amok is that running amok is a lot of work and it just isn’t safe. Get along with people, treat them well, and you will lead a better life. This running amok idea may sound good to you, but it sounds miserable to us. It just isn’t any fun, you see.

Christian Think Tank Opposes Scripture?

The Guardian (U.K.) had a piece on an alarming (to them?) new trend in Christian goings on (‘Spiritual abuse’: Christian think tank warns of sharp rise in UK exorcisms). In that article they stated:

“Exorcisms are a booming industry in the UK, partly driven by immigrant communities and Pentecostal churches, according to a report from a Christian think tank, Theos.

“However, the vast majority of people being exorcised have mental health problems that require psychiatric assistance, says the report, published on Wednesday by Theos.

The report calls for an analysis of “the burgeoning exorcism scene in the UK in the light of concerns over how it is being used and its possible negative consequences”.

“It says the “astonishing increase in demand” has arisen “in defiance of any actual rules or procedures put in place by any church”. In 2012, the Church of England reissued guidelines on “good practice in the deliverance ministry”.

“The Theos report – Christianity and mental health: theology, activities, potential(PDF) – does not reject the possibility of demonic possession. It says: “Certainly there is a biblical warrant for the dangers of demonic forces, and Jesus’ great commission to the disciples includes the explicit command to ‘cast out demons’. However, there is also need for serious caution.”

“One danger was “Christian over-spiritualising” – a “tendency to ascribe anything and everything to spiritual causes when other medical ones may exist”. Another was a possible overlap between “demonic possession” and mental health issues.

“One chaplain who described themselves as a “Bible-believing evangelical” told Ben Ryan, the report’s author, that “in all their experience with a mental health trust they had ‘never seen anything I would say that looked like demonic possession, but I’ve seen plenty of people who have been told that’s what they’re experiencing by other Christians’.”

“The report says: “One of the frustrations of medical professionals with Christians comes from accounts and anecdotes of people with medical health issues going off their medication because they’ve been told that prayer is enough, and relapsing as a result.

“This is a classic example of well-meaning initiative with the potential for serious harm. It runs the risk of becoming a sort of spiritual abuse – which can be understood as psychological abuse inflicted upon the victim by members of their own religious group.”

As much as the article’s author’s words speak for themselves, we have an interesting clash here. “Real Christians,” who understand the Bible and act accordingly, should acknowledge only two sources of disease: sin and demon possession. There are no other sources of disease mentioned in the New Testament. Consequently, Real Christians shouldn’t be going to medical doctors and psychologists to treat their physical and mental diseases, they should be going to church to get proper treatment. But the author of the article claims that “the Church” hasn’t established proper protocols for demon outings and whatnot, so what’s a fellow to do?

As a side note I think we should just stop acknowledging all these different varieties of Christians: Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Pentacostals, whatever, I say they are all Christians and should be painted with the same brush. By dividing themselves up based upon miniscule differences, each of these “denominations” claims innocence whenever Christians get caught acting badly. “That’s not us, that’s them other people. They aren’t ‘True Christians,’ like us.” Bollocks. I say a Christian is a Christian and when one errs, they all need to be called to account.

Now about these Christians claiming people should be going to medical doctors and psychologists … really! What is to be done with them? And to be alarmed by proper Christian behavior, what is up with that?

 

June 22, 2017

Bad Polling Leads to …

Note I have been very busy lately, so haven’t been posting much. Should be back to normal soon. Steve

I am a regular reader of Religion Dispatches, which I recommend to you. In today’s article, “GOP ‘Stealthcare’ Bill Reveals Catholic Bishops’ Priorities,” the topic is, of course, the GOP healthcare bill. (I didn’t say “new” healthcare bill because there hasn’t been an “old” healthcare bill since Medicare.) Foregoing a discussion of the main topic as we still do not know what is in that bill, I was struck by this section:

“A new Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows just how successful the effort to forge the church’s opposition to reproductive and LGBT rights into a new political wedge issue to motivate right-leaning religious voters has been. According to the poll, which probed the political divide between urban and rural voters:

“Nearly 6 in 10 people in rural areas say Christian values are under attack, compared with just over half of suburbanites and fewer than half of urbanites. When personal politics is taken into account, the divide among rural residents is even larger: 78 percent of rural Republicans say Christian values are under attack, while 45 percent of rural Democrats do.

“This particular divide, and this widespread sense of Christian persecution, is relatively recent. As Julie Ingersoll noted here on RD, while evangelical leaders had tried to gin up a sense of Christian persecution going back to the mid-1990s, as late as 2005, “the argument that Christians were a minority in need of protection was not persuasive in the broader religious right.” But a “little over a decade later, conservative Christians across the country … now see themselves as targeted by powerful elites, one step away from imprisoning and executing people for their faith.”

I find such polling to be destructive as it asks people questions like “Do you feel Christian values are under attack?” without defining what Christian values are. According to Wikipedia, “The term Christian values historically refers to the values derived from the teachings of Jesus and taught by Christians throughout the history of the religion.” What comes to my mind are: give away your possessions and follow Jesus (Renunciation of Worldly Goods), the poor will always be among us, so the need our help, turn the other cheek (Renunciation of Violence), love your enemies (Unconditional Love), along with a few other things.

If you were to ask U.S. citizens if they should give away their wealth and sell their worldly goods, what do you think their answer would be? And couldn’t taxing the rich be seen as a way to help the rich get into Heaven? Didn’t Jesus say a rich man had about as much chance of getting into Heaven as … well, you know?

And, if the poll takers were thinking about one thing as being paramount: belief in a Protestant Christian god (not the Jewish one, not the Muslim one, not the Indian or Asian ones), I can see how they might think that their religion is “under attack.” Atheists are bold nowadays, are we not?

But I recall that in the 1960’s, my high school and college years, some wags did a poll in an interesting way. They tried to get people to sign a petition. The petition, word for word, was the Bill of Rights, Amendments 1-10 of the Constitution. But the typeface was one clearly made by a computer, using no “old timey” script as a give away. They struggled to find anyone willing to sign their petition! Hey, details matter in polls.

More recently, polls have shown that approval rates for Obamacare were much lower than approval rates of the main features of Obamacare, that is if asked “Should pre-existing medical conditions allow insurance companies to raise the price of your insurance or to refuse to insure you?” The answer was a resounding “no.” Obamacare? Boo, hiss!

The religion issue of Christians feeling persecuted is relatively recent as was pointed out in the article and mainly made up out of whole cloth by conservative radio talk show hosts and the like of Fox (sic) News. Since people in rural areas get larger doses of this propaganda, it likely has a greater effect.

If the poll questions were to ask things like “Should we collectively do more for the poor and less unfortunate?” the answer would likely be a high percent yeses. If it were phrased as “Should the government do more for the poor and less unfortunate?” I suspect the answer would be more to the “no” end of the spectrum. This is because our “governments” have been characterized as something other than “we collectively” by conservative propaganda (something evil, bwa ha ha).

How you phrase these questions determines to a large extent how people answer them.

June 6, 2017

And the Cure for Immorality … Jesus!

Over the last century and a half, the impact of evangelical protestant Christians on our culture has only grown. Their basic message was and is that the immorality riddling our society can only be cured by accepting Jesus into your heart. (Our current Vice-president and former president George W. Bush are both of this ilk.) They have risen into the political stratosphere of this country to the extent that they are determining policy efforts in major ways to put their ideology into the form of laws governing us all.

But, is their claim correct? To test it, I decided to check some numbers. If they are right, then the prisons should be populated with heathens, pagans, and members of all of those other non-Christian misbegotten religions. The wonderful people at www.fivethirtyeight.com supplied some data, to wit:

This chart compares the population of prisoners to that of the general population. For example: atheists are roughly 10 times more likely to be found in the general population than in prison. Huh, maybe being an atheist  leads to a crime-free life. With Catholics, it seems to be a push, the percent of prisoners reporting to be Catholics is the same as reported by the general populace.

Protestants, which would include the evangelicals are very close to 1:1, maybe 2:1?, indicating that, if Jesus is the cure, apparently it doesn’t work so well, certainly not as well as being an atheist. Of course, the Evangelicals have prepared spin for this situation which is that those people in prison have not truly accepted Jesus into their hearts and, thus, “are not true Christians.” This, of course, is not based upon knowing anything about the prisoners, just that their ideology proclaims that “true Christians” cannot do illegal things, by definition.

If they were looking for a cure, look at the Pentecostals. Very few of them run afoul of the law, so these Evangelicals should be selling Pentecostalism as the cure for society’s immorality, not evangelicalism.

For those wanting to paint Pagans, Muslims, and Native Americans as “real bad guys” and blame their religious affiliation, we need to look in a mirror. We have been locking up non-White people for a very long time for, well, not being white. If a white person had committed their crimes, they would more likely be in county jails for a shorter time or get off scot-free.* The surest way to avoid a murder wrap is to kill someone while wearing a policeman’s uniform. We do not want to believe our police are capable of irrational killings, so they don’t. Our faith is indeed strong.

* So as to prevent illiterate criticism of my use of the term scot-free, please be aware that “scot,” in this case, is from the Old Norse word “skot” meaning something to the effect of “payment” or “contribution.” In English, “scot” initially just meant “tax.” The phrase scot-free was first used in reference to municipal tax levies. It does not refer to a Scot, which is a person of Scottish descent. Currently, only rich Republicans seek the phrase as a descriptor.

May 17, 2017

Trapped Between Two Ideals

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:03 am
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The religions I see around me all talk of people as if they are scum. We are all sinners. We are unworthy. We are saved by God’s grace, not by becoming a good person, or achieving a stage of enlightenment. Speaking for myself I have never sinned. I have no reason to seek salvation as I am not condemned, except by the ignorant or those seeking political advantage over me.

There seems to be little middle ground in this discussion. On one side we have statements such as:
“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”
Prince Hamlet (via a Mr. W. Shakespeare)

And on the other we have:
“I am, after all, only human”
Everyone

Admittedly, Prince Hamlet’s outburst is stated with no little irony, but there are oodles of comments of how humans are “the peak achievement of evolution,” “made in God’s image,” etc., etc. Likewise the “what can you expect from me?” comments abound also.

Interestingly, religions encourage both of these extreme viewpoints.

Both viewpoints, I hope you believe, are deeply flawed, playing upon common emotions and observations. We are amazed at the things infants can do; we sometimes amaze ourselves. We see professional athletes and scientists and artists do things that are so far beyond our abilities that we must believe that we have some sort of divine spark in them and therefore, us.

We also see incredibly stupid things done by humans having temporarily, we hope temporarily, been bereft of their senses. There seems to be a cottage industry on cable TV providing video clips of these astoundingly stupid things, for us to marvel and laugh at, and despair of.

But the vast majority of people I meet are just people, people who have skills and flaws, and are mostly just trying to get through life with some grace. When a religion comes around addressing us as we really are and encouraging “the better angels of our nature,” I will consider it.

 

 

 

April 28, 2017

Evangelical Logic

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:17 am
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My friend, John Zande, has subscribed to a doctrine: “I am a creationist; I believe man created the gods.”

I agree with almost all Zandeisms but that one started me thinking. Evangelicals are often selling a “life in Christ” or “living a Christ-led life.” The goal, of course, is to be “saved.” And I wondered, as just a thought experiment mind you, what evangelicals would respond with if someone actually lead a life just like Jesus Christ, would then they be saved? I suspect that some of the hardcore might dogmatically say, well, you would still have to believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, no matter how you lived. Then I also suspect that many would be afraid that to adopt the life of Jesus and then be refused salvation by a bunch of punk ass religionists might not go down well with the crew in the pew. So, for them, salvation could come, should come, by living your life as Christ did.

Evangelicals, of course, also believe that Jesus is god, so … I decided this is what I am doing. I create my own universe and live by my own rules. I do not feel I have to be consistent in my actions or ideas. No matter what I have said before, what I am saying now is correct.

If I was created in God’s image, then God clearly wanted me to behave like Him, like Jesus, like me. Zande was right!

Again.

(Stick with me Zande, I’m gonna make you famous!)

April 27, 2017

Good and Evil? Meh.

I find the ideas of good and evil puzzling. In a world of almost infinite variation, these two absolutes continue to exist in people’s minds, often as an unnecessary dichotomy. Of course, there are organizations dedicated to their continued existence but, really, they are not useful terms, at least not to us. Mostly they show a lack of imagination or a desire to manipulate.

We are always trying to quantify things; that is normal for us. But we also tend to play one-upmanship in contests for status. There is a PGA commercial running now with famous golfers talking about how early they get to the practice range. The times quoted get earlier and earlier in response to what the others claimed until they are completely ridiculous. It was designed to show how competitive the golfers are and serves that purpose. It works, of course, because we have all played the game. (And please do not respond that this is a hyper-competitive, male-only game. Just listen to a group of mothers talking about their children and you will see the same process.)

So, when someone asks you “how bad was it?” There is a tendency to exaggerate. (I thought I was dying. Excruciating—worst hangnail I have ever had. etc.)

But like most things, these are just gradations on a scale. There is, for example, no “tall” or “short” or a clean dividing line between them. (I am tall enough to be in the top 3% of Americans in height, but when I played center in basketball in college, I was a puny shrimp.) Similarly, where are the dividing lines between “bad” and “evil” or between “good” and “bad?” These do not exist, for good reason. There are gradations of good and bad like there are of tall and short, but no absolutes.

What happens when we use absolutes, though, is we fall down a rabbit hole out of ordinary discourse. These absolutes do not acknowledge that there is a bit of everything in each of us. For example, by all accounts, Hitler was good to his mother.

By labeling things as “good” or “evil” we create categories based upon similarities that are not close to being exact. For example, do Adolph Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer belong in the same box?. Certainly not based upon their body counts. But both are simply labeled “evil.” Remember the “Evil Axis” of G.W. Bush? Such characterizations set people up for overly simplistic “solutions” to problems. As examples: We must oppose evil (because we are the good guys). We must oppose ISIS, it is evil. And, the ultimate: we must make war on terrorism! WTF? This makes no sense at all.

The terms good and evil exist as manipulators of human emotions and for no other reason. They are vague and unhelpful terms designed to be vague and helpful to those using them, to manipulate their hearers into doing their bidding.

When you next hear the term “all-good” or “ultimate evil,” think “all tall” or “ultimate short.” Those are about as useful as descriptors as the former.

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