Class Warfare Blog

May 26, 2020

Open the Churches, Open the Churches!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:04 am

. . . says the Ranter in Chief. Easy for him to say, he doesn’t attend church services. I am an atheist and have seen the inside of more churches than Donald Trump.

But that is not the point I am trying to make right now.

The point I am trying to make is this . . . American theist’s faith must be weak indeed. It seems as if they do not get recharged at a Church Faith Charging Station, then they are likely to just drift away.

These girly-man theists can’t seem to hold it together without being portrayed as sheep by an officiant of some church. Hey, if you want to be degraded in your faith, call me! I will do it for nothing.

The ministers of their flocks, I can see, want to reopen services to keep their cash flow up, but why any Christian cannot go two months without church services is beyond me . . . and they claim their god is everywhere and accessible everywhere.

There are vulnerable people in any community and if there are these folks in your church community, how about supporting them by dropping by and having a conversation on their lawn or bringing a casserole (the Christians I grew up with were very big on casseroles . . . and Jell-O but I am not recommending you take that as I don’t want to be divisive). Check in with those in your congregation and find out what their needs are and see if you can help.

But don’t have every one pile into your Church asking Jesus to protect them because he won’t. There are roughly 100,000 dead because of COVID-19 (and another roughly 100,000 dead as collateral damage (that statistics indicate as “excessive deaths”) and the majority of the American dead are Christians. Don’t you think if Jesus were going to protect you, he would have started already?

Don’t be a Girl-man Theist! Show everyone how strong your faith is by staying home and when you finally are re-admitted to your church you can show them that your faith is undiminished. Get a ball cap that says Make Christianity Great Again and wear it!

Postscript I just read that in Germany they are re-opening their churches, having done a better job than us “crushing the curve.” From one such church there were 40 congregants who ended up ill with COVID-19, a few of which need hospitalization. But, we don’t use other societies experience to inform our own, even when they are acting as guinea pigs.

March 30, 2020

Further Muses Upon the Problem of Evil and Free Will

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:08 pm

I wrote in “The Problem of Evil and Free Will”:

If you are unfamiliar with the “Problem of Evil” the earliest record we have of it is from the philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BCE) and it goes like this:

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 comes evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Among all of the arguments for the existence of a god or gods, this is the most powerful one against the existence of a god or gods, so this is a favorite of atheists.

The apologists have many answers (really many) but the first and foremost was the defense of Free Will, which goes like this:

God gave mankind free will and if one human wants to harm another God can only prevent that by taking a way his free will, something of greater value, so He does not do that.

Basically people doing evil is a tradeoff for free will. Many atheists take the approach to grant that this is a good argument, but then point out that this only addresses evil created by humans, nor by other animals or Nature (earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides, etc.)

My counter to this argument for this god allowing evil to exist, again still avoiding natural disasters which actually I do not attach good, bad, or worse labels to, is that not allowing evil does not turn us into robots, slaves to Yahweh’s will as it were. All that is needed is to remove the will to do evil, and all of the other aspects (99+% of the rest of free will), can be kept. So, Yahweh is allowing evil so that he doesn’t have to give away the free will to do evil, which makes Yahweh’s case even weaker.

But this doesn’t address how to do this. I assumed that since Yahweh is all powerful, He would know how to do it. But Dr. Richard Carrier, one of my favorite historian/philosophers came up with the exact way to do this and it is perfectly feasible without the use of magic or a deity’s powers. The universe just needs one small tweak and that is if anyone does evil to another animal, human or not, you suffer. And the greater the evil, the greater you suffer. Either doing evil makes you ill or injuries you some how. This can be done today a number of ways, the most prominent might be psychological conditioning. Now if this conditioning were left to human teachings, we would still be in jeopardy because the education system has holes in it that people fall through all of the time. So, this needs to be hard-wired in, maybe with CRISPR editing of our DNA. Or maybe there are other ways, like Antabuse for Evil™.

We would still need to develop robust descriptions of what evil is or isn’t. Soldiers killing soldiers in an army invading his country are not common murders, but we would have a really good head start at avoiding human-on-human evil. Maybe wars just wouldn’t get started.

It is not hard to imagine such a universe and it would have been child’s play for an all-powerful deity to make it this way, or just our small corner of the universe, say.

This is yet another instance on which the concept of such a deity falls short of its description. He loves us but sends plagues to kill and maim. He loves peace by urges genocide. He plays both sides during wars, e.g. the famous Nazi belt buckle “Gott Mit Uns.”

I used to joke that I gave up religion for Lent one year. Actually that would be a good idea for everyone to do.

After Note I used to insist that one should not remove any institution without knowing what to replace it with. I now realize that in some cases, you need to remove the thing to see what we come up with as a replacement. A perfect example of this was the American experiment we call “Prohibition (of Potable Alcohol).” We eliminated the sale and production of alcoholic beverages. What replaced those, in short order, was the illegal sale and production of alcoholic beverages. The offenses of these criminal activities and recognition that people basically did not want Prohibition led to the repeal of the Constitutional amendment creating it. Other solutions to the alcohol problem are still on the table: treatment in clinics, social approbation, criminal penalties for excessive use, etc.

So, lets eliminate religion and see what replaces it. (I fully acknowledge that many thesis can only imagine that a Zombie Apocalypse is the only result of that. But I hope they realize that the poor opinion of mankind behind that was promoted by their very own religion. Most atheists seem to be kind and good citizens, no more likely to commit a crime that theists are. So, there is a natural experiment going on right now about how people will behave without religion. Just study the a-religious atheists. (Some atheists are religious, in case you didn’t know. And some churches don’t require a belief in any god to be a member, so there are “churched” atheists! <gasp>)

March 29, 2020

A Few Additional Thoughts on the Free Will Question

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:53 am

The free will question is a question about whether our universe is dominated by cause and effect, such that decisions we make are determined by physical causes and not some mystical internal will that allows us to ignore those. Many religions claim that free will is a gift from their god. Of course, many of the religions claim that everything is a gift from their god, but even so.

Many religions almost require free will because without it their punishments cannot be based upon choices that we make because we do not make them, the universe makes those choices by providing the causes of them. So the free will question is not a simple one because some of the debate participants have not-very-well-hidden agendas.

As things about our nature become known, the question pops up again and again. For example, when subliminal stimuli became known, these brought about another round in this debate. For example, say you are in an ice cream shop and two cups of ice cream are placed before you: one vanilla flavored, the other chocolate. You have no particular preference, so can you choose one or the other freely? But, unbeknownst to you, an agent of an evil government has been releasing chocolate scents into the ventilation system at a subliminal level so that you do not notice the odors, but your body still detects them, and you choose . . . the chocolate ice cream! The determinists say, “See, you do not have free will!” Your choice was determined by physical stimuli not in your control. Okay, rewind the story, and again, you are faced with the two cups of ice cream. The same dastardly agent is at work behind the scene creating a subliminal odor favoring the choice of chocolate. But this time, you have a cold and cannot smell that chocolate and you choose . . . vanilla. So, was your choice free or determined?

Who the Hell knows? What we do know is that we are not free from manipulation. Psychologists have discovered we all can be primed to make certain decision or take certain actions by all manner of things, so it is not just subliminal factors that bias our choices. The free will question though, asks if all of our choices made because of just such factors.

I think the question is premature, but I am leaning to the opinion that we do have free will  to some extent. This is based partly upon the fact that the physical basis of reality is probabilistic, not deterministic, so rigid determinism is not physically possible. We also have wiggle room in the definitions and you can see people taking advantage of this like cockroaches scurrying for cover when the lights are turned on in a flop house. My favorite is that we insist that free will be conscious free will when we are large beings operating sub- or un-consciously.

I think I have used this example before but I once saw (on TV) one of the world’s best poker players throw away a winning hand for no good reason. Later, he was interviewed about that hand to elucidate his thinking and he replied simply, I didn’t see that I had a flush; I missed it . . . with a sheepish grin on his face. As was once famously said, mistakes were made. Not only that but random variations show up in all kinds of things. For example, identical twins form because a fertilized egg fissions into two fertilized ova, each necessarily having the exact same genetic profile, the same environment, same mother, same father, same, same, same. And yet, soon after birth the mother has no difficulty telling them apart; in other words they are not quite identical. The manifesting of the babies from their identical genetic information involves some random variations. Identical twins enjoy dressing alike and taking each others places, but people who know both well usually can tell them apart.

These random events are woven into the universe. Many people are aware, for example, that atom bombs were first made from uranium-235 and that it is a minority isotope that had to be separated from the vastly more common uranium-238 isotope. What a lot of people do not know is that U-238 is also radioactive. It is speculated that when the Earth formed, the numbers of the two isotopes were about equal. In all of this time, however half of the U-238 has decomposed whereas almost all of the U-235 has decomposed, leaving the amount of U-235 at less than 1% of uranium atoms and U-238 being over 99% of all uranium atoms.

Now, think of the U-238. Imagine a speck of this substance at about the time the earth formed. Two atoms of U-238, side by side, one of which popped off right at the beginning of that period and the other waited 4.5 billion years before it popped off. The two atoms were identical. There is no difference between atoms of isotopes of any of the elements that we can detect. There are also very, very few external conditions that have any effect whatsoever upon the rate at which atoms decay radioactively. A third atom of U-238, right next to the first two, might decay tomorrow or might not for 10 billion years. There is no way to tell. The kinetic theory of gases is another example and, of course, the weirdnesses of quantum mechanics.

The fundamental behaviors at the root of physical reality all seem to be probabilistic and this doesn’t somehow combine to form a deterministic universe. So, if there is no free will, what the heck is there behind any choices we have to make?

March 17, 2020

Voting Today

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:28 am
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Since we live in a big city, there are certain perks. For one, our condominium is a voting precinct of itself and when we have elections, like the primary today, we vote in the lobby of the building. How many of you rode an elevator to your polling place today? :o)

I have voted in every general election since I began to vote and I vote in person, specifically to do my civic duty but also to thank to poll workers for their service. (Yeah, they get paid . . . peanuts.)

So, imagine my panic when my building announced because of the Coronavirus outbreak they were cancelling of polling place in the lobby and they would announce alternate voting locations shortly. Ack! I quickly went online and found that the deadline for voting by mail was that very day, so I got my application in and started the process.

The building reversed its position and decided it would go ahead with polling in the lobby anyway.

The ballot came yesterday in the afternoon, so I filled it out and dropped it in the mail today, the last day to get it postmarked to be counted. Whew!

And I did get the opportunity to thank the poll workers for their service . . . on my way to the postal slot just outside of the lobby. Double whew! I hope this is also the last time I vote by mail as well as the first.

So, you don’t misunderstand, I love living in this building. Staff is incredibly good . . . and happy, a sure sign of good management. The management is good. The economics of the building are stable and future oriented. So, they took the feed from a security camera in the lobby and fed it onto the buildings internal web site, so people could see ahead of a trip down the elevator whether the polling station was crowded or not. And, of course, they have hand sanitizing stations readily available.

I love this building! And having a view of the Sun rising over Lake Michigan every morning doesn’t hurt, either.

January 19, 2020

Followers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:08 am
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At this point I think of some of you who regularly comment on my blatherings as at least colleagues if not friends (yes, casual friends, but friends nonetheless). I was just reading a post elsewhere on WordPress and the author asked to be “followed” here and on Instagram and Twitter.

I was struck by the fact that I have never done the like. I have never asked people to “Follow me!” Now, it isn’t that I don’t check my site stats from time to time, being a bit of a stat junkie, but I haven’t had the thought of “Gee, how can I increase my number of followers?” or “Gosh, I would like to have more countries on my followers list.”

At no time have I thought of this endeavor as being a contest to see who can acquire the most followers, although I understand some politicians, athletes, and entertainment celebrities brag about how many followers they have. Now, that makes sense as they are all in the “look at me” business.

My motivation for posting has been to get a few things off my chest, clarify my thoughts, and to step out of the closet on some of my more unpopular stances. (I had not talked to anyone outside of my family about my atheism since college.)

To me followers declaring themselves as such is a little like declaring for a political party. There are no entrance requirements, no controls over who may or may not join, so bottom line I guess is that it is a gauge of how interesting you are as a poster and, even then, not a particularly good one as people need to find your posts to make that determination and that seems hit or miss. Plus they may be following you because they hate what you say rather than “like” what you say.

So, is acquiring followers for your blog(s) important to you?

November 29, 2019

Actually Giving Thanks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:49 am

Yesterday I had a back and forth with Professor Taboo in which I had an idea. Here is what I said then:

I am tired of those claiming that atheists have nothing to give thanks for on Thanksgiving day. What if we were to have a tradition that on Thanksgiving Day, we would write notes to all of those people in our lives we owe thanks to. Doctors who helped us survive: tow truck drivers who pulled us out of a snowy bank, bankers who helped us get out from under a dicey loan, lawyers who defended us in court against false charges, and so on. Think of millions of these notes being sent via snail mail, email, and whatnot.” (Yes, I quoted myself!)

I am sure that Hallmark and American Greetings and all of the other “card” makers would get on board with this! Think how you would feel when over a few days span, everyone who is thankful for what you have done has written you and you get a ton of mail. And, if you get no mail at all, society is basically saying you need to get your pitiful life in order and help a few others. I am sure the postal service would not look askance at this tradition.

I am sure that this “feel good” exercise would be diluted by every fricking commercial vendor thanking each and everyone of their customers, but we could disabuse them of doing that on a mechanized scale.

Currently, we currently “give thanks” by gorging ourselves on too much food and drink and watching parades, dog shows, football games, and whatnot on television. How is any of that “giving thanks”? (“I am thankful I can afford to buy too much food on occasion and can afford to have cable and a wide-screen TV to watch meaningless things thereon.” WTF?)

 

October 26, 2019

Interweaving Threads of Thought

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:19 am
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I don’t know about you, but I read a great many books simultaneously. I start a book, read it for a while and then put it down to read something else. Later I pick it up (or not) and read some more. Rarely do I read a book straight through.

Currently in my pool of books I am reading are The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History by Howard Bloom and A Native’s Return, 1945-1988 by William L. Shirer. Two more disparate books would be hard to find, although there are some touch points between the two.

In The Lucifer Principle, the author is addressing various scientific points behind human history that people tend to forget. The first point, made strongly and almost irrefutably is that humans are equipped by nature with both “good” and “evil” tendencies. One of his arguments involves the tendency of male mammals to kill the children of their competitors during conquests. Not only do we see this behavior in nature but also in human societies. A lactating female is naturally resistant to getting pregnant again, so removing the children, makes the female capable of having babies again, the babies of the conqueror this time. (This discussion gave me more than a few twinges of male guilt, but this practice is observed in both males and females and also seems to be hard-wired into the drive to procreate. The females getting preferential treatment for her offspring by the social exclusion or even killing of other females offspring.)

Here is a sample from this book:

“Hugo Grotius in 1625 published De Jure Bellis ac Pacis, or Concerning the Law of War and Peace, a book that tried to make Christian war more humane. In it, Grotius justified killing children. He cited Psalm 137, which says, “Happy shall he be who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock.” Thus, Grotius was well aware of two things: that killing enemy children was common in the days of the Old Testament; and that it remained as common as ever in seventeenth-century Europe.”

I was drawn to A Native’s Return, 1945-1988 because the author of this memoir also wrote the quite famous book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a book I have read several times.

Here is a sample from that book:

“Every person’s life is of importance to himself, of course; it is the only one he has and knows. But in the universe of infinite space and time, it is insignificant. “Qu’est-ce qu’un homme dans l’infini?” asked Pascal (What is a man in the infinite?). Nothing. Perhaps Carl Becker, the historian, and one of the most civilized men I ever knew, grasped best our piddling place in the infinite. Man [he wrote] is but a foundling in the cosmos, abandoned by the forces that created him. Unparented, unassisted and undirected by omniscient or benevolent authority, he must fend for himself, and with the aid of his own limited intelligence find his way about in an indifferent universe. And in a rather savage world! The longer I lived and the more I observed, the clearer it became to me that man had progressed very little beyond his earlier savage state. After twenty million years or so of human life on this Earth, the lot of most men and women is, as Hobbes said, “nasty, brutish, and short.” Civilization is a thin veneer. It is so easily and continually eroded or cracked, leaving human beings exposed for what they are: savages.”

Such coincidences occur often enough in my reading and almost always are worth paying attention to. In this case, we tend to use the word “civilized” to describe thoroughly socialized human beings, people who use words and not weapons to get their points across. People who are “civil” and not brutish and violent. But my recent reading has shown me that civilization was and is based upon oppression of the many to provide ease and resources to the few. So, while there are many nice things to say about the veneer of civilization, at its heart, as at the heart of capitalism, is exploitation for gain, not any of the touchy-feeling nice things we claim for “being civilized.”

If you will allow me another quotation from yet another book currently in my stack:

“Bacon was not thinking of the labouring people, but one hundred years later Bernard Mandeville, who was quite as convinced as was Bacon of the “Tyranny which Custom usurps over us”, was a great deal less well-disposed towards any universal provision of education. It was necessary that “great multitudes of People” should “inure their Bodies to Work” both for themselves and to support the more fortunate in Idleness, Ease and Pleasure: Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees (Harmondsworth, 1970 edn.), p. 191: also p. 334.

“‘To make the Society Happy and People Easy under the meanest Circumstances, it is requisite that great numbers of them should be Ignorant as well as Poor. Knowledge both enlarges and multiplies our Desires. . . The Welfare and Felicity therefore of every State and Kingdom require that the Knowledge of the Working Poor should be confin’d within the Verge of their Occupations and never extended (as to things visible) beyond what relates to their Calling. The more a Shepherd, a Plowman or any other Peasant knows of the World, and the things that are Foreign to his Labour or Employment, the less fit he’ll be to go through the Fatigues and Hardships of it with Chearfulness and Content.’

“Hence for Mandeville reading, writing and arithmetic ‘are very pernicious to the Poor’.”
(E.P. Thompson Customs in Common: Studies in Traditional Popular Culture)

Note The poem “The Fable of the Bees” was published in 1705, and the book first appeared in 1714. The poem suggests many key principles of economic thought, including division of labor and the “invisible hand,” seventy years before these concepts were more thoroughly elucidated by Adam Smith. And a clearer statement of purpose for exploiters has rarely been seen.

And, I close with yet another quote, read quite recently, from one of my favorite philosophers:

Man is a rational animal—so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favor of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents. (Bertrand Russell)

We do not need to invent gods as the sources of good and evil (Yahweh claims both, by the way) but rather an act of scapegoating to make us look better in the long run.

September 14, 2019

We Can’t Trust Our Senses! . . . Really?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:57 am

I have pointed out that we carry around in our heads a mini Matrix-like simulacrum of reality. This mental construct is how we make sense of the world around us, actually it is how we perceive the world around us in an effort to survive. As a recent Scientific American article stated:

“The deeper truth is that perception is never a direct window onto an objective reality. All our perceptions are active constructions, brain-based best guesses at the nature of a world that is forever obscured behind a sensory veil. Visual illusions are fractures in the Matrix, fleeting glimpses into this deeper truth.

“Take, for example, the experience of color—say, the bright red of the coffee mug on my desk. The mug really does seem to be red: its redness seems as real as its roundness and its solidity. These features of my experience seem to be truly existent properties of the world, detected by our senses and revealed to our mind through the complex mechanisms of perception.

“Yet we have known since Isaac Newton that colors do not exist out there in the world. Instead they are cooked up by the brain from mixtures of different wavelengths of colorless electromagnetic radiation. Colors are a clever trick that evolution has hit on to help the brain keep track of surfaces under changing lighting conditions. And we humans can sense only a tiny slice of the full electromagnetic spectrum, nestled between the lows of infrared and the highs of ultraviolet. Every color we perceive, every part of the totality of each of our visual worlds, comes from this thin slice of reality.” (The Neuroscience of Reality by Anil K. Seth)

The reason I bring this up is that materialists, like me, are often challenged by people who are fans of the supernatural that our perceptions are flawed and that something could exist outside of our ability to perceive.

Yeah, “Cleanup of wishful thinking on Aisle 5, please!”

As mentioned above something as profound as color is a mental construct. It only exists in our heads . . . in that fashion. Other animals “see” differently. Some insects see myriad colors, well into the ultraviolet part of the EMR spectrum. Some animals see in duotone, others in black and white.

Sepia duotones were common in the early days of photography.

I have been a fan of black and white photography for half a century and I remember seeing quite a few black and white movies on television as a child, but now with color movies being so dominant, black and white movies seem bizarre somehow. Interestingly enough, the original design of our vision (designed by evolution, not some supernatural designer) was for duotone vision. For those of you who do not understand “duotone” it involves two colors against a white (or single color) background. Photoshop has an “action” to create duotones from black and white photos and you can have great fun creating these. But they pale in comparison to full color photos (see the example photo of one of the first photographic duotone varieties).

The reason we know that we were originally designed (by evolution!) for duotone vision is apparent in the color receptors in our eyes. We have two dominant color receptors. For full color we would need three (just like the RGB—red, green, blue—color monitors/TVs). The two primary color receptors in our eyes are quite different in the color of light they respond to, but the third is clearly a mutation of one of the other two. (There is DNA evidence for this.) The color it responds to is very close to the one which it is a mutation from. But this is enough difference for our brains to interpolate “full color” from the information. If our eyes were computer monitor aligned, that monitor would not be a red-green-blue monitor but a red-green-“bluish-green” kinda sorta monitor. So, basically we got “full color” vision by accident. And, if we had not, we would think that duotone vision was “normal.”

Now, can we “trust” our senses? Of course we can. We can trust them to be what they are. But if you think that what we observe is a direct portal to reality (whatever that means) you are mistaken. We need to understand what out senses are . . . really are, not just what we assume they are.

Scientists have tackled many parts of this issue. For example, when you see a Yellow Banana™ (Ray Comfort) and you describe the color as “yellow” and I see it and say “Yes, it is yellow,” have we just been trained to use that word (yellow) for that color or do we actually perceive the same thing? Rest assured that we do perceive the same thing (brain scanners are wonderful tools) and you are not seeing green and calling it yellow and I blue and calling it yellow, or some other misperception. So, we all seem to be taking in the same information and treating it the same way. So we agree on what out senses “tell us.” Actually our brains interpret the information in the same way. (Normally . . . there are variations enough due to the sheer number of us.)

In addition, we have invented myriad instruments to extend our senses, including ear trumpets, telescopes, microscopes, radio telescopes, eyeglasses, laser interferometers, etc. We do not just depend upon our hard wired senses to acquire “sensory” information. And we have coherent interpretations of what our instruments perceive. (When scientists “measurements” conflict, they hungrily chew on those data because they may be the source of new learning.)

And we just do not perceive “supernatural” phenomena. If we did, then they would be “natural.” For supernatural mental constructs, such as gods, to affect us, they must affect reality, and so they, or their effects, should be observable. They are not observable and sometimes when we have looked and looked and looked, the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The simplest explanation for why there is no evidence for the existence of gods is they do not exist.

To claim that a god exists outside of time and space (whatever that means) is a desperate claim that puts a god where it cannot be perceived. But it also puts a god where it cannot affect reality. In this we can trust our senses. Anyone claiming that we cannot is building fairy tales out of whole cloth.

Sometimes a Blurb is Enough, Part ???

Filed under: Religion,Science,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 7:35 am
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I see a great many books recommended by Amazon.com based upon my reading tastes (as indicated by my searches and purchases, I assume). This one caught my eye: Genesis and the Big Bang Theory: The Discovery Of Harmony Between Modern Science and The Bible. This is the blurb accompanying that title:

A ground-breaking book that takes on skeptics from both sides of the cosmological debate, arguing that science and the Bible are not at odds concerning the origin of the universe.

The culmination of a physicist’s thirty-five-year journey from MIT to Jerusalem, Genesis and the Big Bang presents a compelling argument that the events of the billions of years that cosmologists say followed the Big Bang and those of the first six days described in Genesis are, in fact, one and the same—identical realities described in vastly different terms. In engaging, accessible language, Dr. Schroeder reconciles the observable facts of science with the very essence of Western religion: the biblical account of Creation.

Carefully reviewing and interpreting accepted scientific principles, analogous passages of Scripture, and biblical scholarship, Dr. Schroeder arrives at a conclusion so lucid that one wonders why it has taken this long in coming. The result for the reader—whether believer or skeptic, Jewish or Christian—is a totally fresh understanding of the key events in the life of the universe.

* * *

Why the author had to go to Jerusalem on his “thirty-five year journey” is mysterious. The creation didn’t take place there, Genesis is available on the Internet as are several tons of discussion of it, so. . . ?

I have not yet read this beast, but it is a common approach of apologists to establish a correspondence between what we perceive as reality and their scriptures. Since their scriptures have a poor track record in such comparisons it is easy to scoff, but I decided to give this a go. I will report back.

Of course, there are a few minor foundational issues with all such comparisons. While one may establish that the order of the steps of creation as described in scripture is the same as actually occurred, in scripture the process by which they occurred is magic, something that has never been observed. As a colleague of Daniel Dennett put it (approximately) is that “real magic is fake and fake magic is real.” And any sort of physical explanation for a manifestation of nature must include not only the event but the process by which is occurred and “God did it” is not so much an explanation but an admission that one doesn’t know why or how it happened. And, it would be much more convincing if the scriptural account differed from reality and later, our view of reality had to be corrected due to mistakes being made and it came into alignment with scripture. This never happens. More often apologists claim that scripture corresponds with reality perfectly and then we find errors in our picture of reality and this is followed by some other apologist claiming that scripture was in perfect agreement with the new reality. (Note that Christian scripture corresponded exactly with Babylonian cosmogony and then Aristotelian cosmogony and then modern cosmogony (apparently), all three of which are vastly different. But I get ahead of myself. As I said I will attempt to read this book and report back.

For those who object that Yahweh “speaking” the universe into existence shouldn’t be characterized as magic, I offer this definition: magic (noun): the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. If the scriptural creation account is not mysterious and didn’t involve supernatural forces, then it was a natural thing and we don’t need a god to account for it, so scriptural creation is magical, almost by definition.

June 30, 2019

Evolution of the Gods—God and Satan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:08 am

It seems that John Branyan cannot seem to grasp my argument regarding Satan and that a final battle on the plains of Armageddon between the forces of good and evil, must be some kind of joke because on one side you have an all-knowing and all-powerful god who can vanquish his enemies with the flick of a finger. I usually assume that any misunderstanding is my fault but I suspect that Mr. Branyan cultivates a certain imperviousness to serve his own ends (what those are isn’t clear to me).

The last question I put to him in the comments today was “Why does Satan exist? What can Satan do that Old Yahweh cannot?”

In answer to this, Satan has god-like powers. In the Bible it infers that Satan can fool Yahweh and can actually thwart his will. But, of course, Satan isn’t a god, he just plays one in church communities. Honestly, why is Satan still around?

Here is an excerpt from the listing under Satan on Wikipedia: “A figure known as “the satan” first appears in the Tanakh as a heavenly prosecutor, a member of the sons of God subordinate to Yahweh, who prosecutes the nation of Judah in the heavenly court and tests the loyalty of Yahweh’s followers by forcing them to suffer. During the intertestamental period, possibly due to influence from the Zoroastrian figure of Angra Mainyu, the satan developed into a malevolent entity with abhorrent qualities in dualistic opposition to God. In the apocryphal Book of Jubilees, Yahweh grants the satan (referred to as Mastema) authority over a group of fallen angels, or their offspring, to tempt humans to sin and punish them. In the Synoptic Gospels, Satan tempts Jesus in the desert and is identified as the cause of illness and temptation. In the Book of Revelation, Satan appears as a Great Red Dragon, who is defeated by Michael the Archangel and cast down from Heaven. He is later bound for one thousand years, but is briefly set free before being ultimately defeated and cast into the Lake of Fire.”

As usual there are more questions created than answered as soon as you delve into the back story of such a being. So . . .

  • Why would Old Yahweh need a prosecutor? To find out facts he already knows?
    • Why would suffering (torture?) be the preferred mode of examination? Has neither Satan nor Yahweh any truth serum at hand? You can lie to God?
    • “Dualistic opposition to God” spills the beans. Satan is the fall guy for anything bad that happens so that Yahweh doesn’t get blamed, even though He repeatedly admits he is the source of all good and evil.
    • Why would Yahweh create a posse of fallen angels to “tempt humans to sin and punish them”? There aren’t enough temptations that exist naturally, that he has to poke the bear over and over?
    • If, in the Book of Revelation, Satan is bound for 1000 years (now eclipsed) and then “ultimately defeated and cast into the Lake of Fire” why would Yahweh treat his trusted servant like this? And, clearly, if you ask any evangelical if Satan has been vanquished, they would say no (or maybe Hell, no!). Defeated? For doing what Yahweh wants him to do?

Getting back to my main point. Yahweh created Satan. Satan knows this. Yahweh can uncreate Satan. Satan knows this. If Satan actually opposed the plans of Yahweh, Satan would cease to exist. Satan knows this, too. So, why does Satan appear to oppose “God’s Plans”? It can only be because Satan believes that’s what Old Yahweh wants him to do. (And where did he get the idea to oppose his master? Was there some miscommunication? Aren’t angels perfect beings, created by their perfect master?) So, should Satan be blamed for anything he does . . . in his master’s name?

I don’t think so.

So, the Cynical Old Bastard in Charge (that’s translated from the Hebrew, I believe, not Aramaic) keeps Satan around as a fall guy, just to take any blame for any evil that befalls humans. Satan knows his job evaluation will be based upon how well he does his job, so he performs it to the letter. (How could he not he is as near perfect a being as Yahweh could make?) And for doing his job well, he is villainized, excoriated, cursed, and given no props by Yahweh worshipers.

I’ll tell, you, there is no justice in the world.

John Branyan thinks that because Yahweh’s plans are opposed doesn’t mean that Yahweh is not “all-powerful.” If that is so, then that opposition is part of Yahweh’s plans and therefore He owns it.

What a scam!

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