Class Warfare Blog

June 17, 2020

Atheism Kills—Sometimes a Blurb Is Enough

Once again I encounter a book that needs no reading. This book addresses the question “Why are you Atheists so militant/unhappy/angry?”

Here’s the blurb:
In Atheism Kills, Barak Lurie exposes the horrors of a world without God. Contrary to the mantra we’ve heard time and time again that religion is responsible for more deaths than anything else, it is in fact the absence of God which has killed–in obscene numbers. Ever since atheism first assumed government control in the French Revolution, it has done nothing but kill.

Atheism has killed through its many deputies: progressivism, eugenics, fascism, and communism. Lurie shows that it was the godlessness in each of these ideologies that killed hundreds of millions.

But atheism doesn’t just kill lives. It kills purpose, free will, beauty, compassion, a sense of the past and future, creativity, and freedom itself. Atheism offers only the horrors of chaos and totalitarianism.

The world misplaces its focus on Radical Islam as the greatest threat to civilization. As horrible as it is, it is doing nothing and having no sense of self which are the true enemies. It was our will to fight and sense of mission that overcame fascism and communism. We must have these to keep Radical Islam at bay, too.

This is why we must resist the growth of atheism. It was God that gave us our freedom. It was God who gave our sense of purpose that created civilization. Take those away, and there is nothing to fight for. In this way, Lurie shows that the lack of belief in God is our greatest danger. How does he know? Because like a hurricane, godlessness has only known how to destroy everything in its path. It has never created.

Like there will always be fires, there will always be enemies that seek to destroy our civilization. But if we don’t have fire stations with crew, and protocol in each city to deal with fires, those fires will consume us. Likewise, how we prepare ourselves to deal with horrific ideologies will be what saves us.

That preparation can only come with our embrace of the centrality of God.

Foreword written by Dennis Prager.

So, how does that make you feel, you filthy atheists?

And, to be complete I include two Amazon Reviews; one a ♦♦♦♦♦ review and the other a ♦ review.

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent review of the case for Christianity

Reviewed in the United States on September 4, 2018

Verified Purchase

This Stanford University trained lawyer tells why he left atheism and became a Christian. He realizes that evolutionism is the doorway to atheism, and gives many reasons why Darwinism is not, and can not, be true. He also shows the harm of the former consensus science of eugenics and the harm this worldview has done. He gives many examples where Christians at great personal risk did what was moral even if it would have been to their benefit to do the opposite. He also covers Progressivism and how its goal was not to look in the past for wisdom, nor to the heavens, but rather to the self only. Then Lurie documents the harm that this idea, which sounds good and true, has done. He covers a lot of ground but covers the high points to make his case. I read the negative reviews before writing my review, and can conclude that their main goal is to convince readers not to buy this book. Read it for yourself and then judge. This is one of the best books I have read in a while. It is a breezy read, full of good illustrations to make his points.

1.0 out of 5 stars A boat load of nonsense

Reviewed in the United States on July 27, 2018

Verified Purchase

I got halfway through this disaster of a book before giving up finding anything reasonable. He lumps radical Muslims in with atheists–ridiculous. Radical Islam is the true form of Islam, same “God” and characters as Old Testament, just a different false messiah. The author thinks that only Christians and Jews (small part of world population) have morality. He thinks Christianity stopped slavery in 19th century—laughable. If Lincoln hadn’t gotten back into politics, slavery would have continued in this country into the 20th century, just like it did in some backward Muslim countries. The southern slave owners in this country were Christian and churches enabled the disgusting dehumanizing practice, for God’s sake!!!

Chapter 2 has a section “Argument For Atheism” which is brilliant (the only intelligent part of book). Then a section “Argument Against Atheism” that is idiotic, claiming that free will means doing whatever you want, you can ignore consequences, morality is absent if you’re a rational person. Is this a grade-school essay with no knowledge of retaliation by peers or civil authority? Besides basic human morality that is inborn, adults know that there are consequences like beatings, shooting, stabbing, civil penalties and jail time–THAT is the deterrent to indiscriminate violence, not fear of divine retribution or morality learned from some religious scam. As Marina Diamandis lyrics say in “Savages”– “I’m not afraid of God, I am afraid of Man”.

But, the book is supposed to prove that atheism kills. His proof apparently is the same old junk science–dictators and blood thirsty monsters like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Ho, Castro, Che, etc. They were born without morals (even if raised Catholic–Hitler, Castro, Che), but they had armies of men and citizens protecting them that were not atheists, I guarantee most were Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. The problem is that belief in some ancient book like the Torah/Bible/Koran that portrays scenarios that nobody can defend and passages so ambiguous as to be interpreted a thousand different ways doesn’t make you moral any more than not believing makes you immoral, or turn you into a Hitler.

What the author is trying to say, and takes forever making his point is: morality is impossible without Christianity or Judaism. That is just so juvenile and shallow and wrong that it doesn’t deserve commenting on. Then, he blames atheism for everything the immoral power mad leaders do–juvenile, shallow, idiotic.

Christians destroyed unknown millions of natives in the Western hemisphere from 15th century on.
Christians enslaved millions of Africans and clergy supported them both in the North and South USA.
Spanish and American Christians killed unknown thousands of Filipinos in order to “civilize” them.
Did they do those atrocities because God told them to or allowed them to? Some may have, but most practiced slavery (or killed and robbed natives) for earthy pleasure and treasure, apparently morality is subjective.
Did “God” punish the Europeans or the slave owners? I see no evidence of divine intervention in all of human history, unless you count “acts of God” as divine intervention. An ‘act of God’ (hurricane, tornado, flood, fire, etc.) destroys lives and churches in the path no matter their belief system; atheist, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, whatever.
Did Hitler destroy only religious people? He destroyed ANYBODY who got in his way, but he singled out complete Jewish civilian families for gas chambers because he was raised Catholic and Catholics blamed Jews for the worlds ills. Plus, Christians and Muslims assisted (or at least stood aside, mostly) the German SS in their genocide.

The author glosses over the hundreds of thousands lives lost over seven centuries of Inquisitions over the world. He ignores untold hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Europe over centuries of feuds between Catholics and Protestants.

This author tries to argue that the Bible shouldn’t have been intimidating to the populace since there are no intimidating characters in it–so completely ridiculous. A ‘God’ that punishes “sins”, a made-up scenario of an abusive afterlife, and church leaders that will burn to death infidels and heretics—THAT was intimidation. Until the printing press and general education of the masses, Christians and Jews ruled the Western world. Were the Middle Ages theocracies Utopian? NOT!! Ask Joan of Arc, or Mary Queen of Scots, or King Henry VIII’s 2nd wife Anne Boleyn, or….

As Richard Dawkins says “with or without religion, good people will do good, bad people will do bad, it takes religion to make good people do bad”. THAT is pure genius. Read more Dawkins, people. Not mish-mash nonsense like this book.

Atheism doesn’t kill, people kill for many reasons, some kill because their ‘God’ insists (Islam), or allows (Judaism) it.

And for a complete takedown of this book (a very long takedown) see http://trollingwithlogic.com/godless-wolf/2017/12/21/critical-analysis-of-atheism-kills-by-barak-lurie/

June 8, 2020

WordPress Does it Again!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:14 am

If you have been wondering why the font size on this site is so small … so have I. In the recent “improvements” in the text editor this change occurred. I went into the Appearance panel and tried to select another font, but the choices in font size seem to be “tiny” and “huge” even though they are labeled “Normal” and “Large.” I do hope they get this fixed soon.

June 7, 2020

Bending Rules with Trump

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:03 am

Consider the photo below:

This is Donald Trump and his posse during the current kerfuffle/round of protests regarding obvious-to-everyone-but-Donald-Trump police brutality. The gentleman on the right is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley.

Now, ordinary military members are severely restricted as to appearing at political events in uniform, the Joint Chiefs of Staff being excepted. For example:

“Military members, for example, may attend political meetings or rallies only as spectators and not in uniform. They’re not permitted to make public political speeches, serve in any official capacity in partisan groups or participate in partisan political campaigns or conventions.”

“They also are barred from engaging in any political activities while in uniform.”

“There are, however, exceptions to this, including but not limited to Senior Executive Service.”

And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is definitely a “Senior Executive Service” position.

But why is Gen. Milley in fatigues? Shouldn’t he appear in dress uniform as almost all of the other Chiefs do? Did Mr. Trump order him to wear fatigues to imply military support for his crackdown on the “lawless protesters?” Was he implying being in a war zone? Or did Mr. Milley wear fatigues to separate himself from the other “suits” in Mr. Trump’s posse. In a game of “Which of these is not like the others?” or “Where’s Waldo/Milley?” he sticks out like a sore thumb. Gen. Milley became a pariah in Trumpland when he opposed the President’s “plan” to call up the military to restore “law and order.” (Milley is said to have said “I am not doing that. That’s for law enforcement.”) So, it seems maybe the latter idea is more likely.

I don’t expect subtle symbolism from any of this crowd, but I wonder why a member of the Joint Chiefs would choose to wear such a uniform, especially the chairman of the group.  It smacks of a CEO wearing overalls in protest.

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
Tags: ,

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
Tags:

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
Tags: ,

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.

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