Class Warfare Blog

May 15, 2018

The Basic Problem with Our Religions

Filed under: Culture,Education,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:09 am
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A philosopher named Owen Flanagan quoted someone as saying that “A good human life is lived at the intersection of the true, the good, and the beautiful.” It seems that we all come equipped to determine what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful as part of our basic makeup, so if the aphorism is true, we all have the capability of living a good life. But if you ask a Christian apologist what is the true, what is the good, and what is the beautiful, they will respond that God/Jesus is the truth, only He is truly good, and He and His love are the beautiful. Humans, on the other hand, are depraved, sinful, and unworthy, and that none of those three (truth, good, beauty) come from anywhere but their god. Humans can be saved from their sinfulness, but only through faith in their god or at least obey the gods directives as interpreted by their gods servants.

I am reminded of a phenomenon of the 1970’s and 1980’s called Erhard Seminars Training or EST. This was a self-improvement program designed to improve the lives of the participants. The beginning of the course was described as being brutal as the participants were verbally abused into a state of pliable acceptance, then they were built up into different people, presumably better. Old school military training was similar, but the initial stages were more physical. “Recruits” were abused verbally and physically to make them more pliable for training into better soldiers (any number of movies have highlighted these processes—Private Benjamin, Full Metal Jacket, An Officer and a Gentleman, etc.).

The religions in this country favor depicting potential believers as being unworthy, sinful, even abominable, before offering the “cure.” They describe the world around us as being filled with temptations and dangers, for which they have, of course, solutions. They refer to their followers as docile animals, as their “flock,” as “lambs and sheep,” and as children, with priests referring to their parishioners as their children (My Son, My Daughter, My Child) and accept the title of “Father,” all of which disempowers the parishioners and puts them into the pliable state of a child, ready for indoctrination.

As a teacher I was taught that my primary goal was to provide a “safe learning environment” for my students, so they could learn free of coercion, bullying, sarcasm, and humiliation. I taught college kids, adults, so was that requirement because all of my students had already been safely religiously indoctrinated as children and it was now not okay to coerce them? Why does this “safe, learning environment” requirement not apply to religions, which terrorize young children with images of their loved ones burning in Hell. (Please don’t tell me this doesn’t happen, I have spoken to too many people who have confessed their nightmares regarding their grandparents or other loved ones roasting in fire.)

Why do not we use, as a theme for educating our children the simple phrase “a good human life is lived at the intersection of the true, the good, and the beautiful” and operate as if we believed that?

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May 8, 2018

The Pruning of Christianity

Filed under: History,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 2:25 pm
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Pruning, pruning … now where is The Branch?

I have commented often that in my opinion, religion thrives because it coerces the masses to serve the interests of the religious and secular elites. I have supported this assertion with comments such as: Christianity became a major religion because it was adopted as a state religion of Rome and then later as the state religion of Rome. Had Christianity not endorsed slavery, those adoptions would not have taken place and today Christianity would be a minor, very minor religion or set of sects. Christianity became a major religion because of state power, starting with Rome.

I also continue to insist that religions continue to be supported by states because of the same reason. The effect of this support, though, is a mixed blessing. I have noticed that quite a few elements of Christianity have been pruned away, precisely because they do not support the interests of the secular and religious elites. For example, Jesus said “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) This is hardly ever followed, except by ascetic monks and nuns. If every Christian were to do this, it would collapse the economy. The elites need a low cost, complaint work force and this commandment conflicts with this, so in the main, Christians do not do this. This command (from God!) goes ignored because it conflicts with the interests of the elites.

Just off the top of my head I came up with a short list of the “Ins and Outs” of Christianity, those aspects that are encouraged and those that have been pruned out. I am sure that, if you put your mind to it, you could add to both lists.

Allowed to Stay In

  • Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Matthew 11:24) Note: Don’t ask us for anything, ask Jesus.
  • So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34) Note: Don’t worry, be happy … and show up to work on time.
  • Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:12) Note: Yes, you are oppressed but when you die….
  • For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18) Note: Whatever you do, don’t join a union and don’t ask for a raise. Just shut up and do what you are told. Your reward comes later … much later.

Pruned Out

  • For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12) See Exhibit A: Donald Trump
  • Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 23:12) See ‘War on Christianity, War on Christians, War on Christmas, Christian Persecution Complex.
  • In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16) Note: There is too much work doing good deeds, besides it takes away business from profit-making enterprises. Faith is enough.
  • I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Note: Rich man good, poor man badshiftless, lazy, etc.
  • Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. Note: The lazy bastards need to get a job!
  • But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6) Note: But who would notice?

April 11, 2018

Stepping Back To See

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:00 pm
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I enjoy the blog Tim…Stepping Out where the mythos of the New Testament is being explored (to become a book, it is promised).

In that blog I read all kinds of things and while that blog gets into the mythical underpinnings of various scriptures, I am now tending to take a step back instead. For example: Jesus gathers 12 disciples to follow him and help on his mission. The first gospel, Mark, paints these disciples as hopelessly dense rubes. I suspect if you asked the average Christian what they thought of Jesus’s disciples, most would either agree with that sentiment, or just stare at you blankly.

Of the twelve, Judas didn’t turn out so well, even though without him, there is no Christianity. But of the others, did any of them have significant impact on the development of what we know as Christianity today? The answer is a simple “no.” Maybe Peter had a little impact, but that impact was buried under the impact of the “Apostle” Paul, who was not a disciple. (I put apostle in quotes as it was a designation that Paul gave himself; it was not bestowed by any authority.)

Now Jesus is consider to be “God” himself, the all-knowing, etc., etc. creator of the universe. How could such a being have chosen so many ill-suited people to carry his message, especially when he had tens of thousands of angels at his command who would, I suspect, make a much greater impression upon people hearing the message? How could Jesus, god of the universe, be so incredibly inept at team building? Apparently none of his disciples could write, as they left no testaments to their experience. (Plenty of people claiming to be them wrote things, but those have been dated to times in which all of the disciples would have been dead, so they are forgeries.) Neither did anyone else think it was a good idea to pay a scribe to write down things these people said.

In another narrative, Simon of Cyrene, the character selected from the crowd to carry Jesus’s cross, was selected somehow to receive the Christ Spirit from Jesus, so that Jesus could die on the cross (niftily explaining away the criticism that Jesus, as a god, cannot die and so could only fake dying for the rubes in the audience). Not many Christians accept this narrative around Simon of Cyrene, but if you take it at face value, Jesus is being treated as a meat puppet by the Holy Spirit and when the going gets tough, Jesus the man, is left all by his lonesome to bear the “discomfort” of crucifiction. Hey, way to treat your loyal servants!

If we take a step back from, instead of into, the details, we see the utter unsupportability of these stories. There is no real “there” there. These stories are just stories and they do not make a narrative case for the claims of modern Christianity. Their god does not act like a god which is all-powerful, and on the rare case he does, he acts like the cosmos’s biggest dick.

April 8, 2018

Avoiding the Narrative Trap

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:25 am
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I keep seeing people on the Internet arguing fine points regarding the Christian narratives surrounding the Garden of Eden, the Exodus, the Resurrection of Jesus, or Noah’s Ark. Too often it seems to me that people limit themselves to critiquing the fine points of the narrative offered. With regard to Noah’s Ark people ask: how such a small group of men make such a large ship? How could so many animals fit into such a small space? Where did they store the animal’s food? How did they shovel out all of the shit produced? Were there dinosaurs on the Ark? If one steps back from the narrative and looks at it from afar, one asks quite different questions.

Yahweh is apparently disappointed in his creations. He declared them “good” but now has decided to kill them all and start over. This seems more than a little like admitting a mistake that should have been foreseen, but even if you set that aside, there are fundamental criticisms of the entire episode. The killing is done is an extremely clumsy way. Not only does Yahweh take out all of the human beings (save the eight that end up on the Ark), but he kills off 99.99% of all of the animals, even the sea creatures are done in (the large addition of fresh water to the salty seas will kill most fish/creatures adapted to the salty water). What have these creatures done to be killed like this? Even animals in the Ark are destined to be dead before long as they were adapted to, say very cold temperatures (penguins, etc.) and they are released from the Ark on a mountaintop in the Middle East with orders to go forth and multiply, what? Of course, Yahweh could transport them back to whence they came but why have all of these details to deal with?

A supernatural entity with the powers attributed to Yahweh (omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and omnibenevolence) could do something like make all but the eight disappear such that they were never there in the first place. No big flood, just Noah and his family wandering around in a world empty of other humans wondering where’d they go and really, truly believing in the power of their god. No totally improbably clumsy event, just the act of an effing powerful god.

The Garden of Eden narrative is likewise daffy. Yahweh creates Adam to what end? In Genesis 1 the reason was “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (In Genesis 2, the reason is different. It starts by saying that there was no shrub or plant on Earth but Yahweh had planted a garden (again with the contradictions).) Going with the Genesis 1 narrative, Yahweh basically is creating an overseer for his garden. Obviously, wild creatures have no use of rulers, kings, queens, etc. On what basis does an all-powerful entity need a helper, a gardener? Admitting the need for help from other hands at all is admitting that one is not all-powerful. The same can be said about the tens of thousands of angels at his command. Why? What could they do that he could not?

If you step out of the narrative, you end up with questions like: “Why didn’t Yahweh want Adam and Eve to know the difference between good and evil? If Adam and Eve had been less adventurous, would all of us now be ignorant of the difference between good and evil? And that would make us better exactly how? Also, he created the two of them. Could he not foresee that they might misunderstand or be confused or be misled by a serpent he put in his garden? If these damned trees were so important, why did he not post guards around them as he did after he kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden?

The entire narrative is so full of holes as to be childish. And this is the event for which thousands and thousands of generations of human beings are being held to account and will be burned in Hell for not making it right. Talk about a scam.

With regard to the resurrection of Jesus, which is absolutely critical to the existence of Christianity, if you ignore the details and take a step back, again Yahweh is performing his miracles in an incredibly clumsy way, not using his transcendent powers with any finesse whatsoever. First Yahweh forbids human sacrifice, then when he is trying to figure out how to absolve humans of Original Sin, he says “Hey, Murray, I’ve got an idea. I’ll use a human sacrifice. You know how powerful blood magic is. Hey, it should work.” WTF? An all-powerful being could have made Original Sin go away in such a way that no one would remember it had ever existed. Or he could have set an expiration date on it retroactively (unto the seventh generation …) so it would have expired far in the past. Then he could have established a new covenant if that was his intent. Why this clumsy puppet show? The guy had tens of thousands of angels, one for every couple of hundred humans on the entire planet. Imagine all of them fluttering down from high above with a message. When they left they could have dropped leaflets, like we do in war times, with a summary of the new covenant. Now that would have made an impression … and left an account with every man Jack of us.

Basically, after the initial creation verse of the Bible, Yahweh never acts like an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent god at all.

How can a god which can create a man from dust require their savior to be born of a woman and wait 30 years to deliver a message that an angel could deliver more effectively? Is this god-like?

Why does a god who creates the entire universe make 99.9999% of it out of reach of mankind, so that neither it nor they can have any affect on the other whatsoever? Is this intelligent design or goofy design?

I suggest that atheists have to stop attacking religious scriptures on their narratives fine points because we end up just writing critical reviews of the Goat-Herder’s Guide to the Universe. I suggest that we ask more profound questions, such as “why did a self-contained, perfect god create us in the first place?” The only answer I have heard is that when we go to heaven, we sit at god’s feet singing his praises, so my best guess is that this god needed worshipers, which is just sick. This also makes me wonder if all of the gods have their own mega-network and status on that network is gained by the number of “Likes” recorded. Imagine that a giant Mark Zuckerberg created this universe …

April 7, 2018

Finally Finishing “Sapiens”

Filed under: History — Steve Ruis @ 9:31 am
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I have blogged on several issues I have encountered while making my way through Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” a book which I find both illuminating and irritating, although not in equal measure. If you want to know what I think of the effort, I have already bought the next book of his “Homo Deus.”

My latest quibble is in a discussion of how capitalism was at the root of empire and its associated oppressions, which are covered quite well. And in that discussion YNH states “At the end of the Middle Ages, slavery was almost unknown in Christian Europe.” He goes on to show how capitalism was at the root of the Atlantic slave trade and more. Fair enough but … the phrasing “At the end of the Middle Ages, slavery was almost unknown in Christian Europe” makes it sound as if Christianity had something to do with the elimination of the slave trade. I think not.

People use the phrase “Middle Ages” to describe Europe between the “fall of Rome” in 476 CE and the beginning of the Renaissance in the 14th century. And I take “at the end of the Middle Ages” to be roughly the year 1450.

So, why might slavery be “almost unknown,” if there were no prohibition movement or even anti-slavery sentiment, etc? Please do realize that the medieval serfs were basically slaves. They had no choice as to their labor, they did not get paid, they could not leave the land, and their lord and master could kill them with impunity. There was rampant “slavery” in the Middle Ages.

The reason slavery had basically disappeared in “Europe” was due to one simple thing: a monumental labor shortage. This was caused by plagues, the most notorious of which was the Black Death of 1347 to 1352. The Black Death was the first major European outbreak of the first of the great plague pandemics that occurred over the 14th to 18th centuries. The Black Death killed a quarter of the population of Europe, over 25 million people! A second major epidemic occurred in 1361, the “pestis secunda,” in which 10 to 20% of Europe’s population died. By 1430, Europe’s population was lower than it had been in 1290 and would not recover to pre-pandemic levels until the 16th century.

In order for slavery to work, you need surplus population to enslave, or you need to go out and get the slaves and bring them back. Then you need to control them, both of which require a great deal of manpower. The Europeans of the time (the end of the Middle Ages) fit for work were weakened by disease, malnutritioned, and not very healthy. Treat them poorly and they would either die or leave. Whole villages starved to death during the Black Death and other plagues because there was not enough labor to work the fields, even to harvest crops already planted.

Now YNH’s statement could be defended as “Christian Europe” being a designation of a region as opposed to being the reason slavery was on the decline, but that argument is weak at best. According to Wikipedia “From the Middle Ages onwards, as the centralized Roman power waned in southern and central Europe, the dominance of the Catholic Church was the only consistent force in Western Europe.” So, Christian Europe was about the only Europe there was.

Also, consider the fact that Christianity would never have gotten to where is was without the support of the Roman Empire and it would never have gotten that support had it not supported slavery. So, Christianity was “pro slavery” and not a basis for its abolition. The role of Christian ministers and whole denominations opposing slavery in the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries was in spite of scripture, not because of it.

So, what could YNH have said instead of “At the end of the Middle Ages, slavery was almost unknown in Christian Europe?” Easily enough he could have said “At the end of the Middle Ages, slavery was almost unknown in Europe (mostly due to population losses from plagues).” This would not have undermined his argument that it was capitalists who financed the slave trade, not governments. In any case capitalists worked hand in glove with governments as they both were “elites” who used religion to control the masses. The control mentioned was that civilization was built upon cheap labor coerced from the masses and religion was one of the more powerful coercive tools used. When that faltered, state power filled in.

When writing for a lay audience, especially a broad one, more care is needed with the use of language as misperceptions are easier.

April 5, 2018

Why Three, Christians?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:48 pm
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The Holy Trinity was discussed, argued, and fought over (yes, with swords and clubs and mobs and riots), but wasn’t settled dogma until … well, it still isn’t.

The Holy Trinity is the “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” (Yahweh, Jesus, and Casper?) that forms the monotheistic god of the Christians. The concept that the three are one is still more than a bit inaccessible but I will leave that at the moment and ask the more fundamental question: why three aspects of the god of Christianity? I suspect this came about when the campaign (yes, it was a campaign) to get Jesus declared to be God as opposed to being an angel, a prophet, or some other supernatural being was just getting started. Since Yahweh was already “the one true god,” Jesus couldn’t also be the one and only, unless he an old Yahweh were one and the same. Ta da! (This has to be more than a bit embarrassing because Jesus referred to Yahweh often as “the father” and himself as “the son” as two distinct people … repeatedly in scripture. I guess it just adds to the mystery.) In any case, unification was necessary to politically bring all of the Christians together (to better serve the political states that were using state power to implement Christianity). Realize that they weren’t just depending on ordinary people to believe what they were told, they told people what to believe in rather “believe this or get out” statements. And there was also a sizable fraction who thought that their god was an ethereal spirit, so they had to gather in the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost, to be able to claim they represented all of the Christians (the real Christians, that was).

But is not the Christian god all-powerful? Could he not appear in any guise he desired? Did not Moses have a conversation with a burning bush who then gave him commandments? So, why isn’t it the Holy Four, “the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and Burning Bush?” And didn’t Yahweh visit a few characters in Genesis and wrestle with them? So, shouldn’t we have the Fab Five: “the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Burning Bush, and Mysterious Wrestler?”

Enquiring minds want to know.

This is just one of a myriad questions/talking points that go unaddressed because we take the existing story lines of scripture far too literally. If we stop and think a bit, we would have to ask a great many different questions … such as (You knew that was coming, no?):

  1. Why would a god who can create a fully grown adult human male out of mud, have himself born from a woman and live 30 years in a desolate, uninteresting place to begin a mission to absolve people of their sins? Can you imagine waiting around for 30 years pretending to be taught the Torah, carpentry, and which hand to eat with, etc? And how many times did Jesus have to defecate to truly understand what that was like? Did he learn to masturbate to get the full human experience?
  2. Why would an all-powerful god need helpers? All of those tens of thousands of angels running errands, mopping floors, why?
  3. Why would a totally self-sufficient god create a race of intelligent beings for the sole purpose of worshipping him?
  4. Why would an all-powerful god pick an obscure people living in an obscure place to share a message to deliver to the rest of the world? This god has tens of thousands of angels; could not they have delivered the message much more efficiently?
  5. Why would a god fine tune an entire fucking universe, and then concentrate the “special life” (us) on just one little planet in one little galaxy, from among hundreds of billions of galaxies? If this is a “fine tuned for life universe,” shouldn’t we be up to our asses in aliens?

Like I said, enquiring minds want to know.

The Easter holiday must have brought out the atheistic team spirit in this blog!

March 28, 2018

What Would Christies Do?

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:08 am
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I read another Quora question based upon the questioner’s belief that Noah’s Ark, or evidence for Noah’s Ark, has been found. I believe I have posted before that this event is more than highly unlikely, first because the tale is almost certainly fictional wisdom literature (You better be good or God will kill you and your little dog, too!), but specifically because after the entire planet has been underwater for a year or more, there would be no suitable building materials available: no straw, no wood (not waterlogged), etc. although there would be some stone. So, what would Noah’s family’s shelters, livestock pens, and altars be made of? Piles of small stones? Well, there is this giant pile of lumber sitting there that no longer had a use, so I expect that, if this really happened, the ark would have been dismantled to provide a wealth of building materials. And as time wore on, I am sure having some part of the ark used to make one’s dwelling would be looked upon as being lucky or holy or some other nonsense and soon an expanding population woudl guarantee that the ark would be gone, dispersed, burned, carved up.

Now I have to think that this search is wrong-headed. First, finding that evidence would mean more to Jews than Christians and Jews are quite few in number. So, if you were going to go looking for tangible artifacts to support Christianity, what should you look for? Think about it; I will wait.

<insert Jeopardy theme music here>

If you came up with “remnants of the cross” or “the Holy Grail” or some such, you are a victim of indoctrination. I ask you: what was Jesus’s occupation? All say he was a “carpenter,” with that term not quite meaning what we think of today as a carpenter, but more of a jack-of-all-trades handyman, who worked a lot with wood. Jesus would have been taught his craft when he turned a certain age, 11, 12, 13 whatever, so he would have a body of work created over a 20-year span before he went off on his wild hare chase. So, over that time, he must have made a great many pieces of, say, furniture: stools on which to milk goats, benches, chairs, tables, etc. And being a good craftsman, perfect actually, would have involved a little self promotion so, on the bottoms of these pieces don’t you think he would have written or carved “Made by Jesus of Nazareth, 7 Goatherd Street, Nazareth” or some such? If a contemporary were to pick up one of these pieces second hand and wonder where he could get more, there needs to be a connection to its maker, no? And these pieces, I mean, made by a god! They would be beautiful to the eye, sturdy, long lasting, etc. Find one of these pieces and cha-ching! Can you imagine what such a piece would bring at auction?

What would Christies do?

(Hint: they would go out of their fricking minds!)

March 24, 2018

The War on Christianity, Again, Still?

Filed under: Religion,Science,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:46 am
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Sometimes an ad is all it takes to get me thinking. This is a book ad I saw come up on BookBub:

Why Science Does Not Disprove God
By Amir D. Aczel
Does scientific advancement disprove the Bible? A renowned writer and mathematician says no — and argues that theories put forth by geniuses like Albert Einstein can actually bolster one’s faith in God!

At the same time I see myriad condescending questions on Quora website directed at atheists. My question is why all of the animosity from theists toward science? We are told that there is a War on Religion, a War on Christianity? If this is a war, it can only be a war as described by the Three Stooges. (Remember “The bazookas were bazooking: zook-zook!”) In reality, science does the  not give a rat’s ass about any gods, demigods, spooks, ghosts, demons, etc.

What I see is scientists doing science, but if a scientist achieves any prominence, especially in cosmology, or biology (hint: contains evolutionary theory), they are asked their opinion about god. Why on Earth would this question get asked of scientists when science has nothing to say about the topic? I suspect it is to show what atheistic, godless fiends scientists are, but that’s just a suspicion.

Many people point to the fact that most scientists are without religion. I argue that that is just a manifestation of education. The more educated you become, the less likely you are to be religious. It even holds true for divinity schools! I think that an education, any decent one, teaches you how to think and that leads to a rejection of religions, which ask you not to think.

The hurt and outrage of theists as to the damage science is doing to their fairy tales seems to be the cause. They seem to be constantly picking fights, then asking why we are so belligerent.

These are the same people who are claiming quantum theory proves god (it does not), or that the Big Bang theory proves god (it does not), or as in the book above why science does not disprove god (it does not because it has never tried). Often they get the science wrong, abysmally wrong. An amateur Christian apologist was wonder why, if the Theory of Evolution was a fact, at the top of every scientific article on evolution is the word “abstract.” Apparently the not very well learned apologist is not familiar with scientific publishing where the norm is to give a one paragraph (or at least short) summary of the article’s contents, called an abstract. This device allows busy scientists to figure out whether the article is worth a close reading. Logically, the heading for the abstract is “Abstract.” Sheesh.

Theists, listen, you gotta stop sending apologists to a gun fight with pea shooters; at least give them a knife or a real weapon.

I suspect that this fictional war being proclaimed on Fox News and elsewhere is due to a loss of prestige and deference religions used to have. There are so many people now who do not care about, or who actively question, these “rights” that religions traditionally have exercised that it is being noticed. And “tradition” is “just the way we have always done things” which therefore is hard on people when it changes. Data now show that religion is in decline in many areas of the globe and concomitantly in those areas in which religion is becoming less favored, the people are reporting to be happier. Could it be, as I am claiming, that religion is a tool of oppression, wielded by the elites to keep the masses in line, so their labor can be sucked off to the benefit of the religious and secular elites? Do you think?

March 8, 2018

Are Religion and Gaslighting One and the Same?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:47 am
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Here is an excellent description of gaslighting. At first it appeared to be just an essay on psychology, but upon reflection I think it has something to say about Evangelical Christinaity.

https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/mental-health/signs-of-gaslighting?utm_source=sciam&utm_campaign=sciam

February 23, 2018

Pascal’s Wager 2.0

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:26 am
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If you haven’t heard of Blaise Pascal’s (1623–1662) famous wager (published posthumously in his book Pensées), here it is in short:

Mr. Pascal

l. God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives.
2. A Game is being played … where heads or tails will turn up.
3. You must wager (it is not optional).
4. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
5. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
6. But some cannot believe. They should then “at least learn your inability to believe …” and “Endeavour then to convince” themselves.

Many holes can be shot into this argument and if you are interested in the flaws of this argument, a simple Google search will provide you with many examples. Pascal was polite enough to not point out that if you wager wrongly (that his god is not): there is nothing to gain and you face an infinite period of excruciating torture. Also if you choose that “God is not” you will face persecution and torture from those who bet otherwise. Small details but the erudite reader could fill in these between the lines.

What Pascal did not include in his famous wager is a justification for “you must wager,” since he was embedded in a very Christian culture, this was assumed to be a premise that would be recognized to be “true.” Also not justified, for the same reasons, was that there was but one god. We now know different.

So, let us update Pascal’s Wager a little.

Pascal’s Wager 2.0

l. God is, or God is not. The same can be said for all of the other gods. Reason cannot decide between the many alternatives.
2. A Game is being played … where dozens of dice are tossed and a combination of their results will turn up for you.
3. You might want to wager (it is optional).
4. Let us weigh the gains and the losses in wagering that any one of these many gods is. Let us estimate all these chances. If you wager correctly, you gain all; if you lose, you lose everything. The number of choices is large, so the odds you will choose correctly are small.
5. Do not wager, then, that your choice is correct as the odds of losing everything are much too great. There is an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain if one is very, very lucky, but only one chance of gain against a large number of chances of loss and so our proposition is of simple force, when there is a game where there are small risks of gain and large ones of loss, and infinite pain when losing.

Pascal’s Wager, the original one, only makes some sense when it has been proven that there is but one god (there is not, even the Bible says this) and that you must choose. Pascal made this argument being aware of the Crusades and the Inquisition and the Protestant Reformation and various religious wars. There could be no fence sitters in his world.

In other words, Pascal’s Wager only makes sense when the game is rigged (and it is).

 

 

 

 

 

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