Class Warfare Blog

July 28, 2020

Motivations According to Conservatives

Unemployment insurance has been, irrationally, deeply controversial. It has always faced bitter opposition from conservatives who claim that it would discourage workers from seeking jobs.

This is a part of their “those people are lazy” mindset which is joined with the belief that if “those people” didn’t have to work, they wouldn’t.

Let’s see how this belief plays out if taken to heart.

In our “pay as you go culture,” you have to pay for everything: you pay for the food you eat, for the shelter over your head, and you pay for the utilities to keep that space livable, you pay for health care. You pay for all of this by getting a job that pays “enough.”

Let’s do an experiment—one that actually has already been done any number of times, but hey, this might be the first time you thought this through. Let’s offer someone who has one of those “keeping body and soul together” jobs, one that pays just enough to be able to pay the rent, keep the TV on, and feed himself (no family), the same amount of income, but he doesn’t need to go to work to receive it.

The conservatives will immediately see this guy in a hammock sipping a mint julep. He just got his ticket punched to Easy Street! Well, we all now know what “staying home” is like during this pandemic. Does it feel like Easy Street? “Are we not entertained?” So, after lolling about for a bit, this “lazy bum” we are paying to do nothing gets the idea that he could get a good job and really expand his income. After all, the government is covering his nut, but not for vacations, cars, or a family. Do, you think this guy would settle for another boring dead end job like he had before? I tend to think he would aim higher. If he applies for 10 jobs but doesn’t get one of those, what has he lost? He still has food and shelter, so he is not desperate. I think we can count on human ambition being at least moderately high. Having that minimum income to backstop him, he is less likely to settle, not more likely.

And what does this say about the shit jobs people were doing for poor wages? What would happen if people said “Why should I break my back for little more than the basic income I get automatically?” Quite a number of those jobs would go wanting. Consequently . . . if you believe in market forces . . . those jobs are not worth doing, or if they are, higher wages are going to have to be paid to entice people to do them.

And, what would a lot of people opting out of the job market do for those seeking jobs? Hmmm . . . fewer applicants for the same number of jobs means higher employment rates. Conservatives can’t argue this is false because they have been claiming for years that Mexicans, illegally in the U.S., are taking jobs away from Americans. We have argued that there aren’t a whole lot of Anglos seeking work in the roofing business in the Texas summer or in the fields picking vegetables, but the conservatives insist that Mexican “illegals” are taking those jobs away from Americans. If so, it has to work both ways. If poor people stop applying for the shit jobs they have been doing, there will be more jobs for Americans who want them.

Now, small business owners will complain (they have little power otherwise) that if they have to pay higher wages to keep people in the jobs they have on offer, they will go out of business. Again, let’s consider a small thought experiment. So, you Mr. Small Business Owner advertise for an employee to fill one of your shit jobs, and several desperate people apply. You pick one and you train them. They perform in a lackluster manner and quit or get fired after a short stint “on the job.” And so, you are back advertising for a replacement . . . again, which you will hire, train, and . . . well, I think you see the cycle. If, on the other hand, the job pays well, and this owner tells an employee they have to pick up the pace, they are much more likely to do so, because the impact of losing a higher paying job is greater. Many people won’t want to lose such a job and so will try harder. Fewer adverts get put, less time is spent training new employees, less over time is paid covering for employees who got fired/quit, etc. Which process is less expensive to the SB owner? I don’t think the answer is obvious.

Conservatives seem to think the very best motivation for poor people is desperation (you have all seen the drug company commercials showing poor people unable to afford the medicine their dependents need, the problem is not invisible). They, of course, reserve special scorn (“lazy and shiftless”) for the racial minorities who are poor, but all of the poor are painted with their wide brush. (They work out their schemes on the Black and Brown poor, and then they always bring it home on the White poor . . . always). On the other hand, in their lives and the lives of other white, privileged Americans, their salaries are more than adequate to meet a family person’s nut for the whole family, and while it may not be enough to pay for a McMansion, or private schools for the kids, and a Porsche, it is enough for cars, vacations, a paid healthcare plan, and a few splurges, etc., and the motivation preferred by this class is greed, pure and simple. They laud hedge fund managers and other financial fat cats as examples of what you can do if you apply greed to your work life.

So, basically, conservatives have very low opinions of the motivations that move people and I suspect that is because they have a low opinions of people in general, other than themselves and their close associates, of course. And I wonder where they learned to have a very low opinion of people . . . religion!

Such a Deal!

I was reading a blog post on Bruce Gerencser’s web site recently and he ripped off yet another thought-provoking statement. Here it is:

“Cultural Christianity is all about what people say and not what they do. This is the predominant form of Christianity in America. When asked, do you believe in the Christian God? most Americans will say, Yes! It matters not how they live or even if they understand Christian doctrine. They believe, and that’s all that matters.” (Bruce Gerencser)

Here is a key flaw in the fundamentalist/evangelical Christian viewpoint. Basically they say, to be saved from the terrible fate of God’s curse, all you need do is accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. That’s it. Accept Jesus and . . . done deal . . . you are saved.

You don’t have to do anything else. You don’t have to join a particular church, as the Catholics do. There is no requirement to do good deeds. You do not have to donate money to the cause. There is nothing else you need do to avoid the Lake of Fire you were condemned to.

Consequently, many Christians (most?) violate Christian mores/ethics in great number. This is the allure apparently. You need do very little and Bingo! you are saved. Of course, the religions promoting this theological point are really missing the mark. If Christians were, in addition, supposed to do good works to maintain their “Get Out of Hell Free” status, they could be doing a great deal more good in this country, and the world, too. Imagine that churches could put on brag sessions in which members would “share” all of their good deeds done each week. “I helped an old lady to cross the street.” “I mowed my disabled neighbor’s front lawn.” “I visited a sick congregant in the hospital.” “I volunteered at the food bank all day Saturday.”

Natural competition and good, old fashioned one-upmanship would lead to an expansion of such efforts. Who cares if these actions are ego-driven, good things are getting done. But unlike Noah’s Ark, missing this boat apparently is no big deal.

Making Christians by asking very, very little of them is a proven path to success, success in the form of numbers of congregants. But now that people are thinking more and have more access to information and other people via the Internet, it is becoming apparent to many others that there is an even lazier way to avoid that Lake of Fire—become an atheist!

Become an atheist and voilà, you are no longer subject to the curse of a god which does not exist. And, there are no church meetings, no dues or tithes, no required beliefs, no deadly sins, in fact, no sins at all. No singing songs along with a bunch of other people who also cannot sing. No listening to lectures that are boring in the extreme. No effort need be made whatsoever.

Disbelieve and you are saved—saved from a fate worse that death and the myriad things listed above, and that is only a partial list.

Disbelieve and you are saved. Much easier than believe and you are saved.

July 24, 2020

Oh, Wow!

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:17 am
Tags: , , ,

From time to time I like to check in to see what the other side of the god argument is saying, so I bit on this book: God’s Grand Game: Divine Sovereignty and the Cosmic Playground by Steven Colborne.

This chap seems to be taking all of the god claims to heart and looking seriously at the consequences. I believe his viewpoint is: it is all true and you will agree with me if you just follow along.

Here is all of Chapter 4 (This is as far as I have gotten as this is a bit f tough sledding.) I also hope that doesn’t violate fair use regulations but as I am not profiting from this I suspected that it is not.

4
God in Inanimate Objects

It is easy to see how God is active in living creatures, but it is perhaps somewhat more difficult to envisage what ‘God is doing’ in the case of inanimate objects, like tables or books. When I look at a table and investigate its nature, an obvious question arises — is God making the table be, or can the table be without involvement from God?

The table existing without involvement from God would have to mean that there is some part of the cosmos in which God is not present. But this cannot be, as God by His very nature is omnipresent. Therefore, there must be a sense in which the table is ‘in God’, or, put another way, God’s being must permeate the table. It is natural, then, to assume that God is holding the table in existence. The table appears solid and stable, and it is perfectly possible for God to create these qualities in the table. God is, after all, omnipotent, so holding a bunch of atoms in place for a few hundred years does not pose the slightest problem.

Another aspect of God is that He is wholly in the parts as well as the whole. This means that each individual part of the table contains the fullness of God. It should not be hard to imagine, then, that God, in His infinite power, can create subtle change in such objects over time. We are talking, for instance, of objects like the table fading in colour, becoming infested by woodworm, or drying out. If the smallest particle is just as present to God as the whole table, then God can affect change on any level.

One might naturally ask, what would become of the table if God’s involvement were taken away? Could it exist without God? We have already established that God is everywhere, so we would have to conclude that there can be no table without God.

Taking all of this into account, should it not be possible for God to make major unexpected changes in the order of things? For instance, if God wanted my table to vanish before my eyes, is this not possible? Remember, we are saying that God is holding every particle of the table in existence. I would have to conclude that, yes, it is as possible for a table to vanish as it is for a man’s pain to vanish, as I described witnessing in the chapter “How Do I Know God Exists?”. God could remove a table from existence in a flash, if He desired. So why, then, do we not see more instances of this?

Well, it is perfectly possible that God likes order. Perhaps regularity is one of the things that gives God pleasure. This is understandable if we remember that God has all of eternity at His disposal. God might like to make some things appear and disappear (like a flash of lightning), and cause other things to remain for hundreds of years (like a table). Evolution (in objects as well as animals) may well please God, as the unfolding of His will and His plans provide our creator with anticipation and something to look forward to.

Λ Ω

So, if I burn a table on a bonfire, I am burning god? (Throw on a beef steak and burn him at the steak?)

The table is maybe a bit too weird a place to start. How about: “God, in His infinite power, can create subtle change in such objects over time. We are talking, for instance, of objects like the table fading in colour, becoming infested by woodworm, or drying out. If the smallest particle is just as present to God as the whole table, then God can affect change on any level.”

We have to ask, why an omnipotent god would use his powers to stick the atoms of every fricking object in the universe together? This has to be incredibly boring stuff. He is omnipotent and this is what does with his powers . . . hold the atoms of a table together? If he were to get distracted, would the table fall apart?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have such a god create universal rules regarding the stickiness of atoms and use those to hold the atoms of things together. We could call them, I don’t know, chemical bonds, for short. No? I do note that none of the properties of the Christian god is that he is “all-intelligent.” (What would that be in Greekish? Omni-smart? Omni-percipient, Omni-éxypnos?) Maybe he is dull enough that he thinks he has to hold together every damned thing. Why use gravity to hold together stars and planets when . . . you can do it yourself?

As to my question: if he were to get distracted, would those objects fall apart? This is apparently how he makes things disappear or appear out of nothing, as we have all seen happen, like . . . never. Really, this has never been seen in all of human history and you’d think that in one of those “I am the Lord, your God . . .” moments this is a trick that would be really convincing to bystanders, not to say any persons who were disappeared and then reappeared. Imagine the conversations later! “I am telling you Shalom, you disappeared for like a quarter of an hour and then you were brought back. Where did you go? Did you get to see Heaven? (. . . or Hell?)”

Again, it makes sense that all of the sticking together of parts be on automatic and then God can just overrule the rules whenever he wants to make things appear and disappear, no?

Does Occam’s Rule apply to gods?

Amazing, absolutely effing amazing, s    i    g    h   .

July 14, 2020

The Gospel of John Begins With . . .

The gospel we call “John” begins with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

“The Word” has always puzzled me. Jesus was a word? My cartoon mind immediately came up with a scene pasted together from many movies in which a priest with an Irish accent (Pat O’Brien?) says, “Ah, it is a mystery, my son.” I have written recently that should a god want to communicate with us, there should be no mysteries. Such writings should be comprehended perfectly by geniuses and idiots and everyone in between, I mean if the god has no ill intent, in any case. But that was before, for now . . .

The Word . . .? WTF?

As I have mentioned I am reading a book on the roots of Western Civilization (The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas) and a few things were made clear. Here are a couple of quotes, very slightly amended.

“. . . another Presocratic philosopher, the solitary and enigmatic Heraclitus (ca. 540 BCE–c. 480 BCE), introduced a similarly immanent conception of the divine intelligence with his use of the term logos (originally meaning word, speech, or thought) to signify the rational principle governing the cosmos.”

and . . .

“As ancient philosophy progressed, logos and nous were variously employed to signify mind, reason, intellect, organizing principle, thought, word, speech, wisdom, and meaning, in each case relative to both human reason and a universal intelligence. As the means by which human intelligence could attain universal understanding, the Logos was a divine revelatory principle, simultaneously operative within the human mind and the natural world.”

I inserted Heraclitus’s birth and death dates to show that these ideas were being formed many hundreds of years before the writing of the gospel we call “John” (written ca. 120 CE).

Now, what language do you think the Gospel we call “John” was written in, do you think? Most scholars believe that it was originally written in Greek. They think the original (we do not have any copies of the original to study, just copies of copies of copies, etc.) was written in Greek because of the quality of the language, the use of certain terns, the use of the Greek translation of the Old Testament when quoting the OT, etc. So, the Greek word translated by so many as “Word,” was what? If you guessed Logos, you got it in one.

Now, explain to me how someone who writes extremely good Koine Greek would be unaware of the philosophical meaning of the term logos? Any sufficiently educated Greek writer, able to pull off writing the gospel we call “John,” would have to be acquainted with the word logos and its many meanings. A word that stands for “. . . the means by which human intelligence could attain universal understanding, the Logos was a divine revelatory principle, simultaneously operative within the human mind and the natural world,” gets translated in its earliest, simplest, non-philosophical, non-religious meaning: word?

Now that’s a mystery!

Is this just clumsy translation? Is the writer assuming that all of his readers are well-versed in Greek philosophy so they know what logos stands for? It is clear that before Jesus became a character in this story, the Jews were very concerned about the effect Greek culture and philosophy were having upon their youths. So, one could assume that many well-educated Jews would be familiar with the subtle nuances of “logos,” but are we sure that we can assume that audience? And what about the translators? The translators of the Greek texts into Latin were translating for church elites, not the general public. But the educations of ordinary church priests was not deep or wide, so the chances of the wrong concepts being shared with the hoi polloi were quite high, even so. So, again, why deliberately oversimplify a translation? Down through the years, we got translations into native tongues that were intended for lay readers, and logos still ends up being translated as “word.”

Are they deliberately trying to infuse mystery where there is none? John’s implications that the “Word” was there at the beginning led to some minor wars being fought about Jesus being the creator of the universe and co-equal to God (even though he refers to God as his Father over and over and over as do Christians now. (If Jesus and Yahweh were both there at the beginning, how can one be the father of the other? How can this be in a monotheistic religion?)

Ah, it is a mystery, my son. (Thanks, Pat . . . you are dead, you know.)

What if, however, the word logos was shown to convey the meaning of “As the means by which human intelligence could attain universal understanding, the Logos was a divine revelatory principle, simultaneously operative within the human mind and the natural world.” Would we still have large numbers of fundamentalist Christians insisting that their books are more reliable than what one finds in the form of God’s Creation? Would they still insist that the Earth was 6000 years old and not 4.53 billion years old? Would they still insist that the universe was created in six days? These are just a few of those “are you going to believe me or your lying eyes” questions we face today.

I wonder.

July 12, 2020

The Rights of Kings

I just finished watching a documentary “Charles 1—Downfall of a King” (available on Amazon Prime Streaming Service) which covered a mere 50 days of British history that had rather profound ripple effects. Basically a deliberative body, the English Parliament, ousted a sitting monarch, Charles 1. Since this was in a time period ripe for copycatting, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and modern democracy can be claimed as children of this period.

British history is often interesting, but in this instance, the primary reason that Charles came a’cropper was that he believed in the divine right of kings, which he interpreted in his case to be that he rule according to his conscience and nothing else . .  by God’s will. (Interestingly all of these kings knew God’s will, but the priests did not because “no one can know the mind of God.”)

I wonder where old Charles got that idea? As with all matters religious he was brought up with that mindset and was indoctrinated from an early age (which he, in turn, did for his son).

Note that the idea, of course, came from the church but was welcomed by the royals. Both of those powers realized that if they fought for the ultimate power, one or both of them could be severely damaged. But if they became partners in power, they could reinforce one another and no institution or person could possibly be strong enough to oppose them. But, a monarch claiming the Divine Rights of Kings had better well be showing support of the clergy or he/she could be in for a rough ride. Similarly, a religion wanting state power had better get it or they could opt for another set of leaders.

So, this is a bit of a “lady and the tiger” situation. (Both the royals and the clergy considered the other the tiger, I believe.)

Charles was taking the laziest approach by ruling by divine right based upon his own counsel/conscience. If he had tried a more direct route, he would have to explain why Jesus, the God of Love, wanted him to kill all of those Irishmen, and all of those Scots. Sure, he could have had a whole crew of lackey spin meisters on tap to supply reasons why Jesus wanted him to take the actions he did, but at least he would have to justify his actions to someone/something.

I also found it interesting that the documentary’s host took umbrage on the part of Charles’s queen, who was accused of infidelity (indirectly) and the host thought this was foul play, even though at the time it was pointed out that Charles II, their son, was tall, had jet black hair and broad shoulders. Charles was short, with sandy hair and narrow shoulders. The queen’s suspected lover was tall, had jet black hair and broad shoulders and was constantly by her side.

Now, this may have been an unfair criticism at the time, but it was a criticism of that time and an historian is supposed to report the facts and not defend the honor of an aggrieved woman. And what wasn’t pointed out in this defense was that if anyone criticized the king or the queen directly, politically, factual, it was consider treason and would result in their immediate imprisonment and likely decapitation. The royals, being in power, got to make up rules that are illogical but protective of their “honor” and “dignity” that are capital offenses. I do not considered it unfair if ordinary people fight back with propaganda and fake news when direct criticism isn’t allowed.

Charles made an appalling string of bad decisions, most of them based upon his belief that his mere presence would awe any opposition and cow them into a defensive position, being God’s Own Agent Upon Earth, don’t you know. He actually believed he was ordained by god to rule over other people.

I don’t think there is a better argument for getting rid of all of the royals and the clergy they have conspired with to oppress ordinary people with their invented “special statuses.”

Also interesting was that part of the propaganda campaign used by the parliamentarians in this fight was the bogus claim that Catholics were preparing to invade England and impose their religion up the English.

It was pointed out that Charles’ French (and Catholic) queen was brought up in France where the concentration of Protestants, as a minority, was far greater that the concentration of Catholics in England and there was no persecution of the Protestants in France at that time. In this the historians committed the historical sin of leaving out context. The time we are talking about was 1642-43. Do you know what happened in 1517 and the following 130 years? It was called the Protestant Revolution. The protestors, starting with Martin Luther, were trying to reform the Catholic Church from its many corruptions. The result was entire new churches (Lutherans, Calvinists, etc.) instead, because the Catholic Church made little effort to reform itself. What it did do was make war. The Church was a major contributor of money, troops, political pressure, and what have you to make war on countries that harbored Protestants. (Realize that the Catholics had to believe that those who left God’s One True Church were going to Hell, but they just couldn’t wait, apparently.)

These religious wars were so vicious that they significantly lowered the population of Europe, so many people were killed. Catholic troops would ride through a village and act as court and executioner and if they felt there were many heretics in that village, rampage through and kill all of the civilians living there. This was not just a war of army against army.

England experienced the great joy of being a Protestant country, then a Catholic country, then a Protestant country again all because the ever changing monarchs decreed it so and then persecuted the priests of the out of favor flavor of Christianity. The residues of these wars led to this country’s Constitution being drafted with church and state being separated as the recent history of the religious wars fought in Europe were still on people’s minds and nobody wanted a part of that. Oh, and please do realize that for the entire time, all of the countries of Europe were Christian countries with state sponsored religions. The wars were between different varieties of the Christian religion. So, please, all of you “the United States is a Christian country” people can just fuck off.

July 9, 2020

How to Read the Bible

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:07 pm
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As I have mentioned I am reading the book The Use and Abuse of the Bible (subtitle: A Brief History of Biblical Interpretation) by Henry Wansborough, OSB. Since OSB stands for Order of St. Benedict, that might be a tiny hint as to where the author stands, but I am a supporter of the Law of Unintended Consequences, so I push on.

One of the effects repeated when looking at various Church Fathers is that many of them provided new ways to read the Holy Book, e.g. “The way of reading the Bible in the Western Church was radically altered by Jerome, in several ways” and “He (Origen) evolved techniques (for instance, textual criticism and comparison of the four Gospels) which have continued to serve the understanding of Scripture to the present day.”

Add this to one of the philosophical drivers of the Protestant Revolution, namely that the Bible could be read and understood by ordinary people if provided in a suitable language and that we “didn’t need no stinking priests to tell us what it meant.” This has culminated in the Protestant fundamentalist literalists who insist that everything you read in the Bible is literally true.

Whew!

But my point is this. There is almost total agreement amongst Christians that the Holy Bible was written by men inspired to do so by their god, to the point that the words in their Bibles are the “words of God.” This is not the same “inspiration” that you might get at a party to take out your half-finished novel manuscript and begin working on it again. This is really in-spired, that is “breathed in.” The authors breathed in the Holy Ghost and the words that flowed out were from that source, not from the writer’s own thoughts.

If Christians believe that, I have a question for them: why did your god deliberately make the words so written hard to understand? Why are their “hidden meanings” in scripture: allegories, symbolic meanings, and the like. For example, in “Revelations” there is a reference to a “Seven-headed Beast” which actually stands for Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, which was built upon seven hills. Was John, the author of the work he gave no title to, but we refer to as “Revelations” (and various other titles), such a pussy that he feared that Rome wouldn’t like his writings and would proscribe them and lock him up as well, but his god offered no protection? If so, how are these the words of a god. which is supposed to be all-powerful? Couldn’t John have been teleported to safety, taken up into the heavens and dumped out somewhere else? Couldn’t Yahweh/Jesus have made a few hundred copies of his writings and distributed them around? Where’s the effing magic here?

But I digress.

My point is scriptures were created in order for people to know god’s wishes, primarily that they be saved from Yahweh’s curse of mankind. (Yahweh was apparently incapable of just lifting the curse, with a muttered “My bad,” and be done with it.) But Yahweh/Jesus apparently wrote these things so that they would be hard to understand, thus preventing the people they were written for from understanding, doing the right things, and getting saved. Isn’t this a bit contradictory, more than a bit counterproductive, for the God of Love? (Apparently He loves Himself more than His Creations.)

One could argue that the literacy of the common people in that region, at that time, was somewhat limited. (Some argue that literacy was rather quite widespread, however.) Certainly reproduction technology was at a low ebb at the time (no printing presses, no Internet, no TV, telephones, etc.) so it was necessary for these things to be read out loud to “the people.” But this is not what the priestly classes did. Instead, they interpreted them for the people. Why? Because the priestly divines were convinced that if they were to just read the scriptures to the people, the people wouldn’t understand! Heresy, heresy . . . those priests claimed that the Holy Ghost was a bad writer! (I would rent my cloak except it is hot and I am not wearing much and what is being worn isn’t rentable.)

Basically Yahweh’s/Jesus’ narrative goes like this “Okay, okay I cursed all y’all, you know that. But there is a way out! A way to Heaven and an escape from Hell . . . and it is all here in these here scriptures. Unfortunately I wrote them so that they would be hard to understand. Think of it as a test, a really hard one. Good luck! Yahweh

Just when are people going to look at this storyline and say “This isn’t even good enough to make a B movie from! Script!”

 

June 27, 2020

Commandments or Not?

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:56 am
Tags: , ,

The included photo I find very touching and couldn’t possibly disagree and, in fact, probably could not find anyone who does disagree with this statement. But . . .

This is, of course, one of the Ten Commandments, actually one of the 605 commandments to be found in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. But I suspect that the person who made that sign was a Christian (odds are in my favor there) and I have to ask: Where in Christianity is this “commandment” endorsed?

Many fundamentalist Christians claim that the New Testament supersedes the OT. So, where in the NT is this commandment?

In the Hebrew Bible, this is a commandment of Yahweh to the Hebrews/Jews. It applies only to Hebrews/Jews, not to any of the other peoples of that time. It wasn’t given to the Romans, the Persians, the Phoenicians, etc. It was for the Hebrews/Jews and applied only to the Hebrews/Jews. And, the implied language is “Thou shalt not murder another Hebrew.”

Some Christians point to the passage in the gospel we call Matthew (5:18) “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” or (5:17) “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.“ Okay, so if the OT is still pertinent, why are not Christians obeying the entire 605 commandments therein? And if not all of those, where in the NT does it point out which are still viable and which are not?

June 26, 2020

Christians Horrified

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:33 pm
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Many Christians seem horrified that atheists can spout their heresies freely through social media. Any number of conservative religions consider social media to be tools of the Devil for that and other reasons. (As evidence, the highest usage rates of hotel porn were in Salt Lake City and if that devil machine can do that to the Mormons, none of us is safe.)

Let’s break this down a bit, unpack it as it is said. Why is it that atheists like me can make atheistic claims and criticize religions openly on forums such as this? The most common answer is that our Constitution gives us freedom of speech. But it doesn’t give us freedom from reciprocity.

In my lifetime, an atheist who espoused her status openly would receive a heavy dose of public condemnation and vilification. I think back to Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who founded American Atheists when I was in high school. I heard terrible things about her character, exclusively from people who had never met her, nor spent any time in her presence.

And what happened to Mrs. O’Hair and her family? The NY Times reported in 2001 “Officials said they believed the three were killed and dismembered in an Austin storage locker and their bodies dumped at a remote ranch in Real County, 90 miles west of San Antonio. One of the men suspected of involvement in the case, David R. Waters, 53, accompanied the authorities to the grave site in January as part of a plea bargain.”

What Christians need to ask themselves is when threats, including death threats actually carried out, are removed and an ever larger group of people show up who say, simply, “I do not believe you,” you have to ask how good are your beliefs if they need such threats to support them?

June 22, 2020

Understanding Christian Thinking

Filed under: History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:57 pm
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I am reading a book, The Use and Abuse of the Bible, a Brief History of Biblical Interpretation. Two of the first great Christian thinkers addressed in this book are Irenaeus (c. 130 – c. 202 CE) and Origen (c. 185–c. 253). Both of these gentlemen were praised for coming up with whole new modes of Christian thought, which should have been seen as a warning sign.

A Reasoned Approach to Understanding Christian Thinking
Thinking back to the second and third centuries CE, what kind of economic activity was available to intellectuals? I define an intellectual is someone who makes his/her way through life using his/her mind alone, whereas non-intellectuals use both their minds and bodies in various ratios. Of all of the occupations available at that time, in that place about the only place for intellectuals was as scribes. (They might also have become a physician but only the wealthy could afford the schooling.) Many people think of scribes as being stenographers for the illiterate (I did, too), but while that task might be something a scribe did (taking dictation), there was much, much more to do. Scribes might be employed by the wealthy to keep records and produce written correspondence, but the primary employer of scribes were the various temples.

My point is that intellectuals would be attracted mightily to being a religious scribe as being one of the few forms of occupation in which they got to work as they wished.

So, when scribes were presented with questions about unclear passages of scripture or flat out nonsense in scripture, they being the brilliant intellectual creatives they were, made up stuff. Irenaeus claimed that there should only be four canonical gospels (of the many more in existence) because there were four animals supporting God’s throne in Ezekiel 1. I guess the fact that most chairs had four legs wasn’t enough of a justification for God’s throne. And making a connection between the number of any part of God’s throne and the number of gospels to include in the canon seems not to be present. No surprise there.

So, question after question arises and soon they find the answers harder and harder to come up with. Origen commented on Genesis 18 where “Abraham stood by them under a tree . . .” during a divine visit to Abraham. Origen comments “What does it help me who have come to hear what the Holy Spirit teaches the human race if I hear that Abraham was standing under a tree? Let us rather see what this tree is, under which Abraham stood.” If Freud were alive I suspect he might say “Sometimes a tree is just a tree.”

Origen is probably the major source of the idea of there being “secret” knowledge that has to be winkled out through exegesis. The Jews had already succumbed to this position and Origen was leading Christians into the same position. But, I think the intellectual powers of these people, which allow them to “spin” any nonsense into sense, betrays them wholly at the end.

These worthies both insisted that the scriptures were divinely inspired and without error. So, if there is an error, it must be due to a misunderstanding on our part. Since the words must be right, our interpretation must be wrong, so what is needed is a new interpretation and what do creative intellectuals do? They create.

But by claiming that it is our flawed human understanding which is at fault, they are playing Russian Roulette with the lives of ordinary people. Ordinary people have crops and flocks to attend, business to do, families to provide for, any myriad other mundane tasks. They do not have the energy to study and learn to interpret scripture in their nonexistent spare time. So, failing to hear from a gifted intellectual who knows what scripture actually means, they mis-learn it and end up in Hell.

What the claim of “hidden knowledge” in scripture implies is that the inspired writers who composed scriptures are inadequate to their task. Should not the scriptures be easy to read and easy to understand by one and all? Shouldn’t they be clear and precise? Shouldn’t they all make sense, now and forever? Shouldn’t a lack of sense be evidence that a particular scripture was not divinely inspired?

That there is “hidden knowledge” being taught or is somehow embedded in scripture is a sop to the interpreters of meaning. Their arrogance is Trumpian “Only I can solve this problem! You see sometimes a tree is not just a tree.” (Origen felt that the tree was “insight” symbolically.) Symbolic writing is not accessible to one and all and should never appear in scripture. Every time in the NT you see a reference to the disciples not understanding what is right in front of their faces, an appeal to the concept of hidden wisdom or hidden knowledge is being made. If this knowledge were the difference between Heaven and Hell, why would any sane scripture-sponsoring entity hide that knowledge?

“He (Jesus) told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” Mark 4:11-12

What kind of great teacher deliberately obfuscates what is to be learned? Wouldn’t God Incarnate be able to speak so clearly as to create understanding and belief? And why would such a god allow prideful intellectuals to spin those scriptures into things they are not? (Note They are still doing it. Look up William Lane Craig and Lee Strobel, as examples.)

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

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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/

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