Class Warfare Blog

January 15, 2018

What Kind of Atheists are These?

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:00 am
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After reading the following excerpts, I will ask you what kind of atheists are displayed based upon their words. Let us begin:

Atheist the First
This is in the form of a conversation between Samuel White Baker and Commoro, a non-believer. They communicated through interpreters:

Baker Have you no belief in a future existence after death?

Commoro Existence after death! How can that be? Can a dead man get out of his grave, unless we dig him out?

Baker Do you think man is like a beast that dies and is ended?

Commoro Certainly. . . .

Baker Then you believe in nothing; neither in a good nor evil spirit! And you believe that when you die it will be the end of body and spirit; that you are like other animals; and that there is no distinction between man and beast; both disappear, and end at death?

Commoro  Of course they do.

Baker (Some corn had been taken out of a sack for the horses and a few grains lying scattered on the ground. Making a small hole with my finger in the ground, I placed a grain within it.) That represents you when you die. (I covered it with earth) That grain will decay, but from it will rise the plant that will produce a reappearance of the original form.

Commoro  Exactly so; that I understand. But the original grain does not rise again; it rots like the dead man, and is ended; the fruit produced is not the same grain that we buried, but the production of that grain: so it is with man—I die, and decay, and am ended; but my children grow up like the fruit of the grain.

Is Commoro a new atheist, a militant atheist, angry atheist, or an agnostic?

Atheist the Second
This book, the Bible, has persecuted, even unto death, the wisest and the best. This book stayed and stopped the onward movement of the human race. This book poisoned the fountains of learning and misdirected the energies of man. This book is the enemy of freedom, the support of slavery. This book sowed the seeds of hatred in families and nations, fed the flames of war, and impoverished the world. This book is the breastwork of kings and tyrants – the enslaver of women and children. This book has corrupted parliaments and courts. This book has made colleges and universities the teachers of error and the haters of science. This book has filled Christendom with hateful, cruel, ignorant and warring sects. This book taught men to kill their fellows for religion’s sake. This book funded the Inquisition, invented the instruments of torture, built the dungeons in which the good and loving languished, forged the chains that rusted in their flesh, erected the scaffolds whereon they died. This book piled fagots about the feet of the just. This book drove reason from the minds of millions and filled the asylums with the insane.

This book has caused fathers and mothers to shed the blood of their babes. This book was the auction block on which the slave-mother stood when she was sold from her child. This book filled the sails of the slave-trader and made merchandise of human flesh. This book lighted the fires that burned “witches” and “wizards.” This book filled the darkness with ghouls and ghosts, and the bodies of men and women with devils. This book polluted the souls of men with the infamous dogma of eternal pain. This book made credulity the greatest of virtues, and investigation the greatest of crimes. This book filled nations with hermits, monks and nuns — with the pious and the useless. This book placed the ignorant and unclean saint above the philosopher and philanthropist. This book taught man to despise the joys of this life, that he might be happy in another – to waste this world for the sake of the next. I attack this book.

Is this author a new atheist, a militant atheist, angry atheist, or an agnostic?

So, what did you answer?

The correct answer is that these were old atheists.

The first example was from the 1860’s! Source: Stephens, Mitchell. Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World. St. Martin’s Press. Original source: Samuel White Baker, The Albert N’Yanza: Great Basin of the Nile and Explorations of the Nile Sources. Commoro was described as a chief of the Latooka tribe in East Africa, and as a barbarian.

The second example is Robert G. Ingersoll. Source: About the Holy Bible, first published in 1894! Ingersoll is the best example of an American freethinker as can be found.

My point is atheism is not “new.” It has been around since religion raised its ugly head. It is simply an expression of doubt when people are told tales that have no support in reality. The reason atheism is characterized as it is is due to the fact that it has been suppressed for so long that people are actually surprised when it rears its ugly head, and therefore think it is new.

Atheism is not new.

These examples show that you can be formally educated or not, black or white, all of those things don’t matter. All that matters is you cherish being able to think for yourself and do not want to be controlled by make believe principles.

 

 

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January 8, 2018

Just Plain, Or Not So Plain, Ignorant

I was reading Yuval Harari’s “Sapiens” last night and came upon this. (Despite my occasional cavils, this is a brilliant book, highly recommended.)

The Scientific Revolution has not been a revolution of knowledge. It has been above all a revolution of ignorance.

Shortly after came this:

Premodern traditions of knowledge such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Confucianism asserted that everything that is important to know about the world was already known. The great gods, or the one almighty God, or the wise people of the past possessed all-encompassing wisdom, which they revealed to us in scriptures and oral traditions. Ordinary mortals gained knowledge by delving into ancient texts and traditions  and understanding them properly. It was inconceivable that the Bible, the Qur’an or the Vedas were missing out on a crucial secret of the universe – a secret that might yet be discovered by flesh-and-blood creatures.

If something couldn’t be found in scriptures then it was, by definition, trivial.

So, I have to ask: has anything changed? The power of religions is based upon their traditions and scriptures, so they reinforce that power every chance they get. They weave that power into our cultures and politics to sustain it.

And, it is clear that very, very, very important things were left out of scriptures as they were unknown at the time of their writing.

So, has anything changed?

 

 

December 29, 2017

Monotheism Only an Inch Deep

I noted in my reading the other day that the Catholic Church fell all over itself finding a person named Brigit to canonize after the church took over Ireland. St. Brigit’s declared feast day just happened to coincide with the feast day of the Celtic goddess Brigit. An amazing coincidence, no? And, of course, there is some debate over whether St. Brigit was a real person. So, if you can’t find an appropriate real person to canonized, canonize a fake person.

This was the same procedure used by the Romans when they conquered a new people. All of that people’s gods were swept up into the mix of Roman gods. Some equivalences to Roman gods might be noted but if there were a passel of absolutely new ones, well, the more the merrier. The master administrators the Romans were almost guaranteed there would be an office to keep all of these gods straight, and of course there was, a significant one.

It is puzzling that the Romans eventually adopted a monotheistic religion, Christianity, because of all of the problems created by just the idea. Prior to Judaism, polytheism ruled. A few places dabbled in monotheism (Aten in Egypt, etc.) but those efforts failed. Under polytheism, people were quite tolerant of other people’s gods, which made for social harmony. The suite of gods that came with such beliefs had many benefits. While most of these systems had an over-ruling Big Kahuna god (Odin, Zeus, Jupiter, Brahman, etc.), those gods were rarely called upon for help. The lesser gods were much more approachable because they specialized. Each was the god of this or the god of that. If you wanted a good crop of olives this coming season, a believing Greek didn’t go to Ares, the God of War for that; they went to Demeter, the goddess of the harvests. So, there was a built-in incentive to learn all about the appropriate gods and how to beseech them. Also, since there were so many gods and goddesses, there was no Problem of Gender of just the one god. Both feminine and masculine qualities were recognized in gods.

And, if there was a drought, or crop failure, or devastating storm while at sea, the big god didn’t get blamed for that. The smaller gods were notoriously capricious and it never shocked anyone when one of these acted up. As a consequence, there was no “Problem of Evil” to deal with. There was little to no conflict (jealousy, yes; open conflict no) between faiths; many coexisted side-by-side. Like I said, social harmony, much valued by the Romans and all other empires.

Along comes Christianity, a form of monotheistic Judaism on steroids, and all of a sudden, things were quite different. Jews and Christians did not tolerate other religions at all. They refused to acknowledge the divinities of any of the Roman emperors, which was the primary cause of their persecutions by the Romans. The Romans thought them more than a little problematic because of this, so why embrace them?

I suspect Constantine was trying mightily to hold a shaky Roman empire together and thought that bringing Christianity into the fold might normalize their relations with the state. Basically, taking an unruly, more and more powerful group, and co-opting them. (Christianity was not adopted as the state religion of Rome until later. Constantine made it a state religion of Rome.)

The problems inherent in harmonizing a monotheistic religion, though, were quite great. As far as the people were concerned, if there were only one god, then that god was responsible for all of the bad things that happened as well as the good things (aka the Problem of Evil).

The Catholic Church (and all other Christian churches) solved this problem by making the veneer of monotheism so thin as to be almost invisible. Christians, for examples, had more than a few wars over the creation of the trinity: three gods in one! These are not three gods! There can only be one god, so these three … well, it’s complicated. There are not just three versions or manifestations or disguises of the one god. Zeus could walk the Earth as a bull or swan, and still be Zeus; now that was a disguise. The Trinity was and is … a mystery … three gods of one essence, whatever the heck that means. (I think it means “one, not three,” and nothing else.)

Because there was only one god, one had to approach the “all mighty” for even the most trivial of favors, the things always done by demigods in the polytheistic religions. So, Christianity (and Judaism) invented all kinds of god helpers. There were angels and archangels and cherubim, seraphim, and whatnot. What are these other than demi-gods? And to cover the Problem of Evil, Satan was invented. Here is a god if there ever was one. Imagine a being responsible for all of the evil, temptation, and lies, and Republican politics in the entire world … but He is not a god, nope; there is only one god. In any polytheistic suite of gods, Satan would be a major god.

Then there are the Saints. Christians scoff at Roman emperors deifying themselves. (Actually, they had to be dead first, so they had people to do that form them … there were forms to be filled out, rituals and sacrifices to do, etc.) What are saints but deified humans?

St. Brigit of Ireland is apparently a “patron” saint of Ireland, which is another way to say “important” and “popular.” Brigit started out as a Celtic god and ends up being a Catholic saint, serving the exact same purpose: providing a mechanism to appeal to the god(s) for favors. Why bother “Him” if you can pray to a saint to get a small job done.

So, Christianity is “monotheistic” in name only. In its structures, even the Protestant structures with no saints and whatnot, it is still quite polytheistic. This is why Yahweh/Jesus cannot do away with Satan, even though He created Satan. To do so would give the people no source for all of the evil in the world other than Yahweh/Jesus.

Always give the people what they want, otherwise they will turn on you. This is an inherent principle in the structure of all scams. The scam is to appear to give them what they want, without actually giving them anything. A mob “protection” racket is a prime example. For just a small or maybe large fee, the mob will protect your business. Who will they be protecting your business from? The mob, of course.

Some wonder why I spend so much time discussing religion in a class war blog. I do so because religion is one of the, if not the, primary control mechanisms by which the “elites” extract wealth from the masses (us). The current mainstream religion of the U.S. insists that each of us is weak and sinful and can only be saved by turning over all of our decisions to them. Saved from whom? Guess.

And the primary message is that when you die, you will be rewarded and your enemies punished but, whatever you do now while you are alive, just don’t rock the boat. Too may elites are dependent upon your passivity! Remember, you are unworthy … as one evangelist puts it “God only requires from you the honesty to admit that you are morally and spiritually a failure. You can come to Christ just as you are.” He will accept scum like you, but only if you accept someone else controlling your life. Their class (the religious and secular elites) are making war on our class (the hoi polloi/you and me) and their religion is a tool of the oppressors.

A Note on Original Sin Many Christians believe in Original Sin as the source of mankind’s sinfulness. Sin is defined as a transgression of the law of their god. But the Bible describes what is called the War of the Angels, who rebelled against God’s will by refusing to bow down to mankind on the occasion of the creation of man. So, how original could Adam and Eve’s sin be if there were angels transgressing God’s law well before their “fall?” For those who therefore claim that Adam’s sin must have come first; if that were so why would God demand his angels, his perfect heavenly angels, bow down to such sinful creatures? It seems a stupid idea, no?

It seems, rather, that disobedience of Yahweh’s will was commonplace, not something that was so heinous that it should become heritable by all humans … unless, unless you wanted to beat people’s spirits down so low they would jump at a chance of salvation by doing what you tell them to do. (Luigi and Salvatore, your local protection insurance payment collectors, would be proud.)

December 26, 2017

God, the Inspiration of Artists!

At this time of year I see many representations of artist’s glorification of the Christian god (including mundane Christmas carols that I have always loved). This treasure trove of art is used from time to time for justification (aka spin) of the existence of this or that god. “How could a god who does not exist inspire so many artists?” we are asked. “How could such great artistic expression come from less than the most holy?” (♫ Grandma got run over by a reindeer … ♫)

I think folks need to take a closer look at this. I just finished a book on the messages hidden in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by none the less than Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. Michelangelo, who only wanted to sculpt, was given the commission to paint the ceiling of a huge chapel, a facsimile of the temple of the Jews (at least part of it—which was a huge insult as the Jews forbade any such replicas being built). This was an offer he couldn’t refuse and which cost him seven years of his life, his most productive years that could have been applied to sculpture, but. . . . His commission was to paint Christian scenes upon the ceiling and then later, the far wall. This was so inspired by God (and the Pope, his patron) that Michelangelo painted that huge fresco, still one of the largest frescos ever painted, without painting a single Christian figure on the ceiling. All of the figures Michelangelo painted were Jews. There were also several insulting messages for the Pope and other prominent people of the time.

This was not a new practice invented for the occasion, Renaissance painters often painted in such “messages,” including insults for their patrons. Artists were also not allowed to sign their works, so it was often the case that a figure in a painting carried the face of the painter. Michelangelo was so insulted when he unveiled the Pieta he sculpted because the viewers insisted that the sculptor must be Roman because no one from Florence had enough skill, that he broke into the site at night and hastily chiseled his name into the statue! Similarly his face and the faces of his lovers appeared in his frescos. One of the faces on the Sistine Chapel’s surfaces is that of his lover of the time (and yes, M was gay)!

Much of this art and music was commissioned at a time when the few rich people who could afford to commission such works were either Princes of the Church or were secular leaders who needed to overlay some religious sanctity atop their secular rule. So, many of these glorious works of art (sculpture, painting, music) were commissioned on religious themes.

To claim that religion inspired these art works is disingenuous at a minimum. The ability to paint or sculpt “on spec” was limited as artists were paid very little, so if you wanted to guarantee a sale, you had better cater to the prevailing “art market.” Since the rich were constantly sucking up to the religious elites, and vice-versa, it is no surprise that many, many glorious artworks were dedicated to such people. To make an argument for the existence of god from such inspiration shows either a complete lack of understanding, a lack of other credible arguments, or both.

I am really tired of the elites pissing in our glasses and telling us it is lemonade. I would find them more honest if they were to swing a pocket watch in front of our eyes, mumbling “You are getting very sleepy, very sleepy … when you awake, you will believe….”

December 25, 2017

Ah, Yes, Of Course … Now I See

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:34 am
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Since it is Christmas Day, the N.Y. Times runs an almost obligatory op-ed piece on why Christianity is oh so reasonable (How Can I Possibly Believe That Faith Is Better Than Doubt? by Peter Wehner). This is, of course, pandering to the choir. They somehow didn’t choose to highlight how Islam is oh so right, or Buddhism, or Voodoo. They reached into a sack containing slips of paper and drew out one labeled “Christianity.”

The author goes to some length to explain the roles of reason and faith and how they are not so far apart. (I suspect that author finds the faith of Hindus unreasonable, but that is just a guess.) Here is a sample:

“The apostle Thomas clearly thought so. According to the Gospel of John, the other disciples told Thomas that they had seen the risen Lord, to which Thomas replied he wouldn’t believe until he put his fingers in the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his hand into Jesus’ side.

“Fast-forward a week, when Thomas encounters Jesus, who tells him, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas does, to which Jesus replies, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

“Not seeing and still believing is held up by Jesus as a greater thing than seeing and believing. But I’m not sure I have ever fully grasped what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of God. Recently, with the help of friends — pastors, theologians, authors, fellow believers — I’ve tried to deepen my understanding on that subject.”

I want to unpack just one sentence in this, namely “I’m not sure I have ever fully grasped what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of God.” This is where reason and faith separate … widely. An assumption is made that the writer who put the phrase “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” in Jesus’ mouth is assumed to be “God.” To engage reason, one should consider the question “what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of any one?” Such a question would illuminate other possible sources of the statement that could then be compared with the first interpretation, that the statement came from god.

I, for one, think that faith is prized over reason by anyone trying to sell you a bill of goods. “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes” is punch line to a joke, I believe. If you take a step back and look at a few facts: there are many religions, all value faith over reason, all include statements regarding what we should do and think. All of these are therefore mechanisms to control human behavior. And, to answer the obvious question “Why should I do what you tell me to do?” the answer is either a very large carrot or a very large stick in the form of a very, very, very powerful god.

The only thing all of these religions have in common is their ability to control the behaviors of the adherents … the only thing. Is it not obvious then that that is why they exist at all?

Since getting large numbers of humans to obey by force is a rather daunting undertaking, requiring much expenditure of wealth and effort, it is very much easier to get the adherents to control themselves by creating a culture they can step into, or are born into, and then it becomes invisible. One ends up thinking “what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of God” instead of “what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of any one?” Trying to answer the first question results in one running down a rabbit hole of questions without answers. In answering the second question, the behind-the-scenes controllers and manipulators can be identified and the yoke of control thrown off.

It is a kind of red pill–blue pill moment.

It has been the case, for all of civilization, that the secular and religious elites have operated to control the behavior of the masses, for the benefit of the elites, not the masses. Are you aware of any culture or state in which ordinary people lived in mansions and the elites lived in simple robes in caves? No? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. Are you aware of any culture or state in which the elites did/do not live in mansions, no matter how the hoi polloi lived? No?

In American culture now the elites have gotten us to believe that they deserve all of their wealth, because they earned it. Interestingly enough, the greatest number of new elites are the “rentier class.” This is the term used by economists to describe people who live off of financial investments. Some of these wealthy people inherited great wealth, then hired a financial manager to expand their fortune through the various financial markets. Just how did they “earn” all of their wealth? What is it about them personally that demonstrates their abilities to earn?

The elites have manipulated our culture to the point that they claim that their god favors them, a sign of which is the fact that they are wealthy. And this claim is made by Christians whose scriptures claim that riches prevent people from getting into Heaven, and that we should all give away what we have and follow Jesus, and … so on.

Reason allows us to take the cultural blinders off, if just for a moment, a moment that might just be a red–pill moment.

After Note In reading the op-ed piece again, it is clear that the arguments, though wrapped in Christian terminology, etc. would apply to any religion you might want to plug into the text, the religious culture is that powerful a weapon in the Class War being waged by the elites on you and me.

December 21, 2017

A Creationist Argument on This Winter’s Solstice

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
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Obviously (I hope) this is not to scale!

We have just experienced yet another winter solstice, a date that heralds the beginning of winter. This is followed by a spring equinox, a summer solstice, then an autumn equinox, then the cycle repeats. This is all caused by the tilt of the axis that the Earth rotates about from the plane that it revolves about the Sun. Part of the year the north pole of the Earth points more toward the Sun and part of the year it points more away. When it is pointed more toward the Sun, it is warmer in the North, but cooler in the South, giving different characteristics to the seasons below the equator than above. This 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis from being perpendicular to the plane it rotates around the sun in, creates four perfect seasons on the planet. Not five, not three, but four, the perfect number of seasons.

Surely this complicated system could not have been created by chance, it must have required a creator.

If you believe this argument, congratulations, you are officially a fundamentalist Christian … and a number of other things equally obvious.

Happy Holidays!

December 15, 2017

God is No Democrat

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:07 am
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There is a bit of word play in the title of this post, but the core meaning is clear. There is no place for democracy in the Bible. Adam Nicolson says in his book God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, “The condition in Eden had been one of obedience; a steeply raked social structure was ordained by God; and so crawling to the great could be holy in England too.”

This is not just a remnant of the Old Testament replaced by the New Testament by Christians. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans says quite straightforwardly: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers for there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation.” It is obedience all the way down. (If it were not, would Rome have made Christianity its state religion?)

There is no greater authoritarian than God himself. His will be done. Obey or suffer. There is no place for “one man, one vote.” Men do not get a vote, they get judged.

So, why do I bring this up now? There is talk about declaring this nation a “Christian Nation” and claims that “it always has been.” Evangelical Christians came within an eyelash of getting a completely reprehensible Republican elected Senator from Alabama. They did manage, again by another eyelash, to get a completely reprehensible Republican elected President of the United States. But Christianity and Democracy do not mix. Something has to give, and right now it is democracy that is giving. Our current federal administration wants to do away with the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious leaders from politicking from their pulpits. This sounds innocuous enough, but it violates a basic political principle, namely that political money is money that is subject to taxation. If religious organizations are allowed to politic and are exempt from taxation, what do you think is going to happen? (Why the religious cannot see the potential corruption of their churches is completely beyond me.)

Christianity is authoritarian by its very nature. The Grand American Experiment in Democracy eschews authority by requiring the rule of law (the law being the authority, not the law enforcer), by electing rather than appointing its leaders, and eschewing the inheritance of any office, and myriad other ways, of course. But what happens when the lawmakers are captured by Christian authoritarians?

God is surely no democrat, nor should He be a Republican or Democrat. The question now is “Are Republicans democrats?”

 

December 8, 2017

Evangelicals Embrace Antichrist

Evangelical support for President Trump is unwavering, which is mildly shocking because all Mr. Trump has done in his tenure in office is to establish his credentials as the Antichrist.

The recent “tax reform” plan clearly favors the rich (estate tax reduction, private airplane support, reduced business taxes, etc.) and will result in increased taxes on the poor and middle class in short order, and in this it seems that the GOP is running counter to what Jesus taught.

According to scripture, Jesus said “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven” which seems important enough of an utterance in that it appears in Mark, Luke, and Matthew. It’s meaning is clear enough. Since wealth in the first century was seen as proof of God’s approval, it was commonly taught by the rabbis that rich people were blessed by God and were, therefore, the most likely candidates for heaven. (The religious elites always support the secular elites.) Jesus destroyed that notion, and along with it, the idea that just anyone can earn eternal life. His disciples had the appropriate response to this startling statement. They were utterly amazed and asked, “Who then can be saved?” in the next verse. If the wealthy among them, which included the super-spiritual Pharisees and scribes, were unworthy of heaven, what hope was there for a poor man? What hope, indeed?

Even the Ten Commandments are no barrier to the naked greed of this administration. One of those states: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” The GOP’s policies are transferring wealth from a great many poor and middle class “neighbors” into the coffers of a few rich people. This is covetousness on a massive scale. At the same time, more money is being spent on our war making capacity while programs to assist the poor are whittled away.

Jesus also said: “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” But the GOP under Trump only heard the first four words and so have refused to refund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that up to now had bipartisan support and was considered a very successful program to combat childhood illness.

The political behaviors of Mr. Trump’s crew and the stated beliefs of the evangelicals couldn’t be more at odds with one another.

I can only believe that this is a perverse manifestation of those evangelicals who want to hurry on to the End Times, those who just cannot wait for the Rapture. Since I think that desire is highly imaginative, I do not expect that reality, but the GOP is taking a wrecking ball to the Great American Experiment in Self-government, turning over the reins of government to those with great wealth, in order that they accrue even greater wealth. Apparently the path to Heaven is lined with gold. The End Times are for the U.S. as a paragon of democracy and any hope of being a Great Nation again.

 

 

 

December 3, 2017

Viewpoints and Mindsets

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:19 am
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I love NPR. On the way home from work on Saturday I got to hear Karen Armstrong being interviewed. The topic of the show was compassion and the prolific Ms. Armstrong had written a book on the topic (Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life).

If you do not know her, Ms. Armstrong started out wanting to be a nun, but ended up a drop out. She didn’t become an atheist but she eschewed religion for a time. She then ended up devoting her life to studying and writing about religious belief. (I recommend her books; I can’t think of one I read that I didn’t find fascinating.)

One of the most interesting things she said during the interview was that she was in Jerusalem working on a video on Christianity when she decided to read up more on Judaism and Islam and realized that compassion was at the core of all three religions. I almost drove off of the road.

Clearly Ms. Armstrong still has a soft spot for religion.

At another point, she claimed religion had gotten highjacked and used to support wars and terrorism, etc.

Apparently she also believes religions had benign intents from their beginnings.

Once one adopts a different mindset and sees religions as social control mechanisms in the service of secular and religious elites, one comes to different conclusions. Clearly the intent of religions is to control the behavior of the masses. In western religions, the elites never behaved according to the strictures of the religion, those were for the rubes. I believe I have already commented that, during the Renaissance Jewish physicians were forbidden to treat Christians, except that every Pope had a personal Jewish physician to provide him with the highest quality medical care. The first order of business for medieval and later Popes was to make his relatives and himself wealthy and then create a legacy through public works or warfare. No humility was involved. The rules for the masses just do not apply to the elites. This was true then and is true now (consider the criminal sexual predation of today’s elites, both secular and religious, and we end up debating whether the predators are to be punished; no such discussion were to occur of a plebe were to so break the rules).

Once you realize that religions exist to control the behavior of the masses, everything looks different. For example, all major religions involve something of the order of the Golden Rule, which apparently existed prior to any of the religions currently in vogue, so it was appropriated for their wisdom literature. With regard to this core precept, “treat others the way you wish to be treated” (the positive version) and “do not treat others in ways you do not want to be treated” (the negative version), do you see this as a behavior of the elites? Me, not so much. This is something the elites want the masses to embrace. If you get into a donnybrook with your neighbor over how you treated him or he you, one of you may be hurt in that fight and not be able to show up for work the next day and that would hurt business. What the elites desire above all things is obedience, but obedience is a hard sell. Even in religious orders in which it is legislated, there are constant battles over whether to obey or not. (The Vatican bureaucracy is famous for resisting Popes, whom they have sworn to obey. As I said, obedience is a hard sell.) So, instead of strict obedience, there are “social norms” and rules and laws of how we should behave toward one another and especially with regard to our “betters.” Social disorder is bad for the elite’s profits.

So, is compassion at the core of all religions? Consider the first four of the Ten Commandments of Judaism and Christianity (and Islam as it approves of “the book”), the first four of which might be stated as:

  1. And God said all these words: I am – the Lord, took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the prison-house. You are to have no other gods but me.
  2. You are not to make an image or picture of anything in heaven or on the earth or in the waters under the earth: You may not go down on your faces before them or give them worship: for I, the Lord your God, am a God who will not give his honour to another; and I will send punishment on the children for the wrongdoing of their fathers, to the third and fourth generation of my haters; And I will have mercy through a thousand generations on those who have love for me and keep my laws.
  3. You are not to make use of the name of the Lord your God for an evil purpose; whoever takes the Lord’s name on his lips for an evil purpose will be judged a sinner by the Lord
  4. Keep in memory the Sabbath and let it be a holy day. On six days do all your work: But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; on that day you are to do no work, you or your son or your daughter, your man-servant or your woman-servant, your cattle or the man from a strange country who is living among you: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and everything in them, and he took his rest on the seventh day: for this reason the Lord has given his blessing to the seventh day and made it holy.

In other words: worship me, as I demand, or else.

I do not detect any compassion in this at all. In fact if one goes through the other six commandments, there seems not to be any compassion there, either. Basically, there are just a lot of “do’s” and “don’ts.” These are all dictates to keep people religious and under the control of religious elites, secular elites also, behaving obediently to the desires of the elites: go to work, do your job, and shut your mouth. If you do this, then those who were your enemies will be punished when they die and you will be rewarded when you die … but while you are alive all you have to do is shut up and do as you are told.

At the core of Judaism and Christianity is one core concept: obedience. Ask yourself: why was Lucifer was kicked out of Heaven? Answer: disobedience. Why were Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden? Answer: disobedience. Why did Yahweh punish King David over and over? Answer: disobedience. There are myriad other examples of divine retribution for disobedience. There is little else in those scriptures.

The core of the Abrahamic faiths is not compassion, but obedience. I wonder who that serves?

December 1, 2017

The Argument from Design Started the Whole Thing (Wrongly)!

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:06 am
Tags: , , , ,

There are many “logical” arguments for the existence of a god or gods and one in common use today is the Argument from Design or more formally the Teleological Argument for God. This argument has been stated in many ways going back thousands of years. Here is one of the more famous versions:

The Teleological Argument For God (Paley)
1. Human artifacts are products of intelligent design; they have a purpose.
2. The universe resembles these human artifacts.
3. Therefore: It is probable that the universe is a product of intelligent design, and has a purpose.
4. However, the universe is vastly more complex and gigantic than a human artifact is.
5. Therefore: There is probably a powerful and vastly intelligent designer who created the universe.

I was reading a fascinating book last night, filled with historical delights (The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican by Benjamin Blech and Roy Doliner, HarperCollins) and they dropped this bombshell:

Architectural design as a metaphor is so important in classic Jewish thought— later adopted by the Neoplatonic school— that it is linked with the beginning of monotheism and Abraham’s discovery of God. How did Abraham come to the startling conclusion that there must be a single, unique Creator? The Midrash explains that Abraham, living in a pagan world, at first could not conceive of a Higher Power. One day, however, “Abraham passed a palace with beautifully constructed rooms, magnificently tended lawns and intricately planned surroundings and suddenly said to himself, ‘Is it possible that all this came into being on its own without builder or architect? Of course that is absurd. And so too must be the case with this world. Its ingenious design bespeaks a Designer’” (B’resheet Rabbah, 39: 1). It was the concept of a Divine Architect that brought the idea of One God to humanity.

The focus of my interest, Michelangelo, had secretly studied Torah, the Kabbalah, and various Midrashes. People who are focussed on the Christian tradition steadfastly ignore Jewish literature that they have not appropriated, like the Midrashes which are commentaries by scholars on their Bible. (Unlike Christianity, Judaism encourages questioning scripture and seeking answers and these commentaries are just that: questions and the answers they came up with.)

This Midrash states unequivocally that the creator of the major monotheistic religions, Abraham, was stirred to do so solely from the argument from design!

Wow, does this mean our current crop of creationists, those hewing to the concept of Intelligent Design, are right?

Allow me to re-examine the argument from design, with a slightly different focus.

The Teleological Argument Against Gods
It is claimed “This most elegant system of the sun, planets, and comets could not have arisen without the design and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.” (Isaac Newton).
1. The statement that “This most elegant system of the sun, planets, and comets could not have arisen without the design and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being” is at best an opinion.
2. An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infallible god would never allow his believers to use opinions as proofs.
3. Therefore, if the proof is true then God does not exist.

The grand conclusion is that Abraham based his claim for there being but one god, and not many, on the argument being true, but if the argument is true, then there cannot be a god or gods, then we can conclude that there are no gods by the argument from contradiction (something cannot be both true and false, right and wrong, etc.).

Ta da!

Abraham proved himself wrong!

Postscript If you are a student of history or just like good political intrigue, this is a fabulous book. All kinds of secret messages are buried in the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, including the current Pope being given the finger! In it you will also learn that in this time period, the Blood Libel was rampant. (Jesus was killed by the Jews, get them! This of course, totally ignores basic facts, like if Jesus were not killed, Christianity wouldn’t exist, plus these people believed their God controlled all things, so how could the Jews have done otherwise than God’s desire, to have His Son sacrificed? That these same people claim to prove the existence of their god by logic stretches credulity.) One consequence of this widespread Jewish persecution was that Jewish doctors were forbidden to practice their medicine on Christians (or else!) … well, except for the Popes, all of whom had a Jewish doctor on staff. (You have to draw a line between doctrine and stupidity apparently.) Hypocrisy, thy name is religion!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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