Class Warfare Blog

August 10, 2018

Why Worship?

Filed under: History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:51 am
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Not contesting the claims that a god created this planet and sun and everything else and created human beings, why would one want to worship that god? Worship always seemed odd to me, the justification for it weak, and it really, really seemed demeaning. I recall Michael Palin’s “prayer” in The Meaning of Life, “Let us praise God. Oh Lord, oooh you are so big. So absolutely huge. Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here I can tell you. Forgive us, O Lord, for this dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fantastic. Amen.”

Dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. Exactly. To whom else does such flattery go? Only to despots and the like.

I have asked some about “worship,” and the answers all seemed to take it for granted. I see phrases like “Well, he created us and we are grateful.” Really? In the Jewish and Christian tradition, their god didn’t create us, it created Adam and Eve and then Adam and Eve created the rest of us. Granted, according to their scriptures, he created Adam and Even with the capacity to create the rest of us, but they did the work. The story starts to break down when Adam and Eve slough off the high handed restrictions of what they could and could not do in the Garden. The next thing we know, the god curses Adam and Eve and every last person that is to be gotten from them. So, we should be grateful that this god created us and willy-nilly curses us?

Plus, this god was so inept at this human being creation process that he decides to wipe out millions upon millions of people, animals, and plants and “start over.” And for this, worship is appropriate?

I suggest another interpretation. Think of two brothers in high school, one is a freshman and is puny and the other is a junior and humungous. The little brother gets into a scrape and the older brother flies in and not only rescues his little brother but he severely trashes the miscreants that thought that picking on his little brother was a good idea. Now, do you think it entirely out of reason that the little bro might not leverage this situation into a bit of status and power. “Yes, big bro isn’t here right now, but he will find you and thrash you … unless….”

Now, what big brother is more powerful than a god? But, of course the threat has to be made manifest, but this is not hard. Bad things happen daily. To place these at the feet of a god, little bro only has to step in and “interpret” what happened as retribution for not doing what little bro wants. And what does little bro want? Little bro wants control, because he doesn’t know what he might want in the future. For now, it is important to reinforce that control by getting his “flock” to do small things: the more meaningless, the better. Asking people to do things they ordinarily would do for themselves or their community doesn’t show any control being exerted. Instead, getting them to take valuable animals and kill them senselessly to appease the “Big Brother” is very cool. Getting people to throw away their wealth is a real power display. (Thanks for your lunch money; see you next week,” says Little Bro.)

So began, in my humble opinion, worship. It began as a ploy to “appease the gods,” I am sure, at the behest of a wimpy shaman. Strong muscular tribesmen do not need help, they have personal power. Physically underdeveloped tribesmen need to use their wits to get what they want. (It is a common trope in theater to have a small clever character “outwit” a much more powerful enemy or even ally.)

So worship is a manifestation of control. If you can get people to express “dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery” with any sincerity at all, you have reinforced the Little Bro’s authority and control. In theater, again, you never see clerics portrayed as physically imposing. They are, in general, weak and effeminate. As they get older, they get larger but generally by becoming fat, again emphasizing their physical weakness which underlines their actual power.

Getting people to give away their wealth, to destroy their treasured goods, are all things that reinforce the power of the unseen Big Brother. And the reason for doing this? It is only to use that power to serve the interests of the secular and religious elites.

Of what use would an actual god have for “dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery” and the scent of burned animals rising into the atmosphere?

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August 9, 2018

It Is All About Control

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:18 am
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Imagine a government agency that required you to show up at a certain place at a certain time for weekly indoctrination sessions? Or another government agency that required you perform a meaningless act every day upon rising. Sounds like 1984 Gone Wild, no?

Mechanisms for controlling human behavior are well known in psychology. They were well known before psychology was invented. Take, for example, the military, which was invented sometime near when civilization began. Prior to the invention of full-time soldiers, ordinary tribes people were enrolled in defense of the tribe or raiding parties for cattle or “wives.” (Might as well leave it as just cattle for all of the respect “other” women were treated with.)

But as soon as civilization rolled around, the labor of the masses was coerced to provide a number of societal positions that did not have to be employed in acquiring food. One of the most prominent positions was that of “soldier.” The first soldiers were needed to keep the slaves, er … citizens, in line and working their asses off to have the bulk of what they grew/captured confiscated. Soldiers were also employed in recapturing runaway slaves, er … citizens, and then most prominently in slave raiding in nearby villages. (Why oppress your own people when you can oppress the people next door?) Thus were militaries born.

History (which is only 5000-6000 years old) is rife with stories of turncoats, soldiers who were bought off by the “other side,” who then helped overthrow their own “rulers.” So, it became necessary to treat one’s soldiers well. (There are more than a few countries right now that are in danger of a military coup taking over their current government. We even have a term for the action it is so frequently observed.) Along with making sure one’s soldiers were happy there were various attempts to train them to make sure they were loyal to the right people. This led quite rapidly to extensive training schemes such as the Spartans employed.

The heart of controlling someone’s behavior is getting them to do something you want them to do. It doesn’t matter quite what. Consider the complicated rules for saluting a superior officer in the various militaries. This is a substantially more involved process than the tugging of a forelock required of peasants standing in front of “lords,” but it is much the same thing.

Standing straight with feet together. Wearing the same outfit. Sharing various accommodations such as sleeping quarters and eating quarters and … the list of the things done to indoctrinate soldiers is quite long. And what is true for controlling the behavior of soldiers applies to others. (Our militaries are “all volunteer” and I do not mean to say all such “reprogramming” of behavior is made with evil intent. In the case of soldiers, getting them to act without hesitation (obeying orders promptly) can contribute to their ability to stay alive. (If their commanding officer is grossly incompetent, it can get them killed. This is why no few officers have died due to “friendly fire” in combat.)

Now if you will think back to the examples at the top and substitute “churches” for “government agencies” you will see what I am highlighting. Church members are to report to their church weekly for reinforcement of their programming. If one fails to report, they are wheedled upon by clerics and other church members to make sure they show up next time (“I didn’t see you in church on Sunday, Marie. The pastor said he was going to call on you to make sure everything was all right. Are you okay?” implying that if you were okay, you would have showed up.)

Muslims are expected to stop, drop, and pray five times a day. Obviously a god which needs such adulation is one sick puppy, so I assume this is part of their indoctrination. By getting them to reinforce their own programming (five times a day!) it saves wear and tear on their clergy and creates a situation that makes the religion hard to sell out. To admit you were a fool and wasted so much time and effort for so long is a big jump … and, well, they kill apostates, don’t you know.

Societies that do not control their own member’s behavior do not survive. But the basics needing control are getting the society’s citizens to live harmoniously, at least with a minimum of strife, within certain bounds. In what society is it okay to kill people willy-nilly? Ever hear of such a thing? That it is okay to steal from your neighbors if they aren’t looking? Ever hear of such a thing? If such things are occurring, we take them as signs of a society that is breaking down.

Beyond the basics, look to see the ways in which you are being controlled and consider whose benefit this is for? If your parish priest is beseeching you to not blow the whistle upon a cleric for sexually abusing an altar boy, who does that act serve?

The first Christians had no temples. They met in people’s homes for centuries. Under the influence of the Romans, they created buildings (temples and church buildings) and adopted clerics and clerical behaviors. We even refer to those buildings as “churches” when in the early days a “church” was a congregation of people, not a building. Now look at what happens when church buildings fall into disarray. Funds are “raised” and repairs are made, restorations are contracted for. Various churches own multiple buildings, some very, very large and grandly appointed. Many churches own commercial properties that they use to create income (tax free even though the buildings and uses are secular, of course). Many churches have oodles of employees now, for which funds are need to pay salaries and benefits.

You have been lead to believe that this is proper and necessary and are urged to commit funds to such churches to support them. Republicans are always complaining about runaway government but never seem to apply this to churches (the third rail of politics). I wonder who controls the politician’s behaviors in this arena? The webs of control are extensive and deep. Most of us do not even see them, if we ever have.

But just because you do not see them doesn’t mean they are not there.

August 2, 2018

Evolution Disbelief: Understandable … But Why?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:36 am
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It is clear that a rejection of the theory of evolution, the cornerstone of all of biology (and other sciences) stems from religious beliefs. The question I have is: why? There are some who put all of their chips on the table (All in!) regarding this issue. They say that “if evolution is true, then Christianity is false.” This does not necessarily follow but clearly if the theory is correct (and it is as correct as a theory can be at this point in time 150 years after its first exposition) then parts of Christianity are incorrect, but there are more than a few biologists who use the theory almost daily and are also Christians.

In this argument, I think they flaw is in the “all in” attitude, making much more at stake than there really is. (This is a common ploy—over exaggerating the danger of <fill in the blank> to. Consider the early environmentalists claiming that we are destroying the planet, which is ludicrous; we are just destroying the ability of our planet to support a large population of human beings. The planet will be fine, no matter what we do. [Hint: Subduction cures all damage to the crust over time.])

In reality, most of the religious do not know enough to understand the theory in order to have an opinion. Their opinion was handed to them by their religious leaders.

But do you go to a car mechanic for medical advice? To a dentist for financial advice? Why would anyone take science advice from a cleric?

I think there is a healthy dose of wish fulfillment involved her. As much as some Christians go around preaching Christianity as the way to eternal life, according to them, everyone gets an eternal life! The only question is do you want to got to Heaven to spend all of that time or do you want to go to Hell?

Most Christians have only the vaguest idea of what Heaven will be like. I haven’t yet met one who could talk on the topic for more than a minute or two, even though they could describe their most recent vacation for hours if you would let them. So, I don’t think it is the attractiveness of Heaven that is involved, rather the fear of Hell.

Here’s the conundrum. If, as the clerics are saying is true, that the Theory of Evolution directly contradicts divine scripture, that if that theory is true, then scripture is false, why hand only scripture. The motivating factor is the avoidance of hell and you could avoid it big time … if it just didn’t exist.

I suspect that the idea of pursuing those thoughts is just too scary for most, that the warm, fuzzy ideas of Heaven and Hell (Warm?) are too familiar and besides everyone assumes they are going to Heaven, so everything is cool.

A moments thought would dispel such myths. Think back on the most pleasurable five minutes of your life. Now think of an eternity of that feeling. Boring bordering on torture! (Realize that the logical extension of just getting “some peace and quiet” is called solitary confinement which is coming to be recognized as a form of torture.) Variety is the spice of life, no? I suspect many people think their life will just continue as it has but will be much, much better. Your kids will be good looking, do well in school, taxes will be low, etc.

If you think about it, both Heaven and Hell sound like places of torture. (I just remembered the episode of The Twilight Zone in which a gambler thinks he has died and is in Heaven. There are casinos in Heaven (of course) and he wins easily when he plays. What a life. Then he twigs to the fact that not only does he win easily, but he never loses. There is no skill involved, no risk, no reward, and no pleasure. He questions his host as to why Heaven would be this way and his host comes back with (I am working from memory here) “Why do you think this is Heaven?” (Bwah, hah, hah!))

Any pleasure, ecstasy, carried to extremes creates dullness and apathy … at best. But Heaven will be different … right? Let’s ask the guy who gave us the good science advice!

 

About Time … But …

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:29 am
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Breaking News—Pope Francis has said the death penalty is “inadmissible” and that the Catholic Church would work for its abolition across the world.

About time … but … while the Catholic Church in some ways seems to be one of the more flexible of the Christianities, its commitment to scripture seems to be waning. All throughout the Holy Bible, various infractions of divine and natural law are described including the punishment of … cue the Church Lady, cue the organ music, … Death! Got a teenaged boy who sasses his parents? Kill him! Got a bride who does not seem quite virginy enough? Kill her! Stone them! Kill, kill, kill! (Arlo Guthrie was right!)

I have not counted them but I suspect that the number of rules infractions in the Bible that include death sentences is closer to 100 than to zero. (The wages of sin is death!)

So, now the death sentence is to be taken off of the table. This, I think, is a good thing! It is a good thing all by itself (Vengeance is mine! … who said that?) and it is a good thing in that it undermines further the authority claimed for “holy” scripture.

If you can cherry-pick some of it, why not all of it?

 

 

 

 

 

July 25, 2018

Why Are We Still Discussing Contraception? (Hint: Religion)

Contraception has still been around for a very long time, and yet we are still debating the topic and are passing laws regulating it. Of course the reason for this is religion.

In the Muslim world, they are still in a phase in which, as a religion, they are trying to out populate the other religions it competes with. This was a phase for Christianity, too, a phase we haven’t entirely left.

Now, realize that if the radical religionists get their way, they will use state power to regulate contraception, as well as other sex-related topics and, I suspect there are reasons to believe you will not like it. As just an example of what to expect, should the most recent Antonin Scalia clone gets hoisted to the US Supreme Court, Louisiana has already passed a law that takes effect when Roe v. Wade is overturned in the SCOTUS. That law makes abortion a crime, sending everyone involved to jail with large fines attached, e.g. if a daughter is raped and her mother or father helps her get an abortion, the parent, the child, and the doctor are all heading for the slammer.

You may have noticed that states like Louisiana have coerced abortion clinics out of existence in their states, making the operation almost unavailable if you are poor and can’t travel out of state already. (As an aside, I wonder if the promoters of these laws have compared the birth rates of their state’s populations. The “white” birth rate is the lowest, hence they are speeding along the path to becoming a “white-minority” state.

Okay, back to the original topic. where did these anti-contraception ideas come from? The answer, of course, is Christianity (in the U.S.). So where did the Christians get their ideas? well, it wasn’t from scripture. Their scripture states that a baby becomes a “person” when they inhale the breath of life just after they are born. This hasn’t stopped the Christians from trying to pass a bogus law declaring the baby is a person at conception. (Once the pregnancy test shows blue, register the child for a Social Security number and claim then as a dependent on your tax returns. With the savings, go to another state for an abortion and you will have a “State funded abortion” whether they want it or not. Just sayin’.)

I have been paying more attention to church history of late and that history clearly shows the evolution of the churches stance toward sex and contraception. These ideas, not to be found in scripture, were created by Church Fathers like Paul and Augustine and, well, the usual crowd. Most of these people make clear that they believed that the most desirable state for Christians was celibacy. Augustine’s battles over his sexual nature make an interesting study of self-inflicted psychological wounds.

These people were, of course, unmarried for which fact they made self-serving excuses. Imagine these “holy men,” not at all likely to be much fun. They are overly serious, overly religious, and obsessed … not exactly marriage material. If they ever did have sex, each occurrence was probably the equivalent of a teenaged boy’s first sexual experience, that is to say explosive and overwhelming. They never got to the stage where sex with a committed partner becomes a gentle, affirmation of their relationship. So, they equated sex with lust, a cardinal sin. So, they started making rules about a subject they knew almost nothing about and which they mischaracterized from the beginning. At least the Quakers had the grace to die out, but the early Christians were playing the political dominance game, where the church with the most followers “wins,” just as Muslims are doing now.

The rather stern Protestant inheritors of these positions have accepted them, even though they are based in Catholic theology, and run with the ball. This is hardly surprising as the conservative Protestants are responsible for the Catholic majority on the Supreme Court. (Shush, don’t tell anyone, you’ll let the cat out of the bag.)

How we continue to let celibate clergymen dictate to us is beyond me. But then the church is hardly democratic. The only appeals they make to democracy is asking to be let to vote upon whether the U.S. should be declared a Christian nation.

This ridiculous demand can be quashed by a simple ballot. The first question is: “Should the U.S. be declared a Christian Nation (yes or no)? The second question is “Which denomination (Mormon, Scientologist, Catholic, Baptist, Southern Baptist, Charismatic, Quaker, Episcopalian, Seventh Day Adventist, and 10,000 more)? (check one).

The whole idea of the separation of church and state is to keep items of religion off of the ballot! The evangelical churches around the time of the adoption of the Constitution knew this as they were in a small minority at the time and would have been voted into obscurity. Better a level playing field for all than to give the currently popular churches the state power to collect tithes, etc.  Now that they are ascendant in conservative political circles, now they want to vote.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

If you want to see how states with endorsed religions behave, just look at history. It isn’t pretty. Why would they want this? I guess it is because they are still following tradition … traditions that were invented by lustful celibates thousands of years ago.

And, as I have been saying over and over: a religion will not continue to exist unless it coerces the labor of the masses to the benefit of the secular and religious elites. In the realm of sex, those being coerced are women. Rules made by men who did not and do not understand women or sex are still being used to control women. Women are to be “used” as vessels for men’s seed, and as caregivers to children, and then as a support system for their girl children’s children. That’s it. Oh, and clean the house and cook dinner and don’t forget to pick up my dry cleaning.

Disgusting.

Oh, and they are winning right now. If they break down the wall between church and state, get ready for religious wars.

June 21, 2018

Parsing Romans 13

Many people have chimed in on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ claim last week that separating children from their parents was a biblical gesture, citing Romans 13 of the New Testament supporting his administrations policy of separating parents from children when people cross our border without permission. Some critics claim to prove that Sessions’ use of Romans 13 is theologically incorrect. What most people seem to ignore is the question of why Romans 13 exists at all, being an unnecessary theological statement, and a purely political one.

“Romans” was written in the late 50’s CE as best we can figure such things. This was well before Christianity was adopted as “a” state religion of Rome in the early 300’s CE and then as “the” state religion of Rome in the later 300’s CE. After Christianity was adopted by the Roman Empire, the greatest persecutor, by far, of Christians was other Christians. Prior to that point, there were occasional persecutions of Christians by the Romans. These persecutions were exaggerated by the early Christians for effect, but they did occur. (Please keep in mind that the Roman empire was not a glitter and glitz parade that it is often portrayed as in movies, but a rather brutal authoritarian regime, one in which a blow to the face was the expected result of questioning authority.)

So, Christians of the time of the writing of Romans were trying desperately to not be singled out by the Romans for more extensive persecutions, examples of which abounded. So, the attitudes of Christian leaders were basically: keep your head down, obey the rules, pay your taxes, etc. not because the Romans had the right to rule but that they had the might to rule and exercised it regularly.  The only way Christians could be convinced to do this was to establish that they had the right to rule given to them by the Christian’s god, hence Romans 13 (which was a novel invention with no prior support in scripture … and before you start writing comments, consider that the Israelite and Judean rulers were “authorized” on as extensions of their god and only as long as they did God’s will; piss off the priests and you might be an ex-king in just a few days; the Romans were a pagan run civilization). Christians, however, had some real problems trying to fit in under this scheme as their religion forbade them from worshipping the Emperor, pagan cults, etc., all of which made them “trouble makers.”

It is not unfortunate that we are finally beginning to get a real grasp on the well-established conservative Christian view that modern government has outgrown its natural boundaries by usurping both the family’s role as educators and caregivers, and the church’s role as social service agency. This is bullshit, of course, because when you look back at how schools developed, they developed out of groups trying to provide a better education for their children than they could provide themselves. The bucolic view of fathers teaching their sons and mothers their daughters is all fine and good as long as all of these people were in the same place, but when fathers started leaving the home for work, as opposed to farming their own piece of land, this system no longer worked. Dad was “at work,” son was at home (and, of course, the girls didn’t count) so how much teaching could be done? So, groups of people, often springing out of church relationships found “teachers” and solved their problem by division of labor. These schools were “government” as much as anything was governmental when they were created but they weren’t governmental as we now look at things. They were merely collective. (This practice continues today, by the way.)

As warm and fuzzy as things sound, this system founded upon “the family’s role as educators and caregivers, and the church’s role as social service agency” would be about as well received today as a fart in an elevator. Basically, this is the libertarian view that we are all alone in this world, that we cannot depend on anyone else. Under this viewpoint, doctors are busybodies who should mind their own business and public transportation (buses, streetcars, trains, run by the government) is anathema. (Hey, if the Koch brothers are against it, you know it isn’t part of the Libertarian future.) Under this viewpoint collectivism is a dirty word.

But, then Christianity isn’t democratic in any way. It is the most authoritarian of systems, and all of the effing plutocrats want in on the power involved as recipients of the authority as middle men.

These people are dangerous, dangerous to any idea of collective behavior. It is astonishing that they even approve of church bake sales. Basically I think that religion is the horse they rode into town on and they will ride it until it drops, so anything goes when it comes to religion as long as it toes the line with regard to the authority structure in families and society in general (power needle points to men, white men, unquivering).

All hail the Libertarians!

 

 

June 17, 2018

Ignorant or Duplicitous? … You Decide

I ran across the oft repeated quotation from Isaac Newton just now “I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.” This quotation is from the second edition of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Latin for Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), one of the most important scientific publications in the entire history of western science.

Like Einstein, Isaac Newton is oft quoted as an example of a scientist who “believed.” Exactly what they believed is often overlooked.

Isaac Newton was notoriously thin-skinned and he received a great many objections and criticisms from the publishing of the first edition of the Principia with dismay (like Michael and Beyonce, the book only needs its first name). One of the criticisms was that Newton’s work explained the motions of the planets so well there was no longer a need for God’s guiding hand to keep the planets moving in their perfect orbits. In a direct response to that accusation, Newton inserted a new paragraph into his second edition making it clear that he still believed all his laws had been created by God. In other words, he didn’t think such a statement was necessary in the first edition!

Make no mistake about it, Newton was a creationist. He did believe in “God,” but this was the mid to late 1600’s and the consequences of not believing were quite dire. Plus, what Newton actually did believe would not pass muster with the theists constantly repeating the quotation above.

From Wikipedia, “According to most scholars, Newton was Arian, not holding to Trinitarianism. In Newton’s eyes, worshipping Christ as God was idolatry, to him the fundamental sin. As well as being antitrinitarian, Newton allegedly rejected the orthodox doctrines of the immortal soul, a personal devil and literal demons.

Now, what do you call someone who rejects the trinity, didn’t hold with Jesus being called a god, didn’t believe in immortal souls (and therefore the afterlife, Heaven, Hell, etc.), the devil, and demons? Is there a Christian sect today which can check off all of those boxes? Like Einstein, Newton was at most a theist viewing nature as the only god worth studying.

Also, Newton’s “daily” Bible studies weren’t exactly orthodox. Also from Wikipedia:

“Newton spent a great deal of time trying to discover hidden messages within the Bible. After 1690, Newton wrote a number of religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible. In a manuscript Newton wrote in 1704 he describes his attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible. He estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060. In predicting this he said ‘This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.’”

So, those who quote the above statement incessantly as an example of a “scientist who believed” thus supporting the idea that faith and reason are compatible, are they ignorant or duplicitous? Personally I think more people grasp upon anything that supports their beliefs out of plain old confirmation bias than there are theists who actually know what is what and who are deliberately obscuring the truth to show The Truth™. This I believe is a consequence of evangelism. Few are equipped to do it correctly.

June 14, 2018

What Harm Does It Do?

Often when the topic of religion comes up in online and other debates a point pushed is “It is harmless. What harm does it do?” I mentioned in a recent post that I have been working my way through Jerry Coyne’s Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible (Penguin Publishing Group, Kindle Edition). As to what harm religion does, Professor Coyne offered this rather brilliant quotation:

“John Shimkus, a congressman from Illinois, went even further, quoting from the Book of Genesis when testifying in 2009 before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment:

Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood, and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done. As long as the Earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease’ [Genesis 8: 21– 22]. I believe that’s the infallible word of God, and that’s the way it’s going to be toward his creation. . . . The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a flood. I appreciate having panelists here who are men of faith, and we can get into the theological discourse of that position. But I do believe God’s word is infallible, unchanging, perfect.

Arrogance on display. I get to punch this punching bag as he is from my home state.

Regarding “The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over.” This is scripture according to this person. Christian scripture says no such thing. And we are not talking about Earth ending, we are talking about leaving enough resources for our children to have lives that are relatively full. If you are religious, do you want your children living in squalor and danger as they await the Second Coming?

Regarding “Man will not destroy this Earth.” Of course not, it is fucking planet. We do not have the means to destroy it. But we can make it almost impossible for it to support a population of people of any size if we keep going in the rapacious manner we have been going. We currently harvest nature’s bounty, for profit, until the harvested resource is all used up, then we go make money some other way. Think about all of the abundant fishing sites that no longer have any fish to catch or lakes that have had all of their water “diverted.” Think about soils so depleted they won’t grow anything any more. There are spots in the Gulf of Mexico that no longer support life (they are called “Dead Zones”) because of all of the agricultural chemical runoff funneled to it by the Mississippi River. None of these actions will “end the Earth” but a few more like them will end life on Earth as we know it.

Regarding “This Earth will not be destroyed by a flood.” Scripture doesn’t say anything about destroying half of Florida or the coastal Northeast which will be underwater in less than 100 years. The Earth will not be destroyed, it says, but that claim doesn’t cover just the coastal plains; they can “die” any time.

So, according to this moron, our climate change playbook is to be a 2-2500 year old book that has not a single correct scientific fact in it. Ah, the power of faith, especially in an ignoramus with just enough brain cells to get elected to state office with the help of his Christian friends.

June 12, 2018

Giving Too Much Away

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:29 pm
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I have been working my way through Jerry Coyne’s Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible (Penguin Publishing Group, Kindle Edition). This is quite exhaustive of the topic and very well written but last night I read something that gave me pause. here is the quote:

The second argument for faith is that it gives solace to the marginalized and destitute. And that’s no doubt true. When you see yourself as being without hope, there is consolation in thinking that God and Jesus are looking out for you (even if they’re not helping much), and in thinking that all will be set right in the next world.” (Emphasis added. SR)

I have read many comments like this but this time I realized that this is a concession I am no longer prepared to give. You see, this is just a part of the Big Con, the Big Lie, that is very prominent in Christianity. Your reward comes after you die, so just do your job, don’t complain, and don’t ask for a raise. Religions that don’t help coerce labor from the masses to serve the interests of the religious and secular elites just do not survive. Christianity has survived on this basis.

The consolation of having some false fairy tales to believe in is poor pay for all that was robbed of you throughout your life. I am not just talking about tithing or money given to churches in collection plates at services. I am talking about the billions of dollars not available to be spent on the poor or for education that go to tax breaks for religious orders and enterprises. I am talking about the wages one didn’t get or the abuse one suffered in the expectation of a heavenly reward after you die. If you had not that “consolation” while you were working, might you have gotten pissed off enough to demand higher wages? Might you have expected your governments, the collective “we,” to be more helpful than it has been?

I think we have to stop and think before we make such concessions to religion and faith. Often as not, even the innocuous offerings we might make are unsupportable.

I am not advocating that we disabuse dying elders on their death beds of their religious fantasies. That would be unkind. They have already made the bed they will go to sleep in. I do advocate disabusing young and the middle-aged people of their religious fantasies. Jerry Coyne does a quite good job of that in his book. Here are a couple more quotes to give you a taste of what he is offering so you can decide whether or not you want to read the book:

But consider how many questions religion once told us could never be answered—and were taken as evidence for God—and yet ultimately were solved by science. Evolution, infectious disease, mental illness, lightning, the stable orbits of planets: the list is long. Religious people often call for scientists to be “humble,” ignoring the beam in their own eyes, which see things like morality as forever inexplicable by science. How much more arrogant, and ignorant of history, to argue that our failures of understanding are somehow evidence for a god! And how much more egotistical to believe that that god is the god of your own religion!

In contrast, religion has never been right in its claims about the universe— at least not in a way that all rational people can accept. There is no reliable method to show that the Trinity exists, that God is loving and all-powerful, that we’ll meet our dead relatives in the afterlife, or that Brahma created the universe from a golden egg. Lacking a way to show its tenets are wrong, religion cannot show them to be right, even provisionally.

 

June 8, 2018

Other Ways of Knowing

In the on-going conflict between science and religion that either doesn’t exist (because the two are compatible) or shouldn’t exist (because the two are incompatible), science types, like me, are accused of scientism, the thrusting of science into areas of human discourse where it doesn’t belong and, more specifically, stepping on religion’s toes. How dare, the critics say, science tell us anything about morality or aesthetics or … religion?

There are, they say, “other ways of knowing” than science. With regard to religion, specifically. they mention: faith, dogma, scripture, personal experience, and revelation.

So, let’s look at this.

First, what we call science is what originally was called “natural philosophy,” which was a branch of philosophy, just like ethics, politics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, and aesthetics. When the scientific method was devised to make studying the natural world more effective, many of the categories of nature (chemistry—the study of the transformations of substances, biology—the study of living organisms, etc.) came to be called sciences. But the employ of the scientific method did not really remove those studies from philosophy. The scientific method can be employed in all kinds of studies that no one would call “sciences.” For example, history, or economics, or sociology, auto repair, or well, you name it. The scientific method is a way to generate new knowledge and can be employed in a vast number of places, even ethics.

So, to say that science is overstepping its bounds is foolishness. If it can be employed successfully it will because it is the only method so far that has demonstrated the ablity to create new knowledge.

Now, on the flip side we have the “other ways of knowing.” In turn:

Faith What is faith but an expression of belief. Both faith and belief are expressions of “knowing” things that are not generally accepted as being true by having evidence. So, where did this “faith” or “belief” come from? Who explained what it is that is to be an object of faith? Can that person be trusted? Are you sure they are not mistaken? How would you tell? This is not a way of knowing, it is a claim of knowing something that is not in evidence. Faith is not a way of knowing so much as it is a claim of knowing. It is an answer to the question “How do you know that?” “What do you know?”

Dogma The dictionary definition of dogma is “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.” Basically if a religion says you must believe something because it is true, but they do not attempt to prove the truth involved, that is dogma. Every church, and there are tens of thousands of them, has their own dogma. How can you tell which of them is indeed correct? Could none of them have been mistaken? How will you resolve contradictions between the various dogmas? In science there is no dogma, nor are there “authorities.” If you don’t accept something scientifically, you are free to examine all of the evidence and test it for yourself. The information/evidence is made public, along with the data and procedures used to acquire the data.

Scripture Scripture is just things written down. Most religions have some sort of scriptures. Most religions disagree with regard to the content of what was written down, so how does one tell whether their scriptures are real or true? Jewish scholars have now admitted that the first five books of their “book” are a fictional back story for their people. This is a form of wisdom literature as fairy tales used to be, that is precautionary tales as to what will happen to you “if …” simply told as if they had already happened as an implication that they could happen “again.”

It has been pointed out repeatedly that all of the books of the Bible have unknown authors who have unknown backgrounds. We not only don’t know who wrote those books, we don’t know why those books were written either. Without those “facts,” we therefore cannot tell whether the books were divinely inspired. Ask yourself, what are the signs in a writing that the writing was inspired by a god? If such signs exist, they could be highjacked by a gifted fiction writer to ends that we cannot necessarily perceive.

It is probably an act of desperation that many evangelical religion’s statements of faith indicate that their scriptures were true and correct in their original versions. (This is a dogma, by the way.) No one alive today has seen such an original document. The texts we have today were mostly created from translations of fragments of copies (of copies of copies …) that were centuries older than the dates they were claimed to be written. That most such fragments differ from one another proves that the copies have errors in them. So, how do we know what the errors are?

Personal Experience There are people who claim they have a personal relationship with a god, that they can feel “his presence.” I have talked with few people who make this claim but I would like to hear how they can tell what they claim they can tell from their feelings. I am willing to grant them their feelings, but not their interpretation. For example, many people can claim the feeling of “a powerful presence.” How is that interpreted as being male or female or is that just assumed? How can the feeling of “power” be interpreted? How do we know we are in the presence of, say, a powerful human? I suspect we read the clues of dress ($4000 suit, military uniform, etc.) and behavior (expecting orders to underlings to be obeyed instantly, etc.) or we know the identity of such a person ahead of time. So, if one is a believer ahead of time and feels a powerful presence when meditating or “praying,” the identification is assumed rather than established. No one seems to report a “feeling of power” associated with the words, “Hi, Bill, this is Yahweh.”

Revelation Revelations are second hand compared with personal experience. These come from people who claim “God told me … something or other.” The supposed apostle who helped create “Christianity the Religion” and who claimed he was an expert on Jesus, never met the man; he got all of his information through a great many revelations, or so he said. How can we tell whether these people are not deluded or liars? (Said apostle defended claims he was a liar in scripture!) There are many people who crave attention who make outlandish claims as to their education levels, job histories, friendships, and life experiences. Some of these charlatans are seeking political office or jobs and are often enough caught out in their lies that we all have heard stories to this effect. How can you tell who is and who is not telling the truth?

Also, in the entire history of revelation in your particular religion, has any objective knowledge been reported? Has a method to avoid the plague been told or how washing your hands leads to less disease or that there is a medicine in citrus fruit what will help prevent scurvy? Is this really a “way of knowing?” Do even the major prophets tell us anything we did not already know?

Back to Science Is there any form of increased knowledge that involves anything other than scientific enquiry? How about the other branches of philosophy? (My ethics teacher said that in 4000 years of ethical philosophy, we have not yet been able to define the phrase “is good.”) How about theology? How about apologetics?

In many of these religious and quasi-religious approaches the same people who tell us that “we cannot know the mind of god,” tell us exactly what their god was thinking and going when <fill in the blank here>. Clearly they are making that shit up.

The term “scientism,” is simply a pejorative. The people who write about it cannot even define it. It is an attempt to discredit science before it is applied to ideas they hold dear. Science is, indeed, a way of looking at things, but it won’t go away because of flabby arguments centered on the deliberate misuse of words like “faith.” Scientists do not have “faith” that the sun will show up in the morning sky, we have confidence that it will based upon thousands and thousands (millions really) of observations, in other words evidence. Religious faith is believing something based upon little or no evidence, scientific expectations are based upon pragmatic evidence, which is why science works and faith does not as “a way of knowing.”

So, the next time you hear or read the term “scientism,” or hear or read that someone “doesn’t have enough faith to believe in evolution,” you know you are in the presence of a purveyor of the Big Lie, someone who believes that there are mystical ways of “knowing” that we must acknowledge, even though they cannot show even the slightest reason for us to so believe.

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