Class Warfare Blog

October 17, 2018

Holy Shit (Bull Variety)

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:37 am
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On my Quora feed the following paid advert was posted:

Where did the four gospels in the Bible come from?
The Church of Jesus Christ
Promoted
“As Jesus taught, His disciples wrote what He said. Order a free Bible to learn what He taught.”

And here I thought that lying was a deadly sin.

It is a scholarly conclusion that we do not know who wrote the gospels that were included in the Bible. None of the earliest manuscripts we have of those works has an author listed. All seem to have had multiple authors. Most of the gospels seem to have been written at a point in time that all or most of the disciples claimed to have followed Jesus would have died.

I wonder if Donald Trump got his ability to string lies one after the next from his religious training?

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Focus the Blame … Elsewhere, Anywhere!

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:52 am
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According to an article in Reuters (Pope Blames Devil For Church Divisions, Scandals, Seeks Angel’s Help, October 8, 2018) the Pope is casting blame for the Catholic Church’s scandals, and all other problems on the Devil.

“(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past,” Francis said in a message on Sept. 29.

“Since he was elected in 2013, Francis has made clear that he believes the devil to be real. In a document in April on holiness in the modern world, Francis mentioned the devil more than a dozen times.

“We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable,” he wrote in the document.”

Of course, I cannot but be reminded of Flip Wilson’s famous tagline “The Devil made me do it!” (It’s on YouTube, youngins’!)

The Pope, in one sentence, takes “responsibility” and casts blame elsewhere. (‘(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past,’ Francis said.”)

It must be immensely useful to have an imaginary friend to take the blame for all of the bad things one does, kind of a spiritual whipping boy. As an atheist I feel limited in my ability to blame others for my failings … I want an imaginary evil friend toooo!

September 15, 2018

Ethics and Morality without God

In a recent post on Daily Kos I read the following:

“I once said to a Native American friend that I thought that the Golden Rule was a perfect expression of social ethics, and before I could put the period on my sentence, he shot back, ‘No, it’s not … because if you’re a misanthrope who hates people and just wants to be left alone, you can behave that way in clear conscience. In my tribe, I have responsibilities to widows, orphans, and the ill. I have to hunt for those who can’t. That’s mutuality.’” (sfzendog)

This attitude toward the collective responsibility we all have, as well as individual responsibility, might be summed up in “love thy neighbor as thyself” but it isn’t made at all explicit in Christian ethics/morality.

Many people do not know that the “tithe” which has morphed into a fundraiser to support the church building fund and minister’s and staff’s salaries, was originally a tax. The Jews had a theocracy. Even when outsiders came in and established a new ruling structure, the Temple kept its own governing structure and the tithe/tax was a way to support widows, orphans, and the afflicted. That is what it was for, explicitly. The Jews had a structure in place regarding the collective responsibility of all to support those in need.

Christian ethics/morality on the other hand stops at “love they neighbor” and “turn the other cheek,” with little parsing of those instructions. There are clear signs that early Christians were communal (that means communists, Comrade). As Christianity was rewritten by pagans, that collectivism was written out. The Republicans are doing their damndest to wipe out collectivism in the U.S. right now, so this “battle” is quite longstanding.

We still haven’t answered the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are still trying to address mutuality.

Many studies on democratic socialist states show that as they collectively (through government) care for those less fortunate or less capable and just ordinary citizens, the less the need for religion in their population. It therefore seems that religion has a vested interest in opposing government providing basic support for their people. The widespread evangelical support for the current administration therefore is less perplexing looked at in this light.

September 11, 2018

Evangelical Pastor Denies the Existence of Original Sin, Undermining All of Christianity

The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, was recently issued by a group including John MacArthur, a prominent (and very conservative) evangelical pastor and Bible teacher.

The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel claims that social justice is not, in fact, a definitional component of the gospel, and that it is heresy to elevate “non-essentials to the status of essentials.” The document instead affirms traditional beliefs on same-sex relationships and “God-ordained” gender roles. It seems particularly focused on rejecting collective blame in racial matters. “We deny that … any person is morally culpable for another person’s sin,” the statement argues. “We further deny that one’s ethnicity establishes any necessary connection to any particular sin.”

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.

These worthy divines are denying that we have inherited Adam and Eve’s sin (“We deny that … any person is morally culpable for another person’s sin,”) and are, therefore, in no need of salvation through Jesus or anyone else.

These people will do anything to support racism, it seems, including throwing Christianity under the bus.

September 1, 2018

Trying to Understand Superstition

The Guardian today carried a rather lovely piece by Philip Pullman, the “Dark Materials” author: Why We Believe in Magic, subtitled “The world of magic defies rational explanation, but beware dismissing it as nonsense. Like religious experience and poetry, it is a crucial aspect of being human.”

Beautifully written, as all of his books are, Mr. Pullman doesn’t quite get at an answer to his question but rather seeks someone to write a major book he calls The Varieties of Magical Experience to parallel William James’ book The Varieties of Religious Experience. He suggests that the search for the reality of both magic and religion is a fruitless search and we are better off looking into what we experience under those labels. He sums this up with the unforgettable quote “Trying to understand superstition rationally is like trying to pick up something made of wood by using a magnet.”

And … (You know there was more did you not?) … like the school child I once was, mentally I was eagerly holding up my hand thinking “Call on me teacher. I know the answer!” Obviously I do not know the answer to the question, but one came to mind quickly.

People believe in magic and religion because of the promise of power, mostly power over their own lives. Throughout human history we were tossed about by the vagaries of Nature: famines, wild animals, floods, lightning, diseases, insect infestations, etc. the only earthly approximations of a paradise were experienced by small tribes of hunter-gathers in tropically lush landscapes. Even then hurricanes, storms, lightning, diseases, etc. could ruin one’s day or many days.

“People believe in magic and religion because of the promise of power, mostly power over their own lives.”

And when Nature relents, our fellow human beings have immense powers of oppression. I think I have commented before that there is an estimate that in 1800 half of all humans existed as some form of slave.

Since we all feel that we are individual and banding together to resist oppression by anything is quite difficult, we all wish to have the individual power to resist or overcome the pummeling we take at the hand of Nature and other people. As a youth I can remember wishing I had the power to heal. (My name means “the crowned one” and, well, “the hands of a king are the hands of a healer.” You see I even figured out a mechanism for my magic ability.) I also remember encountering the Incredible Hulk in comic books and on TV and I relished the idea that when people put upon me nastily that I could turn into an invincible green monster and trash all of their asses.

It is not a mistake, in my thinking, that so many religions, even Christianity, hold out the promise of magic to their believers (“You will perform works and wonders in God’s name,” etc.). Jesus performs magic and empowers others to do so also. When a Christian dies, they are rewarded magically and their enemies are punished magically, and since none of us understand magic or how it works, we settle for the promise of that power.

Pullman is probably right, we do need a book like The Varieties of Magical Experience if, for no other reason, only to understand ourselves and how we treat one another better. As so many studies show, as our societies do a better job of taking care of one another, the “need” for a religious or magical experience diminishes. So, I do not need it as “a crucial aspect of being human” as it will go away when we learn how to live in a state of lovingkindness.

 

 

August 27, 2018

Are Christians Being Persecuted in the U.S.?

According to Christian scripture, a sign one is doing their god’s work is being persecuted for their beliefs (see below).

Take a negative associated with a religion (“Why would I join them, aren’t they being persecuted?”) and turn it into a positive. Spin doctors have been around a lot longer than most people think. So Christians need persecution to be recognized for doing good work … ah, now we know why there is a War on Christmas, and a War on Christianity! If a real persecution doesn’t exist, just make one up!

Christianity, spinning reality for almost 2000 years!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and make you bake cakes for fag weddings and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

August 17, 2018

What Would It Take?

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:46 am
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A common question thrown at atheists is “What would it take for you to believe in God?” Of course, they mean “their god.” I used to throw the question back at them by asking “Which god do you mean?” which in response they tend to be incredulous, as if there is only one conception of their god.

But tonight I was watching, for the umpty-umpth time, the sci-fi move Lucy. (I really like movies in which there is a strong female lead.) The lead character, played by Scarlett Johansson, has forced upon her a massive, massive overdose of a psychoactive drug, which unlocks previously unexpected powers of her brain. As a scientist, played by Morgan Freeman, tries to introduce her to three of his colleagues he stumbles a bit and finally just states that she has … powers (she does). One of the scientists immediately asks “Like what (kind of powers)?” Lucy steps up and places a hand on that scientist’s shoulder and tells him that he had a six year old daughter who was run over by a car, a blue car, with a toy bird hanging from the mirror. The scientist who is recalling this event as she is describing it gets tears in his eyes. The scientist believed she “had powers” at that point. (Even more bizarre proofs followed, but the point was made.)

We are asked to believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful magical being that created the entire universe. Some people have claimed to have had interactions with this being. Others have claimed to have relationships with other such beings. But this god cannot or will not provide any direct evidence, such as Lucy made of her powers.

Lucy didn’t stop to determine if the scientists were worthy of proofs of her powers. She didn’t hesitate or hem or haw. She simply demonstrated her powers in a way that convinced. A god should be able to divine what would convince me and be able to do that with a minimum of effort. Even if you lump together all the numbers of different Christians (the Unitarians, the Trinitarians, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Baptists, etc.) there would still be several billion people who are not convinced.

Whether it is “will not” or “cannot” provide such proofs is irrelevant. So far it is “has not.”

So, in answer to this question I now say “Ask your god, like the character Lucy, it should know.”

August 16, 2018

Ask Yourself “If They Really Believed …”

More than 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania sexually abused children over seven decades, protected by a hierarchy of church leaders who covered it up, according to a sweeping grand jury report released Tuesday. Since Pennsylvania has about 4% of the nation’s population, we can expect that the numbers of victims and perpetrators for the country as a whole are 25 times worse. One of the editorial responses to this abysmal situation was this:

Now, ask yourself: if those Catholic priests and other clerics really, truly believed, as Christians claim to believe their religion (down to the bone, etc.), that they were destined to everlasting Hellfire, that they would have done what they did? This is surely evidence that they did not so believe, that they would not be subject to everlasting torment because of their actions.

Either the Catholic Church is selling absolutions, in which case God’s judgment is not really God’s judgment, or a major segment of the Catholic clergy in the U.S. (and presumably worldwide) doesn’t believe in the fairy tales they tell about the “afterlife” to control the behaviors of their “flocks.”

I also wouldn’t put it past the Catholic hierarchy to double down by claiming that God will punish the miscreants (so they do not have to). Maybe they were waiting for capital punishment to be banned before coughing up the criminal clergy … naw.

The Catholic Con is slowly unraveling. I pray that that process is accelerating.

August 15, 2018

Greek Philosophy in Christianity

We are told over and over that Christianity is based upon holy scriptures. Apparently this included the holy writings of Plato (born 428/427 BCE, died 348/347 BCE).

I have been reading a fascinating book, which I will report upon later, entitled Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages written by Richard E. Rubenstein. In the excerpt below Rubenstein is commenting upon the inspiration Augustine of Hippo drew from Plato, Augustine being a major architect of Christianity.

But his (Plato’s) most important contribution, from Augustine’s point of view, was to insist that the world of appearances—the world of “facts” apprehended through sense impressions—is a kind of watered-down and distorted reality, a universe of imperfect copies rather than originals. The originals, of course, exist forever in what Plato called the realm of Ideas and Christians called the Kingdom of Heaven. To this doctrine Neoplatonists like the great third-century philosopher Plotinus added the notion that the universe that proceeds originally from God yearns actively to return to him. Humans can therefore connect with the Absolute by meditating on the multiple things of this world and sensing their unitary, divine origins. Augustine was greatly attracted by the mystical implications of this doctrine …

I was drawn to one phrase in the excerpt that to me is quite telling, namely “Humans can therefore connect with the Absolute by meditating on the multiple things of this world and sensing their unitary, divine origins.”

I work with athletes and one primary topic is always how to harness one’s mind to support the kind of athletic performance one is looking for, So, I have studied that topic a great deal. One mental tool that athletes use is affirmations, which are first person comments about who one is as a person, e.g. “I am calm and under control no matter how much pressure seems to exist in a competition.” If this were true already, it would not need an affirmation to make it true, so these are things one wants to be true and one can make them true by repeating them over and over and over.

So, if humans are told that we can “connect with the Absolute by meditating on the multiple things of this world and sensing their unitary, divine origins” and we want that to be true, what exactly is going on? What is going on is we are taking something we wish to be true, but cannot be (otherwise we would not need to “make it so”) and we are making it true for us by self hypnosis.

We can shape the way we look at the world. Consider how we (Americans), as a culture, have created the situation where a sizable fraction of Americans see a Black person and think they are in danger (Look they are barbequing, right out in the open in this park! Hey, those Black people are in a Starbucks waiting for a business associate; they must be up to no good!).

The ultimate in religious experiences: self-deluded, self-reinforced. As I keep saying a religion that doesn’t coerce the behavior of the masses to serve the interested of the religious and secular elites doesn’t last long. Getting people to convince themselves of the “truths” in their religion is a high cost-effective and efficient structure for a religion.

Note This was not even the most influential effect of Plato on Augustine. More on this coming.

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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