Class Warfare Blog

February 19, 2020

Stepping Back from Faith, Not Works

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:25 am
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A major battle during the development of Christianity was, and still is being, fought over the path to salvation (aka whether Yahweh’s original curse gets lifted for you). Some indicate that by doing good works, one got into Heaven. Others claimed that you only needed faith to get into Heaven. These two camps, no longer armed, are still in existence.

The Old Testament, aka the Jewish Bible tweaked somewhat, clearly has a primary theme and that is “Obedience or Else.” The poor Hebrews were slammed from pillar to post and every time they were on the short end of the stick, that is losing a war, succumbing to a plague, etc. the cause of that catastrophe was always laid at the feet of the Hebrews in the form of disobedience. Their lord Yahweh didn’t bail them out because they were disobedient to his commands.

The New Testament claims that a new covenant has replaced the old and that it applies to all people and not just Jews. Of course, a small problem exists in that the god that supposedly created us all only had a covenant with only a tiny fraction of all of us, but that correction got made after a few thousand years under the old covenant.

This New Covenant, some Christians proclaim, only requires faith and not works to be saved. This, I am sure, was designed to keep the atheists (and the Chinese and Japanese and Indians and . . .) out of Heaven, at least those who were good people and did good things their whole lives and obeyed the Christian god’s commandments better than many Christians, unknowingly of course.

So, stepping back, this disagreement seems very silly. Shouldn’t a religion expect people to believe certain things and do good works? Why would anyone want to ban good works from a person’s judgment process? You can’t buy your way into Heaven! we are told. So, doing what your god wants is considered buying your way into Heaven? Why should such a god care how one is obedient, if one is actually obedient? Actually why would a god care if you had faith or did good works? What does this mean for this god? Why does it care?

What potential consequences does disbelief have? Does it hurt this god somehow? This doesn’t seem possible based upon its description, but that description doesn’t say he can’t be hurt. “He” is described as all-powerful, but that doesn’t exclude him from getting paper cuts. All-knowing, all-present, etc. etc. Ah hah! Not believing in Him is like a paper cut is to us. He cannot die, but a thousand cuts can be annoying if not lethal. And if we acquire millions (done!) and then billions of disbelievers (working on it), imagine how uncomfortable we could make this god! Wait, all-comfortable . . . nope, not in his description.

So, are you up for the challenge? No? Neither am I. Why would I want to campaign against a nonexistent god? It is enough to play with Christians (except when they get out of hand and act like the Taliban).

June 30, 2019

Evolution of the Gods—Reason and Faith

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:09 am
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I have written about how it is relatively easy to come up with animistic religions by having a somewhat overactive agency detector, a feature that provided us an evolutionary advantage by making us less susceptible to predation. The roots of religion, therefore, are quite understandable. How we got to “now,” however requires some more consideration.

For example, over time we have reached a place in which “reason” is set in opposition to “belief” and “faith.” I don’t think this can be laid at the feet of reason for why this is so. So, was reason, ever, the enemy of faith/belief?

We only have written records going back some 5000 years or so, which defines what we mean by written history. Those records show that people had religious faith and used reason for that entire time . . . that is, some people, not all people, did this.

History is punctuated with any number of episodes in which religion ran up against faith. For example, Socrates was executed in 399 BCE (given the grace of being allowed to commit suicide) “refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state” and of “corrupting the youth” thereby. Since this sort of prosecution (by secular and/or religious elites) happened a great deal, there was a decided downside of using reason applied to the gods. The Spanish Inquisition (and many of the other inquisitions) kept meticulous records of the numbers of people they tortured, executed, and executed by torture for being “heretics.” Some of the records show ordinary people being naively quite atheistic in their “interviews” with the Inquisitors of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Apparently they had been counseled by their lying eyes and not so much by their incompetent priests.

In the Abrahamic faiths, disdain for reason was hard-wired into scripture. Numerous bits and pieces of their holy books encourage rejection of reason as a guide for one’s life. This, of course, is understandable because religion is a social control mechanism, endorsed by the elites. If a religion is not endorsed by the elites, it doesn’t last long. (Yes, yes, there were folk religions, but did many of them survived the onslaught of the well-heeled, well-organized campaigns for state religions?)

So, the curious thing, in my mind, was how vigorously religious apologists pursued “reasons” why their faith was the One True Faith™ and their god(s) were the One True God(s)™. In the western tradition, the Greek philosophers starting arguing for (and against) gods, well back before the Common Era.

Epicurus (341–270 BC) has attributed to him (it might, however, been part of a campaign to smear Epicurus as an atheist—theists apparently lie a lot) the argument: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Plato and Aristotle, amongst others, both made arguments for the existence of gods. So reason was being applied to faith thousands of years ago if the historical record is to be trusted.

Fast forward over much of the “Dark Ages” and we reach Saint Anselm (1033-1109 CE). Anselm became a Doctor of the Church and a Saint for using reason to support the case for the existence of his god. His go to argument was the ontological argument.

So, rather than there being an antagonism between reason and faith, as it seems is almost always the case now, reason was good if it supported religious faith, bad if it did not. This is much like Republicans being in favor of smaller government, except when it comes to war making, control over women’s bodies, doing favors for businesses and rich people, etc.

Religion was always suspicious of reason because reason required no intermediaries (especially their intermediaries). Reason could go on inside someone’s head and you wouldn’t even know it! This did not contribute to the elite’s control over society, so was looked upon with suspicion . . . except where the tame reasoners could be trotted out on their leashes.

It is the same today. Christian apologists make fair incomes by going around and applying reason to their faith and coming to the conclusions that: god exists, faith is good, atheism is bad, etc. Science is declared to be atheistic because it is based solely upon reason, but the apologists are holy men for doing the same.

 

 

 

 

February 5, 2014

When Scientists Think They Know Something, They Try to Prove It

According to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute “a grass called teosinte is thought to be the ancestor of corn, but it doesn’t look much like corn at all. Scientists were surprised to find that teosinte planted in growth chambers under climate conditions that simulate the environment 10,000 to 12,000 years ago looks more like corn. This may help to explain why early farmers chose to cultivate teosinte and lends support to the idea that teosinte was domesticated to become one of the most important staple crops in the world.

‘We grew teosinte in the conditions that it encountered 10,000 years ago during the early Holocene period: temperatures 2-3 degrees Celsius cooler than today’s with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at around 260 parts per million,’ said Dolores Piperno, senior scientist and curator of archaeobotany and South American archaeology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, who led the project. ‘Intriguingly, the teosinte plants grown under past conditions exhibit characteristics more like corn: a single main stem topped by a single tassel, a few, very short branches tipped by female ears and synchronous seed maturation.

After the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide rose to today’s 405 parts per million, the level in the control chamber where teosinte plants look like plants in the wild today – tall, with many long branches tipped by tassels and seed maturation taking place over a period of a few months.”

What they also showed, but didn’t mention, is that the atmospheric CO2 level does have significant effects upon the environoment, contrary to what Climate Change deniers state. They claim that Climate Change is a hoax because it isn’t mentioned in the Bible and they have faith, once again proving that faith is “pretending to know things you do not know.”

October 20, 2013

Faith in Technology?

I was driving to a coaching session today and overheard a sports commenter stating that he was watching one of the playoff baseball games going on and he was observing umpires calling pitches as strikes that were six inches off of the plate. It took a bit but I soon realized that he was using as a reference for his judgment regarding the quality of the officiating a piece of visual tech called “PitchTrax.” This appears as a illustrated strike zone in a box in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Now, for an umpire to call a pitch a strike, some part of the ball must travel over some part of home plate at a height between halfway from the batter’s shoulders to his belt and down to the bottom of his knees. This is according to the rule book but, of course, no umpire calls it that way. The effective strike zone is from the player’s waist (his “belt” down to the bottom of the knees. This “zone” is shown in PitchTrax as a 3×3 grid. Since the plate is 17˝ wide and the distance from the bottom of the knees to a player’s belt is approximately 20˝ you end up with a rectangular grid, slightly taller than it is wide. (Plus umpires also have personal quirks to their strike zones., but that is for another article.)

When a pitch is thrown PitchTrax throws up a numbered dot in the location of the pitch, the dot being the scale size of a baseball, so if any part of the dot touches any part of the grid, it should be called a strike. Unfortunately and by my estimate only one quarter to one third of the pitches called by PitchTrax are anywhere near being accurate. My best estimate of the technology used is an intern with a mouse clicking on the spot they thought the ball passed the plate. Check that, make it a drunken intern.

Realize that the most common camera angle used to show pitchers and batters is from center field, roughly 10-15 degrees to the right of the pitcher and angled slightly downward, so we can see the pitcher and catcher and a batter in either batter’s box. The pitcher, average height of about six feet, is standing on a mound of earth 15˝ higher than the level of the playing field. They stride toward the plate, lowering their body somewhat, before throwing the ball from just above shoulder height, so the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand (called the pitcher’s “release point”) about six feet off of the ground. The batter’s strike zone begins at about three feet off of the ground (the belt) and goes down to about a foot and a half off of the ground, so a straight line from the pitcher’s hand to the level of the strike zone is dropping at least three feet and maybe as much as four and a half feet. In other words it is coming down hill. Not only that but the ball spends almost all of its time in flight above that straight line. This is due to gravity; the ball always travels in an arc. Consequently the angle the ball is making at the plate is steeper than the angle of that downward sloping line. This is basic physics.

The reason I bring this up is that it looks like the dot on PitchTrax shows up where the ball hits the catcher’s mitt about one third of the time. But the strike call is made based on where the ball was when it passed the front part of home plate. And since the ball was actually angling down and, more importantly, because the ball is coming in at an angle to the line of view of the camera, it is physically impossible for the spot the ball travels across the plate to match up with the position of the ball in the catcher’s mitt four feet behind the plate. This is especially true with a left-handed pitcher because the angle between the ball’s flight and camera angle is even greater.

On very rare occasions that center field camera lines up with the release point of a right-handed pitcher and we end up looking right down the path the ball makes and when that happens you can really see how poorly PitchTrax’s drunken intern is at spotting pitches.

Any idiot can see this is the case, so why was that sports commenter trusting PitchTrax above the judgment of a very good plate umpire?

I think that as time goes on and we become less science literate as a culture, technology is something we don’t understand, but something we have faith in, faith that it works.

If this is true, we are not putting our plutocratic masters through their paces. The least we can do is expect real bread and real circuses, and not fake ones. Because if they realize we will accept fake technology, you can expect a steady diet of it. (Did to see the movie “Wag the Dog?”)

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