Uncommon Sense

March 15, 2019

Blood Magic . . . I Wonder Where That Came From?

In the recent Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre of Muslims, one self-identified suspect posted a manifesto which stated, in part: “The origins of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my philosophical beliefs are European, my identity is European and, most importantly, my blood is European.”

“My blood is European.”

Mate, your blood is red, just like the rest of us.

The role of blood in our cultural imaginings is deep and to its core bogus. For example, in this country’s history, we had laws establishing how African-American people were. We used terms like “octoroon” which now is defined as being “a person who is one-eighth black by descent” or basically having one Black grandparent. But the common people talked about one eighth of a person’s blood being Black. Others said that “one drop” of Black blood made one Black. (This was always puzzling to me because these same idiots claimed that white blood was stronger and better than black blood, so someone with a 50%-50% mix should be classified as white because the 50% white blood was stronger, no?)

Blood magic was borne of ignorance of all but a few basic facts (the primary one being if you lost enough blood, you died). It was promoted through superstition and bias and prejudice (your enemies had bad blood). But what keeps it going centuries after it has been debunked as nonsense?

Ah, culturally blood shows up as a mystical power in religions. Christians and Jews can read about blood magic in their Bibles. They can read about how menstrual blood makes women “unclean” for several days of the month. They can read about how we were all saved “by the blood of a lamb.” They can read about blood sacrifices. They can read about how being born carries sin which resides in the blood. They can read about dietary restrictions involving blood, such as the Torah forbids the consumption of the blood of an animal. (Imagine forbidding the glory which is blood sausage. Amazing.)

So, while us secularists are trying to reduce superstition and ignorance, the religionists are reinforcing it.

Oh, and the manifesto writer which claims “my identity is European” is apparently an Australian. His European language is rooted in the Near East. His DNA is roughly two thirds African in origin and one third Asian in origin. European political beliefs? Really? Is there any political belief you cannot find embedded in Europe? This poor sod is seriously confused . . . but he sure does know how to sling buzz words at a right-ring audience.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. (Anonymous—please do not comment that it was Mark Twain, it appears nowhere in his writings or reporting upon him.)

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?

November 9, 2017

Why is Judaism Considered a “Major” Religion?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:11 pm
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When people in the U.S. are asked to name the “major” religions, they usually say “Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” These are the so-called “Abrahamic Religions.” But why is Judaism considered to be on this list. Christianity claims 33% of the world’s population (They are No. 1, they are No. 1!), Islam has 21%, Judaism has … 0.2% and for comparison the Bahá’í Faith represents around 0.1%. According to Wikipedia, ahead of Judaism in popularity (in order) are:
Spiritism
Sikhism
African traditional religions
Ethnic religions
Buddhism
Chinese traditional religions
Hinduism
Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/atheist
Islam, and
Christianity.

The relationship of Judaism to the rest of the world is of the same proportion as is Spiritualism to Catholicism within Christianity in the U.S. Actually, in the U.S., the Don’t Knows” in the Pew Poll register at three times the above concentration. (Although, to be fair, in the U.S. and just the U.S. the Jews outnumber the “Don’t Knows” three to one.)

I was going to include a histogram to show how the number of Judaism adherents stack up against the numbers of Christians and Muslims, but the column representing the Jews wouldn’t show up unless I made the graph ridiculously tall, they are that far back in adherents.

So, why do people consider Judaism a “major” religion when it is drawing very minor, basically fringe, numbers? Is it because of its role as a stepping stone to Christianity in the mind’s of Christians? Is it because the wacko right-wing thinks that “Jews run the world?” Is it because being a Jew is hard, but being a Christian is easy and we want to reward their zeal?

Anybody got an answer to this one?

August 27, 2017

Correct Religious Belief … or Not?

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:31 am
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All three Abrahamic religions seem to be worshiping the same god, just in different ways, so why is there strife between them? Why doesn’t one see any “Isn’t that cute?” attitudes or attitudes of “Isn’t that interesting, they do it differently.” Such attitudes abound in cooking, fashion design, home design, and myriad other endeavors such that “cultural appropriation” has become a topic being discussed because people borrow so much.

Why do religions condemn other practices as incorrect beliefs? On the surface they seem to be warning others that (a) those beliefs are wrong and will get you in trouble and (b) our beliefs are right and will lead you to salvation. But even fundamentalist Christian sects who believe that all you need to be saved is to “accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior” and voila! you are saved have this same behavior. Those sects have differences with other sects making the same claims.

These differences have led to and continue to lead to wars and war-like attitudes and activities. Wars broke out between Catholics and Protestants (kind of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance of Christianity) in the sixteenth century and the Sunni-Shia battles continue to this day and have lasted for over a thousand years. (The Catholic-Protestant wars lasted only a paltry century and a half for comparison.)

These facts seem to suggest that the differences between disputed are really important, but are they? If such differences were something other than the squabbles of small-minded people, that is they were really important, would not modern churches have education programs explaining the differences and why they are important to their own parishioners as well as to prospective new ones? I do not see a whole lot of “why we are different” or “why we are better” campaigns being voiced by churches. At the other end of the spectrum, I don’t see a lot of local programs addressing how “we are all one” or “we are all in this together” either. It is as if, all of these religious sects were in … wait a minute …

… it seems as they are all in competition with one another.

Competition for membership, competition for wealth, competition for political power. As in advertising, you never mention the name of your competitors (although that rule is breaking down a bit now) because you don’t want to bring other options up in the minds of potential customers. These sects don’t make comparisons, at least not often, with other sects because one would have to explain who they were, what they believed, how many of them there were, etc. Usually the are just dismissed out of hand (They are not True Christians™!). The goal is definitely not to convince others of what the right beliefs are so that we all will be saved, their goals are much more parochial.

I suggest that if these myriad religious sects were to actually try to convince people openly of the rightness of their beliefs, the differences being focussed upon would rather quickly become equivalent to the discussion regarding how many angels might dance on the head of a pin. They would appear silly and small-minded. It would bring ridicule into play and rather quickly.

The religious sphere seems to be drifting inexorably into postmodernism in which all beliefs need to be respected because they are all “sincere” and equally valid thereby. Each sect has it’s market share and the promise, false or true, of more membership in the near future.

If actual competition for “who has the correct beliefs” were to occur, who knows how that would go? Better to stick with the safe present rather and a possibly dim future, they think. (This thinking is the same as the thinking of the churches debating whether there should be separation of church and state during the debate over the U.S. Constitution. The evangelicals, including the ones calling for a Christian Nation designation now, were all for the separation because they could see themselves being losers in the battle for state recognition as the “official religion” of this or that state or the U.S. as a whole.)

Currently, the religions in this country enjoy tax relief (even the fucking Scientologists!), they are mostly respected (why I am not sure, other than it is traditional), and the know the rules of the game they are in. It would be a hard sell to get them to shove “all in” to try to win the biggest hand they would ever play.

Anybody can open a church with little forethought, and if they can garner enough support from those who live nearby, can make a go of it. Some of these entrepreneurial churches then seek affiliation with larger bodies for the same reason unions and other collective efforts affiliate with “parent organizations.” But a quick trip to perdition awaits those who do not play by the rules. They will be hassled to death by other sects and by the governments we have created. There is a definite “don’t rock the boat” message implying a “we have a good thing here, don’t mess it up” attitude. Even so, there seems to be a lot of room in the Abrahamic god’s tent, because otherwise, how does one explain “prosperity gospel” churches. (“Sure, Jesus said rich people don’t have a hope in Hell of making it into Heaven, but join us and we’ll explain what He really meant!”)

But it is key to note that to open a new church, you have to be offering something different from the competition, so this current system encourages increasing diversity in the religious message, so rather than bringing us all to the same correct belief, it is expanding the possible number of beliefs, each of which is almost guaranteed to be at least partly wrong.

Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if a church or denomination were to announce a conclave to determine which beliefs are indeed correct and lead to salvation? Who would get a seat at that table? How many representative voices would each entity get? (Giving one seat to the Catholic Church and one seat to the Church of What’s Happening Now would seem to be not balanced.) How would decisions be made? (Voting doesn’t seem very religious. Maybe on each item each stakeholder could light a candle and the one that burned longest would indicate God’s will? This is a tough one.) And, the really big one: if this conclave actual determined what the correct beliefs were, how many regular people would be convinced? I suspect there would be a wholesale retreat to the hills by guerrilla churches to continue the war. (Imagine them ending up going: “Dang, Islam was right all along.”)

Even if the correct beliefs have already been listed somewhere, what is the chance they would be recognized as correct? Since every danged sect has its adherents, it seems that there is no set of beliefs that will get some people to sign on to. There seems to be no way out of this trap, except for a lucky few, who I am sure when they got to Heaven would say, “Hey, where is everybody?” Maybe this is just another reason not to believe at all: there is no way to determine if what you believe is effective. In most cases, we don’t even know why it is we believe what we believe, so going the next step in correcting our beliefs, that is to make them more correct until one has perfected them, seems a hopeless task. (Hint: it is.)

November 20, 2013

Syria: A Civil War or a Religious War?

Filed under: History,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:31 am
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Talking heads in this country are trying to paint the conflict in Syria as a “civil war” which acording to Merriam-Webster means “a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country.” This doesn’t really get at the heart of the matter in that the reason for the opposition is religion. The two sides are once again the Sunnis and the Shias. Both sides are Muslims, but their difference lies deeply in the past as to which branch of Mohammed’s spiritual descendents should be considered the proper channel.

And over time each side has painted the other as evil, so what one does to evil, demonized people is all fair and good. So, when Shiites are in the ascendant, Sunnis suffer. When Sunnis are in the accendant, Shias suffer.

Syria is just one episode in a long running religious war.

And John McCain and Dick Cheney and their ilk want us to get involved in it.

Amazing.

How many Americans would agreed with these war mongers if the dispute were correctly labeled as a “Religious War” rather than a “Civil War?”

If the god of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims is the same god, as is claimed, why is each faction goading the others into the fight, over the correct mode of worshiping that god?

Amazing.

November 8, 2013

Ignorance of Islam

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:30 am
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I am being “fair and balanced” today. I am posting twice, once about Christian fundamentalist ignorance and this one about ignorance of Islam. SPR

Many in this country seem to claim that Islam is a religion of peace and that only certain fundamentalists are advocating or practicing violence. It is not surprising that we are ignorant of the Quran/Koran in this country considering that Christians in this country are generally ignorant of what is in their own bible, let alone in the bible of another religion. (Curiously, Christians are lumped into a category of being “People of the Book,” by Muslins. You’d think they would read the thing.)

Here are the only two things one must know to be able to interpret the impact of Islam:

1. The definition of a “good” Muslim is how much they conform to the teachings of the Quran/Koran. The more they conform, the better they are. The more they submit to the will of Allah, the better a Muslin they are. Period.

2. To avoid the contradictions obvious in Christian Literature, the Quran/Koran is set up differently and around a concept called abrogation. Basically, if there is a conflict in the Quran/Koran, the later statement supersedes the earlier one. (For you Southerners, Islam’s got its own nullification, built right in.)

Apparently all of the earlier peace speaking surahs in the Quran/Koran, the ones so lovingly quoted by the “Islam means peace” crowd, have been abrogated by the later “kill the infidel, rule the world” surahs.

Islam doesn’t mean “peace.” Islam means “submission.” Literally, the word “Islam” means submission. In order for Islam to rule the world, all must submit.

All “good Muslims” believe this.

Any questions?

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