Uncommon Sense

September 18, 2021

Lies and Truths

Filed under: Economics,History,Politics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 12:57 pm
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Consider the following quotations:

“(T)he question of their necessity (trade unions) is really superfluous. As long as there are employers with little social understanding or a deficient sense of justice and propriety, it is not only the right but the duty of their employees, who certainly constitute a part of our nationality, to protect the interests of the general public against the greed and unreason of the individual; for the preservation of loyalty and faith in a social group is just as much to the interest of a nation as the preservation of the people’s health.

“Both of these are seriously menaced by unworthy employers who do not feel themselves to be members of the national community as a whole. From the disastrous effects of their greed or ruthlessness grow profound evils for the future.”

“For in politics, as in other fields, the use of economic pressure always permits blackmail, as long as the necessary unscrupulousness is present on the one side, and sufficient sheep-like patience on the other.”

“Otherwise he (a nascent politician) runs the risk of either having to change his former position on essential questions, or, contrary to his better knowledge and understanding, of clinging to a view which reason and conviction have long since discarded. In the former case this is most embarrassing to him personally, since, what with his own vacillations, he cannot justifiably expect the faith of his adherents to follow him with the same unswerving firmness as before; for those led by him, on the other hand, such a reversal on the part of the leader means perplexity and not rarely a certain feeling of shame toward those whom they hitherto opposed. In the second case, there occurs a thing which, particularly today, often confronts us: in the same measure as the leader ceases to believe in what he says, his arguments become shallow and flat, but he tries to make up for it by vileness in his choice of means. While he himself has given up all idea of fighting seriously for his political revelations (a man does not die for something which he himself does not believe in), his demands on his supporters become correspondingly greater and more shameless until he ends up by sacrificing the last shred of leadership and turning into a ‘politician’; in other words, the kind of man whose only real conviction is lack of conviction, combined with offensive impertinence and an art of lying, often developed to the point of complete shamelessness.”

“If to the misfortune of decent people such a character gets into a parliament, we may as well realize at once that the essence of his politics will from now on consist in nothing but an heroic struggle for the permanent possession of his feeding-bottle for himself and his family. The more his wife and children depend on it, the more tenaciously he will fight for his mandate. This alone will make every other man with political instincts his personal enemy.”

Comments of the Trump era or on our current politics?

Actually these are attributed to Adolf Hitler, in Mein Kampf, which he wrote in 1924. He was by no means done creating himself, so his opinions may have changed over the next twenty years. It is hard to say.

Many people refuse to read this book, as they assume it is all lies. I argue that were it all lies it would have had little traction with the German people. Yes, there were plenty of lies and misconceptions and errors of thought, but there are also many observations that seem as true today as they were a century ago. Hitler also has a disarming way of admitting he had been wrong, many, many times, but that may have been a ruse to establish a position of “I may have been wrong back then, but I am dead right now.” Again, hard to tell. It is rare to get into the mind of a ruler, so books such as this one, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, and a few others are worth reading.

August 24, 2021

Can You Spell Pandering Boys and Girls?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:25 pm
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How can you go to church and pray when you’re wearing a mask?
Do you think God can hear your prayers through a mask
?” (Televangelist Jim Bakker)

I guess when Jim Bakker got out of prison he went back to the only thing he knew how to do: bilking people out of money by spouting nonsense.

So, can God hear you praying when you are wearing a mask? If not that puts a pretty low upper limits upon His omnipotence and omniscience, now doesn’t it? (When you get old, your hearing starts to go, then your memory and this god is really, really old. . . . ) Doesn’t Jim Bakker’s god know everything, everything that has happened and will happen? So, in effect he has already heard your prayer, no?

And what about the Gospel of Matthew’s condemnation of those who go to pray in public places? Couldn’t Jim Bakker’s church goers pray their hearts out . . . out loud . . . before they left home or, maybe in their car on the way to church? Surely there are things to do in church other than pray, no?

So much for “you can’t hide what is in your heart from God.” (A mask means you can hide!)

So much for “He knows when you are sleeping, He knows when you are awake, so . . .” ooops, wrong deity.

So much for this god which lets tens of thousands of children die from hunger every damned day, but is willing to listen to your whiny ass prayers and, on occasion, throw you a bone: letting your high school football team win a game, helping you find a parking space, or making sure there was enough buttermilk in the fridge for you to make biscuits tonight.

I challenge Jim Bakker to quote scripture where it says “Thou shalt not wear a mask into a church building!”

I am waiting. (I am not simultaneously holding my breath.)

August 9, 2021

Republicans Outraged, Threaten to Take Immediate Climate Action

Filed under: Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:43 am
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comprehensive assessment of climate science was published on Monday, the sixth such report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chane (IPCC) since 1988, has been eight years in the making, marshalling the work of hundreds of experts and peer-reviewed studies. It represents the world’s full knowledge to date of the physical basis of climate change, and found that human activity was “unequivocally” the cause of rapid changes to the climate, including sea level rises, melting polar ice and glaciers, heatwaves, floods and droughts.

Temperatures have now risen by about 1.1°C (2.0°F) since the period 1850 to 1900, but stabilizing the climate at 1.5°C (2.7°F) was still possible, the IPCC said. That level of heating would still result in increasing heatwaves, more intense storms, and more serious droughts and floods, but would represent a much smaller risk than 2°C (3.6°F).

Hearing this reported on Fox News made it all sound as if it could be true, so Republicans trumpeted their outrage. “Why weren’t we told?” they bleated. “If we had known we could have taken action sooner.”

Republicans introduced a bill in the Senate to withdraw U.S. financial support of the IPCC, “an agency that clearly has failed in its job,” claimed minority leader Mitch McConnell and scheduled an appearance on Fox News to explain the GOP’s position on this matter. McConnell also promised swift legal action from the DOJ against the “woke,” CRT spouting, left-wing terrorists who were responsible for the documented rapid changes to the climate.

September 29, 2020

Trump-Supporting Evangelicals Make More Sense Now

Filed under: Culture — Steve Ruis @ 10:23 am
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I have been reading Pascal Boyer’s book, Religion Explained, and he makes the point that one should think of religious groups more along the lines of coalitions than of groups of people bonded by common beliefs. Clearly Christians fight amongst themselves more than they fight people of non-Christian beliefs (in the U.S.). So, they form a coalition amongst a few people within their religion, which is based upon a cost-benefit analysis. (They figure the cost of leaving vs. the benefits of staying. Coalitions serve prosaic purposes.)

Fundamentalists often respond with violence when their “cultural norms” are challenged . . . or at least that’s what it seems. But Boyer states:

“We can get a better sense of fundamentalist reactions if we describe more precisely what is so scandalous about modern influence in a religious milieu and if we take into account that the reaction is a matter of coalitional processes (My emphasis here. S). The message from the modern world is not just that other ways of living are possible, that some people many not believe, or believe differently, or feel unconstrained by religious morality, or (in the case of women) make their own decisions without male supervision. The message is also that people can do that without paying a heavy price. Nonbelievers and believers in another faith are not ostracized; those who break free of religious morality, as long as the abide by the laws, still have a normal social position; and women who dispense with male chaperones do not visibly suffer as a consequence. This “message” may seem so obvious to us that we fail to realize how seriously it threatens a social interaction that is based upon coalitional thinking. Seen from the point of view of a religious coalition, the fact that many choices are made in modern conditions without paying a heavy price means that defection is not costly and is therefore very likely.” (All emphases, other than the one noted as being mine, are Boyer’s.)

So, evangelicals support Trump, not because he is like them, but because he is punishing the transgressors; making those gays and queers, and illegals pay a price for their “decisions” . . . because if there isn’t a heavy price to pay for violating their norms (whatever the heck they might be), people will defect from their coalition in increasing numbers.

This is why fundamentalists can’t wait for you to get your comeuppance in the after life. They need to have you punished in the here and now to show the benefit of staying in their particular coalition.

At least this makes some sense.

The bullshit of trying to make Mr. Trump into a Christ-like figure just makes no sense at all, so the root of “he shares our beliefs” also makes so sense, but this does. In essence: he hates the people we hate and is punishing them for their bad decisions, which supports our coalition by making it harder to conceive of defecting from it.

September 23, 2020

We Are Oh-So-Kind . . . to Ourselves

I was reading an article about some Native American archaeology and came to this statement “In the 1800’s, European settlers drove ancestral Wichita people from their native lands, leading to the destruction of their villages and communal traditions.”

I have made this point before but am still struck by the terminology.

If someone invaded your community and forcefully ejected you from your homes and farms, killing many of you in the process, would you refer to them as settlers . . . or invaders? Was not this land already “settled?” In this instance they are talking about a “city” of possibly 40,000 Native American inhabitants.

But European “settlers” “drove” the people off. It sounds like they are referring to cattle or buffalo which could be “driven” to another location.

By what right were these things done? Oh, God told them it was okay for the Europeans to make war on the indigenous peoples they encountered, in order to bring Christianity to the natives. Gee, you’d think this was an educational mission instead of a land grab.

At the time, Europe had recovered from the repeated decimation of the population of Europe due to the Black Plague and other plagues and was overpopulated. The “European settlers” were searching for land, land that could be tilled, land that could be mined, land that could make them rich. They came as soldier-farmers. They didn’t work in their fields without their guns nearby, because the people they stole the land from wanted it back.

These were not settlers. They were an army of invaders. And we are descended from them.

And President Trump wants our schools to teach that we did nothing wrong. Sure we took their land, but we gave them the Bible. From Mr. Trump’s perspective, this was a great deal, and American deal, an exceptional deal.

And the winners of the deal get to write and re-write the history any way they want. Mr. Trump’s way is what we will get if he is re-elected.

 

 

September 16, 2020

So . . . Why?

A recent statement issued by the editors at Scientific American include this comment: “It wasn’t just a testing problem: if almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Such a strategy would hurt no one. It would close no business. It would cost next to nothing. But Trump and his vice president flouted local mask rules, making it a point not to wear masks themselves in public appearances. Trump has openly supported people who ignored governors in Michigan and California and elsewhere as they tried to impose social distancing and restrict public activities to control the virus. He encouraged governors in Florida, Arizona and Texas who resisted these public health measures, saying in April—again, falsely—that ‘the worst days of the pandemic are behind us’ and ignoring infectious disease experts who warned at the time of a dangerous rebound if safety measures were loosened.”

So, my question is this: what did Mr. Trump have to gain by taking this path?

Letting a pandemic ravage the working class is certainly no aid to business and it stresses what’s left of our social safety net. What possible advantage to Mr. Trump could there be?

The only sensible interpretation I could come up with that takes into account Mr. Trump’s and his base’s characteristics is this: he is poking a finger in the eyes of the coastal elites. (Take that Libtards!) The oh-so-smart “experts” who always know what the right thing to do is, while at the same time looking down their noses at the people living in the “fly over states.”

Mr. Trump has said that he downplayed the pandemic because he didn’t want to create panic. Some have spun this by saying that he didn’t want to cause a panic in the stock market. This, of course, makes no sense whatsoever. By downplaying the problem, he in essence, gave over any control over the problem he had, leaving him a situation that would play out as it would rather than as he or anyone else would have it. And, having this disease wreak havoc on crowded workplaces in the various businesses represented on the stock markets surely is not a recipe to avoid panic in the stock market. So, this “explanation” holds no water.

But the so-called “coastal elites” are seen as the architects of the demise of the middle class and poor by many people. The economists, the politicians, the corporation executives, the “experts” who speak in gobbledygook while dressed in many thousand dollar suits, who claim to know what is best for the rest of us. These are the people who are scorned by the “deplorables” who voted Mr. Trump in, and honestly have really failed at their jobs economically, having sold their services to the very wealthy or to become one of the very wealthy. (The “new rich” are almost all corporate executives.)

But in a classic “throwing the baby out with the bath water” move, this disdain for the politicians and economists and scientists has been spread out over public health officials who have not failed in the same way. Painting with a broad brush is at the core of politics, but in this case, there are possibly 100,000 Americans now dead because of that attitude alone.

Mr. Trump is merely reinforcing a “see, they aren’t so smart” attitude that he and many of his followers hold. Some will pay for that attitude with their lives (some already have) and some will pay with their careers. It is hoped that our ship of state can be righted. I have little hope that the Democrats can do this if given power, but right now they are the only chance we have because they are the only ones who seem to want to do that. It is terribly hard to bail the water out of the boat when others are drilling holes in the bottom, chanting “Sink the ship! Sink the ship!”

I will vote for Biden and work to get a much better president to succeed him. The problem we have is the uber-wealthy are spending gobs of money to make sure that we do not have the chance of electing someone not already in their pocket. We have to learn how to counter the power of their money.

September 3, 2020

See the Pattern?

Filed under: Culture,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 1:13 pm
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Here are two accounts from recent news stories:

Tahir Ahmad Naseem – who his daughter remembers as the kindest and most gentle of parents – was on trial in Pakistan for blasphemy when he was shot dead last month in a high-security courtroom. The teenager who pulled the trigger, Faisal Khan, was arrested after the shooting and charged with murder. But he was also feted as a “holy warrior”.

Meanwhile in Kenosha, Wisconsin, US of A . . .

But a white teenager, Kyle Rittenhouse, could walk down a public street in that same city during a chaotic protest — in violation of a curfew — with a military style semi-automatic long gun strapped over his shoulder, and police officers didn’t stop him. Instead, they tossed him a bottle of water and thanked him for his help. According to news reports, protesters actually shouted to police officers riding in armored trucks that the 17-year-old Rittenhouse had shot someone. Yet not one officer grabbed hold of him. Not one officer used a Taser. Not one officer drew a weapon.

On Friday, Daniel Miskinis, Kenosha’s police chief, told reporters, “There was nothing to suggest [Rittenhouse] was involved in any criminal behavior.”

See the pattern?

How does a man toting a gun walk into a “high security courtroom” . . . with a gun. Gosh do you think that man represented the dominant culture and that was one of his privileges?

How could a young man walk down a public street during a raucous protest, with a rifle looped around his neck, with people shouting at the police that the kid had just killed two protesters, and the police did nothing? Could it be that young man represented the dominant culture and that was one of his privileges?

Do you see the pattern?

August 12, 2020

Hulk Smash Politics

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:52 am
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President Trump said of his opponent Joe Biden the other day “No religion. No anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God.”

As an Incredible Hulk aficionado in my youth I learned to translate Hulk speak into English. Why the President chose to use Hulk speak is beyond my ken, possibly he was dog whistling iconclasts.

In English, the President said, “Joe Biden is not a True Christian™, he’s no better than an atheist.” The evangelicals he was messaging believe that Catholics, and Joe Biden is a rosary-carrying Catholic who actually goes to church, are not real Christians, that they worship the anti-christ, etc., etc.

Mr. Trump is using a typical political tactic of accusing his opponent of being all of the things he is. Mr. Trump is definitely “not a True Christian™, he’s no better than an atheist.” But Mr. Trump has the support of evangelicals because he said, back in the last election, that if he were elected, then Christianity, e.g. evangelicals, would get true power and that is the basis of their relationship. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with power.

As to Mr. Trump’s tactics, if Mr. Biden falls for them, he will respond to those accusations. If he is smart, he will not. The claim will only resonate with evangelicals who get “the message,” people already voting for Mr. Trump. Other people will see Mr. Biden going to church, fingering his rosary, and being endorsed by many of the religious elites. They will think Mr. Trump’s attacks are, therefore, yet another example of him being bat-shit crazy.

If he did respond, Mr. Biden would be wasting time he could be using to address people who will actually vote for him. He will exhaust people’s attention span for the topic as defined by Mr. Trump, which is what Mr. Trump wants, as this effectively blunts any attack Mr. Biden might make on the fact that Mr. Trump is an atheist pandering to evangelicals. The only thing Mr. Trump worships is . . . Mr. Trump.

So, Mr. Biden’s response should be <cricket, cricket, . . .> This includes his surrogates.

August 9, 2020

The Light Bulb Comes On

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:50 pm
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Note I just responded to a comment on another of my posts on this same topic, so I finished this up and am posting it now. S

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I am reading a rather fantastic book, not that it involves fantasies but rather dispels them. That book is The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. The author placed a number of facts in a row to point out the obvious conclusion. I knew all of the facts already but hadn’t gone where they led.

Here is the argument.

The Israeli state story is that the ancient Hebrews, millions of them, fled captivity and slavery in Egypt, then wandered in the desert for 40 years finally being delivered to the Promised Land, only to find out that while it was promised, it was also occupied. So they waged wars of annihilation against the occupants of the land they were given, so they could move in.

That’s the story as laid out in their Bible, they say.

But, we now know that the Hebrews were never in Egypt proper in large numbers and certainly not there as slaves. (Egypt did conquer and rule over the “holy Land” several times and did collect taxes so “being a slave to the Egyptians” is not an unthinkable thought.) The Exodus, however, didn’t happen. The 40 years didn’t happen. If it had their main encampment would have had millions of graves left behind as almost all of the adults leaving Egypt would have died at that camp. Millions of graves? No. Hundreds of thousands of graves? No. Thousands? No. It did not happen.

But in the Bible, Israelites are repeatedly warned away from the beliefs of the pagan cultures that their god had them slaughter and the evil influence of their foreign religions.

What is going on here?

Instead of the Hebrews invading Canaan, they were Canaanites already. They differed hardly at all from the Canaanites that get so lambasted in scripture later.

So why all of the badmouthing of the “foreigners” and their religious practices?” Here is an excerpt from this book that shows why:

“Thus we see ‘the systematic turning of traditional xenophobic rhetoric … against the traditional religion of Israel’ so that in the end Israel’s religion was ‘alienated from itself.’ In this view, biblical authors, in listing the worship of, say, celestial deities among ‘the abominable practices of the nations,’ were just using fear of the foreign to purge the indigenous.”

It wasn’t foreign religions that were being opposed, it was the religion of the indigenous Israelites that was. The indigenous Israelites worshiped a panoply of gods, mostly Canaanite, because they were Canaanites.

This was in the time of King Josiah, who was trying mightily to consolidate his power by reducing the number of gods he had to answer to. (Note Since Josiah took the throne at the age of eight, I assume it was Yahweh’s high priest and Josiah’s advisers, etc. were also involved.) Here’s another quote from the book:

“Josiah had priests take from Yahweh’s temple and burn ‘all the vessels made for Ba’al, for Asherah’ and for ‘all the host of heaven’ (which in this context means deified celestial bodies). He removed horses used in sun worship from the entrance to the temple and ‘burned the chariots of the sun with fire.’ He wiped out shrines built for ‘Astarte the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites’—and, as a kind of exclamation point, covered these sites with human bones. Josiah also banned mediums, sorcerers, household gods, idols, and miscellaneous other ‘abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem.’ As had Hezekiah, King Josiah tore down ‘the high places’—altars across Judah where various gods might be worshiped. But the altars themselves weren’t the only target. According to the Bible, Josiah “deposed” the priests linked to them, emphatically including priests who ‘made offerings to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations.’ And beyond Judah, in the former northern kingdom, Josiah went further: he “slaughtered on the altars all the priests of the high places who were there, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.”

Josiah ruled Judah (Israel had been destroyed) from 641/640 BCE to 610/609 BCE so you can see that Judah wasn’t what you might call monotheistic at this point. The Temple in Jerusalem had “vessels made for Ba’al and Asherah and all the host of heaven” in it. (The host of heaven, hmm, were they Yahweh’s offstage audience in the book of Genesis? Seems so.)

The “high places” that were destroyed (along with the priests who officiated there) were outdoor altars on hilltops where gods other than Yahweh were worshiped. (This is all in the books of Kings in the OT (Oneth and Twooth, Doanld.), btw.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, kings preferred monotheism because it increased their leverage over the priests, or priest, they had to relate to (and control).

So, the story of the conquest of Canaan was written as political cover for the effort to make the indigenous religion of the vast majority of Israelites into foreign religions that could be snuffed out in favor of the religion the elites wanted the people to have. (Effing elites!)

The people didn’t want “Yahweh alone,” the people didn’t create the “Yahweh alone movement” and scripture didn’t support it . . . until . . . until Josiah and his gang of Yahweh priests started doing a bit of editing.

You may be aware of Josiah as the king who “found” a lost book of the Torah. The story goes, according to Wikipedia: “While (High Priest) Hilkiah was clearing the treasure room of the Temple he discovered a scroll described in 2 Kings as ‘the book of the Law,’ and in 2 Chronicles as “the book of the Law of the LORD given by Moses.” The phrase sefer ha-torah (ספר התורה) in 2 Kings 22:8 is identical to the phrase used in Joshua 1:8 and 8:34 to describe the sacred writings that Joshua had received from Moses. The book is not identified in the text as the Torah and many scholars believe this was either a copy of the Book of Deuteronomy or a text that became a part of Deuteronomy.”

The book of Deuteronomy stresses the uniqueness of God and the need for drastic centralization of worship . . . surprise, surprise. If Jews could only sacrifice at the Jerusalem temple, then the “high places” altars became less and less of an option.

Ah, as they say, hah.

Monotheism was Inevitable, Right? Wrong.

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:07 am
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I wrote a rather long answer to a question on Quora and I decided to share that argument here in a post. The question was asking about the numbers of gods in the existing religions. Plus, it is Sunday and this is usually time for a religious post.

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That the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) have only one god is a political outcome, not a theological one. The theology was created to support the political outcome.

Historically, religions threw in their lot with kings to acquire state power. I know more of Christianity, so I draw my examples from it. Christianity sucked up mightily to the Roman Empire early in the first millennium to acquire the power of that state. (It worked, the Romans spread Christianity widely.) But, weren’t the Romans the ones that crucified their god? Apparently that little fact didn’t deter the lust for state power. Rome had the most state power, so suck up to Rome was the plan.

At the same time, secular rulers realized that religion was a more effective tool in getting people to obey than soldiers were. Plus. if they got in a contest with religion, there would be winners and losers, but if they formed a coalition, instead, they would both be winners.

Now consider a king with many gods, many priests, and many visionaries/prophets/etc. When a decision had to be made, which would the king rather do: negotiate with many god’s representatives as to what to do or negotiate with just one such representative, a representative the king could treat well (bribe) and with suitable arguments (bribes) get the recommendation the king desired. (God is on our side in the coming conflict—quick, send this message to the troops.)

We ended up with large monotheistic religions primarily because of politics.

Think about it! If there really were only one god, would that god have allowed his creation, mankind, to create such a large number of imaginary gods (thousands of them!). No, the one and only True God™ would have nipped that in the bud and everyone would have acknowledged that there was but one god from the beginning.

In the Bible the evidence therein shows that it took over a thousand years for the Hebrews to go from polytheism, to monolatry (the worship of one god without denial of the existence of other gods), to monotheism. Mostly monotheism was forced on the people by the priests and kings (Hint: the elites!). There was no public support for such a concept and scripture didn’t demand it . . . until it became secular policy and then scripture was “adjusted.” (Look up King Josiah if you are dubious.)

 

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