Class Warfare Blog

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.

 

 

 

 

April 18, 2018

The Supernatural: A Con Man’s Special Place

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:53 pm
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An alarming number of people believe that there is a realm called “the supernatural.” While I suspect people have different definitions for the term, the idea is rather straightforward. Here are dictionary definitions of supernatural and the prefix super-:

Supernatural
1: of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially : of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil
2a : departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature
b : attributed to an invisible agent (such as a ghost or spirit)

Super–
1a: over and above : higher in quantity, quality, or degree than : more than

[Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary]

The supernatural realm is always “above” the natural realm, never sideways to it or goodness knows, beneath it. Such a realm basically can’t have a location in the natural realm, so why the insistence on the “above” nature is beyond me. I think this relates to belief in a god which is “up there,” and also another god which is “down there.” The “up” being good and the “down” being bad. Of course, the bad gods and the good gods are in the same supernatural realm, unless there is more than one such realm, but why not? The more the merrier.

I used to hear the phrase “planes of existence” a great deal before the Internet drove us to a more common vocabulary. I think this came about from a pack of cards metaphor as it makes no sense otherwise. Why would one wonder about how realms of existence relate to one another spatially when they shouldn’t be interacting, and so no “fit” is required. Of course, fiction writers, even some of my favorites (Andre Norton was a past favorite), wrote about beings being transferred between these planes of existence via various “gateways.” As a narrative device, this allows the author a great deal of rein to “adjust” foliage, animal life, geology, history, etc. to their whim. But, hey, it is fiction.

All of this was before the “multiverse” became fashionable to talk about in rarified physics circles. The Multiverse was either an invention of Marvel Comics or possibly Jack Vance, maybe Michael Moorcock, I can’t say for sure, but it is now playing a role in cosmological theoretical speculations. I suspect, however, that just as invoking gods to explain the creation of the universe, making things horrifyingly more complicated, that invoking a multiverse to make sense of our one verse will also prove to be vastly complicating and, when that happens it seems to be a sure sign of a dead-end road into a theory.

Currently I consider anyone who mentions anything “supernatural” to be one of two types of people (well, maybe three): an entertainer (Think Ancient Aliens or whatever that show is.), or a con man (most serious religionists are in this category (Think William Lane Craig.). The third possibility is that someone has been, or just is, deluded. If all of your friends and family talk about Disney World as if it were real, you’d think it is, ditto for Heaven and Hell.

Anytime you hear someone talk seriously about the supernatural (beings, locations, occurrences, etc.) grab your wallet and back away briskly. Do not run, you may trip and actually hurt yourself interacting with the only reality for which we have evidence of its existence.

 

April 5, 2018

Why Three, Christians?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:48 pm
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The Holy Trinity was discussed, argued, and fought over (yes, with swords and clubs and mobs and riots), but wasn’t settled dogma until … well, it still isn’t.

The Holy Trinity is the “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” (Yahweh, Jesus, and Casper?) that forms the monotheistic god of the Christians. The concept that the three are one is still more than a bit inaccessible but I will leave that at the moment and ask the more fundamental question: why three aspects of the god of Christianity? I suspect this came about when the campaign (yes, it was a campaign) to get Jesus declared to be God as opposed to being an angel, a prophet, or some other supernatural being was just getting started. Since Yahweh was already “the one true god,” Jesus couldn’t also be the one and only, unless he an old Yahweh were one and the same. Ta da! (This has to be more than a bit embarrassing because Jesus referred to Yahweh often as “the father” and himself as “the son” as two distinct people … repeatedly in scripture. I guess it just adds to the mystery.) In any case, unification was necessary to politically bring all of the Christians together (to better serve the political states that were using state power to implement Christianity). Realize that they weren’t just depending on ordinary people to believe what they were told, they told people what to believe in rather “believe this or get out” statements. And there was also a sizable fraction who thought that their god was an ethereal spirit, so they had to gather in the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost, to be able to claim they represented all of the Christians (the real Christians, that was).

But is not the Christian god all-powerful? Could he not appear in any guise he desired? Did not Moses have a conversation with a burning bush who then gave him commandments? So, why isn’t it the Holy Four, “the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and Burning Bush?” And didn’t Yahweh visit a few characters in Genesis and wrestle with them? So, shouldn’t we have the Fab Five: “the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Burning Bush, and Mysterious Wrestler?”

Enquiring minds want to know.

This is just one of a myriad questions/talking points that go unaddressed because we take the existing story lines of scripture far too literally. If we stop and think a bit, we would have to ask a great many different questions … such as (You knew that was coming, no?):

  1. Why would a god who can create a fully grown adult human male out of mud, have himself born from a woman and live 30 years in a desolate, uninteresting place to begin a mission to absolve people of their sins? Can you imagine waiting around for 30 years pretending to be taught the Torah, carpentry, and which hand to eat with, etc? And how many times did Jesus have to defecate to truly understand what that was like? Did he learn to masturbate to get the full human experience?
  2. Why would an all-powerful god need helpers? All of those tens of thousands of angels running errands, mopping floors, why?
  3. Why would a totally self-sufficient god create a race of intelligent beings for the sole purpose of worshipping him?
  4. Why would an all-powerful god pick an obscure people living in an obscure place to share a message to deliver to the rest of the world? This god has tens of thousands of angels; could not they have delivered the message much more efficiently?
  5. Why would a god fine tune an entire fucking universe, and then concentrate the “special life” (us) on just one little planet in one little galaxy, from among hundreds of billions of galaxies? If this is a “fine tuned for life universe,” shouldn’t we be up to our asses in aliens?

Like I said, enquiring minds want to know.

The Easter holiday must have brought out the atheistic team spirit in this blog!

April 8, 2014

Pascal’s Wager Applied to Climate Change

Filed under: Philosophy,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:52 am
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It is clear that the discussion over climate change is wrongly focused. Most people think it is about ignorance: if the people opposing climate change were only to see more evidence, they would be convinced. This is clearly wrong. More likely this is simple confirmation bias: we ignore information that contradicts what we believe and conservative myth-mongers got to the plate first with the “Climate Change is a liberal hoax” meme. Once they got their supporters to commit to this falsehood, then evidence no longer matters. Things that bolster one’s belief are latched upon; things that oppose that belief are ignored. It is a done deal.

“ It doesn’t matter whether you think it is real or not, the odds are way better if you believe. ”

Allow me to offer another approach, one based upon Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal, a seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, offered the following apologetic for belief in God (paraphrased for modern eyes):

Either God is or is not.
If you believe he is not, and are right, you gain nothing, but if you are wrong, you lose everything (you burn in Hell forever).
If you believe he is, and are right, you gain everything (it’s Heaven, baby), but if you are wrong, you lose nothing.

Consequently believing in God is the only prudent path, it is heaven or nothing. Unbelievers face either nothing or Hell. What kind of idiot would choose that path?

Now, let’s apply this to Climate Change. This is a bit more difficult because the differences between eternity in Heaven and eternity Hell are rather stark while the repercussion of Climate Change are much less so, but nothing ventured, noting gained:

Either Climate Change is real or it is not.
If you believe it is not real, and you are right, you have gained nothing, but if you are wrong … the repercussions will be dramatic: submerged coastlines (where most major cities are), unpredictable weather patterns that make agriculture quite problematic, violent storms that wreak havoc, etc.
If you believe it is real, and you are right, all of the preparations you have made will offset some of the negative effects of climate change (how beneficial this will be depends upon how effective the measures taken are, so this is hard to estimate), but if you are wrong you will have spent money developing new sources of energy that might not be needed now but you also will have preserved in the ground vast resources of carbon fuels that will be available longer into the future (many of which are more valuable being converted into other chemicals that as fuels). And since the history of mankind is rife with the development of new sources of energy, this can hardly be considered a negative, especially since carbon-based fuels are finite, limited resources.

Consequently, believing Climate Change is real is the more prudent course.

It doesn’t matter whether you think it is real or not, the odds are way better if you believe.

February 21, 2014

If You Accept What They Believe . . .

If, as Young Earth Creationists believe, the Earth is only about 6000 years old as indicated by their Holy Bible, then certain questions need to be addressed. For one, why does the Bible not mention dinosaurs?

Where are the battles between the courageous Hebrews and the Velociraptors? I am not talking about vague references to monsters in “Revelations,” c’mon. If I were to be in the close proximity of several tons of man rending dinosaur with all of its shit running down your leg adrenaline, I think I could describe that encounter with a few more definitive terms, that is if I survived. If I didn’t, wouldn’t my mates have a story about the “monster that ate Steve?”

Think about the sheer number and variety of dinosaur species that we have discovered and not a single one of them gets mentioned in scripture. Forget about all the camels mentioned in the Bible when there were no camels in Palestine, where are the fucking dinosaurs?

I know that many in the “God did it” crowd will say that God is so powerful he created the fossils of dinosaurs when he created the Earth. That’s effing brilliant; why would God deliberately mislead his people? Did he lay a trap for all of the pointy-headed intellectuals to stub their intellectual toes upon? Why would he not just leave them out?

If you do accept for a minute any of these foolish contentions, you are immediately thrust down a rabbit hole into some kind of Conservative Wonderland.

You may wonder what this has to do with Class Warfare. Well, the answer is simple: Republicans are putting people with such beliefs in important positions in Congress and state environmental agencies. People who can support such beliefs simultaneously with the findings of modern science can believe anything, which is exactly what the corporate plutocrats want. “We can burn all of the fossil fuels we want, Climate change is a hoax; in fact the ‘fact’ that fossil fuels are a limited resource is a hoax.” If you don’t think this is part of a plan of the plutocrats to provide themselves free sway in however they want to make their next billion dollars, think again. They didn’t create Young Earth Creationism, but they certainly have a use for it.

January 8, 2012

Cultural Conservatives and the Age of Enlightenment

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:25 am
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Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has risen into the spotlight as a frontrunner based upon support of Republican cultural conservatives, mainly in the State of Iowa. Just what do these “cultural” conservatives want? What do they stand for?

According to Santorum’s rhetoric, these people decry the disintegration of our society due to Godlessness and the secular culture. Only a return to traditional marriage, church, and family will heal what ails the country.

So, are these people right? Let’s look at secular culture. Prior to the second half of the 18th Century, there was little to speak of in the way of secular culture in our Western tradition. The Churches reserved the right to punish anyone breaking their laws, church member or not, and the way this was enforced was through what was called the “Sacred Circle,” basically monarchs invoked the “divine rights of kings” and the Church backed them up. In return the kings backed up what ever the Churches wished to do. This, of course, led to much confusion and even more bloodshed as, for example, in England Catholics and Protestants vied for rule. Monarch after monarch outlawed first Catholicism, then Protestantism, with the people caught trying to figure out what to do, with dying often being the only option.

Along come the likes of Voltaire, Spinoza, Newton, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and John Locke who proposed that reason must be applied above all and that strict adherence to the dictates of people professing a direct pipeline to a deity was anathema. And, voila, secular culture was born and has been making strides ever since. The culture of the Enlightenment places individual freedom, democracy, and reason as the central values of society.

Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, both advocates of reason, were devotees of John Locke and incorporated many of his ideas, such as the separation of church and state, a principle many cultural conservatives are campaigning to undermine by having the U.S. declared a “Christian Nation,” for example, or by decrying the prohibition of prayer in schools. By the way, prayer in schools is prohibited nowhere in the U.S. The Constitution prohibits public schools (run by governments) from sponsoring or scheduling or authorizing any prayers, that is, it forbids state-sponsored prayers. This is what those cultural conservatives want, not “prayer in schools,” but “Government-led prayer in schools.” One wag stated it as “anyone who thinks there is no prayer in schools has never witnessed an algebra test.”

So, Cultural Conservatives decry what secular culture has done to the U.S. So, what have the effects been as secular culture slowly grinds away against religious righteousness? Well, let see, Mississippi, the state with the highest regular church attendance, according to a Gallup poll, also has the highest murder rate. Hmm. The least religious states in that same poll, New Hampshire and Vermont have the second and first lowest murder rates. Hmmm. Actually, if you go into what the data are and don’t just pick stories out of the news as the cultural conservatives do, you will find that most of the indicators of “Christian values” so beloved by Santorum and his ilk correlate exactly the opposite with what they claim the solution is. The more religious folks are, the less likely they are to conform with their values, not the other way around.

  Basically, overt religiosity in this country correlates well with ignorance.

Basically, overt religiosity in this country correlates well with ignorance. The higher the educational attainment of a region’s citizens, the lower the overt religiosity they exhibit, and the more moral the behavior of that group becomes and vice-versa.

I think most cultural conservatives missed out on the Age of Enlightenment and had they not, they would not ask people to look seriously at their claims as the evidence all points positively to the civilizing features of secular culture and negatively at religious culture.

And maybe it is a very good thing, and it is for very good reasons, that New Hampshire has the reputation for picking presidents and Iowa does not.

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