Class Warfare Blog

March 23, 2017

Finding Jesus … Holy Shit

I just finished watching a recorded episode of a CNN series called “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery.” In this episode (S1, E9) the title of which is “The Childhood Home of Jesus” we are led to consider whether said home has actually been found. The sole line of evidence for this “discovery” was a reference in a 7th C. document about Nazareth which referred to two churches, one of which was still in existence, the other was lost. The other was reputedly built upon the ruins of Jesus’ family home!

An archeologist had been invited to view the ruins beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent which was in a building “said to be built upon the ruins of a church.” The examination of the caves under that building did indicate a former church being there but also there were “walls” within the walls indicating that the church might have been built upon the ruins of a house! Artifacts were found that date to the first century and we are off and running.

The question gets asked, “Could this be the childhood home of Jesus?” We are then treated with breathless commentary along the lines of “the house seems exactly to be the sort that Jesus would have grown up in,” and “this was clearly a home inhabited by a pious Jewish family.” Imagine that. A home in first century Nazareth inhabited by a pious Jewish family, how rare!

They have trouble steering a course through the lack of evidence, of course. They keep asking the question, “Could this be the childhood home of Jesus?” but in a one hour show it takes them to the 59th minute to finally utter “… it is possible, but can’t be demonstrated.”

Really? Then what was used to fill the time between the asking of the question and the answering?

Well, we got all kinds of comments indicating that understanding how Jesus was raised would tell us a great deal about who Jesus was as a man. Really, a god incarnate was going to be shaped by his upbringing and the teaching of his parents? Must be a particularly feeble god.

Part of the filler was descriptions of Joseph and Mary. (I wonder where they got the information?) It was carefully explained that Joseph wasn’t a carpenter but an artisan, a class of people who were consider lower than peasants who worked the land, yet later we were lead to believe that Jesus must have been part of an upper middle class household. (I would guess this was to not offend the upper middle class target audience for this diatribe.) Later we are told that Jesus worked for many years as a carpenter, which is rigorous work, making Jesus into a manly man. Apparently he worked his way up from artisan, making his father proud.

They found artifacts, such as wool spinning tools, which a “woman of the time” would use to spin wool (I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked!) … but immediately thereafter that woman had a name … Mary. Sentences began Mary this, Mary that, etc. They found glass beads that were typical of women’s dresses across the Roman empire for centuries, which would, of course, been part of Mary’s dresses.

Interestingly, Mary was responsible for teaching the boy Jesus how to be a Jew and be part of God’s plan. How a god incarnate would have gotten along without that instruction, is horrifying to consider.

Then there was a longish aside involving a revolt in 4 BCE involving rebels capturing the city of Sepphoris. This city was four miles from Nazareth but 15,000 Roman troops took the city back, crucified 2000 rebels and sold the rest of the inhabitants into slavery. Four miles is a brisk walk of an hour for a mature adult but Jesus was about two years old at the time (having been born in 6 BCE) and could never have made the trip, nor would a two-year old remember anything as an adult from when he was two.* But we were told that “even if Jesus didn’t see the events himself, he would have heard stories from that point onward.” Possibly this shaped his nonviolent mission, it was claimed. Apparently they hadn’t heard about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. And, the god of all creation fear the Romans? Really? I thought he made the Romans.

Then they segue to a Bible story from Luke about how Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth to preach and was rejected to the point of being dragged to a cliff with the intention of being thrown him off of it. But Jesus walked away … mysteriously … never to return to his boyhood home village. How this added to their case for the discovery of Jesus’ childhood home was not made clear.

I think they should have titled this series “Finding Jesus: Fantasy, Fiction, Fable.”

The only “evidence” they have is a mention in a 7th C. text regarding a church reputed to have been built upon the ruins of Jesus’ childhood home. At that time, I am sure there were no false claims of artifacts from that time being holy. The fact that an entire village of houses could have been built from the then known fragments of the cross was just another miracle. So, if that document said it, it is probably true.

They then took the ball and ran with it, using their imaginations and little else, they entertained the fantasy that they had found the childhood home of Jesus and, amazingly, that if that were able to be confirmed that it would tell them something. To most Christians, Jesus is the Creator God of their religion. He is the Father and Holy Spirit as there is only one god. That he was capable of creating the entire universe, the Earth, all of the plants and animals, and the first human beings and still needed his mother to teach him what “God’s plan” was is preposterous. That he would need any help at all is preposterous. That his mission was ever in doubt or in danger is preposterous. Everything must have happened as he planned it to happen. Period.

What were these people thinking?

And if that place really was Jesus’ childhood home, how could it have been forgotten? Oh, yeah, God lived around her a long time ago but we forgot where. Really?

What were these people thinking?

Oh, I forgot, thinking is not encouraged. It is entirely okay to get some press for your believers and provide them with some support for their beliefs even if it is entirely patent nonsense.

Just listen to the pretty stories and, above all, do not ask any questions.

* * *

* According to BibleWalks.com “The city (Sepphoris) is not mentioned in the acts and events of Jesus, but he probably has (sic) visited the city, which is in the near proximity of his childhood village of Nazareth. The city was a commercial center for the whole area and he may have received work as a carpenter.” And the beat goes on … they have no evidence but “he probably has visited the city,” looking for work … in the site of the horror that lead him to fear the Romans so very, very much.

 

March 15, 2017

Apparently It Is Never Enough

The oligarchs running our government could just rest on their laurels as they have won on every front, but apparently that is not enough. If you think things could not get worse, read this “Right-Wing Billionaires Have a Project to Rewrite Our Constitution, and They Are Shockingly Close to Pulling It Off.”

March 14, 2017

Betsy DeVos and The Christian Right’s “Big Ideas”

In Rolling Stone there is a big article on our new U.S. Education Secretary (Betsy DeVos’ Holy War by Janet Reitman). (How did Rolling Stone get from being an “entertainment” magazine to the only U.S. magazine with the balls to publish the truth?”)

Here is a condensation of one part of that article:
A staple in modern evangelical teachings is the concept of Christian spheres of influence – or what the evangelical business guru Lance Wallnau dubbed the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society: business, media, religion, arts and entertainment, family, government, and education – all of which urge the faithful to engage in secular culture in order to ‘transform’ it. The goal is a sweeping overhaul of society and a merging of church and state: elevating private charity over state-run social services, returning prayer to school and turning the clock back on women’s and LGBTQ rights. It would also be a system without a progressive income tax, collective bargaining, environmental regulation, publicly funded health care, welfare, a minimum wage – a United States guided by a rigorously laissez-faire system of ‘values’ rather than laws….

More than a few people have questioned my writing about religion in a Class Warfare blog. I tend to write mostly about fundamentalist religions, such as the DeVos family beliefs, because they are seriously at odds with reality. Tell me if you don’t think these people have a political agenda.

For example, look at the list of “features” of our society the DeVos family would rather we did without: a progressive income tax, collective bargaining, environmental regulation, publicly funded health care, welfare, a minimum wage, etc. Notice how these are all ideas that conflict with basic Christian ideology. These are very rich people, Ms. DeVos’ father created Amway, but I don’t expect them to sell all of their worldly goods and go follow Jesus any time soon. The Bible is full of regulations, pages and pages of regulations, including one to be a good steward of the land, hardly in line with the elimination of environmental regulations. Did not Jesus tell his followers to go forth and heal the sick and did he not complain when someone else did likewise (as long as it was in his name)? This is hardly compatible with the elimination of publicly funded health care. People don’t realize how much poverty and ill health there were in our senior citizens before Social Security and Medicare were implemented. These two government programs alone are responsible for pulling massive numbers of old folks out of poverty and desperation.

What the DeVos family and their ilk have done is made a new religion
out of being  politically conservative and rich.

What the DeVos family and their ilk have done is made a religion out of being politically conservative and rich. They are dead set against progressive income taxes and estate taxes as a form of “rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” Again, this is hardly Christian, but it is right out of the rich man’s plutocratic playbook.

And we now have that new time religion at the highest levels of the US federal government with an attitude of “Well I’m rich and if you aren’t, you can go suck eggs,” the embodiment of Christian charity.

March 3, 2017

Neoliberal Roots

I was reading a very good piece on the privatization of public education posted by the wonderful Yves Smith (Dismantling Public Education: Turning Ideology into Gold by Alex Molnar)—which I highly recommend—when a particular section struck me. Here it is in full:

“The major education reforms of the past 35 years — education vouchers, charter schools, tuition tax credits, and education savings accounts — all seek to remove public schools from the control of elected bodies; to subject them to the ‘laws’ of the ‘market’; and to put them at the service of the economic elite. The world being called into existence is based on the belief that anyone, but not everyone, can succeed—a world of winners and losers, each of whom has earned his or her fate. Thus, as British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, one of neoliberalism’s foremost champions, proclaimed: “’There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.

“This is a world in which the poor must be judged by the rich to be ‘deserving’ of private charity rather than one that allows collective action through the democratic political process to secure the common welfare.”

That final sentence rang a bell for me. It connected in my mind the current neoliberal disdain for the poor with the efforts of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration to address the ravages of the Great Depression. At that time (the 1930’s) the Roosevelt’s New Deal administration wanted to get money back in people’s hands by the shortest possible route. Many Americans were reluctant to admit they need the help but finally, driven by desperation, they applied for “relief.” But the rate at which the funds allocated to this were being disbursed was impossibly slow and Roosevelt ordered his right-hand man, Harry Hopkins, to look into it. It turned out that the people hired to distribute the funds were spending most of their time ensuring that the poor felt shame for their current state. So, before you could get a little money (it was a pittance), you first needed a heap of humiliation and shame just for asking. Hopkins put an end to then standard practice of shaming the poor and the money soon flowed much faster and people felt positive effects sooner.

So, what could be the source of this need on the part of large swaths of the American people to make sure that poor people feel shame associated with their economic state? Are Americans uncharitable? No, quite the contrary. So, what is it? A clue may be in the phrase quoted above “the poor must be judged by the rich to be ‘deserving’ of private charity rather than one that allows collective action through the democratic political process to secure the common welfare.” Americans tend to honor wealth as a sign of hard work and industry and business smarts. That honor conveys a certain rectitude as well as high social position. So, rather than Americans striving to be pigs at the public trough as they are oft portrayed by Neoliberals, they are just the opposite.

There is one more strain woven into this attitude and I think it is the Protestant Work Ethic which emphasizes that hard work, discipline, and frugality are a result of a person’s salvation in the Protestant faith. Taken to an extreme, the people wedded to this ideology condemn the poor because they obviously lack “hard work, discipline and frugality” otherwise they wouldn’t be in need of assistance.

This is yet another example of religion tainting otherwise worthy collective attempts to assist those less fortunate, especially in an age when the rich have transferred so much wealth out of middle class and poor pockets into their own.

February 27, 2017

What Are Your Views on Abortion?

A recent piece in the N.Y. Times pointed out that in a recent survey of views on abortion, just over half of all American women want to see further restrictions on abortion. The piece also chastised “feminists” for ignoring this fact.

As far as I am concerned, both parties and their opinions can go take a flying leap.

In my opinion, having an abortion … or not …. is an intensely personal decision and the opinions of the rest of society just do not matter. In order for them to matter, the issue would have to involve one in which there was a profound societal interest. We are talking about birthing new citizens here. If we had a profound worker shortage or a severe lack of people available to serve in the military, I would recognize a significant societal interest. But we are up to our assess in people and no such interest exists. The only reason there is an abortion issue is that there is a morality issue.

There is an axiom that “you cannot legislate morals,” but we keep trying, idiots that we are. The danger here is if we do insist that there is a profound societal interest, we open a box of snakes. The only form that interest could take would be a population based one (morals aren’t addressed in the Constitution). If we take “action” in the form of policy, say an anti-abortion policy, we are essentially saying we have the right to force women to bear children. A short step away are laws restricting the uses of contraception. Neither of these kinds of policies touch the American experiment where it lives. These are totalitarian policies and are supported only by totalitarian religions.

If a pregnant woman is considering an abortion, the decision is a very emotional, personal decision. She is not deciding to “never have children.” She is not deciding to restrict the number she will have. But if we collectively were to force her to have this baby after she decided she did not want it, the emotional scars from that action may affect those possibilities and how would that serve the societal interest? And who wants there to be more unwanted children in the world? The impact on the child is rarely mentioned by the anti-abortion zealots, other than to describe an abortion as a murder. Once the child is brought to term it can go fuck itself for all of the anti crowd cares.

Much of the anti-abortion fever, I believe, is fueled by people wanting “others” to be responsible for their actions. The punishment for a young girl exploring sex and getting pregnant (made unsafe by the same politics as the antis espouse) is to be forced to bear that child and raise it, possibly forestalling any hopes she had for her own life and possibly truncating any positive future for that child. “That will teach her not to be promiscuous.” (Is there any evidence that this form of “discipline” works?)

If a woman is contemplating an abortion, the best thing we can do is get out of the way. If we are close to her, offer support, share your opinion if that is requested, but get out of the way. And stop recommending laws to restrict peoples actions in these personal decisions.

How would you like it if you are told you have heart disease, but the procedure that could cure you and save your life has been condemned as immoral and made illegal. (It involves the use of stem cells.) How would you feel if laws were passed that operations were immoral as they denied the healing powers of God? Do not let totalitarian religions determine our social policies. Only when there is a demonstrated significant societal interest should we intervene. Child abuse, spousal abuse, poverty, hunger, homelessness: there are so many problems of this sort that have societal interests and citizens involved that deserve our attention. In the absence of such an interest, as in the case of the “legality” of abortions, we should get out of the way and reinforce our belief in individual action. To do otherwise is to extend the totalitarian aspects of these religions to our collective agreements with one another.

PS Pop Quiz Can you tell from the graph what year abortion was made legal in the US? (If not legal abortions do not affect population growth and there can not be a societal interest in them.)

united-states-population

(Answer to Pop Quiz: It was 1973.)

February 12, 2017

Why Are We Still Legislating Religion?

The talking heads crowd is predicting that we will shortly see new legislation that will expand “religious freedom” in the U.S. This is shocking to say the least since we have had religious freedom for quite some time. Apparently “religious freedom” doesn’t mean what the words say. (Not quite equally shocking is that there will be legislation and not just executive orders.)

My guess is that the “new” legislation will expand the “right” of religious people to discriminate against people who they are doing business with. The highlighted case so far that has become an iconic example is the poor baker who didn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples getting married.

I can understand churches refusing to host gay marriages and I respect their right to do that, but a bakery? It seems now that many “Christians” are claiming that they are running “Christian businesses.” This is a smokescreen at best. I suggest to you that all businesses are secular in nature, that they have nothing to do with religion. And in this I include stores that sell religious artifacts and books, e.g. Christian bookstores, etc. They are not religious activities, they are commercial activities. They offer goods and services for sale in simple commercial exchanges. I have gone into religious bookstores and purchased items. As an avowed atheist, shouldn’t they have refused me service? Actually, the law prevents them from even asking me if I am an atheist, ironically under the religious freedom provisions of our laws, so I suspect they are ignorant to this day that they served a raving atheist. (It is hard to tell us apart from “true Christians,” is it not? They even elected one of us President.)

Any business claiming to be a Christian business had better show me they really mean it. In their incorporation by-laws I expect to see policies like “all debts will be forgiven on New year’s day” and “if we are robbed, we will turn the other cheek,” and “when it comes to paying our business taxes, we will render unto Caesar, that which is Caesars.”

If they can show that their business is truly linked to their religion, then the laws protecting religious activities should be triggered. Otherwise they are just selling cupcakes like every other baker.

It looks, though, that the current administration is seeking to sell indulgences, in this case a get out of jail free card for denying service to customers you do not approve of religiously. This is fascinating in that one of the core causes that resulted in the Protestant Reformation (which was a precursor to the formation of Evangelical Christianity) was the abhorrence for the corruption in the Catholic Church, including the selling of indulgences. The Catholics were selling “get out of purgatory” cards and “get into heaven” cards, which makes the current suggested sale of indulgences seem almost trivial, but it does seem as if we have come full circle.

 

January 12, 2017

Having a Reason to Live

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:57 am
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It is illuminating to hear from theists what they think “the meaning of life” is. A letter to an editor of a Canadian newspaper from a theist subscriber gives a typical glimpse:
The secular view, which leaves God out of the process, reveals that I am the descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm—the arbitrary product of time, chance and natural forces. … I exist on a tiny planet in a minor solar system in an empty corner of a meaningless universe. I have no intrinsic value beyond my body, and at death I will cease to exist.

“Therefore, I conclude that I came from essentially nothing and I am going nowhere. But, if I am only a dash between the womb and the tomb and I don’t know why, then I must ask if there is any real purpose for my life either now or in the future?

“In contrast, the Christian story offers me tremendous hope. I discover that I am not the result of some cosmic accident but the special creation of a good and all powerful God — His crown of creation. I am created in His image, with capacities to think, love, worship and make moral choices that set me above all other life forms.

“My creator loves me and gave His son to pay the supreme sacrifice for my salvation. I am completely unworthy and undeserving of such love. My salvation is entirely by grace through faith and not of myself.

“Best of all, the fact that Christ died for each one of us and wants to live within us by His spirit in a meaningful relationship makes us incredibly valuable. And when we are willing to accept His gift of salvation, through repentance and faith, we can become children of God and spend eternity with Him.

Okay, so setting aside whether or not this theist’s soul preexisted his life here on Earth, presumably his existence will be spent 99.9% of his time in Heaven where he will … “spend eternity with Him.” Uh, doing what? In order for this person’s life to have meaning it has to be in some sort of context, no? Certainly it cannot have anything to do with “helping other people” as all of the other people in Heaven don’t need help and the people in Hell, well they need help, but … what that’s not allowed?

Apparently the definition of “meaning” being employed here is “something meant or intended.” What is meant here as a “meaning for this person’s life” is that he was created for a purpose and that purpose is to spend the vast bulk of his existence in the presence of his god. Hmm, if I were there, in his god’s presence, I would expect some sort of euphoria, an understanding of all things and why they are the way they are, but then what? Do I just exist with a god buzz for millennia? What good am I at that point? I am not even an example to others because they have no idea as to which “place” I ended up in.

Am I a marker in God’s game? Do He and Satan have a big scoreboard up showing how many souls they have collected? What was God’s purpose in going through this whole thing, and putting us through this whole thing; was it just to have one more “presence” in Heaven? What is life on Earth if it constitutes just a tiny, tiny slice of time in a soul’s existence but determines where the 99.9+% of eternity each of us will spend, either in Heaven or a Lake of Fire? Since wisdom seems to come with age, why are our lives cut off after a measly 100 years or so? What not give us two or three hundred years to figure it out?

“One does not have to be a member of a church to donate time at a food bank
(or even a church, which I have done) or to do other charitable works.”

I am impressed with this theist and the many others who have backed a scheme they know so little about. They make Pascal seem a piker with his puny wager. They have gone all in.

What I find appalling however is the lack of appreciation for the opportunities of life, life on Earth. Unlike rocks, we can do things. Where do the attitudes that generate sentences like “I have no intrinsic value beyond my body, and at death I will cease to exist.” and “I must ask if there is any real purpose for my life.” and “My salvation is entirely by grace through faith and not of myself.” come from? Possibly from theists painting the most dismal picture of secular lives as they possibly can. On the other hand, as a real secularist, unlike the one’s existing in this writer’s imagination, I am grateful for my life. I don’t particularly attribute my life to my parents because I don’t really think they knew what they were getting into. They were responding to the rhythms of life: to live, to cherish, to propagate, etc. I am grateful to my parents for all of the loving care they lavished on me growing up and later in life. I am grateful that I was provided a good education (at least the opportunity for one) and a great deal more. I am grateful to have opportunities to help people, which I do in small ways all over the world. I feel that if my life is to have meaning, then I have to get cracking and make that meaning. If one’s life has a great deal of meaning, then a goodly number of people will remember you positively, so there is a measure of whether or not a good life was lived. People will also tell you whether or not you have helped them, which is very nice direct feedback. Facebook “Likes” and other phony connections do not count and, of course, being remembered for bad actions is not a good thing at all.

One does not have to be a member of a church to donate time at a food bank (or even a church, which I have done) or to do other charitable works. Secularists are not trying to get good grades to get into Heaven, and neither are theists, certainly not the ones who say things like “My salvation is entirely by grace through faith and not of myself.” If salvation comes only by the grace of God, where does the urge to help others come from? Why are theists not participating in an “I am in this for myself” contest with Heaven as the prize? (Maybe they are.) If God really wanted us to be good to one another, why did He not make it clear that we are to do “good works” as a qualification for graduation? Why is the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Why is it not simply “Do good for others, no matter what they do to you”? Now that would be clear, instead of telling us to “turn the other cheek” inviting further abuse, why not do some good for the person who struck you?

January 4, 2017

Which Am I?

Filed under: The Law — Steve Ruis @ 8:09 am
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The Arbourist reposted an excerpt from a post by Michael Schwalbe on the Counterpunch web site (What We Talk About When We Talk About Class). Here is a quote from that post:

Part of the problem is that some of the conceptual language useful for unpacking these matters has been stigmatized. The language exists but using it carries a high risk of being dismissed as an ideologue. To speak of a growing gap between productivity and wages over the last thirty years is acceptable. To speak of wage stagnation as a partial result of declining union membership is okay. To speak of ever more wealth accruing to the richest 1% is now within respectable bounds. But to speak of an increasing rate of expropriation enabled by capitalist victories in the class struggle is to invite trouble. Or invisibility.”

So, on this blog, I have addressed the growing gap between productivity and wages over the last thirty years, that wage stagnation is a partial result of declining union membership, and ever more wealth accruing to the richest 1%, as well as pointing to who is waging this class war and how.

So, I would like to know: am I inviting trouble or am I invisible? When the FBI shows up, knocking on my door, will they be able to see me?

December 24, 2016

Yes and No?

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:59 am
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A N.Y. Times columnist had a column with the provocative title “Pastor, am I a Christian?” in which the author expressed some doubts about the standard theology of Christianity. The theologian he interviewed on these doubts gave him pretty much the party line so there was little of interest there, but the comments … the comments, now they were interesting.

One such comment said the core of Christianity was Jesus’ mission, basically to sacrifice himself to save all of us from Original Sin. (Basically, He sacrificed Himself, to Himself, to save us all from Himself—Thank you, John Zande!) The very next comment said “Wrong.” Another comment said that the important part of Christianity was not the superstitious mumbo-jumbo but “Jesus’ teachings.”

I have already posted ad nauseum about the “mission” aspect of  Christianity but I have said little of Jesus’ teachings, that is his philosophy. What about that?

It seems that most Christians honor the teachings of Jesus by ignoring them. These “teachings” are relatively sparse, being mostly repetitions of prior scripture, hence not original to Jesus. So, there is little to discuss, as most of that was already in evidence before the Jesus story was written.

Of the new stuff, Jesus told a fellow to sell all of his worldly goods and give what he made from that sale to the poor. I do not see this advice being followed all that much. Most apologists indicate that this advice was only for that man alone and was not meant to apply to every one. I guess they didn’t think he was serious when Jesus said that a rich man had as little chance of getting into Heaven as a camel to go through the eye of the needle. (This term may have been in common use, the “Eye of the Needle” being claimed to be a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed. So, it wasn’t impossible, just quite unlikely.) Since, in this country, the goal of every rich person seems to be getting richer, my guess is none of them are Christians.

Jesus also told people to disavow their families and to follow him, presumably not to the point of becoming human sacrifices, but in this context to follow his teachings, I guess.

He also said that Jewish laws were all intact and were to be followed to the letter. I don’t see any Christians doing this, either.

So, “following the teachings of Jesus” is something almost no one is doing even given the fact that Jesus said almost nothing new or novel. (I say “almost” because right now it is truly nothing new or novel, but you never know when some new document might be discovered.) Basically, Jesus said “Be a Jew and meet me in Heaven.” The rest is quite debatable.

In another piece in the Times a day later (today) quotations and photos of many artists who died in 2016 were offered. One that struck a chord was from Umberto Eco:
I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.
This kind of explains everything. Our brains are pattern recognition engines. We see patterns everywhere and when we do not see patterns, we make them up. So, we are constantly trying to see patterns as they allow us to predict future events and, hence, be safer. If we notice that when a tiger is sneaking up on us through the grass, there is a certain movement in the grass, then we equate “specific grass movement = tiger” and get the heck out of there. There is no penalty if we are wrong, such as when the grass was moved by the wind instead of a tiger, but a severe penalty is possible if we ignore or do not see the pattern and heed it.

So, we run willy-nilly asking “God” (a pattern) to show us a “sign” (also a pattern). And, lo and behold we see them! (Surprise, surprise.) If you combine this very understandable aspect of human brains with a penchant for making shit up, religion is explained quite well, including beliefs in the teachings/philosophy of Jesus when there is really no “there” there.

PS For those of you who wonder why I write about religion in a class warfare blog, religion has been and is being used to oppress those who would oppose the oligarch’s plans for our future. We are told to be meek and mild and that our reward will come after we die. This is so the rich people can have their reward while they are still alive.

 

December 23, 2016

A Time of Year for Worshiping … What?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 2:10 pm
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Creationists seem to think that there is only one process of dating antiquities: carbon-14 dating. Actually the list of techniques that can be used to date materials is rather long, too long to list here (with explanations, names wouldn’t mean much). And the interesting thing is that there is rough agreement between all of these. Realize, though, that all of these do not overlap with one another. Counting tree rings, for example, only goes back a few thousand years, which overlaps with all of the others, but just for a few thousand years. Carbon-14 dating can only go back about the last 50,000 years (modern humans have been around longer). Others go back billions of years which overlap with just a few of the others, so the amount of deep time these techniques covers differs quite a bit.

And what have we learned from these techniques?

If we were to use the age of the Earth as measure, which is about 4.5 billion years, and we were to go back from now to about one sixth of that time, we would find a world containing only single cell organisms. Studies keep pushing the first occurrence of such organisms back and back but let us just say that they first appeared fairly early in this entire time period, much lass than the first billion years of earth’s existence, so “life on Earth” was only single cell organisms for over three quarters of its time in existence.

During that last one-sixth of the Earth’s existence, as we go back from “now” to “then,” life gets simpler and simpler and less diverse, meaning that during this period of hundreds of millions of years, life became more and more complex.

These are just a few of myriad things we have learned about our planet of origin. Once living organisms formed, then the process of evolution mindlessly made life more and more complex. Creationists say this violates the laws of thermodynamics with is incredibly stupid. All the laws of thermodynamics say is if a chemical process involves the creation of more complicated chemicals from less complicated chemicals, then it will cost some energy. And where might that energy have come from? I don’t know … maybe the sun, gravity, lightning, heat from inside the Earth pouring out in volcanic eruptions, etc. There were many sources of energy available to make more complicated things from less complicated. We are still paying this cost. To prevent the collection of very complex chemicals that is each of us from degrading too quickly, we must eat food quite regularly to provide the energy needed to remake complex chemicals to replace those falling apart. This is done by a chemical process called metabolism (scientists have learned about that, too). If we refrain from eating for a month or two, we might die from that (it depends on how much food energy we have stored before we begin).

Creationists, aka Intelligent Design advocates, deny all of this knowledge (from fields of biology, geology, paleontology, etc,) a quantity of denial that is astoundingly large, all because it conflicts with their Bible. The Earth cannot be as old as it is measured to be. Man was created fully formed and all of those fossils of early “men” were really just from apes. The fact that none of these apes show up in our history books or stories is because they all died in the Great Flood of the Bible. They claim that there are “holes” in the scientific story (there are, there always are) but the holes they claim are there were filled decades ago. (Creationists know this, they are just being dishonest, using arguments they think you might buy out of ignorance.)

Basically Creationists/IDers are claiming that God could not have made the Earth … and us … the way we actually demonstrably are because the Bible says differently. They do not believe God is powerful enough to have made the Earth … and us … as our lying eyes show us quite plainly. They do not believe in God so much as they believe in the Bible, a form of idolatry they were warned against by the Bible itself.

A recent blog post asked the innocent question: what if … what if we taught Creationism rather than the massive scientific knowledge that contradicts the claims of the Bible? What would change? Well, I would contend that nothing would change as human beings are pragmatic beings and we tend to ignore and then “forget” nonsense we learn in school. Would people with sick children take them to church to have their demons exorcized or would they take them to the hospital for modern medical treatments? Would people no longer buy automobiles because they contradict the teachings of the Bible? Would cell phones be considered demonic and non-Biblical and hence have to go back to the pit of Hell whence they came? Would we stop exploring space because God gave us dominion over this planet and well, when it is used up, it is time for us to all die?

I think you can answer these questions.

Basically, what the Christian Creationists are denying is that the Bible is man-made, like every other book in existence. The fact that the various books of the Bible were written at vastly different times, indicates that there was more than one author, as does the various viewpoints expressed, the various writing styles, and literally dozens of other facts, etc. Many Christians are unaware that none (zero, zip, zilch) of the original biblical manuscripts are available. Of the earliest copies we have found, there are more differences between those manuscripts than there are total words in the entire Bible. And there were literal battles about what materials should go into the Bible, with people being killed, not just intellectual battles. These, of course, proceeded alongside the battles over how the scriptures were to be interpreted. The book literally screams “man made.”

But Creationists insist that with regard to their special interest, the Bible has no mistakes and is the actual word of god. There are, of course, hundreds of such mistakes/contradictions in their book. These are denied or just waved away with nonsensical arguments.

The real effect were Creationism were to be taught in our schools, either alongside the science or in place of the science, should be the increase of all forms of denial. After all, anything you practice that much should make you good at it. So Climate Change Denial and Evolution Denial would be just the tip of the iceberg, metaphorically.

And, if you get really good at it: denial, that is … why you might just become President of the United States some day!

 

 

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