Class Warfare Blog

October 17, 2018

Holy Shit (Bull Variety)

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:37 am
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On my Quora feed the following paid advert was posted:

Where did the four gospels in the Bible come from?
The Church of Jesus Christ
“As Jesus taught, His disciples wrote what He said. Order a free Bible to learn what He taught.”

And here I thought that lying was a deadly sin.

It is a scholarly conclusion that we do not know who wrote the gospels that were included in the Bible. None of the earliest manuscripts we have of those works has an author listed. All seem to have had multiple authors. Most of the gospels seem to have been written at a point in time that all or most of the disciples claimed to have followed Jesus would have died.

I wonder if Donald Trump got his ability to string lies one after the next from his religious training?


September 15, 2018

Ethics and Morality without God

In a recent post on Daily Kos I read the following:

“I once said to a Native American friend that I thought that the Golden Rule was a perfect expression of social ethics, and before I could put the period on my sentence, he shot back, ‘No, it’s not … because if you’re a misanthrope who hates people and just wants to be left alone, you can behave that way in clear conscience. In my tribe, I have responsibilities to widows, orphans, and the ill. I have to hunt for those who can’t. That’s mutuality.’” (sfzendog)

This attitude toward the collective responsibility we all have, as well as individual responsibility, might be summed up in “love thy neighbor as thyself” but it isn’t made at all explicit in Christian ethics/morality.

Many people do not know that the “tithe” which has morphed into a fundraiser to support the church building fund and minister’s and staff’s salaries, was originally a tax. The Jews had a theocracy. Even when outsiders came in and established a new ruling structure, the Temple kept its own governing structure and the tithe/tax was a way to support widows, orphans, and the afflicted. That is what it was for, explicitly. The Jews had a structure in place regarding the collective responsibility of all to support those in need.

Christian ethics/morality on the other hand stops at “love they neighbor” and “turn the other cheek,” with little parsing of those instructions. There are clear signs that early Christians were communal (that means communists, Comrade). As Christianity was rewritten by pagans, that collectivism was written out. The Republicans are doing their damndest to wipe out collectivism in the U.S. right now, so this “battle” is quite longstanding.

We still haven’t answered the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are still trying to address mutuality.

Many studies on democratic socialist states show that as they collectively (through government) care for those less fortunate or less capable and just ordinary citizens, the less the need for religion in their population. It therefore seems that religion has a vested interest in opposing government providing basic support for their people. The widespread evangelical support for the current administration therefore is less perplexing looked at in this light.

September 3, 2018

I Can … Not … Wait!

Filed under: History,Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 9:25 am
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I group of enterprising literary researchers decided to apply some modern tech to old problems. The tools exist now to map networks of things, Internet memes, people, you name it. Networks of people and their relationships show some quite common characteristics which can be used to identify them as networks of real people. The researchers decided to apply such a study to The Odyssey. So they mapped out all of the characters and all of their relationships and, well, I’ll let them speak for themselves:

“We found substantial evidence of a ‘real-life’ social structure in The Odyssey. Notably, the characters in each chapter or scene described in the poem’s 24 books corresponded almost precisely to cliques in real-life networks. It led us to wonder: did Homer have a profound understanding of networks, or did he copy key details about his characters and their interactions from elsewhere?

“To examine this more closely, we reran the analysis, this time excluding mythological characters like gods and monsters. The remaining network was even more similar to what you would expect in real life. On the other hand, we ran an analysis that excluded the human characters and kept the mythological ones, and were left with an entirely fictional network. The obvious conclusion is that The Odyssey is an amalgam of real and fictional characters.”

They then went on to say “It is surely only a matter of time, for instance, before someone uses complex networks theory on the Bible.”

Oooh, I cannot wait!

Imagine being able to tell what is hypothetically true and what is assuredly fictional!

September 2, 2018

Imagine a Union …

Filed under: Culture,Religion,The Unions — Steve Ruis @ 11:09 am
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Imagine as a business fantasy that you are a business owner and that you were able to create a union, unbeknownst to anyone not in the know. You “allow” your people to join the union, even encourage it. The union is supported by dues that the business owner gracefully allows to be deducted from weekly paychecks. The union agrees to a comprehensive contract that actually favors the business owner in subtle ways, making him even more rich. The owner eventually supports “closed shop” status, meaning that you have to be a member of the union to work in his business. “It is the right thing to do,” you say.

The union members are urged to “organize” other businesses as well as support the efforts of their union to support political candidates that support the union and the business.

Union leaders are indoctrinated into the workings of the union without knowledge of who is pulling the strings behind the scenes. The union is a wealth and power generating machine for its sponsor, but is sold as an instrument of the workers to avoid oppression by their paymasters.

Now, take the word “union” in every instance above and change it into the word “religion.” Maybe also change the word “dues” to the word “tithes.”

That about sums it up.

September 1, 2018

Trying to Understand Superstition

The Guardian today carried a rather lovely piece by Philip Pullman, the “Dark Materials” author: Why We Believe in Magic, subtitled “The world of magic defies rational explanation, but beware dismissing it as nonsense. Like religious experience and poetry, it is a crucial aspect of being human.”

Beautifully written, as all of his books are, Mr. Pullman doesn’t quite get at an answer to his question but rather seeks someone to write a major book he calls The Varieties of Magical Experience to parallel William James’ book The Varieties of Religious Experience. He suggests that the search for the reality of both magic and religion is a fruitless search and we are better off looking into what we experience under those labels. He sums this up with the unforgettable quote “Trying to understand superstition rationally is like trying to pick up something made of wood by using a magnet.”

And … (You know there was more did you not?) … like the school child I once was, mentally I was eagerly holding up my hand thinking “Call on me teacher. I know the answer!” Obviously I do not know the answer to the question, but one came to mind quickly.

People believe in magic and religion because of the promise of power, mostly power over their own lives. Throughout human history we were tossed about by the vagaries of Nature: famines, wild animals, floods, lightning, diseases, insect infestations, etc. the only earthly approximations of a paradise were experienced by small tribes of hunter-gathers in tropically lush landscapes. Even then hurricanes, storms, lightning, diseases, etc. could ruin one’s day or many days.

“People believe in magic and religion because of the promise of power, mostly power over their own lives.”

And when Nature relents, our fellow human beings have immense powers of oppression. I think I have commented before that there is an estimate that in 1800 half of all humans existed as some form of slave.

Since we all feel that we are individual and banding together to resist oppression by anything is quite difficult, we all wish to have the individual power to resist or overcome the pummeling we take at the hand of Nature and other people. As a youth I can remember wishing I had the power to heal. (My name means “the crowned one” and, well, “the hands of a king are the hands of a healer.” You see I even figured out a mechanism for my magic ability.) I also remember encountering the Incredible Hulk in comic books and on TV and I relished the idea that when people put upon me nastily that I could turn into an invincible green monster and trash all of their asses.

It is not a mistake, in my thinking, that so many religions, even Christianity, hold out the promise of magic to their believers (“You will perform works and wonders in God’s name,” etc.). Jesus performs magic and empowers others to do so also. When a Christian dies, they are rewarded magically and their enemies are punished magically, and since none of us understand magic or how it works, we settle for the promise of that power.

Pullman is probably right, we do need a book like The Varieties of Magical Experience if, for no other reason, only to understand ourselves and how we treat one another better. As so many studies show, as our societies do a better job of taking care of one another, the “need” for a religious or magical experience diminishes. So, I do not need it as “a crucial aspect of being human” as it will go away when we learn how to live in a state of lovingkindness.



August 27, 2018

Are Christians Being Persecuted in the U.S.?

According to Christian scripture, a sign one is doing their god’s work is being persecuted for their beliefs (see below).

Take a negative associated with a religion (“Why would I join them, aren’t they being persecuted?”) and turn it into a positive. Spin doctors have been around a lot longer than most people think. So Christians need persecution to be recognized for doing good work … ah, now we know why there is a War on Christmas, and a War on Christianity! If a real persecution doesn’t exist, just make one up!

Christianity, spinning reality for almost 2000 years!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and make you bake cakes for fag weddings and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

August 16, 2018

Ask Yourself “If They Really Believed …”

More than 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania sexually abused children over seven decades, protected by a hierarchy of church leaders who covered it up, according to a sweeping grand jury report released Tuesday. Since Pennsylvania has about 4% of the nation’s population, we can expect that the numbers of victims and perpetrators for the country as a whole are 25 times worse. One of the editorial responses to this abysmal situation was this:

Now, ask yourself: if those Catholic priests and other clerics really, truly believed, as Christians claim to believe their religion (down to the bone, etc.), that they were destined to everlasting Hellfire, that they would have done what they did? This is surely evidence that they did not so believe, that they would not be subject to everlasting torment because of their actions.

Either the Catholic Church is selling absolutions, in which case God’s judgment is not really God’s judgment, or a major segment of the Catholic clergy in the U.S. (and presumably worldwide) doesn’t believe in the fairy tales they tell about the “afterlife” to control the behaviors of their “flocks.”

I also wouldn’t put it past the Catholic hierarchy to double down by claiming that God will punish the miscreants (so they do not have to). Maybe they were waiting for capital punishment to be banned before coughing up the criminal clergy … naw.

The Catholic Con is slowly unraveling. I pray that that process is accelerating.

August 15, 2018

Greek Philosophy in Christianity

We are told over and over that Christianity is based upon holy scriptures. Apparently this included the holy writings of Plato (born 428/427 BCE, died 348/347 BCE).

I have been reading a fascinating book, which I will report upon later, entitled Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages written by Richard E. Rubenstein. In the excerpt below Rubenstein is commenting upon the inspiration Augustine of Hippo drew from Plato, Augustine being a major architect of Christianity.

But his (Plato’s) most important contribution, from Augustine’s point of view, was to insist that the world of appearances—the world of “facts” apprehended through sense impressions—is a kind of watered-down and distorted reality, a universe of imperfect copies rather than originals. The originals, of course, exist forever in what Plato called the realm of Ideas and Christians called the Kingdom of Heaven. To this doctrine Neoplatonists like the great third-century philosopher Plotinus added the notion that the universe that proceeds originally from God yearns actively to return to him. Humans can therefore connect with the Absolute by meditating on the multiple things of this world and sensing their unitary, divine origins. Augustine was greatly attracted by the mystical implications of this doctrine …

I was drawn to one phrase in the excerpt that to me is quite telling, namely “Humans can therefore connect with the Absolute by meditating on the multiple things of this world and sensing their unitary, divine origins.”

I work with athletes and one primary topic is always how to harness one’s mind to support the kind of athletic performance one is looking for, So, I have studied that topic a great deal. One mental tool that athletes use is affirmations, which are first person comments about who one is as a person, e.g. “I am calm and under control no matter how much pressure seems to exist in a competition.” If this were true already, it would not need an affirmation to make it true, so these are things one wants to be true and one can make them true by repeating them over and over and over.

So, if humans are told that we can “connect with the Absolute by meditating on the multiple things of this world and sensing their unitary, divine origins” and we want that to be true, what exactly is going on? What is going on is we are taking something we wish to be true, but cannot be (otherwise we would not need to “make it so”) and we are making it true for us by self hypnosis.

We can shape the way we look at the world. Consider how we (Americans), as a culture, have created the situation where a sizable fraction of Americans see a Black person and think they are in danger (Look they are barbequing, right out in the open in this park! Hey, those Black people are in a Starbucks waiting for a business associate; they must be up to no good!).

The ultimate in religious experiences: self-deluded, self-reinforced. As I keep saying a religion that doesn’t coerce the behavior of the masses to serve the interested of the religious and secular elites doesn’t last long. Getting people to convince themselves of the “truths” in their religion is a high cost-effective and efficient structure for a religion.

Note This was not even the most influential effect of Plato on Augustine. More on this coming.

August 10, 2018

Why Worship?

Filed under: History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:51 am
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Not contesting the claims that a god created this planet and sun and everything else and created human beings, why would one want to worship that god? Worship always seemed odd to me, the justification for it weak, and it really, really seemed demeaning. I recall Michael Palin’s “prayer” in The Meaning of Life, “Let us praise God. Oh Lord, oooh you are so big. So absolutely huge. Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here I can tell you. Forgive us, O Lord, for this dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fantastic. Amen.”

Dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. Exactly. To whom else does such flattery go? Only to despots and the like.

I have asked some about “worship,” and the answers all seemed to take it for granted. I see phrases like “Well, he created us and we are grateful.” Really? In the Jewish and Christian tradition, their god didn’t create us, it created Adam and Eve and then Adam and Eve created the rest of us. Granted, according to their scriptures, he created Adam and Even with the capacity to create the rest of us, but they did the work. The story starts to break down when Adam and Eve slough off the high handed restrictions of what they could and could not do in the Garden. The next thing we know, the god curses Adam and Eve and every last person that is to be gotten from them. So, we should be grateful that this god created us and willy-nilly curses us?

Plus, this god was so inept at this human being creation process that he decides to wipe out millions upon millions of people, animals, and plants and “start over.” And for this, worship is appropriate?

I suggest another interpretation. Think of two brothers in high school, one is a freshman and is puny and the other is a junior and humungous. The little brother gets into a scrape and the older brother flies in and not only rescues his little brother but he severely trashes the miscreants that thought that picking on his little brother was a good idea. Now, do you think it entirely out of reason that the little bro might not leverage this situation into a bit of status and power. “Yes, big bro isn’t here right now, but he will find you and thrash you … unless….”

Now, what big brother is more powerful than a god? But, of course the threat has to be made manifest, but this is not hard. Bad things happen daily. To place these at the feet of a god, little bro only has to step in and “interpret” what happened as retribution for not doing what little bro wants. And what does little bro want? Little bro wants control, because he doesn’t know what he might want in the future. For now, it is important to reinforce that control by getting his “flock” to do small things: the more meaningless, the better. Asking people to do things they ordinarily would do for themselves or their community doesn’t show any control being exerted. Instead, getting them to take valuable animals and kill them senselessly to appease the “Big Brother” is very cool. Getting people to throw away their wealth is a real power display. (Thanks for your lunch money; see you next week,” says Little Bro.)

So began, in my humble opinion, worship. It began as a ploy to “appease the gods,” I am sure, at the behest of a wimpy shaman. Strong muscular tribesmen do not need help, they have personal power. Physically underdeveloped tribesmen need to use their wits to get what they want. (It is a common trope in theater to have a small clever character “outwit” a much more powerful enemy or even ally.)

So worship is a manifestation of control. If you can get people to express “dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery” with any sincerity at all, you have reinforced the Little Bro’s authority and control. In theater, again, you never see clerics portrayed as physically imposing. They are, in general, weak and effeminate. As they get older, they get larger but generally by becoming fat, again emphasizing their physical weakness which underlines their actual power.

Getting people to give away their wealth, to destroy their treasured goods, are all things that reinforce the power of the unseen Big Brother. And the reason for doing this? It is only to use that power to serve the interests of the secular and religious elites.

Of what use would an actual god have for “dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery” and the scent of burned animals rising into the atmosphere?

August 9, 2018

It Is All About Control

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:18 am
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Imagine a government agency that required you to show up at a certain place at a certain time for weekly indoctrination sessions? Or another government agency that required you perform a meaningless act every day upon rising. Sounds like 1984 Gone Wild, no?

Mechanisms for controlling human behavior are well known in psychology. They were well known before psychology was invented. Take, for example, the military, which was invented sometime near when civilization began. Prior to the invention of full-time soldiers, ordinary tribes people were enrolled in defense of the tribe or raiding parties for cattle or “wives.” (Might as well leave it as just cattle for all of the respect “other” women were treated with.)

But as soon as civilization rolled around, the labor of the masses was coerced to provide a number of societal positions that did not have to be employed in acquiring food. One of the most prominent positions was that of “soldier.” The first soldiers were needed to keep the slaves, er … citizens, in line and working their asses off to have the bulk of what they grew/captured confiscated. Soldiers were also employed in recapturing runaway slaves, er … citizens, and then most prominently in slave raiding in nearby villages. (Why oppress your own people when you can oppress the people next door?) Thus were militaries born.

History (which is only 5000-6000 years old) is rife with stories of turncoats, soldiers who were bought off by the “other side,” who then helped overthrow their own “rulers.” So, it became necessary to treat one’s soldiers well. (There are more than a few countries right now that are in danger of a military coup taking over their current government. We even have a term for the action it is so frequently observed.) Along with making sure one’s soldiers were happy there were various attempts to train them to make sure they were loyal to the right people. This led quite rapidly to extensive training schemes such as the Spartans employed.

The heart of controlling someone’s behavior is getting them to do something you want them to do. It doesn’t matter quite what. Consider the complicated rules for saluting a superior officer in the various militaries. This is a substantially more involved process than the tugging of a forelock required of peasants standing in front of “lords,” but it is much the same thing.

Standing straight with feet together. Wearing the same outfit. Sharing various accommodations such as sleeping quarters and eating quarters and … the list of the things done to indoctrinate soldiers is quite long. And what is true for controlling the behavior of soldiers applies to others. (Our militaries are “all volunteer” and I do not mean to say all such “reprogramming” of behavior is made with evil intent. In the case of soldiers, getting them to act without hesitation (obeying orders promptly) can contribute to their ability to stay alive. (If their commanding officer is grossly incompetent, it can get them killed. This is why no few officers have died due to “friendly fire” in combat.)

Now if you will think back to the examples at the top and substitute “churches” for “government agencies” you will see what I am highlighting. Church members are to report to their church weekly for reinforcement of their programming. If one fails to report, they are wheedled upon by clerics and other church members to make sure they show up next time (“I didn’t see you in church on Sunday, Marie. The pastor said he was going to call on you to make sure everything was all right. Are you okay?” implying that if you were okay, you would have showed up.)

Muslims are expected to stop, drop, and pray five times a day. Obviously a god which needs such adulation is one sick puppy, so I assume this is part of their indoctrination. By getting them to reinforce their own programming (five times a day!) it saves wear and tear on their clergy and creates a situation that makes the religion hard to sell out. To admit you were a fool and wasted so much time and effort for so long is a big jump … and, well, they kill apostates, don’t you know.

Societies that do not control their own member’s behavior do not survive. But the basics needing control are getting the society’s citizens to live harmoniously, at least with a minimum of strife, within certain bounds. In what society is it okay to kill people willy-nilly? Ever hear of such a thing? That it is okay to steal from your neighbors if they aren’t looking? Ever hear of such a thing? If such things are occurring, we take them as signs of a society that is breaking down.

Beyond the basics, look to see the ways in which you are being controlled and consider whose benefit this is for? If your parish priest is beseeching you to not blow the whistle upon a cleric for sexually abusing an altar boy, who does that act serve?

The first Christians had no temples. They met in people’s homes for centuries. Under the influence of the Romans, they created buildings (temples and church buildings) and adopted clerics and clerical behaviors. We even refer to those buildings as “churches” when in the early days a “church” was a congregation of people, not a building. Now look at what happens when church buildings fall into disarray. Funds are “raised” and repairs are made, restorations are contracted for. Various churches own multiple buildings, some very, very large and grandly appointed. Many churches own commercial properties that they use to create income (tax free even though the buildings and uses are secular, of course). Many churches have oodles of employees now, for which funds are need to pay salaries and benefits.

You have been lead to believe that this is proper and necessary and are urged to commit funds to such churches to support them. Republicans are always complaining about runaway government but never seem to apply this to churches (the third rail of politics). I wonder who controls the politician’s behaviors in this arena? The webs of control are extensive and deep. Most of us do not even see them, if we ever have.

But just because you do not see them doesn’t mean they are not there.

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