Class Warfare Blog

August 16, 2019

The Family: A Start

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:00 am
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I watched the first episode of The Family, a Netflix documentary on a shadowy group called “The Family” or “The Fellowship.” This group is a quasi-religious cult with the stated purpose of, well let one character explain it as he explained why the central character was been proselytized: “You are here to learn how to rule the world.” The first episode is set in a stately mansion near Washington, D.C. and power brokers from there and around the world “stop by” for discussions with the leaders of The Family.

The documentary assumes a pattern that I assume will be carried through. Stitched between statements made by real players in this organization and its investigation are enacted scenes of events as described by an insider who lived through them. I can’t say how much research is behind verifying the claims of the main character, who wrote a book about it, etc.

Ever wonder where is came from in a “separation of church and state” country?

I did get a frisson of anxiety when a leader in the group hands out to our man a copy of their guidebook. It is entitled “Jesus” and consists of the four New Testament gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, that’s it. (To quote Astro, the dog, “Ruh roh.”) Later a female character (all females are quite subservient so far) says “Jesus is a real person, a real person, not some abstract idea and He wants you to know Him.” (Of course the only books of the New Testament which speak of Jesus being a real character and not an abstract idea are the four New Testament gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.)

We are then introduced to Doug Coe, the leader of the Family, whose main contribution (at this early point) is to establish his main point, that of “The more invisible you can make your organization, the more influence you will have.”

In a “dorm room” discussion between the young men (the women are housed elsewhere) the discussion comes around to King David and how he had more than a few character deficits. The point to the Family group, however, was that “God chooses people and whatever you do, God will stick by you.” (Ooh, ooh, ooh, can I be the one to tell them what God wants? Can I, can I?)

I was about to write a piece on the Book of Daniel when this viewing happened. That book is very “prophetic,” but that may be because it was written 400+ years after when it claims to have been written. Events that have already happened are really easy to prophesy. (Try it, you’ll like it.) But the key element of that book and one that is glossed over (and over and over) is that Yahweh’s promise to the Chosen People is that they will have dominion over all of the other peoples of the Earth. That is the end game, that the Hebrews, and now the Christians by inheritance, will be rulers of the world including you, me . . . everybody. This is the core message of Christianity. Christians too often stop short at the coming of Jesus and the creation of the New Paradise on Earth and in Heaven, but the narrative goes on with the entire Earth under Yahweh’s thumb, in the form of a global theocracy. (Power to the Chosen People!) If you haven’t yet found a reason to oppose Christianity, maybe the Family’s clearly stated purpose is that thing. And there are good reasons that Christians don’t emphasize that purpose which, of course, they criticize Islam for. (Only in the movies does the villain take the time to explain that global domination is his goal, bwah, hah, ha! This is because it scares the shit out of the rest of us.)

It seems as if “the Family” is an organization dedicated to that end. And there are clearly no democratic principles behind this organization. It is a “Christian” organization, therefore totalitarian through and through.

To see just how different this theocratic vision of the future is from, say, Greek philosophy, consider Aristotle’s idea of the driving force behind societies. According to him, virtue is the prime focus of a well-lived life (seems Aristotle was a bit of a Stoic). To him, “ethical virtue was a habit disposed toward action by deliberate choice, being at the mean relative to us, and defined by reason as a prudent man would define it.” Virtue is not simply an isolated action but a habit of acting well. For an action to be virtuous a person must do it deliberately, knowing what he is doing, and doing it because it is a noble action. In each specific situation, the virtuous action is a mean between two extremes. Finally, prudence is necessary for ethical virtue because it is the intellectual virtue by which a person is able to determine the mean specific to each situation (from a summary of Nicomachean Ethics, the emphases are mine).

I don’t thin civic virtue is mentioned in the Bible; just submission to the will of Yahweh/Jesus; conform, don’t rebel, etc.

The American Constitutional founders were highly focused upon building a secular government that evoked civic virtue from its citizens, so that they (We the people . . .) were constantly balancing their individual welfare with the welfare of the common good.

I do not know whether I can stomach viewing more episodes of this documentary . . . I probably will . . . in small doses, because, well, know your enemy! These people are clearly not supporters of a democratic future for this country. They are accruing power for a reason. It can’t be good, no matter how much Jesus they slather upon themselves.

 

 

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August 5, 2019

Exploring “The Absence of Evidence . . .”

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:47 am
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Theists have been known to claim that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” when defending their belief in their deity. This is often accompanied by “you can’t prove my god doesn’t exist, so . . .” comments.

The aphorism isn’t quite true or possibly doesn’t really apply to the subject. If you, for example, state that you believe in your deity because: evidence1, evidence2, evidence3, . . . and I find your evidence incoherent, weak, or unfocused, I do not have to accept your argument. Nor do I have to offer a counter argument, because there is nothing to counter.

In this vein, atheists are often challenged to back up their “disbelief” with evidence, that is they should prove the non-existence of whatever god is being claimed. This is not how it works. (Nonbelief is not disbelief, it is merely the lack of belief; this is the minimum criterion to be met to classify anyone as atheistic.) If we don’t find the existence of, say, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, unicorns, pixies, Zeus, etc. to be proven, we are free to ignore them and go about our lives. I do not, and I think most people do not, feel an obligation to prove these things do not exist. It is not worth the time it would take.

So, often absence of evidence is evidence of absence, and therefore no further attention is warranted until some decent evidence is provided. If I may quote Christopher Hitchens “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

Another pertinent quote, this time by Carl Sagan, is “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This second quote can be a lot of fun. When, for example, theists claim that the extraordinary beauty of nature is evidence for the existence of their god, I like to say, “No, you have it completely wrong; that is evidence for your god not being involved.” Gobsmacked they usually sputter “But, but, but . . .” If you want to follow through you can ask them to establish the link between their god and the beauty of nature. (They will ignore all of the ugly bits, the predators eating prey while they are still alive and whatnot, but that is another argument.) After they provide their argument (In scholarly circles it is called the Argument from Beauty.) you can then say: “There were humans once who did not see beauty in nature, but they were too depressed by all of the ugliness and terror to pass on their genes, so the only ones left were those who did see the beauty in nature. See, no god required, only the theory of evolution.”

All snark aside, this last bit was supposed to be a segue to my second point, namely that theists use this argument both ways. You will hear from theists, ‘Since science cannot explain <fill in the blank>, therefore my god must have done it.” What happened to “absence of evidence is not . . .”? In this case, the absence of evidence is evidence of absence of any evidence that could possibly be found in the future that will prove them wrong.

And, just how the heck does one establish that “science cannot explain . . . anything”? There are a great deal of things that science has not explained. There are a great many things to be discovered that science will not be able to explain right away. But how does one back up a contention that science cannot explain something? Do you recall that people felt that railroad trains could not go much over 20 miles per hour because the people on board would not be able to breathe? Remember when people felt that no one would ever run a mile race in under four minutes? If so, do you also recall that when someone did, several other people did it in rapid succession? Do you recall that in the US it was recommended that the Patent Office be closed because pretty much everything that could be invented or discovered had been? I think this was right before Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity. I think any claim that begins with “science cannot explain . . .” belongs with these other horrific miscalculations, the dustbin of history.

The duplicitous nature of theistic apologists, however, means that this “argument” will be continued to be used for its propaganda value. It should not be used at all because “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” I do not think that any evidence exists that “science cannot explain . . .” that could not be overthrown by discoveries in the future, as has been demonstrated over and over and over in the history of science.

June 18, 2019

Prayers Are Needed

Filed under: Philosophy,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:33 pm
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The Ontological Argument for the existence of a god has been on life support since it was first published sometime after the year 1000 by Anselm. Since then, it has be re-imagined in quite a number of forms because whenever its existence is made known to a fair number of people with more than two brain cells to rub together it has been hacked to death.

All snark aside, this logical proof was designed by believers for believers as some sort of intellectual cover. Why it is needed may be due to apologists and philosophers simply needing something to talk about.

The latest incarnation of this argument (it has a long history and I will not bore you with it) has been made by philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Here it is:

  1. A being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in W; and (a Definition)
    2. A being has maximal greatness if it has maximal excellence in every possible world. (a Premise)
    3. It is possible that there is a being that has maximal greatness. (a Premise)
    4. Therefore, possibly, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good being exists.
    5. Therefore, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.
    6. Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.

Now, a common “flaw” in such arguments (Apologists think of it not as a bug but as a feature!) is to slip a premise into the argument that, if accepted, requires the conclusion desired.

In this argument the stealth premise is #3. By claiming as an unadulterated truth that such a being is possible, if you combine that with the definition of what is possible, you define a god into existence.

The reply to “It is possible that there is a being that has maximal greatness.” is simple: no it is not. Not even in your imagination can you come up with such a being. (Even Thanos has flaws.)

Any argument that says that “something is possible, therefore it exists” can define into existence anything at all: unicorns, Bigfoot (Bigfeet?), fairies, elves, etc.

So, try an experiment. (Hear Rod Serling’s voice as a voice over and it is really dramatic.) “Imagine, if you will, a being which is maximally great in any attribute you want.” What prevents you from imagining a greater being? (You say “god,” I say “god’s mother.” And if you do not think the Abrahamic god didn’t have a mother, you haven’t done your homework.) What actually prevents you is the philosopher saying “If you can imagine a greater being, then you weren’t imagining a maximally great being in the first place!” so you start over. No matter what you come up with, you will be able to imagine something greater. Think about childhood bragging (this may just apply to boys as I have no experience being a girl). If a member of your group brags that so-and-so is the greatest baseball player ever, another says “No he is not, so-and-so is.” And off we go. There was never an end to such imaginings.

Think about the largest object in nature. The Universe has to be the maximally greatest thing in existence. Then the kid says, “No, it is two universes.” And another says “Three! And a fourth says it is the Multiverse! And a fifth says “two multiverses!”

The problem here is that a maximally great anything is not definable or imaginable because we have scales of comparison. For the longest time, the fastest time any person had run a mile in was just over four minutes. That was thought to be a barrier, that no one could run that distance any faster. Then someone did, and a lot of others quickly copied that feat.

Now, you could argue that zero seconds would be the fastest possible time to run any distance. But nothing can move in zero seconds, so some time is needed, so make it 1/10 of a second. Then the Flash is born and he can do it in 1/100 of a second. And then we are back to carving time down to a smaller and smaller bit. The scales are continuous, they don’t end anywhere. (They start but they don’t end.)

By claiming that “It is possible that there is a being that has maximal greatness” they are basically saying “my god is possible.” But this is not a premise. It is not “obviously true” to anyone except believers. And starting a “proof” of the existence of your god by saying “my god is possible” is a pretty big leg up on “my god exists,” especially if you are going to define the gods unimaginable powers into existence, too.

Hopefully, this silly argument is on its last legs (although it appears as a prime example of a “zombie idea,” and idea that doesn’t die) but theists are probably forming prayer circles right now to ensure that it survives. Prayers are definitely needed as all natural cures have been exhausted.

 

 

 

June 11, 2019

On Purposes, Destinies, and Lots in Life

I stated something a few days ago, to which I now return. It was this: “Anyone, theist or atheist, who thinks that ‘purposes’ exist anywhere but in our imaginations is sadly poorly informed.” It must have had a bit of a ring of truth about it as it was mocked by John Branyan.

The whole idea of there being a purpose in life (Branyan’s will take eternity to fulfill, according to him) is part and parcel of a whole load of rubbish regarding what we do and why we do it.

At the top of the list is the Divine Right of Kings. Kings have fashioned themselves as having been chosen by god to be his very instrument. This was obviously part of a power play. The religious elites and secular elites contested for power (Gilgamesh, one of the oldest stories in existence, makes this clear. Gilgamesh had to seize power from the religious elites who controlled his actions.) It had to become clear to someone that these two power centers would be better off allied than enemies. So, in return for state power protections, kings were granted “divine rights.” In earlier societies that were theocracies, these two powers were often vested in one and the same person (a “god-king”) and that person could use whichever weapon that better suited a situation. One could either send in the priests or send in soldiers to resolve a “situation.”

Right next to this is being Called by God. I am sure many Popes and others of high religious office state that god has called them to their office. Obviously anyone challenging them would therefore have to be criticizing god’s decision making abilities. Another power play.

At the bottom of this hierarchy is someone’s “Lot in Life.” Basically, no one wanted to clean out the cesspool, so we drew lots and well, it was your lot in life to have to clean the cesspool. Only poor people have these. Poor people and slaves have a purpose or a calling only in fictional tales designed to give the poor hope, so they won’t riot or rebel.

In the middle of this spectrum is where we find “purposes.”

All of these designations are fictional (not actual cases of drawing lots, like drawing the short straw, but metaphor ones, in which someone is told that being a slave was their “lot in life”) and serve to flatter/appease the receiver or con the audience. These are all parts of social control mechanisms.

By having clerics declare the divine rights of secular kings, the clerics get to perform the crowning ceremony, implying they were the ones giving the office (and in the machinations of history this proved true on more than one occasion). And also, the “state” collected their tithes for them, and enforced ecclesiastical commands (e.g. the Crusades). The royals had their power reinforced from the pulpit. Every one of the elites involved acquired greater power.

Christian life purposes are part of the con, also. Christians are often told that it is their job to “spread the Good News,” that is to spread the religion. So, once you have a mark who has embraced the con, they get to spread the con to others, kind of like a multi-level marketing scheme. In return for this, Christians get pumped up by being given a purpose for their live, one provided by God! And they are saved! Their afterlife will be more clouds than barbecue. Their god has a plan for each and every one of us, don’t you know.

Since people often display photos of themselves in the presence of celebrities (as proof they have actually met them or know them?) so, I wonder whether people have such photos of themselves hanging with Jesus or Old Yahweh in heaven? To believe that a god has noticed them and written their name in a big book and knows who they are and has gone so far as to help them with a career plan, well that is the biggest puff piece of them all. (Hint: how do you get people to work for you without paying them? Flattery seems to work.)

I have done a great many things in my life. As a youth and young man I played baseball and basketball, but apparently it was not my destiny to play those professionally. At a young age (16, I think) I chose my profession that I practiced for 40 or so years. Was that my purpose in life? If so, why did I retire and stop doing it? What I am doing now is quite different from what I did for those 40 or so years, so is what I am doing now my true purpose? I became a husband and father, were those my true purpose in life? The fact that no one can tell definitively tells you that this is all make-believe. It is what we tell one another to reinforce life changes we make or are made for us.

Now, if I can only figure out a way to get Branyan to mock my analysis, I will know it is true. (See, fictional bullstuff. We all do it.)

June 4, 2019

Religious Experiences

I am currently reading Keith M. Parsons book “God and the Burden of Proof.” In it he discusses Alvin Plantinga’s defense of religious belief. One particular excerpt has prompted this post. Here it is:

“What, then, are the circumstances in which Plantinga regards belief in God as obviously properly basic? He gives a number of such circumstances:

“Upon reading the Bible, one may be impressed with a deep sense that God is speaking to him. Upon having done what I know is cheap, or wrong, or wicked, I may feel guilty in God’s sight and form the belief `God disapproves of what I have done’. Upon confession and repentance I may feel forgiven, forming the belief `God forgives me for what I have done’. A person in grave danger may turn to God asking for his protection and help; and of course he or she then has the belief that God is indeed able to hear and help if He sees fit. When life is sweet and satisfying, a spontaneous sense of gratitude may well up within the soul; someone in this condition may thank and praise the Lord for His goodness, and will of course have the accompanying belief that indeed the Lord is to be thanked and praised.

“Plantinga claims that it is clearly rational for persons in such circumstances to form a spontaneous belief in God.”

To me this is nonsensical. Plantinga’s “feelings” of guilt, shame, gratitude, etc. are just feelings and are not deniable. But all of the rest are interpretations of the sources of those feelings. Allow me to reframe his statement:

Upon reading the Koran, one may be impressed with a deep sense that Allah is speaking to him. Upon having done what I know is cheap, or wrong, or wicked, I may feel guilty in Allah’s sight and form the belief `Allah disapproves of what I have done’. Upon confession and repentance I may feel forgiven, forming the belief `Allah forgives me for what I have done’. A person in grave danger may turn to Allah asking for his protection and help; and of course he or she then has the belief that Allah is indeed able to hear and help if He sees fit. When life is sweet and satisfying, a spontaneous sense of gratitude may well up within the soul; someone in this condition may thank and praise Allah  for His goodness, and will of course have the accompanying belief that indeed Allah is to be thanked and praised.

In a similar fashion, could not any religious believer make the same statement, invoking whatever god they have?

William James’ definition of religion—“the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.” I emphasize “whatever they consider to be divine.”

So, basically Plantinga is arguing for polytheism because his argument is “it is clearly rational for persons in such circumstances to form a spontaneous belief in God” or rather a spontaneous belief in their god.

But I do not even accept that as a reasonable conclusion. I think those interpretations are what people are taught to make and that they do not happen spontaneously. If you have had children, you have had the experience of a child who hurts. If they can talk, you probably had to work with them to find out what was wrong: “Where does it hurt?” “Does it hurt here? . . . or here?” “Oh, you have a tummy ache!” Children are always relieved that their parent’s know what was wrong and knew what to do to make them better. I can remember being sick as a child and enjoying the extra attention I got. And we teach our children in this fashion how to interpret what they feel.

Children in religious families are indoctrinated into the religion because that is what most Abrahamic religions teach you yo do. Sometimes this indoctrination is half-hearted, as mine was, and sometimes it is full tilt boogie, which I do not wish on anyone. Seeing little children coached in how to interpret any feelings they have as communications with Jesus makes me ill. But this does happen. Parents do praise their children for saying things like “I love Jesus,” and other inanities that cannot possibly be true. They are coached to feel Jesus in their hearts, to see Jesus around them, to hear Jesus in the words of the Bible. So, is it any wonder that many natural feelings get interpreted as being sourced in their god? But just how this in any way “forms a spontaneous belief in God.” I’ll tell you; it does not.

May 27, 2019

Artificial Pearls Before Real Swine?

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:40 am
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I have been inspired by Jim over at TheCommonAtheist quite a bit of late. (His site is worth a visit: go, go.) Quoting him: “Searching for god, we don’t discover who he is, we discover who we are. This aphorism brought to my mind a number of other “pearls of wisdom.” I have been perusing a book entitled “1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom” for some time and found more than a few that are self-serving nonsense. For example:

I can’t explain it, but spiritually it makes sense—though I don’t understand how it does make sense. —Kevin McDonald
In other words, it makes no sense but I believe it.

If somebody wants a sheep, that is a proof that one exists. —Antoine de Saint Exupéry
This seems to be an offhand “proof” for the existence of a god or gods . . . but if you take that sentence and modify it a bit you get “If somebody wants a unicorn, that is a proof that one exists.” You can have fun with other variations involving Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whatever. Bizarre thinking.

Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description. —Anthony de Mello
Was it this guy’s intent to undermine all Abrahamic scripture? In scripture this god is described as a whirlwind, a burning bush, a blinding white light, looking like a man, etc. So, all of these are false? And this god is quoted ad nauseum, e.g. “I am the Lord your God, and blah, blah, blah.” All of those quotes are distortions rather than descriptions of what this god actually said? WTF?

For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible. —Franz Werfel
Uh, says who? How does he know that no explanation is possible? Or are you just trying to get people to stop asking for explanations? And the Bible itself tells believers that they are to have reasons to believe, so screw the Bible and listen to my deepity, that’s the message?

The sheer number of these “spiritual” pearls of wisdom that are utter nonsense is an indication that the collector was daft or that there aren’t really that many actual pearls of spiritual wisdom to share.

I think Jim’s aphorism is spot on. It also has application elsewhere, for example to authors of books on finding the historical Jesus (Searching for the historical Jesus in these books, we don’t discover who he is, we discover who the authors are.) There is no better evidence for the lack of an historical Jesus than the dozens upon dozens of people who have written books on finding the Real JC™ with each effort coming up with a different result. Apparently the evidence is not conclusive one way or another. Not having enough historical records to establish an historical character doesn’t mean that one did not exist, it just means we have neither the evidence nor a clear idea of who they were. I tend to think Jesus is fictional but that belief (the ordinary kind, not the religious kind), at least, is supported by evidence (Jesus said nothing that had not been said before, Jesus’ miracles are based upon miracles described in the OT, etc.).

May 19, 2019

Jesus, The Myth

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:05 pm
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I am fascinated by the debate over whether the character Jesus in the New Testament was an actual historical person. I have reported on having read the book Caesar’s Messiah, which now is available in a video documentary form (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmEScIUcvz0). I got a couple of new perspectives from the video that lead me to recommend it to you. (I am not normally a fan of videos as they consume great deals of time and are linear, that is you have to watch them in a single order at a single rate because hopping around or skimming is not possible.)

One of the strongest points made that I had not considered before is that before the Romans embraced Christianity, they rigidly controlled seditious literature. Josephus reports that after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem, they confiscated the Torah scrolls and other temple literature and set about to destroy any other copies that were available. This is supported by the fact that the earliest copies we have of OT and NT scriptures date from very late periods and are not original copies. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, gave us a look at the literature of the time (first century). The DSS are militant. There is even a scroll called the War Scroll. Couple this with the conception of a messiah being a war leader and the appearance of quite a few messiahs over the period in question, points to a period in which there was significant general opposition to the occupation of Israel by the Romans. This is punctuated by the uprising in the late 60’s, that the Israelites actually won. Think about that. How much effort and support are needed to field forces to overthrow a Roman occupation? Even though Rome ended up crushing the rebellion in 70-73 CE, it required a huge army to do so. (The motive for the Romans destroying all of the literature is that it supported messianic rebellions.)

And then we have the gospels, starting around 70 CE. The gospels are pacifistic, with the “messiah” teaching that the Jews need to “turn the other cheek” and “render unto Caesar what is Caesars.” When Romans are portrayed, they are portrayed sympathetically (e.g. the Roman Centurion, even Pontus Pilate who historically is characterized as a very bad man).

Why would a militant messiah, a war leader sent by God to overthrow the oppressors of the Jews, be characterized as a pacifist? Who does that serve? Who would want a kinder, gentler version of Judaism?

The basic argument of the book and documentary is that the gospels were written as a vehicle for Roman propaganda. Paul’s writings that predate the gospels only refer to Jesus as some sort of celestial being. Paul never quotes Jesus or mentions his mission or even presence on Earth. So, “Christianity” is around as an alternate form of Judaism, but there isn’t much there. (In 110 CE Pliny mentions that he has never seen a Christian in court so is perplexed as to how to try them.) So, why are the gospels as we know them produced ca. 70 CE and later? Why were they not being written forty years earlier by the followers of Jesus, while their memories were fresh (and they were alive). Why did Paul not seek them out for information to supplement his “revelations?”

These questions have answers provided in the documentary and there is much, much more, also.

I don’t find these arguments conclusive but I do find them compelling. It also seems that there may be a blend of more than one narrative possible. For example, the Romans may have produced the Gospel of Mark and left it to the normal forces at play for the others to be created. In support of my conjecture, there have been 5-10 times as many apocalypses, gospels, epistles, etc. discovered that were excluded from the Bible as not being authentic (aka forgeries, fictional, etc.) and that doesn’t even consider the number of “books” of the Bible that are now considered by NT scholars as being forgeries (2 Peter, a third of the Pauline epistles, etc.). In the Nag Hammadi library (aka the Gnostic Gospels) there is even a fictional story about Jesus that was in a state of mid-creation, including the document that it was being based upon! So, think of the Gospel of Mark as being a seed crystal, from which other crystals would grow naturally. The Romans, of course, could cull any such documents that lost the pro-Roman focus. Note, also, how the Roman Church developed an extensive program of document control.

May 10, 2019

You Need to Respect Our Beliefs!

Part of the War on Christianity™ (Fox News) is the much reviled and disdained severe atheistic/humanistic disrespect for the beliefs of Christians! This is abominable! We are told that we should “respect their beliefs.”

Uh, no, just … no.

I accept their beliefs. I even acknowledge them. But respect them, no. Respect is something that is earned. How is it that just because they believe something, it automatically has to be respected? Especially when it comes to batshit crazy notions like the fundamentalists have that the End Times™ are just around the corner (time wise). Really? The forces of good and evil are going to duke it out? On the plain of Armageddon in the Holy Land? Really?

Entities with supernatural powers are going to a place to meet up, a flat place where they can deploy their forces? This is about as realistic as having modern jet fighters having firefights while confined to the ground. (Okay, you can taxi around all you want, but you can’t take off; got it? Go get ’em, tiger!)

And on one side is a god who is “beyond space and time,” which means he cannot be found by his enemies, who can create whole galaxies with mere thoughts, and already knows the plans of all of his enemies, who he can unmake with a mere thought. Uh, who wants to be on this guy’s side? (Me, me, me, me . . .) How can such a battle take place, except in the vivid imagination of an iron age drug addict?

Respect that belief? No, ridicule it, maybe, but not respect it. And please do not think that these are ideas that have been set aside. There are fundamentalist groups currently acting on a political agenda toward Israel, based upon this very scenario. Some Jewish groups are complaining about the activities of some of these fundamentalist Protestant groups, so apparently they are being taken seriously.

Social tools are tools we all use to moderate bad behavior in society. If a member of a social community acts poorly, people talk to him about his behavior. If he persists, then ridicule and public shaming take place. If he still persists, shunning and banning take place. We have talked to theists about their beliefs, but they persist in trying to force those beliefs on the rest of us (We Are A Christian Nation, War on Christmas, War on Christianity, Dominionism, Special privileges for the religious written into law, etc.), so ridicule is next up. Ridicule is appropriate as it is a gentle form of persuasion that no one is immune from. If that doesn’t work, well the tools at hand provide many opportunities to ratchet up the pressure. In more advanced countries, religion is a private matter that doesn’t intrude into the public sphere, happiness results. This state is a worthwhile goal.

 

May 5, 2019

Social Controls and Religion

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:04 am
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Regular readers of this blog will know that I have stated many times my thinking that if a religion survives and thrives that it has become a mechanism to coerce the labor of the masses to serve the interests of the secular and religious elites, that is they are or have become instruments of social control. A few honest defenders of religions even claim this “feature” is their primary reason for supporting them.

You may have parsed that statement and concluded that I am against social controls, but I am not. Social controls seem to evolve around our needs as a society. For example, gossip is a mechanism to spread information about individuals that is needed to help people make decisions when those individuals become involved. Public humiliation is something no one cares to accept. We all abhor being humiliated in public. (We do not care for private humiliations either, but when those become public, we are doubly upset.)

I lay the current resurgence of racism in this country at the feet of the Internet. We had reached a point that people rarely made racist comments in public because there was a strong and immediate backlash . . . and it wasn’t positive and it did involve shaming and humiliation. But the Internet has allowed people to communicate anonymously or under an artificial persona, thus deflecting any social approbation away from the person making the remarks. More and more of this freedom to spout racist ideas has promoted racist behaviors. (The same holds for religious bigotry.)

Social controls are desirable. In the case of religions, I object to the end result of the controls, not the controls themselves. The object is clearly to promote the interests of the elites funded by the labor of the masses. Were the object to promote the welfare of all, I would be much less critical.

Also, I am not a fan of delusion-based social mechanisms. Religion, happy talk, the law of attraction, etc. contain the roots of other problems in their solutions to problems faced now. For religions, just ask anyone who has lost their faith in the religion, as to the problems that creates for them.

April 28, 2019

The Purpose of Religion: A Follow-up

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:03 am
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Salon.com recently re-published an article that originally appeared on Raw Story. Here is a taste of that article:

Scientists establish a link between religious fundamentalism and brain damage
Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be
by Bobby Azarian

study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.

Now, before all of you snarkmeisters (My people, my people!) jump on the obvious points, the point I want to address is not that. It is “They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.” And it is not the “fixed and rigid” part but the “promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group” part.

When humans gathered together into larger than family groups, society was formed in a process I am sure took some time to hammer out. In all herd animals there are behaviors of both the individual and the group that promote survival. Sometimes they clash but if they clash too much, neither the herd nor the individuals survive. We are not herd animals but we are social animals. “Society” exists to get us to conform to rules that result in greater survivability of both us as a group and us as individuals. Once a society is formed, it is not hard to see that it can be hijacked by individuals who mold society more to their advantage, survivability be damned. Books and movies are rife with such scenarios, where groups are betrayed by individuals to their benefit. These betrayals can be direct or through changing the societal rules to benefit just themselves.

Currently there is a subset of very wealthy U.S. individuals who are reshaping our society for their benefit and their benefit alone, the rest of society left to suck eggs. Religion is a major tool in creating and maintaining a “stable” society. It has lost much of its power in this country over the years and since a power vacuum doesn’t exist long, that power has been sucked up, in this case by wealthy financial types with their own priesthood (economists).

In any society there are those who produce the needs for direct survival (food, water supply, housing, transportation, etc.) and those who produce “other things” (art, politics, music, books, etc.). Those who produce the food, etc. need to have the respect of those who do not and vice versa. In this country, this mutual respect has been lost (not by accident, mind you) as it has been elsewhere around the world. In powerful church hierarchies, the elites offer little in the way of respect for the masses as they “manage their brands” and, they think, husband their power. The same goes on in centers of political power. Studies indicate that a prerequisite for getting any idea through Congress is being rich. If you are poor or middle class your ideas and opinions will be ignored. (Polls? What polls? Polls are “fake news.”) And, monumental issues like climate change are ignored because the wealthy do not want to accept any uncertainty in their wealth accumulation schemes (business opportunities my ass!).

As a consequence, ordinary people, who are engaged in serving the needs of these elites are in various states of rebellion. They are attending church services less. They are voting less. They are paying less attention to those who pay no attention to them or they are attending but responding with anger and resentment.

I thought if we could revive labor unions that they could apply some leverage in the interests of ordinary people, but unions have powerful opponents who have shut that door.

So, what is the way out of this existential problem?

Really, do you see a way out?

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