10-20-13 3:45"Thank You Jesus for the Cherry Juice"

Reba: I work in a grocery store as a floorwalker, helping everyone find what they need.

This woman approached today and asked if we have cherry juice. I took her to it and we only had one jar left. I told her "You're in luck, you're getting the last one," and she replies, very seriously, "I was meant to have this cherry juice. I prayed to Jesus for it, and you knew right where it was and the Good Lord has blessed me with the very last one".

Mmmmkay.

I knew where it was because it's my job to know where it is. It wasn't a miracle.

Do people really think that much of themselves to believe 'Jesus' actually has so little to do that he's somewhere in the universe taking cherry juice orders?

And last but not least, if you're blessed because the Good Lord has saved the last bottle for you, what does that mean for the next person who comes looking for cherry juice? Is that like a big fuck you from the lord?

Whatever effect "God" is having appears to be entirely negligible.


Hot4aTeacher: Arrogant much? Can't understand it, so must not exist? Roll your eyes all you want. But until you have THE answers to the true nature of the universe, you have a lot of nerve rejecting anybody's theories.

Just because we can't understand doesn't mean it didn't happen.

There is no point in making any claims about that which is not understood.


Hot4aTeacher: I'm not making claims...I'm having faith. It's a fine distinction.

Unsubstantiated claims about what is not understood are the hallmark of most religions. However unsubstantiated claims are pointless.


Hot4aTeacher: Faith is never a bad thing.

Faith in the truth of supernatural claims undermines reason. This inhibits our societies from using reason to solve problems. That is bad.



Hot4aTeacher: Supernatural claims are often proven true by science.

Um, no. But in any case the time to make the claim is after it is proved, not before.


Hot4aTeacher: There are plenty of people who abandon reason for any number of reasons.

We should be striving to minimize this. Societies which place a higher value on reason get better results.


Hot4aTeacher: I'm a big fan of reason. I see no conflict with my faith.

I don't know specifically what your faith is, but the standard tenets of, say, Christianity - that humans have original sin, that they are doomed for a bad afterlife unless they receive salvation from Christ, etc - are not supported by reason.


Lizel: Faith does not undermine societies ability to resolve issues. It is the lack of accepting and understanding differences and willing to compromise is what does that.

The least religious societies in the world are the ones with the highest levels of social health.


Lizel: Until man takes responsibility then the world will continue on a downward spiral.

Taking responsibility requires facing reality.



Lizel: How am I not facing reality?

I don't know what you personally are facing but the supernatural claims of Christianity, for example, have no basis in observable reality. They appear to be a mythology, no different than the mythological claims of other societies throughout history.

One way that "man takes responsibility" is to acknowledge mythology as what it is instead of acting like it is real.


Lizel: God gave us free will.

That is what people say.


Lizel: I do not understnad your last comment please elaborate.

"God gave us free will" is speculation.







Lizel: Christianity is not at fault for the defecit we see, ignorance is.

The unsubstantiated claims of Christianity are at fault for being unsubstantiated claims, as are all unsubstantiated claims.


Lizel: The religion is not at fault, it's people who fail to follow the religion. For example, teenage pregnancy goes against the very fiber of being of Christianity, as does abortion, but our rates are higher than almost any country. This isn't Christianity, it is people failing to follow Christianity. Or how would you explain that?

It's not a mystery. This is a perfect example of the pathology created by devaluing reason.


The dominant religion in our society is widely interpreted to forbid all sex except between married couples. The ideology - "only married people should have sex" - rules the minds of a sufficiently large percentage of our population so that our public education programs are sometimes crafted using the ideology as the dominant paradigm instead of reality.

So, instead of getting a comprehensive sex education which allows for good decisions, teens get "abstinence only" programs, which fit the ideology but are known to be less effective.

Teen pregnancy rates in this country were going down until the Bush administration shifted the emphasis to "abstinence only." Then they started to climb again. Religiously-motivated ideology has steered our teens off a cliff.

If a larger percentage of people cared about what is real and what works instead of believing whatever they choose then our teen pregnancy rates would be commensurate with those of the more secular democracies with comprehensive sex ed.



Lizel: Do you truly believe that if we did not have religion that the horrors we witness today would go away?

If we employed reason rather than ideology some of the horrors of failure to apply reason would be lessened. We should be working towards this.


Lizel: I stand by my statement that our refusal to accept anything different than what we believe in is the cause of the problems that we experience.

Valuing reality over "what we believe in" would serve to alleviate this.


Lizel: How is my believing in God effecting me dealing with reality?

I have no clue how it is affecting you personally. However valuing unsubstantiated claims and ideologies over what is real is steering our country off a variety of cliffs.




Reba: It's true that I don't care whether or not other people believe in a deity. My "issues" come with people choosing to believe in a god who will send the majority of the population to suffer for eternity, for no good reason. Or those who choose to believe in a god who will make an effort to bless them with some insignificant thing but will not make an effort to bless those who truly require his help.

"Believing in a deity" is pretty vague. The degree of pathology rises by the amount of reason which much be sacrificed to agree with the description and attributes of the specific deity in question.

So, believing in unspecified "energies" which are not involved in human affairs does not sacrifice as much reason as believing in an entity with a large number of specific magical attributes, like "born of a virgin" or "bestows blessings upon request" or "created the planet in intervals of six." The degree to which the claimed attributes of a deity defy reason are the degree to which the claims are problematic.

Particularly pernicious are beliefs that a deity is interacting with matter in some magical way, such as arranging for a bottle of cherry juice to be on a shelf when it would not have been without divine intervention. The idea that the cherry juice was more affected by a magical force than by the humans who handled the object shows a serious lack of appreciation for what constitutes actual cause and effect.



Lizel: I'm going to be blunt in my reply, and tell the truth.

Thank you for your very honest reply.


Lizel: I was taught Christianity, and that would mean that I was living a lie *if I chose not to believe* It would mean that I would have to face the fact (and I cringed typing that) I would have to face a possible fact that there is no heaven, and when we are dead, that is it.

Nothing is known of what, if anything, occurs "after" death. Christianity could be completely wrong and there could still be some kind of afterlife. You might have to spend eternity languishing on the wrong side of the River Styx, but at least you would not be alone.

The point is that you don't have to believe in all of the particular unsubstantiated claims of Christianity - many of which are completely ridiculous - to have some kind of hope for an afterlife. There is no reason to think that Christian afterlife speculation is any more accurate than that of any other belief system.


Lizel: I can't live like that. I have to have faith there is something else. I don't want to just die and go nowhere. If I believed that, I would be way too depressive, hell...if I allowed myself to believe that way, I don't know what would happen to me mentally.

People manage. You are as capable as anyone.


Lizel: I believe hell is NOTHING. It's just death with no afterlife. It scares the shit out of me.

It scares the shit out of everybody. It is "the undiscovered country."

But that is later. There is no reason you have to spend time thinking about it now.


Now, right now, we have this. And this is amazing. The more this is directly apprehended, the more amazing it gets. There is nothing proposed by any belief system that is more incredible, wonderful and beautiful than the reality in which we are immersed.

No one knows what "else" there might be. Right now we know we have this, and we need to find ways to make this work.

Unsubstantiated claims about the total unknown are not advancing our understanding or management of this. In fact they are a big distraction which require a huge amount of resources to maintain.

I would suggest that people not let their fear get in the way of appreciating and managing this.




10-17-13 1:45The Fall of Rome

Kelly: What would happen if our society failed? People have become so dependent upon government there is no way they would survive.

I'm not against government programs but we DO have to admit that when people become dependant on them, the lose part of themselves.

What do you mean by "government programs"?


I think what would hurt people the most is if the electricity was cut off. People have become completely dependent upon technology. Also bad would be if the consumer supply chain was cut off - no food. Those two things are not "government programs."

So, you could just as easily say that when people become dependent on technology and capitalism, they "lose part of themselves."

However, that doesn't mean that technology or the marketplace are bad, or that we should not use them to do things. We just need to know that they are not perfect and can fail and have a few strategies for coping without them - and fixing them. Same for government.



Kelly: Welfare isn't like electricity! Creating dependency takes away from being independent.

Cities are an exercise in mutual dependency of the individual, government, industry, agriculture, labor, technology, craft, etc. Without this dependency, without working together, we would not have accomplished any great human achievements.

If you are suggesting that this trade off is not worth losing "independence" for, what kind of social structure do you envision? No cities?




Kelly: It's history repeating itself. The Romans created the aqueduct system to import water to the city...created and operated by the government. When the aqueduct went dry, people would literally die of thirst before thinking to move to where the water was.

Kelly, you know I love you, but I am just not buying this. Are you saying this actually happened? People died of thirst because they were so brainwashed by government dependency that it did not occur to them to walk to the river?

I can not find any way to substantiate this. I have read several historical accounts of the Fall, and while some mention the disruption of the water supply, not one has said that the people died of thirst because they could not think of walking to the river. Here's a typical description I read:

"Eventually Roman citizens left the cities to find a source of water to live near and most of their cities were left abandoned."

There were times when Rome was besieged and people were trapped. They might have died of thirst in that case. But I cannot find any historical account that suggests Romans would sit and die of thirst when they could freely get up and move near water. It makes no sense.


Kelly: I don't know if the Romans really died of thirst...I was just trying to think of a quick example, it wasn't meant to be factual.

I was trying to explain that when you become dependant on your govt. to meet your needs, and they do...you tend to stop attempting to meet your own needs.

Are you talking about people giving up the practice of producing their own food in order to live in a city, or are you talking about people getting welfare? The first seems okay. The second is the one people usually complain about. But they are not the same. Do you object to both?

And anyway, who is "the government"? In this country the government is us.

Saying that we become dependent on ourselves to meet our needs, and we do...actually sounds pretty good.




10-16-13 11:28Evolution and Creation?

MistyandMe: There is a big difference between micro and macro evolution. As a Christian, I find the former compatible but the latter far less so with my worldview.

Perhaps you should consider deriving your worldview from the world. Then it would be compatible.


MistyandMe: Adam and Eve were the first, and the the start of the lineage of humans, but NOT the only ones that God breathed life into, just the only ones the bible mentions. This example makes BOTH science AND the bible able to be true.

Actually, what happened was that when Homo Erectus reached a certain level of evolutionary development, Prometheus took fire from the sun god and gave it to humans, and that is why soot and burned bones begin to appear in the layers of strata about 125,000 years ago.

See, an example of this sort makes BOTH science AND the Greek creation story able to be true! Therefore, the Greeks must have really been on to something. All hail Zeus!


Lupina: You'll always find some people who will argue that the earth is flat and use evidence to support it. So it doesn't matter if the scholars all agree, that doesn't mean you'll convince anyone who's worldview doesn't support that theory.

You don't have to convince the loons, or the people who can't view the evidence objectively.

The point of weighing the arguments by plausibility is 1) to get the information out there for people who do not yet know the facts, or are on the fence, and 2) to discredit the flat earth believers with facts so that they are not taken seriously when they propose legislating flat earth ideas onto society.



Lupina: I recently posted statistics that show how small of a percentage of Americans believe in evolution. It's also a very emotionally charged issue atm. So when you have such a large group of people who see the evidence in a very certain way it's bound to effect society as a whole.

Yes it does, which is all the more reason to challenge ridiculous worldviews that are not truly indicated by the evidence.


Lupina: I am reminded of the story of the man who was persuaded that he was dead. He went to his doctor, and his doctor tried to reason with the man that he was really still alive. Finally the doctor asked the man, "Do dead men bleed? If you cut a dead man, does he bleed?" The man replied, "No. The heart is not beating, there is no blood pressure, so if you cut a dead man, he does not bleed." The doctor then took a scalpel and nicked the man on his finger, and he proceeded to bleed. As the blood continued to come forth, the doctor said to the man who believed he was dead, "See, you are bleeding. What does that tell you?" And the man answered, "Well, I guess dead men do bleed after all."

Neither side will ever convince the other any more than the doctor convinced the 'dead man'.

Yeah, but the 'dead man' is wrong. The incontrovertible fact of his aliveness is not going away. It cannot be countermanded. The reality is what it is.

You don't have to convince the crazy guy - eventually his error will be obvious enough to convince almost everybody else.


MistyandMe: I dont have a problem with evolution per se. I believe that at some point along the evolutionary path of "hominid"....homo sapien was given the breath of God and given souls. That was Adam and Eve.

So God gave Adam and Eve souls, and they immediately fucked up, dooming all mankind. Perhaps they would have been better off without them.



10-14-13 11:28Generation of Narcissists

WoodMom: What is wrong with kids these days? Have we raised a generation of narcisissts?

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal said that because they have been told since infancy that they were special, they believe it and expect to keep hearing it. "Bosses, professors and mates are feeling the need to lavish praise on young adults, particularly twentysomethings, or else see them wither under an unfamiliar compliment deficit," it said.

Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University, reports that college students increasingly agree with statements indicating oversized egos, such as "I am an important person." Marian Salzman, a senior vice president at the advertising agency JWT, told The Christian Science Monitor, "Gen-Y is the most difficult workforce I've ever encountered," because they "are so self-indulgent."
When a parent praises a child's every action and never offers criticism, a child becomes full of themselves and spoiled. Parents are afraid to tell them to knock it off....parents are afraid to tell their child their feelings and behaviors are inappropriate and to stop it immediately. They are afraid the kid will end up in therapy, and many of them end up there anyway, because they age but do not mature.

My praise for my children is not in any way calculated. I am not trying to use it as a drafting board to engineer their personalities. If they do something I like, I praise them for it. If they do something I don't like, I admonish them for it. That's all there is to it.

It would certainly never occur to me to withhold my genuine admiration for my kids just to avoid giving them too much "self-esteem."

I praised my son lavishly for nothing more than taking his first few steps.

{Cut to video of youngest child's first day walking}

The overly-enthusiastic voice in the video is mine.

Some might say, "So he walked, so what? Everybody walks! There's nothing special about that. He won't be motivated to push himself! If he can get pats on the head for walking with his plain old feet, he'll never be driven to learn to walk on his hands!"

Well, whatever. If he walks on his hands I'm sure I can crank it up a notch.



WoodMom: Of COURSE we praise our kids, especially for things like first steps! But really....will you still be cheering so loud for taking steps when they're 12? Haha.....

Who knows? That would depend entirely on whether I find something particularly praiseworthy about those particular steps. If they are steps in a direction I find admirable, for whatever reason, I will not hesitate to cheer them.

As I said, I am not doling out praise in calculated little doses like vitamins, watching the recommended daily allowance. I am not attempting to use my reactions as a chisel to sculpt out perfectly-shaped self-esteem.

I just act like I am. If I see something in my children that pleases me, I react positiviely to it. If I see something that displeases me, I react with displeasure. I respond in the moment, according to the circumstances, in the way that feels appropriate and natural to me.

My children are, for the most part, delightful little creatures, and most of the time, I just naturally respond to them with delight.

I am far less concerned about "self esteem" than I am about honesty, kindness and being real. If anything, I would hope my kids would learn, from my example, to be true to their feelings, and to delight in the beauty and good they see in others, and in the world around them, just as I do.



WoodMom: You are short-changing your kids by praising them for averageness. Great self-esteem does not produce great achievers. Art and genius come from suffering and struggling.

As an artist, and a person who has studied genius, I can tell you that masterpieces do not arise from a troubled soul, or from a drive to see vindication in a world where only the grandest efforts of excellence are deemed praiseworthy and average accomplishments are considered a paltry matter of no note.

The skill to create a masterpiece arises, for the most part, from a desire to practice the form. It is the thousands of hours of practice, learning every aspect of the medium, honing every stroke of the skill to perfection, which produces the skill to create a master work. Practice makes perfect.

The drive to practice can come from a troubled need to escape life's pain. But this is far from the only source. It can also come from a simple enjoyment of practicing the skill, the thrill of skill meeting talent. True, drive can come from a desire to push the limits and see what can be created and achieved. Undoubtedly some are driven by the desire to outpace others, outshine the crowd and receive accolades.

However there is no evidence that genius is somehow suppressed in an environment where mediocre work is also acceptable.

Even if there was, it would not be fair to shun mediocre accomplishments of the average joe in an attempt to wring more geniuses from the group. It is not fair to the far larger contingent of the group. When people are putting forth a decent effort, there is nothing wrong with recognizing this, even if their results are just average, because, after all, that is the inevitable outcome most of the time. That's what average means. It's not fair to overlook the standard accomplishments of an average person in an attempt to laud only "masterpieces."

And, it's not necessary. A teacher friend of mine once told me, "You don't have to worry about the talented kids. The cream will always rise to the top. It's helping a failing student come up to average that is a real accomplishment."




10-14-13 11:17The Trinity

Aurora: The Trinity is a very difficult concept to grasp or explain. I used to get really bothered by it trying to make sense of it all but then finally I just accepted. Since I really don't have a brain big enough to truly understand the full nature of God I will just take His word on it that they are three in one. One day on the other side of this life, it will make sense.

Aurora, you are so smart, I can't believe you are buying this one.

There is an obvious explanation as to why the Trinity makes no sense, and that is because, at least possibly, people are just making this stuff up. Not everything, necessarily, but at least this.

I can't believe you would rather think that you are a dim bulb, compared to the people who originally claimed that this is the case. Maybe THEY are the dim bulbs to think that everyone would go along with such non-sensical, non-intuitive totally non-indicated fluffernut.

Your brain is plenty big and the alternative to dumbing yourself down is to consider, for just a moment, that even if everything else you believe about God is true, that doesn't mean that the Trinity is true too. Nothing in what you described as your personal experiences directly with the divine did anything to support the Triune God. This could all be just some dope's conclusion after a night of drunken speculation.

Since we don't know, I don't see why you automatically assume the fault is your own limited power of apprehension. That is not the only possible explanation.

I don't see why you feel you have no choice but to just accept it.



10-14-13 10:56Happens to Everyone

Mazzy: I know Christianity is true. What if I told you that when I was saved, I felt an instant rush of warmth, as if something was entering my soul that wasn't there before?

I would say that I don't have any trouble accepting that you experienced this. A lot of people, all over the world, have described experiencing this same sensation. I have experienced this myself.

However, I am not making a claim about what it is, or what it means. I don't claim that it was "God," or that it wasn't. I don't make any claims at all about it.

For one thing, I don't know what it is, and claiming otherwise would not be true. For another, it definitely seems to be a bit of a reach to suggest the rush of warmth is confirmation that salvation through Jesus is necessary to prevent getting the bad afterlife. That's quite a bit of extrapolation on just a feeling. Particularly a feeling that occurs to everyone, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and non-theists alike.




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