10-06-14 6:16  •  Why Pick on Christianity?

Buttermilk: Boy, atheists are sure obsessed with Christianity! That must mean something!

Hi Buttermilk, it's great to have you in the discussion. Thanks for raising this point. I'm not an atheist but I do spend more time discussing Christianity than other religions so I'll have a go at it.

Buttermilk:Why do some atheists focus so much attention on this one particular religion?

For a start, since most of the religious people I am talking to are Christian, naturally the religion they believe in is the one we end up talking about.

Also, Christianity is the dominant religion of my culture, and the problems of unreason are mainly Christian where I live. So it comes up a lot.

But, by discussing the problems with unreason in Christianity, I am in no way trying to suggest that Islam or Hinduism or Judaism, etc., are more reasonable. In fact I have discussed those religions with people who believe in them and they seem about the same. However Christianity is the one that has the most power in my country so it has the most effect on my government and my surroundings.

Buttermilk: I mean, I have spoken out against the Catholic Church because I do believe that is a huge political power, not just a spiritual one, intent on bringing about massive negative change to the entire world.

Sort of like that. When you see a problem you speak out about it.

Buttermilk: Christians aren't practicing child sacrifice, they don't generally abort, and they aren't going around decapitating anyone these days.

Christians and other religionists are practicing unreason. This is very dangerous over the long term.

Buttermilk: Why go so much out of their way, to discredit someone else's religion?

The religions do not seem to be true. The truth matters.

P.S. I should add that religionists are hardly the worst offenders at the moment. At this point the ones promoting the most dangerous unreason are the capitalists. However this is a religious debate forum so that one doesn't come up as much. Too bad.

Buttermilk: Thanks for explaining all that. I don't agree with much of it.

That's why it's called Religious Debates - great to have you here to discuss it!

Buttermilk: You are speaking mostly to Christians, yes.

I'm glad you understand that no one is picking on Christianity per se, it just happens to be #1 around here.

Buttermilk: I do not think the religion and the thinking is unreasonable or illogical in its pure form.

I would say you are incorrect about that. Unsubstantiated claims of truth are anathema to logic and reason and render them useless. But, I could be wrong, so feel free to share your reasoning for how Christianity is true.

Buttermilk: As for truth, it's far more dangerous to pigeon hole truth into one kind of thinking, being, relating, etc.

I want to be clear what I mean by truth. I mean statements that correspond accurately to what they describe.

Buttermilk: Even from a secular perspective, to homogenize the way everyone thinks...

This is a very unfortunate straw man. Creating an accurate picture of reality is no more "homogenizing" than teaching every six year old that 2 + 2 = 4.

Buttermilk: ...makes the world sort of mono-tone, you know, not very colorful.

I agree that 2 + 2 = 4 is not that interesting, and 2 + 2 = 222222 is much more entertaining. Math would sure be a lot more colorful if we all had different answers. However then it would not be usable for anything.

And, knowing that 2 + 2 = 4 has done nothing to reduce the color of the world or make everyone homogenized. It is just everyone understanding a basic fact which cannot be changed.

That is not the only fact. It is very important for everyone to understand how the world actually is and what can actually be known about it and how it all works. That would not cause homogenizing, and if anything would encourage more independent thinking by jettisoning outmoded ideas.

Buttermilk: Who can lay claim to the truth?

Yay, an easy one! The truth is statements which correspond accurately to what they describe. The way you can tell if a statement is accurate is by examining what it describes and confirming that the description matches the described. That is how you get truth.

Buttermilk: Look at 9/11.

The great truth about 9/11 is that you do not know exactly what happened and neither do I. Actually, "we don't know" is the Great Truth about a lot of things. But that does nothing to lessen the importance of the truth we do know. We don't have to have accurate descriptions of everything in order to have accurate descriptions of a lot of important things.

Unfortunately a lot of Christianity is people ignoring this great truth. That is why it is a problem.

Buttermilk: There has to be a definitive, absolute truth.

If we don't know it, then we just don't. And pretending we do is wrong.

Buttermilk: So with religion. Many lay claim to the truth.

That is why we invented checking. When people claim what they say is true, you can check yourself and see if what they said is true. Examine what they are describing and see how it matches up. The great thing about the truth is that anyone can confirm it.

When I say that objects in earth's gravity well fall at 32.2'/sec², that is true. If you don't believe me, you can drop an object yourself and measure the rate it falls and I'm pretty sure you will confirm that description. If so, congratulations. You have now personally verified that the statement is true.

If people are making claims that can't be checked, then we are back to the Great Truth again. They do not know if the claims are true and neither does anyone.

However there are so many claims which are known to be true and which can be checked and confirmed by anyone, and these actual truths are so useful they have changed everything about human existence in a few short centuries. The truth has given us accurate understanding of where we come from, why we are like this and how to make amazing things happen. So that is really where the action is.

The funnest part is turning the edges of the Great Truth, the "we don't know," into the known by exploration. The truth is getting bigger all the time.

Buttermilk: The only time bad things come out of religion - and I'm not saying they don't - is when you have charlatans that take advantage of religious people.

I disagree entirely. "Bad Things" come from bad ideas, and from acting on ideas that are so far from matching reality that the distance between the reality and what is claimed cannot be reconciled.

The claims of Christianity - that it accurately represents gods, for example - cannot be checked and have no aspect in reality that can be examined. The description - God is like this, He made this, He feels this, He wants this - is so far from what people experience in reality that it continuously spawns "bad things." From big bad things like the Dark Ages and the Inquisitions, to personal bad things like guilt and irreconcilable cognitive dissonance, the distance between what people are claiming and what is true causes great error.

Buttermilk: The real people who believe these things are looking for order in their world, and the core of it usually involves love, compassion, charity.

I know this is true of Christians because it is true of almost everyone. Most people everywhere are people looking for order in their world, and finding it in love, compassion and charity. We are a social species, and love and compassion and providing for all are traits we had to have, or we would not have survived.

So it is not necessary to "believe things" to be loving and compassionate. In fact believing things can sometimes get in the way.

09-24-14 8:24  •  Is Jesusism the same as Christianity, and What of It?

UltimateG_Mod: I don't need to believe in a supernatural Jesus! The Jesus I believe in inspired people. It wasn't truly a miracle how Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes for the masses. Each family brought enough just for themselves and were hiding it away. Jesus inspired them to share, and when they brought it all forth, there was plenty for everyone.

I find it more inspiring to believe in a "Jesus" that came to save humanity from self-destruction and annihilation through the real words and actions that he brought, rather than saving individuals by creating a "God game" for them to play whether they like it or not.

I get more inspiration from real people. Since "Jesus" was an amalgam, the "words and actions" attributed to him may not reflect anything that actually happened.

I'm somewhat inspired by Luke Skywalker and his noble attempt to save his father from evil, but I am far more inspired by, say, Princess Diana, who really went to hold the hands of AIDS patients when no one else would. Because Princess Di actually did things. "Luke Skywalker" didn't really "do" anything.

Bandicoot: There you go again!! Does it matter whether Jesus existed as written or not? Or whether he existed at all or not?

I said nothing about whether it "matters." I said, real people who act in real ways in real circumstances are much more inspiring than pretend people who act in ideal ways penned by writers without real constraints. How hard is it to be compassionate when you are a fictional character being written about in glowing terms by religious fanatics depicting you in the best possible light?

Real people who accomplish real things are more inspiring.

Bandicoot: Les Miserables is a work of fiction, yet it has been an incredible inspiration in my life. Should I poo poo it just because I know it's not "real" when the themes and so forth it touches upon are real and significant?

Maybe you should become a Les Miserablian. Perhaps millions of people worldwide should be Miserablians, and meet every week to worship it. Maybe most of them should think it is really true, and really represents a relationship to the afterlife and to supernatural beings who created the universe. Maybe they should be praying to it every day, placing all their hopes on it. Maybe they should be trying to enact legislation based on their Miserablian ideals.

Maybe, but if they did that, you had better believe I would have some poo pooing to do, and so would you.

Bandicoot:It's like the Buddha, IMO. There are those who question whether he really existed, but what matters isn't the person, it's the message...

Acting like One BIg Message of "Buddha" or "Jesus" even exists, or is some big revelation, is the problem.

The committees who wrote their story claimed they had a variety of messages, some great, some dumb, most boring. There is nothing more significant in the message the committee of "Jesus" or the committee of "Buddha" than any other human who said something. Acting like they represent "the Divine," or some superior loft of human achievement, is unwarranted.

Particularly in the case of Jesus, where only you "really" know what the message is and almost everyone else has it wrong.

Bandicoot:Whether it is Buddha, Jesus, Luke Skywalker, Jean Valjean/Javert/the bishop, or Princess Di, what matters is that the person you find inspiring you does inspire you, and does so enough that you feel compelled to do something about it, to go out and "actually do things" - feeding the hungry, being an advocate for human rights, taking care of the sick, offering solace to the terminal, something.

If there was a cult of Luke Skywalker or Princess Diana to rival the cult of Jesus, the followers would rightly be dismissed as nuts.

Bandicoot:How boring it would be if everyone had to agree about who/what is considered appropriate inspiration, or whatever else?

This is pretending that following a legacy religion is equivalent to nothing more than "being inspired" by it.

This allows you to suggest that by questioning the legitimacy of Christianity, I'm just deeming it "not appropriate inspiration." However that is ridiculous.

The legitimacy of Christianity should be questioned, and it should be questioned at the level of 1) the truth of the Jesus story, and 2) what the actual content is, and 3) how does it work? Upon examination, the answers are 1) not very, 2) dismal, and 3) very, very bad.

I don't support cultlike "inspiration" at that cost.

How boring it would be if people all stopped being in a cult and just "were inspired" instead. Or would it?

Bandicoot: Just because you don't like it or see value in it, or can only see negative, doesn't mean that your view is true or that others are "wrong" for continuing to find resonance with it. I'm not in a cult.

Why on earth do you think I am talking about you? Maybe you should stop pretending that you are Christianity, and that if my objection doesn't apply to you, I shouldn't be making it. The objections apply elsewhere, and are legitimate, and should be made.

Bandicoot: I do strongly identify as a Christian. Who cares if you don't personally feel like he was real or that his message was that inspiring, or feel that someone else could be more inspiring than he was?

Someone might. Just because you don't like it, I should stop saying it? Nope. Not a chance.

Bandicoot: My beliefs are not guilty of the constant blame you lay on Christianity.

So stop pretending that you are Christianity and you will see that none of this has anything to do with you.

Bandicoot: Who cares whether I find Jesus inspirational or whether I find Princess Di inspirational?

Nobody, as far as I know. I wasn't talking about you. You can stop taking it personally.

Bandicoot: Jesus' story inspires millions. But we're going to denounce it just because some use his message and the movement based off of it poorly?

Nope, wrong. I will explain again.

I am denouncing Christianity - not you, get it? - because 1) "his message" is not any one thing, it's a huge mass of things which could mean anything, and 2) because MOST people have used it poorly, because it is very poorly constructed, and 3) because "movements" which require disconnect with reality on this scale inhibit the ability of society to use reason.

If you think I should just shut up about Christianity already, it will not happen as long as other people besides you are doing what Christianity is mostly doing. Great as you are, Christianity doesn't get a pass because of you.

Bandicoot: Not all Christians believe the things you claim - that there is an afterlife or supernatural beings, etc. So again, you can't keep projecting YOUR view of religion on all those who practice it because they don't all agree with your definition, as it isn't applicable to all.

If you are saying that I can not use the word Christianity, because it has no meaning, what do you want me to call it?

Bandicoot: And I never said "only I" know what Jesus' message was. What an absurd notion.

I mean you and Spong et al of course.

Bandicoot: You feel it's stupid, outdated, or irrelevant...that doesn't mean your judgements against it or its followers are true.

Maybe they aren't. This is debate forum. If you want to show that I am incorrect please feel free to do so. That is why I am here!

Bandicoot: It is dishonest of you to act like all Christians are alike! Are you aware that there are more than 30 thousand Christian sects? Some of them believe in the Son of God, but some don't. Instead of generalizing, find out what groups in Christianity are actually guilty of your accusations...

I'm not going through all 30 thousand groups to see who believes what and neither are you. We have lives. However I would like to discuss this without confusion, so I think we should come to an understanding of the terms.

Bandicoot: ...like fundamentalism...

Sorry, no, not just fundamentalism. Suffice it to say that when I say "Christianity" I am referring to this:
Christianity (from the Ancient Greek word Christos, a translation of the Hebrew Mašîa, meaning "the anointed one",[1] together with the Latin suffixes -ian and -itas) is an Abrahamic, monotheistic[2] religion based on the life and oral teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament. Christianity is the world's largest religion,[3][4] with approximately 2.2 billion adherents, known as Christians.[5][6][7][8] Most Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, fully divine and fully human, and the saviour of humanity whose coming was prophesied in the Old Testament. Consequently, Christians refer to Jesus as Christ or the Messiah.

The foundations of Christian theology are expressed in ecumenical creeds. These professions of faith state that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, and was resurrected from the dead in order to grant eternal life to those who believe in him and trust in him for the remission of their sins. The creeds further maintain that Jesus bodily ascended into heaven, where he reigns with God the Father. Most Christian denominations teach that Jesus will return to judge everybody, living and dead, and to grant eternal life to his followers. He is considered the model of a virtuous life.
This is a perfectly acceptable use for the term Christianity and precisely how I intend to use the term myself.

In discussion I try my best to say "most Christians," just as they did in the wiki. And I am sure that most people who believe what is described above would really prefer to be called Christians and to have their religion referred to as Christianity. So I think I should continue to call it that.

But you and I both already know there are people and groups, etc. who are different, so we can simply stipulate to that point. I could try to call more call attention to the outliers, but they are often not the issue, and can be a way of avoiding the issue.

09-15-14 10:24  •  Legitimacy of Christianity

Here are the three areas I mention for questioning the legitimacy of Christianity.

1) Truth of Jesus story.

My conclusion = Not very.

Bandicoot's conclusion:

there most likely was a Jewish preacher that lived and taught the things attributed to Jesus, who was crucified for treason against the Roman Empire.

For one, "most likely"? There is no written mention of "Jesus" in the documents of the time. Zero corroboration.

For two, taught "the things" attributed to Jesus? What "things"? Every word of the NT? Just the words Jesus is supposed to have said? Every word Jesus is supposed to have said? Or just your one-paragraph summation of his message? What about everything else?

For three, what of these "things?" People everywhere say much the same things all the time. It's not that special. It is what any committee would say trying to pull together their best wisdom for a collection. Anybody could have come up with this.

Fourth but certainly not least, the real question for Christianity isn't whether a human said some words. It is whether that human was the Son of God who died for our sins so that believers could get into the good afterlife. (Some Christians do not think this, but most do.) Most Christians throughout history and across the globe have thought and taught that Jesus is the son of God, a supernatural deity who created the universe and answers prayers.

Chances of THIS, the big central belief of Christianity, being true? Zero at best.

So, not very.

2) The content.

My conclusion = dismal.

Bandicoot's conclusion:

that content was about reclaiming the inner dignity and worth of those subjugated by the Roman Empire.

For one, I am not just talking about the Jesus-the-rebel-Jew part, I am talking about the content of the entire bible and the central beliefs of Christianity. As much as we might want Christianity to only be evaluated on the above sentence, Christianity is far, far more than just this sentence and the rest of it gets evaluated too.

For two, the bible is a horror show of superstition and tribalism with a few bits of wisdom thrown in. The central tenet of Christianity as most have believed it throughout history is that humans have original sin and require redemption through Christ or they will burn forever in the afterlife. ALL of those things are part of Christianity, and usually make up a much greater part than the Jesus-shames-the-Roman-occupier-while-maintaining-human-dignity part.

So, almost all of the bible and all of the supernatural teachings are extremely ugly, balanced only somewhat by a cheery injunction to consider the lillies. Add to this the condemnation of sexual behavior, the lack of repudiation of slavery, the misogyny and the tribal warmongering, and Christianity fails on several important moral points, causing untold human misery.

So, dismal.

3) How it works.

My conclusion = very, very badly.

Bandicoot's conclusion:

we advocate for human rights, help the poor, the oppressed, love our neighbor.

Well, lots of humans do things like this and always have. It is the expression of our instincts as a social species, and so not related to Christianity.

But, that is an aside, because what I meant was, How well does it work? And the answer is, very badly.

Christainity was a force for fanaticism and the collapse of civilization in its early days. It was a force for violent persecution, war, superstition and grubby ignorance for thousands of years. It remains the main force behind unequal recognition and sexual miseducation and science denial in society today. Yes, recently humans have made great strides in discovery and morality, but mostly in spite of Christianity and not because of it.

Even if the only real message of Christianity is about human dignity, and every word of the bible really means only this, what kind of a delivery system is it if most people think it's some crazy thing about gods and the afterlife? Christianity has to be the least effective delivery system of all time since most people are totally mistaken on what it is actually about.

My question was, how well does Christianity work as a guidance and delivery system for human wisdom? The answer is, badly. Humanity is not getting wise from it, we got wise by getting away from it.

So, because the stories are not very true, and because the container is mostly full of dismal stuff, and because Christianity has not worked well to deliver wisdom and instead delivers mostly supernatural beliefs, it should be challenged as a legitimate system of human wisdom. Even Christians should challenge the mainstream beliefs, and some people and groups do.

I think this lack of legitimacy and constant challenge will eventually cause the religion to wear off as a belief system, like the beliefs of the Greeks and Romans did, leaving a set of enjoyable stories and a peek into human past rather than a magical guide to everything.

Bandicoot: The issue isn't that Christianity is innately wrong or bad, it's that there are ways that people use/interpret it that are wrong/bad.

Well, obviously this is where I disagree. I think "Jesus is the Son of God who Died for our Sins" IS innately wrong and bad. This is a million miles from anything true, and because of that, this lie has caused massive misunderstanding and human misery and suppression and suffering across thousands of years. Only by completely ignoring this have humans been able to progress.

Well, you say, but "Jesus is the Son of God who Died for our Sins" isn't really "Christianity." Also where I disagree. J=SoG+DfS is Christianity. Of course there are lots of variations on individual points but this one thing, J=SoG+DfS, has been the central tenet of Christianity all along and believed by almost every Christian who ever lived until very recently. Calling J=SoG+DfS "Christianity" is not an overgeneralization.

But, for the sake of this discussion I can call it that instead, okay?

Bandicoot: I mean, you can't even say that "most" people use it poorly - that in itself is an overestimation and generalization.

No, I think it is perfectly accurate, if you consider believing in the supernatural to be using it poorly. Yes, that is most Christians.

Bandicoot: MOST Christians are honestly just trying to be good people and to love their neighbors, even among those who interpret things in ways I don't agree with.

Of course! I have never suggested otherwise. Most everyone are honestly just trying to be good people, because that is human nature.

However, MOST people who lived under Soviet Communism were good people trying to love their neighbors, like people everywhere. However that didn't make Soviet Communism a good system. Even though it ostensibly contained a few good ideas, in practice it was a terrible system that caused untold misery. Denouncing the system they lived by is not suggesting anything negative about the honesty and goodness of the people who lived it. It's just saying that the system they were using sucked.

J=SoG+DfS sucks as a system for delivering human wisdom.

Even though J=SoG+DfSians are living good, happy lives, loving their neighbors, doing their best, they are laboring under misconceptions which are crushing to the human spirit, like that humans are born with "sin" and only the crucifixtion of Jesus can save them, somehow. That gods exist and are apparent and answer prayer! ...sometimes. That gods judge humans and that is why you have to be good. Etc.

Meanwhile, the planet is melting and the economy and politics are rigged, and real problems need real solutions. I don't hear Jesus saying anything about this. We have to fix it, and we have to use non-supernatural understanding of reality and morality to do it. J=SoG+DfS is not doing anything to help this.

As I said, I think eventually J=SoG+DfS will wear off, in the face of utter implausibility. As you point out, even many thousands of Christians already dumped it. However it could certainly happen sooner. We need reason now.

Claire: It sounds like you two are actually quite a bit in agreement.

Have been for years, but a point or two of contention remains. Minor, really, but fun!

Now if only we could get everyone else on board. :-)

UltimateG_Mod: Maybe old stories don't inspire you, but they inspire me, and I know an awful lot of people who put themselves on the line everyday, because those stories inspired them to make a difference in the world, too.

I did not say they don't inspire, I just said that real people conquering real adversity are more inspiring to me. But, to each their own, whatever floats your boat.

The question was never whether ancient stories are a good source of inspiration. It is whether Christianity is just people inspired by ancient stories? Or is it something more than that?

Of course it is. Christianity (and other supernatural religions, to be clear) are not just inspiring stories inspiring good works. They are total institutions, complete worldviews. It's great when people are inspired by a great story, but not so great when the story is worshipped and thought by most to be literally about God. This kind of relationship to a story is not a healthy one.

We don't need "Christianity" - particularly the laughable J=SoG+DfS variety - to be inspired by the stories of Jesus, any more than we need to worship Zeus or sacrifice to the oracle at Delphi to be inspired by Greek tales of heroism. Inspiration does not require worship. The religion does not have to exist for the stories to endure.

Ridding the world of the institution of Christianity would not take away the stories of Jesus or make them any less available to inspire future generations. It would mean that we would stop teaching people that the stories are true, and that Jesus was a magical being who did a magical thing which affects their afterlife.

This will not happen until people understand that there is no relationship between the stories of Jesus and any kind of gods or afterlives. Dismantling the pretend relationship is what is necessary.

That will not result in less inspiration in the world, it will result in more, and more ability to put inspiration to good use.

09-15-14 11:24  •  Why We Need Faith

UltimateG_Mod: Wait till you hear these inspiring stories of mine! My sister in law has rheumatoid arthritis, but she's great at lightening my mood...my Polish grandmother died peacefully with her rosary in her hand... my daughter was hit by and car but she believes Jesus is beside her giving her the strength to carry on...plus Mother Theresa knelt next to a dying man and made sure he had the comfort of his Koran...even though it was not her faith! Etc.

Ultimate G Mod, thanks for the stories! As I mentioned, I am greatly inspired by tales of overcoming adversity. Plus, you wrote them very well...they were a delight to read!

However you seem to be suggesting that these lives are somehow different from the lives of non-Christians, or non-theists, and they actually aren't. Every life is filled with similar tales, even of the non-believing and non-religious. So the presence of "Jesus" in these people's lives is like that of Indiana Jones in the Raiders of the Lost Ark - if he had not been present, everything would still turn out exactly the same.

So, heartwarming as they are, I don't agree that this effect is a sufficient reason to continue promulgating Christianity.

UltimateG_Mod: But until humanity as a whole ascends to the next level of understanding, if it does and whatever it actually is, ripping away the faith that sustains those who carry on because of it is a crime against humanity, IMHO!

Well, I disagree that it is even possible to "rip it away." Religious belief simply evaporates because it is impossible to sustain.

UltimateG_Mod:But then, as long as we argue and bicker over whose right and whose wrong...

There is no bickering with actual truth. There is only ignoring verification.

UltimateG_Mod:...and weather or not those "poor stupid" faithful should be allowed to believe...

You are completely mistaken if you think anyone suggested "disallowing" belief. Do you hear me calling for a ban? The notion that belief should somehow be not "allowed," or that it would even be possible to prohibit it, is completely laughable.

But just because people are allowed to believe any crazy thing they want, that doesn't make it a good idea. Christianity, the J=SoG+DfS system that requires faith, is a bad idea of something to believe. It postulates interactive gods and intercessory saviors and a whole bunch of other stuff that is completely nuts. It is so far from anything that can be observed to be true in reality, the distance causes tons of error all over society.

The error and implausibility and unpleasantness will, as I said, eventually cause it to evaporate. It is unsustainable. However it could certainly happen faster, and that is what I am suggesting. Not by banning belief, but by exposing it.

If you are suggesting I should not be exposing belief, I absolutely cannot agree.

UltimateG_Mod:...then we have little hope of dealing with the real enemies of humanity, like global warming, illness, poverty and oppression, and other "devils we know".

The enemy of humanity is unreason.

UltimateG_Mod: Don't you see? It was the FAITH in that Koran that the old man had that gave him the ability to die in peace, it was the belief in the blessed mother that gave my grandma the courage to walk 5 miles everyday. Even the times she did not want to.

People without faith do these things too. You don't have think pretend things are real to be amazing. In fact the pretending can get in the way.

UltimateG_Mod: Scientific evidence that stimulation of the temporal area where religious experiences are felt, no matter What the religion, allow the person's brain to emit the right chemicals that give us that amazing edge to pull together and carry on.

Exactly. Buddhist monks in meditation light up the exact same brain areas, and their religion doesn't even HAVE a god. It is not necessary to believe imaginary things are true to have religion or do amazing things with the brain. These are natural human abilities, and they would not disappear if people stopped believing in the supernatural.

UltimateG_Mod: You do not expose by ridiculing or desecrating what others hold sacred.

Naturally, and a calm and civil discussion like this in a religious debate forum is not ridiculing or desecrating anything.

UltimateG_Mod: You do it by slowly exposing them to alternate ideas so that they can let loose of the old because they have something better to hold onto.

That is exactly what I am doing. For example, since I have been talking to Bandgeek for at least six years I don't see how I could go any slower. And her views have changed a lot over that time - probably not because of me, but still - and so have mine.

As for something better, I thought of that too. I was noticing people were mostly stuck with these legacy religions from thousands of years ago and wondering why we couldn't have a new religion, based on what we now understand. That is how I invented Neoism, a religion based on the truth and what works. Here's the tract:

UltimateG_Mod: You said the enemy of humanity is unreason. No, the enemy of humanity is ignorance and lack of empathy.

What do you think unreason is? A large part of it is ignorance of, and lack of care for, the truth and what works.

UltimateG_Mod: What do you mean, Buddhists don't have faith? Buddhists are a people of GREAT FAITH!

Um, have you met any Buddhists, or do you know anything about the religion? Faith is not required for Buddhism, and referring to all religons as "faiths" is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, many Buddhists think Buddhism is more properly referred to as a "philosophy" than a religion because it is not concerned with the supernatural.

The basics of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path and the Five Precepts. These are guidelines on how to live a moral life and avoid suffering. They don't come from a god or mention anything about gods. They aren't about the afterlife or reincarnation and don't mention anything "after" death. They are straightforward advice about how to order your affairs and your mind so that you can live a good, enjoyable life.

The advice does not need to be taken on faith. You can simply try it. And, no precept or tenet in Buddhism requires that adherents have faith or suggests that faith is important.

Now, Buddhism is very widespread, and some versions have added belief in gods and ideas about rebirth to Buddhism, but those were concepts the Buddha himself was unconcerned with, and considered a waste of time.

So, there are no supernatural ideas that have to be believed in order to practice Buddhism. What the Buddhist monks are practicing when they activate the "religious response" in the brain is meditation. It does not require gods or specific beliefs to achieve. It is a learned practice of focused attention. Anyone can learn to do it with no beliefs at all.

UltimateG_Mod:People choose faith to have this experience or to learn from it.

It is not required to have faith to get the experience. Anyone can do it. Many of the pivotal experiences that people learn from are "religious experiences" and it happens to almost everyone, including the non-religious.

UltimateG_Mod: There is no personal experiance can be totally explained by any theologian.

Lots of things can't be explained by anyone, but that is not a good reason to make up explanations. The unexplained just is.

UltimateG_Mod: Some say it is an imaginary hallucination in the brain a malfunction of some sort, some say it it is the essence of our being as it is connected to our brain that is having the experience.

At this point they don't know any more about it than you do.

UltimateG_Mod: People of faith would conclude the latter. I am one of them.

It is not necessary to conclude anything about it in order to experience it. It is what it is.

UltimateG_Mod: 40 years ago, I had a wonderful biology teacher that said it was most important to keep an open mind.

Not having predetermined conclusions about the cause is what I would consider having an open mind.

UltimateG_Mod: It would be a pretty dismal world if we existed without such experiences.

Oh, I agree. I consider peak experience to be one of the great transendences of human existence. I think such experiences are to be sought and cherished. But religion is not required for this.

UltimateG_Mod: But learning to use them in a positive way is a journey in itself.

Again I agree, and I would describe it as largely experiential learning, or learning by doing, which can't be explained or taught. But in any case, faith and supernatural concepts like gods are not required for this, and can really get in the way of direct apprehension.

UltimateG_Mod: How would your religion deal with these?

Don't know if you can read the fine print, but it's here on page 6, "Spiritual Experience":

"Humans are capable of transcendent states of consciousness, and these can be tools for personal insight and deeper understanding. Aesthetic expression, meditation, sacraments and other tools for exploring inner space are recommnded for responsible use by those who choose."

There are a variety of techniques and tools which can be used for this but they don't fit onto the tract, lol. I figured it wouldn't be much of a religion without the best part! But as I have been saying, it's nothing to do with gods or afterlives or supernatural. It just is what it is.

UltimateG_Mod: I know all about Buddhism! In fact there are Gnostics out there that feel the Bhudda was an earlier incarnation of the anointed one...

Well that sounds like bunch of BS. They do not know any more about "incarnations" than you or anyone else. In any case that has nothing to do with actual Buddhism.

UltimateG_Mod: ...the one who is sent to bring necessary wisdom to the people of earth. i.e., to save us from our ignorance so that the planet or humanity will not die.

There is no reason to think anyone will be sent to save us from ourselves. We have to figure it out on our own.

UltimateG_Mod: You don't have to believe in an omnipotent super humanoid to have great faith. You have to believe in something greater than yourself that you are a part of, something that empowers you to face the pain of personal growth and continue.

That's what I'm saying. You don't have to have faith to think this. It is extremely obvious to ordinary observation that there are many things greater than ourselves that we are a part of and that empower us. We can see the universe with our eyes. We can see and hear and touch other people, the community of our fellows that is an extension of ourselves as a social species. We can feel a great array of survival emotion, the gift of our mammal heritage. We can look long into the past to see how we came to be, and look deeply into our cells to see how we are made, and this spells out in front of us a truly ancient tale, showing us how far we have come and what odds we have overcome to make it this far. If that doesn't inspire empowerment I don't know what would.

You don't have to have religion, or think there is a magic field, or believe in eternal souls, to be part of many great things and be empowered. What we can see, the plain reality before our eyes, is far greater than the stories tribesmen make up.

You don't have to believe in anything that can't be observed to get this effect. Non-believers are just as empowered by great real things.

UltimateG_Mod: For Buddists, it is their philosophy that they believe.

I think you are stretching the term to mean "think." It does not require faith to think the obvious.

UltimateG_Mod: You can't imply any religion is universal. Buddhism would not work for everybody, because not everybody has ears to hear, or a heart to listen with.

Here I disagree. We are all people, from a pretty small stock. People mostly have the standard set of ears and heart and they work in pretty much the same ways.

And, I think Buddhism would work for anyone who tried it. It's a really simple system and it starts paying dividends right away in less suffering.

UltimateG_Mod: What do I believe personally about all that? Well, remember when Harry Potter was talking to Dumbledore in the afterlife, and he asked, "is this all real?" Dumbledore replied, "my boy,of course it is all in your head. That doesn't make it any less real."

J.K. Rowling doesn't know any more about the afterlife than any other human being. And it is just completely irrelevant to this life in any case.

UltimateG_Mod: "Sounds like BS?" What it sounds like is you have a pretty closed mind to anything you don't want to believe.

Give me something to work with. Does any human being have any actual information about "incarnations"? Is there any way to determine that the buddha was an incarnation of another being or vice versa? If not, if this is nothing but conjecture, what is it supposed to be for?

UltimateG_Mod: There is still a very big picture that you don't even see enough of yet.

What is it?

UltimateG_Mod: A very smart person once told me, ""Some things cannot be said. You have to see it and figure it out for yourself."

I'm game. What things or experiences are you suggesting I examine to get the Big Picture?

UltimateG_Mod:Start with reading "Woman with the Alabaster Jar" By Magaret Starbird.

I am familiar with it. Are you saying the theory that Jesus married Mary Magdaline and she is the Holy Grail is related to the Big Picture? How?

UltimateG_Mod: So don't expect me to go on about this subject anymore.

Feel free to be brief.

09-15-14 11:24  •  Loaves n Fishes

I have been thinking about the loaves and fishes parable the way Ultimate G Mod tells it, and l like it. I thought about how all the families just brought enough for themselves, and were hiding it away, until they were inspired by Jesus to feel compassion and fellow-feeling. Then they brought forth the food to pool it together, to find there was plenty for everyone after all.

This seems like a parable for Socialism. After all, it is socialism that is expressed when we all come together to pool our resources to make sure that everyone is taken care of.

Bandicoot: When looking at the Jewish texts/teachings, like that about Jubilee and other ways of caring for the poor, it isn't that odd a thing for him to have taught.

Humans have it tough. We have to support our own bios, and the programming to take what we need for ourselves is very strong and comes from the oldest parts of the brain. We also evolved much more recently as social animals, so we also have programming to help provide for the group, but it is newer, and more complicated, and it can feel like it is in direct competition with the parts that put self first.

So being human is a constant balancing of the needs of the individual with the needs of the group. This is why our economic systems are so precarious and unjust right now - socially we are failing to balance in the needs of the group and have tipped much too far in favor of the needs of individuals. This causes a very few individuals to get power way out of proportion to their mandate, and to a fair or workable system.

I'm not surprised to see this very basic human struggle played out in parable, and won in favor of sharing with all. That is the advantage being a social species has, which is why it evolved in the first place.

On further reflection, I think another spinning plate in the balancing act between self and group is WHICH group. Humans may share most naturally with their immediate in-group, their family, and their main social in-group, their tribe or clan, but have a much harder time sharing with their out-group, i.e., competing tribes. So, coming to see complete strangers we will never meet, unrelated except by geography - that is, fellow citizens - as part of the ingroup requires a very high level of abstraction. Civilization is so new, I'm not surprised we still have a lot of trouble including everyone in our in-group.

UltimateG_Mod: You act like you can solve problems with human ideas like Socialism. But the poor, sick, and disenfranchised, we will always have them.

I definitely do not agree with this statement. Poverty and disenfranchisement are products of the social and economic systems we are using.

Humans have not always had poverty. For most of our existence we did not. Hunter gatherers live close to survival but are not dependent on economics for food. They did not have disenfranchisement. They are stratified, but the distance between the highest and lowest ranking members of the group is not that great, and all share a great deal of control over what becomes of their lives.

Poverty is a result of the rise of agricultural systems, which required much larger social groups, and needed an owner class and a worker class to emerge in order to function. The stratification became much greater and the lowest members began to have significantly less control over their lot than the higher members, and the highest members had significantly more control over the lot of everyone. But their fortunes were still very much tied to actual goods.

Since then, our groups have gotten bigger, and our ideas of wealth have become exponentially larger and completely disconnected from actual production. So at the moment our stratification seems through the roof, and is indeed so large that the highest members have far more control over the lives of everyone than any humans have ever had.

But, look what else has happened at the same time. In the same era, we have implemented a completely new form of government where every citizen is enfranchised, and we have slowly been expanding our definition of citizen to include more and more people - nonwhites, women, even gays and pot smokers! So, enfranchisement is on the rise.

And, we have lifted people from the lowest forms of poverty with the advent of social services. Through collective effort and deliberate social policy, we are making sure the old and the sick have a means to survive, and are slowly extending non-dependent means to others who need it. We have significantly lifted the bottom of our poverty. Even better, with education and opportunity we have allowed some to leave it, and though obviously we ought to be doing loads more than what we are on that score, things are trending overall positive.

The point is that poverty and disenfranchisement are created by our systems and the systems can be changed to create less of them. Poverty will end altogether when we finally understand that giving people food and shelter and education costs society way less than than making them scramble for it somehow on their own and screw 'em if they fail.

Right now - like always, probably - it is a race to see whether the new forms of social caring outpace the new forms of exploitation or vice versa. Enfranchisement requires constant vigilance.

But, as MLK Jr said, the moral arc of the universe is long, but bends toward justice. I think this is because we accumulate error correction as we go.

UltimateG_Mod: People only use organized religion in this day and age to seek their hearts desire. For some it is peace on earth, care of the sick and the poor, food and safety for those in need. For others, it is wealth, power and /or the ability to live with reckless abandon. That is never going to change about people.

Maybe not. Among hunter gatherers, it is an advantage to the group to have a wide variety of personalities, for some to be caring and nurturing and others to be reckless and power hungry. Small bands on the edge of survival need to have all types of people, so that the group has the means to deal with all kinds of adversity - and success. So the types you mention are naturally occurring and for a good reason, and may continue to be for a long time.

That is why it is so important to have good systems, which can continue to function even when the wrong people are in charge, and continue to express the right values even when the people aren't. We only just invented a system for organized leadership change by mandate. We probably have a long way to go before it results in real enfranchisement for everyone, but it's still a big improvement, and so far has withstood the personalities that have filtered through it and continued to improve.

So people are people, but we are also learning, and our learning is accumulating. If we can survive the current crisis, we can learn to construct systems which provide and enfranchise even better than the ones we have now.

09-15-14 8:24  •  Why are Adam and Eve Naked?

Ms. T: What is the significance of Adam and Eve being naked before they eat the fruit? Is it a loss of innocence? Did being naked turn sinful or was it sinful all along and they just didn't notice?

I'm guessing it was an attempt by early humans to explain to themselves why they were clothed. We can understand that humans needed protection from the elements, and pockets, and adornment for mating, etc. and so evolved a propensity to be concerned with attire. But they didn't know about that. This was them explaining that concern to themselves with a just-so story.

09-07-14 8:24  •  Understanding God

Ms. T: My friend was talking about moving back to his home town, to a simpler life, and said, "Christianity is a good thing." He seemed to have no doubt about this. So, I guess it begs the question: Is religion a good thing?

A "religion" is a whole set of ideas. In any religion, some of the ideas are good and some are bad.

It's hard to generalize, of course, but I would tend to say that the more the ideas can be shown to actually have merit, the better they are. The more they resemble superstition, coercion and empty fear-mongering, the worse they are.

Also important is the emphasis. For example, I would consider "original sin" and "salvation" to be some of the worst ideas of any religion. The existence of either of these as an actual thing is unsupported by anything observable and they seem to be just scary stuff people tell other people.

"Reincarnation" as a concept is not amazingly better. However the difference is that in Buddhism, for example, reincarnation - or more properly, its even vaguer cousin, "rebirth" - is not part of the central message or the main tenets, and "belief" in the idea is not required or even advocated. It's not the point.

By contrast, "original sin" - and thus the need for "salvation" through Christ - are actually the core concepts of Christianity. So, since the main emphasis is on ideas which resemble superstition and fear-mongering, it serves to drag the whole enterprise down.

Coupled with 1) exclusion ("Only WE go to Heaven"), 2) resistence to knowledge (from burning ancient libraries to geocentrism to denying evolution), and 3) crediting authority over reason (believing what people say over what can be shown), this emphasis on "sin" makes Christianity extremely problematic. I think some of the problems can be readily observed in the violent history of Christianity's holy wars, inquisitions, persecutions and crusades.

So, I would not agree that all religions are all, or equally, "good" or "bad." In fact I have argued in the past that Buddhism is actually "better" than Christianity, or perhaps "not as bad." Buddhism's far more peaceful history would seem to suggest that, at least, it is less problematic.

Pastoress: Christianity is the best thing ever! You just don't understand it.

Think of Jesus as your pro-bono, defence attorney who not only stands in your defence before God but has already served your sentence in Hell for you! But, you have to accept the services of a pro-bobo attorney, if you refuse you stand before the Judge alone, and as the old saying goes, "A lawyer who defends him/herself has a fool for a client."

It's always fun when self-appointed process-servers inform me that I am going to be "on trial." However, as far as I can tell, I haven't done anything that bad, and the phoney-baloney excuses people make up - "original sin!" - are meaningless.

If "God" and "Jesus" have something they want to discuss with me about me, they can tell it to me to my face. I will certainly be interestested in hearing what They have to say. Until then, I don't see any reason to think They appointed you to explain Their policies. As far as I can tell, your explanation is just made up. There is no reason to think this "trial" or "sentence" even exist as real things that actually happen.

Some people say it happens, but they are just people. What do they know?

For all we know, it was the ancient Greeks who had it right, and the ticket to the good afterlife is to be buried with coins for the Ferryman. I don't see this as any less plausible than the "Jesus or Burn" story.

Pastoress: God and Jesus have spoken directly to you but you are not listening. You are like a small child who is hearing something they don't like so you put your fingers in your ears and make noises to block out the hard truth you don't want to hear.

You are full of shit. I have heard every single word They have said, and it has nothing to do with any of the "trial"or "judgement" crap you are making up.

Pastoress: Since I have a Bachelor degree in World Religions, a Master's in Bible and a Doctorate in Spirituality, teach Introduction to Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion at the college level, have studied ancient manuscripts in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and have been in ministry for 38 years I do believe I qualify as an expert in this field.

You do not know more about God or the afterlife than any other human being.

Pastoress: Raver Lady, the profanity was unnecessary and uncalled for.

Oh, I disagree. There are certain rare occasions when no less than profanity is called for. In this case, it was a precisely elocuted evaluation of your claim that you understand what God is saying better than other human beings. You do not. Your claim is utterly unwarranted and extremely demeaning to every other person. The expletive was appropriate.

However since it offended you, allow me to rephrase:

When you say that I am "a small child who is hearing something they don't like so you put your fingers in your ears and make noises to block out the hard truth you don't want to hear," you are full of ...wrong. There is no reason to think that your story is true, or that anyone who questions you is a small child with their fingers in their ears.

The dubiety is not because people don't want to "face" the truth. It's because your story doesn't appear to be the truth. It seems to be just something that people say. THAT is the problem.

Pastoress: I listed my credentials not to brag but to show that I am knowledgeable about this subject since it was stated that I don't know any more that anyone else.

Being knowledgeable about religion does not equal knowing God. You do not know any more about God or the afterlife than any other person.

Pastoress: Since you only belittled the example without stating why...

Your comprehension fails you. I stated exactly why.

Pastoress: Since this discussion seems to have fallen far from its title of "Christianity is Good" and become "Lets Bash Christianity" I think I'll let the patients perform their own brain surgery.

Your claim that you are some kind of spiritual brain surgeon addressing a group of tumor sufferers is laughable. There is no reason to think you are actually interceding on God's behalf, or that you are more qualified to understand God than any other person.

09-06-14 7:12  •  Evolution by God

Wanda: 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.

Wanda: Adam and Eve were the first, and the start of the lineage of humans, but NOT the only ones that God breathed life into, just the only ones the bible mentions. An example of this sort 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!

EllaFitz: I don't know why you bother, Raver. You'll still 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.

EllaFitz: Evolution is an emotionally charged subject. 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.

EllaFitz: This reminds me of the story of the man who was convinced 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."

Your reasoned arguments don't change the fact that neither side will convince the other any more than the doctor convinced the 'dead man'.

Yeah, but the 'dead man' is just plain wrong. He is not dead. Whatever he chooses to think, 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.

EllaFitz: So, Wanda...you dont have a problem with evolution per se...you believe that at some point along the evolutionary path of "hominid"....homo sapien was given the breath of God and given souls?

So God gave Adam and Eve souls, and they immediately fucked up, dooming all mankind. Perhaps they would have been better off on their own.

EllaFitz: LMAO!

09-05-14 6:16  •  The Tea Party

RachelMarie: The Tea Party is about freedom! Here are some planks in the Tea Party platform:

1. Abolishing minimum wage: By abolishing the minimum wage, it will actually increase pay among corporations. For example; you work for Company A, and they pay $1(this is just an example), then you find out that for the same position and qualifications Company B pays $ 1.50. Well, if you are good at your job and are qualified, Company A, in order to keep you, will compete with Company B and begin to pay at or above $1.50.

Yeah, right.

That is only IF there is a Company B in your area, IF they are actually paying more, IF they are actually hiring, IF everyone was able to simply change jobs whenever they feel like it, IF there are more jobs than people, IF you are the single most-qualified applicant, and IF the only job objective ever was more money. Etc. That's a lot of IFs.

In other words, there is no evidence that it has ever worked this way in real life.

In fact, In fact, a recent comprehensive study of wages in contiguous counties across state lines showed that minimum wage is not determental to business or employee interests. It doesn't kill jobs or decrease pay. In fact a higher minimum wage actually helps retailers to attract and keep employees, increasing their productivity. In addition, a "spillover" effect of the minimum wage causes wages to rise for those making up to 25% above the minimum.

Additionally, minimum wage increases lead to significant increases in purchases of durable goods.

"From a perspective of stimulating demand, minimum wages will tend to increase demand by increasing the purchasing power of those workers."

In short, minimum wages are no problem and higher minimum wages are better.

2. Privitizing Social Security: We should privitize our retirement funds. I really don't trust the government enough with my taxes, so why should I trust them with my retirement funds.

Why should you trust the financial sector with your funds? The investment bankers lost all the money and nearly destroyed the global economy in 2008, remember? "Government" has a way better track record with retirement funds than the private sector.

Private retirement is a gamble. Companies can gamble and lose the private retirements of millions of people. People can make the wrong decision and lose everything. Then what? What happens to people who gambled and lost, or didn't win enough, when they are too old to work? Skid Row?

Social retirement is the standard in prosperous democracies and it is working to protect older citizens from poverty every place it is in use.

3. Not Extending Unemployment Benefits: Well, seriously, this is really directed at people that want to live off of unemployment as opposed to finding a job.


First, unemployment benefits in the United States are not terribly generous. As the congressional Joint Economic Committee recently noted, the average benefit - about $300 weekly - amounts to just three-quarters of the poverty threshold for a family of four.

Second, the jobs simply aren't there for people to take. There are five job-seekers for every available opening. Those tempted to slack off on the employment search because benefits are available for longer might not have found a job in any event -- and any job they spurned would have likely been snapped up by someone else.

Harvard economist Lawrence Katz told the Joint Economic Committee earlier this year, the "most compelling research suggests only modest impacts of (unemployment insurance) extensions on the search effort and duration of unemployment" of jobless workers.

When layoffs tend to be permanent, as in the current recession, rather than temporary, as in the past, the risk of workers gaming the system is reduced: The unemployed can't simply hang out and collect checks expecting they'll eventually be called back.


Read the rest here.

4. Privitizing the VA: I know of too many people that get underpar care at the VA. Our veterans deserve the best care, not waiting all day for a doctor to tell you to come back tomorrow. If we privitize it, our veterans would recieve much better care because a hospital doesn't need the government to run it, it needs doctors and nurses to run it.

First of all, for-profit hospitals are not run by doctors either, they are run by corporations. Treatment decisions are made with profit motive by insurance companies. Secondly, all Americans are receiving underpar care compared to people in countries with national healthcare. Our private healthcare systems has us ranking 37th in world health.

We all need good healthcare and most of us are not getting it.

As for our veterans, what they actually need and deserve is less money spent on bullets, tanks, bombs and mercenaries, and more of that money spent on their care. What our soldiers need is to not be sent into unending foreign occupations to be maimed and disfigured for no reason.

5. Keeping the Government out of Education: This is one aspect that needs to be left up to the states to take care of.

Uh, the states are Government too. State governments already administer public education programs with state standards. If you mean keep out the federal government, any state who wants to spurn federal funding for education is welcome to do so right now. If you mean keep all government out of education, ie, privatizing, there is no evidence that private schools, charter schools, vouchers etc. provide any educational benefit to the student.

Keep the pledge of allegence the same (with "under GOD").

I'll come back to this.

6. Repealing ObamaCare/Obama Crock: First off, we don't have the money for it.

Actually, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the health care reform compromise bill will cut the deficit by $138 billion over the next 10 years and by another $1.2 trillion over the following 10 years.

More importantly, if we want something we can really afford, we should do what other industrialized nations of the world are doing - providing national healthcare.

If ObamaCare is a crock it is because it throws a giant bag of bones to the insurance industry instead of doing what really works.


So, that's my initial take on these...proposals. However I would like to extrapolate a bit.

The problem of the "Tea Party" is not just these specific ideas, which can be debated. The problem is the entire mindset of ideology over facts.

Ideologies like "the free market solves everything" or "the government can't do anything"...wealth is what's important...competition always produces better than cooperation...every man for himself and fuck him if he fails. What we think matters more than facts. The real problem is all the slackers.

These kinds of ideological underpinnings are doomed to fail because they are not true.

The "market" is a great engine but it doesn't solve everything. The "government" - our collective effort - can make mistakes, but at least it has checks and balances, and is answerable to us, unlike corporations. Government programs are working in a lot of countries who use them including here.

And on. Cooperation sometimes works better than competition. What is real matters. Helping people doesn't produce slackers. We have a moral obligation to take care of everyone.

Ideological proposals like the ones presented here will fail when confronted by reality. This is one reason why the ideology-driven Tea Party will not be good for the country. They will not be good at governing in reality.

Keep the pledge of allegence the same (with "under GOD").

This is the other reason. (I said I'd come back to it.)

There is just no way that preserving this ideological chanting in school is in any way important. There are extremely critical and urgent matters which need to be addressed. There are some pretty huge messes which need to be cleaned up. Yet people are getting out to the polls and voting for loons with the promise of results on "issues" like this. This represents some very unrealistic priorities.

A vote for the Tea Party is a vote for unreality. But, unreality doesn't work.

So, I'm concerned.

Edna: The Tea Party is a tax revolt. They are taxing us to death these days!

When do you think the taxes were less?

Edna:Oh, probably before you were born, ha ha.

What, do you believe that they aren't going up and/or are on the decrease?

Well, for one thing, Obama actually reduced taxes on 95% of working families. If you work, your payroll withholdings were probably adjusted to give you about $400 extra dollars in 2009.

For another, income taxes on the middle to upper class - the usual gripe - are at the lowest level since before the Great Depression. Taxes on income soared to 90% during the Eisenhower years, were at 70% in the 70's, and seemed to be functioning pretty well at 40% during the Clinton years. The Bush tax cuts lowered that further to 35%.

Third of all, the very largest individual wealth-holders are only paying about 15%. Most of their new money comes from dividends rather than income so it is taxed at the lower rate as capital gains.

Fourth of all, many of the very largest wealth-holders - the corporations - pay little to no federal taxes at all. General Electric and Exxon Mobil paid zero, even though they had record profits and accepted massive government subsidies. In fact, in 2008, the Government Accountability Office found that two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005.

So, yes, I think Americans actually pay fairly low taxes. Certainly less than they did "before I was born." Most people in the prosperous democracies pay quite a bit more than Americans do. Of course they get a lot more for it too.

It costs money to have a good society. Taxes are necessary. Since these are some of the lowest tax rates that Americans have ever paid, and some of the lowest paid by any citizens in the developed world, I really do not get the "tax revolt" mentality. It doesn't pay to skimp on civilization.

Read more in the Archives.